Выбрать главу

| —




Introduction — Ellen Datlow

The Dingus — Gregory Frost

The Getaway — Paul G. Tremblay

Mortal Bait — Richard Bowes

Little Shit — Melanie Tem

Ditch Witch — Lucius Shepard

The Last Triangle — Jeffrey Ford

The Carrion Gods in Their Heaven — Laird Barron

The Romance — Elizabeth Bear

Dead Sister — Joe R. Lansdale

Comfortable in Her Skin — Lee Thomas

But for Scars — Tom Piccirilli

The Blisters on My Heart — Nate Southard

The Absent Eye — Brian Evenson

The Maltese Unicorn — Caitlнn R. Kiernan

Dreamer of the Day — Nick Mamatas

In Paris, in the Mouth of Kronos — John Langan

Blood Is Not Enough

Alien Sex


Ellen Datlow

Noir is an attitude, a stance, a way of looking at the world. Paul Duncan, in his concise book Noir Fiction, defines it as a term “used to describe any work, usually involving crime—that is notably dark, brooding, cynical, complex, and pessimistic.”

Noir fiction has been popular since right after World War II and has maintained its popularity over the years. The world of noir is thick with criminality, rife with betrayal. But the main characters in noir are not necessarily detectives or criminals, hence the hard-living guy with a chip on his shoulder, a cold affect, and something painful (and tamped down) in his past, and the sexy dame with a middle name spelling “trouble” in capital letters.

The supernatural has taken a parallel path to the present but is an older form of literature, originally known as the gothic. There have been a lot of supernatural detective stories published, but relatively few supernatural noir stories. There are a few detectives of the supernatural in this anthology, but they’re not very traditional, and they don’t always succeed in their quest for the truth—for the facts—and those who do are sometimes very sorry.

The noir form of fiction and film has been one of my favorites my whole life, as has supernatural fiction. So it seemed perfectly appropriate for me to edit an anthology of stories combining two of the genres of literature I love.

I asked for smart, edgy, complex, harder-than-nails stories of the supernatural with at least a few of the trademarks of noir. Some of the stories within feature women as the main characters, and at least one oddity only becomes a tale of detection quite late in the game. But whatever changes the evolution of mores and sensibilities have wrought on traditional noir, I think you’ll recognize the characteristics of noir and be entertained by these sixteen writers’ interpretations of the genre.


Gregory Frost

All Meyers wanted to know was how Kid Willette, that he’d personally educated in the ring his last two years as a trainer, had ended up dead—and not just dead, but beaten, mangled, and dismembered dead. It didn’t make sense. It shouldn’t have been. Nobody could put a glove on Willette unless he wanted them to. Unless he’d been bought. That was the only time he’d ever gone down. Meyers knew that better than anybody.

So when he walked into the Sixth District station to find Detective Bulbitch, he just wanted a simple explanation: Kid had been doped; Kid had been drunk; Kid had been wounded. He thought he would hear an answer that would let him go home from his night shift in the taxi, hoist a farewell shot of bourbon in commemoration, and then go to sleep untroubled by impossibilities.

He found Bulbitch at his desk, sharpening a pencil with a pocketknife. The shavings were sprinkling down onto his belly. His pink skull, graced with all of seven remaining hairs, glistened as if the pencil was giving him a very hard time.

Meyers drew the folded Inquirer from his armpit, opened and tossed it in front of the detective. Bulbitch looked up. For an instant Meyers saw fear—the same fear he glimpsed in people all the time when they first got a look at him. Then Bulbitch’s face widened into amusement. “Well, if it ain’t my most favorite pugilist. How you been keepin’?” Meyers made a nod at the paper, where the front-page headline proclaimed, “Roadhouse Horror.” It was so big that even the national story following up on Truman’s kicking MacArthur out of command had been squeezed into a sidebar.

Bulbitch didn’t bother to look. “You still driving the cab?” he asked, and when Meyers persisted in saying nothing, he folded the knife and sat upright. He brushed the shavings like crumbs off his shirt and tie. “Yeah, all right,” he said. “Okay. I figured you’d hear about it. Expect the word’s out everywhere from Jack O’Brien’s to the Christian Street Y by now.”

And so the story unfolded.

Red’s Roadhouse out in Paoli was one of those two-story places slapped together with boards that had probably started life as a barn. The main hall had sawdust on the floor and a bar that was big enough for a catered wedding party to circle. On the second floor and in the back were the rented rooms, one of which they even had the chutzpah to call a “suite.” It was to this suite that Cody Aldred and his three enforcers had retreated for some R&R after a few weeks of breaking legs. The owner of the place, amazingly enough named Red, swore up and down that he didn’t know that Cody had brought in any working girls. How was he to know the women weren’t the men’s wives? It was a question that nobody answered as they were too busy laughing, seeing as how Red employed a half-dozen chippies of his own in the second-floor rooms.

So, a little past midnight the night before, in the main room, at least two dozen people had been lounging in various states of blur. Those who still remained in the aftermath—including ever-reliable Red—agreed that no one else had come in. Nobody at all had entered Cody’s suite.

And yet, in something like five minutes, according to everyone in the place, Cody and all three of his boys had been butchered. Torn to pieces. The three chippies were unharmed, and not one of them could explain what had happened.

There’d been noise, something that howled like a gale and rattled the brass knob and shook the door on its hinges. The screams, someone said, were the screams of men being slid quick into hell. Only when it was over—and silent—did Red work up the gumption to go look. He didn’t even reach the door before the three chippies in there started their own caterwauling. Red paused with his hand on the knob, and that was when he noticed that the sawdust under his feet was turning wine dark, the stain spreading outward. The shrieking went on and on, but Red backed all the way to the bar, where he grabbed some change and hurried to the pay phone on the outside wall. Nobody else went for the door in his absence, although maybe one or two sidled on out of the roadhouse.