The Boy in the Gutter by John Triptych

Release date: November 15, 2020
Subgenre: Hardboiled Mystery, Historical Mystery 

About The Boy in the Gutter:


1947: while Los Angeles is held in sway by the Black Dahlia murder, an Asian boy’s mutilated body is found in a back alley of Chinatown. With the thoroughly corrupt LAPD unwilling to devote their already strained resources to cracking the case, it seems this grisly crime is destined to remain unsolved.

Tommy Luoo, a Chinese American college student who goes by the name of Dapper, has dreams of becoming a private detective. Incensed and frustrated by the police’s lack of concern, he decides to help his community by finding out what truly happened.

But all is not what it seems as Dapper is drawn into a web of deceit and danger at every turn. For the City of Angels hides a dark underworld, where real-life devils prey upon the damned and the desperate. Dapper is undaunted however, and he’ll keep on digging for answers, even if it kills him.

If you like hardboiled detective fiction with equal helpings of James Ellroy, Walter Mosley, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and Dashiell Hammett, check out this newest crime noir novel by John Triptych. CAUTION: mature themes.





After the last few firecrackers went off, Chinatown became quiet once again. The acrid smoke quickly seeped away, like a low early morning fog drifting in from the Valley.
An LAPD patrol car that was parked across the road started up, and the two cops keeping watch over us sped away, their sirens blaring into the late night. The few crowds still present had already thinned out as everyone needed to be up early.
Leaning against one of the support columns by the Broadway entrance, I took out a pack of Chesterfields from my shirt pocket and lit one with my Zippo lighter, puffing in a lungful to counteract the smell of gunpowder in my nostrils. The main stage at the central plaza was about thirty feet from where I was, and the dragon dancers and accompanying musicians had begun to pack away their drums, cymbals, and gongs before leaving the platform.
From the corner of my eye I saw my best friend walking towards me with a smile on his face. Herbert Wong looked kind of like me, except he was a tad pudgier, and his hair wasn’t as perfectly combed as mine. When we were kids we were practically twins, and only our parents could tell us apart. But when it came to eating, Herbert would always have one more: if I ate a hotdog or a hamburger, he’d have another, if I ate a bowl of noodles, he’d have a second helping, and if I drank a soda pop he’d have another bottle for the road. And so it went until he expanded sideways.
Herbert stopped a few feet away from me and lit up his own cigarette with a matchstick—he preferred Lucky Strikes. “That was some show huh, Dapper?”
I shrugged. To be honest, I had gotten bored by the whole thing. For the first time in seven seasons I didn’t volunteer to participate in the dragon dance. “Seen it all before. Happens year in and year out.”
A voice from just outside the entrance called out in our direction. “Hey, hey, you guys!”
We both turned. A middle aged white man stood at the edge of the sidewalk, crooking his index finger towards us. He looked kind of funny, with a round smiling face like Stan Laurel’s, while having the pudgy body of Oliver Hardy. His mismatched blue and black suit was paired with a disheveled shirt that had an upturned collar to one side, and his short, fattened red tie swung like a silk pendulum as his shoulders swayed back and forth in a listless manner. The battered porkpie hat on his head tilted sideways, like the way Charlie Chaplin used to wear his.
I stole a winking glance at Herbert before approaching the man. “What can we do for you, mister?”
The man was clearly soused while pointing at the debris from the just concluded festivities. His red face was puffed up and he could barely stay upright. “What’s going on in this place of yours?”
“We’re celebrating the start of the Chinese New Year.”
“Gosh, didn’t New Year’s happen already? You Asiatics are awfully late!”
I didn’t bother to look at Herbert, who I knew was probably rolling his eyes. “We use a different calendar, mister.”
“Is that right? It’s… ah, what day is it again?”
“We’re about an hour into January Twenty-second, 1947,” I said, adding in the year, just in case he forgot it too.
“Right. So what kind of a calendar would celebrate New Year’s Eve three weeks old?”
“Because our calendar includes phases of the Moon, so it sort of changes every year.”
He pursed his lips. My words seemed to have impressed him. “Gee, that sounds pretty interesting. When I was walking over here, I heard a lot of gunfire. Were you Chinese shooting at cats and dogs so you could eat something during this event of yours?”
“No, what you heard were firecrackers,” I said. “We set them off to scare away evil spirits and bad luck—too bad it didn’t work this time.”
The man placed his plump hands on his hips and shook his head. “Fancy that. I missed it all.”
“Ah, it’s not a problem, mister,” Herbert said. “The celebrations lasts for fifteen days. You can come back tomorrow, and there’ll be more dragon dances and firecrackers that you can watch in the next few evenings.”
“Too bad for me, China boy,” the man said. “I gotta be on the train bound for Wichita by nine o’clock this morning. I’ve been given a free day to look around this city, and seems like my time has sadly come to an end.”
“Sorry to hear that,” I lied.
The lush started looking around. It seemed like he didn’t want his little tour of Los Angeles to end, but time was conspiring with fate to do just that. He was just about to give up and move on when an old rickshaw that had been placed by the entrance caught his eye. “Hey,” he said, pointing towards it. “Is that what I think it is?”
“I dunno, mister,” I said. “I’m not a mind reader.”
Shuffling closer to the derelict two-wheeled cart that had been put there as a display, he began running his hands along the gnarled wooden spokes. “Say, you Orientals use these things to get around instead of cars, right?”
I took a few steps closer towards him so I wouldn’t have to shout and spook the other people moving along the sidewalk. “We have cars now, mister, just like everyone else.”
The rumdum looked up towards the late night sky with a smile on his face, as if an idea popped up in his otherwise intoxicated head. Taking out a pair of bills from his pocket he waved them at us. “How about you two take me for a ride? I’ll give you boys a buck each.”
Herbert was about to turn around and walk away, but I held him by his elbow while staring at the money being offered. I needed bus fare for my classes at the university the next day, and my parents had just paid off the creditors since it was a tradition that all debts ought to be settled during the Spring Festival, so our family’s finances would be tight for a while.
“Could you up it to maybe five?” I asked.
He took out another bill from his same pocket until the inner cloth had flapped out like an exposed dirty handkerchief. “All I got left is three, Chinaman. How about it?”
I walked closer to him. “Three dollars will only get you a few blocks at the most, mister. Where do you want to go?”
That was when he leaned forward and gave me a sly wink, his alcohol stained breath wafting into my nostrils. “Bring me to one of these little opium dens you people have.”
I leaned back, disgusted at both his request and his odor. “Opium den?”
“Yeah, you know, the secret places where you enslaved all the Caucasian women in. I wanna see the exotic Orient.”
Herbert was starting to fume. “Look, mister, I think you got the wrong idea about us, we don’t—”
I stopped him from continuing after I placed my hand on his chest. Keeping my voice low, I talked through the side of my mouth without moving my lips so the drunk wouldn’t notice. “Just play along with him.”
Herbert stood there like a propped up wooden plank. “For Pete’s sakes, why?”
“Three bucks isn’t too bad for a few minutes of work.”
“But he wants us to take him to an opium den! There isn’t any!”
“I’ll handle it,” I whispered back before turning towards the other man with a gentle smile. “Okay, mister, get on. But give me the money first.”
He obliged. Pocketing the bills, I took hold of the right pole while Herbert grabbed the left side. The old rickshaw was to be thrown out by the end of this year’s festivities anyway, and I figured this would be the best way to make some final use of it.
The man awkwardly climbed up onto the chair, nearly falling over sideways on his first try, but he managed to righten himself at the last minute and flopped into the seat, catching his hat before it slipped off his head. “Let’s go, Chinamen!”
Herbert gave me a frown. “Where are we going to take him? I’ve never heard of any opium dens around here in all my life. Have you?”
I winked back, copying what the old boozer just did to me. “Just follow my lead.” 



About John Triptych:

John writes thrillers of differing genres, from hyper-realistic crime books to fantastic, post-apocalyptic sci-fi novels that make you want to turn one more page just before bedtime. A former fanfiction writer turned self-publishing novelist, John Triptych’s varied interests include: reading other people’s books, recreational diving, watching movies and TV, guns, internet, politics, computer and tabletop gaming, cooking, art, architecture, wines, spirits, beer, history and travel.