This is a work of fiction.

All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this
novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
COLD CITY

Copyright © 2012 by F. Paul Wilson
All rights reserved.
A Tor Book
Published by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
175 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
www.tor-forge.com
Tor® is a registered trademark of Tom Doherty Associates, LLC.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Wilson, F. Paul (Francis Paul)
Cold city / F. Paul Wilson. — 1st ed.
p. cm.
“A Tom Doherty Associates Book.”
ISBN 978-0-7653-3014-7 (hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-4299-4833-3 (e-book)
1. Repairman Jack (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. New York (N.Y.)—Fiction.
I. Title.
PS3573.I45695C65 2012
813'.54—dc23
2012024852
First Edition: November 2012
Printed in the United States of America
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Jack might have reacted differently if he’d seen the punch coming. He
might have been able to hold back a little. But he was caught off guard, and
what followed shocked everyone. Jack most of all.
No surprise where it came from. Rico had been riding him since the
summer, and pushing especially hard today.
The morning had started as usual. Giovanni Pastorelli, boss and owner
of Two Paisanos Landscaping, had picked him up at a predesignated subway stop in Brooklyn—Jack lived in Manhattan and trained out—and then
picked up the four Dominicans who made up the rest of the crew. The
Dominicans all lived together in a crowded apartment in Bushwick but
Giovanni refused to drive through there. He made the “wetbacks”—his
not-unaffectionate term for them when they weren’t around—train to a safer
neighborhood.
Jack had arrived in the city in June and came across the Two Paisanos
boss in July at a nursery. His landscaping business had started with two
paisanos but now had only one, Giovanni, who almost laughed Jack off
when he’d asked if he needed an extra hand. He was a twenty-one-year-old
who looked younger. But he’d worked with a number of landscapers in high
school and college, and ten minutes of talk convinced the boss he’d be taking on experienced help.
But Jack’s knowledge of Spanish, rudimentary though it was, clinched
the hire. The boss had come over from Sicily with his folks at age eight and
had lived in Bath Beach forever. He spoke Italian and English but little
Spanish. Jack had taken Spanish in high school and some at Rutgers. The

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Dominicans who made up the rest of Giovanni’s crew spoke next to no
English.
Giovanni worked them all like dogs seven days a week but no harder
than he worked himself. He liked to say, “You’ll get plenty of days off—in
the winter.” He paid cash, four bucks an hour—twenty cents above minimum wage—with no overtime but also no deductions.
Though a newcomer, Jack quickly became Giovanni’s go-to guy. He
could understand the Dominicans if they spoke slowly, and was able to relay the boss’s work orders to them.
Before Jack, that had been Rico’s job. He spoke little English, but
enough to act as go-between. He probably felt demoted. Plus, Giovanni loved
to talk and would launch long, rambling monologues about wine, women,
and Italy at Jack, something never possible with Rico. That had to gall him.
He’d been with Giovanni— or jefe, as he called him—for years, then Jack
strolls in and becomes right-hand man within weeks of his arrival.
Jack had come to like Giovanni. He was something of a peacock with
his pompadour hair and waxed mustache, and could be a harsh taskmaster
when they were running late or weather put him behind schedule. But he
was unfailingly fair, paying on time and to the dime.
He liked his “wetbacks” and respected how hard they worked. But his
old-country values didn’t allow much respect for his clients.
“A man who won’t work his own land don’t deserve it.”
Jack had lost count of how many times he’d heard him mutter that as
they’d unload the mowers and blowers and weed whackers from the trailer.
Giovanni charged jaw-dropping lawn maintenance fees, but people paid
him. He had the quality homeowners wanted most in their gardener: He
showed up. On top of that, he and his crew did good work.
On this otherwise unremarkable late October day, the Two Paisanos
crew was in Forest Hills performing a fall cleanup around a two-story Tudor
in the shadow of the West Side Tennis Club stadium. Last month they’d
worked at the club itself, planting mums for the fall. His dad was a big tennis fan and Jack remembered seeing the place on TV when the US Open
was held here.
Carlos, Juan, and Ramon were happy-go-lucky sorts who loved having
a job and money to spend in the midst of a recession. But Rico had a chip
on his shoulder. Today he’d started in the moment he got in the truck.
Childish stuff. He was seated behind Jack so he began jabbing his knees
against Jack’s seat back. Jack seethed. The months of bad ’tude and verbal
abuse were getting to him. But he did his best to ignore the guy. Rico never

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seemed to be playing with a full deck anyway, and appeared to be missing
more cards than usual today.
When they reached the work site Rico started with the name-calling in
Spanish. One thing lacking in his Spanish classes in Rutgers had been
vernacular obscenities. But Jack had picked up quite a few since July. Rico
was using them all. Usually the comments were directed at Jack, but today
Rico had expanded into Jack’s ancestry, particularly his parents. With
Jack’s mother buried less than a year now, the guy was stomping on hallowed ground. But he didn’t know that. Jack set his jaw, tamped the fire
rising within, and put on his headphones. He started UB40’s latest spinning in his Discman. The easy, mid-tempo reggae of Labour of Love II offered a peaceful break from Rico’s rants.
Rico must have become royally pissed that he couldn’t get a rise. So
pissed he hauled off and sucker-punched Jack in the face.
As his headphones went flying and pain exploded in his cheek, Jack
felt something snap. Not physically, but mentally, emotionally. A darkness
enveloped him. He’d felt it surge up in him before, but never like this. He
took martial arts classes but whatever he’d learned was lost in an explosive
rush of uncontrollable rage. Usually he fought it, but this time he embraced
it. A dark joy filled him as he leaped at Rico with an animal howl.
He pounded his face, feeling his nose snap beneath his knuckles, his
lips shred against his teeth. Rico reeled back, and Jack quarter-spun his
body as he aimed a kick at his left knee. His boot heel connected with the
outside of the knee, caving it inward. Even over the roaring in his ears
he could hear the ligaments snap. As Rico went down, Jack stomped on the
knee, then kicked him in the ribs, once, twice. As Rico clutched his chest
and rolled onto his side, Jack picked up a bowling-ball-size rock from the
garden border and raised it to smash his head.
A pair of powerful arms encircled him and wrenched him around. He
lost his grip on the rock and it landed on the grass, denting the turf.
Giovanni’s voice was shouting close behind his left ear.
“Enough! He’s down! He’s finished! Stop it, for fuck’s sake!”
The darkness receded, Jack’s vision cleared, and he saw Rico on the
ground, his face bloodied, wailing as one arm clutched his ribs and another
his knee.
“All right,” Jack said, relaxing as he stared in wonder at Rico. “All
right.”
What just happened?
Maybe five seconds had passed. So little time, so much damage.

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Carlos, Juan, and Ramon stood in a semicircle behind Rico, their gazes
shifting from Jack to their fallen roommate, their expressions alternating
between fear and anger.
Giovanni released him from behind and spun him around. He looked
frightened, upset.
“What were you gonna do? Kill him?”
“I don’t know. I mean, no. I guess I lost it.”
“Lost it! Damn right, you lost it!” He looked over Jack’s shoulder at
where Rico lay. “Christ, I never seen anything like it.” His expression darkened. “You better get outta here.”
“What?”
“You can catch an E or an F back into the city over on Seventy-first
Avenue.”
Jack felt a new surge of anger, but nothing like before. “Hey, aren’t we
forgetting something here? I was the guy who was minding his own business
when he—”
“I know all about it, but you’re still upright and moving. He ain’t walking anywhere after the way you fucked up his knee.”
“So—”
“So nothing. I know these guys. They’re thick like brothers. You stick
around you’re gonna find some hedge trimmers chewing up your face. Or a
shovel flattening the back of your head. Git. They’ll cool down if you’re not
around.”
The heat surged again. He was ready to take on the remaining three
right now.
“They’ll cool down? What about me?”
“Don’t be a jerk. You’re outnumbered. Move. I’ll call you later.”
“Yeah?” Jack said, resisting the urge to take a swing at Giovanni.
“Don’t bother.”
Railing silently at the unfairness of it all, he picked up his Discman
and started walking.

2
He got off the F at the 42nd Street stop with his cheek throbbing, his right
hand swollen and tender, the knuckles scraped and purpling.
He’d cooled off but was still angry at Giovanni for sending him home.
Yeah, well, what else was new? He’d spent most of the year angry at something.
He’d got off a good ways from what he called home these days—a tiny
apartment he’d found over a flower shop down in the West Twenties. But he
didn’t want to go there. He didn’t hate the place, but didn’t much like it either. Two rooms, good for sleeping and reading and little else. Except
maybe watching TV—if he’d had a TV.
He was feeling pretty low, and sitting in that drafty, empty box would
only push him lower.
He didn’t know what to do with himself. Free time? What was that?
Here it was October and he hadn’t had a day off since hiring on with Two
Paisanos back in July.
He came up to street level in front of Bryant Park, which wasn’t much
of a park at the moment. The city had rimmed it with boards and a high
chain-link fence, closing it for “renovation,” whatever that meant. A black
guy in a crisp blue Windbreaker and jeans saw him looking and stopped.
“Yeah, used to be a great place to get high.”
“So I hear,” Jack said.
As he’d heard someone put it: “Home to the three H’s—hookers, heroin, and homeless.”
“Speakin’ of gettin’ high, you lookin’?”
Jack glanced at him. Didn’t look like a dealer. Had to admit, a little
oblivion might ease the pain, but he’d never got into that. Tried weed in
Rutgers but found beer more to his liking. Sure as hell tasted better.
“Nah.”

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A preferred form of oblivion waited farther down the Deuce.
“You have a nice day, then,” the guy said and strolled on.
Jack looked around. He saw the back of the New York Public Library.
He could walk up to Fifth Avenue, pass between the stone lions guarding
the entrance, find a book, and read.
But the siren call of the grindhouses beckoned.
He crossed Sixth and started walking west on 42nd. Halfway along the
block the porn shops began to appear. Not exclusively. The XXX peep
shows competed with delis and a pizza place and an electronics shop, and
of course the ever-present souvenir stores offering the tacky cast-metal Empire State Buildings, World Trade Center towers, and sickly green Statues
of Liberty. All made in China.
Dinkins had been mayor for close to a year now and was threatening to
clean up the Times Square area. Jack didn’t know how he felt about that.
Sure, it would be great for tourists who wanted to bring their kids here,
but . . . West 42nd was the Deuce, and it wouldn’t—couldn’t be the Deuce
without the sleaze factor.
But so far, no cleanup, no change.
The Deuceland uber alles.
He crossed Seventh and entered Grindhouse Row—the stretch of the
Deuce between Seventh and Eighth, a cheek-by-jowl parade of glittering
movie marquees, each trying to outblaze the next along the length of the
block.
A back alley of heaven.
Some of the theaters showed first-run hits from the majors—Goodfellas
had come out last month and was still going strong here, as was
Arachnophobia—but most offered either reruns or low-budget exploitation
films. Choices ranged from Zapped Again and 10 Violent Women to ancient
oldies like The Immoral Mr. Teas and The Orgy at Lil’s Place. None of
those appealed. But then he came to a Sonny Chiba triple feature: The
Streetfighter, Return of the Streetfighter, and The Streetfighter’s Last Revenge.
He’d seen these on videotape but never on the big screen.
Yes!
He checked the twenty-four-hour timetable on the box office glass
and saw he had about twenty minutes before the next feature began. So
he  walked back up to Times Square and hit the Roy Rogers there for
some roast beef— or was that Trigger?— on a bun with extra horse— see?—
radish sauce.

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