F E A R O F T H E D A R K

a n o v e l b y

Walter Mosley

Little, Brown and Company

New York Boston London

Copyright © 2006 by Walter Mosley

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Little, Brown and Company

Hachette Book Group USA

1271 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Visit our Web site at www.HachetteBookGroupUSA.com First eBook Edition: September 2006

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

ISBN-10: 0-7595-6819-7

1. Jones, Fearless (Fictitious character) — Fiction. 2. Minton, Paris (Fictitious character) — Fiction. 3. Private investigators —

California — Los Angeles — Fiction. 4. Booksellers and bookselling — Fiction. 5. African American men — Fiction.

6. Los Angeles (Calif.) — Fiction. I. Title.

To Ken Brecher, Michelle Satter,

and all my friends at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab F E A R O F T H E D A R K

I wa s e x p e c t i n g o n e k i n d of trouble when another came knocking at my door.

1 A year or so after I opened my Florence Avenue Used Book Shop, I installed four mirrors; one in the upper- right-hand corner of the door frame, one just outside the lower-left-hand side of the window, and the third, and second-largest, mirror was placed inside the window. So by daylight or lamplight at night, all I had to do was pull back the bottom hem of the inside drape to see who was knocking.

I installed my little spying device because if a man wanted to kill you and you asked “Who is it?” on the other side of a thin plank of wood, all he would have to do is open fire and that would be it. You might as well just throw the door open and say “Here I am. Come shoot me.”

Someone might wonder why the owner of a used-book store would even think about armed assassins coming after him at any time, for any reason. After all, this is America we’re talking about. And not only America but Los Angeles in the midfifties — 1956 to be exact.

We aren’t talking about the Wild West or a period of social and political unrest. That was the most serene period of a demo-cratic and peaceful nation. Most Americans at that time only 1

Walter Mosley

worried about the cost of gas going above twenty-nine cents a gallon.

But most Americans weren’t black and they sure didn’t live in South Central L.A. And even if they were my color and they did live in my neighborhood, their lives would have been different.

Through no fault of my own I often found myself in the company of desperate and dangerous men — and women. I associated with murderers, kidnappers, extortionists, and fools of all colors, ages, and temperaments. By nature I am a peaceful man, some might say cowardly. I don’t care what they say.

It does not shame me to admit that I would rather run than fight. Sometimes, even with my mirrors, I didn’t go anywhere near the door if the knock was too loud or too stealthy.

And during business hours, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Monday through Saturday, I sat at my desk at the top of the staircase so that if someone dangerous walked in I would be able to get away before they even knew I was there; the fourth, and largest, mirror was on the ceiling at the head of the stairs for just that purpose.

Don’t get me wrong; most of my customers were readers, primarily women and children, and unlikely to be looking for trouble. Whole days could go by and no one came to my bookstore (which was also my home), so I could spend long days reading books, uninterrupted and blissful.

But even though I was alone most days and the people who sought me out were, 999 times out of 1,000, looking for a book, there was that one time now and again when someone came to my door bearing malice and a gun.

I often think that this was true because of my decade-long friendship with Fearless Jones. Fearless was tall and thin, jet of 2

FEAR OF THE DARK

color, and stronger of thew and character than any other man I had ever met. He wasn’t afraid of death or love, threat or imprisonment. Fearless Jones wasn’t even afraid of poverty, which made him a rare man indeed. No one could intimidate him and so he went wherever he wanted and associated with anyone he cared to.

Those anyones often came to me when they were looking for my friend and expressed themselves in ways that Fearless would not have stood for — if he were there.

Sometimes Fearless came to me when he was in a jam and needed the clear eye of logic to see his way out. And, because he’d saved my life more than once, I most often agreed to help, with the caveat that my aid wouldn’t throw me into trouble.

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