<DIV><DIV><DIV><P>One</P><P>Miranda didn’t hear the sound he made when his face hit the sidewalk. The firecrackers were too loud, punctuating the blaring Sousa band up Stockton. Red string snapped and danced from a corner of a chop suey house on Grant, puffs of gray smoke drifting over the crowd. No cry for help, no whimper.</P><P>Chinese New Year and the Rice Bowl Party, one big carnival, the City that Knows How to Have a Good Time choking Grant and Sacramento. Bush Street blocked, along with her way home to the apartment. Everybody not in an iron lung was drifting to Chinatown, some for the charity, most for the sideshow.</P><P>Help the Chinese fight Japan—put a dollar in the Rice Bowl, feed starving, war-torn China. Buy me a drink, sister, it’s Chinese New Year. Don’t remember who they’re fighting, sister, they all look alike to me.</P><P>Somewhere above her a window opened, and a scratchy recording of “I Can’t Give You Anything but Love” fought its way out. Miranda knelt down next to the boy.</P><P>“You OK, kid?”</P><P>She guessed eighteen or nineteen, from the cheap but flashy clothes and the way his body had fallen, trying to protect itself. No response. She dropped her cigarette, and with effort turned him over, the feet around her finally making some room.</P><P>I can’t give you anything but love, baby—</P><P>“Kid—kid, can you hear me?”</P><P>Nose was broken. So was his jaw. Missing teeth, both eyes black. What looked like burn marks on his cheek.</P><P>That’s the only thing I’ve plenty of, baby—</P><P>She loosened and unknotted the flimsy green tie around his neck. Eyelids fluttering, color gone, face empty of everything except memory. Unbuttoned the shiny brown jacket, saw the hole in his chest.</P><P>Dream a while, scheme a while—</P><P>“We need a doctor! Anybody a doctor? Anybody?”</P><P>The feet around her moved back a little, ripple of noise running through the crowd.</P><P>You’re sure to find—</P><P>Couldn’t risk looking up. His eyes were open now, brown clutching hers.</P><P>Happiness, and I guess—</P><P>She took a deep breath and yelled, voice straining.</P><P>“Doctor! Get a goddamn doctor!”</P><P>All those things you’ve always pined for—</P><P>The cement was still damp with slop from the restaurants and tenements, and his fingers clawed it, looking for an answer. </P><P>She bent close. The crowd shivered again, surged forward. His eyes asked the question and hers lied back.</P><P>“Who did this? Can you understand me? Who—”</P><P>He turned his head toward the direction he’d been thrown from. Last effort.</P><P>Then the bubble. Then the gurgle. Then the cop.</P><P>“Move, you bastards. Move!”</P><P>His boots stood next to her, staring dumbly at the boy.</P><P>“He drunk?”</P><P>I can’t give you anything but love. The record made a clacking sound, and the needle hit the label over and over. Clack. Clack clack.</P><P>She stood up, tired.</P><P>“He’s dead.”</P><P>The record started up again.</P><P>I can’t give you anything but love, baby . . .</P><P> </P><P>The cop at the Hall of Justice was the hard type, but that was the new style for 1940. One too many George Raft and Jimmy Cagney movies, and they all wore their hair short and their mouths even shorter. No wink and a smile with this one. Burn at the stake, every time.</P><P>Miranda inhaled deeply on the Chesterfield and crossed her legs. It distracted him for a few seconds. She watched and counted the clock ticks as he picked up her lighter, her compact, her Chadwick’s Street Guide, her hat, her comb, her lipstick, her keys, her address book, her cigarette case, her note-pad, her pocketbook, and a few gum wrappers and matchbooks, and looked at them as though they might be hiding a .38.</P><P>“So you say you don’t know this—Eddie Takahashi?”</P><P>“I said so.”</P><P>He sat back in the chair. “Just because you got a license that makes it all legal . . . you’re still nothing more than the girls down on Turk. I looked you up.”</P><P>Her dress hitched a little higher when she leaned over his desk to rub out the cigarette in the scarred wood. His eyes fell.</P><P>“Congratulations. You can read.”</P><P>Sour smile, spit at the corners. Pulled his eyes back up while he rocked on his feet, the chair squeaking in rhythm.</P><P>“I can read all right. It’s some record. Spain with the Reds. Came back and worked for Dianne Larouche as an escort. Then hooked up with Charlie Burnett on divorce cases . . .” He paused, savoring it, looking her up and down. “He was never one for fresh bait. Then Burnett gets bumped off, they claim you figure out who, and you get a license and take over his business and land some cushy World’s Fair job on Treasure Island, guarding Sally Rand. Takes a whore to know a whore, I guess. So . . . who was the dead Jap— a client?”</P><P>Miranda dropped her eyes from the clock on the wall to the shiny, stubbled face of Star number 598. She stared at him until he flinched, his chair shrieking one last time.</P><P>“Get on with your job or I call my attorney.”</P><P>His hands clenched around the fountain pen, red and pulpy. “Your attorney. He your new pimp?”</P><P>The section gate swung open, banging against the partition. Phil stood, twirling his hat, looking at Miranda. Star number 598 flushed purple, jumped up from the desk.</P><P>“If you want to take over, Lieutenant . . .” The words trailed off in a mumble while he slid out into the hall.</P><P>Phil took off his hat, lines on his face deeper than she remembered. More gray on his chin. More paunch in his belly. Goddamn it. She wasn’t up to Phil, not today. Better to deal with the Puritan.</P><P>“You do something to Collins?”</P><P>She reached across the desk and took another Chesterfield out of the gold case, not speaking until she snapped it shut and returned it to its pile.</P><P>“Objects to me on principle.”</P><P>Phil’s eyes followed her hand when she picked up the yellow cab matchbook. After two attempts, she struck one on the desk and lit the stick, hand shaking slightly. Leaned back in the hard wooden chair and met his eyes.</P><P>“Been awhile, Miranda. You look good. It’s been—how long? Since the Incubator Babies racket last year? They must be treating you right, all your Fair friends.”</P><P>She shrugged. “Pays the bills. And I’m keeping busy in the off-season.”</P><P>“Still with divorce cases, I hear. Well, good for you. Kept Burnett in clover.” He cleared this throat, looked down at his large hands, unexpectedly helpless, folded on the desk.</P><P>“So one more year...guess one bankrupt World’s Fair’s not enough. Maybe ’40’ll be more magic than ’39, who knows. You going back to work in May?”</P><P>She took a deep drag on the Chesterfield and blew a smoke ring. Gave him half a smile.</P><P>“Same troubles, same fair—shorter season. Bigger Gayway this year, though, more girl shows, more work for me. So yeah, I’m hitching my tent to Treasure Island again.”</P><P>He cleared his throat again, studied the floor at her feet. Pressed his hands tight on the desk, fingers splayed.</P><P>“I’ll be retiring soon. Chief Quinn’s going home in a few days... the mayor’s appointing Dullea. You probably heard about it. There’ll be changes— always are. I’m not always going to be around to watch out for you. I’d like to see you get settled.”</P><P>Miranda stared at the lipstick stain on her cigarette. A woman two rows over was sobbing i <BR><BR><i>Continues...</i> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>City of Dragons</b> by <b>Stanley, Kelli</b> Copyright © 2010 by Stanley, Kelli. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.