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Excerpt

Excerpt

Right As Rain

Chapter 1What
Derek Strange was worried about, looking at Jimmy Simmons sitting
there, spilling over a chair on the other side of his desk, was
that Simmons was going to pick some of Strange's personal shit up
off the desktop in front of him and start winging it across the
room. Either that or get to bawling like a damn baby. Strange
didn't know which thing he wanted to happen less. He had some items
on that desk that meant a lot to him: gifts women had given him
over the years, tokens of gratitude from clients, and a couple of
Redskins souvenirs from back in the 1960s. But watching a man cry,
that was one thing he could not take.
"Tell me again, Derek." Simmons's lip was trembling, and pools
of tears were threatening to break from the corners of his
bloodshot eyes. "Tell me again what that motherfucker looked like,
man."
"It's all in the report," said Strange."I'm
gonna kill him, see? And right after that, I'm gonna kill his ass
again."
"You're talkin' no sense, Jimmy.""Fifteen years of marriage and my woman's just now decided to
go and start taking some other man's dick? You're gonna tell me now
about sense? God-damn!"
Jimmy Simmons struck his fist to the desktop, next to a plaster
football player with a spring-mounted head. The player, a white
dude originally whose face Janine's son, Lionel, had turned dark
brown with paint, wore the old gold trousers and burgundy jersey
from back in the day, and he carried a football cradled in one arm.
The head jiggled, and the Redskins toy tilted on its base. Strange
reached over, grabbed the player, and righted it before it could
tip over.
"Take it easy. You break that, I can't even charge you for it,
'cause it's priceless, hear?"
"I'm
sorry, Derek." A tear sprang loose from Simmons's right eye and ran
down one of his plump cheeks. "Shit."
"Here you go, man." Strange ripped a Kleenex from the box atop
his desk and handed it to Simmons, who dabbed tenderly at his
cheek. It was a delicate gesture for a man whose last day under
three hundred pounds was a faded memory.
"I
need to know what the man looked like," said Simmons. "I need to
know his name."
"It's all in the report," Strange repeated, pushing a manila
envelope across the desk. "But you don't want to be doing nothin'
about it, hear?"
Simmons opened the envelope and inched out its contents slowly
and warily, the way a child approaches an open casket for the first
time. Strange watched Simmons's eyes as they moved across the
photographs and the written report.
It
hadn't taken Strange all that long to get the goods on Denice
Simmons. It was a tail-and-surveillance job, straight up, the
simplest, dullest, and most common type of work he did. He had
followed Denice to her boyfriend's place over in Springfield,
Virginia, on two occasions and waited on the street until she came
out and drove back into D.C. The third time Strange had tailed her,
on a Sunday night when Jimmy Simmons was up in Atlantic City at an
electronics show, he had waited the same way, but Denice did not
emerge from the man's apartment. The lights went out in the
third-story window where the man lived, and this was all Strange
needed. He filled out the paperwork in the morning, picked up the
photographs he had taken to a one-hour shop, and called Jimmy
Simmons to his office the same day.
"How
long?" said Simmons, not looking up from the documents.
"Three months, I'd say.""How
you know that?"
"Denice got no other kind of business being over in Virginia,
does she?"
"She
works in the District. She's got no friends over in
Virginia-"
"Your own credit card bills, the ones you supplied? Denice has
been charging gas at a station over there by the Franconia exit for
three, three and a half months. The station's just a mile down the
road from our boy's apartment."
"You
think she'd be smarter than that." Simmons nearly grinned with
affection. "She never does like to pay for her own gas. Always puts
it on the card so I'll have to pay, come bill time. She's tight
with her money, see. Funny for a woman to be that way. And though
she knows I'll be stroking the checks, she always has to stop for
the cheapest gas, even if it means driving out of her way. I bet if
you checked, you'd see they were selling gas at that station dirt
cheap."
"Dollar and a penny for regular," said Strange.Simmons rose from his chair, his belly and face quivering as if
his flesh were being blown by a sudden gust of wind. "Well, I'll
see you, Derek. I'll take care of your services, soon as I see a
bill."
"Janine will get it out to you straightaway.""Right. And thanks for the good work.""Always hate it when it turns out like this, Jimmy."Simmons placed a big hat with a red feather in its band on his
big head. "You're just doing your job."
Strange sat in his office, waiting to hear Simmons go out the
door. It would take a few minutes, as long as it took Simmons to
flirt with Janine and for Janine to get rid of him. Strange heard
the door close. He got out from behind his desk and put himself
into a midlength black leather jacket lined with quilt and a thin
layer of down. He took a PayDay bar, which Janine had bought for
him, off the desk and slipped it into a pocket of the
jacket.
Out
in the reception area of the office, Strange stopped at Janine
Baker's desk. Behind her, a computer terminal showed one of the
Internet's many sites that specialized in personal searches.
Janine's brightly colored outfit was set off against her dark, rich
skin. Her red lipstick picked up the red of the dress. She was a
pretty, middle-aged woman, liquid eyed, firm breasted, wide of hip,
and lean legged.
"That was quick," he said."He
wasn't his usual playful self. He said I was looking lovely
today-"
"You
are."
Janine blushed. "But he didn't go beyond that. Didn't seem like
his heart was all that in it."
"I
just gave him the bad news about his wife. She was getting a little
somethin'-somethin' on the side with this young auto parts clerk,
sells batteries over at the Pep Boys in northern
Virginia."
"How'd they meet? He see her stalled out on the side of the
road or something?"
"Yeah, he's one of those good Samaritans you hear
about."
"Pulled over to give her a jump, huh.""Now, Janine.""This the same guy she was shackin' up with two years
ago?"
"Different guy. Different still than the guy she was running
with three years before that."
"What's he gonna do?""He
went through the motions with me, telling me what he was going to
do to that guy. But all's he'll do is, he'll make Denice suffer a
little bit. Not with his hands, nothin' like that. Jimmy wouldn't
touch Denice in that way. No, they'll be doing some kind of I'm
Sorry ceremony for the next few days, and then he'll forgive her,
until the next one comes along."
"Why's he stay with her?""He
loves her. And I think she loves him, too. So I guess there's no
chance for you and Big Jimmy. I don't think he'll be leaving any
time soon."
"Oh,
I can wait."
Strange grinned. "Give him a chance to fill out a little bit,
huh?"
"He
fills out any more, we'll have to put one of those garage doors on
the front of this place just to let him in."
"He
fills out any more, Fat Albert, Roseanne, Liz Taylor, and Sinbad
gonna get together and start telling Jimmy Simmons weight
jokes."
"He
fills out any more-"
"Hold up, Janine. You know what we're doing right
here?"
"What?""It's called √ędoing the dozens.'""That so.""Uh-huh. White man on NPR yesterday, was talking about this
book he wrote about African American culture? Said that doing the
dozens was this thing we been doin' for generations. Called it the
precursor of rap music."
"They got a name for it, for real? And here I thought we were
just cracking on Jimmy."
"I'm
not lying." Strange buttoned his coat. "Get that bill out to
Simmons, will you?"
"I
handed it to him as he was going out the door."
"You're always on it. I don't know why I feel the need to
remind you." Strange nodded to one of two empty desks on either
side of the room. "Where's Ron at?"
"Trying to locate that debtor, the hustler took that woman off
for two thousand dollars."
"Old
lady lives down off Princeton?"
"Uh-huh. Where you headed?""Off
to see Chris Wilson's mom."
Strange walked toward the front door, his broad, muscled
shoulders moving beneath the black leather, gray salted into his
hair and closely cropped beard.
He
turned as his hand touched the doorknob." You want something else?"
He had felt Janine's eyes on his back.
"No... why?""You
need me, or if Ron needs me, I'll be wearin' my beeper."
Strange stepped out onto 9th Street, a short commercial strip
between Upshur and Kansas, one spit away from Georgia Avenue. He
smiled, thinking of Janine. He had met her the first time at a club
ten years earlier, and he had started hitting it then because both
of them wanted him to, and because it was there for him to
take.
Janine had a son, Lionel, from a previous marriage, and this
scared him. Hell, everything about commitment scared him, but being
a father to a young man in this world, it scared him more than
anything else. Despite his fears, their time together had seemed
good for both Strange and Janine, and he had stayed with it,
knowing that when it's good it's rare, and unless there's a strong
and immediate reason, you should never give it up. The affair went
on steadily for several months.
When
he lost his office manager, he naturally thought of Janine, as she
was out of work, bright, and a born organizer. They agreed that
they would break off the relationship when she started working for
him, and soon thereafter she went and got serious with another man.
This was fine with him, a relief, as it had let him out the back
door quietly, the way he always liked to go. That man exited
Janine's life shortly thereafter.
Strange and Janine had recently started things up once again.
Their relationship wasn't exclusive, at least not for Strange. And
the fact that he was her boss didn't bother either of them, in the
ethical sense. Their lovemaking simply filled a need, and Strange
had grown attached to the boy as well. Friends warned him about
shitting on the dining room table, but he was genuinely fond of the
woman, and she did make his nature rise after all the years. He
liked to play with her, too, let her know that he knew that she was
still interested. It kept things lively in the deadening routine of
their day-to-day.
Strange stood out on the sidewalk for a moment and glanced up
at the yellow sign over the door: "Strange Investigations," the
letters in half of both words enlarged inside the magnifying-glass
illustration drawn across the lightbox. He loved that logo. It
always made him feel something close to good when he looked up at
that sign and saw his name.
He
had built this business by himself and done something positive in
the place where he'd come up. The kids in the neighborhood, they
saw a black man turn the key on the front door every morning, and
maybe it registered, put something in the back of their minds
whether they realized it or not. He'd kept the business going for
twenty-five years now, and the bumps in the road had been just
that. The business was who he was. All of him, and all
his.
STRANGE sat low behind the wheel of his white-over-black '89
Caprice, listening to a Blackbyrds tape coming from the box as he
cruised south on Georgia Avenue. Next to him on the bench was a
mini Maglite, a Rand McNally street atlas, and a Leatherman
tool-in-one in a sheath that he often wore looped through his belt
on the side of his hip. He wore a Buck knife the same way, all the
time when he was on a job. A set of 10 X 50 binoculars, a cell
phone, a voice-activated tape recorder, and extra batteries for his
flashlights and camera were in the glove box, secured with a double
lock. In the trunk of the car was a file carton containing data on
his live cases. Also in the trunk was a steel Craftsman toolbox
housing a heavy Maglite, a Canon AE-1 with a 500-millimeter lens, a
pair of Russian-made NVD goggles, a 100-foot steel Craftsman tape
measure, a roll of duct tape, and various Craftsman tools useful
for engine and tire repair. When he could, Strange always bought
Craftsman - the tools were guaranteed for life, and he tended to be
hard on his equipment.
He
drove through Petworth. In the Park View neighborhood he cut east
on Irving, took Michigan Avenue past Children's Hospital and into
Northeast, past Catholic U and down into Brookland.
Strange parked in front of Leona Wilson's modest brick home at
12th and Lawrence. He kept the motor running, waiting for the flute
solo on "Walking in Rhythm" to end, though he could listen to it
anytime. He'd come here because he'd promised Leona Wilson that he
would, but he wasn't in any hurry to make this call.
Strange saw the curtain move in the bay window of Leona's
house. He cut the engine, got out of his car, locked it down, and
walked up the concrete path to Leona's front door. The door was
already opening as he approached.
"Mrs. Wilson," he said, extending his hand."Mr.
Strange."

Excerpted from RIGHT AS RAIN © Copyright 2005 by George
Pelecanos. Reprinted with permission by Little Brown & Co., an
imprint of Time Warner Bookmark. All rights reserved.

Right As Rain
by by George Pelecanos

  • Genres: Crime Fiction, Fiction
  • Mass Market Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 0446610798
  • ISBN-13: 9780446610797