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Authors: Robert K. Tanenbaum

Absolute Rage

BOOK: Absolute Rage
5.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

“Tanenbaum knows how to plot and pace, he writes dialogue that snaps, creates stories that need to be told. What more can you ask from a thriller?”

—Jonathan Kellerman



“In the tawdry barrens where would-be thrillers lurk, Robert K. Tanenbaum's novels stand out as oases in a desolate waste: vivid, witty, unflagging, and zestful.
is one more of the same.”

—Los Angeles Times

“Tanenbaum can evoke young love as persuasively as he does a brawl in a honky-tonk. This is a writer worth knowing.”

—The Washington Post

“Beyond superb in style and content.”

—Independent on Sunday

“Tanenbaum provides plenty of action.”

—Orlando Sentinel

“Talk about irresistible—no fan worth his or her salt will miss this earthquake of a thriller.”

—Publishers Weekly

“A powerful thriller albeit one that leaves readers satiated and the Karp-Ciampi crowd ready for their next adventure filled with

—The Midwest Book Review

“Solid characters and taut plotting. . . . Fans won't be disappointed.”



“Tanenbaum makes his people complicated souls who live and breathe. . . . [He] has a wonderful way with incisive throwaway lines, the sort you reread just to savor.”

—St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“A fast-paced, suspenseful, tightly plotted, and morally complex legal thriller. . . .
entertains while reminding that the truth is the first casualty of politics and, while it's not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, the attempt should always be made.”

—Tampa Tribune

“Fans of Tanenbaum's characters, sharp dialogue, and grasp of the intricacies of New York's legal system will not be disappointed.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Witty, sharp, and morally complex. . . . A crackerjack finale.”

—Sunday Mercury
(San Jose, CA)

“Tanenbaum's skill is keeping three engrossing stories going, twisting them together and hitting the finish line in a tidy, taut drama.”

—Palm Beach Post

“Vintage Tanenbaum. . . . [It] opens with a bang.”


“One hell of a writer.”

—The New York Post


“Intelligent dialogue, a well-designed maze of political and moral traps, and the charming and incendiary chemistry between Karp and Ciampi. For those who prefer their legal thrillers with plenty of spice and a high IQ, Tanenbaum remains an essential addiction.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Deftly handled. . . . Karp and Ciampi are smart, honest, and aggressive.”

—Los Angeles Times Book Review


“Butch Karp and Marlene Ciampi are the most interesting pair of characters in the suspense genre today.”

—Chicago Tribune

“[A] richly plotted, tough, and funny crime series.”


“Tanenbaum is one lawyer who can write with the best of them.”

—Joseph Wambaugh

“Irresistible entertainment.”

—Publishers Weekly

“Tanenbaum knows how to thrill.”

—Lexington Herald-Leader

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To those most special, Rachael, Roger, Billy, and Patti and to the memory of my boss, Frank S. Hogan


Again, and yet again, all praise belongs to Michael Gruber, whose genius and scholarship flow throughout and who is primarily and solely responsible for the excellence of this manuscript and whose contribution cannot be overstated.


that the iron laws of supply and demand make it hard to earn a decent living doing it. As a result, murder for hire is almost always a sideline, and the people who engage in it are by and large stupid losers, quickly caught, and quicker still to rat out the idiots who hired them. The very few real professionals in the business are careful never to meet their clients. Instead, they deal through people like Mr. Ballantine. Mr. Ballantine is sitting in the driver's seat of his Mercedes sedan at the corner of Gansevoort and Washington Streets at 7
. on a Sunday evening, about the loneliest place you can be on the island of Manhattan. This is the old meatpacking district, deserted at this hour, except for the occasional street person. It's early summer, the sky is the dull color of galvanized metal and seems to reflect the heat of the day down upon the City. Although the river is close by, there is no breath of air. The bits of trash on the street do not stir. Mr. Ballantine has the air-conditioning on high. He is listening to a Frank Sinatra CD. Frank is singing “Fly Me to the Moon.”

A white car goes by, brakes at the end of the street, and does a clumsy U-turn. Its driver parks behind the Mercedes and gets out and, as he has been instructed to do, enters the rear seat. Mr. Ballantine does not turn around. His dark eyes meet the watery blue ones of the other in the rearview mirror.


“That's right. Did you bring the money?”

“I can get it. I wanted to discuss the details.”

Ballantine allows himself a small sigh and glances at the dashboard clock. He had hoped that this would go smoothly, as he has an appointment downtown, but obviously he was wrong. He studies what he can see of the man in the mirror. A pale disk of face, late forties, running a little to fat. Stiff sandy hair, sideburns somewhat longer than the current fashion in New York, a dark suit jacket with a gold pin of some fraternal order in the lapel, a thick tie with a heavy, mixed pattern. An out-of-towner, a hick. A little cornpone in the voice, too. A Southerner? That would be unusual. Southerners usually did it themselves.

“No, we don't discuss the details,” Mr. Ballantine says. “You give me twenty-five now and it gets done and you give me twenty-five again. That's it, end of discussion.”

“I don't know. That's a lot of money, you know. Just to hand over to someone you never seen before.”

Not Southern; a hillbilly of some kind. Mr. Ballantine is tempted to cut it off right there, tell the hick to get lost, but he has already invested some time and money. He has paid the bartender who picked up the job, and the guy the bartender told, who told him and set up the meeting. He could write that off as overhead, but still . . .

“Look,” says Mr. Ballantine, “you never did this before, am I right?”

“Yeah, but . . .”

“I've done it a lot, which tells you something. That I know what I'm doing. Because, you know, this is illegal.”

A short bark of a laugh from the rear seat.

“Right, and I'm still here, on the outside. Also, think about it for a minute: I'm dealing all the time with people who want to get rid of other people, they're not going to sit down for getting ripped off. I wouldn't be in business if I did that. This is the way it has to be. No questions. I don't know you, you don't know me. You don't know who I'm going to get to do the job. He doesn't know you. Me, I'm just a voice on the phone and an envelope full of cash in his post office box as far as he's concerned. Everyone is sealed off from everyone else, you understand? Seal-off is the main thing. That and the professional job, experienced personnel, guaranteed operation, and so forth. Now, I'm not saying there's not cheaper ways to go.”

“For example?” said the man in the backseat, his tone avid. Mr. Ballantine checked his mirror. The man's eyes were wide with interest.

“For example, you could find some guys in a bar around where you come from, a couple of tough guys, what d'y'call them, good old boys. And you could give them a couple of grand and they'd go do it for you. Assuming they do it at all and not get drunk and fuck it up, it'd take maybe three, four days before they told someone, or the cops traced something they dropped at the scene back to them, and a couple of hours after that, they'd come and arrest you, because those boys'll give you up quicker than shit. On the other hand, you saved all that money.”

“I'm not that stupid, Mr. Ballantine,” said the man coldly, after a brief silence.

“We don't know that yet. If you're not stupid, either you're going to forget about the job, kiss and make up with this fella, or you're going to give me twenty-five large in assorted unconsecutive currency. Those are the two non-stupid options. Up to you, Jim. I could care less either way.”

“I'll have to think about it,” said the man, easing across the seat. “Other people are involved in this.”

That would be another mistake, thought Mr. Ballantine, but said nothing as the man walked back to his rental. When the car had disappeared, Mr. Ballantine got out into the heat and snapped off the magnetized fake New York plates and tossed them in the trunk, revealing the authentic Jersey plates underneath. Sealing it off.

*  *  *

The voices of children woke her out of a sun-dazed nap and she sat up in the beach chair, checking first of all to see if Lizzie was there, and of course she was, building her sand castle where the sand got damp. There were two boys, about ten years old, both dark-haired and lean, one in a red Speedo suit and one in baggy cutoffs. They were splashing in the shallows of the Sound, playing with something big and black, a truck-tire inner tube? In the distance was an adult, obscure now in the glare and salt haze. A woman.

Rose allowed herself a moment of annoyance. Crab Point was a private beach, although who it actually belonged to just now was a lawyer's guess. But it had been in her family for generations. She had come here as a child, to the big white house on the beach, and she had brought the boys here when they were babies, and now, after a long hiatus, she had brought Lizzie, and who was this woman to come here as if it were a public park, with her two noisy kids and her—

The thing was the size of a calf, black, dripping sea spray and slaver, and it was rushing directly at her and Lizzie. Her belly jumped with fear. She started to get to her feet to get between the monster and her little girl, who was kneeling next to her sand castle, her back to the onrushing dog, oblivious.

There came a piercing double whistle and the dog, now not more than three yards from Rose, spun instantly around like a mechanical toy, throwing a gout of sand as it skidded, and immediately began to race back toward the other woman.

Who waved and called, “Sorreeee!”

Rose experienced a rush of anger, at the woman and that animal, but also at herself, for her appalling cowardice. She had never been frightened of dogs before.

“Can I go in, Mom?” asked Lizzie. “It's boiling.” She had her little red tube around her waist.

BOOK: Absolute Rage
5.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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