A Selection of Titles by Gar Anthony Haywood
The Aaron Gunner Mysteries
FEAR OF THE DARK
NOT LONG FOR THIS WORLD
YOU CAN DIE TRYING
IT’S NOT A PRETTY SIGHT
WHEN LAST SEEN ALIVE
ALL THE LUCKY ONES ARE DEAD
The Joe and Dottie Loudermilk Series
GOING NOWHERE FAST
BAD NEWS TRAVELS FAST
writing as Ray Shannon
available from Severn House
Gar Anthony Haywood
This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
First world edition published 2011
in Great Britain and in the USA by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
Copyright © 2011 by Gar Anthony Haywood.
All rights reserved.
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Haywood, Gar Anthony.
1. Suspense fiction.
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-147-7 (epub)
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8083-3 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-379-3 (trade paper)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
This ebook produced by
Palimpsest Book Production Limited,
Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.
In Memory of Richard Deroy
Great fathers come in all shapes and sizes, and they go to war for their families in myriad ways. If the proof of a man’s parenting is in the quality of the people his children become, this guy had to be one of the best.
The author is indebted to the following people, who can be credited with making this book a more credible read than might have otherwise been possible:
Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars
Lukas Ortiz, Triana Silton & Rigo Orozco
¿Cómo se dice muchas gracias en español?
Mark Haskell Smith
Marcus and Chy
WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA
is last night in Florida, Joe Reddick remembered the blood in the goldfish bowl.
And just like that, he knew he was doomed to fuck up again. Drive the heel of a pool cue into a rude drunk’s eye, or throw an insolent yuppie down a long flight of stairs. He could see it coming the moment the nightmare released him and his eyes opened wide on to the dark, empty reaches of his bedroom, sweat rolling down the ridges of his spine like water rushing from an open tap.
He had been living with the recurrent nightmare for almost two years now but its occasional surprises could still bring him to his knees. From time to time, a long-forgotten detail or two from the longest day of his life would bubble up to the dream’s surface and his reaction to the shock was always the same: recoil and strike. Walk around in a white hot daze until his freshly stoked rage egged him into sharing his pain with someone, anyone, who might marginally deserve it.
Tonight, the nightmare’s new prop had been a trivial one, all things considered: just a flat-bottomed globe of glass filled with crimson water, sitting atop a hallway table next to a face towel striped with blood. An eerie tableau, perhaps, but hardly haunting – unless of course, like Reddick, one were privy to the front end of Donovan Sykes’s twisted little joke.
Sykes had thought he was being funny, using Little Joe’s fish-bowl for a wash basin after his demonic work in Reddick’s home was done. The two Palm Beach PD detectives who had questioned Sykes later told Reddick he had fallen all over himself describing how Fenster and Gomez, Little Joe’s pet goldfish, had tasted going down. Laughed so hard he cried, they said.
Reddick imagined Sykes’s laughter now, twenty-six months and eleven days later, and leapt from his bed like a man fleeing from a burning house.
He tossed his clothes on without showering and took a taxi straight to the airport, leaving his Gotham Court apartment for good. It was only a few minutes after six a.m. His flight to Los Angeles was over three hours away, but the airport seemed the safest place for him now. Maybe if he hid in the empty bar with his eyes closed, drank himself into a state of benign semi-consciousness until his plane began boarding, he could get out of Florida without doing any more damage.
The mindnumbing somnolence of West Palm Beach Airport before eight in the morning offered him no diversion from the images of the nightmare that kept filling his head. By nine a.m., a successful escape to California still over an hour away, Reddick could feel the blood in his veins burning like oil in a skillet and he couldn’t keep his fists unclenched.
He was relocating to Los Angeles in the hope life could be different somewhere else, that after months of psychotherapy he was a sane and stable man who only needed a change of scenery to be made whole. But that was a dream that would evaporate like smoke if he let the wheels come off again now. He could run to LA or Chicago, Dallas or St Louis – to the far corners of the fucking earth if he wanted – and it wouldn’t make a damn bit of difference, because he’d still be the same old Joe Reddick, a sick, wounded wreck of a man for whom there was no hope for a life of normalcy.
The American terminal was packed now and everywhere he looked he saw something that angered him, ordinary nuisances that right at this moment rubbed his nerves raw. Every spoken word, every click of a laptop keyboard raged in his head like an amplified scream.
He heard the guy in the Dolphins jersey before he saw him. He was a big hulk with massive arms and a pitted red face, standing before an observation window next to a woman Reddick imagined was his wife. The guy called himself being discreet, holding his voice down to a low rumble, but the malice in his body language, and the fear in his woman’s eyes, left little doubt about the nature of their exchange.
He had a grip on the lady’s left biceps that Reddick noticed right away.
Reddick had seen such holds before: vise-like expressions of male authority meant as much to break the spirit as to bruise the flesh. It was the weapon small men liked to use to re-establish their will over wives and girlfriends when an open right hand was, for one reason or another, a socially untenable option.
Reddick looked away, but only for a moment.
The guy kept asking the woman if she was listening. ‘Are you listening? Are you
?’ Talking to her like a child he’d lost all patience with.
Take it somewhere else, asshole
, Reddick thought.
Do us both a favor
But the guy never moved, of course. He just went right on playing the dick, the foul-mouthed, high school jock gone to seed who thought the world was his own private oyster and everything in it had his name on it.
Reddick got up, intending to move to another part of the terminal, but then he got his first good look at the guy’s face and whatever chance he’d had of holding things together went out the window.
Because, hell, if the sonofabitch didn’t have Junior Greene’s teeth.
The man named Junior Greene whom Reddick knew during his old days on the Riviera Beach Police Department was tall, black, and ugly as homemade sin. And it only made matters worse that he had the teeth of a bull moose.
When Greene smiled, he looked like a fighter trying to eject his mouthpiece. His grin was an unnerving flash of pale yellow he used to great effect, a calling card all his enemies knew him by, and Reddick had despised it even before Greene had shown it to him that day almost two years ago up on the jailhouse steps, stretching his lips back as far as they would go to punctuate a victory over an old adversary.
Greene had cut a large letter ‘H’ for ‘Hollywood’ into the side of a sixteen-year-old girl’s face eleven days before, trying to break her of the habit of going to the movies instead of walking her stroll, but thanks to Reddick, the charges against him had been dropped. Reddick and his partner Charlie Post had busted Greene only three months after the triple funeral that would haunt Reddick to his grave, and Reddick had been getting more volatile and out of control by the day. Knowing what he and the rest of the world did about Reddick’s troubles, Greene should have granted the cop a wide berth, but the arrogant fool had chosen instead to respond with a hearty ‘fuck you’ when Reddick asked him to produce the weapon he had used on the girl. Reddick returned the insult by breaking the pimp’s left arm in two places.
Not surprisingly, an Assistant DA subsequently decided the case against Greene was too tainted to take to trial, and set him free.
Post had tried desperately to talk him out of it, but Reddick had insisted on being there the day Greene was released from custody. Squinting into a blinding noonday sun, the pimp had stepped out of the county jail, immediately spotted Reddick and Post sitting in their unmarked Chevy – and smiled his best smile.
It had been all Post could do to keep Reddick from killing him right there.
Less than five weeks later, Reddick was an ex-cop. He’d already been on course to be booted from the job before Greene’s final act of defiance, but having the pimp laugh in his face that day, knowing full well what Reddick had only recently endured, had sent his downward spiral into overdrive.
For a long time afterwards, Reddick dreamed about payback. But payback never came. Greene became part of a past Reddick needed desperately to put behind him, to bury and forget like a bad dream, so that was what he did. He gave Greene a pass.
In fact, he couldn’t remember the last time the thought of Junior Greene, standing outside the Palm Beach County Jail with that goddamn equestrian grin on his face, had even entered his mind.
But it sure as hell was there now.
‘Can I help you, buddy?’ the guy in the Dolphins jersey asked.
He’d finally taken note of Reddick staring and left his woman alone long enough to return a stare of his own. Reddick could see now that his teeth were – incredibly – actually larger than Junior’s had been. Whiter and more inhumanly symmetrical. He wondered how in hell the guy could ever get his lips to close around them.
‘Hey. I’m talking to you,’ the big man said, closing in on him.
‘Sorry,’ Reddick said, finally finding his voice. He still had a chance to escape without incident, if only—
‘This is a private conversation, asshole. You got a problem with that?’
Reddick only glared at him at first. Then: ‘You should treat the lady with a little more respect.’ Not knowing he was going to say anything at all until the words were out of his mouth.
Enraged, the big guy took three steps, put his face right up in Reddick’s.
Some things, Reddick thought, fate just wouldn’t let a man walk around.
A few minutes shy of six o’clock that same day, a Riviera Beach cop named Dick Glavin walked over to Charlie Post’s cubicle and said, ‘Hey, Big Stuff. You’ll never guess who just broke a guy’s face into a hundred different pieces out at West Palm Beach Airport.’
Post didn’t even bother looking up, just kept right on typing the arrest report he was struggling to get through. He knew it was Glavin talking, and he knew the white man was grinning. The Robbery and Homicide detective had a smirk you could fucking
when he talked to you.
‘So there ain’t no point in my trying, right?’
‘Your old pal Joe Red. That’s who.’
!’ Post said, having just misspelled the word ‘intersection’ for the third time in three tries. He groped around for his bottle of correction fluid, finally gave Glavin a taste of his attention. Taking his best shot at faking disinterest. ‘Joe Red, huh? That right?’
‘But not to worry. No damage done,’ Glavin said, his grin smearing itself across his mottled face again. ‘Asshole he did the nose job on took the first swing. We couldn’t’ve held him if we’d wanted to.’