Authors: Elmore Leonard
Tags: #Police Procedural, #General, #Mystery & Detective, #Detective and mystery stories, #Fiction
To my wife Joan
for giving me the title
and a certain look
when I write too many words.
Chris Mankowski’s last day
on the job, two in the afternoon, two hours to go, he got a call to dispose of a bomb.
What happened, a guy by the name of Booker, a twenty-five-year-old super-dude twice-convicted felon, was in his Jacuzzi when the phone rang. He yelled for his bodyguard Juicy Mouth to take it. “Hey, Juicy?” His bodyguard, his driver and his houseman were around somewhere. “Will somebody get the phone?” The phone kept ringing. The phone must have rung fifteen times before Booker got out of the Jacuzzi, put on his green satin robe that matched the emerald pinned to his left earlobe and picked up the phone. Booker said, “Who’s this?” A woman’s voice said, “You sitting down?” The phone was on a table next to a green leather wingback chair. Booker loved green. He said, “Baby, is that you?” It sounded like his woman, Moselle. Her voice said, “Are you sitting down? You have to be sitting down for when I tell you
something.” Booker said, “Baby, you sound different. What’s wrong?” He sat down in the green leather chair,
frowning, working his butt around to get comfortable. The woman’s voice said, “Are you sitting down?” Booker said, “I
. I have sat the fuck down. Now you gonna talk to me, what?” Moselle’s voice said, “I’m suppose to tell you that when you get up, honey, what’s left of your ass is gonna go clear through the ceiling.”
When Chris got there a uniform let him in. There were Thirteenth Precinct cars and a Tactical station wagon parked in front of the house. The uniform told Chris that Booker had called 911. They radioed him here and when he saw who it was he called Narcotics and they jumped at it, a chance to go through the man’s house wide open with their dog.
A guy from Narcotics who looked like a young vagrant told Chris that Booker was a success story: had come up through the street-dealing organizations, Young Boys Incorporated and Pony Down, and was now on about the third level from the top. Look around, guy twenty-five living in a home on Boston Boulevard, a mansion, originally owned by one of Detroit’s automotive pioneers. The guy from Narcotics didn’t remember which one. Look how Booker had fucked up the house, painted all that
fine old oak paneling puke green. He asked Chris how come he was alone.
Chris said most of the squad was out on a run, picking up illegal fireworks, but there was another guy coming, Jerry Baker. Chris said, “You know what today is?” And waited for the guy from Narcotics to say no, what? “It’s my last day on the Bomb Squad. Next week I get transferred out.” He waited again.
The guy from Narcotics said, “Yeah, is that right?”
He didn’t get it.
“It’s the last time I’ll ever have to handle a bomb, if that’s what we have, and hope to Christ I don’t make a mistake.”
The guy still didn’t get it. He said, “Well, that’s what Booker says it is. He gets up, it blows up. What kind of bomb is that?”
“I won’t know till I look at it,” Chris said.
“Booker says it’s the fucking Italians,” the guy from Narcotics said, “trying to tell him something. It makes sense, otherwise why not shoot the fucker? Like we know Booker’s done guys we find out at Metro in long-term parking. Guy’s in the trunk of his car, two in the back of the head. Booker’s a bad fucking dude, man. If there was such a thing as justice in the world we’d leave his ass sitting there, let him work it out.”
Chris said, “Get your people out of the house.
When my partner gets here, don’t stop and chat, okay? I’ll let you know if we need Fire or EMS, or if we have to evacuate the houses next door. Now where’s Booker?”
The guy from Narcotics took Chris down the hall toward the back of the house, saying, “Wait’ll you see what the spook did to the library. Looks like a fucking tent.”
It did. Green-and-white striped parachute cloth was draped on four sides from the center point of the high ceiling to the top of the walls. The Jacuzzi bubbled in the middle of the room, a border of green tile around it. Booker sat beyond the sunken bath in his green leather wingback. He was holding on to the round arms, clutching them, fingers spread open. Behind him, French doors opened onto a backyard patio.
“I been waiting,” Booker said. “You know how long I been waiting on you? I don’t know where anybody’s at, I been calling—you see Juicy Mouth?”
“Who’s Juicy Mouth?”
“Suppose to be guarding my body. Man, I got to go the toilet.”
Chris walked up to him, looking at the base of the chair. “Tell me what the woman said on the phone.”
“Was the bitch suppose to be in love with me.”
“What’d she tell you?”
“Say I get up I’m
Man, that’s final, that’s all there is all, nothing else.”
Chris said, “Yeah, but do you believe it?”
“Asshole, you expect me to stand up and find out?”
Chris was wearing a beige tweed sportcoat, an old one with sagging pockets. He brought a Mini-Mag flashlight out of the left side pocket, went down flat on the floor and played the light beam into the four-inch clearance beneath the chair. The space was empty. He came to his knees, placed the Mini-Mag on the floor, brought a stainless Spyder-Co lockback pocketknife from the right side pocket and flicked open the short blade with one hand in a quick, practiced motion.
Booker said, “Hey,” pushing back in the chair.
“Cover yourself,” Chris said. “I don’t want to cut anything off by mistake.”
“Man, be careful there,” Booker said, bringing his hands off the chair arms to bunch the skirts of the robe between his bare legs, up tight against his crotch.
“You feel anything under you?”
“When I sat down it felt . . . like, different.”
Chris slit open the facing of the seat cushion, held the edges apart and looked in. He said, “Hmmmmm.”
Booker said, “What you mean hmmmmm? Don’t give me no hmmmmm shit. What’s in there?”
Chris looked up at Booker and said, “Ten sticks of dynamite.”
Booker was clutching the chair arms again, his body upright, stiff, telling Chris, “Get that shit out from under me, man. Get it out, get it out of there!”
Chris said, “Somebody doesn’t like you, Booker. Two sticks would’ve been plenty.”
Booker said, “Will you pull that shit
Chris sat back on his heels, looking up at Booker. “I’m afraid we have a problem.”
“What problem? What you talking about?”
“See, most of the foam padding’s been taken out. There’s something in there that looks like an inflatable rubber cushion, fairly flat, laying on top of the dynamite.”
“So pull the shit out, man. You see it, pull it out.”
“Yeah, but what I don’t see is what makes it go bang. It must be in the back part, where the cushion zips open.”
“Then open the motherfucker.”
“I can’t, you’re sitting on it. It’s probably a two-way pressure switch of some kind. I can’t tell for sure, but that’d be my guess.”
Booker said, “Your
You telling me you don’t know what you doing?”
“We get all kinds,” Chris said. “I have to see it before I know what it is . . . or whether or not I can disarm it. You understand?”
“Wait a minute now. You saying
you can take it apart?”
“And the only way to get to it,” Chris said, “is to cut through the back of the chair.”
“Then cut it, cut it, I don’t give a shit about the chair.”
“You run into the frame, all that heavy wood and springs . . .” Chris paused. He said, “I don’t know,” shaking his head.
Booker said, “Look, motherfucker. You get this shit out from under me. You cut, you do what you have to do, you get it out.”
“On the other hand,” Chris said, “it might not be a bomb at all. Just the dynamite in there. You know, to scare you, keep you in line. I mean, is there a reason anybody’d want to take you out?”
Booker said, “You mean like just the shit, but no way to blow it?”
“Like they telling me look what could happen?”
“Say I could just get up, was all bullshit what they made her say to me? On the phone?”
“That’s possible,” Chris said, “but I don’t think I’d take the chance.”
“You wouldn’t, huh?”
“Let’s see what my partner says, when he gets here.”
Booker said, “Man, I got to go the toilet, bad.”
Chris watched Jerry Baker taking in the size of the house as he came up the walk, away from the uniforms and the blue Detroit Police radio cars blocking both sides of the boulevard. It was Jerry’s day off. He wore a black poplin jacket and a Detroit Tigers baseball cap: a tall man, bigger and older than Chris, twenty-five years on the force, fifteen as a bomb tech. He remembered what day this was and said to Chris, “You shouldn’t be here.”
Standing inside the doorway, Chris told him about the green leather chair Booker was sitting in.
And Jerry said it again, looking at his watch. “No, you shouldn’t be here. Forty minutes, you’ll be through.”
He looked outside at the guy from Narcotics waiting on the porch, waved him over and told him to call for Fire and EMS and get everybody away from the house. The guy from Narcotics said, “Can’t you guys handle this one?”
Jerry said, “You’ll hear it if we can’t.” Walking down the hall to the Jacuzzi room he said to Chris, “If we save this asshole’s life, you think he’ll appreciate it?”
Chris said, “You mean will he say thank you? Wait’ll you meet him.”
They entered the room, Jerry gazing up at the green-and-white tenting, and Booker said, “Finally, you motherfuckers decide you gonna do something?”
Chris and Jerry took time to look at each other. They didn’t say anything. Jerry got down to inspect the sliced-open seat cushion between Booker’s muscular legs and said, “Hmmmmm.”
Booker said, “Another one, goes hmmmmm. I’m sitting here on high explosives the motherfucker goes hmmmmm.”
Jerry stood up, looking at Chris again. “Well, he’s cool. That’s a good thing.”
Chris said, “Yeah, he’s cool.”
As Jerry walked around to the back of the green leather chair, Booker, sitting upright, raised his head.
“Hey, I got to go the toilet, man, bad.”
Jerry reached over the backrest to put his hand on Booker’s shoulder. “You better wait. I don’t think you can make it.”
“I’ll tell you what I have to make. I mean it.”
Jerry said, over Booker to Chris, “The boy looks fast.”
“Used to run from the Narcs in his Pony joggers, one of those Pony Down delivery boys,” Chris said. “Yeah, I imagine he’s fast.”
Booker was still upright with his head raised. “Wait now. What’re we saying here if I’m fast? Bet to it, man, I’m fast.”
Chris said, “We don’t want you to get the idea you can dive out of your chair into your little swimming pool and make it.”
Booker said, “In the Jacuze? I get in there I be safe?”
“I doubt it,” Chris said. “If what you’re sitting on there, if it’s wired and it’s not one of your friends being funny . . .”
Jerry said, “Or if it’s not a dud.”
Booker said, “Yeah, what?”
Chris said, “If it’s a practical joke—you know, or some kind of warning—then there’s nothing to worry about. But if it’s wired, you raise up and it goes . . .”
“I couldn’t get in the Jacuze quick enough, huh?”
“I doubt it.”
“His feet might stay on the floor,” Jerry said, “remain in the house.”
Chris agreed, nodding. “Yeah, but his ass’d be sailing over Ohio.”
Jerry moved from behind the chair to the French doors. “We better talk about it some more.”
Booker’s head turned to follow Chris. “Where you going? Hey, motherfucker, I’m talking to you!”
Chris stepped out and closed the door. He moved
with Jerry to the far edge of the slate patio before looking back at the French doors in the afternoon sunlight. They could hear Booker in there, faintly. They crossed the yard, Jerry offering Chris a cigarette. He took one and Jerry gave him a light once they reached the driveway and were standing by the three-car garage, alone in the backyard. Jerry looked up at the elm trees. He said, “Well, they’re finally starting to bud. I thought winter was gonna run through May.”
Chris said, “That’s my favorite kind of house. Sort of an English Tudor, before Booker got hold of it.”
Jerry said, “Why don’t you and Phyllis buy one?”
“She likes apartments. Goes with her career image.”
“She must be jumping up and down, finally got her way.”
Chris didn’t say anything.
“I’m talking about your leaving the squad.”
“I know what you meant. I haven’t told her yet. I’m waiting till I get reassigned.”
“Maybe Homicide, huh?”
“I wouldn’t mind it.”
“Yeah, but would Phyllis?”
Chris didn’t answer. They smoked their cigarettes and could hear fire equipment arriving. Jerry said, “Hey, I was kidding. Don’t be so serious.”
“I know what you’re saying,” Chris said. “Phyllis is the kind of person that speaks out. Something bothers her, she tells you about it.”
“I know,” Jerry said.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?”
“I’m not saying anything against her.”
“What it is, Phyllis says things even some guys would like to but don’t have the nerve.”
“Yeah, ’cause she’s a woman,” Jerry said, “she doesn’t have to worry about getting hit in the mouth.”
Chris shook his head. “I don’t mean putting anybody down or being insulting. Like we’re at a restaurant, one of those trendy places the waiter introduces himself? This twinkie comes up to the table, he goes, ‘Hi, I’m Wally, I’m gonna be your waitperson this evening. Can I get you a cocktail?’ Phyllis goes, ‘Wally, when we’ve finished dinner, you gonna take us out and introduce us to the dishwasher?’ She goes, ‘We really don’t care what your name is as long as you’re here when we want something.’ ”
Jerry grinned, adjusting his Tiger baseball cap. “That’s good, I can appreciate that. Those guys kill me.”
They drew on their cigarettes. Chris looked at his, about to say something, working the butt between his thumb and second finger to flick it away, and the French doors and some of the windows on
this side of the house exploded out in a billow of gray smoke tinged yellow. They stood looking at the shattered doorway, at the smoke and dust thinning, settling over glass and wood fragments, shreds of blackened green-and-white debris on the patio, silence ringing in their ears now. After a few moments they started down the drive, let the people waiting in front know they were okay.