Table of Contents
Also by Eric Jerome Dickey
Dying for Revenge
Waking with Enemies
Sleeping with Strangers
Drive Me Crazy
Naughty or Nice
The Other Woman
Milk in My Coffee
Friends and Lovers
Voices from the Other Side: Dark Dreams II
Got to Be Real
Mothers and Sons
River Crossings: Voices of the Diaspora
Griots Beneath the Baobab
Black Silk: A Collection of African American Erotica
Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing
(six-issue miniseries, Marvel Entertainment)
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Published by Dutton, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First printing, August 2010
Copyright © 2010 by Eric Jerome Dickey
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eISBN : 978-1-101-44246-3
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the
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LANGUAGE TUTOR FOR HIRE
SPANISH, ITALIAN, LATIN, GERMAN, OR FRENCH
Reply to: D. Knight
I provide one-on-one language lessons tailored to your professional and educational needs at $25 per hour. We can meet at a local coffee shop, a library, or a bookstore anywhere in the Detroit metro area. I also provide group lessons for up to six people. The price differs depending upon the number of people.
I was born in Detroit and so were my parents. I attended college in Florida, but I graduated from Cass Technical High School. Autoworkers or former autoworkers will receive a 15 percent discount or ten classes for the price of eight. It doesn’t matter if you worked on the line or were booted from a corner office overlooking the Detroit River. My wife and I are both out-of-work autoworkers, so I understand your hardships and can offer a payment plan, if that is what is needed. In this country being bilingual will give you a leg up on the regular Joes.
Every man has to pull his weight, so let me help you pull yours.
Eddie Coyle had parked
on the right shoulder of I-94 and left the engine running and the heater on low. It was below freezing in the Motor City. My seat warmer was on low, but the heat became too much and I turned it off.
Eddie Coyle said, “Back in ’97 there was the Loomis Fargo Bank robbery.”
His words pulled me out of my trance. His voice was powerful.
I asked, “Where was that?”
“Charlotte, North Carolina. They withdrew over seventeen million dollars.”
“That’s a lot of money.”
“Where are they now?”
I removed my black fedora, then reached inside my suit coat and pulled out my pocket watch, checked my time against the time on the dash.
He said, “Two minutes. That’s how long it took Dillinger to rob a bank. When you’re on the job, keep that number in mind. Two minutes. I’ll cover the rest with you next week.”
“Violence and injury occur in less than three percent of bank robberies.”
“You did some research.”
“Less than one percent involve murder, kidnapping, or hostages.”
“I never did the research. The only numbers that matter to me are on the front of money.”
“Well, I like to know my odds. They don’t look good, but they’re better than the odds in the unemployment line. I’m starting to feel I have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting a job.”
Sheltered from the inclement weather, I was sitting at the cross-roads with the devil.
Sometimes the only choices a man has left are bad ones.
Eddie Coyle asked, “How long have you been out of work?”
“Over two years.”
“You speak a handful of languages.”
“Your wife said that you used to be an executive.”
“I was. For a while, I was.”
“And can’t find a decent job.”
“Welcome to America. The long line on the left is the line for the disenfranchised.”
“A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage.”
“Add that to the long list of lies.”
“That’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”
“It goes against the grain of the American dream. Doesn’t make sense to me.”
“I worked on the line too. I was blue-collar too. Yep, I was laid off, lost my white-collar job, took a drastic pay cut, and ended up on the line for nine years. Seven years white-collar, seven blue-collar. I was willing to work wherever I could work, despite my education.”
“Not many executives are willing to take a blue-collar job when things get rough.”
He looked at his watch and I thought about my own future, a future as dark as the night.
I pulled down the visor, flipped open the vanity mirror, and when it illuminated I stared at my image. My father’s image. My face was Henrick’s face. The face of a real man, a face not made for billboards and magazines. I used his pocket watch, a timepiece that had been his father’s timepiece, a pocket watch that had kept time for decades.
But the world had changed since Henrick walked on top of this littered soil, and not for the better. No one would say it was the best of times. It was bad for Wall Street, the housing industry, and law enforcement, and a travesty for the car industry. I didn’t see another way out.
As the SUV hummed, I asked Eddie Coyle, “What’s the cargo you have in the back?”
“I told you already.”
“What are we waiting on?”
The man who had appropriated the name Eddie Coyle was in the driver’s seat, both literally and metaphorically. Ice spotted the sides of the roads and icicles hung from barren trees for as far as the headlights from passing cars would allow me to see; the same symbols of a harsh winter hung from interstate signs. Detroit was in a deep freeze. The chill that had crippled the Midwest and parts of the North sat on us as we waited on the right shoulder of I-94, the engine running and the lights off. It was twelve thirty in the morning. Five minutes later another Cadillac Escalade pulled up behind us.
I kept my voice smooth, masked my nervousness, and asked, “Are you expecting company?”
“So you didn’t come from Rome by yourself.”
“I haven’t been alone all evening.”
“You said you worked with two other guys, Rick and Sammy.”
“From time to time.”
“Which one is your brother?”
“Neither. My brother is Bishop. We call him Bishop.”
“What’s he doing back there?”
“He’s going to be our lookout.”
“You and your brother could’ve done this alone.”
“If you want to make it to the next level, you’ll do this, not him. He’s already in.”
When there was a break in traffic, we stepped out into the cold and moved to the back. Eddie Coyle popped open the rear of the luxury SUV. The interior light revealed a man stuffed inside industrial carpet. He had been rolled up like a cigarette. He wore wingtip shoes that were similar to mine. The man had been a professional. As we grabbed the dead body and unloaded it from the back of the SUV, one of Detroit’s landmarks, the giant Uniroyal tire, towered on the opposite side of I-94. A freezing drizzle tapped against my fedora like an erratic heartbeat, that same freezing water adding weight to my long wool overcoat. The ground crunched underneath my Johnston & Murphy shoes as I held on to the feet of the dead man. My breath fogged in front of my face and my lungs contracted with each frigid breath. We were about forty yards into the brush and debris when we heard a boom, then in the distance the sky lit up. It was a new year and fireworks brightened the suburbs. For three seconds, if anyone on I-94 had looked into the wooded area that served as a barrier between the interstate and a strip mall, they would have seen two men wearing suits carrying six feet of carpet off into the nether regions. The carpet moved like a giant caterpillar battling to become a monstrous butterfly. The man in the carpet kicked, his right shoe slipping off his foot. Startled, I jumped and caught my breath. I didn’t yell, but inside my head my voice screamed, and I abandoned my end of the rug.