I dropped the shotgun. Its barrel brushed his face, and I pawed a pocket ripped and soaked through fishing out the battered pack of Camels. Blood ran free and bust-knuckle bone show through. My hand didnt shake ... but barrels a the big-10 sawed-off slipped pinging the valve. QUICK, DAMN YOU ...! The perp twitched his Cubano temperament - YOU TRYING TO KILL US, NO? HA-HAHAHA ... for an instant I thought his Havana style would unravel like a dried-out Partagas - his whole concentration and body, like mine wrapped around the valve while whatever remained ...
He rattled out a laugh low and bitter. YOU'RE THE MAN, HUH YOU'RE HALF THE MAN WITHOUT THAT MOTHER-WHORE SHOTGUN.
I sneered. KEEP THE PRESSURE ON, JACKSON, I HATE TA SEE A MAN CUT IN HALF.
He spat and his breath smelled like peppers. FOR A FUCKING CIGARETTE! Perps forehead sweat cold oily beads. PLAY YOUR LITTLE GAMES ... HALF AN HOUR DELEON NO MORE AND MY COMPADRE PACO, EH .. HEHE HE WILL COME -- THIRTY MINUTES THEN WE WILL BE SPARED ... PACO KNOWS MINES! His teeth clenched.. JACKSON ... J-A-C-K-S-O-N, NORTE AMERICANO SPELLING. Then he looked far away, away and through the grey marl walls now keening a crows pitch IT'S A MANTRA FOR YOU, A TALESMEN - NO? YOUR CLIENTS ... Perp chuckled meanly. BUT THAT IS NOT MY NAME DELEON AND I AM NOT YOUR CLIENT, YOUR COMPENSAERO, NO JUJU ... and a steely groaning cut off his voice.
Fine sheets of water sprayed from the valve edges, a muddy glass sharp sheen ... both my arms wrenched at the lever, driving up on my side another quarter inch, the perp torquing down while pressure against us hammered and hammered and hammered ... behind it seethed Charlestons central water tunnel, a liquid column 80 feet tall and 40 miles long. Burst free it would cut a man into pieces too small to bury and too wet ta burn ... the mated threads were failing, slipping, losing grip
We crouched swearing, driving our shoulders up and in, buying another quarter inch fer ten pounds a' pain .. till the steel valve seat, twice around a mans waist and thick as a wrist groaned and shrieked and settled back into the last groove ... Metallic screams eased into shrill whines - pressure a steady, inhuman grinding at flesh and the pounding - the next heartbeat. "Perp spit. HARDER THIS TIME, EH DELEON? Grey marl grit poured off me reeking sweat. I bent over, tucked the Big-10 over my elbow about level with perps gut. SO YOU SAY, and I cocked a hammer. Hate and niggling uncertainty laced the perps face. NO DELEON ...!
Something furry and warm bumped into my leg, then floated away. Something living ... hammer eased, I chewed on the Virginia blend - it taste like roast turkey shit - dropped my hand for the Zippo. WHAT'S WRONG, JACKSON YOUR SHOULDER TIRED? A sharp wave of resignation ... or disgust crossed perps face. YOU'LL KILL US BOTH ... DUMB FUCK...! He forced a white-lip grin. I DON'T SCARE EASY ... THAT SHOTGUN DON'T SCARE ME. SHOOT, BASTARD -- SHOOT AND YOU DIE FAST AS ME! He spat uncertain, and it dribbled down his neck. ONE LOAD DELEON THAT'S ALL YOU GOT. I DON'T KILL THAT EASY ... NOT ONE SHOT.
I tapped the maple butt my greatgrandfather had taken from a dead Yankee. TWO SLUGS IN THE BARRELS, TWO MORE IN MY POCKET. OH YOU'D DIE ... SOONER AND EASIER AND FASTER THAN YOU DESERVE.
A tight, hard smile brightened the perps face. WHAT DO YOU LOAD DELEON ... DOUBLE-OUGHT? I thought about it ... STEEL FLECHETS. Perp mocked surprise. ILLEGAL YOU GRINGO BASTARD - AN OUTRAGE AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS.
He was messing with me ... HUMAN RIGHTS, JACKSON ... YOU GOT ANY LAYING AROUND? Rubbing one shoulder into the steel valve ... he seemed offended. THE LAWS DELEON THEY GIVE ME RIGHTS. For which piece of commie crap I wouldn't give him a nickles extra breath ... RIGHTS! REPAYING GOOD WITH EVIL ... THEY HAVE DUG A PIT FOR ME ... RIGHTS? AFTER YA GET THROUGH ME. Perp shrugged. THE VIRGIN KILLS LYING MOTHER WHORES LIKE YOU, DELON. SHE ROASTS THEM WITH THE POPES!
Sudden as daybreak perps eyes gleamed wild and flashed over my shoulder. I yanked my neck round. Water boiled, flickering lantern flame flashing off smooth scale then ... the thrashing! Revulsion ... it drove my chest and neck and face against the valve. They struggled to the death ... A water-moccasin length of a bed, fat as a bedpost the viper had struck a tunnel rat ... and the rat had furiously struck back. I've seen Johns Island moccasins kill a cow, with one strike, but a tunnel rat isn't a cow. Scarred and scared mad a tunnel-rat bites like mad dogs 7-heads on the dark river ... even dead from the venom his teeth had bit through the moccassins spine and they thrashed together ... thrashing closer, nearly under my crotch ... perps Baretta-38 snapped down -- KZAP! KZAP! ... the barrel spit flame twice vaporizing the snakes head and the rats in a splatter of green and red. They twitched together then sunk below ... floating back toward the ladder as the kant of the tunnel lay. I kept distance jamming both shoulders into the valve, cause rats don't know when they're dead ... or snakes.
I chewed a long, cold dry bite into the Virginia blend. Like fear, nicotine's a poison make yer blood race before it stops dead cold and my heart had turned to ice. I spit out what chipped off. HOLLOW-POINTS ... FULMINATE LOADED THEY'RE ILLEGAL, JACKSON. YOU'LL CATCH IT FROM THE PETA PEOPLE.
Perp snickered. ONLY AMERICA CAN AFFORD FAGGOTS LIKE THAT, EH ... DO I LOOK GREEK TO YOU DELEON? And he sucked smoke from the chrome barrel, and let his eyes drift over the tunnel ceiling now more alive than the water. Iron piping criss-crossed above us, a kind of counter-flow hammering and screeching like an orchestra with wet drums and dry violins ... as water surge changed in the tunnel maze. It was a random thing, almost, how the flows shifted direction ... I thought about it, let flame bite slow, into the Camel and blew a thin stream of smoke down the tunnel. Foul draft sucked it over the lantern curling up and along wet grey marl, from one pipe to the next into blackness. I lit a second. From my arm to his - perhaps five feet, the middle length of the lever.
I tossed it. A predators instincts responded - fat today, fat tomorrow - Perp snatched the fag dropping his Baretta into knee deep water swirling around our legs. He lunged - the hand came up empty ... bloody and shaking like mine plugging the Straight between thin sucking lips. Smoke made him a mask. WHAT YOU DO THAT FOR? I SAVE YOUR LIFE! ARE YOU CRAZY... FANATIC A FANATIC GRINGO DETECTIVE THIS I MUST MEET - THE VIRGIN ... SHE WILL HAVE NO MERCY ON YOUR BAPTIST SOUL.
I felt no mercy ... IF YA GET THERE FIRST, JACKSON WHERE THE POPES BURN UPSIDE DOWN PUT IN A GOOD WORD FOR A GOOD DEATH ... Perp snickered. FOR YOU DELEON ... his teeth clenching and unclenching ... SOME BAD WAYS OF DYING ARE WORSE THAN HELL ITSELF. I pointed to a bloody spot on his shirt, where an old wound had bled through ... TELL ME YA PRACTICED.", Jackson. I didn't know his name. A pro out of Miamis' little Havana, or Silver Lakes Sunset gulch ... or a Buenos Aires art school. He wore blue sweats and a black beret, dead mans thumbprints, a gold Rolex and the long, weather-creased face of a silent killer. He had murdered six Charleston coke dealers, and chipped a vice-cops spine when she jaked his grift. Ricin! Perp must have smelled me thinking ... MAYBE SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR YOU, EH DELEON?
A cramp tore into my shoulder, tore to the bone and I let it chew a while, shaking till pain faded to scarlet. WHAT'S WRONG, JACKSON, LEAVE THE KIDDIE CHEMISTRY SET AT HOME? I grunted.
MY NAME IS NOT JACKSON he shouted! THE PEOPLE THE YOUNG ONES BURN MY IMAGE INTO SHIRTS.
ONE MAKE IT TO THE COFFIN? MUST BE TOUGH TO STOR THE AMMO.
He cried ... I think in pain, but maybe laughter, forked two fingers for a fag. AMMUNITION he laughed again? I passed one over and Zippoed the flaring red tip. Then he drew back his sharp little black teeth and chuckled. CLEVER, NO VERY CLEVER ... THE POISON. RICIN ... RICIN DISOLVED IN PHENOL. I SMEAR IT ON THE TOP KILO WRAPPER. THEY LOVED IT, DELEON, THE DEALERS, YOUR JACKSON DEALERS ... THE FIRST TASTE OF BLOW LIKE A BAD WOMAN. SHE'S ALL OVER YOU ... THEN UNDER YOUR SKIN LIKE A BAD WOMANS TONGUE - THEN THE HOWLING ... Perps eyes had flared saucer-like and his eyes little red beads ... I said. SOMETHING WRONG WITH A BULLET? He drew down on the Camel, smirking ... ONE PROFESSIONAL TO ANOTHER, EH, WHAT I TELL YOU ...? CONFIDENTIAL! Perp drew himself up against the stel plate. YOU SIGN A CONTRACT, NO ...? A BUSINESSMAN, EH I ALSO AND WHAT I CONTRACT FOR IS A LESSON ... REMOVAL AND A LESSON TO OTHERS ... A LESSON, DELEON IT'S A NEW WORLD - GLOBAL - EVERYBODY THE SAME ... AND THE JACKSONS, THE CHARLESTON DRUG DEARLERS, THE SMALL TIME PUSHERS, THE PIMPS AND SCAR-ARMS ... THEY ARE TAUGHT A LESSON ON THE STREET. SOME BELIEVE I ...
You couldn't feel it, or hear it ... nothing like that, or like a taste ... Perps voice dropped off sudden, and his tongue pressed to the steel valve. YOU FEEL THAT VIBRATION DELEON, YOU HEAR THAT? My shoulder was frozen to the steel and my feet ... my feet grew into the marl like a dead mans feet. Perps laughter howled. IT'S COMING DELEON IT'S COMING ... Shrieking above, then pressure waves thumped the pipe, ripping at our hands and the steel bar we had slipped through valve-handles. Suddenly the valve sucked inward, releasing pressure and rotating the bar, wrenching our shoulders. Perp dropped his arms, clambering in the water for his Baretta. NO I shouted, and you could feel the wave building, driving down the pipe. IT'S A HYDRAULIC! Water slammed against the valve - a freight train in a pea-shooter and we, wedged into the narrow tunnel torquing the bar squeezing steel into steel - we just managed to stop it. Beating on us, the water surging, clawing, feeling for the weak man, any man's will it was body terror to hold twice ya could only hold it back this time ... Perp had cheeks smashed into the metal, his face twisted up eyes boring through me. FUCKING STRONGER THAN YOU LOOK, DELEON. YOU COULD HAVE RUN ... COULD HAVE TRIED ... Pain in my shoulders had stripped muscle down to the marrow ... NOT ENOUGH TIME ... Perps thick black eyebrows raised quivering. IF YOU TIMED IT, GRINGO, THIS HYDRAULIC, EH ... HEHEH ... ONE PUSH ONE SUCK ... I blinked sweat from my eyes. NO PERCENTAGE, JACKSON. AS SOON AS I RELEASE THE STEEL BAR COMES SWINGING, BUSTS OFF MY HEAD OR THE PRESSURE WAVE KNOCKS ME COLD AND IF THEY DON'T DO IT ... IF I RUN THE WATER CATCHES ME BEFORE I REACH THE LADDER. Three grim basta'ds made me think some ... I tapped the valve. MIGHT BE AOTHER WAY - WE ROTATE THE VALVE-COVER SO THE BAR CAN SLIDE STRAIGHT DOWN. WE LET IT SLIDE, JUST AS A SUCK COMES ALONG AND WEDGE THE BAR INTO THE MARL. WEDGE THE VALVE ... IT MAY HOLD, FOR THREE SECONDS, OR FOUR ...
My abstraction sucked a strange look from the perp, one of anxiety and confusion ... TOGETHER, NO ...? He shakes his head, like a dog shaking off water. THE TWO OF US ... throws bead eye down the tunnel a dozen paces to patches of light playing on dim, inconstant ripples. THREE SECONDS, EH DELEON? THAT'S WHAT I FIGURE. The calculation had perps body twisted and strained. A MAN NEEDS THREE FREE SECONDS IF HE WANTS TO ESCAPE THIS HELL-HOLE. I grimaced. YA SHOULD HAVE TAKEN A TOUR-BOAT.
Escape. Not how the krak and hash dealers died, in plain sight of Charlestons darktown streets, but how the killer vanished. That had busted my gut for three months and given City Station and Captain Marsh pms all over my Lieutenants badge. I smelled a war. The tip came from a water-district worker, who noticed bright steel on a rusted cover of an old water-supply tunnel. West of the Ashley. The tunnel ran under the river. One of dozens, like bad veins in a rotten corpse Charleston brings water underground from western reservoirs in tunnels drilled through wet-cement like marl underlying the peninsula. Eighty feet down to that section littered with feeder lines and rusted control valves. Eighty feet of quick snakes, bones of raped Geechee women and hidden Injun' juju Charleston hadn't dug up in 300 years ... it felt like wet hell crabbing down the vertical ladder, first time ... Thirty yards away, vague light drifted down from the surface. It could be last week. City Station didn't believe my angle. I'd stalked for five days till the next killing and 27-th street gone wild in Geeche rage and the cop-phone ringing off my Bandit-chasers dash. I crabbed down the vertical and waited and run the Big-10 barrels up the perps azz as he beat shanks.
I hit him in the face and he hit back. Quick basta'd ... we fought, and fighting the 10-gauge had fired, blowing off a valve hinge. Sludge surged out ... it was a close thing, to stay alive, the two of us driving the valve back into its screw seat against an 80-foot head of reservoir water not clean enough to drink and not thick enough ta give you a decent burial. The perps breath pounded like a sledge, against the valve. I SAVED YOUR LIFE, DELEON His smooth reptile jaw yawned. PROFESSIONALS, EH, THE TWO OF US ... Then he spat. WE SHOULD LET EACHOTHER LIVE, NO? ONE BEST TO EACH SIDE OF THE STREET ...
It hit me in the gut - and in the slow part of the brain that remembers what's dead. Perps slow smooth palaver ... I looked away. NOT ME, JACKSON - DECIDINGS NOT MY JOB. WHO LIVES OR DIES ... O'L SPARKY DOWN IN BEAUFORT GOT THAT JOB AND YOUR NAME WRITTEN IN 440-VOLT SCRIPT!.
Perp forced a laugh back of his throat. SCRIPT? HA-HAHAHA THAT'S POETIC, DELEON KNOW THAT YOU MISSED YOUR TRUE CALLING, A STREET ARTIST, THE PEOPLES MUSICIAN ... He spat again. WHY DO YOU CARE, EH CARE ABOUT ME? Where Perps shirt had ripped, cold shivers rippled cross scars of old bullet wounds you don't get from a street altercation, but from war. It had to hurt him every minute ... Jungle surgery had sucked out lead and breathed life back into a lung. But that lung never breathed peaceful ... blue controlled rage ravaged his eyes. HATE, DELEON, THAT'S IT! YOU HATE ME. YET THAT HATE IS POETIC, EH ... THE STREETS SONG AS YOUR PROFESSION IS THE STREET - IT SINGS TO YOU, DELEON, IT KILLS ... HAHAHAHHA WHILE YOU THE MAESTRO, THE PADRON ... BUT YOU MUST SEE I ... I CHALLENGE NOTHING OF YOUR LIFE, YOUR WORK BUT MEERLY GUARANTEE A HIGHER CLASS CLIENTEL!
WHO WROTE THE CONTRACTS I asked expecting nothing? LOCAL BOYS ... I DON'T THINK SO. HOW BOUTS JOEY-THE-BOWLER AND NIGGER-TOM OUTA COLUMBIA? AMBITIOUS, HUH, MAYBE ... MAYBE THEY DECIDED TO EXPAND EAST!
COULD'A BEEN YOU OWN PEOPLE DELEON, he snickered. DEA AND CIA DON'T LIKE LOCAL YOKELS MESSING WITH THEIR INTERNATIONAL PLOTS. Perp gave a quick sideways look ... COLUMBIA, HA-HAHAHA and shrugged. YOU MEAN CAROLINA TOM AND JOEY ... THOSE TWO I HEARD OF THEY FUCK LIKE PIGS. SMALL TIMERS STRICTLY - PUNKS! Then he laughed low and mean and knowing. YOU BEEN ON THE STREET TOO LONG, DELEON ... IT'S A NEW WORLD ORDER, ALL MULTINATIONAL. VERTICAL INTEGRATION, YOU HEAR ME DELEON? Perp wiped drool from his mouth. THE OLD MEN - THE CLANS - THE FEDAYEEN - THEY SET UP COMMODITY EXCHANGES IN KAZAKSTAN. A REAL INDUSTRY, NO... HA-HAHAHA? SMART MEN AND WEALTHY THEY HIRE YOUR UNEMPLOYED ENGINEERS TO SET UP MICROWAVE DISHES ... RIGHT AT THE TOP OF THREE MOSQUES SO HEADMEN CAN ARBITRAGE CROPS. YOU KNOW THAT WORD DELEON ... ARBITRAGE...? A RICH MANS WORD FOR THE BEST PRICE NOW. THEY GROW IT, COOK IT AND SHIP IT. NOW THEY TAKE TE FINAL STEP ... SELLING THE SHIT DOOR-TO-DOOR. KEEPS ALL YOUR JACKSONS HAPPY ... Perp was chewing on that, and his bloody lip wondering, measuring the price - the spew - the sell ... BRINGS A FRESH WIND OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY TO OLD CHARLESTON. Perp was laughing smuggly to himself. I shifted weight lower down the valve seat.
DIVERSITY, HUH YOU'RE A REGULAR MINISTER OF CULTURE - THAT'S YOU JACKSON. I bit last smoke from the Straight. AND THESE KAZAKS ... THEY HIRE YOU FOR THE STREET CLEANING.
His face hardened. BETTER THAN LICKING IT, EH DELEON? LIKE ANY PLACE, WHO LIVES TO DO BUSINESS MUST PILE BODIES THE HIGHEST. DO YOU KNOW A DIFFERENT RULE? I said nothing, Perp spit! NO ONE ELSE CAN HOLD WHAT'S THEIR OWN! The snear had sunk into his face like a brand ... I said quiet WHAT'S MINE AND NOT YOURS, HUH, A PERSONS LIFE ... NOTHING BUT A BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY, THAT'S IT? AND YOU'RE THE KFIRS FIRST COUSIN. MUST BE A LOST TRIBE. YOU SORTA LOOK JEWISH.
He roared laughter tears rolling down a cheek. LIKE ESAU, EH DELEON ... LOST OR UNFAVORED. Perp bit at his bloody thumb a feral smile rippled his face. YOU SEE, I READ THE BIBLE LIKE YOU ... BUT WITHOUT YOUR QUAINT IDEAS. KAZAKSTAN? I'VE NEVER BEEN! WHAT FOOL WOULD? NO HABANOS NO TEQUILA NO WOMEN - THE JIHAD WRAPS THEM UP LIKE DEAD SHEETS, THE WOMEN ... IT'S COLD DELEON ... THEY TELL ME. KAZAKSTAN - NEVER ... BUT I'VE ALWAYS LIKED LA PAZ ...
I shoot back. THAT'S FUNNY, LA PAZ. YA DON'T TALK LIKE A MAN WITH BIG LUNGS. MAYBE THE PADRON THREW YOU OUT BEFORE YOUR FIRST DRY-HUMP. MAYBE YOU'RE POACHING IN CHARLESTON ...
FID ... perp caught himself then sneared. GOOD GUESSERS LIVE SHORT UNHAPPY LIVES DELEON. I TAKE ORDERS, BUT POACHING, EH PADRON ... HEHE, WHAT I TAKE IS MINE, AND FAMILY? WHAT'S FAMILY THESE DAYS HUH? A CONTRACT IS BUSINESS ... CHARLESTON, HABANA, ... KAZAKSTAN. LOWEST BID, DELEON THAT'S THE GOD, AND I PRAY TO THAT GOD.TO CONTRACT FOR THE KILLINGS I WHIPPED OUT A SPREADSHEET ... MADE THE LOWEST BID. EVEN IN DEATH, DELEON I AM THE EFFICIENT PRODUCER.
I growled. THAT'S COLD, JACKSON, REPTILE COLD. NO MAS... SIN EL VALOR DE ODIAR ... I DON'T SEE YOU THAT WAY, AN OLD MAN WITHOUT FEELING.
Red rage flashed over his cheeks. MY AGE ... MAYBE I LIE ABOUT THAT.
I pointed at his crotch. LIE ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE, JACKSON? I was digging for a weak spot in the smarmy bast'rd. LIKE PACO, YER COMPAD'RE ... WAS HE ONE OF THE BIDDERS?
Perps face turned crimson. WHAT AM I - NUTS - LIKE SOME FOOLISH 15-TH CENTURY GRINGO?",
I shot back. MY NAME ON ONE OF THOSE CONTRACTS!",
Perps cackle broke the ceiling. HA-HA-HAHAHA ... QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS DELEON DO YOU EVER STOP ... Perv stretched, and rubbed an elbow cautiously over his chin. CONTRACTS - OH YEAH, EVEN ON LIEUTENANTS, BUT YOUR REPUTATION, EH - A HARD MAN, A TOUGH GUY, A DUO-DICK HEART ATTACK. THE STORIES THEY TELL ... ARE ANY OF THEM TRUE DELEON? Perps eyes narowed. YOU DRILLED EIGHT SLUGS INTO A BENT COPPER - EIGHT SLUGS BUT ONLY ONE HOLE THROUGH THAT BITCHES HEART. SO TIGHT AND HOT EVEN THE BLOOD WOULDN'T FLOW OUT. BENT BITCH COPPER - SHE GET TO YOU DELEON ... YOU FUCK HER ...? I said nothing and perps head nodded ... THE STREET CALLS YOU THREE-BALLS ...
I spit. NOBODY'S CALLED ME THAT TWICE.
Perp howled. HA-HAHAHA, then he lisped ... MIDDLE OF A HIGHWAY, YOU KILL FOUR ARMED MEN IN THREE SECONDS - BOTH BARRELS OF THAT BLASTED MOTHER-WHORE SHOTGUN. HOW DID YOU GET THEM STANDING STILL HA-HA-HAHAHA ...? Tears streamed down his laughing face. I shifted weight, off the cramped left leg. STAND? I'M TIRED OF STANDING UP, JACKSON. AREN'T YOU TIRED? LIKE PICKING A COMPAD'RE, A MAN HAS TO WATCH WHERE HE STANDS ... A CAREFUL MAN DOES. Perps chest heaved wildly. A FUNNY MAN ... HA-HAHAHA! YOUR FUNNY AND CAREFUL ... BUT SO AM I ... He looked straight through me. NO BIDDERS YET, DELEON ON YOUR WHITE GRINGO ASS ... ON YOUR LIFE. BUT THE GEECHE TRASH? THE JACKSONS ...? LAMBS DELEON, THEY GO LIKE LAMBS TO THE BUTCHER, TO THE SLAUGHTERING BAAAA ..... BAAAA SO MANY BLEATING BLACK SHEEP.
For a time, I watched rivulets roll off the piping ... splashing ... then I said. FLOCK? HOW MANY ... OR DID YOU STOP COUNTING IN LA PAZ. He chewed on that like export beef.
I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, NO ....? NINETEEN, 19 OF THE JACKSONS ... Like a kick in the gut ... YOU NEED TO SHOOT THE COPPER?
Perps face pinched up, for the spew ... BITCH HAD ME BUSTED CLEAN ... BUT YOU SEE DELEON I DIDN'T USE THE HOLLOW-POINT SLUGS ... HEH AMIGO THEY WOULD HAVE BLOWN OUT HER SPINE. He watched me careful -
I said. NICE THOUGHT ... DOC'S SAY SHE'LL WALK AGAIN ... IN ANOTHER TWO YEARS
SHE FUCKED ME FIRST ... YOU HEAR THAT DELEON I AM NOT A MAN OF PREJUDICE! I bit back the bile . NOT A MAN ... BUT WHAT A BUSY LITTLE BOY YOU ARE, JACKSON. SIX MEN DOWN, THIRTEEN TA GO ... AT THREE A MONTH THAT PUTS YOU BEHIND SCHEDULE. Perp shrugged, and checked his gold Rolex. TEN MORE MINUTES DELEON, WHEN MY COMPAD'RE ARRIVES I'M WORKING OVERTIME AND BACK ON SCHEDULE. Steel piping shrieked above perps head. I could almost taste the metal tearing, tearing by the micron. I swung up the shotgun barrel letting it tick the pipe. Perp grabbed and missed ... YEAH, DELEON - A BULLET, KNIFE OR THE DRUGS. THEY WOULD DIE YOUNG ANYWAY, NO? THESE TWO-BIT STREET HOODLUMS. NEGROS, NIGGERS, BANTU, BANGER-BOYS EN WHAT THE GANGS CALL THEM ... THEY DIE THIS WEEK ... OR THE NEXT. STALLIONS, EH ... STREET-BUCKS .... THEY WILL LIVE BIG FOREVER AND DIE BAD AT TWENTY. I HELP THEM ALONG, NO ? ... PERHAPS I HELP YOU ALSO ...?
I shot the look back. STRAIGHT FACT, JACKSON - NOT IN MY TOWN.
Perp bit hard on his bloody lip listening while the pipes sang ... Then he said YOUR TOWN EH DELEON NOT THE POLITICIANS AND THE PERVS, NOT SLUT BOTTIES? HA-HAHAHA WHAT A SERIOUS MAN ARE YOU DELEON. FOR YOUR CITY. CHARLESTON ... THE HOLY CITY - GODS CITY - BUT KNOWING ITS PRIVATE EVIL, I WAS SO JUICED BEING NUMERO UNO , PEZ GORDO, FIRST TRIGGER GETTING THE CONTRACT TO GODS CITY I WENT TO CHURCH TO THANK THE VIRGIN.
Perp threw back his head and laughed crazy, while steel piping shrieked above - shrieked from hungry water thundering and goading and chewing, feeling for a way ... smelling warm blood. In an instant the valve sucked away leaving us hanging in air then flopping ... while the next instant pressure slammed slugs of water - surging ... cutting ... it made rubber outa my legs, and busted cords in my neck to hold it back. This time. You could swear anything this time, but next time.", It was a mean stretching ... perp too, where strain had torn through the thin body. He wiped blood smear from his lip, chanting sharp, heavy breaths. Chewed on his thumb with sharp little teeth, twitching his forehead then shot me a furtive, feral look.
GET THE FIRST CRACK AT ME SMART GUY? ... But, he was watching the valve. THINK A WEDGED STEEL BAR WILL HOLD THAT? The answer was damned-plain. HOLD? SURE! LONG ENOUGH TO GET ONE OF US OUT, THE FIRST MAN BUT THE SECOND ... WATER-SURGE TAKES AWAY THE SECOND. Perps face darkened. THAT'S DARK-SIDE THINKING, DELEON ... THE GRINGOS DARK SIDE. He snatched a look at the pipes above, and for the first time I saw something clean ... the first soothings on his face of hope and the edge fell off his voice. WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE YOU? I thought about it. SAME AS YOU, JACKSON. He shrugged, then bit his lip. THINK YOU HAVE IT GOOD NOW, EH .... A RESPONSIBLE MAN ... LIEUTENANTS BARS, A RIGH WIFE AND CHILDREN ... YOUR A BUSY MAN, DELEON, TWO CHILDREN AND ONE'S JUST A BABY. THAT RIGHT DELEON? SURE IT IS ... He puffed up. BEFORE A JOB I LIKE TO GET MY FACTS STRAIGHT! The valve groaned and slipped. Under the strain, he shifted legs back, left for right. MY COMPAD'RE EH, HE'S GONNA NEED HELP GETTING ME OUT OF THIS ... Perp listened I clampjawed. LIKE THIS DELEON HE CUTS POLES, AND WE BRACE THEM AGAINST THE MOTHER-WHORE VALVE AND WE SLPIT THE TUNNEL. EASIER FOR THREE ... NO?
My Rolex tolled like St. Marks bell. KEEP TALKING ... perp found a salacious toothy grin. WHAT DO YOU WANT, EH MR LIEUTENANT? LIFE, YES WE ALL WANT THAT BUT ... BUT MAYBE YOU GOT TWO CARS, DELEON , YOU WANT THREE ... MAYBE A VACATION HOUSE ON ISLE OF PALMS NEXT TO THE BITCH POLITICIANS ... MAYBE ... Perp sucked life out of the butt and tossed it sizzling into watery mud.", A MAN LIKE YOU ... A LIEUTENANT ... THE BEST! MAYBE YOU WANT THE INSPECTORS BADGE, A CLOVER OR AN ACORN LEAF ... AM I RIGHT? WANT THAT ... MORE THAN ANYTHING. YOU EARNED THEM DELEON, BUT SAME MEN, EH, YOUR COMPAD'RES THEY ARE JEALOUS. I CAN GIVE YOU THE CLOVER, DELEON. I CAN MAKE YOU AN INSPECTOR ... ONCE THE STREETS ARE CLEAN, AS YOU SAY AND NEW MEN ARE WORKING - I CAN FEED YOU NAMES, DATES, DROP-POINTS ... YOU WILL BE A GOD OF INSPECTORS!
Bending and twisting, I lit the last Camel in the crumpled pack. Took a drag, passed it over ... FIRST THE GEECHE GET BLESSED THEN ME. HOW? I THOUGHT YOU WERE A BROOM NOT THE DUSTPAN.
Perp smirked. ENTERPRISING ... CALL ME ENTERPRISING, DELEON. THAT'S WHY I CAN USE A GOOD MAN ... His hand dropped to his belt. CONTRACTS, NO ... THERE'S A PROTECTION CONTRACT ALSO ... PROTECTION FOR THE NEW DEALERS. SOMETHING TO KEEP THE RICHMOND GANGS, OR AN HONEST COP FROM SLEAZING IN. WHAT DO YOU DO WITH BAD BOYS LIKE THAT, EH? HA-HAHAHAHA. He shrugged while smoke curled round his head. IT'S LIKE INSURANCE. I BID ON THAT TOO BUT ... BUT I CAN LOWER THE BID, NO? I took the cigarette, spit and hacked lung. SPREAD THE RISK - THAT'S IT? Perp grinned knowingly. SHARE THE CREME ... YOU WORK YOUR SPREADSHEET I WORK MINE. Last drag I passed over - perp killed the redeye butt and said. I'M THE INSURANCE MAN. I DROP A FEW NAMES TO YOU, MAYBE YOU DROP A DATE TO ME, WHEN THE BUSTS COME DOWN. I'M A SHADOW, THEN DELEON I'M SCARCE, NO DELEON? FOR THAT I GIVE YOU THE WORLD.
I rasped like a flint bast'rd YEAH, JACKSON YOU'RE SCARCE ... IF YOU'RE ALIVE. The perp chuckled HEHE ... HEH, DELEON YOU CAN'T SHOOT ME, YOU WON'T ... NOT AFTER THIS. WE'RE PALS, NO? COMPAD'RES. MAYBE THE VIRGIN WILL FORGIVE US BOTH! I glanced down at my wrist. AND YOU PARTNER PACO? HE SHOULD BE HERE IN TWO MINUTES. WHO'S GONNA FORGIVE HIM? Perp shrugged. HE'S THIRTY-FIVE, DELEON ... perp seemed ta drift of somewhere, and sweat poured from his face - stinking sweat of the far south. He was suffering, I'll give the black-hearted piece of sewer-meat that much ... suffering while his mouth pressed the steel valve ... Then he said. THIRTY-FIVE, EH ... AN OLD MAN ... THAT'S AN LUCKY OLD MAN IN THIS BUSINESS. WHEN DOES SUCH LUCK END, EH DELEON? I stammered. YOU ... YOU ROLLING DICE? A snicker covered perps mouth. AHH POOR PACO ... SO, MABYE HE GETS A HEART ATTACK, EH OR A STROKE. Perps head flew up and he howled, laughing ... HA-AHAHA I UNDERSTAND A STROKE CUTS YOUR HEAD IN TWO PIECES!
It would have ripped a mocassins guts. HahahaHa - perps laughing echoed down the tunnel. Maybe it heard ... water pulses beat on the valve, and we strained against them. Sweat poured off my face, down my arm to the wrist - I tapped the Rolex and it tolled -6-5-4-3- ... and shrieking sang from the overhead pipe. My lip - I bit it till it bled some. IT GOTTA BE LIKE THAT, JACKSON? NO GUTS EVEN TA HATE? NO COMPAD'RE? Perp spit. SECRETS, EH THEY RUN DEEPER THAN HATE. WHO KEEPS A SECRET? His breath was coming in short little gulps. I'LL TELL YOU, DELEON ... THE RAT AND THE SNAKE! On my wrist, the Rolex ticked sharp as a mocassins fang. THAT'S ALL OF THE NEW WORLD? THAT'S ALL A FRESH WIND BLOWS? ... MAKE THE LOW BID! BUTCHER THE ONES THAT BROUGHT YA?
Perps face had a devils shine. WHAT WORLD DO YOU LIVE IN, DELEON? HOW LONG DOES IT LAST? WHOSE LOSS IS THAT GREAT, THAT YOU SHOULD DIE FOR SOME-ONE? Perp spat out, side of his mouth. YOU BOIL INSIDE, DELEON, BUT YOU SAY NOTHING. SPIT IT OUT!
I hesitated, as vibrations thumped through the valve - they mighta come from hell ... WE ALL STAND SOMEWHERE. IT'S WHERE THE WINDS BURY US! Confusion nicked creases into the corner of perps eyes. SOME OF US, DELEON, WE MAKE THAT WIND BLOW, EH ... TILL THE MEEK AND THE SLOW AND THE HONEST FALL. What some people see ... it put an ice shaft into my gut. JACKSON ... YOU'RE ONE PSYCHIC BASTA'D. The stainless Rolex tolled -2-1-0- ... it tolled like a mornings thunderhead over Charleston Bay blowing a damned cold southron wind. While my instincts boiled! I swung fast pain driving ice-picks through my shoulder, but slinging up the Big-10 cock-hammer-squeeze-BLAM ... the chrome barrel blasting three ounces of flechette steel into the rusted pipe above our heads. The rusted pipe exploded! All instinct, swing-and-fire-and-dive ... I was diving away from the valve and spewing high-pressure water me coming up on a knee legs driving, slogging wet hell like every slow-motion nightmare grabbing my legs toward the light, hearing the scream of shattered iron and blade-sharp screams of high pressure water and the echo of a mans scream cut in half where a man had stood for nothing too long ... so I thought steel always finds a man like that. Slogging ... slogging something plucked at my jacket, impossible shots ripping through I pounded on ... Base of the vertical I'm lunging up, grabbing A JACOBS LADDER God must grant his own city, air-foamed water surging over my chest when screams come echoing down the tunnel. Impossible!
And I shot back an X-ray. Couldn't be half a man slit from crown to his chest-bone that shouted the muddy slime burbling through the crease and the lantern - the half-face pinched up to the lantern. Flames scorching his neck and ... as I strained from the water legs gamboling the iron ladder rungs upward cold-sweat nightmares forever remind he was shouting
VIRGIN FORGIVE ME, I LIED DELEON! ... THREE MEN BID LOWER ...