Authors: Elmore Leonard
video surveillance system was hooked to the TV set in the study. Push a button on the remote control and a black-and-white shot of the patio area, the driveway, the front entrance, or a room upstairs would appear in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Push another button, the TV picture would go off and the surveillance video would come on the whole screen.
That's what Louis Lewis, watching TV in the study, finally did: put the video of the patio on big so he could watch Chip and the Latino he recognized, Bobby Deo, just talking at first,
Chip smoking his weed and now Bobby Deo taking a hit.
Louis Lewis was originally from the Bahamas. He had come here as a little boy with his pretty American mama and a daddy who played steel drums; Louis could sound Bahamian if he wanted to, but preferred being African-American and worked at it. A popular variation, he tried an Islamic name, Ibrahim Abu Aziz, till Chip started calling him Honest Ib and then Boo for Abu and Louis decided that was enough of that shit. He went back to being Louis Lewis, a name his daddy said would make people smile and he'd be a happy fella. He'd never gotten into Islam anyway, just played with the Arab name for a time, looking for respect more than smiles.
Louis used the remote to check the front drive and saw Bobby's Cadillac among the vegetation. Now he pushed a button and was watching Phil Donahue on the big screen again, Phil talking to three women who weighed over five hundred pounds and their normal-size husbands. It was getting good, the ladies mentioning how they made out in bed, hinting around at how they did it, fat ladies acting cute. But now in the little square, down in the corner of the screen, Bobby Deo had his pruners out, holding the snippers in Chip's face and Louis pressed the button to turn the fat ladies off and put the patio show on the big screen. Still watching, he raised the lid of the chest that was like a cocktail table in front of the red leather sofa he was sitting on, the oak chest
matching the paneled walls, and brought out a sawed-off pump-action shotgun.
Louis believed the business out there was about money Chip owed somebody, the man not knowing shit how to bet and always into bookies down in Miami. Louis knew Bobby Deo from a time before as the kind of man you'd rather have on your side than against you. He saw Bobby now as a man was set straight, had on expensive clothesâeven if they were Latinoâhad a fine car he left out front. Yeah, he knew Bobby.
Now they were talking again like they'd come to some kind of agreement, Chip no doubt bullshitting the manâyeah, Bobby helping him up now, talking some more, Chip coming in the house now. So Louis worked the remote to put the fat ladies back on big and the patio in the corner of the TV screen, Bobby appearing again, looking around. Chip would come in to see him with the shotgun watching the fat ladies and their little hubbies.Â .Â .Â . Telling Phil yeah, they had a normal sex life, but not saying what was normal to them or exactly how they did it, the fat ladies acting like they knew something nobody else did, like a special thing they could do with those big bodies that would pleasure a man some special way. Or crush him, Louis thought, they roll over on the little hubby sound asleep.
Just then Chip came inâdidn't say anything right awayâcame over and took the remote from Louis and punched the patio back onto the screen big.
“You see him threaten me?”
Not sounding scared especially; keyed-up some.
Louis held up the cut-down shotgun in one hand, said, “Look here, I was ready to back you up. I know the man, Bobby Deo? I know if you try to trip on him, mess with his head, you best shoot the motherfucker, put him down quick. But then I see you working it out between you, talking like everything's cool.”
“You know him,” Chip said. “Does that mean personally, or you've heard things about him?”
“I didn't say I know
him,” Louis said, not caring for Chip's attitude at the moment, “I said I know him. That means what it says.”
Chip was all into himself, not catching Louis's tone. He said, “You see what he did? Grabbed me by the hair?”
“Took out his pruners, yeah?”
“Threatened to cut my ears off.Â .Â .Â .”
“Must be you owe somebody money, huh?”
“Harry Arno, sixteen five. Only this guy wants eighteen with expenses. He calls me Cheep.”
The man sounding just a speck shaky now. Usually he could put on being superior even with nothing to back it.
“Give you a couple days to pay, huh, or he start to snip. Bobby Deo was a bounty hunter. Now he does collection work when there's enough in it for him. What else you want to know? Being light-skin Puerto Rican he thinks all the ladies are crazy about him. What the man
is basically, he's an enforcer. You understand? You want somebody taken out and you can pay high dollar, he'll do it for you.”
Chip said, “Is that right?” raising his eyebrows. Interested but not, in Louis's judgment, wanting to show it.
“He got sent to Starke on a homicide, shot some dude he was suppose to be bringing in. Doing his rap he was the man up there among the Latinos.”
“Same time you were there.”
“Was where we first bumped into each other.” Louis said, “You understand if you're thinking to hire Bobby to take out Harry Arno it cost you more than what you owe Harry.”
Chip surprised him, looking pleased at the idea and saying, “Actually what I was wondering, if you and Bobby got along okay.”
“You mean like if me and him was to work together? Have a mutual interest in common?”
Louis watched Mr. Chip Ganz standing there in his underwear almost naked, hands on his bony hipbones, looking at Bobby on the TV screen before looking this way again.
He said, “What do you think?”
Making it sound like he was throwing it up in the air and it didn't matter to him one way or the other.
Louis said, “Bring Bobby in on the deal so he leave you alone, huh? Won't be snipping off any your valuable parts.”
“We could use another guy,” Chip said. “We've talked about it enough.”
Louis said, “You want to hire him?” trying to make the man come out and say it.
“It's an idea.”
“Get somebody knows how to do the job,” Louis said, “'stead of sitting around discussing it to death?”
Chip didn't care for that kind of talk. He said, “My friend, the idea is foolproof. What we've been discussing is who we start with.”
He was watching the TV screen again. Louis looked over to see Bobby Deo in that P.R. shirt like he was going to a fiesta, Bobby now inspecting the swimming pool: the pool scummy and ugly with the filter system shut down to save money, algae growing in it like seaweed and turning the water brown.
“Say you put the deal to him and he likes it,” Louis said, “you still owe Harry. He sent Bobby; he can send somebody else.”
Chip said, “Not if Harry isn't around,” and like
the man's confidence and superior attitude were back in place. Like the whole conversation had been leading up to the Chipper delivering his punch line.
Not if Harry isn't around.
Louis said, “Hey now,” seeing the sly grin on the man's face, knowing exactly what the man was thinking.
“Hire Bobby,” Louis said, “to get Harry Arno.”
The man nodded. “What do you think?”
“Depends if Harry's the kind we looking for.”
“He's loaded,” Chip said. “All the time he's running his sports book he's supposed to be cutting
the wiseguys in? He's skimming on them. A sheet writer that used to work for Harry told a friend of mine it's a fact. Twenty years he skimmed something like two grand a week over what he made for himself. Finally the wiseguys got suspiciousÂ .Â .Â . You must've heard about it.”
“I was upstate at the time,” Louis said, “but I heard, yeah, they send a guy to whack Harry out and he shoots the guy dead and takes off?”
“Went to Italy for a while,” Chip said, “comes backâI don't know the whole story, but it's like it never happened, all the trouble he had with the wiseguys. But now the feds've shut him down, he's out of business.”
Louis noticed Bobby Deo on the diving board now, hands in his pockets, looking down at the scummy pool. Louis said, “So Harry's closing his books, collecting what's still owed him, huh?” watching Bobby on the TV and realizing the man's hands weren't in his pockets, he had his business out and was right then taking a leak in the swimming pool. Louis said, “You see what he's doing?”
After a moment Chip said, “He spotted the camera and thinks I'm watching him,” the man not sounding too surprised. “Letting me know he doesn't care to be kept waiting. Anyway,” Chip said, “I even thought of Harry as a possibility, when we were making out the list. I was gonna mention him to you, see what you thought?”
“Say he's got all this skim money,” Louis said. “Where you think he keeps it?”
“That's the first thing we find out.” Chip was looking at the TV screen again, at Bobby Deo coming
away from the pool toward the house. “How much Harry's got liquid he can get his hands on.” Chip moved across the room, glanced at Louis to say, “Here we go,” and opened the door.
He stood waiting as Bobby came through the sunroom into the study, Bobby looking at the TV screen, the empty patio showing, then at Louis standing with his hands on his hips, then at the shotgun lying on the sofa.
“You understand,” Chip said, “you were covered all the time you were out there. If you hadn't put those snippers away when you did, you could've taken a load of buckshot in the ass. I just want you to know that.”
The man talking now with backup, confident as can be. Louis watched Bobby turn his way.
“You work for this guy?”
Louis shrugged. “We got something on.”
Chip said, “I believe you know my partner, Louis Lewis?”
Presenting one ex-con to another, the man watching to see the effect on Bobby Deo, a different situation than when they were outside. Louis and Bobby looked at each other with no expression to speak of.
Bobby saying, “Use to be Abu, the Bahamian Arabian,” with a mild expression now, pleasant enough.
And now Louis showed a slight smile telling him, “I gave up that shit once I got my release. What we'd like to know, SeÃ±or Deogracias, the bill collector, if you think you ready for the big time.”
See what he thought of that.
But then Chip stepped in saying, “What Louis meansâsomething we've been talking about hereâwe wonder if you'd be interested in a proposition.”
Bobby looked at Louis and Louis said, “A score, a big one.”
Bobby seemed to consider it for a moment. He said, “How much we talking about?”
Louis had to smile, the man showing his greed, wanting to know the take before asking what it was about.
“We'll be dealing in millions,” Chip said, “with a way to keep it coming in as long as we want.”
Bobby said, “What's the split?”
“Three ways, we all get the same.”
“You say millionsânothing to it.”
“At least a couple mil each time we score. This is no one-shot deal.”
“Yeah, what is it? What do we do?”
“We take hostages,” Chip said and waited while Bobby Deo stared at him.
No doubt running out of patience, so Louis gave him a hint. “Like the Shia took those hostages over in Beirut? You know what I'm saying? Over in Lebanonâblindfolded them, kept them chained up? Like that.”
Chip said, “Only we'll be doing it for profit.”
“You talking about kidnapping,” Bobby said.
“In a way,” Chip said, “only different. A lot different.”
y the time Raylan got to Joyce's apartment in Miami Beach it was too late to go out to dinner. He mentioned he'd tried to call her three or four times. Joyce said she forgot to turn her machine onânothing about where she was all afternoon. She fixed him scrambled eggs and toast and made herself a drink. Finally, sitting at the kitchen table while Raylan ate his supper, Joyce said, “Harry got picked up for drunk driving.”
“A few weeks ago. They took his license away for six months.”
“I told you it would happen.”
“I know. That's why I haven't said anything.”
“He still drinking?”
“He's trying to quit.” She paused and said, “I've been sort of driving him around. Harry's looking for customers who still owe him money.”
“You realize you're aiding in illegal transactions?”
Joyce said, “Oh, for Christ sake,” and there was a silence.
Raylan got up to get a beer from the refrigerator. Joyce asked him, as she always did, if he wanted a glass. Raylan said no thanks. After another pause, aware of himself and aware of Joyce sitting with her drink, he said, “Why don't you put that new Roy Orbison on?”
She said, “All right,” but didn't move, lighting a cigarette now, a new habit she'd picked up being around Harry. The first time she played the new Roy Orbison for him the CD came to “The Only One” and Joyce said if she were still dancing she'd use it in her routine. Joyce had moved her hips to the slow, draggy beat and showed Raylan where she'd throw in the bumps. “'Every one you know's been through it.' Bam. âYou bit the bullet, then you chew it.' Bam.” Raylan liked it.
When they were first getting to know one another, almost a year ago, he'd told her how he'd worked for different coal operators in Harlan County, Kentucky, where he grew up, and before joining the Marshals Service. He told
her, “I've worked deep mines, wildcat mines, the ones you go into and scratch for what's left, and I've stripped.”
Joyce said that time, “So have I.”
He said, “Pardon me?”
She hadn't wanted to tell him too soon about working as a go-go dancer when she was youngerâone of the few topless performers, she said, without a drug habit. Like it was okay to dance half-naked in a barroom full of men as long as you weren't strung out. He told her no, it didn't bother himânot mentioning it might've been different if he'd known her when she was up there showing her breasts to everybody. No, the only thing that bothered him now was her devoting her life to poor Harry.
She'd say she wasn't devoting her life, she was trying to help him.
Sitting at the kitchen table again Raylan thought of something and began telling about the bust he'd taken part in that morning. Telling it in his quiet way but with a purpose:
How they went to an address out in Canal Point to arrest a fugitive known to be armed and dangerous. Banged on the door and when no one came a strike team officer yelled at the house, “Open up or it's coming down!” So when still no one came they used a sledgehammerâwhat the strike team called their master keyâbusted in and here was a woman standing in the living room no doubt the whole time, not saying a word. One of the strike team, a sheriff's deputy, told her they had a warrant for the arrest of
Russell Robert Lyles and asked was he in the house. The woman said no, he wasn't, and had no idea where he might be. The deputy said to her, “If Russell's upstairs, you're going to jail.” And the woman said, “He's upstairs.”
Raylan waited for Joyce, saw her nod, but that's all; she didn't say anything. She didn't see the point he was trying to make.
So Raylan said, “You understand it wasn't like the woman was giving the guy up, telling on him. There was nothing she could do, so she said yeah, he's upstairs.”
Joyce nodded again, uh-huh. “So did you get him?”
She still didn't see the point.
“We got him. Even with all the commotion, busting the door down? The guy was still in bed.”
“Did you shoot him?”
Looking right at Raylan as she said it and it stopped him, because he could see she was serious, waiting for him to answer.
“We had to wake him up.”
Nudged the guy with a shotgunâthe way it actually happenedâthe sheriff's deputy saying, “Rise and shine, sleepyhead.”
But that wasn't the point either. What he wanted Joyce to see, she had as much chance of helping Harry Arno as this woman had of hiding a fugitive. There was a silence. “I didn't like to bust into somebody's house,” Raylan said. “I asked the woman why she didn't open the door. She said, âInvite you in for iced tea?'”
There was another silence until Raylan said, “You know Harry's an alcoholic,” and saw Joyce look at him as if she might've missed something, one minute talking about apprehending a fugitiveÂ .Â .Â . “You know that, don't you?”
“He's trying to stop.”
“How? Is he in a program? He won't admit he's got a problem, so he makes excuses. It's what alcoholics do. You left him, he's depressed and that's why he's drinking again.”
Joyce said, “As far as he's concernedÂ .Â .Â .”
“You dumped him. After how many years you've been going with him on and off? How serious were you?”
She didn't answer that.
“Honey, alcoholics never blame themselves when they mess up. It's your fault he was drinking and lost his license, so he gets you to feel sorry for him and drive him around, drop whatever you're doing.”
She said, “Well, I'm not working.” Meaning she hadn't gotten any calls to do catalog modeling.
“Come on. The man's sixty-seven years old acting like a spoiled kid.”
“He's sixty-nine,” Joyce said, “the same age as Paul Newman. Ask him.”
They picked at each other using Harry as the reason, not nearly as lovey-dovey as they used to be, that time right before he shot Tommy Bucks and was temporarily assigned out of the Miami marshals office.
A situation Raylan blamed on the assistant U.S. attorney who reviewed the shooting:
This very serious young guy all buttoned-up in his seersucker suit, but acting bored to indicate his self-confidence. He wanted to know why Raylan was sitting in a crowded restaurant with a man known to be a member of organized crime when he shot him. Raylan told him the Cardozo Hotel lunch crowd was out on the porch and Tommy Bucks had his back to a wall, a precaution the man had no doubt been taking since his childhood in Sicily.
The assistant U.S. attorney asked if they'd had some kind of disagreement. Raylan said he believed it was his job as a marshal to disagree with that type of person, a known gangster. The assistant U.S. attorney said he couldn't help but wonder if the shooting might not have been triggered, so to speak, over a busted deal, an argument over some aspect of an arrangement Raylan had with this individual. Not flat accusing Raylan of being on the take, but coming close.
He said then he'd heard a rumor that, sometime earlier, Raylan had given Tommy Bucks twenty-four hours to get out of town or he would shoot him on sight. That wasn't exactly true was it? The assistant U.S. attorney sounding as though he saw humor in this without believing a word of it.
“I gave him twenty-four hours to get out of Dade County,” Raylan said. “Tommy Bucks was sitting at that table when his time ran out. Armed. A witness saw it and called out, âHe's got a gun!' It was confirmed and put in the
police report. What happened then, Tommy Bucks drew on me and I shot him.”
The assistant U.S. attorney said if this was true, it sounded as though Raylan had forced Tommy Bucks to draw his gun so he would have an excuse to shoot him.
Raylan said, “No, he had a choice. He could've left. He had, he might still be alive; though I doubt it.”
Raylan's boss, the Miami marshal, thought it best to get him out of that U.S. attorney's sight for a while, pulled him off warrants and assigned Raylan to the Fugitive Apprehension Strike Team in Palm Beach County, working out of the Sheriffs Office. It was the type of duty Raylan liked best, enforcement, way better than standing around in a courtroom or shuffling papers in Assets and Forfeitures. Except that in a way it was like being exiled: have to drive two hours up to West Palm in the morning, two hours back at night to Joyce's place or the house he'd rented in North Miami, that freeway traffic wearing him out. It was another reason things weren't as lovey-dovey with Joyceâthey didn't see each other as much.
Or maybe the distance, the drive, arguing about Harry, maybe none of that had anything to do with the way things were between them.
He wondered about it, sitting at the kitchen table with Joyce, thinking of something she'd said a minute ago. He'd told her about apprehending the fugitive and she asked if he'd shot him. Serious, wanting to know.
She asked now if he wanted another beer.
Raylan said, “Did you think I had shot that guy today?”
“I wondered, that's all.”
“Really? A guy lying in bed asleep?”
“I saw you shoot and kill a man,” Joyce said. Not twenty feet from the table when he shot Tommy Bucks three times, Joyce watching it happen.
She said, “But we've never talked about it, have we? How you felt?”
He wasn't sure how he felt. Relieved? It was hard to explain. He said, “It scares you, after, thinking about it. I don't feel sorry for him or wish I hadn't done it. I didn't see any other way to stop him.”
“It was a personal matter?”
“In a way.”
“Man to man. You have an image of yourself, the lawman.”
“It's what I am.”
She said, “You want to know what I wonder about? What if he wasn't armed?”
“But he was.”
“You know that?”
“He wouldn't have been there without a gun.”
She said, “Let me put it another way. If you knew he didn't have a gun, would you have shot him anyway?”
. I don't know what else to tell you.”
She said, “Well, then think about it.”
“I'd like to know what
think,” Raylan said. “Would I have shot him knowing he was unarmed?”
Joyce said, “I don't know.” She waited a few moments and said, “You want another beer or not?”