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Authors: Elmore Leonard

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BOOK: Riding the Rap
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arry got to the restaurant in Delray Beach at ten to one, a little early. He wasn't going to have a drink, had made up his mind driving here; but as soon as he was seated he ordered a vodka and tonic and paid the waiter. He'd have one, that's all. It was nice here on the terrace, watching people going by, like a sidewalk café. One-fifteen Harry ordered another drink and told the waiter to run a tab. He got the drink and took it inside with him to the pay phone, where he dialed Bobby Deo's number in Miami Beach and got no answer, no recorded message. He walked
out to the terrace among the Friday afternoon lunch crowd and sat down at the table in the shade where he'd left his cigarettes and change. He talked to the waiter for a couple of minutes about this and that, ordered a double Absolut on the rocks with a twist, and watched a girl holding a deck of cards pausing at tables to say a few words, but not having any luck until she came to a woman seated near Harry. The woman,
wearing quite a lot of makeup, gold-framed sunglasses and earrings, asked the girl to sit down. Harry heard the woman say she was sick and tired of customers acting bitchy, throwing their credit cards, treating her like a servant. He didn't hear the girl's voice until she said, “The Eight of Swords. Yes, there's a lot going on you feel you have to put up with, more than you think you can handle.” The girl speaking slowly, with kind of a southern accent. “So, let's see. The Ace of Wands. You don't feel you're getting anywhere, but you've learned a lot about yourself. Isn't that true?” The woman said something Harry couldn't hear. Then the girl's voice again. “The Prince of Swords reversed. Hmmmm.” She said, “Well, you're not afraid to take on challenges,” and something about a painful situation that hadn't been resolved. “The Three of Wands. Hmmmm, now I see a past-life connection. . . .”
Harry ordered another drink.

At two he tried Bobby Deo again. No answer.

He phoned Joyce. Her message voice came on. He waited and then said to her machine,
“I've been here over an hour, corner of Atlantic and A1A—or Ocean Boulevard, Ocean Drive, I don't know, they're all the same thing—Delray Beach, right? You were there when he phoned, isn't that what I told you? Said he'd have sixteen five for me. Well, he isn't here.” Harry was aware he sounded as if he was blaming Joyce. The thing that irritated him, she wasn't home. But then realized that if she was, she'd ask him how he got to Delray Beach. He'd tell her and she'd jump on him for driving without a license, suspended on account of the DUI, and he'd have to listen to her nag him about it. So it was just as well she wasn't home and he had to talk to the machine. Jesus. He said, “There's a girl here with tarot cards going around to the tables. Maybe I should have her tell my fortune. The way things're going . . .
I don't know, I'll call you later.” He returned to his table to find the little girl with the tarot cards waiting for him.

She said, “If you don't mind my making an observation, I see a lot of confusion and struggle going on inside you.”

A nice-looking girl, dark hair down past her bare shoulders, wearing one of those tube tops, a white one. Harry pulled a chair out for her. As they were both sitting down he said, “Honey, when a guy says he's gonna meet you to hand over fifteen grand, in cash, and he doesn't show, there's a good chance your emotions will be right out there for all to see. You don't need those cards to tell I'm fairly pissed off—if you'll pardon my French—though you might take a
peek and tell me if I'm ever going to see the son of a bitch again. Roberto Deogracias—I should've known better.”

The little girl waited, hands folded on top of her tarot cards. Harry was looking for the waiter as she said, “I saw the confusion in you when you first came in and sat down.”

“Nervous anticipation,” Harry said. “Let's have a drink.”

“What I perceived,” the girl said, waiting then for Harry to look at her, “was not anticipation, but deep feelings about a choice you have to make. Something to do with unfinished business.”

Harry looked off again saying, “Is that right?” caught the waiter's eye and raised his hand.

“You're trying to decide whether or not in the next few weeks you should leave here.”

Harry turned in his seat to face her.

“If you ought to quit your business and go someplace else to live.”

He was staring at her now, this kid calmly looking back at him, her hands folded. He said, “How do you know that?”

“I see you sitting at a sidewalk café. Not like this one or this kind of view.” She gestured to take in the terrace, the street, cars parked at meters, the beach and the Atlantic Ocean out there. “I see an older, more tropical setting. I want to say like on the Mediterranean, the Riviera.”

Harry kept staring at her. “That's amazing.”

“Am I right?”

Close enough. The Italian Riviera, I have a villa over there near Rapallo, up in the hills above the town.”

The girl said, “But you don't know if you should go back.”

Harry laid his arms on the edge of the table and hunched over to get closer to her. “Maybe you can tell me what I should do.”

“Well, if you'd like a reading . . .”

“With the cards?”

“It's up to you. I'll be honest, though, I don't think the cards have any power in themselves. It's because you touch them—when I ask you to shuffle the cards? Then I get a read off your vibrations. Another way is if I hold something of yours that you own, something personal. Or I touch your hands.”

Harry straightened and pushed his hands toward the center of the table. He saw her smile, her hands moving toward his now, and felt her fingertips.

“How do you know how to do this?”

“I have psychic powers.”

“I mean is it something you learned?”

“You can get better at it,” the girl said, “but you have to be born with some degree of paranormal abilities. When I was just a little girl I'd get pretty intense psychic impressions. It was funny because I thought everyone knew the things about people that I did. Things just come to me, like I see a picture or hear a voice?” She closed her eyes. “I see you at that sidewalk café. Yeah, it's in Italy, ‘cause I see a sign . . . You
look, well, at peace, like you have everything you want.” Her eyes opened. “And yet you don't know if you should go back there.”

Harry kept quiet; he watched her close her eyes again. She had nice eyelashes, dark and long, a nice soft mouth.

“The reason you think you ought to go back involves some kind of unfinished business. You own property over there?”

“I leased a villa.”

“What about investments?”

“Over there? I don't have any.”

“There're funds involved . . .”

Harry waited.

She paused again, then opened her eyes. “Maybe we should start with why you wanted to live in Italy. The unfinished business doesn't have to have anything to do with, you know,
. I'm pretty sure, though, it relates to something that happened in the past.”

Harry said, “Well, I was there during the war. . . . You know, you might be right. And I kept going back, thinking about living there someday. But then when I did make the move it was, well, different than I thought it would be.”

“How was it different?”

“For one thing it was winter, a lot colder'n I ever imagined. There were other things, too. The villa's drafty, hard to heat . . . The language can be a problem, trying to order in a restaurant . . .”

The girl said, “So even though there're good reasons why you don't want to go back, you still feel the urge.”

“If that makes sense,” Harry said.

“Well, I think this
,” the girl said, “is caused by the unfinished business you're not aware of. And the unfinished business, whatever it is, has to do with something that happened in the past.”

Harry thought about it. He shook his head saying, “I don't know what it could be. Outside of I signed a lease for the villa, paid in advance . . .”

“When I say ‘in the past,'” the girl said in her quiet tone, looking directly at him, “I don't mean that time during the war, or on one of the trips you took since then. I'm talking about a soul connection, something you feel strongly about, that took place during one of your past lives.”

Harry said, “Wait,” straightening up a little more, “are we getting into reincarnation here?”

He felt the tips of her fingers move on his hands, touching his knuckles.

She said, “It's the feeling I get. You don't have to, you know, believe in it yourself.”

Harry said, “No, go on,” and had to smile. “You see me living in some other time, like maybe hundreds of years ago?”

“It's not something I actually
. You're going to have to tell me about it.”

“But I might've been a real Italian at one time? Or going way back, like maybe even a Roman?”

She gave him a nice smile with a shrug. “Would you like to find out?”

“If it's true,” Harry said, “then I might even've been somebody, huh? I mean like a well-known figure.”

“It's possible.” She said, “All we have to do is regress you, take you back to some time in the past and you can tell me about it, who you were, what it was like. . . .”

“How do you do that?”

“I use hypnosis, take you back gradually and you tell me where you are, what's going on. Have you ever been put under hypnosis before?”

“Not that I can remember.”

She said, “I can't promise results, but I think you'd be a good subject. Would you like to try it?”

“I'd love to,” Harry said. “But you don't do it here, do you?”

“No, you'd have to come to my house. I'm just up the road.” She waited.

And Harry said, “Right now?”

“It's okay with me.”

He watched her get up from the table, this slender girl in her tube top, not much up there, and tight jeans hugging her hips and thighs. She sure didn't look like a fortune-teller. Now she got a wallet out of her hip pocket, fingered through it and brought out a business card she handed him.

“Here's the address, it's on Ramona in Briny Breezes? Three miles up A1A on the right-hand side. If you come to a trailer park you've passed it.”

Harry glanced at the business card. He looked up to see the girl waiting.

She said, “It's a hundred dollars. Is that okay?”

Harry shrugged. “No problem. You take cash? I'm the kind of guy, I like to pay cash for everything, keep it simple. I bought that Caddy out there across the street, the white one? Cadillac Seville, I paid cash for it.”

Now the girl gave him a cute shrug with her shoulders and a smile saying, “Whatever way you like to do it,” and started to walk off.

Harry wondered in that moment if fortune-telling was her only game: if there might be more than getting hypnotized in store for him. He called after her, “Hey, I'm Harry Arno.”

She paused to look back and nod.

Harry watched her walk into the restaurant before he looked at the business card again. Above the address on Ramona in Briny Breezes it said:


Rev. Dawn Navarro

Certified Medium & Spiritualist

Psychic Readings


From inside the restaurant's dim light she watched the waiter arrive with Harry Arno's drink. She watched him take it from the waiter's hand and drink it down and then stand up to pay his bill, taking cash from his pants pocket, leaving what he owed on the table and picking up her business card, taking time to look at it again.

She came out to the doorway now to watch Harry leave the terrace and cross the street to the
white Cadillac he'd paid cash for. When finally he drove off and was through the light at Atlantic Avenue heading north, she turned to the phone on the wall next to her, dropped in a quarter and dialed. After a few moments a voice came on. She said, “Hi, we're on our way,” and hung up.


ouis and Bobby Deo sat parked in Bobby's black Cadillac on a street they had to find called Ramona. Louis saw it as a low-rent neighborhood of little Florida houses in need of fixing up, the home hidden among old trees and shrubs. Nothing better to do, he asked Bobby how come people that named streets couldn't get it straight? Come up Ocean Boulevard it was the same as A1A till along here it became Banyan Boulevard; go up the line a half mile it was Ocean Boulevard again. How come, if it was the same road? Bobby took time to look over at
Louis, then turned back to look straight ahead again. Bobby somewhere in his head, Louis decided, not wanting to talk. Not much of a talker anyway. No doubt his mind fooling with the hostage proposition, Chip's part still a question in Bobby's mind, Bobby asking on the way here if Chip knew what he was doing.

The way Louis explained it, he said, “The man wants to be bad. Understand? Get into a hustle that pays on account of he don't have a trade, only a rich mama forgot who he is. The man thinks he's a sport, loves to gamble, bet on games. Only he don't know shit how to pick any winners. What the man does have is ideas, ones that might pay or not, like this taking hostages. The thing about his ideas, they different. Understand? Kind of gigs haven't been tried that I know of. The man watches the news on TV and reads the paper to get his ideas. The idea of the hostages, the idea of snatching one of these millionaires cheating on their savings-and-loan business you read about. What the man don't have is experience.”

Bobby said, “Can he keep his mouth shut?”

Louis said, “We'll watch he does.”

Louis was letting it become “we” to get next to Bobby and know what he was thinking, and because they were both in the life and had done state time. Bobby for shooting a man Bobby said pulled a gun on him instead of paying what he owed and went up on a manslaughter plea deal. Louis convicted on felony firearms charges when he took part in the drive-by of a dwelling with MAC10's converted to full auto. Louis
went up without copping—naming any names to have his time cut—and was respected among the population, all the homeboys up at Starke, where he met Bobby Deo. After they'd got to know one another some Bobby said to him, “How come you homes call each other nigga?”

Louis said, “Mostly when you trippin' on some motherfucker, giving him a bad time, you say it. Understand? Or you say it, you not trippin' but vampin' on him some and you say it like you calling him ‘my brother.' Either way is fine.”

So what happened, Bobby Deo tried him that time in the yard at Starke. Looked Louis in the face with kind of a smile and said, “Yeah, nigga. Like that?” To see how Louis would take it, the man standing there waiting.

Louis said to him, “Yeah, like that. Only it ain't fine for somebody to say it ain't a brother. Understand? Unless you being P.R. has nigga in you?” Louis looking Bobby Deo in the face the same way Bobby was looking at him, eye to eye.

Bobby said, “You asking me, uh? You not accusing me of having mixed blood or what some call tainted? No, I'm not one of you.”

Louis saying then, “So I know you and you know me, who we are. You know you fuck with me you got the whole population of homes on your untainted ass.” It was a question of respect was all.


The only time Bobby said more than a few words it was about his working as a repo man. Sitting here waiting for Harry's car to show up reminded him.

Bobby saying yeah, he did that work for loan companies, repossess cars when the owners got behind in their payments. Now, he said, repo men were called recovery agents and drove a van they called an illusion unit. All it looked like was an old beat-up van, no company name on it, but had a winch with a motor in the back end. Go in a ghetto neighborhood to pick up a car with a wrecker? Man, everybody knew why you were there, they stand around the car you want and make it difficult. With the illusion unit you took your time. Wait for a chance to park in front of the car. When nobody was around, open the back, winch the front end of the car up, hook on the support bar and drive away. He said, “We could do Harry's car that way.”

“We get the key off him and drive it,” Louis said. “What we need to go to all that trouble for, borrow somebody's il
sion van?”

“I'm saying it's a way to do it,” Bobby said, sounding like a hard-on, like a man who thought he was always right.

While they sat waiting, Chip was already in the house; his car, his mama's tan Mercedes, up by the trailer park next door, in some trees.

“You have the idea of using the fortune-teller,” Bobby said, “you see Chip? He was angry he didn't think of it.”

“I noticed that,” Louis said.

“She know what we're doing?”

“She don't want to know. She delivers Harry for a price and that's it.”

“How much?”

“Fifteen hundred.”

“That's low,” Bobby said, “to take a risk. You have the money to pay her?”

“When we sell Harry's car.”

“You mean when I sell it,” Bobby said. “If this guy I know, he gives me a thousand or two until he moves the car, I keep it for making the deal. Then when he pays me the rest, you and Chip get some of it.”

Louis was thinking he could sell the car himself, ship it to Nassau—he'd done that plenty of times in his youth—but didn't say anything about Bobby's arrangement. Keeping the peace, for the time being.

He said, “So we don't pay Dawn right away. It ain't like she can take us to court.”


What Bobby was thinking now, watching the fortune-teller's house, there could be a problem with her. He knew it without knowing the woman. Felt it looking at the house, the vegetation almost hiding it: an old melaleuca rotting inside itself, palmettos that had never been cut back growing wild across the front windows. A woman who lived alone in a house like that had problems. And a woman with problems, man, could make you have some of your own.

When the white Cadillac rolled past, crept up the street to stop in front of the house, Louis said, “Here we go,” sitting up now, alert. “Your friend Mr. Arno. Man, it worked, huh? I wasn't sure it would.”

Bobby watched Harry get out of the car and stand looking at the house, his hand resting on the mailbox mounted on a crooked post.

Louis said, “Man's older than I thought.”

Bobby didn't say anything. He had no feeling about Harry, one way or the other.

Now a compact Toyota came past them, faded red, trailing a wisp of smoke from the tailpipe. The car braked and turned into the drive that looked like gravel and weeds. Bobby watched Harry Arno walk over to greet the woman getting out of the car, saying something to her, Bobby seeing the fortune-teller for the first time. He said, “She isn't bad,” sounding a little surprised.

“She's something else,” Louis said. “Can tell you things about yourself you never even knew.”

BOOK: Riding the Rap
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