The Further Tales of Tempest Landry

BOOK: The Further Tales of Tempest Landry
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Walter Mosley
The Further Tales of Tempest Landry

Walter Mosley is the author of more than forty books, including thirteen Easy Rawlins mysteries, the first of which,
Devil in a Blue Dress
, was made into an acclaimed film starring Denzel Washington.
Always Outnumbered
was an HBO film starring Laurence Fishburne, adapted from Mosley's first Socrates Fortlow novel. A native of Los Angeles and a graduate of Goddard College, he holds an MFA from CCNY and lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the winner of numerous awards, including an O. Henry Award, a Grammy, and PEN America's Lifetime Achievement Award.

www.waltermosley.com

A
LSO BY
W
ALTER
M
OSLEY

Leonid McGill Mysteries

All I Did Was Shoot My Man

When the Thrill Is Gone

Known to Evil

The Long Fall

Easy Rawlins Mysteries

Rose Gold

Little Green

Blonde Faith

Cinnamon Kiss

Little Scarlet

Six Easy Pieces

Bad Boy Brawly Brown

A Little Yellow Dog

Black Betty

Gone Fishin'

White Butterfly

A Red Death

Devil in a Blue Dress

Other Fiction

Debbie Doesn't Do It Anymore

The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey

The Gift of Fire/On the Head of a Pin: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion

Merge/Disciple: Two Short Novels from Crosstown to Oblivion

Stepping Stone/Love Machine: Crosstown to Oblivion

The Tempest Tales

Diablerie

Killing Johnny Fry

The Man in My Basement

Fear of the Dark

Fortunate Son

The Wave

Fear Itself

Futureland

Fearless Jones

Walkin' the Dog

Blue Light

Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned

RL's Dream

47

The Right Mistake

Original eBooks

Odyssey

Parishioner

Nonfiction

Twelve Steps Toward Political Revelation

This Year You Write Your Novel

What Next: A Memoir Toward World Peace

Life Out of Context

Workin' on the Chain Gang

Plays

The Fall of Heaven

A VINTAGE EBOOK ORIGINAL, JANUARY 2015

Copyright © 2015 by The Thing Itself, Inc.

All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, New York, and distributed in Canada by Random House of Canada, a division of Penguin Random House Ltd., Toronto.

Vintage and colophon are registered trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Vintage eBook ISBN 9781101910887

www.vintagebooks.com

Cover design by Elena Giavaldi

Cover image © Ilya Akinshin/Shutterstock

v4.0

ep

Contents

For Marshall Jones III

who opened the door and ushered me through

The Angel and the Con
Visiting Privileges

I sat at the far end of a long row of visitor's chairs set on one side of a bulletproof-glass divider. It wasn't a very busy day and so there was an empty seat separating almost every visitor. There were old women and young, a few well-dressed men, mostly lawyers I guessed, and for each visitor there was a convict dressed in bright orange overalls with little red crosses painted here and there. Convicts and visitors on either side of the transparent barrier were leaning forward with telephone receivers pressed to their heads.

There were maybe a dozen convicted felons conversing through the intercom system and just as many guards in blue uniform standing a few feet away. Behind the row of guards was a bright red door with yellow letters stenciled on it:
PRISONERS: DO NOT TOUCH
.

The door opened and Tempest Landry, aka Ezzard Walcott, walked in with his hands and feet manacled, followed by two guards. The burly guards, one white and the other black, led Tempest to the chair in front of me and pushed him down into the metal chair.

Up close, through the three-inch-thick glass, I could see that there were bruises, a few recent cuts, and as many developing scars on my ward's face. He stared at me through the glass, making no attempt at first to reach for the receiver. His visage wasn't exactly what I would have called hardened. There was pain in his eyes, determination in the set of his jaw, and condemnation (even hatred) in the long moment of silence.

I reached for the visitor's phone and held it to my ear. Tempest's nostrils flared and then he, reaching out with both hands, took up his receiver.

“What happened to your face?” I asked him.

After another sixty seconds of silence he said, “Same thing that happened to my ribs and back, gut and the back of my head.”

“Who did this to you?”

“Who didn't?”

“What happened, Tempest?”

He almost hung up his phone then. I could see the rage he felt at my show of sympathy. And I couldn't blame him. It wasn't his fault that he was in prison.

“What happened?” he said. “You mean between me and the man who wanted to rob me of my one pack of cigarettes or the two men who wanted me to make them both happy at the same time? You talkin' 'bout the guard I talked back to or the fool I had to slash his face?”

“You stabbed someone?”

“Slashed him,” Tempest corrected. “Big dude sayin' I was his bitch anytime he wanted. Either I was gonna show that wasn't true or every day would be Valentine's Day for the next eighty-two years.”

“I'm so sorry.”

“Don't say that again, Angel. Don't say it, man. You say it and we ain't nevah gonna talk again. You understand me?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Good. Now you explain to me why I'm here. Explain to me why I got Ezzard Walcott's fingerprints. Explain to me why the hell the cops could pick me up and put me in prison without so much as a trial.”

“Mr. Walcott had been convicted of aggravated assault,” I said. “That and second-degree manslaughter and, and while he was on the run he received more time for flight from justice.”

“I know all that,” Tempest said, managing not to shout. “I know all that. Question is why am I in his body?”

“Mr. Walcott, after he fled bail, went to stay with a girlfriend—Fredda Lane. She secreted him in the basement of her friend's stepfather's house. It was winter and he was down in Florida staying with his son.”

“I don't need no weather report, Angel. What I wanna know is what all this gotta do wit' me?”

“Fredda's friend, Dominique, brought Ezzard some food one day when Fredda was with her mother. One thing led to another and Fredda found out. Something to do with an item of clothing. I'm not sure because it wasn't my case.”

“Just go on, man,” Tempest said peevishly.

“Calm down,” the black guard said.

“Fredda got Ezzard inebriated in some fashion and then lured him on the back of a late-night Staten Island Ferry. She pushed him over the side into wintry waters.”

“And that's the body you an' Peter decided to put me into?” Tempest asked.

“I don't think that the whole story was known at the time of your, your transmigration.”

“You mean you got all the resources of heaven at your beck and call and all you could do was put my soul in the body of a convicted man on the run?”

“It is regrettable,” I said.

“Okay, all right. I'll forgive you, but first flap your wings or sumpin' an' get me the heck outta here.”

It was my turn to be silent. I wanted to speak but there were no words I had that he wanted to hear.

“What's wrong, Angel? I know you not gonna blame me for what Ezzard Walcott done done.”

“No…of course not.”

“Come on, Joshua. I already been in here three months. You know there ain't no justice in that.”

“No.”

“Well then, wrinkle your nose or say
alakazam
or sumpin'. Just make this here right.”

“I only found out a few days ago that you were here, Tempest,” I said. “I was sitting with my baby daughter on the sofa when Gabriel appeared to me. He said that heaven was not pleased with my common-law marriage or my fathering little Tethamalanianti. I have been stripped of my post and the accordant powers of head accounting angel. I have been ordered to make you accept the edict of the On High.”

“Make me? What happened to free will?”

“They are afraid of you, Tempest.”

“Did you tell 'em that I met Satan and defeated him?”

“That disturbed the Celestial Choir even more. The fact that you met with Basil Bob, Beelzebub, further convinced them that you need to be thrown down into Hades.”

“But Bob told me that I could tear down the walls of heaven if I just sent you away. All I got to do is say no to our talks, and the whole connection between Man and the Infinite will come to an end.”

It was true. The hegemony of the divine hung by a slender thread, dependent on the whim of Tempest Landry's errant soul. After being shot down dead in the streets of Harlem, he refused to accept his sentence to eternal damnation. His ability to evoke his free will threatened all that has ever been known as true.

“Ain't that right, Angel?”

After a very long time I nodded and whispered, “Yes.”

“Then let me outta here 'fore I put an end to you and your whole damn line!”

“I said keep it down,” the black guard growled. “One more time an' you're back in solitary.”

Tempest and I stared into each others' eyes with deep concentration.

“Well?” he asked me.

“I haven't the power to release you, Tempest. I told Gabriel that you might end everything with a word, but he told me to meet with you until you broke…until you accepted heaven's edict and trundled down to hell.”

“You know what Bob said he would do to me if I went down there. He'd torture me with his own hands, break every bone in my body, just for starters.”

“Yes.”

“So you ain't leavin' me no choice.”

“Men always have a choice,” I said in a voice that approximated the celestial timbre I had once controlled. People on both sides of the glass glanced in my direction before going back to their conversations and jobs. They were curious but no longer profoundly affected by my voice.

“Raisin' yo' voice don't change things, Angel. I'm still up here in prison no mattah what you say.”

Again I fell silent. Tempest was the only friend I'd ever had throughout seemingly endless millennia. He introduced me to my wife, taught me more about life than I had ever learned counting sins and pointing my damning finger at the offenders. I didn't want him in that prison but I was as helpless as he was.

“So what's your answer?” he asked me.

“I do not have the power to free you. I have been stripped of every benefit of heaven. If I were you I would…I would deny the fearful cold winds that envelop you.”

“So you agree?” he asked. “You believe that I should tear down the walls of heaven?”

“Gabriel gave me a message for you,” I said, reluctantly.

“What's that?”

“Time's up,” the white guard said.

“He told me to tell you that the demolition of the divine would not ameliorate your plight, that you would spend the rest of your life in prison and then be thrown into the Abyss thereafter.

“I know you told me not say it but I'm sorry, Tempest. I have no control over these events. I'm a tool in this struggle, as much a victim as are you.”

“I said, time's up,” the white guard repeated.

They grabbed Tempest by his armpits and lifted him to his feet. The phone fell from his hand but he did not stop staring at me. He craned his neck to keep me in sight as they dragged him away.

I sat in that hard metal visitor's chair for many long minutes trying to figure out what had happened and how I felt about it.

When no answer came I got to my feet and staggered out of the prison: a pawn in a war that I no longer truly understood, a lost soul who had forgotten his way home.

BOOK: The Further Tales of Tempest Landry
8.9Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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