Authors: Russell Andrews
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2007 by Peter Gethers
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
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First eBook Edition: June 2008
ALSO BY RUSSELL ANDREWS
Over the years, in real life while using a real name, or in my pseudonymous thriller-writing existence, I have worked with wonderful writers, editors, directors, agents, and various colleagues. Whether they know it or not—and whether they want to admit it or not—every one of the following has taught me how to write and how to think like a writer: Dave Anderson, William Bayer, Henry Beard, Edward Behr, Roy Blount, Jr., Lorenzo Carcaterra, William Darrid, the late William Diehl, Bill Duke, Jack Dytman, Jason Epstein, Joe Eszterhas, Joni Evans, Jackie Farber, John Feinstein, Colin Fox, Joe Fox, Nicholas Gage, Peter Gent, Steven Gethers, William Goldman, Gerald Green, Linda Grey, Lewis Grizzard, Michael Gross, Pete Hamill, Wil Haygood, John Helyar, Sy Hersh, Carl Hiaasen, Robert Hughes, Susan Isaacs, Marc Jaffe, Bill James, Ricky Jay, Penn Jillette, Pat Jordan, Stefan Kanfer, Kitty Kelley, Daniel Keyes, Joe Klein, Naomi Levy, Bob Loomis, Mike Lupica, Eric Lustbader, Sonny Mehta, Walter Mosley, Leona Nevler, Esther Newberg, Roman Polanski, Roberta Pryor, Bob Reis, Tom Robbins, Stephen Rubin, Hank Searls, Roger Simon, Teller, William Thomas, Alex Witchel, Audrey Wood, Alan Zweibel.
The usual list, with a few additions and subtractions as the case may be: John Alderman at Trellus Management Co., Eric Pessagno and D. B. Lifland at Trellus, Mike Takata at Soros Fund Management, Ron Malfi, Janis Donnaud, Esther Newberg, Jack Dytman, Colin Fox, Jamie Raab, Hilary Hale.
It was nearing the end of May, in the middle of
—the tuna killing. During these few weeks, the tuna follow the currents from the Atlantic Ocean into the warmer Mediterranean to deposit and fertilize their eggs. For centuries, the fishermen have known this secret, and in mid-April they begin to set up a series of net barriers in the water. The tuna become trapped, forced to follow the direction of the barriers, and are obliged to swim straight toward those who patiently wait to slaughter them.
The boats were coming in now. They were driving the tuna, thousands of them, toward shore. Soon the water’s rolling waves would be red; the islanders would be cheering; and all the nontourists who made their living on this speck of land just off the coast of Sicily, a short ferry ride due west from the city of Trapani, would be secure again. The restaurants would have no empty tables, the stores would sell their trinkets and T-shirts, and the poor box in the church in the Gothic square would be filled to the brim.
One of the most beautiful islands in the world, Favignana is speckled with coves, into which creeps the clearest water in the sea. Thin slices of white sand and finely pebbled beaches glisten and gleam in the summer sun. The island’s main attribute is tufa—an almost-translucent-looking rock, formed over centuries as water gradually evaporated from the abundant amounts of lime that form the cliffs and caves. Remnants of ancient excavations are everywhere, the sites abandoned seemingly in middig. Thick blocks of the stone are discarded and left to turn even more yellow and red from rust. Four and five-hundred-year-old villas built out of that tufa are still standing, though, and dominate the coastline, giving the ancient stone a productive as well as ornamental life in the modern world.
Narrow strips of road cut into the hills and the rock, winding east and west, north and south, forging an impossible maze. Primitive and lovely, the island is mostly unspoiled by foreign tourists (except for the stray German here and there and the Italians from up north who come to lounge and tan and eat mounds of pasta with
, the pungent tuna roe). Favignana is paradise for most people. But Angelo Tornabene was not most people. Angelo Tornabene hated the small island on which he had spent his entire life. He couldn’t wait to escape. He didn’t care that the great tuna hunt was described and revered as far back as
or that the tufa could be linked to the building of the great pyramids. He couldn’t get away fast enough from the foul-smelling fish; the bland, monotonous rock; and the tourists from the north who came for the weekends and the summer and bicycled around the maze from one bar
to another. Angelo wanted to escape. Anywhere. Anywhere that wasn’t this goddamn island. He didn’t care about the great Roman naval battle with the Carthaginians. He didn’t care at all about the past. Favignana was only about history. It was about things that no longer existed. Dead things. Dead stone, dead fish, dead people. Angelo wanted to live.
It’s why he’d spent the last three days talking to the sailors on the huge ship. They were from South Africa. He didn’t know where exactly. He’d never heard of the city whose name they kept repeating, but he understood the word “Africa” and knew they weren’t Arab and knew they weren’t black, so he decided they must come from the white part, which he knew was south, and all he really cared about was where they were going, which was far, far away from here. The Africans were waiting for the tuna to come in so they could load up on fresh fish for the next leg of the journey; they were excited that the wait was almost over, that it was almost time to leave. The sailors heard the cheering and they ran to look, to see the bloody spectacle, as Angelo knew they would. He ran with them, pointing out the oncoming boats, celebrating, slapping as many white Africans as he could on the back; and while everyone was cheering it wasn’t hard for him to disappear, to slip below, and wander through the ship. As he wandered, a thick metal door opened and a man came through the opening. He was not in a uniform; he wore a dark business suit and a thin tie. He looked at Angelo but did not seem to care that a stranger was exploring places he shouldn’t be. Angelo smiled to show that he belonged, but the man didn’t smile back—he just walked slowly back to join all the commotion. The man looked serious and important, and Angelo wondered if he might be the captain. Or even higher up than the captain. The thought made him nervous, and as the man passed by, Angelo knew he had to be quick; so he darted ahead, caught the heavy metal door before it could close, stepped forward and found himself in a passageway that led to many rooms. He began moving slowly, tried several doors, all of which were locked. And then he tried one and it opened. Now he was in another maze of rooms, and without knowing what else to do he began trying more doors, examining more rooms. After perhaps fifteen minutes, he was standing in a doorway that led into a small dark space, a nearly empty room of seemingly little importance. There were wooden crates stacked up. Many of them. Still holding the door open, Angelo inched his leg in front of him and put his foot against one stack; it felt solid, as if filled with canned goods. Maybe it was a room for storage, but it didn’t look as if it was used much. That was good, Angelo thought, it meant he’d have more time to remain hidden.
He stepped farther into the room and let the heavy iron door close behind him. He heard a lock click into place. Angelo tried to open it, found that he couldn’t, but that was all right. He didn’t mind. At some point, when they were far out to sea, someone would open the door and come into the room. They would see him and they would be angry, but what could they do? It would be too late. They would shrug and kick him off at the next port and that was just fine with Angelo. It didn’t matter what that next port was. He’d be someplace else. He was sixteen years old, and he would no longer be on Favignana. He’d be free.
So he took off one shirt (he was wearing three—he was prepared for this journey; he’d brought shirts and nuts and raisins and bread and cheese, all hidden away in deep pockets); crumpled it up into a kind of pillow; and he sat on it, leaning against one corner of the room, and decided he was comfortable enough to wait. He knew he could wait now as long as he had to. He had already waited a long, long time, his whole life, really. He could certainly wait a little while longer.
He did not know how many hours later it was when the ship began to move. All he knew, all he cared about, was the movement itself. His voyage had begun.
He did his best, after that, to keep track of the time but it was difficult. It was pleasantly warm in the room and a bit stuffy and Angelo kept getting drowsy. He slept many hours, so he could only guess at the time or even if it was night or day. He guessed that it was already two days later when he’d finished eating some of his hard Parmesan cheese. As usual, he wasn’t aware of the moment when he had fallen asleep that day and he didn’t fully realize when he’d awakened, only that something had awakened him. A loud noise. Like an explosion. Or maybe a gunshot. He heard another loud noise. Yes, this was definitely an explosion. And then the ship was moving. But this was a strange movement. Not as if it was leaving port, it was moving as if something was wrong. The room was tilting, and the boxes of things, he didn’t know of what—he had not yet looked inside the boxes that were in the room—were sliding and falling. Angelo stood up, wondering what was happening, and then he realized his feet were wet. There was water in the room. A lot of water. Angelo went to open the door, remembered that it was locked. He pounded on the thick steel, yelling, knowing that no one would understand his Italian but surely someone would hear him and let him out. He pounded again and again, and then he couldn’t pound because he could not stand up. He was down in the water, and the water was getting higher and higher. It was almost to the ceiling. Angelo was a good swimmer, but soon there was no place left to swim. There was no place to keep his head above the water, and soon he was holding his breath, praying that someone would open the door because he couldn’t hold his breath forever, couldn’t even hold it for another minute. Not one more second.
He felt the water rush into his mouth. Tasted the salt and the fish. He waved his arms and kicked his legs because his body was filling with the sea, but however much he raged, it did no good. He tried to spit the water out but the water was all around him. Inside and outside. He was like the tuna he had hated all these years: defeated by the sea, driven toward his death with nowhere to turn away.
From under the water, another explosion filled his ears. And then Angelo Tornabene was not raging. Or struggling or spitting or moving at all, except to bob up and down in the turbulent water, rolling with the sinking ship.
He was finally free.
He had finally left Favignana.
It wasn’t so long ago that Teddy Angel figured out that, when he really thought about it, he liked four things in life.
four things. There was plenty of other stuff he was pretty fond of. Pussy, for instance. That was always good. And one of the guys on
—he could never remember his name—the fat black guy whose stomach shook like crazy when he sang. That dude was pretty fuckin’ amazing. Teddy also liked really hot, humid days, the kind that made everyone else uncomfortable; it was pretty awesome just standing in the sun and wearing a muscle shirt and dripping with sweat, watching the little drops gather on his triceps and then stream down to the sizzling sidewalk. And he had to put frozen grapes right up there. He was crazy about frozen grapes; they almost made it into his top four. Whoever invented that was one motherfucker of a genius. But when you got right down to it, there were only four things he really,
liked. That he considered
He liked having money in his pocket, that was number one. And he had some right now—did he ever—almost five thousand dollars. Well, really about forty-two hundred because he’d pissed away four dimes in a card game last night, most of it coming when he’d had nines over sixes but lost to a bigger boat, queens over eights. He’d also spent a hundred on a used .38, a really nice piece, good weight, comfortable fit in his hand (he liked guns, too, liked the way they made him feel, although not as much as frozen grapes; guns were maybe sixth or seventh on his list). The other two or three bills he’d spent buying drinks, tipping heavy, showing off. All well worth it. Especially because he had plenty more. And even more coming when he got to Mexico; and that wouldn’t be too long now—maybe another couple of days, tops—till he got to the town he was supposed to get to, dropped off the truck, picked up his plane ticket, and got the hell back to Detroit where he belonged. He was in Texas already, had crossed the state line about half an hour ago. Teddy decided he didn’t like Texas, not that he’d ever been there before, but what the hell was there to like? Been pouring rain ever since he’d arrived, raining so hard it was steaming up the highway. Huge drops of water were banging into the windshield like they were gonna bust it open. It wasn’t just the rain, though. He knew it could rain anywhere. But Texas was still a fucked-up state. Bunch of cowboys and rich white men, that’s what was in Texas. It’s why he’d bought the .38, in case one of those cowboys called him a nigger. He almost wished someone would. He’d just saunter up to the guy, blow the asshole away, toss the gun, and get back in the truck and keep on driving.
He liked being called Teddy Angel. That was probably number two on his list. He wasn’t sure when it had started. He thought maybe when he was a kid. Always in trouble. Always getting picked up by the police, getting in fights, talking back, stealing something. His real name was Anjule. Edward Anjule. His grandmother was the one who used to call him Teddy. He wondered if she’d tagged him Angel, too. Maybe she thought she was being funny. Such a nice name for such a bad boy. If it was her, he decided he owed her one. He wondered if she was still alive. If she was, he thought maybe he’d drop in on her when he got back, buy her a drink, maybe lay a hundred on her, thank her for the cool name.
Teddy also liked being drunk. He put that third. Drugs were okay, too. Weed, coke, X—he wouldn’t turn none of that down. But he mostly liked liquor. Tequila, scotch, bourbon, any of it straight up. A nice cold beer when he was hot. He didn’t just like drinking, he loved it. Did it pretty much all day and all night long. Was doing it now while he was driving. Swigging from a bottle of Jack. The bottle was almost empty, now that he looked, but that was okay because there was another one, this one full, sitting right next to it. And beside that was a six-pack of Bud. Probably not real cold by now, but that was okay, too, the air-conditioning in the truck was on and working pretty well, so Teddy Angel wasn’t too hot or too thirsty. If he felt like a brew, a slightly warm brew would be just fine.
The fourth thing that Teddy liked was music. All kinds of music. He was into 50 Cent pretty heavy, hard not to be. That motherfucker spoke some shit. But he liked older stuff, too. The classic stuff is how he thought of it, early Puff and Jay-Z and Tupac—those were good days for sound. He liked all the way back to Motown. Had to appreciate the Berry Gordy shit when you came from Detroit. The Four Tops, Supremes, Stevie Wonder. That’s what he was listening to now. On his iPod, ’cause there wasn’t a CD player in the truck and the radio was for shit and the speakers were even worse. So it was Stevie and
. A classic. Some major phones clamped on his ears, the little touchy white dial thing fingered all the way to the right, as loud as it’d go. Drivin’ along at eighty-six miles per, “Superstition” blasting into his brain.
Teddy Angel was a happy man.
And he was happy right up until the very moment he died, when he was reaching for the second bottle of Jack and the truck started to skid on the wet, slick road. He tried to grab the wheel with his left hand, never letting go of the bottle with his right—tried to turn himself out of the spin—but his reflexes were slowed by the alcohol and his hand slipped, banging into the dashboard, and the truck rumbled over the divider. It just missed a Caddy coming from the other direction; then it rammed into a shiny green Taurus that couldn’t get out of the way; and then it jumped off the shoulder, toppling, turning over twice, the second turn breaking Teddy’s neck.