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Authors: Blair Underwood

In the Night of the Heat (39 page)

BOOK: In the Night of the Heat
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Len called before noon, so I knew he had news. I couldn't remember the last time he'd called on a Monday, period. I was at the top of his priority list.

“We're in play with Lynda Jewell,” Len said. “I don't know who your lawyer is, but she's a tigress. Jewell wants to settle. Your lawyer found a corroborating witness at the hotel—a housekeeper. Jewell's terrified of bad publicity. Her lawyer's already offering five hundred. I told her to call back when she's up to a million. I say we'll have a settlement by Friday.”

I smiled. There's nothing like good news from your agent. A million dollars was a lot of money for a little fondling in a hotel suite. To paraphrase an old joke, I know what I am. Now we were just haggling over the price.

“Great, Len, but it's not about the money,” I said. “I'll take it. But I want more. She owes me a copy of that script. Tell her I want an audition. That's what she promised me.”

“Ten, that's nuts. You think you'd have
shot at getting cast, given your situation with Jewell? Even if the casting director were suicidal enough, you wouldn't want this project now. I say hold out for a mil.”

“An audition,” I said. “For Troy, or any other part. And tell my lawyer thanks.”

“Is she as hot as she sounds on the phone?” Len said, his breathing heavier.


“Too bad. Where are you? I can barely hear you.”

I was in LAX's Tom Bradley International Terminal. The woman's voice announcing the boarding for my flight on the loudspeaker above me was deafening.

“I'm taking a quick trip out of town. I'll be back in about a week.” My trip to Mercy had taught me that my family could survive a few days without me, and I'd realized as I lay awake in my bed that I had one more place to go.

“Let's at least wait to see Jewell's final offer…” Len said, his final pitch.

“I'm an actor, Len,” I said. “I want a chance to show people who I am.”

Len sighed. I was ignoring sterling advice yet again, but he was used to it. “You're killing me, Ten,” he said. “Have a good trip.”

“We'll see.”

Whether or not I had a good trip would depend on April.

I'd splurged and bought a business-class ticket to Johannesburg, in hopes that I might get some sleep on the way—without dreams about the swamp, this time. Sometime during the thirty hours of flight time, I hoped I could think of the right thing to say to April.

Len's call had come just in time. Lynda Jewell was part of the rea
son April didn't think she wanted to be with me anymore, and maybe Jewell's offer would make a difference. Yes, I'd been responsible for my past, and for my own actions—but Jewell's willingness to pay meant she was admitting she'd been wrong.

Dream on. It won't be that simple,
my Evil Voice said.

While I sat in my wide seat in the last few minutes before the plane left the gate, I quickly checked my phone for the email that had accumulated while I was in Mercy. I'd missed one, and it caught my eye:

I expected the note to be from Mother, about the limo. But it wasn't. I didn't know the user, [email protected].

There was a chance it wasn't spam. I bit, clicking.

Hey, Ten—

Long time no see.

I'm sorry to pop into your mailbox unannounced, but I seem to have done a bad thing. You should know about it. You may recognize the man in the attached photos. I know it was naughty, but I intercepted them on the way to Chela's secret account, one you don't know about. Don't worry: She hasn't used it in quite a while, he's somewhat frantic about that.

Was it naughty of me to send the pictures to his wife, with an exhaustive history of their “relationship”? I told her to ask about [email protected]. You might ask Chela about that account, too. On the other hand, the musician is getting desperate. I suspect Mr. and Mrs. Cradlerobber will be having a heart-to-heart right about now. Your problem is probably over, but let me know.

What do I want in return, you may ask? Only a smile.

Who am I? Wouldn't you like to know…?

—A Friend Indeed

I clicked on the attachment, and the internet went triple-X. The bearded musician was full frontal, aroused, unblessed, just a pudgy predator floating filth to a sixteen-year-old girl. Oh yes, I wanted to be a fly on the wall.

But who had done this?
“A Friend Indeed”
? I didn't know what, but I sensed that some fascinating game was about to begin.

The future was looking bright.

I had to turn off my phone for takeoff, so I didn't have the chance to write a note back to my mystery friend. Someone was watching over me. Or just watching me, period.

My life was never boring. If April wanted boring, she'd been right to leave me behind.

Maybe we were about to learn that April made the right decision. Or maybe we would learn something we didn't expect. It didn't matter. I just wanted to take April out to dinner and look into her eyes. I wasn't going to live the rest of my life like Wallace Rubens and Evangeline Jackson, wishing I'd followed my heart's choice. Dreams deferred explode.

If April and I had a chance, I wanted to know. If we didn't, I wanted to know.

New daylight filled my window. My plane rumbled, gathered its energies, and leaped off the runway, embracing the sky.



and this one is no different. First, I want to thank the readers and critics who supported
I know some folks out there wondered if we were “for real,” so thank you for taking a chance on us. Where would I be without readers who were willing to try something new?

Thank you to my husband, Steven Barnes, who opens new universes of possibilities in my life at every conceivable turn. And trust me—book research has never been so much fun. (How can you know if a scene works until you act it out? I encourage you to try out some of the scenes for yourselves. Why should the authors have all the fun?) Somehow, we knew each other almost on sight when we met at that writer's conference in Atlanta in 1997.

Thank you to my family at Atria Books: Malaika Adero, who is an editor, a friend, and an inspiration. Krishan Trotman, for her patience and everlasting good spirits. Christine Saunders, who makes sure our voices are heard. And to Judith Curr, who is not only a ter
rific publisher, but who invited us to that amazing party at Prince's house. Enough said.

Thanks to my agents, John Hawkins of John Hawkins & Associates and Michael Prevett of The Gotham Group. Thank you to Darryl Miller, a friend, writer, and advance reader who gives us his all every time. Thank you to my favorite mystery writers: Walter Mosley. Michael Connelly. Paula L. Woods. Other writers are always the best teachers, and I know I still have much to learn.

And thanks to Blair Underwood, who is simply a singularity. When the three of us sit together for those long brunches to plan poor Tennyson's fate, we are of one mind and heart. It is an amazing process. I'm so thrilled that Blair's talents are being more fully appreciated each day. Thank you for your friendship.

I have always believed that “a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down,” as Mary Poppins said. The events depicted in this novel are fictitious, but
In the Night of the Heat
is no different. Some stories are not told often enough, and I feel privileged to have the opportunity to remind readers that some scars take generations to heal.

I am so grateful to my parents, Patricia Stephens Due and John Due, for their example in civil rights and community activism…and for the painful stories they repeated so that I would never forget—even in the relative comfort of the world they helped carve for me, my son, and my stepdaughter. Not everyone survived the 1960s…sometimes for acts as small as registering others to vote. There are not words enough to thank the foot soldiers, black and white, who died—or sacrificed their hearts—on our domestic battlefields so that all of us might enjoy the promise of our Constitution. (Please vote in November!)

Thanks to my sisters, Johnita and Lydia, for carrying the torch in their own ways.

Thank you to my son, Jason, and my stepdaughter, Nicki, for showing me the face of the future.

Thank you to God, for the wonders that unfold before our eyes each day.


without thanking P., who trusted me with a truly terrible tale of a hideous injustice that has yet to be set straight. I've carried that truth with me for more than ten years and am grateful for the chance to vent my rage and frustration, even in literary form.

On a happier note, I'd like to thank my Silat instructor and the creator of the WAR system of martial arts, Guru Cliff Stewart, Close Protection Specialist, who opened my eyes about the true nature of the bodyguard profession. Also Jonathan Westover, friend and former agent, who shared stories of Hollywood's seamier side.

Eleanor Wood, my wonderful literary agent, who has had my back for two decades now. And Wesley Snipes for a terrific workout, and critical info on stunt mishaps.

A posthumous shout-out goes to John D. MacDonald, creator of the great Travis McGee adventure novels, who showed everyone how it's really done.

To Blair Underwood, whose casual elegance and charm are the external trappings of a tempered mind and a mighty heart. From day one, it's been an honor.

To my daughter, Nicki, who has tolerated her daddy's physical and emotional absences far too often and, despite my many failings as a father, has matured into a delightful young woman. And my son,
Jason, who every day reminds me that the lessons learned in childhood are with us forever.

My wife, Tananarive Due, the love of my life. I cannot believe how blessed I was to find you. What a tiny window of opportunity we had to make our decision! To this day I'm not sure what miracle gave us both the clarity to see the future open before us, and the courage to act while there was time. You are everything I never knew I wanted.

And you're right, Babe: Some research is definitely more fun than others.

The adventures of Tennyson Hardwick have a special significance for me. While written as novels, in my mind they are meta-movies, stories revolving around the world of Hollywood, but specifically calculated to present images Hollywood will not give us—for the simple reason that non-white males can't have sex in a film without hurting its box office.

Don't believe me? Look at the IMDb database, at every film that has earned more than $100 million. About 12 percent of them star non-white males. About 23 percent of them have love scenes, even if PG-13 in nature. Out of those 350 films that have earned more than $100 million, can you guess how many both star non-white males and have sex?

As of July 1, 2008, just one:
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Not one single black man can be an erotic human being, and be fully accepted by the American audience. Will Smith can't do it. Neither can Denzel, or Eddie, or anyone else. Black
can…but only if they bed down with white men. It's one of the big, open, nasty secrets of this industry. Anyone who thinks this a statistical fluke hasn't been paying attention. It will change one day, I have no doubt. But until then, Tananarive, Blair, and I are creating the movies Hollywood won't make. Getting it done, in other words, By Any Means Necessary.


live, breathe, and love another day only because the first installment of the life and times of Tennyson Hardwick, officially
was embraced by so many of you now reading these words.

When Steven Barnes, Tananarive Due, and I embarked upon this journey of creation and exploration, we were acutely aware that if the initial story did not leap from the pages, then the subsequent adventures that we only dreamed of would never come to pass. This sequel,
In the Night of the Heat,
represents the launch of an exciting and new detective series unique in its specificity of character and the emotional odyssey traversed by its central figure, Tennyson Hardwick.

It continues to be inspiring and humbling to work with such gifted novelists as Steven and Tananarive. Their genius of craft is surpassed only by their depth of spirit and profound sense of humanity. I am truly honored to know you both, and I thank you for allowing me to become more proficient in the “literary” art of storytelling while looking through your refined prism.

To Krishan Trotman, Christine Saunders, and everyone at Atria Books/Simon and Schuster, I believe you have completely spoiled me because you have been absolutely supportive and enthusiastic about this series from the very beginning. Judith Curr, when I grow up, I want to be just like you—calm, collected, and brilliant while quietly moving mountains and making a difference in the lives of many. You've certainly done that for me. Thank you for believing in me and for being my publisher again and again.

Malaika Adero, thank you so much for your patience and encouragement each step of the way. Every author should have an editor as amazing and receptive as you. I'll never forget your comments after
reading the first “steamy” draft of
In Night the of the Heat
. Suffice it to say, “I don't smoke either.”

Desiree, I honor you as my bride and the life force that keeps our family and household perpetually flowing smoothly. No small feat. I love you and am eternally grateful that our paths crossed so many years ago because, “I sho like havin' you around, girl.”

Mom and Dad, Col. (Ret.) Frank and Marilyn Underwood, I'll never be able to repay you for instilling in us the ability to dream. Such a simplistic concept but often abandoned when adulthood and responsibility inevitably engulf us. This book and everything in the creative arts, as well as life, begins with a dream. A dream propelled by action and cultivated by faith gives birth to new realities and new beginnings. This book, as well as our country (in the year of our Lord 2008), represent new beginnings. Thank you both for living lives that personify the “audacity of hope.”

Cousin Lynne Andrews, your exuberant spirit is always a ray of sunshine in our home. So much of what you do enables me to have the freedom to create and do what I do. I thank you for that.

My Seeds, Paris, Brielle, and Blake, I thank God for you every day. Though you won't and shouldn't read this book for years to come, I hope that witnessing this novel coming to fruition resonates as evidence that dreams DO come true. Never forget, “imagination is intelligence…having fun!”

Frank, Marlo, Jackson, Mellisa, Tammy, Kelly, Khloe, Kamden, Owen, Carter, Austin, friends and family too many to name, you influence and inspire me more than you know. Thank you for being such a critical part of my life and who I am.

Ron West, my manager, who would have thought that we'd be releasing yet another novel? Go figure. When others, I'm sure, laughed and didn't take me seriously, you never faltered. Thanks for always believing in a brotha.

Lydia Wills, yes, you are still the personification of “cool” and the rest of us are just taking notes. You constantly amaze me with your business savvy and discerning intuition. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

To everyone at the Paradigm Talent agency as well as Patti Felker, Mark Wetzstein, and Bruce Gellman, many thanks for being a constant source of support and motivation.

Lee Wallman, you can open your eyes now that you've read the last chapter! I feel absolutely blessed to have you as such an integral part of my life and career. I am immensely grateful for all of the hard work that you do on my behalf.

Here's to New Beginnings and the audacity to believe that we can all be better and do better!

BOOK: In the Night of the Heat
7.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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