Read Levon's Trade (Levon Cade Book 1) Online
Authors: Chuck Dixon
The rental blocks were going up fast on a hundred acre lot just off the throughway exit. And they were filling with tenants as fast as they could be built. By the time the first course of block was laid on a thirty unit the leases were filled out. In a sour economy constructing temporary housing for uncertain folks was the only bright spot since the Toyota plant had shut down two years earlier.
The pair from the Escalade walked to the men crowded around the lunch wagon waiting on coffee and egg biscuits. They cut out a man standing on line. A few words were exchanged, no heat, no raised voices. The Escalade pair walked the other man away behind Unit Six and out of sight of the others. The laborer walked before the men in the snakeskin boots. Just three guys looking for a spot for a private conversation.
Levon watched them from the cab of the company-owned pickup. Its role as a security vehicle was only made plain by the bar of lights bolted down atop the cab. Otherwise it was just another vehicle in the fleet with the Wiley & Manners Contract Construction logo on the doors. Like the truck, Levon Cade’s job was made clear only by the windbreaker he wore over his button-down shirt and jeans. It said
across the back in big white letters. Other than that he looked like a site foreman in his Timberline boots and company ball cap.
He was just off a graveyard shift of keeping an eye on the lot. Stacks of block and thousands of board feet could walk off a site like this overnight. A cup of black coffee then he’d clock out and maybe go for a run or hit the gym on the way home.
He sipped the coffee and watched the three men walk away from the lunch wagon toward the corner of the nearest unit. The laborer was known to him or at least familiar. Young guy. He’d been here since the work started six months ago. Dropped off six days a week before sunrise by the jobbers who brought illegals to the site in buses or vans. He was brother or cousin to some of the other men on the crew. Always joking and laughing with each other but all business at hammer time. Guatemalans from their accents.
The trio walked out of Levon’s line of sight. He set his coffee in the holder and stepped out of the Silverado to walk around the back of Unit Six himself awhile.
The young guy was on the ground. The hombre in the straw hat was standing with one foot on the fallen man’s chest. He leaned on the bent knee to show the prostrate man his teeth.
“You still owe us,” straw hat said. Guat accent like the man on the ground. They preyed on their own. Second oldest story in time.
“We owe you shit,” the man on the ground said. He got a silver-tipped boot in the kidneys for that.
“We paid you. Five thousand each. Our families paid,” he said, folding up.
“That was a down payment. You know this word? Now you pay us, every week. Fifty bucks.” Straw hat put more weight on his bent knee. The man under him grunted.
“What if there’s no work?” the laborer said.
“There’s always work. Pick melons. Suck some dick. I don’t care as long as you pay the rent on you ass and I don’t have to come around here again.”
Straw hat stood up to step off the man under him, his full weight on the man’s ribs. The laborer drew his knees up against the pain.
“Can I help you gentlemen?”
Straw hat and his partner turned to see a man, a tall
, walking easily toward them from the early morning shadows of the three-story building of bare block and plywood. A rangy looking white dude in clean work clothes. His eyes were hidden by the shade of the ball cap on his head.
“A private matter,” straw hat said.
“That’s just it, sir. You’re on private property. Uninvited.” The tall white guy stopped ten feet shy of them and tilted his cap back. Straw hat could see the scars along the man’s brows now. There was hard tissue there, healed from many cuts and breaks. Straw hat did his share of boxing down in Guat City. He knew the signs of a guy who could take a hit.
“We have business with this boy.” Straw hat smiled.
“That boy’s business is working on these units. My business is to see that he does,” the white guy said. Professional and polite like a cop. But without the cop’s false smile. This guy wasn’t smiling or even trying to pretend to.
“Why don’t you crawl back up your own ass,
?” straw hat said in Spanish, teeth flashing and eyes crinkled in amusement. His partner coughed a laugh.
“Does your little mother know you talk like that,” the white guy said back in fluent Spanish. He even used a Guat accent. A twist of the knife.
Straw hat reached back under the tail of his shirt. His hand stopped, fingers stretched, tips touching the rubberized grip of the 40mm tucked in the band there. His eyes were locked on the white guy’s right hand.
Somehow a nasty black automatic had materialized in the
fist. One second his hand was empty. The next there was a pistolo in it, its basilisk eye staring unblinking into straw hat’s heart.
“You two are going to keep your hands where I can see them and turn around,” Levon said, closing the gap between them. He jerked his head to the laborer who got off the ground and first walked, then ran back toward the lunch wagon and his tools.
The steel toe of his Timberline driven behind their right knees dropped the two from the Escalade to the dust one after the other. He had the handguns out of their jeans and tossed them aside. Expensive models like their clothes. A Sig Sauer nine and a Kimber in 40mm. Straw hat tried to lever himself onto his side. Levon put his boot on the man’s skinny ass and turned his leg sharp. Straw hat let out a sound like a puppy might make and laid his palms flat on the ground again. Levon continued his search turning up a pair of clasp knives and a hammerless .32 revolver tucked in the partner’s boot. The keys to the pimped out SUV were on a ring with a mini-Maglite. Two packs of Kools. A wad of hard used fives, tens and twenties in a rubber band. Another, smaller, of clean fifties in a silver and turquoise clip. A fancy pill case of gold that rattled when he shook it. The Alabama driver licenses in their wallets told him that they were Daniel Eckenrode of Birmingham and Sean Tobey from Huntsville. Straw hat and his partner were pictured on the laminated cards. Levon put the wallets in the pocket of his windbreaker and stepped back.
“You can get up now,” he said returning to English.
Straw hat picked up his hat and brushed it off and took his sweet time adjusting it to the right angle on his head. The partner was fussing over a tear in the knee of his black jeans. Levon waited until he had their full attention.
“You boys get in your fancy ride and pull on out of here. I see you on this site again and it won’t end well for either of you.”
“You gonna call the police on us?” Straw hat smiled.
Levon didn’t answer directly. He stood looking out over the torn up ground of the build lot. Some machines stood idle near deep footings dug for units Ten through Fifteen.
“Lot of holes around a place like this. Lot of ground to be leveled,” he said and drew down the bill of his ball cap to hide his eyes.
“What about our wallets?” The partner speaking for the first time.
“I didn’t see any wallets. Or guns,” Levon said and tossed the ring of keys into straw hat’s hands.
He stood watching the pair walk away. They were out of sight when he picked the handguns up from the dust using a bandana from his pocket.
Levon returned to his truck in time to see the Escalade pull off the site onto the through road in a cloud of yellow dust. The young laborer was already off to his job. The guy at the lunch wagon was lowering the awning, getting ready to head out.
On his way home Levon stopped at one of those mail service stores with the cute name. He dropped the handguns into a padded pouch along with the wallets minus the three hundred or so dollars he found inside and carried the package to the pert little peanut of a girl smiling at him from the counter.
Two days later a deputy at the Perry County Justice Center opened a package machine-addressed to the sheriff. She dumped out three loaded handguns and two wallets onto her desk. Further exploration found the drivers licenses of a Mr. Eckenrode and a Mr. Tobey with the grim faces of two gentlemen of Latino extraction glaring from under the lenticular plastic.
Gunny Leffertz said:
“There’s more than one way to fuck someone over. Do it hard so they never forget or do it quiet so they never know you were there.”
She had no idea how she did. Truth was, she didn’t give a rip. They were over and she was free for the next week.
She joined some of her friends for a pub crawl. Girls she met in the first semester at USF and stayed friends with into her freshman year. They started at places near the school and moved south through the night closer to the city. They lost a few girls along the way. One passed out after too many Jell-O shots and was taken back to the dorm by another. Some other girls paired off with some guys they knew. She was down to two gal pals and feeling it, really
it, when they reached the place called Skip’s in North Tampa.
It was at the ass end of a strip mall anchored by a shuttered Winn-Dixie. The only places open were a coin laundry, a check cashing place and a dollar store. Though they were all dark at this hour. Skip’s was dark and cool and the crowd was maybe Hispanic or whatever but certainly foreign. It smelled of stale beer and a tinge of ganja coming from a back room. The music was Euro techno-pump and drowned out the sound from the big screens showing soccer games above the horseshoe bar.
The trio of college girls never had to pay for a drink. Cuervos were being shoved over the bar to them, paid for by persons unknown. She scanned the dark for their benefactors and saw a guy smiling back at her from an upholstered booth. He looked like a cute guy in some vampire show her little sister watched all the time. He was sitting with two other guys who were almost as cute. He nodded to her and she downed her shot before walking over to join him.
Soon it was all best friends forever as her girlfriends matched up with the other two, less cute, guys. They all had accents but dressed well and didn’t smell. And they paid for everything with a wave of a hand to the waitress and bartender who seemed to know them. She never saw any cash on the table. These guys were regulars. These guys were players.
It was all fun and adventurous but free drinks and a few gypsy kisses were as far as she was going to take it tonight. She had a fiancé back in Huntsville and no plans to infringe on the understanding they had. But a little slap and tickle wasn’t cheating, right? Just boys and girls, honey. Her panties were staying right where they were tonight. Tomorrow she’d wake up with a banging tequila hangover and a tongue made of gummy felt. Two Advil washed down with a glass of orange juice, a shower and maybe a nap and she’d be former Miss Sheffield Park High School again. For now, though, it was her night for the good life.
The cute guy was charming and funny. Not as handsy as she expected considering the bar tab he was running up since the girls slid into the booth. Everything was a joke. Even when she asked his name he’d make a joke of it.