Authors: J.D. Rhoades
Tags: #Romance, #Thriller, #Mystery, #north carolina, #bounty hunter, #hard boiled, #redneck noir
John Lee shook his head. He felt a sick
feeling in the pit of his stomach. “Naw,” he said. “I got my deer
rifle at home.”
Raymond grunted. He turned his office chair
around and fiddled with the large, old-fashioned safe behind his
desk. With a click, the black door swung open. Raymond reached in
and pulled out a large object wrapped in cloth. He set it on the
desk and unwrapped it. John Lee stared down at a huge long-barreled
revolver that gleamed in the dim light.
Raymond,” John Lee said, “What you
You and me,” Raymond said, “We’re
gonna find out who killed our Daddy.”
Don’t give two shits about a dead
Indian. You know that, and I know that. Anyone goin’ to take care
of business, it’s us. Just like Lowrie.”
John Lee, like all Lumbee, knew the name.
Henry Berry Lowrie was the Lumbee equivalent of Robin Hood, an
outlaw who had taken to the swamps in the 1800's against the
Confederate Home Guard and later against the Federals to avenge the
murder of his father and brother and the oppression of the Lumbee
John Lee couldn’t take his eyes off the
pistol. “You think it was them Meskins?”
I don’t know,” Raymond said. “But I
aim to find out. And you’re coming with me.”
I ain’t never killed nobody before,
Raymond sighed as if this was some admitted
failing on his brother’s part. He picked up the gun and stuck it in
Okay,” he said. He reached into the
safe again and pulled out another pistol, a stubby, ugly automatic.
He pulled back the slide and chambered a round before handing the
gun to John Lee. “You take this one and back me up. This is your
duty, too, little brother. Now let’s go.”
As they walked back out into the
deserted bar, Billy Ray called out to Raymond. “Our friend called,”
he said. “Our
Raymond stopped. “What’d he say?”
Billy Ray cast a glance at John Lee. “I told
him you were at your Daddy’s funeral. He said to give you his
Yeah, right,” Raymond said. Paco
Suarez didn’t get to be the biggest supplier of cocaine on the East
Coast by giving himself over to the softer emotions. “He calls
again, tell him I’ll get back to him as soon as I take care of some
family business,” Raymond said. “C’mon, John Lee.”
They drove for about thirty minutes, with
John Lee providing monosyllabic directions. After they got off the
main road, the roads grew narrower, but the scenery never changed.
They passed field after field of crops growing thick and fat from
the dark rich earth where a shallow sea once rolled. Corn, beans,
corn, tobacco, tobacco, beans, tobacco. Houses weathered to the
same gray as the topsoil stood among the fields, next to metal
tobacco curing barns that gleamed and shimmered in the baking sun.
Some landowners had given up the precarious living of farming;
those fields grew rows of metal house trailers with
postage-stamp-sized dirt yards and old tires thrown up on the roof
in a forlorn hope of keeping the roof on in a tornado.
They finally pulled into a narrow dirt
driveway that ran between a double line of rusting single-wide
trailers. About halfway down the line on the left, there was a
break in the regular spacing of the trailers. The soil in the
thus created had been denuded of grass and
pounded flat by years of trampling. A group of young Latino men sat
playing cards at a picnic table under a spreading live oak in the
middle of the common area thus created. They looked up warily as
the truck pulled up. One of them stood and walked over to the
driver’s side window.
You know who I am?” Raymond
The man nodded. He was short and broad, with
a dark-brown pockmarked face and a thin Fu Manchu mustache. He
looked to be in his mid-forties, in sharp contrast to the other,
younger men. He spoke formally, like a man who had learned his
English in school rather than on the street. “We were sorry to hear
about your father,” he said in his heavy accent.
Raymond looked the man up and down. His eyes
flickered to the other men who were beginning to gather around the
truck. Still others were coming out of the trailers.
John Lee cleared his throat. “Hey, Raymond,”
he said. “Maybe we better--”
Shut up,” Raymond replied. He turned
back to the man by the truck window. “Y’all know anything about who
mighta done it?”
Ey, bitch,” one of the men piped up
from the crowd. He stepped forward. He was massively built, with
ropes of muscles straining the arms and chest of his t-shirt. His
arms were covered with elaborate gang tattoos. “We already talk
about all this to th’ cops,” the tattooed man said. “Why we got to
I say anything to you, greaseball?”
Raymond snapped. There was an angry murmuring from the crowd around
the truck and the circle of men tightened. John Lee tried to slide
down in the seat.
Raymond made a sudden movement and the
long-barreled pistol was in his hand, pointed at the chest of the
man by the window. The man flinched slightly, then straightened and
looked Raymond in the eye.
There is no need for this,” he said.
He turned slightly, back towards the man who had spoken, and
rattled off a long sentence in Spanish. His eyes never left
Raymond’s face. There was a high-pitched angry reply. The man by
the window responded sharply, then added something with a sly grin.
There was a ripple of nervous laughter from the crowd. The tattooed
man’s face grew dark with anger, but he turned away and stomped
The older man turned back towards Raymond. “I
was the one who found your father’s body,” he said. “The rest of
the crew,” he gestured at the men around the truck, “Was with me.
We always go in together in my truck. No one here killed him, I am
sure of it. We all leave work together the night before, and we all
go in together the next day.”
Somebody knew he had a lot of cash on
him,” Raymond said.
That was our pay,” the mustached man
said. “We were going to get that money the next day anyway. If one
of us stole it, he would be stealing from the rest of us, and from
our families back home. No one here would protect him for stealing
Raymond thought that over for a moment, then
nodded. “Okay,” he said. “So who else might’ve known about the
The man thought for a moment. “There was a
man who came looking for work, “ he said finally. “An Anglo.” He
smiled thinly at Raymond. “I didn’t like him.”
Raymond ignored the jibe. “You get a
The man shook his head. “No. He talked with
your father, not me. I told your father afterwards I didn’t like
his looks. He laughed and said he wasn’t hiring anyway. He had a
full crew. He took down the man’s name and phone number, but that
was just to get rid of him.”
Anyone else know him?”
There was a moment’s hesitation. “He said he
was a friend of Julio’s,” the mustached man said.
Raymond looked around. “Which one’s
There was another stirring in the crowd and
the men looked at each other. “He’s the one who just left,” someone
said. “The one you call greaseball.”
Go get him,” Raymond said. No one
moved. Raymond pulled back the hammer on the big revolver. Someone
detached himself from the back of the crowd and hurried
In a few minutes, the tattooed man came
stalking back, a can of beer in his right hand and a sneer on his
This feller who came looking for a
job,” Raymond said. “You know him?”
Julio shrugged. “I don’ know, man,” he said.
“I know a lot of people. How come you askin’?”
Because I think that might be the man
that shot my Daddy. And if he is, I mean to kill him for
Julio’s face split in an ugly grin.
, whyn’t you
say so in the first place? Yeah, I knew him. I met him in the
joint. Little guy. Name of Dwayne somethin’.”
You tell him Daddy carried a lot of
cash?” Raymond’s face bore no expression, but there was a dangerous
note of tension in his voice.
The grin left Julio’s face. He raised his
hands in front of him, as if to push away the trouble he saw
coming. “Whoa, man,” he said. “This Dwayne fucker, man, he said he
was needing some cash when he got out. I tol’ him I don’t know for
sure, but I was working for an old man who paid in cash an’ I was
going back when my ninety days was up. Thass all I said.”
Raymond thought for a minute. He looked at
the mustached man. “You,” he said, “Would you recognize this Dwayne
guy if you saw him again?”
The man looked unhappy, but nodded
All right then,” Raymond said. “Get in
There was another rustle and murmur in the
crowd. The mustached man didn’t move.
With his free hand, Raymond reached into the
pocket of his suit and pulled out a roll of bills. “You need work,
now that Daddy’s gone. I need somebody who can eyeball the
sumbitch and tell me if he’s the right one. You’ll be gone a couple
days, then you’ll be right back here.”
The man’s eyes went back and forth from
the roll of bills to the gun in Raymond’s other hand that remained
pointed at him. “Always it is the same,” he murmured.
Plomo o Plata
What?” Raymond said.
The man looked up at him. “Silver or lead,”
he translated. “Always the same choice.”
Raymond nodded. “That sounds about
The man sighed. “The money
first,” he said.
Raymond thought for a second. “Half now, half
when you show me.”
The man hesitated, then shrugged his
shoulders. “All right. But I need to leave it here.”
Raymond smiled and tossed him the roll of
bills. The man turned and motioned a slim young man with a ponytail
out of the crowd. The two conferred for a moment in Spanish, then
the mustached man handed the bills to the man with the ponytail,
turned and walked to the passenger side of the truck without
looking back. John Lee opened the door and slid to the middle of
the seat as the man got in. Raymond started the truck and began
backing out. The crowd of men watched him go.
They drove in silence for a few minutes
before John Lee spoke up. “I’m John Lee,” he told the man. “This
here’s my brother Raymond. You here from Mexico long?”
The mustached man smiled without humor.
“Oscar Sanchez,” he said. “And I am from Colombia.”
Well ain’t that a coincidence.”
Raymond’s smile was equally humorless. “Some of my best friends is
Sanchez sighed and leaned back in the seat.
He closed his eyes and appeared to go to sleep.
How much we get?” DeWayne said. He was
standing by the window of the tiny motel room, occasionally using
the barrel of his pistol to nudge the curtain aside enough to peer
out into the parking lot. Except for their truck, the lot was
Damn it,” Leonard replied, “Y’made me
lose count.” He glared at the piles of cash on the burn-scarred
table. “And quit peekin’ out the damn window every ten
DeWayne sighed. “Well, you was almost done,”
he said. “Where’d you lose count at?”
Leonard picked up the joint that lay
smoldering in the ashtray and took a long drag. His dark, lined
face screwed up in an exaggerated mask of concentration. “‘Bout
twenty-seven hundred.” He said, his word coming out high-pitched
and strangled sounding as he held in the smoke. “Figger about three
thousand for the whole shootin’ match.” He chuckled slightly at his
own inadvertent pun and let the smoke out in a long stream.
DeWayne closed his eyes and leaned his head
against the post of the window. “Three thousand,” he repeated. “We
killed that old man for three thousand bucks.”
Aww, man,” Leonard said. “We didn’t
mean to do it. Ain’t nothin’ but a thing, cuz.” He put the joint to
his lips, took another long pull, held it. “Here,” he croaked as he
held the joint out.
I don’t....” DeWayne began. Then he
shrugged. “Fuck it,” he said. He sat down in one of the mismatched
chairs. “We gotta figger out what we’re gonna do now,” he said. He
took a drag on the joint and coughed.
Well, “ Leonard said thoughtfully. “I
could use a beer. And maybe some pussy.”
God damn it, Leonard--” DeWayne
Easy, cuz,” Leonard said. He gave his
cousin a lopsided grin and took the joint from him. “Look, we’ve
had a coupla hard days, right? We’re both stressin’. We got the
money, sure it’s not as much as we thought it was gonna be, but
it’s more than we had. So let’s enjoy it, man. Life’s too damn
Don’t it bother you we just killed
somebody, Leonard?” DeWayne said.
The joint was almost gone. Leonard put the
roach out in the cracked ashtray. “Sure it bothers me,” he said.
“But that old fucker brought in on hisself. He’d a done what we
told him, he wouldn’t be dead. Ain’t nothin’ gonna change what we
did. All you can change is how you look at it.”
DeWayne digested this for a moment as Leonard
stood up. Leonard put his hands at the small of his back and
arched, wincing slightly at the snapping and popping sounds.
“Gettin’ too old for this shit,” he grunted. He scooped a handful
of bills off the counter and went to the door. “There’s a Short
Stop across the street,” he said. “I’m gonna go get us some beers.
Then we’re gonna get in the truck, drive on up to Fayetteville, and
get you laid.” The lopsided grin was back. “You’re gonna be amazed
at how it changes the way you look at things.” He walked out.