Sunday, July 19, 2009

Chapter One


Ray sat in a van on Jefferson Avenue in Bristol in the rain, watching people come and go from the white corner house with blue shutters and a cast iron bird feeder in the yard. A kid in his late teens sat on the stoop eating candy from a bag and talking to the people moving in and out. Sometimes they handed the kid something, sometimes he just waved them up the steps to the door. Nobody stayed more than a few minutes. Ray’s partner Manny climbed from the passenger seat into the back and pulled binoculars out of a gym bag. He sat on the rear seat away from view and watched the kid and the front door, then moved the glasses along the street. Looking for open windows, young lookout kids watching the traffic, anyone that might signal the long-limbed teenage boy on the stoop that there was trouble coming.
        Ray took the glasses back for one last look. The people coming up the steps were black and white and brown, young and old. The only thing they had in common was that nearly all of them looked like shit. Hair uncombed. Lined faces the color of ashes. It reminded him of that movie where the dead are walking, coming to beat their way in to this little farmhouse in the country. Only instead of breaking down the doors the zombies stood quiet on the porch until there was an exchange through the door, and then the zombies went away.
        Ray combed his mustache with his fingers and shrugged.
        “What do you think?”
        He handed the glasses back to Manny, who stashed them under the seat and brought out a blue windbreaker with the letters DEA on the back in bright yellow letters. He pulled it on and Ray opened the glove compartment and pulled out a black semiautomatic pistol, a big, ugly Glock with an extra-capacity clip. Manny pulled himself into the driver’s seat again and Ray climbed around him and put his windbreaker on.
        “Wait for a break in the traffic.” They watched two young girls on the stoop, one of them doing that little nervous dance of waiting for dope, like bees Ray had seen in a documentary, vibrating with some kind of insect ecstasy of anticipation. When they were away down the street, Ray touched Manny’s arm.
        Manny put the van into gear and drove down the block, stopping at the corner and making a right onto the side street next to the house with the blue shutters. Manny reached into an oversized gym bag and handed Ray a pair of fifteen-inch bolt cutters and then took out a short-barreled Remington shotgun. He pulled his badge out of his clothes and let it dangle at the end of a chain over his shirt.
        It was August and it had rained every day for a week. Ray thought the bad weather was making everyone edgy, tense. Stuck indoors when they wanted to be out. Maybe it was just him. He looked up and down the side street from the side window, fingering the badge on his chest, then jumped out and ducked behind the house and pressed himself against the wall next to the basement door. He put the bolt cutters on the chain holding the padlock on the door and looked at his watch and counted in his head.
        Manny ran up the street to the front of the house and swung over the fence without a sound. He put his shotgun against the side of Candy Kid’s face and spoke quietly.
        “What’s your name?” The kid stopped eating and clamped his mouth shut.
        “What you eating, Jerome?”
        “Jolly Ranchers.” The bag began to shake slightly in the kid’s hands. Manny looked at his watch without taking his hands off the gun.
        “Is there enough for everyone?” Jerome swallowed and tried to see the barrel of the gun out of the corner of his eye. “Let’s go inside and share our Jolly Ranchers, okay?” Jerome stood up and turned awkwardly around, the gun glued to the side of his face. He was tall standing up, taller than Manny, who was more than six feet, and he bent slightly at the waist. They walked slowly to the front door and Manny stayed off to the left and moved the gun down to Jerome’s side, keeping out of view of the peephole cut in the door. He looked at his watch and whispered to Jerome.
        “Okay, let’s not make any mistakes. Knock twice and wait, tell them you gotta use the can.” Jerome lifted his arm and banged the door twice.