Black Betty (Easy Rawlins Series #4)

( 7 )

Overview

Los Angeles, 1961. Kennedy is in the White House and King is marching down South. It's a new day for many blacks in America - but not for Easy Rawlins.

Easy's small real estate empire is in trouble and he is facing bankruptcy when Saul Lynx, an oily white private eye, offers him $200 to track down on Elizabeth Eady, a.k.a. "Black Betty." The sensuous Betty was a housekeeper for an immensely wealthy Beverly Hills family - but now has ...

See more details below
Available through our Marketplace sellers.
Other sellers (Audiobook)
  • All (9) from $10.96   
  • New (3) from $47.95   
  • Used (6) from $10.96   
Close
Sort by
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Note: Marketplace items are not eligible for any BN.com coupons and promotions
$47.95
Seller since 2010

Feedback rating:

(126)

Condition:

New — never opened or used in original packaging.

Like New — packaging may have been opened. A "Like New" item is suitable to give as a gift.

Very Good — may have minor signs of wear on packaging but item works perfectly and has no damage.

Good — item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Acceptable — item is in working order but may show signs of wear such as scratches or torn packaging. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Used — An item that has been opened and may show signs of wear. All specific defects should be noted in the Comments section associated with each item.

Refurbished — A used item that has been renewed or updated and verified to be in proper working condition. Not necessarily completed by the original manufacturer.

New
1559277211 NEW

Ships from: Curtisville, PA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
$125.00
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(148)

Condition: New
Brand new.

Ships from: acton, MA

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
$170.38
Seller since 2014

Feedback rating:

(267)

Condition: New
Brand New Item.

Ships from: Chatham, NJ

Usually ships in 1-2 business days

  • Canadian
  • International
  • Standard, 48 States
  • Standard (AK, HI)
  • Express, 48 States
  • Express (AK, HI)
Page 1 of 1
Showing All
Close
Sort by
Black Betty (Easy Rawlins Series #4)

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK Study
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.93
BN.com price
This digital version does not exactly match the physical book displayed here.

Overview

Los Angeles, 1961. Kennedy is in the White House and King is marching down South. It's a new day for many blacks in America - but not for Easy Rawlins.

Easy's small real estate empire is in trouble and he is facing bankruptcy when Saul Lynx, an oily white private eye, offers him $200 to track down on Elizabeth Eady, a.k.a. "Black Betty." The sensuous Betty was a housekeeper for an immensely wealthy Beverly Hills family - but now has mysteriously disappeared.

Easy takes the job, but he also has to deal with his murderous sidekick Mouse, who's just been released from Chino prison. Mouse was sent up for manslaughter, and he wants Easy to help him find the ones who gave him up to the police.

Finding Betty seems a simple enough task, but nothing about this woman is as simple as it appears to be. Easy soon finds out her trail is paved with blood - and he might be the next victim of her deadly charms.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Mosley's Easy Rawlins series continues when the down-and-out PI is hired to track down the notorious woman called Black Betty in early-1960s Los Angeles. (July)
Newsweek

Elegantly crafted...Mosley's best book yet.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Marvelous storytelling.

San Diego Union Tribune

Perceptive and poignant, humorous and horrifying...a rare blend of top-flight entertainment and incisive social comment.

Library Journal
Mosley's distinctive black investigator, Easy Rawlins, has moved from Watts to West L.A. with his two adopted children, but trouble still follows him. Hired to locate a sultry female acquaintance from his early days in Houston, Easy searches for her gambler brother and questions her Beverly Hills employer, unwittingly provoking racist police harassment. Meanwhile, friend Raymond (``Mouse'') has been released from prison and vows revenge on the snitch who put him there. Mosley, as usual, describes a historically correct ethos in deft, literate prose.
Library Journal
Mosley's distinctive black investigator, Easy Rawlins, has moved from Watts to West L.A. with his two adopted children, but trouble still follows him. Hired to locate a sultry female acquaintance from his early days in Houston, Easy searches for her gambler brother and questions her Beverly Hills employer, unwittingly provoking racist police harassment. Meanwhile, friend Raymond (``Mouse'') has been released from prison and vows revenge on the snitch who put him there. Mosley, as usual, describes a historically correct ethos in deft, literate prose.
Sacred Fire
Black Betty is the fourth, and the strongest, installment in the Easy Rawlins mystery series. The time is the late 1940s, the place is Los Angeles, and the living is hard. Ezekial "Easy" Rawlins, a former soldier who is still hurting from the departure of his wife to Mississippi with another man, is facing pressure from his real estate dealings and from the challenges of raising two children. Desperate for work, he takes on an offer to find a woman, Elizabeth Eady, a.k.a. Black Betty, who has vanished into thin air. Her wealthy employer wants her back, and so the search begins. Add Mouse, Easy's sidekick, and murder and mayhem soon follow.

Mosley writes mystery, yes; but he also suffuses his stories with a deeply intimate knowledge of the black community and its struggles. This passage from Black Betty illustrates Mosley's skill at re-creating the surface and depth of life in the middle-class black communities of Los Angeles while at the same time addressing, in his two-fisted way, the existential issues that dog all African Americans:

On the bus there were mainly old people and young mothers and teenagers coming in late to school. Most of them were black people. Dark-skinned with generous features. Women with eyes so deep that most men can never know them. Women like Betty who'd lost too much to be silly or kind. And there were the children, like Spider and Terry T once were, with futures so bleak it could make you cry just to hear them laugh. Because behind the music of their laughing you knew there was the rattle of chains. Chains we wore for no crime; chains we wore for so long that they melded with our bones. We all carry them but nobody can see it—not even most of us. All the way home I thought about freedom coming for us at last. But what about all those centuries in chains? Where do they go when you get free?
All that and a mystery, too.
Mosley continues a tradition of African American detective fiction that uses this genre to explore issues of empowerment, a tradition begun by novelists like Chester Himes (If He Hollers Let Him Go and A Rage in Harlem), W. Adolphe Roberts (The Haunting Hand, 1926), and Rudolph Fisher (The Conjure Man Dies, 1932). Other books in the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series include Gone Fishing, Devil in a Blue Dress, A Little Yellow Dog, A Red Death, and White Butterfly.
From the Publisher
Newsweek Elegantly crafted...Mosley's best book yet.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch Marvelous storytelling.

San Diego Union Tribune Perceptive and poignant, humorous and horrifying...a rare blend of top-flight entertainment and incisive social comment.

From Barnes & Noble
It's 1961, and Easy Rawlins's real estate empire is deep in the hole. Desperate for cash, Easy accepts money from the oily white detective Saul Lynx to track down a beautiful black woman whose raw sensuality has left a trail of chaos and mayhem in her wake.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559277211
  • Publisher: Macmillan Audio
  • Publication date: 7/19/2002
  • Series: Easy Rawlins Series , #4
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Pages: 5
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 6.14 (h) x 1.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Walter Mosley is the author of the acclaimed Easy Rawlins series of mysteries, and the novels Blue Light, RL's Dream, Futureland and Fearless Jones, as well as two collections of stories featuring Socrates Fortlow - Walkin' the Dog and Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned for which he received the Anisfield-Wold award. He was born in Los Angeles and lives in New York.

Read by Stanley Bennett Clay

Biography

When President Bill Clinton announced that Walter Mosley was one of his favorite writers, Black Betty (1994), Mosley's third detective novel featuring African American P.I. Easy Rawlins, soared up the bestseller lists. It's little wonder Clinton is a fan: Mosley's writing, an edgy, atmospheric blend of literary and pulp fiction, is like nobody else's. Some of his books are detective fiction, some are sci-fi, and all defy easy categorization.

Mosley was born in Los Angeles, traveled east to college, and found his way into writing fiction by way of working as a computer programmer, caterer, and potter. His first Easy Rawlins book, Gone Fishin' didn't find a publisher, but the next, Devil in a Blue Dress (1990) most certainly did -- and the world was introduced to a startlingly different P.I.

Part of the success of the Easy Rawlins series is Mosley's gift for character development. Easy, who stumbles into detective work after being laid off by the aircraft industry, ages in real time in the novels, marries, and experiences believable financial troubles and successes. In addition, Mosley's ability to evoke atmosphere -- the dangers and complexities of life in the toughest neighborhoods of Los Angeles -- truly shines. His treatment of historic detail (the Rawlins books take place in Los Angeles from the 1940s to the mid-1960s) is impeccable, his dialogue fine-tuned and dead-on.

In 2002, Mosley introduced a new series featuring Fearless Jones, an Army vet with a rigid moral compass, and his friend, a used-bookstore owner named Paris Minton. The series is set in the black neighborhoods of 1950s L.A. and captures the racial climate of the times. Mosley himself summed up the first book, 2002's Fearless Jones, as "comic noir with a fringe of social realism."

Despite the success of his bestselling crime series, Mosley is a writer who resolutely resists pigeonholing. He regularly pens literary fiction, short stories, essays, and sci-fi novels, and he has made bold forays into erotica, YA fiction, and political polemic. "I didn't start off being a mystery writer," he said in an interview with NPR. "There's many things that I am." Fans of this talented, genre-bending author could not agree more!

Good To Know

Mosley won a Grammy award in 2002 in the category of "Best Album Notes" for Richard Pryor.... And It's Deep, Too! The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings (1968-1992).

Mosley is an avid potter in his spare time.

In our 2004 interview, Mosley reveals:

"I was a computer programmer for 15 years before publishing my first book. I am an avid collector of comic books. And I believe that war is rarely the answer, especially not for its innocent victims."

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1952
    2. Place of Birth:
      Los Angeles, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Johnson State College
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

I awoke with a start in almost complete darkness. I didn't know where I was. The mattress was too soft. I reached over to get my watch but the night table wasn't there. I almost fell off the lawn chair onto the porch. Then I remembered how hot it was in the house. The kids, Jesus and Feather, had taken the only working fan to blow air from the window into Jesus's room. I'd come outside to the screened-in porch at two A.M. after waking up to find myself sweating in the bed.

I sat up trying to throw off the nightmare. It had been almost five years, but Bruno died in my dreams at least once a month — more often recently. I'll never forget him being nailed to the wall by my best friend's gun.

I tried to think of better things. About our new young Irish president and Martin Luther King; about how the world was changing and a black man in America had the chance to be a man for the first time in hundreds of years. But that same world was being rocked almost daily by underground nuclear explosions and the threat of war.

Across town an old friend of mine, Martin Smith, lay dying. He'd been the closest thing to a teacher that I ever had. I knew that I had to go see him, to say goodbye, but I kept putting it off.

And through it all blew that hot September wind. It wouldn't let me rest. It just got hotter and hotter while my temper wore thin.

I wanted to feel better but all I had was the certainty that the world had passed me by — leaving me and my kind dead or making death in dark causeways.

A strip of dawn light showed above the houses across the street. A better day might have been coming, for some people — but not for everyone. Bruno was in his grave almost five years now, while Mouse languished in the state prison at Chino for manslaughter. I was in a kind of prison too. A prison of guilt, a prison of my mind.

"Mr. Rawlins?" a voice said.

My hand went straight for the pistol in the night-table drawer again. But I wasn't in my bedroom. I was naked, not even under a sheet, outside in the dark. I grabbed a ceramic ashtray that Jesus had made me at summer camp.

"Whoisit?" I tried to sound calm. The silhouette in the screened doorway was a man — somewhere between five foot six and six foot five. With my free hand I took the sheet from the floor and held it to my crotch.

"Saul Lynx, Mr. Rawlins." A white man. "Can you talk?"

"Huh? What?" I clutched the misshapen slab of clay so hard that it cracked in my hand.

"I know it's early," the white man said. "But it's important that I speak with you. I got your name last night, but by the time I got a chance to come over it was too late. I was going to wait outside until later, but when I came up to check the address I heard you talking in your sleep. You see, I have to talk to you this morning."

"Then why don't you get-ass away from here and call me in the mornin'?" I could feel the strength in my arm build to the point where I could have hurled the ashtray through the screen. If he had touched the latch on the door he would have been a dead man.

But instead of taking any chances he said, "I've come to offer you a job. But you've got to start today — this morning." Then he said, "Can we turn on a light or something?"

I didn't want him to see me with no clothes on. It was like I was still in a dream, as if I were vulnerable if someone could see my skin. I wanted to linger in those shadows, but I'd learned that you can't hide in your own house — if somebody knows where you live you've got to stand up.

I wrapped the sheet around me like an African robe and reached inside the front door to switch on the porch light. Mr. Lynx was still hidden in the faint light beyond my screen.

"May I come in?" he asked.

"Come on then."

He was a smallish man in a light brown cotton suit and a loose dark brown tie. His nose was the only big thing on him — protruding and somehow shapeless. If you'd forgotten his name you would have said, "You know, the guy with the nose." His cap was brown. He had on a white shirt to go with his pale skin. His eyes were brilliant green.

Saul Lynx smiled and bobbed his head, but I didn't take his hand.

"You won't be needing that." He was looking down at the ashtray. "I don't blame you for sleeping outside on a night like this. In the summers back in the Bronx when I was a boy I spent more time on the fire escape than I did in the apartment."

"What do you want, man?" I didn't have patience for his small talk.

"Like I say," he answered, unperturbed, "I've got a job for you. There's a woman missing and it's my client's desire to find her quickly."

The shadow of night was lifting from Genesee Avenue. I could make out the shapes of large carob trees across the street and the neat little lawns of my neighbors.

"Can we sit down?" Saul Lynx wanted to know.

"Say what you got to say, man, and then get outta here." I had children in the house and didn't want this stranger too comfortable in their home.

Saul Lynx had a smile that was just about as sincere as the kind of grin the undertaker puts on a corpse. "Have you ever heard of a woman named Elizabeth Eady?" he asked.

Her name struck a dark chord at the back of my mind. It fit with the humid September heat — and with my dreams.

"She's lived in L.A. for almost twenty-five years, but she's from Houston originally," the little man was saying. "From down in your old neighborhood, I think. The only picture I have of her is this one." Lynx handed me an old brittle photograph. Its colors were rose-brown and tan instead of black and white. It wasn't a posed portrait, but a kind of snapshot. A young woman on the front porch of a small house. She was smiling at the time, leaning awkwardly against the doorjamb. She was tall and big-boned and very dark, even the rose coloring couldn't hide Betty's blackness. Her mouth was open as if she were smiling and flirting with the photographer. It brought a sense of intimacy that few amateur photographs have. Intimacy but not warmth. Black Betty wasn't your warm sort of homemaking girl.

Betty was a great shark of a woman. Men died in her wake.

If you heard that a friend of yours was courting Betty you could start crying then, because he was bound to come to harm. She had something about her that drove men wild. And she wasn't stingy with her charms. If a man could afford her supper, and her drink, she was happy to be with him. She'd go out with him on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights — all night. Betty wasn't the kind who sat home, so if Friday came and his pockets were empty — Betty was gone. Because when the sun went down, Betty and Marlon (Marlon, that was Betty's fancy half brother), they hit the streets. And if one man couldn't pay, another one was happy to take his place.

Back then there weren't too many of your colored men who could afford a steady diet of Betty. Many a night, yesterday's boyfriend went up against tonight's man. Betty could draw blood three nights in a week, and if it ever bothered her she never let it show.

I had seen her sashaying down the wooden sidewalks of Houston's Fifth Ward. I was a raggedy twelve-year-old and she was more woman than I had ever seen in one place. She wore black lace, gloves, and fur and smelled so good that I forgot who I was. It was out in front of a bar called Corcheran's on Blanford Street. I guess I was looking pretty hard, my nostrils were probably flared out too.

"What you lookin' at, boy?" she asked me.

"You, ma'am."

"You like what you see?"

I had to swallow before saying, "Uh-huh, yes'm. You 'bout the prettiest woman I ever seen."

"About?"

I was crushed. I should have said the prettiest. She was the prettiest. I had ruined my chances of her ever talking to me again.

"Come on, honey," her date said.

But instead of listening to him Betty came over and kissed me — right on the lips. She pushed her tongue out but I was too slow to open my own mouth. When she pulled back from me I fell on the ground from leaning into the embrace that didn't come.

They all laughed at me, all the men standing outside. But Betty didn't laugh. She was moved by her power over me. I would have fallen down for her any day. I would have jumped out of a window for her kiss.

"Do you know her, Mr. Rawlins?" Saul Lynx asked.

Dawn had come while I studied the picture. A car drove by and tossed a newspaper onto my lawn and the lawn next door. Almost immediately a spidery white woman came out of her house to retrieve her paper. Mrs. Horn was insomniac and impatient. She'd probably been waiting for hours just to get the news.

"I don't remember her," I said.

"Well..." He took a long time with the word as if to say that he didn't know whether to believe me or not. "That doesn't matter, not really. You're known for finding people in the colored part of town. That's why we need you."

"Who's we?"

"I'm the only one you need to be concerned with."

"What's she done?"

"Nothing as far as I know. She worked for a woman almost the whole time she's been up here. But something happened. Miss Eady quit and left her job and now her boss wants her to come on back." Saul Lynx smiled and caressed his nose like it was a favored pet. "She didn't leave a forwarding address and there's no Elizabeth Eady in the book."

"Who she work for?"

"I'm not at liberty to say."

"Uh-huh. And how much you payin' t'find her?"

"Two hundred dollars now and another two hundred when you find her." He pointed his baby finger at me. "But the job has got to be done quickly. From what I understand, the woman who's paying is very upset and wants to find Miss Eady soon."

"From what you understand?"

"Well, you see," he said, almost apologetically, "I haven't actually met the woman. She doesn't deal with dicks. It's her lawyer who hired me." He took a small fold of bills from his pants pocket and handed it in my general direction.

I had the ashtray in one hand and the picture in the other.

"Two hundred dollars up front," he said.

It was more than I had in the bank. At one time I was flush with the income from apartment buildings I owned. I'd bought them with a windfall I'd come upon in 1948. But since then I'd stretched myself pretty thin trying to make it in the real estate game. I was almost bankrupt. The house I lived in was rented. We ate beans and rice for dinner three nights a week.

I put down the ashtray and took the bills. They were damp from being in his pants.

"I might look," I said tentatively. "But I'll want to talk to this lawyer guy myself before I give you anything I find. What you say his name was?"

"We'll talk about that when you've got something. I'll let him know that you'll be wanting to see to him, though." He couldn't have cared less about what I wanted. "How can he get in touch with you if he wants to talk?"

I told him my number and he nodded. Mr. Lynx was the kind of man who didn't write things down.

"How did you find me, Mr. Lynx? My address ain't in no book."

"You're famous, Mr. Rawlins." He took a cracked leather wallet from his back pocket. From this he produced a creased and soiled business card. It was damp too. It had a phone number and a Venice Beach address printed in black letters that had run slightly with the moisture. There wasn't a name, though.

"That's L-Y-N-X," he said. "Call me when you find something. And call me soon."

"How do you know that I won't just take this money and say you owed it to me for somethin'?"

Saul Lynx looked me in the eye and stopped his placid smiling. "I might be wrong, but I bet that you're the kind of man who does what he says, Mr. Rawlins. Anyway, there's still two hundred dollars to be made."

"Well, maybe so, but how do you expect me to find this one woman outta two and a half million people? You must have somethin' t'tell me about her." I already knew how to go about looking for Betty, but I wanted to know what that white man knew.

And he saw what I was about. A smile that bordered on respect grazed his lips. Then he shook his head. "Sorry, Mr. Rawlins, but all I know is that she has friends down in the Negro community. Maybe somebody you know will recognize her from the picture."

I would have given him the money back but I had an idea of how he found me — and an itch to see Betty when I was a man.

"I'll be talkin' to ya," I said.

Lynx touched his forehead in a mock-friendly salute.

"Don't forget," he said. "I have to know about this soon."

He smiled and walked out. I watched him get into an especially small and tinny brown car. It was something foreign, I never knew what. As he drove off Mrs. Horn came out — just curious, I suppose. When she saw me standing outside dressed in my toga her white face paled even more. I don't know what she thought. I smiled and called to her but she was already hurrying back into her house.

I picked up my own paper and read the headlines. Russia had just set off their third nuclear blast that month.

Copyright © 1994 by Walter Mosley

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter 1

I awoke with a start in almost complete darkness. I didn't know where I was. The mattress was too soft. I reached over to get my watch but the night table wasn't there. I almost fell off the lawn chair onto the porch. Then I remembered how hot it was in the house. The kids, Jesus and Feather, had taken the only working fan to blow air from the window into Jesus's room. I'd come outside to the screened-in porch at two A.M. after waking up to find myself sweating in the bed.

I sat up trying to throw off the nightmare. It had been almost five years, but Bruno died in my dreams at least once a month -- more often recently. I'll never forget him being nailed to the wall by my best friend's gun.

I tried to think of better things. About our new young Irish president and Martin Luther King; about how the world was changing and a black man in America had the chance to be a man for the first time in hundreds of years. But that same world was being rocked almost daily by underground nuclear explosions and the threat of war.

Across town an old friend of mine, Martin Smith, lay dying. He'd been the closest thing to a teacher that I ever had. I knew that I had to go see him, to say goodbye, but I kept putting it off.

And through it all blew that hot September wind. It wouldn't let me rest. It just got hotter and hotter while my temper wore thin.

I wanted to feel better but all I had was the certainty that the world had passed me by -- leaving me and my kind dead or making death in dark causeways.

A strip of dawn light showed above the houses across the street. A better day might havebeen coming, for some people -- but not for everyone. Bruno was in his grave almost five years now, while Mouse languished in the state prison at Chino for manslaughter. I was in a kind of prison too. A prison of guilt, a prison of my mind.

"Mr. Rawlins?" a voice said.

My hand went straight for the pistol in the night-table drawer again. But I wasn't in my bedroom. I was naked, not even under a sheet, outside in the dark. I grabbed a ceramic ashtray that Jesus had made me at summer camp.

"Whoisit?" I tried to sound calm. The silhouette in the screened doorway was a man -- somewhere between five foot six and six foot five. With my free hand I took the sheet from the floor and held it to my crotch.

"Saul Lynx, Mr. Rawlins." A white man. "Can you talk?"

"Huh? What?" I clutched the misshapen slab of clay so hard that it cracked in my hand.

"I know it's early," the white man said. "But it's important that I speak with you. I got your name last night, but by the time I got a chance to come over it was too late. I was going to wait outside until later, but when I came up to check the address I heard you talking in your sleep. You see, I have to talk to you this morning."

"Then why don't you get-ass away from here and call me in the mornin'?" I could feel the strength in my arm build to the point where I could have hurled the ashtray through the screen. If he had touched the latch on the door he would have been a dead man.

But instead of taking any chances he said, "I've come to offer you a job. But you've got to start today -- this morning." Then he said, "Can we turn on a light or something?"

I didn't want him to see me with no clothes on. It was like I was still in a dream, as if I were vulnerable if someone could see my skin. I wanted to linger in those shadows, but I'd learned that you can't hide in your own house -- if somebody knows where you live you've got to stand up.

I wrapped the sheet around me like an African robe and reached inside the front door to switch on the porch light. Mr. Lynx was still hidden in the faint light beyond my screen.

"May I come in?" he asked.

"Come on then."

He was a smallish man in a light brown cotton suit and a loose dark brown tie. His nose was the only big thing on him -- protruding and somehow shapeless. If you'd forgotten his name you would have said, "You know, the guy with the nose." His cap was brown. He had on a white shirt to go with his pale skin. His eyes were brilliant green.

Saul Lynx smiled and bobbed his head, but I didn't take his hand.

"You won't be needing that." He was looking down at the ashtray. "I don't blame you for sleeping outside on a night like this. In the summers back in the Bronx when I was a boy I spent more time on the fire escape than I did in the apartment."

"What do you want, man?" I didn't have patience for his small talk.

"Like I say," he answered, unperturbed, "I've got a job for you. There's a woman missing and it's my client's desire to find her quickly."

The shadow of night was lifting from Genesee Avenue. I could make out the shapes of large carob trees across the street and the neat little lawns of my neighbors.

"Can we sit down?" Saul Lynx wanted to know.

"Say what you got to say, man, and then get outta here." I had children in the house and didn't want this stranger too comfortable in their home.

Saul Lynx had a smile that was just about as sincere as the kind of grin the undertaker puts on a corpse. "Have you ever heard of a woman named Elizabeth Eady?" he asked.

Her name struck a dark chord at the back of my mind. It fit with the humid September heat -- and with my dreams.

"She's lived in L.A. for almost twenty-five years, but she's from Houston originally," the little man was saying. "From down in your old neighborhood, I think. The only picture I have of her is this one." Lynx handed me an old brittle photograph. Its colors were rose-brown and tan instead of black and white. It wasn't a posed portrait, but a kind of snapshot. A young woman on the front porch of a small house. She was smiling at the time, leaning awkwardly against the doorjamb. She was tall and big-boned and very dark, even the rose coloring couldn't hide Betty's blackness. Her mouth was open as if she were smiling and flirting with the photographer. It brought a sense of intimacy that few amateur photographs have. Intimacy but not warmth. Black Betty wasn't your warm sort of homemaking girl.

Betty was a great shark of a woman. Men died in her wake.

If you heard that a friend of yours was courting Betty you could start crying then, because he was bound to come to harm. She had something about her that drove men wild. And she wasn't stingy with her charms. If a man could afford her supper, and her drink, she was happy to be with him. She'd go out with him on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights -- all night. Betty wasn't the kind who sat home, so if Friday came and his pockets were empty -- Betty was gone. Because when the sun went down, Betty and Marlon (Marlon, that was Betty's fancy half brother), they hit the streets. And if one man couldn't pay, another one was happy to take his place.

Back then there weren't too many of your colored men who could afford a steady diet of Betty. Many a night, yesterday's boyfriend went up against tonight's man. Betty could draw blood three nights in a week, and if it ever bothered her she never let it show.

I had seen her sashaying down the wooden sidewalks of Houston's Fifth Ward. I was a raggedy twelve-year-old and she was more woman than I had ever seen in one place. She wore black lace, gloves, and fur and smelled so good that I forgot who I was. It was out in front of a bar called Corcheran's on Blanford Street. I guess I was looking pretty hard, my nostrils were probably flared out too.

"What you lookin' at, boy?" she asked me.

"You, ma'am."

"You like what you see?"

I had to swallow before saying, "Uh-huh, yes'm. You 'bout the prettiest woman I ever seen."

"About?"

I was crushed. I should have said the prettiest. She was the prettiest. I had ruined my chances of her ever talking to me again.

"Come on, honey," her date said.

But instead of listening to him Betty came over and kissed me -- right on the lips. She pushed her tongue out but I was too slow to open my own mouth. When she pulled back from me I fell on the ground from leaning into the embrace that didn't come.

They all laughed at me, all the men standing outside. But Betty didn't laugh. She was moved by her power over me. I would have fallen down for her any day. I would have jumped out of a window for her kiss.

"Do you know her, Mr. Rawlins?" Saul Lynx asked.

Dawn had come while I studied the picture. A car drove by and tossed a newspaper onto my lawn and the lawn next door. Almost immediately a spidery white woman came out of her house to retrieve her paper. Mrs. Horn was insomniac and impatient. She'd probably been waiting for hours just to get the news.

"I don't remember her," I said.

"Well..." He took a long time with the word as if to say that he didn't know whether to believe me or not. "That doesn't matter, not really. You're known for finding people in the colored part of town. That's why we need you."

"Who's we?"

"I'm the only one you need to be concerned with."

"What's she done?"

"Nothing as far as I know. She worked for a woman almost the whole time she's been up here. But something happened. Miss Eady quit and left her job and now her boss wants her to come on back." Saul Lynx smiled and caressed his nose like it was a favored pet. "She didn't leave a forwarding address and there's no Elizabeth Eady in the book."

"Who she work for?"

"I'm not at liberty to say."

"Uh-huh. And how much you payin' t'find her?"

"Two hundred dollars now and another two hundred when you find her." He pointed his baby finger at me. "But the job has got to be done quickly. From what I understand, the woman who's paying is very upset and wants to find Miss Eady soon."

"From what you understand?"

"Well, you see," he said, almost apologetically, "I haven't actually met the woman. She doesn't deal with dicks. It's her lawyer who hired me." He took a small fold of bills from his pants pocket and handed it in my general direction.

I had the ashtray in one hand and the picture in the other.

"Two hundred dollars up front," he said.

It was more than I had in the bank. At one time I was flush with the income from apartment buildings I owned. I'd bought them with a windfall I'd come upon in 1948. But since then I'd stretched myself pretty thin trying to make it in the real estate game. I was almost bankrupt. The house I lived in was rented. We ate beans and rice for dinner three nights a week.

I put down the ashtray and took the bills. They were damp from being in his pants.

"I might look," I said tentatively. "But I'll want to talk to this lawyer guy myself before I give you anything I find. What you say his name was?"

"We'll talk about that when you've got something. I'll let him know that you'll be wanting to see to him, though." He couldn't have cared less about what I wanted. "How can he get in touch with you if he wants to talk?"

I told him my number and he nodded. Mr. Lynx was the kind of man who didn't write things down.

"How did you find me, Mr. Lynx? My address ain't in no book."

"You're famous, Mr. Rawlins." He took a cracked leather wallet from his back pocket. From this he produced a creased and soiled business card. It was damp too. It had a phone number and a Venice Beach address printed in black letters that had run slightly with the moisture. There wasn't a name, though.

"That's L-Y-N-X," he said. "Call me when you find something. And call me soon."

"How do you know that I won't just take this money and say you owed it to me for somethin'?"

Saul Lynx looked me in the eye and stopped his placid smiling. "I might be wrong, but I bet that you're the kind of man who does what he says, Mr. Rawlins. Anyway, there's still two hundred dollars to be made."

"Well, maybe so, but how do you expect me to find this one woman outta two and a half million people? You must have somethin' t'tell me about her." I already knew how to go about looking for Betty, but I wanted to know what that white man knew.

And he saw what I was about. A smile that bordered on respect grazed his lips. Then he shook his head. "Sorry, Mr. Rawlins, but all I know is that she has friends down in the Negro community. Maybe somebody you know will recognize her from the picture."

I would have given him the money back but I had an idea of how he found me -- and an itch to see Betty when I was a man.

"I'll be talkin' to ya," I said.

Lynx touched his forehead in a mock-friendly salute.

"Don't forget," he said. "I have to know about this soon."

He smiled and walked out. I watched him get into an especially small and tinny brown car. It was something foreign, I never knew what. As he drove off Mrs. Horn came out -- just curious, I suppose. When she saw me standing outside dressed in my toga her white face paled even more. I don't know what she thought. I smiled and called to her but she was already hurrying back into her house.

I picked up my own paper and read the headlines. Russia had just set off their third nuclear blast that month.

Copyright © 1994 by Walter Mosley
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 7 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(3)

4 Star

(3)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2012

    Absolutely Wonderful, as always...

    It haunts you w/vivid images, and keeps you guessing until the very end.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2000

    The best mystery I've ever read!

    Once again, Walter Mosley give the reader a flowing Easy Rawlins mystery. I've read all of the Easy Rawlins series, and this is my favorite. Great reading especially for vacation or a long road trip.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2000

    A fantastic book!!!!

    I found this book very enjoyable, easy to understand, and totally addicting. I finished it in 2 days. A great book to read for a book club or some fun summer reading. Mosley does a terriffic job of making you feel like you're in 1961 L.A.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 3, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 21, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)