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The Devil's Redhead

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Overview

In this masterfully written fiction debut, David Corbett combines a gripping crime story with a poignant tale of enduring love.

Freelance photographer and wildcat smuggler Dan Abatangelo blows into Vegas to hit the tables and taste the night life. In his path waits Shel Beaudry, a knockout redhead with a smile that says, Gentlemen, start your engines. The attraction is instant–and soon the two are living the gypsy life on the West coast, where Dan captains a distribution ring ...

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The Devil's Redhead: A Novel

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Overview

In this masterfully written fiction debut, David Corbett combines a gripping crime story with a poignant tale of enduring love.

Freelance photographer and wildcat smuggler Dan Abatangelo blows into Vegas to hit the tables and taste the night life. In his path waits Shel Beaudry, a knockout redhead with a smile that says, Gentlemen, start your engines. The attraction is instant–and soon the two are living the gypsy life on the West coast, where Dan captains a distribution ring for premium Thai marijuana, His credo "no guns, no gangsters, it's only money."

But the trade is changing. Eager to get out, Dan plans one last run, judges poorly, and is betrayed by an underling and caught by the DEA. To secure light time for Shel and his crew, Dan takes the fall and pleads to ten years. Now, having served the full term, he emerges from prison a man with a hardened will but an unchanged heart. Though probation guidelines forbid any contact with Shel, a convicted felon, he sets his focus on one thing: finding her.

Shel’s life has taken a different turn since her release from prison. She met Frank Maas, a recovering addict whose son died a merciless death. Driven by pity, Shel dedicates herself to nursing Frank back from grief and saving him from madness. But his weaknesses push him into the grip of a homegrown crime syndicate in command of the local methamphetamine trade. Mexicans are stealing the syndicate's territory, setting in motion a brutal chain of events that engulf Frank, Shel, and Dan in a race-fueled drug war from which none will escape unscathed.

A brilliant crime novel of betrayal and retribution, passion and redemption, The Devil’s Redhead heralds the arrival of a powerful new voice in fiction.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

The Washington Post
The strength of The Devil's Redhead lies in its characterizations and white-hot violence. — Patrick Anderson
Publishers Weekly
Corbett thunders out of the gate with this gritty, moving debut about an ex-con's readjustment to freedom and his efforts to reunite with a former lover. Ten years after being sentenced for drug dealing, Dan Abatangelo emerges from prison with one thought in mind: finding Shel Beaudry and rekindling their relationship. Abatangelo is a changed man harder, less patient, prone to bursts of violence. Despite the advice of friends, who warn him that no good can come from reuniting with Shel, he pushes forward. He eventually finds her living north of San Francisco, beholden to a drug-addled, mentally unstable man named Frank Maas and the crime ring that employs him. When Shel and Abatangelo finally meet, she waffles on returning to him, but before he can convince her, a local drug war breaks out and Shel is taken hostage. Abatangelo responds with a daring rescue mission that takes him deep into his former world and ignites a gruesome chain of violence and death. Corbett, a San Francisco private investigator for more than a decade, brings a wealth of real-world detail to his swift, highly atmospheric narrative. His plotting could sometimes use a little more glue, and a few characters particularly newspaperman Bert Waxman border on caricature. But Corbett's prose dazzles, cutting across the page with passionate force, articulating themes of devotion, lost hope and spiritual renewal in an unforgiving world. Author appearances in the Bay Area. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Debut crime novelist Corbett gets lost in meticulous descriptions of late-night bars and lonely rooms at the expense of character development and plot momentum. Vegas dealer Shel Beaudry first hooks up with slick Dan Abatangelo in 1980. Dan's free spending and ability to quote Baudelaire impress her, and she even falls a little in love when he shows her some of his photographs ("He could capture the riddle in an empty street"). Dan makes his money smuggling marijuana, and so Shel winds up with a job in his organization as well as a place in his bed. The relationship has a two-year run before the DEA busts up Dan's smuggling ring and puts him away for ten years. Shel gets a light sentence and, fresh out of prison, meets sweet petty criminal Frank Maas. They're comfy in a domestic routine when Frank's young son Jesse is murdered. The distraught dad loses his grip and the relationship deteriorates, though Shel tries to hang on, feeling she's too old now to change. But Dan gets out of prison with a single goal: to get back the one good thing in his former life, if she'll have him. Frank has other ideas, namely a double-cross of some Mexican drug-dealers that will lead to a big score and the high life for himself and Shel. This ill-conceived plan implodes, as Frank seems to know it must; he and Shel are forced on the lam, though not together. In hot pursuit are some brutal hit men from the Mexican cartel and Dan, a few steps behind, piecing the story together as he goes. He enlists the help of hard-drinking radical reporter Bert Waxman, whose street smarts and knowledge of the drug underworld provide an invaluable compass. A frustrating thriller whose action is always a little off the mark.Corbett's brittle, intelligent writing and bittersweet veneer should have been put to better use.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345447524
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/25/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.43 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.23 (d)

Meet the Author

David Corbett
David Corbett was a private investigator at Palladino & Sutherland in San Francisco for nearly fifteen years, working on a number of high-profile criminal and civil litigations, including the Cotton Club Murder Case and the People’s Temple Trial. In 1995 he retired from investigative work to open a law practice with his wife, Cesidia Tessicini, a long-time advocate for the disadvantaged and the AIDS afflicted. She died from ovarian cancer in January 2001. He currently lives in northern California.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

1982

Abatangelo stood on the porch of a safe house in western Oregon, watching with foreboding as an old Harley-Davidson shovelhead thundered up the winding timber road. The motorcycle turned into the long, steep drive to the house, spewing gravel and dust as it charged uphill beneath the pine shade.

Behind him, footsteps approached from inside. Glancing over his shoulder, he watched as Shel materialized through shadow at the porch door screen.

“Kinda early,” she said, nodding down the hill.

“Isn’t it,” he replied.

Abatangelo recognized the bike. It belonged to a man named Chaney, one of the local throwbacks he’d hired for the beach crew. Not the brightest bulb, but he wasn’t alone in that. This was probably the sorriest bunch Abatangelo had put together in years, comprised of Chaney and his wanna-be biker pals, plus an unruly and utterly toasted squad of pillheads from Beaverton and a few swacked Chinooks who at least knew the area. It underscored how right it was that this should be the last catch ever, a final nest egg against the looming unknown.

Chaney took the final crest of the hill at full throttle. The dogs, three spirited black Labs, barked from inside the fenced-in backyard as the bike left behind the thick shade of the drive and entered the hardpan firebreak surrounding the house. Chaney came garbed in denims and cowboy boots and aviator shades, with a black watch cap pulled down low on his head. Maybe all of twenty years old. Give him three years, Abatangelo thought, he’ll be punching a clock for the timber companies, or whining because he isn’t, same as everybody else up here.

Revving the throttle three times, legs sprawled for balance, Chaney walked the hog up to the porch. Abatangelo waited till he killed the engine, then waited a little longer for the dust to settle. Pines on all sides of the house swayed in the morning breeze. In the distance a lumber truck broke the valley-wide silence, groaning in low gear up a steep grade.

“What an unexpected pleasure,” Abatangelo said, making sure Chaney caught his tone. This location wasn’t common knowledge, not among the hirelings. Only the Company captains knew where to find each other.

“Yeah, well,” Chaney said, clearing his sinuses of dust. “Eddy gave me directions.”

Eddy was Eddy Igo, the Company’s transportation chief. He was also Abatangelo’s closest friend.

“He’s in trouble,” Abatangelo guessed.

Chaney lifted his shades, rubbing his eyes. “We were out last night,” he said, “put a serious package on. Eddy was driving. Got pulled over on the lumber road to Roseburg. Trooper made Eddy get out and do the stunts. You can pretty much imagine how that went.”

“Roseburg,” Abatangelo said. “Kinda far afield. You were over there why?”

“Truck hunt,” Chaney said.

It was Eddy’s job to assemble the fleet of trucks they’d need to move the load off the beach to the remote barn they’d be using for temporary storage.

“Eddy in Roseburg now?”

“Drunk tank,” Chaney confirmed. “He was getting cuffed, said, ‘Tell the family for me, will ya? Have ’em make bail.’ I figured he meant you, cuz I got no idea where his people are.”

“And he gave you directions here.”

“Kinda vague and cryptic, you know, hush-hush,” Chaney said. “Not so the trooper caught on. Don’t think so, any rate. If I didn’t live around here, I’d a been clueless, too.”

Abatangelo looked off, scanning the forest as he thought things through. The story could be horseshit. The locals may have turned the boy already, sent him out here to lure the next man in. Me, he thought. Worse, Shel. There was no way to tell without taking the next step, heading into Roseburg. If the kid was telling the truth, Abatangelo knew he had to get Eddy out soon, before the law caught on to who he was.

“I appreciate your bringing the news,” he said finally. A display of gratitude was called for, in the event Chaney was being straight with him. “You want to come on in? Stretch out, maybe have a bite?”

Shel recognized this as a cue. Opening the screen door, she stepped on out to the porch, dressed in a tartan lumberjack shirt and blue-jean cutoffs, barefoot, her red hair still tousled from sleep. Chaney, blinking, broke into a lovestruck smile.

“Come on in, roughrider,” she said, extending a hand.

Chaney froze, like she was asking him to dance. Shel wiggled her hand and Chaney came to, struggling to disengage himself from his machine and staggering a little as he got his legs beneath him, trundling forward, up the wood-plank stair and onto the porch.

As Abatangelo headed into the bath for a fast shower and shave, Shel led Chaney back through the house toward the kitchen. The kid ambled along, inspecting the place as though everything in it possessed a veiled meaning. He lingered at the framed photographs on the walls, taken by Abatangelo during his travels with Shel—Tulum, Barcelona, Pataya, Trinidad, Vanuatu. There were both landscapes and portraits, black and white mostly, but color, too, even a few hand-tinted prints. Chaney, eyes wide, probed the corners of his mouth with his tongue as he walked picture to picture.

In the kitchen, Shel pointed to a chair at the pine table near the window and asked, “Hungry?”

Chaney wiped dust from under his eyes and nodded. “Got any tuna fish?”

It stopped her cold. “We’re talking breakfast here.”

Chaney shrugged. “Well, yeah.”

The tone in his voice, it reminded her, This is a boy. “Sure,” Shel said.

“Tuna fish and Thousand Island dressing. Slice of Swiss if you got it. You know, a sandwich.”

He pressed his palms together, as though to demonstrate what a sandwich was. Good God, Shel thought, gagging.

He sat down and shortly noticed a stack of prints and proof sheets Abatangelo had left out on the table. “Jeez,” he said, waving in the vague direction of the hallway, as though to include both groups of photographs in his remark. “These are like, you know, good.”

“Danny has an eye.”

“I mean, like professional good,” Chaney said. “You know, Time. Newsweek. Penthouse.”

Shel dumped a splotch of Thousand Island dressing into a bowl of canned tuna and started working the stuff with a fork. “He’s sold a few to the wire services, AP, that kinda thing.” She slathered the stuff onto two slices of white bread.

Chaney sniggered and sat back. “Yeah right. And this load coming in, what’s that?” He crossed his arms, snorting as he nodded toward the pictures. “Probably bought all this shit at some kinda . . . I dunno, sale.”

Shel put down the fork, wiped her hands, strode across the room and leaned down till she was nose to nose with him.

“Look at me,” she said, tapping the bridge of her nose with her finger. “You got something you wanna say?”

Chaney leaned back a little, glance jittering from one eye to the other. “I said it already.”

“You’re sure of that.”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” Shel straightened. “If not, let’s hear it now. All of it.”

Chaney gnawed his lip. “What I meant,” he said quietly, “is, like, it’s a good idea, you know? Make the place look artsy. Like that’s what you guys do.”

“It is what we do,” Shel said. “Remember that.” She stormed back to the counter, threw his sandwich together and served it to him with a jar of pickles and a can of RC cola. “Chow down, Brown,” she said, then headed for the bath.

Abatangelo was finishing up, shaving himself, his lathered face reflected in a hand-wiped circle of steamless mirror. Shel sat down behind him on the edge of the tub. He was naked from his shower, dampness clinging to the hair along his legs, droplets dotting his back where he’d missed with the towel.

He glanced over his shoulder and nodded toward the kitchen. “You trust him?”

“He’s hell-bent on putting my self-control to work, I can tell you that.”

“That could be stuff.”

“It’s not stuff, believe me. It’s him. Anyway, yeah, sure, what’s not to trust? If the locals already rolled the kid, they’d have come up here themselves. You’re the head man. Why wait?”

“Always looks good in the papers,” he said, “you take down the whole crew.”

“You are the whole crew,” she said. “Be real. They get greedy, especially using that kid out there, they risk tipping you off. You close the whole thing down, poof, you’re gone. Then what’ve they got? Eddy on a drunk driving beef.”

Abatangelo rinsed his razor beneath the spigot. “You’re probably right.”

“Which leaves us where?”

With a washcloth he wiped away the last of the shaving cream. “If we’re lucky,” he said, “Eddy’s already been sprung and he’s wandering around downtown Roseburg.”

“You feeling lucky?”

Since the decision last spring to roll the dice, go ahead with this final run, fuckups had grown routine. The buzzards of bad luck were circling.

“Not particularly,” he admitted. He went into the next room, sat on the bed and pulled on a T-shirt, a pair of socks.

Shel followed him in. “Let me take care of Eddy,” she offered. “Go in, make his bail.”

Abatangelo got to his feet, stepped into his pants. “What makes you less of a risk than me?”

“Oh come on, Danny, don’t.”

Shel’s role in the Company was limited to playing the nice girl, the friendly new neighbor. She baby-sat the safe houses, took care of the dogs and gardens, finessed the locals. She was a brave, convincing actress, a sterling liar, but she handled no product. She never put up seed money, never optioned shares on a load. That was Danny’s bit.

“I’ve got a better idea,” he told her.

The man’s name was Blatt, a private investigator with no address but a Roseburg post office box. Most mornings he could be reached at a luncheonette named Brandy’s on the outskirts of town. They learned this from a local defense lawyer they contacted anonymously.

While Abatangelo waited in the car, Shel met Blatt in the restaurant. The place was paneled in knotty pine turned smeary and dark from years of grill grease and smoke. She sat with a cup of bitter coffee while, across the table, Blatt feasted on rheumy eggs, two rasps of charred bacon, and hash browns that looked like a fried disk of soap shavings. The man wore hiking boots and jeans, with a gabardine sport coat over a Western shirt, complete with bolo tie. He was medium height and wiry, with knobby hands and dirty nails. It was difficult to tell, from the way his long, thinning blond hair swirled around his head, whether he’d made a bad job of a comb-over or just been caught in the wind.

Shel explained what she wanted. Blatt nodded as he listened, then said, “Gonna cost you a thousand dollars. On top of his bail, which is two-fifty. That’s standard on a DWI up here.” He stabbed at an egg yolk with a wedge of toast.

“A grand,” she said. “A little steep, don’t you think? That your hourly fee?”

“Make it two thousand.” Blatt, still chewing, wiped his lips with his napkin, sat back, swallowed, licked his teeth. “Cash, of course.”

Shel declined to make further protest for fear of the stakes rising again. “Where’s this get done?”

“The money? Right here.” He unwrapped a mint-flavored toothpick. “Do business here all the time. Look weird if we went somewhere else.”

Weird to who, Shel wondered, glancing around the one-room luncheonette. The waitress was flirting with the cook. The other patrons, three lumpy middle-aged men, looked more like lonesome uncles than law enforcement.

“Excuse me a minute,” she said, getting up from the table. She walked to the counter, picked up a discarded newspaper, and headed to the can. Once inside she locked the door, stood at the sink and counted out $2,250 from her purse, wrapping it inside the paper. God help us all if this is a huge mistake, she thought. Tightening the fold of the paper around the money, she headed back out to the table where she sat back down and set the paper between her and Blatt.

“Humor me, if you don’t mind,” she said.

She accepted a refill on her coffee and took two lingering sips. Finally, she rose and collected her purse. “Please let Ed know I’ll meet him at the bus station.” She left the newspaper behind.

Down the block, Abatangelo watched from the car as Shel exited the luncheonette. Squinting in the sunlight, she walked to the curb, rested her hand on a lamppost and removed her shoe, as though to shake out a pebble. That was the sign.

He put the car in gear and headed for the interstate. An hour and a half later he was in the Medford bus station, buying himself three packs of gum and copies of Esquire and Photography and Sports Illustrated, then retreating to one of the long wood benches in the lobby for the four-hour wait till the bus from Roseburg rolled in, hopefully with Shel and Eddy on it.

From time to time he got up, stretched his legs, ambled about the shabby premises, scouting among the bedraggled Greyhounders for anybody who might be undercover, checking the parking lot for unmarked cars. Time crept past, giving him more than ample opportunity for reflection.

In Bangkok the preceding spring, Steve Cadaret had watched all his old contacts disappear. Rumor suggested the vanishings were the handiwork of certain officers in the Royal Thai Army, who were not-so-secretly taking over the trade, running off the minor players. It wasn’t till the wane of the dry season Cadaret finally tracked down a new source he felt he could trust. The price, though, to be transferred between Hong Kong accounts, was exorbitant, forty points on the tonne over anything he’d heard of before.

“Only the DEA will offer you better,” he was told. “Make your decision quickly. Soon the rains will start.”

Once a suitable ship was found and rendered seaworthy, the Company’s skipper, Jimmy Byrne, set sail with a crew of marginally sober Australians, heading up the South China Sea to pick up the load. He made one communication, just one, to Abatangelo—to explain that the engineer he’d hired to wire and tune the radio had burnt out the capacitors. To make matters worse, the backup could only reach high frequency ARRL bands, the ones monitored by the Coast Guard. Byrne signed off promising in code that he was coming in to the Oregon coast at the appointed time, but he’d be radio-silent the rest of the way.

And so we sit, Abatangelo thought, waiting for a shipment from a source we don’t know, en route aboard a ship we can’t contact. As if all that weren’t bad enough, there were the stateside foul-ups, Eddy’s little problem with drink only the most recent. Joey Bassinger, the Company’s paymaster, had left twenty grand in the trunk of a rental car. Mickey Bensusan, in charge of distribution, couldn’t whip his wholesalers out of their lethargy; rumors of a grand jury in Portland had people spooked. Add to all that the lamentable beach crew, and you had a damn good recipe for disaster.

The bad turn in luck underscored the intelligence of getting out. The winds had changed, and it wasn’t just Nancy Reagan and her berserk crusade to spare suburban teens the perils of pot. It wasn’t just the competition from the sensemilla farmers along California’s north coast, either, them and their mad botanist partners. The Mob had reclaimed the dope trade with a fury. No longer content to limit themselves to coke and skag, where the margins were better, they were perfectly content to blunder in where they had no place and glut the market with mediocre weed. On top of that there were blowback Cubans in the thick of it, too, not to mention the Marielitos, the Vietnamese, the Colombians, even the Mexican inheritors of the old candelilla contraband routes. Everybody was muscling for a piece of the prize. Greed ran wild, with a grisly streak of menace trailing behind. No more room for jokers like Danny Abatangelo. The era of the wildcat smuggler had played itself out.

Not that getting out was the snap the uninitiated made it out to be. First, it took time to work the money right so you weren’t a sitting duck. Instant millionaire? Do tell. Second, you couldn’t just strand your friends. Eddy, Joey, Mick, not to mention Cadaret and Byrne—he owed them, which was what this whole last run was all about: Put a little lucre in everybody’s pockets, take the bitter taste out of their mouths as they tried to figure out an answer to, So what am I supposed to do now?

And not just them. Walk away wrong, he knew, leave too suddenly, it smacks of betrayal, the rumors begin. Wholesalers, not the most enlightened breed of cat on the planet, they get edgy. If any of them got in a jam down the road, Abatangelo might well be the very first guy they handed up to save themselves. Especially if they were of a mind to stay in the trade. Can’t burn a bridge that’s no longer there. And just because he hadn’t been in the business for a while, that didn’t mean the feds wouldn’t be obliging. That was the beauty, so to speak, of conspiracy. Statute of limitations stretched to infinity, you were always good for a nailing. Hell, if anything, once you were out, you were the perfect fall guy. Fucking useless to everybody.

None of which, in the final analysis, was his chief concern. He’d done his best to keep Shel at a reasonable arm’s length from the business, but there was no way to keep her completely out, not and still be together as much as their need required. Regardless, the subtler nuances of her involvement would prove largely academic if the hammer came down.

Shel was on her fourth packet of Necco wafers when Eddy staggered in to the Roseburg station a mere five minutes before the Medford bus was due to leave. Steady now, she told herself, getting up, strolling over, looking past him through the glass doors to see who might be following. Rising on tiptoes, she kissed his cheek and whispered, “You sad, sorry motherfucker, don’t you ever worry us like that again.”

“I am so sorry,” Eddy moaned, pressing the heels of his hands against his temples. He was a tall, hulking man, a mechanic’s son. Now he was stooped, raw from lack of sleep and wildly hung over. “Stupid. Stupid. Shoulda fucking known.”

She pulled on his arm. “Move now, repent later. We got a bus to catch.”

It was almost dark by the time the bus arrived in Medford. Abatangelo watched as Shel and Eddy stumbled out with sour, bleary expressions and stiff legs. Spotting them, he ran to fetch the car, and pulled up along the curb just as they came out through the station’s glass doors.

They hopped in, he made a few countersurveillance moves—a quick trip down a one-way alley; a sudden turn then a dead stop, waiting to see what followed—then headed for the interstate, checking the rearview constantly until, a half hour into the drive, he felt reasonably certain they were okay.

“Didn’t mean to create an adventure,” Eddy said from the back. He chafed his hands, his tone contrite. “By the way, just in case it makes you feel better—that guy you hired, he sprung me before John Law-di-da got around to my prints.”

“That’s what he got paid for,” Abatangelo said.

They decided to leave Eddy’s car where he’d been arrested, for fear of it being watched. They stopped in Grant’s Pass, bought a used car with cash, and Eddy went his separate way, promising to link up the following afternoon for final preparations on the incoming load. Once Shel and Abatangelo were alone in the car, she asked him, “You sure it wouldn’t be smarter just to call this whole thing off?”

Abatangelo shook his head. “Not with Byrne coming in. I don’t show up, he’s stuck out there at sea.”

“I know the radio’s a problem. But just one call, fill him in?”

“Not the way things’ve gone. Coast Guard snags the signal, may as well send up flares.”

Shel undid her seat belt and slid across the seat, nudging her hip against his. “This one’s got me spooked.”

Abatangelo turned to kiss her hair. “I can put you on a plane in the morning,” he said. “Head back to San Francisco, hang out till we wrap this up.”

Shel chuckled miserably. “Like that’d make me any less scared.” She reached inside her shirt, withdrew the amethyst hanging around her neck. Staring through the windshield, she rubbed the wine-colored stone with her thumb. “You gave me a chance to walk away two years ago, remember?”

“You’re being stubborn.”

“Get a grip, mister. I was born stubborn.”

They reached the safe house just before midnight. Remembering that Eddy had given Chaney directions in the presence of a state trooper, albeit “vague and cryptic,” they drove past the entrance twice, peering through the trees, looking for unknown cars, men hiding beneath the pines. They killed the motor, listening for the dogs. Nothing. Turning into the drive finally, they scaled the hill, pulled to a stop in front of the porch, and waited—for a rush of lights, voices screaming, Get out of the car, men wielding guns jumping out of the dark on every side. A wave of relief swept through them as the only sound that greeted them was a spate of barking from the dogs, their heads bobbing into view atop the tall wood fence.

The following night, Abatangelo heard out his lieutenants and made his decision. Maybe the boat’s sunk, they said. Maybe Byrne never even picked up the load, maybe the boat got boarded by pirates in the South China Sea.

“I’ve known Cap Byrne a long time,” Abatangelo responded. “He said he was sailing on home.”

He paid off half his crew, told them the catch was off, then in secret assembled the rest on the beach to wait. The wind was high and the sand as hard as asphalt. Eddy’s trucks waited along the access road, his drivers stationed at the edge of the pines. The beach crew readied their zodiacs near the surf, shifting foot to foot to stay warm, the bikers passing out Desoxyn, the Chinooks with their pints of whiskey. Everybody stared across the cold, dark waves.

Chaney was there, and a few of the Beaverton gang had started baiting him into ridiculous posturings. Abatangelo listened in, and envisioned one of the Beaverton boys pitching the boy off the zodiac into the sea, just to teach him a lesson on who not to lie to. Abatangelo ambled into the circle, made a round of bracing wisecracks, then drew Chaney aside.

“You look like you’re about to toss your lunch,” he said.

The boy’s skin was the color of bacon grease. He had waggling, bloodshot eyes.

“I get seasick easy,” he said.

“I’ll say. You’re on the goddamn beach. Want a smoke?”

The kid wiped his eyes free of sand and shrugged. “Won’t help.”

Abatangelo rendered a fatherly nudge toward the Chinooks. They at least would have the decency to ignore him. “You don’t have to impress anybody but me,” he said.

Just then a bullhorn voice blared from deep in the pines. It ordered every man to stand in place. DEA agents poured out of the trees aiming riot guns and AR-15s as flares arched over the moonless sand. A helicopter with a searchlight came roaring at low altitude around the point.

Men scattered. There was madness, shouting, another warning through the bullhorn. Gunfire.

Abatangelo scoured the beach, found an opening in the trees and ran. A hundred yards inside the pine forest, he found himself caught in the helicopter’s searchlight. In short order he was staring down the barrel of a Mossberg scattergun aimed by a fright-eyed agent.

He got marched back to the shoreline, lined up beside the others already collared, and pushed to his knees. Told to lie facedown, he locked both hands behind his head, inhaling sand. All around him, the rest of the men—Eddy, Joey, Mick, Chaney and the rest of the beach crew—all of them succumbed in like fashion while the lawmen, giddy from adrenaline and spite, went about their business, dispensing the epithets Asshole, Dirtbag, Dipshit.

Back at the safe house, Shel brought the dogs inside, not wanting them in the way in case she had to do a runner through the yard. She was loading boxes, packing up clothes and cameras and Abatangelo’s pictures, when one of the dogs pricked up her ears and whined.

She launched herself out the back, bolted through the yard. She had her hands on top of the redwood fence when from behind an agent threw the full force of his body into hers, pinning her against the fence to tackle her. Her face slammed hard against the wood, leaving behind a smear of blood. Her nose turned to red wet putty. She tried to kick free as they hit the ground, but the agent dropped his knee down hard into her solar plexus. All the air in her lungs vanished. Her brain locked in a spasm of pain and the night sky turned bright white.

Her vision returned with her breath, by which time the agent had her up and cuffed. “Reasonable force,” he said through his teeth. “Fleeing suspect. Just so we’re clear.” Her knees buckled as he prodded her back inside.

The place was swarming now. Animal control was marching off with the dogs, leaving behind a convention of straightlaced assholes in blue windbreakers interspersed with longhair narcs. The agent who caught her eye, though, was a woman. Shel knew what that meant. She got pulled into a bedroom and nobody bothered to close the door. On the contrary, a couple of agents stood in the doorway to watch, others peeking in from time to time, grinning, staring, popping their gun.

Rather than uncuff Shel and let her undress herself, the female agent did the job. Shel’s bloody shirt got pulled open and drawn down to her wrists. Her jeans came next, all the way off. The pockets were pulled inside out, her socks checked, her bra unhooked and the cups inspected. When nothing was found, the female agent turned to her crowd.

“Gentlemen?” she inquired.

No one bothered to leave. The female agent turned back to Shel. Pulling a latex glove from her pocket, she squeezed her hand into it and said, “Squat, dear.”

In the hours that followed, Abatangelo, still on the beach, learned in snatches overheard from passing agents what happened at the house.

“She was lovely,” one said. “Blushed like a newlywed.”

They were goading him, he realized. It’d suit them just fine if he got to his feet; they’d gladly hammer him back down into the sand. Not wanting to give them that sort of satisfaction, there was nothing to do but lie there. He vowed to make it right somehow, at the same time wondering, as he would for the next 593 days through trial and his 100 months in prison, what he might have done differently. Shel would blame herself, it was her nature. He wanted to tell her the blame was his, not hers, he’d had a bad feeling all along but didn’t act on it, he’d let his loyalty to Byrne cloud his judgment. He wanted to tell her a hundred things, anything, just for the chance to see her again, and knew he would spend the rest of his days, if need be, trying. It would define the rest of his life, that vow, that fear. To see her again. To make it right.

Two agents pulled him to his feet and prodded him across the sand to the transport wagon where they posed him for his in-custody Polaroid. The agent aiming the camera squinted through the viewfinder and said, “Flash us some teeth, lover.”

From the Hardcover edition.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 31, 2012

    David Corbett either knows some really bad dudes, or he¿s one he

    David Corbett either knows some really bad dudes, or he’s one heck of a pretender (based on his upcoming non-fiction book THE ART OF CHARACTER: CREATING MEMORABLE CHARACTERS FOR FICTION, FILM, AND TV), I’d lean more toward the latter, although I’m inclined to do so with extreme caution. None of the guys and gals in THE DEVIL’S REDHEAD are what I would call good guys, but I still rooted for Danny Abatangelo with every fiber of my being. Shel Beaudry provides as much strength as her male counterparts, and she’s every bit as damaged. This novel was gritty enough that I felt like I was picking asphalt from between my incisors, yet I had to read on until the final resolution.

    If you don’t want your head to feel like it was used as a battering ram, you may want to skip this read. However, if you do, you’ll do so at your own peril, because Mr. Corbett knows how to bring the goods and create memorable characters.

    Robert Downs
    Author of Falling Immortality: Casey Holden, Private Investigator

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

    Posted July 22, 2002

    New Novel, New Author, Great Book!

    I will admit that before reading the book I interviewed the author. He made such an impact that I had to go back and read his novel. The Devil's Redhead is about a drug dealer and the woman he loves. I can't classify it as a mystery but it's not a love story either. This book is so much more. I couldn't put it down and the charactors have lived with me long after finishing the last page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2002

    This book will keep you turning pages!

    This author's going to be big in the crime writing field. The characters are very real--not cardboard at all. The story is not pat, but moves rapidly forward with many unexpected twists and turns. This book will grab you.

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