Hell to Pay (Derek Strange & Terry Quinn Series #2)

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"Derek Strange and Terry Quinn, a team of investigators, are hired to find a fourteen-year-old girl who's run away from her home in the suburbs. It's easy for Strange and Quinn to learn that the girl is now working as a prostitute in one of D.C.'s most brutal neighborhoods. Getting her to leave is harder. The two ex-cops think they know this world - but nothing in their experience has prepared them for the vengeance of Worldwide Wilson, the ruthless operator whose territory they are intruding upon." Their mission is fractured by a violent ...
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2003-03 Mass Market Paperback New BRAND NEW Paperback stated FIRST US PRINTING March 2003 (10-1) GIFT QUALITY George P. Pelecanos [author] also National Bestseller of RIGHT AS ... RAIN A New York Times Notable Book of the Year Warner Fiction~*Usually same or next day service with possible use of recycled materials by a reliable seller~GUARANTEED~FIVE STAR SELLER~ Read more Show Less

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Hell to Pay (Derek Strange & Terry Quinn Series #2)

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Overview

"Derek Strange and Terry Quinn, a team of investigators, are hired to find a fourteen-year-old girl who's run away from her home in the suburbs. It's easy for Strange and Quinn to learn that the girl is now working as a prostitute in one of D.C.'s most brutal neighborhoods. Getting her to leave is harder. The two ex-cops think they know this world - but nothing in their experience has prepared them for the vengeance of Worldwide Wilson, the ruthless operator whose territory they are intruding upon." Their mission is fractured by a violent criminal act against a young player from the neighborhood football team that Strange coaches. Tracking down the perpetrators becomes a point of honor for Strange and Quinn, and their investigation leads them deep inside the city's labyrinth of crime - and back, again, to the lethal Worldwide Wilson.
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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The Barnes & Noble Review
Standing somewhere between the gritty works of Michael Connelly and James Ellroy, George Pelecanos has firmly wedged himself into the top echelon of crime writers and mined an area of suspense that's all his own. Long admired as a cult novelist, he now broadens his range in theme and character to come up with a combination that will take him to the top of the bestseller lists.

Derek Strange and Terry Quinn -- who first appeared in Pelecanos's Right as Rain -- are private investigators who occasionally work together. When Strange is hired by a pair of female ex-cop P.I.'s to find a teenage prostitute, he farms the job out to Quinn. Strange, who spends most of his free time coaching neighborhood kids in football, is on the hunt for a trio of hoodlums who've been causing trouble in his neighborhood. The leader, known as "D" (which stands for "Death"), prowls the football fields, and Strange must do everything in his power to protect his kids. Quinn follows up on his hunt for the runaway suburban girl turned hooker and is eventually led to Worldwide Wilson, a vicious pimp who will murder anyone who tries to take what's his.

Strange and Quinn are by no means perfect heroes. Each must struggle with his own particular burden. Strange, who's torn between a lasting love and an appetite for prostitutes, frequents the world of massage parlors. Quinn, who was stigmatized after killing a fellow police officer, has such a short fuse that he can rarely deal with the snitches he needs for information.

The author's attention to the seamy side of Washington, D.C., is a powerful draw; its perverse aspects add credible facets to the protagonists and villains. The story flies by with such speed that you'll suffer from friction burns from turning the pages so quickly. Once again, George Pelecanos proves eminently capable of turning in a cunningly crafted story that transcends the street-crime subgenre. Hell to Pay is a novel that works as an intense character portrait and leaves the reader moved and electrified. (Tom Piccirilli)

New York Times
Looks like his long overdue big-league breakthrough a suspenseful, unusually cinematic thriller.
Publishers Weekly
You know you're in Pelecanos country when the music begins early a trio of street thugs on their way to a dogfight listen to "the new DMX joint on PGC, turned up loud" and continues to throb all the way through this second book in the author's hardboiled and heartbreaking series centered around Washington, D.C., private detective Derek Strange. A black man in his 50s, Strange first notices these particular thugs when they hang out around a Pee Wee football team he is coaching. Their appearance comes to seem more sinister in retrospect, when Strange's nine-year-old star quarterback is shot and killed at an ice cream stand. While Strange hunts for the men who shot the boy, his partner, Terry Quinn, an Irish Catholic ex-cop, gets pulled into an attempt to save a young runaway turned prostitute from a big-time pimp and falls for one of the tough women organizing the rescue. Meanwhile, Strange goes through a rocky period with his longtime lover (and secretary) Janine, forced to consider what his massage-parlor habit is doing to their relationship. The novel's turf the nontourist parts of Washington, D.C., neighborhoods where so many young black children die that selling T-shirts with their pictures on them at their wakes and funerals has become a cottage industry was staked out successfully in Pelecanos's earlier books about the sons and grandsons of Greek immigrants and now is extended to focus chiefly on the District's black majority. It is Pelecanos's intimate understanding of this volatile D.C. and the complexity of Strange a rich, sometimes frustrating but always warmly human character that should keep this series fresh for a long time to come. (Feb. 19) Forecast: Little, Brown is betting $100,000 in marketing dollars (not to mention a 20-city author tour) that this will be the book that propels cult favorite Pelecanos onto the bestseller lists and they may be right. Few writers deserve a boost as much as the hardworking, fearlessly gritty and engagingly idiosyncratic Pelecanos. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Derek Strange, a middle-aged black man from the bad side of Washington, DC, coaches a boy's football team and tries to be a role model, yet he can't seem to stop visiting massage parlors. When one of his players is accidentally shot in a drug murder, he goes after the killers. His friend and employee Terry Quinn gets hired to help locate a young runaway turned prostitute, but when her pimp, Worldwide Wilson, disrespects Quinn, it turns personal. The characters are so strong in this book that the plots seem a little undernourished in comparison and never really cohere. Pelecanos has some interesting traits as a writer, especially his state-of-the-art slang and the way he sketches characters by describing their favorite music. If he verbs a little too often (trays get ashed, cars get ignitioned), his language keeps the story flowing. He writes bravely about race, too, often in outstanding dialog. If reader Richard Allen can sometimes be a little hard to understand delivering this dialog, well, that's part of the point, too. A good addition to noir collections. John Hiett, Iowa City P.L. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A drive-by shooting that ordinarily wouldn't even rate the front page of the Washington Post Metro section pits p.i. Derek Strange (Right as Rain, 2001) against a city full of men behaving badly.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780446611329
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • Publication date: 2/27/2003
  • Series: Derek Strange & Terry Quinn Series, #2
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 4.12 (w) x 6.75 (h) x 1.25 (d)

Meet the Author

George Pelecanos is the author of several highly praised and bestselling novels, including The Cut, What It Was, The Way Home, The Turnaround, and The Night Gardener. He is also an independent-film producer, an essayist, and the recipient of numerous international writing awards. He was a producer and Emmy-nominated writer for The Wire and currently writes for the acclaimed HBO series Treme. He lives in Maryland.

Biography

Few writers have employed the mean streets of Washington, D.C. as effectively as George Pelecanos, the award-winning author of two acclaimed detective series and several standalone noirs of exceptional quality.

Pelecanos debuted in 1992, with A Firing Offense, a fast-paced crime novel that introduced Nick Stefanos, a Greek-American advertising executive for an electronics chain who is reluctantly drawn into investigative work when a stock boy at his company goes missing. By book's end, Nick has lost his job and applied for his P.I. license, paving the way for further (mis)adventures. Neverthless, the series has proved anything but predictable. Some books move forward in time to reveal Nick's sad descent into alcoholism; others flash back to investigate his family's past—with Nick relegated to cameo appearances in stories that span several generations and feature a cast of interrelated characters. Beloved by readers and critics alike, the Stefanos books cast unsparing light on a city tragically mired in crime, poverty, and racism.

In his Derek Strange and Terry Quinn series, Pelecanos delves further into the racial and cultural divide between white and black. Beginning with 2001's Right as Rain, these novels feature a "salt and pepper" team of ex-cops turned detectives who forge an uneasy friendship as they investigate cases in the blighted heart of D.C. The very model of noir, the stories are steeped in the violence, brutality, and despair of urban life, but the dynamic between the tough but sensitive Strange and his younger, more volatile partner offers a hopeful and humanizing counterbalance.

A distinguishing characteristic of Pelecanos's writing is an inclusion of musical references to create atmosphere, anchor period settings, and develop his characters' personalities. (His 2004 novel Hard Revolution, a prequel to the Strange/Quinn books, was packaged in limited quantity with a CD of '70s soul music.) Pelecanos has also published mysteries and thrillers, short fiction, reviews and essays, and screenplays for film and television—most notably HBO's superb urban procedural The Wire.

Good To Know

In our interview, Pelecanos shared some interesting anecdotes about past gigs:

"I began to work at my father's lunch counter in downtown D. C. when I was 11 years old, the summer after the riots of April 1968. It was the single most influential experience of my life. Everything I've written about since has seeds in that summer."

"Another good job I had was selling women's shoes, for obvious reasons. Writing for a living isn't bad, either. It beats digging ditches or washing dishes. I know, because I've done those things, too."

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

Garfield Potter sat low behind the wheel of an idling Caprice, his thumb stroking the rubber grip of the Colt revolver loosely fitted between his legs. On the bench beside him, leaning against the passenger window, sat Carlton Little. Little filled an empty White Owl wrapper with marijuana and tamped the herb with his thumb. Potter and Little were waiting on Charles White, who was in the backyard of his grandmother's place, getting his dog out of a cage.

"It don't look like much, does it?" said Potter, looking down at his own lap.

Little grinned lazily. "That's what the girls must say when you pull that thing out."

"Like Brianna, you mean? Your girl? She ain't had no chance to look at it, 'cause I was waxin' her from behind. She felt it, though. Made her forget all about you, too. I mean, when I was done hittin' it she couldn't even remember your name."

"She couldn't remember hers either, drunk as she had to be to fuck a sad motherfucker like you." Little laughed some as he struck a match and held it to the end of the cigar.

"I'm talkin' about this gun, fool." Potter held up the Colt so Little, firing up the blunt, could see it.

"Yeah, okay. Where'd you get it at, man?"

"Traded it to this boy for half an OZ. Was one of those project guns, hadn't even been fired but once or twice. Short barrel, only two inches long, you'd think it couldn't do shit. But this here is a three fifty-seven. They call it a carry revolver, 'cause you can carry this shit without no one knowin' you strapped. I don't need no long barrel, anyway. I like to work close in."

"I'll stick with my nine. You don't even know if that shits works."

"It works. Yours jams, don't be askin' me for mines."

Potter was tall, light skinned, flat of stomach and chest, with thin, ropy forearms and biceps. He kept his hair shaved close to the scalp, with a small slash mark by way of a part. His irises were dark brown and filled his eyes; his nose was a white boy's nose, thin and aquiline. He was quick to smile. It was a smile that could be engaging when he wanted it to be, but more often than not it inspired fear.

Little was not so tall. He was bulked in the shoulders and arms, but twiggish in the legs. A set of weights had given him the show muscles upstairs, but his legs, which he never worked on, betrayed the skinny, malnourished boy he used to be. He wore his hair braided in cornrows and kept a careless, weedy thatch of hair on his chin.

Both wore carpenter jeans and button-down, short-sleeve plaid Nautica shirts over wife-beater Ts. Potter's shoes were whatever was newest in the window of the Foot Locker up at City Place; he had a pair of blue-and-black Air Maxes on now. On Little's feet were wheat-colored Timberland work boots, loosely laced and untied.

Little held a long draw in his lungs and looked ahead, exhaling a cloud of smoke that crashed at the windshield. "Here comes Coon. Lookit how he's all chest out and shit. Proud about that dog."

Charles White was walking his pit bull, Trooper, past a dying oak tree, its leaves nearly stripped bare. A tire hung on a chain from one of the branches. When he was a puppy, Trooper had swung on the tire for hours, holding it fast, strengthening his jaws.

"That ain't no game dog," said Potter. "Coon ain't no dog man, neither."

White had Trooper, brown with a white mask and golden-pink eyes, on a short leash attached to a heavy-ringed, wide leather collar. Trooper's ears were game-cropped at the skull. White, of average size and dressed similarly to his friends, moved toward the car, opened the back door, and let the dog in before getting inside himself.

"S'up, fellas," said White.

"Coon," said Little, looking over the bench at his friend. Others thought White's street name had something to do with his color, dark as he was. But Little knew where the name had come from. He'd been knowing Coon since they were both kids in the Section Eights, back in the early nineties, when White used to wear a coonskin hat, trying to look like that fool rapper from Digital Underground, that group that was popular then. There was the other thing, too: White had a nose on him, big and long like some cartoon animal. And he walked kind of pitched forward, with his bony fingers spread kind of like claws, the way a critter in the woods would do.

"Gimme some of that hydro, Dirty."

Dirty was Little's street name, so given because of his fondness for discussing women's privates. Men's, too. Also, he loved to eat all that greasy fast food. Little passed the blunt back to White. White hit it deep.

"Your champion ready?" said Potter.

"What?" said White.

It was hard to hear in the car. Potter had the music, the new DMX joint on PGC, turned up loud.

"I said, is that dumb animal gonna win us some money today?" said Potter, raising his voice.

White didn't answer right away. He held the smoke down in his lungs and let it out slow.

"He gonna win us mad money, D," said White. He reached over and massaged the dense muscles bunched around Trooper's jaw. Trooper's mouth opened in pleasure and his eyes shifted over to his master's. "Right, boy?"

"Sure he's strong enough?"

"Shoot, he was strong enough to drag a log down the block yesterday mornin'."

"I ain't ask you can he do circus tricks. Can he hold his shit in a fight?"

"He will."

"Well, he ain't showed me nothin' yet."

"What about that snatch we did with that boy's dog over on Crittenden?"

Potter looked in the rearview at White. "That dog at Crittenden wasn't nothin' but a cur. Trooper a cur, too."

"The hell he is. You're gonna see today."

"We better see. 'Cause I ain't wastin' my time or my green paper on no pussyass animal." Potter slid the Colt under the waistband of his jeans.

"I said, you're gonna see."

"C'mon, D," said Little. "Let's get a roll on, man."

Garfield Potter's street name was Death. He didn't care for it much since this girl he wanted to fuck told him it scared her some. Never did get that girl's drawers down, either. So he felt the name was bad luck, worse still to go and change it. His friends now called him D.

Potter turned the key in the ignition. It made an awful grinding sound. Little clapped his hands together and doubled over with laughter.

"Ho, shit!" said Little, clapping his hands one more time. "Car's already started, man, you don't need to be startin' it again! Maybe if you turned that music down some you'd know."

"Noisy as this whip is, too," said White.

"Fuck you, Coon," said Potter, "talkin' mad shit about this car, when you're cruisin' around town in that piece-of-shit Toyota, lookin' like a Spanish Cadillac and shit."

"All this money we got," said Little, "and we're drivin' around in a hooptie."

"We'll be gettin' rid of it soon," said Potter. "And anyway, it ain't all that funny as y'all are makin' it out to be."

"Yeah, you right. It just hit me funny, is all." Little took the blunt that White handed to him over the front seat and stared at it stupidly. "I ain't lyin', boy, this chronic right here just laid my ass out."

The dogfights were held in a large garage backing to an alley behind a house on Ogelthorpe, in Manor Park in Northwest. The fights went down once a week for several hours during the day, when most of the neighbors were off at work. Those neighbors who were at home were afraid of the young men who came to the fights, and did not complain to the police.

Potter parked the Chevy in the alley. He and the others got out of the car, White heeling Trooper to his side. They went down the alley, nodding but not smiling at some young men they knew to be members of the Delafield Mob. Others were standing around, holding their animals, getting high, and drinking from the lips of bottles peeking through the tops of brown paper bags. Little and Wright followed Potter into the garage.

Ten to twenty young men were scattered about the perimeter of the garage. A group was shooting craps in the corner. Others were passing around joints. Someone had put on Dr. Dre 2001, with Snoop, Eminem, and all them, and it was coming loud from a box.

In the middle of the garage was a fighting area of industrial carpet, penned off from the rest of the interior by a low chain-link fence, gated in two corners. Inside one corner of the pen, a man held a link leash taut on a black pit bull spotted brown over its belly and chest. The dog's name was Diesel. Its ears were gnarled and its neck showed raised scars like pink worms.

Potter studied a man, old for this group, maybe thirty or so, who stood alone in a corner, putting fire to a cigarette.

"I'll be back in a few," said Potter to Little.

" 'Bout ready to show the dogs," said Little.

"Got a mind to put money on that black dog. But go ahead and bet Trooper, hear?"

"Three hunrid?"

"Three's good."

Potter made his way over to the cigarette smoker, short and dumpy, a raggedy-ass dude on the way down, and stood before him.

"I know you."

The smoker looked up with lazy eyes, trying to hold on to his shit. "Yeah?"

"You run with Lorenze Wilder, right?"

"I seen him around. Don't mean we run together or nothin' like that." But now the smoker recognized Potter and he lost his will to keep his pride. His eyes dropped to the concrete floor.

"Outside," said Potter.

The older man followed Potter into the daylight, not too fast but without protest. Potter led him around the garage's outer wall, which faced the neighboring yards to the west.

"What's your name?"

"Edward Diggs."

"Call you Digger Dog, right?"

"Some do."

"Lorenze called you that when we sold him that hydro a few weeks back. You were standing right next to him. Remember me now?"

Diggs said nothing, and Potter moved forward so that he was looking down on Diggs and just a few inches from his face. Diggs's back touched the garage wall.

"So where your boy Lorenze at?"

"I don't know. He stays in his mother's old house -"

"Over off North Dakota. I know where that is, and he ain't been there awhile. Leastways, I ain't caught him in. He got a woman he cribs with on the side?"

Diggs avoided Potter's stare. "Not that I know."

"What about other kin?"

Diggs took a long final drag off his cigarette and dropped it to the ground, crushing it beneath his sneaker. He looked to his right, out in the alley, but there was no one there. Everyone had gone inside the garage. Potter spread one tail on his shirt and draped it back behind the butt of the Colt, so that Diggs could see.

Diggs shifted his eyes again and lowered his voice. He had to give this boy something, just so he'd go away. "Lorenze got a sister. She be livin' down in Park Morton with her little boy."

"Maybe I'll drop by. What's her name?"

"I wouldn't . . .What I'm sayin' is, you want my advice -"

Potter open-handed Diggs across the face. He used his left hand to bunch Diggs's shirt at the collar, then yanked Diggs forward and slapped him again.

Diggs said nothing, his body limp. Potter held him fast.

"What's the sister's name?"

Diggs's eyes had teared up. He hated himself for that. All he meant to do was advise this boy, tell him, don't fuck with Lorenze's sister or her kid. But it was too late for all that now.

"I don't know her name," said Diggs. "And anyway, Lorenze, he don't never go by the way or nothin'. He don't talk to his sister much, way I understand it. Sometimes he watches her kid play football; boy's on this tackle team. But that's as close as he gets to her."

"Where the kid play at?"

"Lorenze said the kid practices in the evenings at some high school."

"Which school?"

"He live in Park Morton, so it must be Roosevelt. It ain't but a few blocks up the street there -"

"I ain't asked you for directions, did I? I live up on Warder Street my own self, so you don't need to be drawin' me a map."

"It ain't too far from there, is all I was sayin'."

Potter's eyes softened. He smiled and released his grip on Diggs. "I didn't hurt you none, did I? 'Cause, look, I didn't mean nothin', hear?"

Diggs straightened his collar. "I'm all right."

"Let me get one of those cigarettes from you, black."

Diggs reached into his breast pocket and retrieved his pack of Kools. A cigarette slid out into his palm. He handed the cigarette to Potter.

Potter snapped the cigarette in half and bounced the halves off Diggs's chest. Potter's laugh was like a bark. He turned and walked away.

Diggs straightened his shirt and stepped quickly down the alley. He looked over his shoulder and saw that Potter had turned the corner. Diggs reached into his pocket and shook another cigarette out from a hole he had torn in the bottom of the pack.

Diggs's boy Lorenze was staying with this girl he knew over in Northeast. Lorenze had kind of laughed it off, said he'd crib Diggs that Potter was the type to forget. But he was proud he hadn't given Lorenze up. Most folks he knew didn't credit him for being so strong.

Diggs struck a match. He noticed that his hand was shaking some as he fired up his cigarette.

Back in the garage, Potter sidled up next to Little. The owner of the garage, also the house bookie, stood nearby, holding the cash and taking late bets.

In one corner of the pen, Charles White finished sponging Trooper down with warm, soapy water. Diesel's owner, in the opposite corner, did the same. Many dogs were treated with chemicals that could disorient the opponent. The rule in this arena was that both dogs had to be washed prior to a fight.

White scratched the top of Trooper's head, bent in, and uttered random words into his ear with a soothing tone. The referee, an obese young man, stepped into the ring after a nod from the owner of the garage.

"Both corners ready?" said the referee. "Cornermen out of the pit."

White moved behind his dog into the space of the open gate, still holding Trooper back.

"Face your dogs," said the referee. They did this, and quickly the referee said, "Let go!"

The dogs shot into the center of the pit. Both of them got up on their hind legs, attacking the head of the other with their jaws. They snapped at each other's ears and sought purchase in the area of the neck. In the fury of their battle, the dogs did not make a sound. The garage echoed with the shouts and laughter of the spectators crowding the ring.

For a moment the dogs seemed to reach a stalemate. Suddenly their motions accelerated. Their bodies meshed in a blur of brown and black, and the bright pink of exposed gums. Droplets of blood arced up in the center of the ring.

Diesel got a neck-hold and Trooper was taken down. Trooper, adrenalized, his eyes bright and wild, scrambled up and out of the hold. One of his ears had been partially torn away, and blood had leaked onto the dog's white mask. Diesel went in, back to the neck. And now Trooper was down again, in the jaws of Diesel, squirming beneath the black dog.

"Stop it!" shouted White.

Potter nudged Little, who nodded by way of reply.

"That's it," said the referee, waving his arms.

White went into the ring and grabbed Trooper's hind legs, pulling back. Diesel's owner did the same. Diesel relaxed his jaws, releasing Trooper to his man. The spectators moved away from the pen, laughing, giving one another skin, already trying out stories on one another that exaggerated the details of the fight.

"You were right," said Little. "That dog was a cur."

"What I tell you?" said Potter. "Dog's personality only as strong as the man who owns it."

White arrived with Trooper, back on his leash. "I need to fix him up some," said White, not looking into his friends' eyes.

"We'll do it now," said Potter. "Let's go."

A couple of blocks away, near Fort Slocum Park, Potter pulled the Chevy into an alley where there seemed to be no activity. He cut the engine and looked over the backseat at White; Trooper sat panting, his hip resting against his owner's.

"Dog needs to pee," said Potter.

"He went," said White. "Let's just take him to the vet place."

"He already bleedin' all over the backseat. He pees back there, too, I ain't gonna be too happy. Gimme the leash, man, I'll walk him."

"I'll walk him," said White. His lip quivered when he spoke.

"Let D walk him if he wants to, Coon," said Little. "Dog needs to pee, don't make no difference who be holdin' the leash."

Potter got out of the car and went around to White's side. He opened the door and took hold of the leash. The dog looked over at White and then jumped his lap and was out of the car.

Potter walked Trooper down the alley until they were behind a high wooden privacy fence. Potter looked around briefly, saw no one in the neighboring yards or in the windows of the houses, and commanded the dog to sit.

When Trooper sat, Potter pulled the .357 Colt from his waistband, pointed it close to the dog's right eye, and squeezed the trigger. Trooper's muzzle and most of his face exploded out into the alley in a haze of bone and blood. The dog toppled over onto its side and its legs straightened in a shudder. Potter stepped back and shot the dog in the ribcage one more time. Trooper's carcass lifted an inch or two off the ground and came to rest.

Potter went back to the car and got behind the wheel. Little was holding a match to the half of the White Owl blunt he had not yet smoked.

"Gun works," said Potter.

Little nodded. "Loud, too."

Potter put the trans in gear, draped his arm over the bench seat, and turned his head to look out the rear window as he reversed the car out of the alley. White was staring out the window, his face dirty from tears he had tried to wipe away.

"Go on and get it out you," said Potter. "Someone you know see you cryin' over some dumb animal, they gonna mistake you for a bitch. And I ain't ridin' with none of that."

Potter>, Little, and White bought a kilo of marijuana from their dealer in Columbia Heights, dimed out half of it back at their place, and delivered the dimes to their runners so they could get started on the evening rush. Then the three of them drove north up Georgia Avenue and over to Roosevelt High. They went into the parking lot at Iowa Avenue and parked the Chevy beside a black Cadillac Brougham. There were several other cars in the lot.

Potter looked in the rearview at White, staring ahead. "We straight, Coon?"

"Just a dumb animal, like you said. Don't mean nothin' to me."

Potter didn't like the tone in White's voice. But White was just showing a little pride. That was good, but he'd never act on his anger for real. Like his weak-ass dog, he wasn't game.

"I'll check it out," said Potter to Little.

He walked across the parking lot and stood at the fence that bordered the stadium down below. After a while he came back to the car.

"You see him?" said Little as Potter got back behind the wheel.

"Nah," said Potter. "Just some kids playin' football. Some old-time motherfuckers, coaches and shit."

"We can come back."

"We will. I'm gonna smoke that motherfucker when I see him, too."

"Wilder don't owe you but a hundred dollars, D."

"Thinks he can ignore his debt. Tryin' to take me for bad; you know I can't just let that go."

"Ain't like you need the money today or nothin' like that."

"It ain't the money," said Potter. "And I can wait."

Copyright (c) 2002 by George P. Pelecanos

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter 1

Garfield Potter sat low behind the wheel of an idling Caprice, his thumb stroking the rubber grip of the Colt revolver loosely fitted between his legs. On the bench beside him, leaning against the passenger window, sat Carlton Little. Little filled an empty White Owl wrapper with marijuana and tamped the herb with his thumb. Potter and Little were waiting on Charles White, who was in the backyard of his grandmother's place, getting his dog out of a cage.

"It don't look like much, does it?" said Potter, looking down at his own lap.

Little grinned lazily. "That's what the girls must say when you pull that thing out."

"Like Brianna, you mean? Your girl? She ain't had no chance to look at it, 'cause I was waxin' her from behind. She felt it, though. Made her forget all about you, too. I mean, when I was done hittin' it she couldn't even remember your name."

"She couldn't remember hers either, drunk as she had to be to fuck a sad motherfucker like you." Little laughed some as he struck a match and held it to the end of the cigar.

"I'm talkin' about this gun, fool." Potter held up the Colt so Little, firing up the blunt, could see it.

"Yeah, okay. Where'd you get it at, man?"

"Traded it to this boy for half an OZ. Was one of those project guns, hadn't even been fired but once or twice. Short barrel, only two inches long, you'd think it couldn't do shit. But this here is a three fifty-seven. They call it a carry revolver, 'cause you can carry this shit without no one knowin' you strapped. I don't need no long barrel, anyway. I like to work close in."

"I'll stick with my nine. You don't even know if that shits works."

"It works. Yours jams, don't be askin' me for mines."

Potter was tall, light skinned, flat of stomach and chest, with thin, ropy forearms and biceps. He kept his hair shaved close to the scalp, with a small slash mark by way of a part. His irises were dark brown and filled his eyes; his nose was a white boy's nose, thin and aquiline. He was quick to smile. It was a smile that could be engaging when he wanted it to be, but more often than not it inspired fear.

Little was not so tall. He was bulked in the shoulders and arms, but twiggish in the legs. A set of weights had given him the show muscles upstairs, but his legs, which he never worked on, betrayed the skinny, malnourished boy he used to be. He wore his hair braided in cornrows and kept a careless, weedy thatch of hair on his chin.

Both wore carpenter jeans and button-down, short-sleeve plaid Nautica shirts over wife-beater Ts. Potter's shoes were whatever was newest in the window of the Foot Locker up at City Place; he had a pair of blue-and-black Air Maxes on now. On Little's feet were wheat-colored Timberland work boots, loosely laced and untied.

Little held a long draw in his lungs and looked ahead, exhaling a cloud of smoke that crashed at the windshield. "Here comes Coon. Lookit how he's all chest out and shit. Proud about that dog."

Charles White was walking his pit bull, Trooper, past a dying oak tree, its leaves nearly stripped bare. A tire hung on a chain from one of the branches. When he was a puppy, Trooper had swung on the tire for hours, holding it fast, strengthening his jaws.

"That ain't no game dog," said Potter. "Coon ain't no dog man, neither."

White had Trooper, brown with a white mask and golden-pink eyes, on a short leash attached to a heavy-ringed, wide leather collar. Trooper's ears were game-cropped at the skull. White, of average size and dressed similarly to his friends, moved toward the car, opened the back door, and let the dog in before getting inside himself.

"S'up, fellas," said White.

"Coon," said Little, looking over the bench at his friend. Others thought White's street name had something to do with his color, dark as he was. But Little knew where the name had come from. He'd been knowing Coon since they were both kids in the Section Eights, back in the early nineties, when White used to wear a coonskin hat, trying to look like that fool rapper from Digital Underground, that group that was popular then. There was the other thing, too: White had a nose on him, big and long like some cartoon animal. And he walked kind of pitched forward, with his bony fingers spread kind of like claws, the way a critter in the woods would do.

"Gimme some of that hydro, Dirty."

Dirty was Little's street name, so given because of his fondness for discussing women's privates. Men's, too. Also, he loved to eat all that greasy fast food. Little passed the blunt back to White. White hit it deep.

"Your champion ready?" said Potter.

"What?" said White.

It was hard to hear in the car. Potter had the music, the new DMX joint on PGC, turned up loud.

"I said, is that dumb animal gonna win us some money today?" said Potter, raising his voice.

White didn't answer right away. He held the smoke down in his lungs and let it out slow.

"He gonna win us mad money, D," said White. He reached over and massaged the dense muscles bunched around Trooper's jaw. Trooper's mouth opened in pleasure and his eyes shifted over to his master's. "Right, boy?"

"Sure he's strong enough?"

"Shoot, he was strong enough to drag a log down the block yesterday mornin'."

"I ain't ask you can he do circus tricks. Can he hold his shit in a fight?"

"He will."

"Well, he ain't showed me nothin' yet."

"What about that snatch we did with that boy's dog over on Crittenden?"

Potter looked in the rearview at White. "That dog at Crittenden wasn't nothin' but a cur. Trooper a cur, too."

"The hell he is. You're gonna see today."

"We better see. 'Cause I ain't wastin' my time or my green paper on no pussyass animal." Potter slid the Colt under the waistband of his jeans.

"I said, you're gonna see."

"C'mon, D," said Little. "Let's get a roll on, man."

Garfield Potter's street name was Death. He didn't care for it much since this girl he wanted to fuck told him it scared her some. Never did get that girl's drawers down, either. So he felt the name was bad luck, worse still to go and change it. His friends now called him D.

Potter turned the key in the ignition. It made an awful grinding sound. Little clapped his hands together and doubled over with laughter.

"Ho, shit!" said Little, clapping his hands one more time. "Car's already started, man, you don't need to be startin' it again! Maybe if you turned that music down some you'd know."

"Noisy as this whip is, too," said White.

"Fuck you, Coon," said Potter, "talkin' mad shit about this car, when you're cruisin' around town in that piece-of-shit Toyota, lookin' like a Spanish Cadillac and shit."

"All this money we got," said Little, "and we're drivin' around in a hooptie."

"We'll be gettin' rid of it soon," said Potter. "And anyway, it ain't all that funny as y'all are makin' it out to be."

"Yeah, you right. It just hit me funny, is all." Little took the blunt that White handed to him over the front seat and stared at it stupidly. "I ain't lyin', boy, this chronic right here just laid my ass out."


The dogfights were held in a large garage backing to an alley behind a house on Ogelthorpe, in Manor Park in Northwest. The fights went down once a week for several hours during the day, when most of the neighbors were off at work. Those neighbors who were at home were afraid of the young men who came to the fights, and did not complain to the police.

Potter parked the Chevy in the alley. He and the others got out of the car, White heeling Trooper to his side. They went down the alley, nodding but not smiling at some young men they knew to be members of the Delafield Mob. Others were standing around, holding their animals, getting high, and drinking from the lips of bottles peeking through the tops of brown paper bags. Little and Wright followed Potter into the garage.

Ten to twenty young men were scattered about the perimeter of the garage. A group was shooting craps in the corner. Others were passing around joints. Someone had put on Dr. Dre 2001, with Snoop, Eminem, and all them, and it was coming loud from a box.

In the middle of the garage was a fighting area of industrial carpet, penned off from the rest of the interior by a low chain-link fence, gated in two corners. Inside one corner of the pen, a man held a link leash taut on a black pit bull spotted brown over its belly and chest. The dog's name was Diesel. Its ears were gnarled and its neck showed raised scars like pink worms.

Potter studied a man, old for this group, maybe thirty or so, who stood alone in a corner, putting fire to a cigarette.

"I'll be back in a few," said Potter to Little.

" 'Bout ready to show the dogs," said Little.

"Got a mind to put money on that black dog. But go ahead and bet Trooper, hear?"

"Three hunrid?"

"Three's good."

Potter made his way over to the cigarette smoker, short and dumpy, a raggedy-ass dude on the way down, and stood before him.

"I know you."

The smoker looked up with lazy eyes, trying to hold on to his shit. "Yeah?"

"You run with Lorenze Wilder, right?"

"I seen him around. Don't mean we run together or nothin' like that." But now the smoker recognized Potter and he lost his will to keep his pride. His eyes dropped to the concrete floor.

"Outside," said Potter.

The older man followed Potter into the daylight, not too fast but without protest. Potter led him around the garage's outer wall, which faced the neighboring yards to the west.

"What's your name?"

"Edward Diggs."

"Call you Digger Dog, right?"

"Some do."

"Lorenze called you that when we sold him that hydro a few weeks back. You were standing right next to him. Remember me now?"

Diggs said nothing, and Potter moved forward so that he was looking down on Diggs and just a few inches from his face. Diggs's back touched the garage wall.

"So where your boy Lorenze at?"

"I don't know. He stays in his mother's old house —"

"Over off North Dakota. I know where that is, and he ain't been there awhile. Leastways, I ain't caught him in. He got a woman he cribs with on the side?"

Diggs avoided Potter's stare. "Not that I know."

"What about other kin?"

Diggs took a long final drag off his cigarette and dropped it to the ground, crushing it beneath his sneaker. He looked to his right, out in the alley, but there was no one there. Everyone had gone inside the garage. Potter spread one tail on his shirt and draped it back behind the butt of the Colt, so that Diggs could see.

Diggs shifted his eyes again and lowered his voice. He had to give this boy something, just so he'd go away. "Lorenze got a sister. She be livin' down in Park Morton with her little boy."

"Maybe I'll drop by. What's her name?"

"I wouldn't . . .What I'm sayin' is, you want my advice —"

Potter open-handed Diggs across the face. He used his left hand to bunch Diggs's shirt at the collar, then yanked Diggs forward and slapped him again.

Diggs said nothing, his body limp. Potter held him fast.

"What's the sister's name?"

Diggs's eyes had teared up. He hated himself for that. All he meant to do was advise this boy, tell him, don't fuck with Lorenze's sister or her kid. But it was too late for all that now.

"I don't know her name," said Diggs. "And anyway, Lorenze, he don't never go by the way or nothin'. He don't talk to his sister much, way I understand it. Sometimes he watches her kid play football; boy's on this tackle team. But that's as close as he gets to her."

"Where the kid play at?"

"Lorenze said the kid practices in the evenings at some high school."

"Which school?"

"He live in Park Morton, so it must be Roosevelt. It ain't but a few blocks up the street there —"

"I ain't asked you for directions, did I? I live up on Warder Street my own self, so you don't need to be drawin' me a map."

"It ain't too far from there, is all I was sayin'."

Potter's eyes softened. He smiled and released his grip on Diggs. "I didn't hurt you none, did I? 'Cause, look, I didn't mean nothin', hear?"

Diggs straightened his collar. "I'm all right."

"Let me get one of those cigarettes from you, black."

Diggs reached into his breast pocket and retrieved his pack of Kools. A cigarette slid out into his palm. He handed the cigarette to Potter.

Potter snapped the cigarette in half and bounced the halves off Diggs's chest. Potter's laugh was like a bark. He turned and walked away.

Diggs straightened his shirt and stepped quickly down the alley. He looked over his shoulder and saw that Potter had turned the corner. Diggs reached into his pocket and shook another cigarette out from a hole he had torn in the bottom of the pack.

Diggs's boy Lorenze was staying with this girl he knew over in Northeast. Lorenze had kind of laughed it off, said he'd crib Diggs that Potter was the type to forget. But he was proud he hadn't given Lorenze up. Most folks he knew didn't credit him for being so strong.

Diggs struck a match. He noticed that his hand was shaking some as he fired up his cigarette.


Back in the garage, Potter sidled up next to Little. The owner of the garage, also the house bookie, stood nearby, holding the cash and taking late bets.

In one corner of the pen, Charles White finished sponging Trooper down with warm, soapy water. Diesel's owner, in the opposite corner, did the same. Many dogs were treated with chemicals that could disorient the opponent. The rule in this arena was that both dogs had to be washed prior to a fight.

White scratched the top of Trooper's head, bent in, and uttered random words into his ear with a soothing tone. The referee, an obese young man, stepped into the ring after a nod from the owner of the garage.

"Both corners ready?" said the referee. "Cornermen out of the pit."

White moved behind his dog into the space of the open gate, still holding Trooper back.

"Face your dogs," said the referee. They did this, and quickly the referee said, "Let go!"

The dogs shot into the center of the pit. Both of them got up on their hind legs, attacking the head of the other with their jaws. They snapped at each other's ears and sought purchase in the area of the neck. In the fury of their battle, the dogs did not make a sound. The garage echoed with the shouts and laughter of the spectators crowding the ring.

For a moment the dogs seemed to reach a stalemate. Suddenly their motions accelerated. Their bodies meshed in a blur of brown and black, and the bright pink of exposed gums. Droplets of blood arced up in the center of the ring.

Diesel got a neck-hold and Trooper was taken down. Trooper, adrenalized, his eyes bright and wild, scrambled up and out of the hold. One of his ears had been partially torn away, and blood had leaked onto the dog's white mask. Diesel went in, back to the neck. And now Trooper was down again, in the jaws of Diesel, squirming beneath the black dog.

"Stop it!" shouted White.

Potter nudged Little, who nodded by way of reply.

"That's it," said the referee, waving his arms.

White went into the ring and grabbed Trooper's hind legs, pulling back. Diesel's owner did the same. Diesel relaxed his jaws, releasing Trooper to his man. The spectators moved away from the pen, laughing, giving one another skin, already trying out stories on one another that exaggerated the details of the fight.

"You were right," said Little. "That dog was a cur."

"What I tell you?" said Potter. "Dog's personality only as strong as the man who owns it."

White arrived with Trooper, back on his leash. "I need to fix him up some," said White, not looking into his friends' eyes.

"We'll do it now," said Potter. "Let's go."


A couple of blocks away, near Fort Slocum Park, Potter pulled the Chevy into an alley where there seemed to be no activity. He cut the engine and looked over the backseat at White; Trooper sat panting, his hip resting against his owner's.

"Dog needs to pee," said Potter.

"He went," said White. "Let's just take him to the vet place."

"He already bleedin' all over the backseat. He pees back there, too, I ain't gonna be too happy. Gimme the leash, man, I'll walk him."

"I'll walk him," said White. His lip quivered when he spoke.

"Let D walk him if he wants to, Coon," said Little. "Dog needs to pee, don't make no difference who be holdin' the leash."

Potter got out of the car and went around to White's side. He opened the door and took hold of the leash. The dog looked over at White and then jumped his lap and was out of the car.

Potter walked Trooper down the alley until they were behind a high wooden privacy fence. Potter looked around briefly, saw no one in the neighboring yards or in the windows of the houses, and commanded the dog to sit.

When Trooper sat, Potter pulled the .357 Colt from his waistband, pointed it close to the dog's right eye, and squeezed the trigger. Trooper's muzzle and most of his face exploded out into the alley in a haze of bone and blood. The dog toppled over onto its side and its legs straightened in a shudder. Potter stepped back and shot the dog in the ribcage one more time. Trooper's carcass lifted an inch or two off the ground and came to rest.

Potter went back to the car and got behind the wheel. Little was holding a match to the half of the White Owl blunt he had not yet smoked.

"Gun works," said Potter.

Little nodded. "Loud, too."

Potter put the trans in gear, draped his arm over the bench seat, and turned his head to look out the rear window as he reversed the car out of the alley. White was staring out the window, his face dirty from tears he had tried to wipe away.

"Go on and get it out you," said Potter. "Someone you know see you cryin' over some dumb animal, they gonna mistake you for a bitch. And I ain't ridin' with none of that."


Potter>, Little, and White bought a kilo of marijuana from their dealer in Columbia Heights, dimed out half of it back at their place, and delivered the dimes to their runners so they could get started on the evening rush. Then the three of them drove north up Georgia Avenue and over to Roosevelt High. They went into the parking lot at Iowa Avenue and parked the Chevy beside a black Cadillac Brougham. There were several other cars in the lot.

Potter looked in the rearview at White, staring ahead. "We straight, Coon?"

"Just a dumb animal, like you said. Don't mean nothin' to me."

Potter didn't like the tone in White's voice. But White was just showing a little pride. That was good, but he'd never act on his anger for real. Like his weak-ass dog, he wasn't game.

"I'll check it out," said Potter to Little.

He walked across the parking lot and stood at the fence that bordered the stadium down below. After a while he came back to the car.

"You see him?" said Little as Potter got back behind the wheel.

"Nah," said Potter. "Just some kids playin' football. Some old-time motherfuckers, coaches and shit."

"We can come back."

"We will. I'm gonna smoke that motherfucker when I see him, too."

"Wilder don't owe you but a hundred dollars, D."

"Thinks he can ignore his debt. Tryin' to take me for bad; you know I can't just let that go."

"Ain't like you need the money today or nothin' like that."

"It ain't the money," said Potter. "And I can wait."

Copyright © 2002 by George P. Pelecanos

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 20 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 20 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 31, 2006

    The deliverance of hope in darkness

    George Pelecanos is a crime novelist unlike any other. By page two (or even one), you know you're in GP territory. He has an indelible 'style' that is almost a 'non-style'. His dialogue, particularly among the hopeless who survive (literally) in the ghetto, is dead-accurate, often terrifying, and almost tactile. His books, at first blush, appear to be artless, but he paints painful pictures of the brutality of the streets. In 'Hell to Pay,' he offers us, once again, the imperfections of Derek Strange, a conflicted man of both great and weak moral strength. His girlfriend suspects he's on a mission to 'save the world,' and, of course, that's untrue. The world-weary, sadly pragmatic Strange only wants to save those few he thinks he CAN save among the ghetto's embattled and disaffected youth. Strange is an interesting protagonist -- no hard-boiled kick-ass, but a man in his late 50s who still harbors nostalgia over his late father, a cook in a Greek diner. His partner, Terry Quinn, the white man with rage in his veins, seemingly cannot resist the dangers of the ghetto and its thugs, who will never accept him, and regularly disrespect him. This pecularity in Quinn is a reminder of the torture of his inner conflict: he's a man seeking acceptance in BOTH worlds (white and black). Pelecanos has no 'seamless' plot with tricks galore (a la the brilliant Michael Connelly). He just drives a brutal story forward with dialogue that leaps from the page. I don't think anyone uses dialogue as a narrative device the way GP does. This is a strong story that, despite its terror and darkness, is about the possibility of salvation, the deliverance of hope that is personified in the imperfections and all-too-human flaws of Derek Strange.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2002

    Can't seem to engage me ..

    Maybe I'm not "hip" enough to enjoy this book or maybe being a white, middle-class man prevents me from identifying with the poor, black characters in this book. Either way, Pelecanos, whose reviews are always great and is often favorably compared to other authors I enjoy like Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly, just doesn't do it for me in this one. I read RIGHT AS RAIN as well hoping that I'd like this series, but I just can't say I do. Maybe his other series is better and worth a look at.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 15, 2012

    Good read

    This was a god enjoyable book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2012

    I would not recommend this book.

    I found this book predictable and simplistic. It had too much cheap sex rather than good characters and depth. I would not read another book by this author.

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  • Posted April 14, 2012

    Great read.

    Keeps you reading. Good book.

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  • Posted April 11, 2012

    Good Read.

    First book I've read by George Pelecanos, liked it and will read more from him.

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  • Posted March 12, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    No competition

    Rhythmic, atmospheric, satisfying. There is no one like this writer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 28, 2004

    Really helping me get a good night's sleep

    There's a lot of good crime and noir fiction out there, but this ain't it. I gave up after 100 pages: the characters simply aren't engaging, they all sound alike in dialogue, and nothing happens, save for an excess of superfluous and tediously detailed description. I have to say I just don't get all the praise; maybe some of his other books are better. John Sandford, Dennis Lehane and Michael Connolly, to name but three, write circles around Pelecanos.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2003

    Will prob never read another by this author

    It was an extremely overdetailed slow novel. The murder took a long time to happen. Don't expect to get the connection in the first 100 pages, in fact, I was hard pressed to connect after the first 100 pages. There is a great deal of detail about music which seems mainly there to impress us of his knowledge. It is not used skillfully as Vachss or Burke uses it to set the scene. There simply wasn't enough there to cause me to care about the two main characters. Perhaps if I had read one of his other novels before I might have been invested enough care about them now. I do know that when offered more of his books for 10 cents each at a booksale, I turned them down. I felt I didn't want to spend the time but picked up 5 by my recommened authors for a buck each and grinned the whole way home.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2003

    Pelecanos just keeps getting better

    The dialog is authentic and jumps off the page. Rarely do you find books that seem to read themselves to you. George Pelecanos books do that to me. Real, flawed main characters who just want to do the right thing. The message in Hell to Pay is 'where are the parents'. It really hits home.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2003

    Superb novel

    I have come to the conclusion that George Pelecanos is not capable of writing a bad book. His realistic settings and his second to none dialog places him at the top of the genre along with Lehane, Coben, and Connelly. If you have not read any Pelecanos give him a try, and Hell To Pay is as good as place as any to begin

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2003

    Is it Fiction ?

    Nearly 25 years ago I lived near 14th street. The book got me immediately on the hook and I felt that it describes in a way reality.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 17, 2013

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    Posted January 27, 2010

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    Posted February 4, 2013

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    Posted April 17, 2012

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    Posted March 13, 2012

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    Posted August 17, 2010

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    Posted March 13, 2012

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