Assume Nothing

Assume Nothing

by Gar Anthony Haywood

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781847513793
Publisher: Severn House Publishers
Publication date: 07/01/2012
Pages: 224
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.80(d)

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Assume Nothing


By Gar Anthony Haywood

Severn House Publishers Limited

Copyright © 2011 Gar Anthony Haywood
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-84751-379-3


CHAPTER 1

PAST TENSE

WEST PALM BEACH, FLORIDA


His last night in Florida, Joe Reddick remembered the blood in the goldfish bowl.

And just like that, he knew he was doomed to fuck up again. Drive the heel of a pool cue into a rude drunk's eye, or throw an insolent yuppie down a long flight of stairs. He could see it coming the moment the nightmare released him and his eyes opened wide on to the dark, empty reaches of his bedroom, sweat rolling down the ridges of his spine like water rushing from an open tap.

He had been living with the recurrent nightmare for almost two years now but its occasional surprises could still bring him to his knees. From time to time, a long-forgotten detail or two from the longest day of his life would bubble up to the dream's surface and his reaction to the shock was always the same: recoil and strike. Walk around in a white hot daze until his freshly stoked rage egged him into sharing his pain with someone, anyone, who might marginally deserve it.

Tonight, the nightmare's new prop had been a trivial one, all things considered: just a flat-bottomed globe of glass filled with crimson water, sitting atop a hallway table next to a face towel striped with blood. An eerie tableau, perhaps, but hardly haunting – unless of course, like Reddick, one were privy to the front end of Donovan Sykes's twisted little joke.

Sykes had thought he was being funny, using Little Joe's fish-bowl for a wash basin after his demonic work in Reddick's home was done. The two Palm Beach PD detectives who had questioned Sykes later told Reddick he had fallen all over himself describing how Fenster and Gomez, Little Joe's pet goldfish, had tasted going down. Laughed so hard he cried, they said.

Reddick imagined Sykes's laughter now, twenty-six months and eleven days later, and leapt from his bed like a man fleeing from a burning house.

He tossed his clothes on without showering and took a taxi straight to the airport, leaving his Gotham Court apartment for good. It was only a few minutes after six a.m. His flight to Los Angeles was over three hours away, but the airport seemed the safest place for him now. Maybe if he hid in the empty bar with his eyes closed, drank himself into a state of benign semi-consciousness until his plane began boarding, he could get out of Florida without doing any more damage.

But no.

The mindnumbing somnolence of West Palm Beach Airport before eight in the morning offered him no diversion from the images of the nightmare that kept filling his head. By nine a.m., a successful escape to California still over an hour away, Reddick could feel the blood in his veins burning like oil in a skillet and he couldn't keep his fists unclenched.

He was relocating to Los Angeles in the hope life could be different somewhere else, that after months of psychotherapy he was a sane and stable man who only needed a change of scenery to be made whole. But that was a dream that would evaporate like smoke if he let the wheels come off again now. He could run to LA or Chicago, Dallas or St Louis – to the far corners of the fucking earth if he wanted – and it wouldn't make a damn bit of difference, because he'd still be the same old Joe Reddick, a sick, wounded wreck of a man for whom there was no hope for a life of normalcy.

The American terminal was packed now and everywhere he looked he saw something that angered him, ordinary nuisances that right at this moment rubbed his nerves raw. Every spoken word, every click of a laptop keyboard raged in his head like an amplified scream.

He heard the guy in the Dolphins jersey before he saw him. He was a big hulk with massive arms and a pitted red face, standing before an observation window next to a woman Reddick imagined was his wife. The guy called himself being discreet, holding his voice down to a low rumble, but the malice in his body language, and the fear in his woman's eyes, left little doubt about the nature of their exchange.

He had a grip on the lady's left biceps that Reddick noticed right away.

Reddick had seen such holds before: vise-like expressions of male authority meant as much to break the spirit as to bruise the flesh. It was the weapon small men liked to use to re-establish their will over wives and girlfriends when an open right hand was, for one reason or another, a socially untenable option.

Reddick looked away, but only for a moment.

The guy kept asking the woman if she was listening. 'Are you listening? Are you listening?' Talking to her like a child he'd lost all patience with.

Take it somewhere else, asshole, Reddick thought. Do us both a favor.

But the guy never moved, of course. He just went right on playing the dick, the foul-mouthed, high school jock gone to seed who thought the world was his own private oyster and everything in it had his name on it.

Reddick got up, intending to move to another part of the terminal, but then he got his first good look at the guy's face and whatever chance he'd had of holding things together went out the window.

Because, hell, if the sonofabitch didn't have Junior Greene's teeth.


The man named Junior Greene whom Reddick knew during his old days on the Riviera Beach Police Department was tall, black, and ugly as homemade sin. And it only made matters worse that he had the teeth of a bull moose.

When Greene smiled, he looked like a fighter trying to eject his mouthpiece. His grin was an unnerving flash of pale yellow he used to great effect, a calling card all his enemies knew him by, and Reddick had despised it even before Greene had shown it to him that day almost two years ago up on the jailhouse steps, stretching his lips back as far as they would go to punctuate a victory over an old adversary.

Greene had cut a large letter 'H' for 'Hollywood' into the side of a sixteen-year-old girl's face eleven days before, trying to break her of the habit of going to the movies instead of walking her stroll, but thanks to Reddick, the charges against him had been dropped. Reddick and his partner Charlie Post had busted Greene only three months after the triple funeral that would haunt Reddick to his grave, and Reddick had been getting more volatile and out of control by the day. Knowing what he and the rest of the world did about Reddick's troubles, Greene should have granted the cop a wide berth, but the arrogant fool had chosen instead to respond with a hearty 'fuck you' when Reddick asked him to produce the weapon he had used on the girl. Reddick returned the insult by breaking the pimp's left arm in two places.

Not surprisingly, an Assistant DA subsequently decided the case against Greene was too tainted to take to trial, and set him free.

Post had tried desperately to talk him out of it, but Reddick had insisted on being there the day Greene was released from custody. Squinting into a blinding noonday sun, the pimp had stepped out of the county jail, immediately spotted Reddick and Post sitting in their unmarked Chevy – and smiled his best smile.

It had been all Post could do to keep Reddick from killing him right there.

Less than five weeks later, Reddick was an ex-cop. He'd already been on course to be booted from the job before Greene's final act of defiance, but having the pimp laugh in his face that day, knowing full well what Reddick had only recently endured, had sent his downward spiral into overdrive.

For a long time afterwards, Reddick dreamed about payback. But payback never came. Greene became part of a past Reddick needed desperately to put behind him, to bury and forget like a bad dream, so that was what he did. He gave Greene a pass.

In fact, he couldn't remember the last time the thought of Junior Greene, standing outside the Palm Beach County Jail with that goddamn equestrian grin on his face, had even entered his mind.

But it sure as hell was there now.


'Can I help you, buddy?' the guy in the Dolphins jersey asked.

He'd finally taken note of Reddick staring and left his woman alone long enough to return a stare of his own. Reddick could see now that his teeth were – incredibly – actually larger than Junior's had been. Whiter and more inhumanly symmetrical. He wondered how in hell the guy could ever get his lips to close around them.

'Hey. I'm talking to you,' the big man said, closing in on him.

'Sorry,' Reddick said, finally finding his voice. He still had a chance to escape without incident, if only —

'This is a private conversation, asshole. You got a problem with that?'

Reddick only glared at him at first. Then: 'You should treat the lady with a little more respect.' Not knowing he was going to say anything at all until the words were out of his mouth.

'Say what?'

Enraged, the big guy took three steps, put his face right up in Reddick's.

Some things, Reddick thought, fate just wouldn't let a man walk around.


A few minutes shy of six o'clock that same day, a Riviera Beach cop named Dick Glavin walked over to Charlie Post's cubicle and said, 'Hey, Big Stuff. You'll never guess who just broke a guy's face into a hundred different pieces out at West Palm Beach Airport.'

Post didn't even bother looking up, just kept right on typing the arrest report he was struggling to get through. He knew it was Glavin talking, and he knew the white man was grinning. The Robbery and Homicide detective had a smirk you could fucking feel when he talked to you.

'So there ain't no point in my trying, right?'

'Your old pal Joe Red. That's who.'

'What? Aw, damn!' Post said, having just misspelled the word 'intersection' for the third time in three tries. He groped around for his bottle of correction fluid, finally gave Glavin a taste of his attention. Taking his best shot at faking disinterest. 'Joe Red, huh? That right?'

'But not to worry. No damage done,' Glavin said, his grin smearing itself across his mottled face again. 'Asshole he did the nose job on took the first swing. We couldn't've held him if we'd wanted to.'

Post started re-correcting the flaw in his document, said, 'So what happened?'

'What happened is, he wigged out again. Saw this gorilla jerkin' his old lady around and decided to offer him a little relationship counseling.' Glavin finally started to laugh. 'I guess the guy didn't appreciate it.'

'Jesus.'

'Yeah. Wrong Good Samaritan to fuck with, right?'

'Where's Red now?'

Glavin made a pair of wings out of both hands, flapped them overhead. 'Gone west. We let him go just in time to catch a two o'clock to Los Angeles. He says he's movin' out there permanently. What, he never told you?'

'Me? Why would he tell me?'

'No reason. I just thought —'

'Hey, Dick. Me and Red are ancient history, all right? Now, put a sock in it and go think somewhere else, I got work to do here.'

Glavin looked at him, measuring the level of his sincerity. Then he threw his head back and laughed one more time before turning and walking away.

Post watched the white man cross the crowded squad room, his mind wandering. He waited until Glavin had completely disappeared, then opened the top drawer of his desk and shuffled through the small landfill inside, looking for something. After a moment, he found the greeting card, the one he'd received just over a week ago and then quickly put away. It was one of those sexually suggestive numbers designed to titillate horny old men and easily excited college boys. There was a photograph on the front of two immense, perfectly tanned white breasts spilling out of a skimpy red brassiere, and the text inside read:


'I'm going to miss you, TWO.'


Someone named 'Red' had scribbled a short note about leaving for California, then signed his name at the bottom.

Post propped the card up on his desk for display and shook his head, like a weary mother hen pondering the fate of her most troublesome chick. It was nice to see his old partner still knew how to kick a little ass every now and then, but it was also unsettling to see that he hadn't yet learned how to stop. Some cops, ex or otherwise, never did.

Post used to hold out hope that the man he once thought of as a brother would someday come around, stop suffering these momentary lapses of self-control that always seemed to cost one deserving asshole or another a quart of blood. But no more. He had given up that pipe dream well over a year ago. Red was entitled to crash and burn occasionally, perhaps more so than any cop ever born, and Post had eventually grown tired of pretending not to feel that way himself. Because he had seen the bodies too, that cold November night. First Kaye's in Reddick's living room, then the two smaller ones upstairs.

It was a sight he would never forget.

Post stared for a moment longer at the greeting card his old friend had sent him in lieu of a proper goodbye, then tossed it into the wire wastebasket beside his desk, shrugging. If Joe Reddick was indeed still a headcase after all this time, it was truly a crying shame. But it wasn't Charlie Post's problem anymore.

It was California's now.

CHAPTER 2

PRESENT TENSE

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Seven Years Later


ONE

'You've done this sort of thing before,' the cop said. The nametag pinned to his left breast said his name was Connelly.

Reddick just looked at him.

'I remember you. You split a guy's head open with a garbage can out at Castaic Lake, about six, seven months ago. When I was still with the County Sheriff's.'

Reddick couldn't believe it. Of all the LAPD uniforms to catch this call ... 'That's got nothing to do with this,' he said, now vaguely recognizing the guy.

'He roughed your girlfriend up or something. Or was it your wife?'

'Look. I need to know. You gonna take me in, or not? My kid's gotta get home, he's dead on his feet.'

The cop glared at him, didn't even bother to glance over at the little five-year-old Reddick was talking about, curled up asleep on a couch nearby. He was trying to be civil, the uniform, treat Reddick like a person instead of an animal, and all Reddick could do by way of thanks was crack wise, act like he wasn't staring down the wrong end of some serious shit.

'Please answer my question, Mr Reddick,' the cop said. Not fucking around anymore.

'She was my wife,' Reddick said.

'The boy's mother?'

Reddick nodded.

'And what'd the guy do to her again? Refresh my memory.'

Grudgingly, still pretending he couldn't see what the earlier incident had to do with this one, Reddick obliged, told him how he had indeed used a metal garbage can to try and crush the skull of a bearded biker with a tattooed beer belly out at Castaic Lake the previous July. Before Dana had finally lost patience with him and asked him to move out.

'Yeah. I remember now,' the uniform said.

Reddick remained silent.

'They got into it out in the parking lot. The biker almost ran her over on his way out and she said something to him, got his ass all bent out of shape.'

Reddick still didn't say anything.

'As I recall, though, he never actually touched her. Just threatened to punch her lights out, or something along those lines.'

'That was enough.'

'You almost killed the man, Mr Reddick.'

Reddick shrugged. 'He said he was gonna knock her teeth out. If he was just talking to hear himself speak, he picked the wrong day to do it.'

The cop nodded, studied him in silence for a moment. 'Like this kid tonight. Guess he picked the wrong night to knock your kid down, too.'

Reddick shrugged again, still offering no apologies. 'I guess so.'

They had just been horsing around. Three body-pierced skinheads in their late teens, white skin translucent as tissue paper, forearms and biceps stained blue with tattoos, pushing and shoving each other like drunken sailors as they stood in one of two long order lines at a Glendale McDonald's, just after ten on a Saturday night. Their language was blistering, an endless onslaught of 'fuck yous' and 'motherfuckers' that could have peeled paint from the walls, but their routine was being tolerated until one of them threw an elbow out, knocked a drink off a woman's tray as she tried to ease past. Orange soda exploded across the floor like liquid shrapnel and the restaurant's manager finally appeared, made a brave if ill-fated attempt to usher the trio out.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Assume Nothing by Gar Anthony Haywood. Copyright © 2011 Gar Anthony Haywood. Excerpted by permission of Severn House Publishers Limited.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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