Fear Itself (Fearless Jones Series #2)by Walter Mosley
Paris Minton is a man who would just as soon walk away from trouble as stand up to it. But in 1950s Los Angeles, sometimes trouble just comes and gets you." "Fearless Jones shows up at Paris Minton's door one night with a simple request: an attractive woman has asked him to help her find her husband, a man Fearless worked for briefly, and Fearless wants Paris to take the case with him. The next morning, a suspicious stranger shows up at Paris's door, and he's asking after Fearless Jones." A few short questions later, Paris is running for his life, tangled up with one of the wealthiest women in L.A., and wondering whom he should fear more - the people he's looking for or the people he's working for. One misstep at a time, he tumbles into the most complex and terrifying situation he's ever found - one that even his invincible friend Fearless may not be able to save him from.
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By Walter Mosley
Little, Brown and CompanyCopyright © 2003 Walter Mosley
All right reserved.
Chapter OneA SUDDEN BANGING ON THE FRONT DOOR sent a chill down my neck and into my chest. It was two thirty-nine in the morning. I was up and out of my bed immediately, though still more than half asleep.
I had to go to the bathroom but the knocking was insistent; seven quick raps, then a pause, and then seven more. It reminded me of something but I was too confused to remember what.
"All right," I called out.
I considered staying quiet until the unwanted visitor gave up and left. But what if it was a thief? Maybe he was knocking to see if there was anybody home. If I stayed quiet he might just break the two-dollar lock and come in on me. I'm a small man, so even if he was just your run-of-the-mill sneak thief he might have broken my neck before realizing that Paris Minton's Florence Avenue Book Shop didn't have any money in the cash box.
I slept in an illegal loft space above the bookstore. It was the only way my little business could stay in the black. Selling used books doesn't have a very high profit margin, except for the reading pleasure. Some days the only customers brought in books to sell or barter. Other days I was the only patron, reading Don Quixote, Their Eyes Were Watching God, or some other great novel from sunup to sundown.
Mostly I sold westerns and mysteries and romances. But I rarely read those books. The women's genre wasn't written for a man's sensibilities and popular men's books were too violent.
"Let me in there, Paris," a voice I knew better than any other called out.
"Yeah, man. Let me in."
I hesitated a moment and a moment more.
I opened the door and Fearless Jones strode in, wearing a green suit with a white shirt, no tie, no hat, and dark shoes. The tip of the baby finger on his left hand was missing, shot off in a gunfight that almost got us both killed, and he had the slightest limp from a knife wound he'd received saving my life in San Francisco many years before.
Fearless was tall and dark, thin and handsome, but mostly he was powerful. He was stronger than any man I'd ever known, and his will was indomitable. Fearless wasn't a smart man. A twelve-year-old might have been a better reader, but if he ever looked into your eyes he would know more about your character than any psychiatrist, detective, or priest.
"I'm in trouble, Paris," we said together.
Fearless grinned but I didn't.
"I got to go to the toilet," I said.
I walked back through one of the two aisles of bookshelves that made up my store. Fearless followed me into the toilet, unashamed and still talking while I relieved myself in the commode.
"It was a woman named Leora Hartman," he was saying. "She came up to me at the Soul Food Shack."
"Yeah?" I said. "What about her?"
"You know her?" Fearless asked.
"Oh," he said on a sigh, and I knew I was in deep trouble.
Fearless never hesitated unless he knew that he was going to cause problems for someone he cared for. And that someone was almost always me.
I was washing my hands by the time he said, "She's a good-lookin' woman-Leora. And that little boy was so cute."
"What little boy?"
"She said his name was Son. That's what she said. But come to think of it, that must'a been his name, because even though I think he was part of a tall tale, he was just a child and a child don't know how to lie about his name."
We walked back to the front room of the bookshop. The space up there was furnished with a card table that had three chairs and a sofa built for two. I sat in one of the wood chairs.
"Leora is a pretty woman," Fearless said, following in my wake like a bullet coming after a moth. "Talked like she had some education, you know? And she was refined."
"What you mean by that?" I asked. I had learned over the years that even though Fearless and I spoke the same tongue his limited use of language was often more subtle than my own.
"I don't know really," he said with a frown. "She looked like just a regular girl, but there was somethin' that set her apart too. That's why, that's why I didn't think it would hurt to help her out."
"Fearless, what are you talking about?"
"Leora come up to me with this cryin' three-year-old boy named Son. She told me that his father had left her and that her and Son was in the street on account'a he done taken all her savings with 'im."
"She picked you outta the blue?"
"She said that Son's father is a man named Kit Mitchell. Kit's a farmer from Wayne, Texas. I been workin' for him the last month or so."
"The Watermelon Man?"
Fearless and I received thirteen thousand dollars apiece after we were involved in the shootout that maimed his baby finger. With my money I bought and refurbished a building that had been a barber's shop. When I was through I had a new used book store. I also bought a used Ford sedan and put a few hundred dollars in the bank with a solid two percent interest rate.
Fearless got houses for his sister and mother at thirty-five hundred dollars a go, bought a fancy car, and spent the rest on a good time that lasted about three months. After that he sold his car to pay the rent and took on a job for a man selling counterfeit Texas watermelons. Counterfeit, inasmuch as they came from the seeds of the green-and-white-striped Texas variety of melon but they were grown in Oxnard on the leased farm of a man I only knew by the title of the Watermelon Man.
The Watermelon Man hired Fearless to harvest his melons and put them on trucks that he had fitted with Texas license plates. Then he would send his fleet of six trucks into Watts, where they would sell the giant fruit on street corners, telling everybody that they were getting genuine Texas melons. Texans believe that the best food in the world is from down home, and so they spent the extra nickel for this prime commodity.
"So the woman was the Watermelon Man's wife?" I asked.
"That's what she said. She was his wife and the boy was his son. The whole time we talked, Son was cryin' that he wanted his daddy. You know he cried so hard that it almost broke my heart."
"When did you meet her?" I asked.
"I just told you-the other day."
"You never saw her with this Kit?"
"Uh-uh. I didn't even know that he was married."
"So then how'd you know that she really was his wife?" I asked, wondering at the endless gullibility of the deadliest man in L.A.
"Why she wanna lie to me?" Fearless replied. "I didn't even know the lady."
"Maybe because she wanted to find Kit for some other reason," I suggested. "Maybe he owed somebody some money, maybe he's in a jam."
"Yeah." Fearless ducked his head. "Yeah, you right, Paris. Maybe so. But when I saw her and heard that boy cryin', I was just so sure that she was the one in trouble."
"And she wanted you to bring her man back?" I asked, worrying about what my deadly friend might have done.
"No," Fearless said. "All she wanted was to know if I knew where to find him."
"And did you?"
"No. That's why I believed her story."
That was when I should have stood up and shown Fearless the door. I should have said, No more, brother. I have to get back to sleep. That's because I knew whatever it was he saw in her story was going to bite me on the backside before we were through.
"Why?" I asked beyond all reason.
"Because Kit hadn't shown up to work at the gardens on Monday. He wasn't there Tuesday neither. His drivers all came but he never showed. I wasn't surprised. The last couple'a days out there he kept talkin' about some big deal he had and how he was gonna make a whole room full'a money."
Fearless shook his head.
"Did anybody call him after he didn't show up?" I asked.
"Nobody knew his number. And we really didn't need him. You know I was the one loaded the trucks anyway. And I never liked the fact that he was pawnin' off those melons like they was real Texas. When he didn't come in on Wednesday I called it quits."
"And when did Leora come to you?"
"Day before yesterday."
It was Monday morning, so I asked, "Saturday?"
"No ... I mean yeah."
"You want some coffee, Fearless?"
He smiled then, because coffee was the signal that meant I was going to hear him out.
Excerpted from Fear Itself by Walter Mosley Copyright © 2003 by Walter Mosley
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Meet the Author
Walter Mosley (b.1952) is an American author of crime fiction best known for his Easy Rawlins detective series. Mosley began the series in 1990 with his book Devil in the Blue Dress, which was later adapted into a 1995 movie of the same name starring Denzel Washington. Some of the latest titles in the series include Little Green, Rose Gold, and Charcoal Joe. In 2016 Mosley was named Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.
- New York, New York
- Date of Birth:
- January 12, 1952
- Place of Birth:
- Los Angeles, California
- B.A., Johnson State College
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Stage and cinema star Don Cheadle is an actor audiences seldom forget. His performances in 'Boogie Nights' and 'Traffic' leave an indelible impression, while his Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of Sammy Davis, Jr. on HBO's 'The Rat Pack' was more than well deserved. His training as a classical actor comes to the fore in his energetic, suspense filled reading of the latest Fearless Jones adventure. Listeners are transported to 1950s California - Los Angeles to be exact where Fearless enlists the help of Watts resident and bookstore owner Paris Minton. A good looking woman (of course) wants Fearless to locate her husband, and he wants Paris to join in the hunt. In true Mosley style it's not too long before Paris finds himself at odds with one of the richest black women in L.A. He's at a loss to know from whom to hide as danger closes in on him from all directions. The plot is complex as he careens from mishap to close call to almost-gotcha. Here's a first rate detective story spun by a master.
In 1955 Los Angeles, Leora Hartman hires Fearless Jones to find Kit Mitchell, the father of her son, who simply vanished. Though the case seems quite simple, finding someone who appears to have just moved on, Fearless quickly concludes he needs some intellectual help and who better than a book lover would suffice? So he enlists his friend, book seller Paris Minton to help him. However, the easy queries that his mousy friend makes soon prove perilous as everyone including the client lie and are willing to use, even perhaps kill, Fearless and Paris. Others have vanished too with the sleuthing duo learning they, including Kit, are probably all dead. The dynamic pair (at least one dynamo and one passive) soon finds themselves as part of the focus of a war between local VIPs, a cosmetics queen and a developer, which also makes Fearless and Paris important to LAPD. Have no fear, FEAR ITSELF is a great historical mystery that not only brings to life pre- Dodger LA, but does so inside an exciting who-done-it. Though perhaps the novel has too much subterfuge (and consequently subplots), the keys to this terrific tale are the lead detectives. Fearless lives up to his name, as he is somewhat like many of the genre¿s hard boiled types. However, Paris brings freshness by not being a superhero preparing to break steel with his teeth. Instead he is an intelligent individual so frightened with the threats to his well being and from what he has learned about the affluent, fans including those in Brooklyn, will feel at home with him even if the Padres is winning the subway series a continent away. Harriet Klausner
I love the writing of Walter Mosely. I feel in love with the Fearless Jones series and am hoping that he will write another two or three books in this series. I have read all of the Easy Rawlins books and I highly recommend all of these books! Easy Rawlins and Fearless Jones.
I'm a big fan the Author and have read just about all of his books. "Always Out Numbered, Always Out Gunned" is in my top 20 books. This book was good but not as good as his others. I'm still a fan and will always be.
Walter Mosley is a poet. His characters, scenes, plots, and language are beautifully sculpted. This is worth reading a few times over as you will surely pick up something extra each time through. This author and these characters are each a treasure.
I read the first Fearless Jones novel and enjoyed it. I listened to the 2nd Fearless Jones novel on Audio and I can't say enough about Don Cheadle's rendition. It was like seeing a movie in my head, just wonderful. I listened to that book at least five times in my car. The plot and the characterizations were wonderful. I read Walter Mosely's novels like other people read text books. I use a yellow marker, so I can highlight and remember those little gems of information on Black life he scatters through his novels. Walter Mosely and Don Cheadle are an unbeatable combination.