A distraught businessman kills himself after a short, impolite conversation with a detective named Jules Bettinger. Because of this incident, the unkind (but decorated) policeman is forced to relocate himself and his family from Arizona to the frigid north, where he will work for an understaffed precinct in Victory, Missouri. This collapsed rustbelt city is a dying beast that devours itself and its inhabitants...and has done so for more than four decades. Its streets are covered with dead pigeons and there are seven hundred criminals for every law enforcer.
Partnered with a boorish and demoted corporal, Bettinger investigates a double homicide in which two policemen were slain and mutilated. The detective looks for answers in the fringes of the city and also in the pasts of the cops with whom he worksmen who stomped on a local drug dealer until he was disabled.
Bettinger soon begins to suspect that the double homicide is not an isolated event, but a prelude to a series of cop executions...
The author, S. Craig Zahler, is currently adapting Mean Business on North Ganson Street into a movie for Warner Brothers; Jamie Foxx and Leonardo DiCaprio are both attached to the project.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
S. CRAIG ZAHLER's debut western novel, A Congregation of Jackals was nominated for both the Peacemaker and the Spur awards, and his western screenplay, The Brigands of Rattleborge, garnered him a three-picture deal at Warner Brothers. In 2011, Asylum Blackout was made from his script and picked up by IFC Films. In 2013, his brutal western novel, Wraiths of the Broken Land was published. Currently, he navigates preproduction on his directorial debutBone Tomahawk, which will star Kurt Russell.
Read an Excerpt
Mean Business on North Granson Street
By Steven Craig Zahler
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2014 Steven Craig Zahler
All rights reserved.
Something Stuck in the Drain
The dead pigeon flew through the night, slapped Doggie in the face, and bounced to the ground, where its cold talons clicked across the pavement as it rolled east. Eyes that resembled red oysters looked to the far end of the alley.
Four men who were dressed in well-tailored suits returned the vagrant's gaze, watching him through the steam of their exhalations. At the front of the group stood a big black fellow, the one who had kicked the pigeon as if it were a soccer ball.
"Leave me the fuck alone," Doggie said from his seat atop a fine piece of cardboard.
Light flashed in the foremost individual's eyes, and steam rose from the wide nostrils of his broad nose, which resembled that of a bull. At his left shoulder stood a very slender Asian man whose pockmarked face looked as if it did not have the muscles that were required to produce a smile.
"Where's Sebastian?" asked the kicker, his left foot producing another feathered corpse.
Doggie pressed his back to the alley terminus. "I don't know anybody named Sebastian."
The big black fellow kicked the pigeon. Doggie shielded his face, and a talon tore across his right palm. Dislodged feathers zigzagged through the air like needles stitching fabric.
"Everybody in Victory knows Sebastian."
An idea navigated the damp and angry contents of the vagrant's skull and arrived at the thinking part. "Are you guys cops?"
Nobody answered the inquiry.
"Here's another one."
The big black fellow looked at the speaker, a doughy redheaded guy who had sad green eyes and wrinkled clothing. In front of his right loafer lay a splayed bird that resembled a martyr.
"Good one," said the kicker.
Over the years, Doggie had noticed a lot of dead pigeons on the streets of Victory.
The big black fellow pulled gloves onto his huge hands, leaned over, and seized the dead bird by its head. "Hungry?" he asked, eyeing the vagrant.
"Fuck you, nigger."
Guns materialized in the hands of the two men who stood behind the pockmarked Asian as the big black fellow walked toward Doggie, carrying the pigeon corpse. Beyond the far end of the alley lay a dark, silent street.
"White bums have the worst attitudes," the redhead remarked as he inspected a hangnail. "I've always preferred the black ones."
"Me too," agreed the pockmarked Asian. "Why d'you think?"
"Well ... a black guy who's homeless accepts being homeless. He can point to his history and say, 'This country stole my people from the motherland, shackled us, and forced us to work. Now I'm free, and I refuse to work. This country owes me—for the slave days and those shitty bus seats and a thousand other injustices—and I'm collecting for life.'"
"Exactly. Restitution. But a white guy who's homeless—it's different. There's no restitution. His parents thought he was going to college and so did he. Grad school, maybe. So he sits on the street, getting drunk, crapping his pants, thinking, 'How'd I get stuck with all these niggers?'"
The big black fellow stopped directly in front of Doggie. Suspended in the air was the dead pigeon, its belly swollen by the gases of putrefaction. Crooked feathers pointed in all directions.
"Where's Sebastian?" The kicker pivoted his wrist, and the corpse swung like a pendulum. "Tell me or it's Thanksgivin' Part Two."
Doggie did not like blacks, and they did not like him. Whenever possible, he isolated himself from his dark-skinned peers by flopping in the fringes of Victory, where he could alter his chemistry and beg for money in peace.
"Where?" The big black fellow's eyes were small and merciless.
Doggie had no friends, but he did have one acquaintance, a man who gave him liquor to deliver packages, spy on people, and act as a lookout. The name of this generous enabler was Sebastian Ramirez, and the vagrant had no intention of saying anything about this good hombre to some nigger in a jacket.
"I don't know who—"
A kneecap slammed Doggie's sternum, and he shouted. The bird filled his mouth.
"Liar," said the big black fellow.
The derelict tasted dirt and feathers as a beak scraped across his hard palate. Ineffectually, he slapped his assailant's huge hands.
The big black fellow soon withdrew the pigeon.
Blood filled Doggie's mouth and stole down his chin in a thin crimson line that resembled a serpent's tongue. Frightened and sick, he eyed his persecutor.
"Next time it goes in deeper."
"You should believe him," remarked the redhead.
The pockmarked Asian and the fourth man watched the event with what appeared to be a passing interest.
Doggie spat blood. "He ain't here."
"Where'd he go?"
The derelict could not risk alienating Sebastian, even if it meant sucking on the head of a dead bird. "Fuck you, nigger."
"He's back on that again," remarked the redhead.
A shrug curved the shoulders of the pockmarked Asian.
Frowning, the big black fellow slammed a knee into Doggie's sternum and leaned his weight forward. The derelict yelled, and was again silenced by pigeon. A salty bead that was the bird's left eyeball slid across his tongue, and as the pressure on his chest increased, a rib that had been broken by a bunch of cackling black teenagers snapped for the third time in as many years. He tried to shriek, but could only gargle feathers.
Yawning, the redhead looked at the pockmarked Asian. "What kind of gravy goes with turkey?"
"I think he's about to make some."
"Not on my shoes," said the big black fellow, withdrawing the bird.
Doggie turned his head and heaved a bilious load of candy popcorn onto the asphalt.
The redhead glanced at his Asian peer. "Always wondered who ate that stuff."
"Next time the bird goes all the way," warned the big black fellow. "Where's Sebastian?"
Doggie spat sour tastes from his mouth and wiped detritus from his beard. "He went to—"
The redhead spun ninety degrees and fell to the ground, clutching his left shoulder as a gunshot echoed. The pockmarked Asian dragged his wounded peer behind a metal garbage bin while the big black fellow and the fourth guy slammed their backs against the opposite wall, pointing firearms.
Silence expanded throughout the alley.
Crawling toward a recessed doorway, Doggie shouted, "There're four of them! Cops! Two of them are hiding behind the—"
White fire boomed. A bullet perforated the derelict's larynx, and his skull slammed against old bricks. Bitter cold invaded his rent neck, and a heartbeat later, the pavement smacked his face. Gunshots crackled all around him, growing fainter and fainter until the exchange sounded like a deck of cards being shuffled for a game of poker.
"Wonder if he realizes how many black guys are in Hell?" asked someone in an alley that was now far, far away.
Doggie imagined cackling blacks who had horns, red eyes, sharp teeth, baggy pants, and big radios. This version of Hell was in his mind as his heart stopped.
"He looked like an atheist."
A shotgun thundered, and the big black fellow who kicked pigeons yelled.CHAPTER 2
Oblivious to Oblivion
It was December, but the hot sun that hung in the sky over western Arizona did not heed the calendar. Squinting, W. Robert Fellburn eyed the police precinct and applied the flask of liquor in his right hand to his lips. The fellow then eliminated the warm remainder, dropped the vessel, and ambled across the pavement, dragging his shadow over faded parking lot lines.
His palm landed upon the glass of a revolving door, and there, he saw a forty-seven-year-old businessman who had puffy eyes, thinning blond hair, and a wrinkled navy suit, which was dark around the armpits. Staring at his unhappy reflection, Robert arranged the errant wisps atop his head and straightened his tie. These things were done out of habit, thoughtlessly, as if he were a self-cleaning oven.
A beautiful woman appeared in his mind, and Robert pushed against his sad, pale face.
The revolving door spun, ushering the businessman into the reception area of the police precinct, where a smell that was either disinfectant or lemonade filled his nostrils. Moving his marionette legs, he proceeded across the linoleum toward the front desk, which was attended by a young Hispanic man who wore a police uniform and a mustache that looked like an eyebrow.
"Are you drunk?"
"No," lied Robert. "I was told to come in and talk to ..." He looked at the name that he had written upon his left shirt cuff with a permanent black marker. "Detective Jules Bettinger."
"What's your name?"
"W. Robert Fellburn."
The receptionist dialed a number, spoke quietly into the receiver, returned the phone to its cradle, looked up, and stabbed the air with an index finger. "There."
Robert stared at the digit.
"Look where I'm pointing."
The businessman traced the invisible line that led from the Hispanic fellow's finger to a nearby trash basket.
"I don't understand."
"Pick it up and take it with you."
"In case your breakfast decides to do some sightseeing."
Rather than contradict the rude appraisal of his condition, Robert walked over and claimed the receptacle. The Hispanic fellow then motioned to the hallway that ran along the front of the building, and the businessman began his journey across the linoleum, carrying the basket. In his mind, he saw the beautiful woman's face. Her eyes slowed time.
The businessman looked up. Standing in the open doorway that led to the precinct's central pool of desks was a lean black man in an olive suit who was about two inches under six feet. The fellow had a receded hairline, sleepy eyes, and extremely dark skin that swallowed the light.
"Detective Bettinger." The policeman motioned through the portal. "This way."
"Do I have to carry this?" Robert lifted the bucket.
"It's for the best."
Together, the duo walked down the middle alley of the central pool, between desks, officers, clerks, steaming coffees, and computer monitors. Two men played chess with pieces that were styled in a canine motif, and for some unknown reason, the sight of the crowned dogs greatly disturbed Robert.
A desk corner slammed into his hip, knocking him sideways.
"Stay focused," remarked Bettinger.
The businessman nodded his head.
Ahead of them was a faux wood wall that had eight brown doors, all of which were adorned with teal plaques. The detective motioned to the far right and followed his charge into the indicated room.
Morning sunshine bathed the office, poking Robert's brain like children's fingers.
Bettinger closed the door. "Have a seat."
The businessman sat on a small couch, rested the trash basket beside his six-hundred-dollar loafers, and looked up. "They said you're the one I'm supposed to talk to. You do the missing persons."
The detective seated himself behind the table, plucking a pencil from a ceramic cup that had an illustration of a smiling sun. "What's her name?"
The graphite fang moved four times. "That's with an i or a y?"
Bettinger struck a line, dotted it, and continued writing.
Robert remembered how Traci had drawn a circle above the letter i whenever she signed her name, as if she were a sixth grader. It was an endearing affectation.
"When did you last see her?"
The businessman grew anxious. "They said I didn't have to wait forty-eight hours."
"There's no rule."
"Night before last. Around midnight."
Bettinger wrote, Saturday the eighth. Midnight.
"You don't put that in a computer or something?"
"A clerk does that later."
"Traci's black?" asked the detective.
"African American. Yes."
Robert looked at Bettinger's dark, square face, which was an inscrutable mask. "Pardon me?"
"Twenty-two," admitted the businessman.
"How would you describe your relationship with this woman?"
Filling Robert's mind was Traci's bare, caramel body, prone upon a bed of maroon silk, her lush buttocks, thighs, and breasts warmly illuminated by an array of candles that smelled like the Orient. Light glinted in the woman's magnetic eyes and upon the many perfect surfaces of the diamond that adorned her left hand.
"She lives with you?"
"Most of the time."
"Did you notice anything unusual on Saturday?"
Robert's heart raced as he recalled the evening. "She was scared—her brother was in trouble and ... and she needed help. Didn't want to ask me, but ..." His throat became dry and narrow.
"What's his name?"
Bettinger wrote this down. "What kind of trouble was Larry in?"
"He owed some people money—a lot of it. He had a gambling problem."
"Was this the first time Traci asked you to help out her brother?"
"No." Robert looked at his hands. "It happened before."
"How many times?"
"Three, I think." The businessman expelled a tremulous sigh. "She thought he'd stopped gambling after that last time—he promised—he swore that he had—but ... well ... he hadn't."
Bettinger returned his pencil to the coffee mug.
Robert was confused. "Don't you need to write?"
"How much money did you give her on Saturday?"
"Seventy-five." The businessman cleared his throat. "Thousand."
"And the other times, the amounts were smaller—two to five thousand."
This was not said as a question, but still, Robert nodded an affirmation. A terrible feeling expanded in his stomach, spreading throughout his guts. He thought of his ex-wife, his two children, and the house that all of them had contentedly shared before he had met Traci at the VIP party last March.
"The guys her brother owed were in the Mafia," said the businessman. "She told me that ... that they'd kill him—maybe come after her—slash her face if—"
"Want anything from the vending machine?" Bettinger asked as he rose from his desk. "I'm partial to cinnamon cakes, but I've been told—"
"Hey! This is serious!"
"It isn't. Yell again and our conversation is over."
"I'm—I'm sorry." Robert's voice was small and distant. "She's my fiancée."
"After I get my cakes, I'll pull some binders for you to look through. See if you can identify her."
"What kind of binders?"
The businessman flung his head at the trash basket, and the frothy contents of his guts splattered the bottom of the receptacle. Convulsions that resembled orgasms wrung out his digestive tract.
"Thanks for containing that," remarked Bettinger. "Wanna come back another day?"
Dripping into the basket, Robert offered no reply.
"Let me educate you, Mr. Fellburn," said the detective. "Traci's probably skipped town by now. She has money that you gave her—willingly—which isn't the kind of thing that compels a national manhunt. And if we do happen to get her, it'll go to court, where you'll have to explain to a judge—maybe a jury—how you were driven around like a fancy golf cart by a black hooker half your age."
Robert was appalled by the thought of further embarrassing his ex-wife and children.
Inside the trash basket, the businessman nodded his head.
"And that's the glossy—a rich white middle-aged predator and some pretty young black girl. I don't think seventy-five nuggets and a diamond ring are worth going on stage for that kind of theater."
Robert raised his head and wiped his mouth as Bettinger walked across the office.
"You really thought you were going to marry Traci with an i?"
The businessman cleared his throat. "We're very different people ... but it could happen. Stuff like that happens all the time."
A ponderous silence filled the room, and the detective opened the door. "We're done?"
Robert nodded his pathetic head.
Excerpted from Mean Business on North Granson Street by Steven Craig Zahler. Copyright © 2014 Steven Craig Zahler. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Something Stuck in the Drain,
2. Oblivious to Oblivion,
3. A Singular-Choice Question,
5. Decapitated Signs,
6. Inspector Zwolinski,
7. Thanks for the Epilogue,
8. Some Pairs,
9. A Big, Educated Maybe,
10. Insectile Witness,
11. Disregarding Mauve and White,
12. Reading Her Insides,
14. You Earned This,
15. Sichuanese Bones,
16. Sidewalk Rambling,
17. Her Opportunities,
18. They Were Numbered,
20. Residents of Victory,
21. Everybody Listens to Zwolinski,
22. Dark Doorways,
23. Kimmy's Likes and Dislikes,
24. Diminished by Small Sips,
25. Moving Fulcrums,
26. The Story of Fuckface,
27. Collecting Idiots,
29. Officer Nancy Blockman Observes Other People,
30. Bettinger Versus Sleep,
31. New Uses for an Old Car,
33. The Crushing Depths,
34. A Very Impressive Policeman,
35. Rita's Bench,
36. This is Where the Titan Dwells,
37. A Wasted Bouquet,
38. More Important than Eggs,
39. Vehicular Abuse,
40. Things Fall,
42. Alyssa and Jules Talk,
43. Snow from a Violescent Sky,
44. Idling in Shitopia,
45. A Talk with Shitdick,
46. Canine Itinerary,
47. Dark Gray,
48. The Heaps,
49. Dominic Knows Something,
50. The Pillars of Justice,
52. Return of the Ugly Men,
Also by S. Craig Zahler,
About the Author,