The final book in Rob Hart's acclaimed Ash McKenna series shows that Ash can go home again...but it might cost him everything.
Amateur private investigator Ash McKenna is home. After more than a year on the road he's ready to face the demons he ran away from in New York City. And he’s decided what he wants to do with his life: Become a private investigator, for real. Licensed and everything. No more working as a thug for hire. But within moments of stepping off the plane, Ginny Tonic, the drag queen crime lord who once employed himand then tried to have him killedasks to see him.
One of her newest drag queen soldiers has gone missing, and Ginny suspects she’s been ensnared by the burgeoning heroin scene on Staten Island. Ginny wants Ash to find her. Because he’s the best, and because he knows Staten Island, his home borough. Ash is hesitantbut Ginny’s offer of $10,000 is enough to get him on his feet. And the thought of a lost kid and a bereft family is too much for him to bear.
He accepts, and quickly learns there’s something much bigger at play. Some very dangerous people are vying for control of the heroin trade on Staten Island, which is recording the highest rate of overdose deaths in the city. As Ash navigates deadly terrain, he find his most dangerous adversary might be his own past. Because those demons he ran away from have been waiting for him to come back.
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
As we pulled to the curb I vaguely wondered who I was going to beat the shit out of that day.
Samson parked the car but didn't turn off the engine. He let the air conditioner run because it was a hundred-and-fuck-you degrees out. So hot that for the first time in our brief history together, he wasn't wearing his leather duster. That day he wore black jeans and black boots and a black tank top, his huge arms glistening with sweat. Some might call Samson overweight but that would be a mistake. Bite him and you'd likely chip a tooth.
He was wearing wrap-around polarized sunglasses that would shift between blue and purple and pink depending on the angle. I'd never seen him without his sunglasses. Not even at night. And he spoke to me in a tone that made me wonder if I'd murdered a member of his immediate family.
"Glove box," he said.
"What's in the glove box?"
Like I didn't know.
"Open it and find out," he said.
I touched the black plastic latch, clicked it toward me. The glove box fell open, a silver handgun cradled in its mouth. I closed the compartment with care, not wanting to jostle the gun.
"Nope," I told him.
"The fuck you mean, nope?" he asked. "You're here to back me up. That means you go in with a full hand."
"I don't mess with guns."
"What are you going to do when these motherfuckers start shooting at you? Is your moral superiority bulletproof?"
There was a lot I could say in that moment. About how I thought a gun was a weapon for cowards. That they tore apart lives and destroyed families. That they made me queasy. That in a town like New York, if someone pulled a gun, it wasn't about hunting or tradition, it was about instilling fear or hurting someone.
Case in point.
That would have taken too long to explain, so I just placed my hand on the umbrella attached my belt. Kevlar canopy, steel baton, able to be carried in plain sight without anyone asking questions. Sure, a deadly weapon, but it required some degree of skill and a bit of proximity to use, which made me feel like I wasn't full of shit for using it.
"This is all I need," I told him.
"You and that fucking thing."
"Are going to tell me a little more about what we're doing?" I asked.
"You back me up. All you need to know," he said, killing the engine and cracking the door, cold air rushing out, replaced by blistering mid-afternoon heat.
We stepped to the curb, stood on the sidewalk. Surveyed the block. A quiet stretch in Flatbush, brownstones on either side, street stuffed with cars. So hot you could smell the blacktop. Some dude was standing outside a bodega at the end of the block smoking a joint. That skunk smell of weed so thick I could taste it. He was giving us a vigorous eye-fuck, which wasn't lost on Samson. Then the dude pulled out his cell, dialed a number, and raised it to his face.
"Lookout?" I asked.
"Figures," Samson said. "No sense in waiting."
He crossed the street and I followed, bounding up the steps to our target. He slammed the flat of his palm against the blood-red door of the brownstone. The shades were drawn and an air conditioner was humming in a window. The guy across the street crossed toward us. I went back-to-back with Samson, put my hand on the umbrella.
"Open up," Samson yelled at the door.
The guy crossing the street, he was a big dude. Shaved head, heavy beard, built like a fighter jet. But all that upper-body muscle was stacked on lean, skinny frame. Someone was skipping leg day. You can have the biggest arms in the world, doesn't matter one damn bit. Power comes from the core and the legs. I probably wouldn't even need the umbrella.
Still, I flicked open the button on the leather strap, just to have it handy, when a couple of things happened at once.
The lookout stepped into the street, but he was looking at me, not paying attention, so a car tearing down the block nearly creamed him. The driver slammed on his horn and brakes at the same time. The guy jumped back just as the door behind me creaked and someone said something, but then there was a crashing sound and a yell as Samson pushed his way inside.
I gave a quick glance over my shoulder, saw the door was open, and went in just as the lookout got his bearings. I slammed the door closed. There was a chair in the hallway next to the door so I wedged it underneath the knob. One less person to worry about. Within seconds the doorknob was jiggling and the lookout was yelling something.
The inside of the brownstone was dim. Blank hallway, staircase to the left, archway to the right that should have lead into the living room but had been bricked up. Down and to the right I heard the sound of a scuffle. The place reeked of cleaning supplies. I passed a door under the staircase that looked like a bathroom. It was cracked open. Someone peeked out. A green eye and a flash of blonde hair. The door slammed, lock flipped.
At the end of the hallway and to the right was a dining room-living room combo. Leather couches, coffee table, beige walls, stacks of magazines, a flat screen television playing a baseball game. The sound on the television was off and the captions were on. Vibe like a waiting room. There was a nice fish tank, too, right across from the entryway. Big, clean, glowing blue, filled with shiny fish darting through clear water above rainbow-colored rocks.
Samson was standing over a couch, his girth blocking the view of what he was doing. He was yelling something at someone but it was hard to make out, because whoever he was holding down was thrashing and yelling, plus there was the sound of the guy at the front door, who now seemed to be trying to break it down.
I got closer and found Samson holding a man by the throat. The man was wearing white linen pants and a black pinstripe vest over a tiny bird chest. Expensive leather sandals, silver chain around his neck, lots of gold on his fingers. All that gold wasn't enough to save him from Samson, and he appeared frustrated by that.
"You know what the rules are," Samson said. "You think you can pull one over on us?"
The man struggled to respond. Samson let off a little pressure. With some room to speak, the man said, "Fuck you, and fuck that faggot."
Which was not the right answer.
Samson balled up his fist, reared back, and smashed it into the guy's face. It sounded like raw meat hitting pavement.
I figured it best to let Samson do his job, so I checked the hallway, heard the lookout smashing the door. Over the racket I thought I heard footsteps upstairs, but if no one had come down yet, I probably had nothing to worry about.
At the rear of the brownstone was a kitchen. Just as tidy. Like it was barely used, except for the microwave, which was sitting open and splattered with baked-on streaks of yellow and red sludge. There was a pile of plastic microwave dinner platters, rinsed and stacked neatly next to the garbage can in the corner. I popped open the fridge, found it was full of more TV dinners. The smell of cleaning supplies was even stronger in here. Everything in the house meticulously scrubbed.
When Samson wouldn't tell me the nature of the gig, I just figured we were going into a drug den or a gambling parlor. Those tended to be in Ginny's wheelhouse. This was different. The guy Samson was bracing had a certain flair that, coupled with the sound of footsteps upstairs, was opening a pit at the base of my stomach.
That pit opened wide when I returned to the hallway, looked up the staircase, and found a skinny Asian women in a barely-there black dress leaning down the stairs, trying to get a good look, but then darting back into the darkness like a frightened cat when she saw me.
Before I could return to the waiting room, the front door splintered and broke and the lookout came tumbling in with two more guys behind him. I ducked around the corner and yelled, "Company."
Samson turned to me, nodded, threw another punch at the guy on the couch.
I took advantage of the fact that our attackers were probably hopped up on adrenaline and not really thinking. Pressed myself against the wall and stuck my foot into the doorway. The first guy hit it hard and flew head-first into the fish tanks. The glass exploded and water rushed over the hardwood floor. I felt bad for the fish.
The next guy stopped in the doorway, surveying the damage, but by then I'd had enough time to pull the umbrella off my belt and flick it out to full length. I swung it into his gut. He exhaled hard, folded over it. I wrapped my arm around his neck and bucked my hips, yanking him into the room. He crashed onto the coffee table, the glass shattering but the frame holding, so that his body was draped like a rag doll over its remains.
That left the third guy, the lookout, who was smart enough to not come in. I was wondering about his plans when the sheetrock a few feet in front of my face exploded, dust rocketing into the air. I threw myself onto the ground to get out of the line of fire, landing in a pool of aquarium water. Something squished under my palm.
I looked across at Samson, who was also on the floor, straddling his prey, eyebrow raised.
"Wish you had a gun now, huh?" he asked.
"Still no," I told him.
After a couple of more shots through the wall there was a stretch of silence. Samson pulled himself to his feet, said, "Six-shooter." Though I didn't know if he was saying it to me or himself. He disappeared into the hallway and I heard some heavy thuds. I didn't need to look to know who was winning.
I climbed to my feet, checked the two guys I brought down, found neither of them were interested in taking things further. Patted them down to make sure they weren't strapped. They just put their hands up in a peaceful gesture.
By the time I got to the man in charge, cowering on the corner of the couch, Samson was back. He grabbed the guy by the back of the neck and dragged him into the kitchen. I glanced back toward the front door. The lookout was twisted up like a pile of old laundry.
"The money," Samson said, tossing the man onto the tile floor.
"Nothing on hand. Deposited my weekly this morning."
Samson picked the man up and pushed his head into the wall, leaving behind a bloodstained dent.
"The money," Samson said, same register as before.
The guy put his hands over his head, crawled to the fridge. Climbed up against it, and shimmied it out from the wall. Underneath, offset against the white tile, was a bare patch of wood, which the guy pulled up to reveal large stacks of wrapped bills, piled in an alcove. Samson looked around the kitchen, found a discarded delivery box, and tossed it at the guy.
"Fill it up."
From behind us: "'Scuse me?"
Standing in the doorway was a slender blonde in red lingerie. Barefoot, hair falling over her face, hiding what looked like a constellation of bruising around a green eye. I recognized that eye. It was the eye from the bathroom door.
"Are you okay, Dixon?" she asked, looking at the man on the floor.
"Get the fuck upstairs."
The woman looked from me to Samson. "I just wanted to make sure ..."
"Get the fuck upstairs, you dumb bitch," the man said, spitting, showing her the back of his hand.
She twitched. It wasn't the first time she'd seen it.
I kicked him in the face.
He went down hard, grabbing at his head. It felt good to hurt him. Pimps have carved themselves a pretty comfortable niche in pop culture. Halloween costumes and fast-talking movie characters. They're supposed to be suave and cool. Except, in real life, they're pieces of shit who coerce and abuse women into making money for them. So it felt good to kick him, even though Samson was pretty annoyed that I did. No making this guy happy.
"You don't talk to women like that, fuckhead," I told the pimp.
He moved quickly after that, filling the box to the brim. When he was done, Samson put the box on the counter and pulled out his own gun, a heavy-duty silver behemoth tucked into his jeans. I don't know much about gun calibers but it was clearly designed by someone with a deep fear of Bigfoot. He leveled the gun at the guy's head, but before he could fire I grabbed his arm and jerked it up, the gunshot exploding in the small space, blasting into the top of the kitchen wall. The sound of it filled my brain with a shrill hum.
Samson threw an elbow and caught me on the side of the head. He knew all about getting weight behind a blow. I hit the ground hard. That bomb I carried in my chest went off and I had a very immediate and visceral fantasy of getting into a knock-down, drag-out fight with him over this, but I also knew enough gunshots had been fired that the cops couldn't be far behind.
"We have to go," I told him, climbing to my feet, arms up to protect my head in case he couldn't let it go.
He took one last look at the guy on the floor, then at me, like he was thinking it over, then nodded. We booked for the door. Leapt over the lookout, ran across the street, got in the car and drove a few miles before he stopped in the shade outside a park. Not twenty feet from us were kids playing in a water fountain, like everything in the world was normal. We sat there for a little while, letting the adrenaline wear off. The angry insect buzz of the gunshot still drilling into my brain.
When Samson could hold the steering wheel without making the leather creak he asked, "The fuck is wrong with you?"
"Not gonna stand there while you shoot someone."
"You all high and mighty. You think it's okay to beat on him but not kill him?"
"Everyone's got a line," I told him. "That's mine. Ginny has a problem with it, she'll have to be a little more judicious on when and where she sends me out."
Samson pulled the box of money off the back seat, pulled off a thick stack of bills, and smacked it hard against my chest.
"Services rendered," he said. "Get the fuck out."
"What happens to the girls?"
"The ones who work there?"
Samson turned and stared at me long and hard. "Ginny's going to give them all an envelope of money and a pat on the head and tell them to go live their best lives on some motherfucking farm somewhere, far away from the harsh city life they've come to know."
"The fuck you care?"
"Do you? Because you're sitting in the car holding a pile of money. I don't see you running back."
"Are they going to be okay?"
He paused. That pause stung.
"Sure," he said. "Now get the fuck out of the car."
I did. He swung the car into the street and slammed the gas, tires spinning dust in his wake. I went looking for a subway station.
It was the first and last job Ginny sent me on with Samson.
A few times, usually late at night, with a head full of booze or drugs, I would go to that neighborhood, wander around, try to find the brownstone with the red door, but I never could. Samson was the one who drove and I didn't know the address. The door had probably been repaired and repainted.
I would try to remember the bodega on the corner, the look of the street, but the details of that day got lost in a haze of fear and adrenaline.
I think part of me didn't want to find it, because I was afraid of what I would see when I got there.
What would happen, or more specifically, what would be true.CHAPTER 2
The plane banks. New York City's skyline appears outside the window, blue and steel and concrete, gleaming in the sunlight. The way the buildings peak at downtown and midtown makes the island of Manhattan look like a great beast that's opening its maw to devour us upon landing.
That's a little what it feels like, too.
My face stretches into a smile before I realize I'm doing it.
Fourteen months. A lot has happened, so it feels even longer.
According to the screen on the seat in front of me it's 3 p.m., and I try to figure out what time my body thinks it is. I left Prague sometime yesterday, which is six hours ahead of New York, but then spent nearly seven hours on a layover in the Frankfurt airport. Like being in purgatory. I didn't want to sleep because I was afraid I'd miss my flight. I didn't want to go through security again, so I wandered the airport, a cavernous structure devoid of soul and decent places to eat.
I know I'm tired. I know the first thing I want to do is get off the plane and climb into bed, except I don't have a bed, or a place to live. I've got money so I could get a hotel, but I hate the idea of getting a hotel room in the place where I was born. I'm tired of them, anyway — everything borrowed, disposable, temporary.
I'm tired of temporary.
After more than a year I want some permanence.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Potter's Field"
Copyright © 2018 Rob Hart.
Excerpted by permission of Polis Books, LLC.
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.