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three

A video surveillance system was hooked to the TV set in the study. Push a button on the remote control and a black-and-white shot of the patio area, the driveway, the front entrance, or a room upstairs would appear in the lower right-hand corner of the screen. Push another button, the TV picture would go off and the surveillance video would come on the whole screen.

Thats what Louis Lewis, watching TV in the study, finally did: put the video of the patio on big so he could watch Chip and the Latino he recognized, Bobby Deo, just talking at first, Chip smoking his weed and now Bobby Deo taking a hit.

Louis Lewis was originally from the Bahamas. He had come here as a little boy with his pretty American mama and a daddy who played steel drums; Louis could sound Bahamian if he wanted to, but preferred being African-American and worked at it. A popular variation, he tried an Islamic name, Ibrahim Abu Aziz, till Chip started calling him Honest Ib and then Boo for Abu and Louis decided that was enough of that shit. He went back to being Louis Lewis, a name his daddy said would make people smile and hed be a happy fella. Hed never gotten into Islam anyway, just played with the Arab name for a time, looking for respect more than smiles.

Louis used the remote to check the front drive and saw Bobbys Cadillac among the vegetation. Now he pushed a button and was watching Phil Donahue on the big screen again, Phil talking to three women who weighed over five hundred pounds and their normal-size husbands. It was getting good, the ladies mentioning how they made out in bed, hinting around at how they did it, fat ladies acting cute. But now in the little square, down in the corner of the screen, Bobby Deo had his pruners out, holding the snippers in Chips face and Louis pressed the button to turn the fat ladies off and put the patio show on the big screen. Still watching, he raised the lid of the chest that was like a cocktail table in front of the red leather sofa he was sitting on, the oak chest matching the paneled walls, and brought out a sawed-off pump-action shotgun.

Louis believed the business out there was about money Chip owed somebody, the man not knowing shit how to bet and always into bookies down in Miami. Louis knew Bobby Deo from a time before as the kind of man youd rather have on your side than against you. He saw Bobby now as a man was set straight, had on expensive clothes-even if they were Latino-had a fine car he left out front. Yeah, he knew Bobby.

Now they were talking again like theyd come to some kind of agreement, Chip no doubt bullshitting the man-yeah, Bobby helping him up now, talking some more, Chip coming in the house now. So Louis worked the remote to put the fat ladies back on big and the patio in the corner of the TV screen, Bobby appearing again, looking around. Chip would come in to see him with the shotgun watching the fat ladies and their little hubbies Telling Phil yeah, they had a normal sex life, but not saying what was normal to them or exactly how they did it, the fat ladies acting like they knew something nobody else did, like a special thing they could do with those big bodies that would pleasure a man some special way. Or crush him, Louis thought, they roll over on the little hubby sound asleep.

Just then Chip came in-didnt say anything right away-came over and took the remote from Louis and punched the patio back onto the screen big.

You see him threaten me?

Not sounding scared especially; keyed-up some.

Louis held up the cut-down shotgun in one hand, said, Look here, I was ready to back you up. I know the man, Bobby Deo? I know if you try to trip on him, mess with his head, you best shoot the motherfucker, put him down quick. But then I see you working it out between you, talking like everythings cool.

You know him, Chip said. Does that mean personally, or youve heard things about him?

I didnt say I know of him, Louis said, not caring for Chips attitude at the moment, I said I know him. That means what it says.

Chip was all into himself, not catching Louiss tone. He said, You see what he did? Grabbed me by the hair?

Took out his pruners, yeah?

Threatened to cut my ears off

Must be you owe somebody money, huh?

Harry Arno, sixteen five. Only this guy wants eighteen with expenses. He calls me Cheep.

The man sounding just a speck shaky now. Usually he could put on being superior even with nothing to back it.

Give you a couple days to pay, huh, or he start to snip. Bobby Deo was a bounty hunter. Now he does collection work when theres enough in it for him. What else you want to know? Being light-skin Puerto Rican he thinks all the ladies are crazy about him. What the man is basically, hes an enforcer. You understand? You want somebody taken out and you can pay high dollar, hell do it for you.

Chip said, Is that right? raising his eyebrows. Interested but not, in Louiss judgment, wanting to show it.

He got sent to Starke on a homicide, shot some dude he was suppose to be bringing in. Doing his rap he was the man up there among the Latinos.

Same time you were there.

Was where we first bumped into each other. Louis said, You understand if youre thinking to hire Bobby to take out Harry Arno it cost you more than what you owe Harry.

Chip surprised him, looking pleased at the idea and saying, Actually what I was wondering, if you and Bobby got along okay.

You mean like if me and him was to work together? Have a mutual interest in common?

Louis watched Mr. Chip Ganz standing there in his underwear almost naked, hands on his bony hipbones, looking at Bobby on the TV screen before looking this way again.

He said, What do you think?

Making it sound like he was throwing it up in the air and it didnt matter to him one way or the other.

Louis said, Bring Bobby in on the deal so he leave you alone, huh? Wont be snipping off any your valuable parts.

We could use another guy, Chip said. Weve talked about it enough.

Louis said, You want to hire him? trying to make the man come out and say it.

Its an idea.

Get somebody knows how to do the job, Louis said, stead of sitting around discussing it to death?

Chip didnt care for that kind of talk. He said, My friend, the idea is foolproof. What weve been discussing is who we start with.

He was watching the TV screen again. Louis looked over to see Bobby Deo in that P.R. shirt like he was going to a fiesta, Bobby now inspecting the swimming pool: the pool scummy and ugly with the filter system shut down to save money, algae growing in it like seaweed and turning the water brown.

Say you put the deal to him and he likes it, Louis said, you still owe Harry. He sent Bobby; he can send somebody else.

Chip said, Not if Harry isnt around, and like that the mans confidence and superior attitude were back in place. Like the whole conversation had been leading up to the Chipper delivering his punch line. Not if Harry isnt around.


Louis said, Hey now, seeing the sly grin on the mans face, knowing exactly what the man was thinking.

Hire Bobby, Louis said, to get Harry Arno.

The man nodded. What do you think?

Depends if Harrys the kind we looking for.

Hes loaded, Chip said. All the time hes running his sports book hes supposed to be cutting the wiseguys in? Hes skimming on them. A sheet writer that used to work for Harry told a friend of mine its a fact. Twenty years he skimmed something like two grand a week over what he made for himself. Finally the wiseguys got suspicious You mustve heard about it.

I was upstate at the time, Louis said, but I heard, yeah, they send a guy to whack Harry out and he shoots the guy dead and takes off?

Went to Italy for a while, Chip said, comes back-I dont know the whole story, but its like it never happened, all the trouble he had with the wiseguys. But now the fedsve shut him down, hes out of business.

Louis noticed Bobby Deo on the diving board now, hands in his pockets, looking down at the scummy pool. Louis said, So Harrys closing his books, collecting whats still owed him, huh? watching Bobby on the TV and realizing the mans hands werent in his pockets, he had his business out and was right then taking a leak in the swimming pool. Louis said, You see what hes doing?

After a moment Chip said, He spotted the camera and thinks Im watching him, the man not sounding too surprised. Letting me know he doesnt care to be kept waiting. Anyway, Chip said, I even thought of Harry as a possibility, when we were making out the list. I was gonna mention him to you, see what you thought?

Say hes got all this skim money, Louis said. Where you think he keeps it?

Thats the first thing we find out. Chip was looking at the TV screen again, at Bobby Deo coming away from the pool toward the house. How much Harrys got liquid he can get his hands on. Chip moved across the room, glanced at Louis to say, Here we go, and opened the door.

He stood waiting as Bobby came through the sunroom into the study, Bobby looking at the TV screen, the empty patio showing, then at Louis standing with his hands on his hips, then at the shotgun lying on the sofa.

You understand, Chip said, you were covered all the time you were out there. If you hadnt put those snippers away when you did, you couldve taken a load of buckshot in the ass. I just want you to know that.

The man talking now with backup, confident as can be. Louis watched Bobby turn his way.

You work for this guy?

Louis shrugged. We got something on.

Chip said, I believe you know my partner, Louis Lewis?

Presenting one ex-con to another, the man watching to see the effect on Bobby Deo, a different situation than when they were outside. Louis and Bobby looked at each other with no expression to speak of.

Bobby saying, Use to be Abu, the Bahamian Arabian, with a mild expression now, pleasant enough.

And now Louis showed a slight smile telling him, I gave up that shit once I got my release. What wed like to know, Se~nor Deogracias, the bill collector, if you think you ready for the big time.

See what he thought of that.

But then Chip stepped in saying, What Louis means-something weve been talking about here-we wonder if youd be interested in a proposition.

Bobby looked at Louis and Louis said, A score, a big one.

Bobby seemed to consider it for a moment. He said, How much we talking about?

Louis had to smile, the man showing his greed, wanting to know the take before asking what it was about.

Well be dealing in millions, Chip said, with a way to keep it coming in as long as we want.

Bobby said, Whats the split?

Three ways, we all get the same.

You say millions-nothing to it.

At least a couple mil each time we score. This is no one-shot deal.

Yeah, what is it? What do we do?

We take hostages, Chip said and waited while Bobby Deo stared at him.

No doubt running out of patience, so Louis gave him a hint. Like the Shia took those hostages over in Beirut? You know what Im saying? Over in Lebanon-blindfolded them, kept them chained up? Like that.

Chip said, Only well be doing it for profit.

You talking about kidnapping, Bobby said.

In a way, Chip said, only different. A lot different.


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