Novels

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E X C E R P T

Chapter One

Sunday morning, Ordell took Louis to watch the white-power demonstration in downtown Palm Beach.

“Young skinhead Nazis,” Ordell said. “Look, even little Nazigirls marching down Worth Avenue. You believe it? Coming now you have the Klan, not too many here today. Some in green, must be the coneheads’ new spring shade. Behind them it looks like some Bikers for Racism, better known as the Dixie Knights. We gonna move on ahead, fight through the crowd here,” Ordell said, bringing Louis along.

“There’s a man I want to show you. See who he reminds you of. He told me they’re gonna march up South County and have their show on the steps of the fountain by city hall. You ever see so many police? Yeah, I expect you have. But not all these different uniforms at one time. They mean business too, got their helmets on, their riot ba-tons. Stay on the sidewalk or they liable to hit you over the head. They keeping the street safe for the Nazis.”

People would turn to look at Ordell.

“Man, all the photographers, TV cameras. This shit is big news, has everybody over here to see it. Otherwise, Sunday, what you have mostly are rich ladies come out with their little doggies to make wee-wee. I mean the doggies, not the ladies.” A girl in front of them smiled over her shoulder and Ordell said, “How you doing, baby? You making it all right?” He looked past her now, glanced at Louis to say, “I think I see him,” and pushed through the crowd to get closer to the street. “Yeah, there he is. Black shirt and tie? A grown-up skinhead Nazi. I call him Big Guy. He likes that.”

“It’s Richard,” Louis said. “Jesus.”

“Looks just like him, huh? Remember how Richard tripped on all that Nazi shit he had in his house? All his guns? Big Guy’s got more of everything.”

Louis said, “He’s serious. Look at him.”

“Wants power. He’s a gun freak,” Ordell said. “You know where you see different ones like him? At the gun shows.”

Ordell let it hang. Louis was supposed to ask Ordell what he was doing at gun shows, but didn’t bother. He was busy watching the Nazigirls, all of them skinny rednecks, their hair cut short as boys’.

Ordell said, “I got something would straighten them out, make their eyes shine.”

He had people looking at him again. Some of them grinned. Louis moved out of the crowd and Ordell had to hurry to catch him. Louis bigger in the shoulders than he used to be, from working out in prison.

“This way,” Ordell said, and they started up South County ahead of the parade, couple of old buddies: Ordell Robbie and Louis Gara, a light-skinned black guy and a dark-skinned white guy, both from Detroit originally where they met in a bar, started talking, and found out they’d both been to Southern Ohio Correctional and had some attitudes in common. Not long after that Louis went to Texas, where he took another fall. Came home and Ordell had a proposition for him: a million-dollar idea to kidnap the wife of a guy making money illegally and hiding it in the Bahamas. Louis said okay. The scheme blew up in their face and Louis said never again. Thirteen years ago…

And now Ordell had another scheme. Louis could feel it. The reason they were here watching skinheads and coneheads marching up the street.

Ordell said, “Remember when you come out of Huntsville and I introduced you to Richard?”

Starting to lay it on him. Louis was positive now.

“That’s what today reminds me of,” Ordell said. “I think it’s fate working. This time you come out of FSP and I show you Big Guy, like Richard back from the dead.”

“What I remember from that time,” Louis said, “is wishing I never met Richard. What is it with you and Nazis?”

“They fun to watch,” Ordell said. “Look at the flag they got, with the boogied-up lightning flash on it. You can’t tell if it’s suppose to be SS or Captain Marvel.”

Louis said, “You got another million-dollar idea to try on me?”

Ordell turned from the parade with a cool look, serious. “You rode in my car. That ain’t just an idea, man, it cost real money.”

“What’re you showing me this Nazi for?”

“Big Guy? His real name’s Gerald. I called him Jerry one time, he about lifted me off the ground, said, ‘That’s not my name, boy.’ I told him I’m for segregation of the races, so he thinks I’m okay. Met him one time, was at a gun show.”

Throwing that one at Louis again.

Louis said, “You didn’t answer my question. What’re we doing here?”

“I told you. See who Big Guy reminds you of. Listen, there’s somebody else you won’t believe who’s down here. This one a woman. Guess who it is.”

Louis shook his head. “I don’t know.”

Ordell grinned. “Melanie.”

“You’re kidding.”

Another one from that time thirteen years ago.

“Yeah, we kep’ in touch. Melanie phone me one day… She’s in a place I have up at Palm Beach Shores. You want to see her?”

“She lives with you?”

“I’m there on and off, you might say. We can drop by this afternoon, you want. Melanie’s still a fine big girl, only bigger. Man, I’m telling you, fate’s been working its ass off, getting us all together here. What I’m thinking of doing, introduce Big Guy to Melanie.”

Leading up to something. Louis could feel it.

“For what?”

“Just see what happens. I think it’d be a kick. You know Melanie, she hasn’t changed any. Can you see her with this asshole…”


Rum Punch

Publisher: Delacorte; New York: 1992
Edition: First Edition
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 304 pages
Original Price: $
ISBN: 0385332807
Genre: Crime/Contemporary
Locations: South Florida/West Palm Beach
Special Notes: Filmed as Jackie Brown
Characters:


The story is all action, a scam within a scam: Ordell outfoxing Jackie and the cops; Jackie and Max duping the cops and Ordell. Mr. Leonard’s style is the absence of style, stripped of fancy baggage (social philosophy, abnormal psychology, beautiful diction)—the absence, as far as it’s possible, of an authorial ego. He puts his ego in the service of his characters and their stories, and by doing so strikes a blow for that most radical of notions: that no one human being is better than any other, that there is no ‘other.’ Being a new reader of Elmore Leonard, I believe I have a distinct advantage over his longtime fans. I have 29 more novels to look forward to. They have only Rum Punch. -Ann Arensberg - The New York Times

Pretty working-girl Jackie Burke is in a tight spot. She’s just been picked up at Palm Beach International with fifty grand and some blow stashed in her flight bag. Lucky for her, the Feds want something Jackie’s got: the inside track to Ordell Robbie, the notoriusly slick arms dealer. And they’re ready to deal—Ordell in exchange for her freedom. But Jacki’s got another ace up her sleeve… Enter Max Cherry, bail bondsman. Big, tough, basically decent Max is on the verge of divorce and tired of the same old grind. That’s where Jackie comes in. The fifty big ones are peanuts compared to what Ordell’s got locked away in Freeport. But when a blond blowhead and a none-too-bright ex con try to muscle in on the action, it’s time to pull and old bait and switch—where the good guys are played off against the bad guys—and where Jackie and Max hope to walk off into the Florida sunset with a hot half million in cold cash.