Jackie Brown

Originally published as Rum Punch

ELMORE LEONARD

Published by

Dell Publishing

a division of

Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.

1540 Broadway

New York, New York 10036

For Jackie, Carole, and Larry

Originally published as Rum Punch

Cover art (c) 1997 Miramax Film Corp. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright (c) 1992 by Elmore Leonard, Inc.

Printed in the United States of America

January 1998

1

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 Nazi?"

Ordell acting like a kid with a secret, dying to tell it, but wanting to be asked.

He said to Louis, "You don't know where in the fuck you're at, do you? Keep coming out of prison and starting over. I see you got rid of your mustache, have some gray in your curly hair. You staying in shape, that's good."

"What'd you do," Louis said, "get your hair straightened? You used to have a 'fro."

"Got to keep in style, man."

Ordell ran his hand carefully over his hair, feeling the hard set, ran it back to his pigtail braid and curled it between his fingers, fooling with it as he said, "No, I don't imagine you know what you want."

Louis said, "You don't, huh?"

"Giving me the convict stare. Well, you learned something in the joint," Ordell said. "Otherwise, Louis, that shirt you have on, you look like you pump more gas than iron. Ought to have 'Lou' on the pocket there. Clean the windshield, check the oil. . . ."

Smiled then to show he was kidding. Ordell in

linen and gold, orange crew-neck sweater and white slacks, the gold shining on his neck, his wrist, and two of his fingers.

He said, "Come on, let's go see the show."

Louis said, "You're the show."

Ordell smiled and moved his shoulders like a fighter. They walked up behind the crowd that was held back by yellow police tape cordoning off the steps in front of the fountain. A young Nazi up there was speaking as the others stood facing the crowd in their supremacy outfits. Ordell started to push through to get closer and Louis took hold of his arm.

"I'm not going in there."

Ordell turned to look at him. "It ain't the same as on the yard, man. Nobody has a shank on them."

"I'm not going in there with you."

"Well, that's cool," Ordell said. "We don't have to."

They found a place where they could see enough of the young Nazi. He was shouting, "What do we want?" And his buddies and the Nazigirls and the rest of the cuckoos up there would shout back, "White power!" They kept it up until the young Nazi finished and shouted, "One day the world will know Adolf Hitler was right!" That got voices from the crowd shouting back at him, calling him stupid and a retard. He yelled at the crowd, "We're going to reclaim this land for our people!" his young Nazi voice cracking. And they yelled back, what people was he talking about, assholes like him? A black woman in the crowd said, "Come on up to Riv'era Beach and say those things, you be dead." The young skinhead Nazi began screaming "Sieg heil!" as loud as he could, over and over, and the cuckoos joined in with him, giving the Nazi salute. Now young guys in the crowd were calling them racist motherfuckers, telling them to go home, go on, get out of here, and it looked like the show was over. Ordell said, "Let's go."

They walked over to Ocean Boulevard where they'd left his car, a black Mercedes convertible, with the top down. The time on the meter had run out and a parking ticket was stuck beneath the windshield wiper on the driver's side. Ordell pulled the ticket out and dropped it in the street. Louis was watching but didn't comment. Didn't say much of anything until they were on the middle bridge heading back to West Palm. Then he started.

"Why'd you want to show me that guy? He call you a nigger and you want his legs broken?"

"That payback shit," Ordell said, "you must get that from hanging out with the Eyetalians. Ain't nothing they like better than paying back. Swear an oath to it."

"You want to see where I hang out?" Louis said. "You come to Olive, take a right. Go up to Banyan, used to be First Street, and hang a left." The next thing Louis was telling him, on Olive now, "That's the court building up on the right."

"I know where the courts are at," Ordell said. He turned onto Banyan and was heading toward Dixie

Highway now. Halfway up the block Louis told him to stop.

"Right there, the white building," Louis said, "that's where I hang out."

Ordell turned his head to look across the street at a one-story building, a storefront with MAX CHERRY BAIL BONDS printed on the window.

"You work for a bail bondsman? You told me you with some funky insurance company the Eyetalians got hold of."

"Glades Mutual in Miami," Louis said. "Max Cherry writes their bonds. I sit in the office-some guy misses his court date, I go get him."

"Yeah?" That sounded a little better, like Louis was a bounty hunter, went after bad guys on the run.

"What they want me for mainly, see if I can bring in some of those big drug-trafficking bonds, hundred and fifty grand and up."

Ordell said, "Yeah, I 'magine you made some good contacts in the joint. That why the company hired you?"

"It was my cellmate, guy was in for killing his wife. He told me to look up these friends of his when I got out. I go to see them, they ask me if I know any Colombians. I said yeah, a few. Some guys I met through a con named J.J. I told you about him, the one that got picked up again? I'm staying in his house." Louis lifted a cigarette from the pocket of his work shirt. "So what I do is look up these Colombians, down in South Beach, and hand out Max Cherry business cards. 'If you ever go to jail, I'm your bail.'

He's got another one that says 'Gentlemen prefer bonds' with his name under it, phone number, all that." Louis went into the pocket again for a kitchen match.

Ordell waited. "Yeah?"

"That's it. Most of the time I sit there."

"You get along with the Colombians?"

"Why not? They know where I came from." Louis struck the match with his thumbnail. "They play that cha-cha music so loud you can't hardly talk anyway."

Ordell got his own brand out and Louis gave him a light in his cupped hands.

"You don't sound happy, Louis."

He said, "Whatever you're into, I don't want any part of it, okay? Once was enough."

Ordell sat back with his cigarette.

"Like you Steady Eddie, huh? I'm the one fucked up that kidnap deal?"

"You're the one brought Richard in."

"What's that have to do with it?"

"You knew he'd try to rape her."

"Yeah, and you helped her out of that mess. But that ain't what blew the deal, Louis. You know what it was. We tell the man, pay up or you never see your wife again-'cause that's how you do it, right? Then find out he don't want to see her again, even for five minutes? Down there in his Bahama love nest with Melanie? If you can't negotiate with the man, Louis, or threaten him, then you don't have even a chance of making a deal."

"It would've come apart anyway," Louis said. "We didn't know what we were doing."

"I see you the expert now. Tell me who's been in prison three times and who's been in once? Listen, I got people working for me now. I got brothers do the heavy work. I got a man over in Freeport-you remember Mr. Walker? I got a Jamaican can do figures in his head. Can add up numbers, can multiply what things cost times how many"-Ordell snapped his fingers-"like that."

"You got an accountant," Louis said. "I'm happy for you."

"Have I asked you to come work for me?"

"Not yet you haven't."

"You know what a M-60 machine gun is?"

"A big one, a military weapon."

"I sold three of them for twenty grand each and bought this automobile," Ordell said. "What do I need you for?"

2

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