Chicago’s rough-and-tumble tough-guy reputation may have been replaced in recent years by the image of a tourist- and family-friendly town—but that original city isn’t gone. The hard-bitten streets once represented by James Farrell and Nelson Algren may have shifted locales, and they may be populated by different ethnicities, but Chicago is still a place where people struggle to survive and where, for many, crime is the only means for their survival. The stories in Chicago Noir reclaim that territory, in tales of hired killers and jazz men, drunks and dreamers, corrupt cops and ticket scalpers and junkies, of a place where hard cases face their sad fates, and pay for their sins in blood.
Brand new stories by Neal Pollack, Achy Obejas, Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski, Adam Langer, Joe Meno, Peter Orner, Kevin Guilfoile, Bayo Ojikutu, Jeffery Renard Allen, Luciano Guerriero, Claire Zulkey, Andrew Ervin, M.K. Meyers, Todd Dills, C.J. Sullivan, Daniel Buckman, Amy Sayre-Roberts, and Jim Arndorfer.
“Chicago Noir is a legitimate heir to the noble literary tradition of the greatest city in America.” —Stephen Elliott, author of Happy Baby
About the Author
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GOODNIGHT CHICAGO AND AMEN by Luciano Guerriero99th & Drexel
Never know how you gonna end up. Or when and where. Or why, for that matter. You just know you will. You will end up somehow, somewhere, sometime. That something to think about. It is now, anyway.
I always been an all-purpose guy, game for pretty much whatever you got, long's it bring me what I want or what I need. I'm mostly known as a robber, stickups and like I help jack an armored truck once, and hold up a whole bunch of stores and shit. But I also commit arson for some guy over insurance money, deliver heavy weight of drugs plenty times. Etc. and so on. Never knock over no bank yet — I always seen myself doing that, but it don't seem likely now.
I done murders too. Three, to be exact. Usually I do murders for five heavy, my rate. I done one for half price once, as a favor to somebody. But five is my rate for murder, less there's extra risk or something else hairy about it. Then it take more.
Back starting out, I never think I be doing hits. But my twenties they behind me and I'm trying to branch out. Since this here new hit job's a cop, one of them "something else hairy" murders, this one takes five up front and another five behind.
Yeah, Katrina's paying me ten large for this one and I'm happy about that. Plus, doing a cop puts me on a whole new level far as future work goes. Not every hitter will take on a cop job, and for good reason — the reaction is stone fierce, man. Still, set up for this one nice, seems sane enough to me, so it's perfect, suits my needs.
Specially now, I need the boost. See, a week ago I got out of Joliet after four and a half on a five-to-ten for an armed robbery that went bad. Nobody inside got in my shit though cuz word spread that I'm connected, so I did my time clean and walked early.
I get connected cuz after the heist my car gets slammed by a mail truck and it break up my leg pretty good, so I get nabbed. I go deaf and dumb right away, take the whole weight of it on myself, cop myself a plea for a reduced sentence and no trial, no further investigation. Kind of guy I am. So on my taking the bust, my partner on the heist, gangsta man named Blue who's driving the other car, he stay free and clear.
Blue one capable guy. His operation gets even bigger since I go in. Blue naturally is grateful to me, which you can understand, sends word in to his boys that I should do easy time. The brothers make sure the time I do is easy as pie. Or as easy as any time can get in prison, which sucks any way you look at it. But it could be a lot worse, is what I'm saying, cuz I'm one stand-up guy about the whole thing.
Second I hit free air outside the Joliet walls, Blue has a car there to ride me back to town. Driver tells me Blue wants me at his new bar next night, Blue's setting me up for a sweet little payday. That's what this cop hit is all about, far as I'm concerned. Little reward.
Yeah, okay, I know it ain't too swift to go on parole for armed robbery and right away do some cop murder. But this ten grand gets me set up again, like a human being, not some brain-dead rodent ex-con sweeping supermarket floors. I'm sending Blue a Christmas card this year, though he never send me one inside. Kind of guy I am.
Some shit happens during the week, and seven days later, here we go, we on the job, me and this uncle named Hector in coveralls, shovels in hand. Katrina is watching us dig. Soil in this yard is good and black, smelling like rotten leaves and earthworms. Gonna turn a body to compost in, like, two seconds.
Look, she cocking her head now, listening for out-of-the-ordinary sounds that might float their way back here through the evening air. Katrina's sharp. Hector, the guy digging with me, he got no idea how sharp she is. He gonna find out, though.
This a good spot, the edge of Blue's turf in the 8th Ward. We digging behind some apartment houses on Drexel north of 99th Street. People in this nabe know not to get too nosy, even if they do see something. They better off look the other way, and that's what they do. I just can't picture nobody calling cops about the suspicious earth turned near the tree in the backyard.
I'm making like I ain't looking at Katrina, cuz I'm s'posed to be cool. But I do see she almost topples back when them stiletto heels sink down in the wet sod. Lord, her thigh muscles flex really nice when she bends her knees and shifts her weight to the balls of her feet, sliding them heels free.
I should look away, though, before Hector notices me checking out her legs. But shit, why not look? Not only do Katrina got bitchin' legs, but that fine piece a ass knows it too. Yeah, I take myself a decent look. Long as we keep digging, what she gonna say? This ain't church.
Damn, it's getting cold, though. October breeze down out of Canada, gusting off the lake. Every so often the hem on Katrina's thin little mini goes up and I can see every bit of them Tina Turner thighs. Yeah, and look, she know she distracting us, which I can tell by how she folds her arms across her chest, hiding them nips like we ain't already been checking them out too. It's her way of trying to get this here business done, not cuz she some prude. Katrina definitely not no prude.
Every so often a shovel clangs against a stone and we all freeze and look around the backyard. I can understand their feelings. Digging somebody's grave some serious business. But if I'm thinking at all, it ain't about a shovel hitting a rock. I'm thinking mostly about this ghost watching us.
Katrina tells me before we come here ghost all taken care of, nothing to worry about, so we do this thing tonight and nobody gonna step in early. Now, though, Katrina's playing the whole thing straight, making like she don't know about no ghost, I guess to keep Hector's head in the right place. I'm playing along, freezing when she do, giving nobody reason to squint their eyes at me later. I can just picture Katrina later, telling everybody in the bar how I'm one hell of an actor, which I'm gonna love. She look down now and see me smiling at that, which I can see she don't understand.
Katrina breaks up the freeze with a nod toward the hole we standing in waist deep. Me and Hector start digging again, making the pile to one side. Way she look at Hector, I can tell she expect my boy to say something stupid, and my boy don't disappoint.
"Ain't this goddamn hole deep enough yet?" he whispers loud.
"Dig it my way, Hector, head-deep," she spits back, eyes flashing all serious. "No more static, now, you dig."
Hector give a pause looking at her like he don't like her tone. On cue, she repeats herself, even more serious, "Just dig."
I smack him on the arm and he get digging again. Hector can't tell, but I see Katrina worried about his attitude. She wants this thing to go smooth and if he's all belligerent and shit, could be trouble. Guess she don't know I'm here to take care of any and all business tonight, no matter what. S'okay. This my first job with her. If seeing's believing, she find out good what she got in me, and soon enough.
Can't help thinking while I dig, though, my mind moving around. Thinking about the night after I get out of Joliet, hanging around Blue's bar when Katrina comes in. Place is on Dobson Avenue right near to 95th Street. Busy spot, but not too busy. Neighborhood place, mostly people Blue know coming in.
"Don't make that much money, but it's just like I like it," Blue say to me, cranking the music. Always great music playing in Blue's place, just like his crib.
They call the man Blue cuz his skin so black they say it looks blue, which all I see is dark brown, but then I don't care about that shit. Always funny to me how the brothers and sisters always got their skin tone in mind, like it matter somehow, while a white boy like me don't give it no real thought. I never understand that.
Katrina goes back in the office with Blue that first night and right quick they send word out I should come back. Blue introduces us and right off she flirtatious. I look at Blue and he laughs with Katrina coming off all mad hot for me, which is all the okay I need. This, you know, like, especially being inside Joliet for that amount of time, kinda gets my attention.
You also have to understand one thing, I'm impressed as hell with the fact Blue and Katrina bringing me in this way, me being white and all. Hardly ever works that way in Chicago, or anywhere that I know. But I tell myself they smart, cuz all they interested in, and all they should be interested in, is talent. That and loyalty, which I proved to Blue some years back.
So I'm thinking right away in the bar this Katrina chick's got a thing for me, partly cuz of what I am to Blue, and I'm real happy about that. Right off, I'm taking my time sucking in air and eyeing her up and down, like some kind of real stud, which let's face it is a stretch for somebody look like me. But 'tude always counts for a lot with chicks and I got plenty a dat, so in half a snap Katrina has me in a cab back to her hotel and I'm already thinking I da man.
We get in the room and things don't quite go like I think. I mean, Katrina lets this inner tigress out to play. This stone freak Amazon lady is surprising the hell outta me, all pure aggressiveness and shit, and I'm thinking, hell, not what I'm used to but this gonna be good. She pulls out this box of toys, and I'm like, okay, fine, she must be one of them electromagnetized robo-chicks who gets off on modern technology, plenty of those around. But then she announces the toys are for me, not her, and now I'm in way too deep to refuse.
Let's just say we go at it real good, till we both like totally wrung out. And I'm thinking later she uses me maybe like some prison daddy might, only I don't give a shit what she do to me, it being a long, long time for me.
After all that, she figures I'll do whatever she wants — even dig a grave. For her. And even though I see that clear enough, she right about it anyway. I mean, I take the job for the money alone, but she show me some personal interest and it's just what the doctor ordered. I leave that room sure she got a thing for white boys, sure she wants me to be her Chicago man for a while. Cuz all the signs are there. And I need 'em all to be true.
Next night, things with me all arranged, she comes back to the bar and Blue puts her in touch with Hector. Blue got some mad blues playing on the system and I'm watching them from a stool down the other end, sipping drinks while Blue's driver goes on about how Blue got some big-ass moves in the works. I want to see how Katrina plays it with Hector, see if last night's jag was for me alone or if she do that with just anybody.
Katrina start doing the flirt thing with Hector and he's real funny, man. He's like drooling at hello, and right away she know he so totally into her she don't even need to toss him a tumble like she did me. She just shoot him some hot looks, and tease him with a little dirty dance in the middle of the floor. Seems like the dance leaves him half-unconscious with desire. And that is that. Deal is sealed. She tells me later in her room that Hector even buys her excuse why they can't go somewhere and do it tonight, so I figure Katrina really plays that macho muchacho hands down, bitch is something else.
After that, though, when Katrina tells me Hector's the goddamned uncle we gotta take care of, you could push me over with a fingertip. I would never make that guy as an undercover cop. She tells me they find out he the one sours a whole bunch of gigs they got going on while I'm in the joint, tells me it's Hector put some of Blue's key guys in jail, and now they gotta put an end to it. That's when I'm thinking maybe Hector allows Katrina to play him that way in the bar that night, cuz cops ain't supposed to get it on with the women they working to put away.
Probably both are true — Katrina is truly hot enough to get Hector thinking with the little head, but also Hector made it easy for her to seal the deal without having to seduce him cuz he a goddamn cop. Hell, this crazy game's all good to me. One way or another don't change a thing. Just pay me and point the way and I am there.
But like I say, once Katrina lets me in on the job details, one question keeps nagging at me, all night: What's going on with Hector's ghost? These uncle guys almost never work undercover without some other cop keep an eye on them from the shadows. Some cop watching me do away with his partner puts me in mind that this job could toss me in the deepest of shit in a freakin' heartbeat. And nobody do short or easy time off a cop murder, cuz they make sure every single minute you do inside is a living hell.
Katrina quick. She see my concern, tries to calm my nerves by telling how she and Blue have this sweet arrangement with Hector's ghost, this old cop Eddie.
"Eddie?" I say, that name perking me right up. "Eddie McClusky?"
"Yeah, you know him?" she say.
"Bad-ass mother," I say. "Eddie's an Unknown Chicago Legend."
"What d'ya mean, unknown?" she say.
"To the public," I say. "But not to half the population of Joliet. I even hear about Bad-ass Eddie Mac when I'm on the street before I do my stretch. How you so sure Eddie ain't playing y'all?"
"Don't you worry," she say. "Me and Blue don't do this if it ain't all in place."
"Do me favor," I say. "Lay it out for me and I decide if I should worry or not."
I see she pissed at my question, but I guess she decides it's fair to ask, so she gives me the respect I deserve and answers me. "First off, Eddie played ball with Blue plenty in the past."
"Wait a sec, you saying Eddie Mac ain't righteous?" I say. "That ain't the word I hear. How about all them arrests he bring down?"
"When it suits Eddie to play straight, he bring arrests down," she say. "When it don't, he don't. That big Irish gang bust over in Bridgeport? Believe me, Blue helped Eddie out with that. It don't happen if Blue don't come through big."
I'm laughing now. "You saying Blue helping Eddie Mac lock up the bad guys?"
"Blue and Eddie only do deals when they both get something out of it. If they don't, they enemies again."
"Okay, so what's Eddie getting out of knocking off this uncle Hector?" I say.
"Hector knows Eddie play both sides of the street, Eddie don't trust him to be cool. We do this for Eddie, Eddie do something else for Blue," she say. "But I don't know what, cuz that's 'tween Blue and Eddie, and it don't matter to me."
I see it do matter to Katrina, but I leave it right there, cuz I can also see she knows Eddie'll be cool when it all goes down and that's what really matters to me.
"Heavy duty, baby," I say, smiling again. "That's the real deal."
She puts her hand flat on my chest, all sincere and tender.
"We gonna have to lay real low after the job, though," she say. "Think maybe you and me go somewhere and enjoy the quiet life for a little bit?"
"Sounds good," I say, cuz it do sound good.
"I got a place in Costa Rica."
"Gotta get around my parole thing here, baby, but you singing my song."
"Good, Zane," she say. "You gonna like it down there."
I want to ask her about how she first get involved with Blue's business, but I leave that for some other time. Maybe when we in Costa Rica. And I'm wondering how I got this lucky all of a sudden, money in my pocket, beautiful woman all into me. All this shit going through my brain as me and Hector are digging the hole toward head-deep, like Katrina orders us to do, and I keep on thinking and thinking and thinking like this. Wondering what I know.
I know what Katrina say about Eddie, about Blue and Eddie, that's what. And I know Blue owe me. And knowing Blue and Katrina got my back is good enough for me, or I wouldn't be here. But I still can't help coming back around to Eddie Mac, Hector's ghost, lurking out there in the dark watching his partner dig his own grave. I know I should be scared out of my skin over this job, but now that Katrina and Blue lay it out for me, I'm cool. Except for the sweat soaking through my dark green coveralls, about ten percent fear sweat and the rest shoveling sweat, even in the chilly night air.
All this digging is boring now, and I'm sneaking peeks at Katrina checking her watch. We been working this pit a good while, breathing heavy, and my eyes are level with her toes. Hector's head don't even reach up to the grass, he being one short Puerto Rican. Got dirt in my coveralls, dirt on my face, dirt soiling my brand new White Sox cap, dirt in my boots, blisters on my hands, but from this angle I ain't thinking of none a that, cuz I can see right up under that miniskirt, right to Katrina's white thong against her smooth coffee skin, and what a heavenly sight that is. I want to just pull her down and get us both really dirty right here in this black soil.
But she surprise me.
"Good enough," she say. "Zane, use your shovel to get out first."(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Chicago Noir"
Copyright © 2005 Akashic Books.
Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books.
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
Table of Contents
“Goodnight Chicago and Amen” by Luciano Guerriero (99th&Drexel)
“The Gospel of Moral Ends” by Bayo Ojikutu (77th&Jeffery)
“Dear Mr. Kleczka” by Peter Orner (54th&Blackstone)
“The Near Remote” by Jeffery Renard Allen (35th&Michigan)
“Destiny Returns” by Achy Obejas (26th&Kedvale)
“The Great Billik” by Claire Zulkey (19th&Sacramento)
“Maximillian” by Alexai Galaviz-Budziszewski (18th&Allport)
“All Happy Families” by Andrew Ervin (Canal&Jackson)
“Monkey Head” by M.K. Meyers (Grand&Western)
“Zero Zero Day” by Kevin Guilfoile (Grand&Racine)
“Arcadia” by Todd Dills (Chicago&Noble)
“Alex Pinto Hears the Bell” by C.J. Sullivan (North&Troy)
“Pure Products” by Daniel Buckman (Roscoe&Claremont)
“Death Mouth” by Amy Sayre-Roberts (Roscoe&Broadway)
“Like a Rocket with a Beat” by Joe Meno (Lawrence&Broadway)
“Marty’s Drink or Die Club” by Neal Pollack (Clark&Foster)
“Bobby Kagan Knows Everything” by Adam Langer (Albion&Whipple)
“The Oldest Rivalry” by Jim Arndorfer (I-94, Lake Forest Oasis)