A Twisted Ladder

A Twisted Ladder by Rhodi Hawk Read Free Book Online

Book: A Twisted Ladder by Rhodi Hawk Read Free Book Online
Authors: Rhodi Hawk
the inner circle of light, moving slowly and with intermittent hesitation.
    Come closer
.
    The cat looked to the left and dipped its head. It took three more hesitant steps forward before it turned and galloped for cover.
    Josh said, “Good. You’re getting better. Keep at it.”
    No street lamps glowed near Zenon and Josh. The Duster sat in relative darkness, with just enough faraway illumination to highlight ropey veins in Zenon’s arm. He blew a stream of smoke out into the thick, warm air, half-expecting it to coagulate into a solid mesh when it mixed with the humidity. His face beaded with perspiration that would not evaporate.
    He stole a glance at Josh. No perspiration on
his
face. Never was.
    “You hot?”
    Josh shrugged. “It’s hot in here.”
    “Yeah, I know it’s hot in here.
I’m
hotter’n hell. But are
you
hot?”
    Josh shrugged again. “I guess. Quit givin me shit.”
    In the apartment building beyond, the window filled with blue light from a television, and Angel came into view.
    Her long straight hair swung at her shoulders as she maneuvered through her living room. The television reflected against her skin, framing her silhouette as she passed in front of it. She poured water over plants at the sill. And though she stood right in front of the window, she did not look out. Wouldn’t have seen them anyway. All the curtains stood open, even in her bedroom. The sheer fabric danced with the warm night breeze. She wore only a white button-down and panties.
    “Look at that,” Josh said. “Half-nekked in front of an open window. Not a lick of common sense.”
    Zenon shook his head.
    “This one’ll be easy,” Josh said.
    Zenon watched the figure moving inside the room beyond the windows. “I’m serious, man. I’m thinking there are better choices than this.”
    Josh sighed.
    Zenon was not going to be put off. “I can think of about a hundred people I’d like to see go down. The governor. Hell, the moonies. Hebetudes like that fucker who cain’t park.”
    He waved a hand at the building. “I don’t even know who this woman is. I don’t see why
I
shouldn’t pick the mark this time.”
    “Zenon,” Josh said, lifting his hand. “It ain’t like drawing straws. She’s one of them. A big one. This one’s important.”
    “Hell on a mother.” Zenon clenched his lips, his right hand working into a fist.
    Josh said, “Listen, brother, you gotta carry this out according to the plan. You go out there like a cowboy picking off people you don’t like, you’re just some random weirdo.” Josh paused, tilting his head. “And I don’t got your back no more. You gotta be cool.”
    Zenon fell silent.
    “Look man,” Josh said. “I mean it, be cool. You do what I say and no one can touch you. It’s for your own good. Have I steered you wrong yet?”
    Zenon cut his eyes toward the street.
    “No,” he finally said. “You done me right.”
    “All right then, brother. We cool?”
    “Yeah, brother, we cool.”
    “Good.” Josh looked up at the window, then back at Zenon. “Let’s get this started.”

six

     
     
    HAHNVILLE, 1912
     
    S OMETIME DURING THE NIGHT , a knock at the front door startled Rémi from sleep. Before he was even fully awake his mind registered that it had to be Jacob out there. In Creole tradition, men entered a house through the men’s parlor; ladies through the ladies’ parlor. The only ones who used the front door were Americans and dogs. Rémi smiled, rubbing his eyes. Perhaps the Americans weren’t the only ones capable of a little cultural arrogance.
    Rémi sat up suddenly, emerging from the sleep fog, realizing that a knock at this hour meant something was wrong. He heard rain hammering at the tin roof above.
    He donned his pants and shirt, and could hear Tatie Bernadette opening the front door. Through the thick walls of his room, he caught Jacob’s voice and the muffled word “levee.” A chill ran down Rémi’s back. Two levees existed in this part of

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