Clockers

Clockers by Richard Price Read Free Book Online

Book: Clockers by Richard Price Read Free Book Online
Authors: Richard Price
the glass counter. Rodney absently swept them into his pocket and nodded to Strike. “Let’s go.”
    He took two steps to the door, then wheeled back, snapping his fingers and sliding past his blank-faced daughter again, squatting down behind the counter and coming up with a Toys R Us shopping bag folded over and Scotch-taped into the size and shape of a double bread loaf. From the bulk, Strike figured the bag held about twenty-odd thousand, probably in twenties and smaller bills, the money explaining the rubber bands on Rodney’s wrist.
    But before Rodney could make it out to the street, his beeper went off and he stopped in the doorway, squinting down at the numbers coming up on his hip.
    Strike stole a peek: just two zeros. Rodney scratched his neck, made a face and returned the Toys R Us bag under the counter. He walked Strike out of the store with a palm on the small of his back, stood out in the night with him, humming something tuneless.
    Rodney started to shadowbox. “Futon’s a little immature yet, so why don’t you go back to the benches before he fucks everything up, you know what I’m sayin’?”
    Inexplicably disappointed, Strike shrugged. For a moment they watched the traffic on the boulevard, Strike musing on the fact that Rodney was about the only guy in town who could leave a kilo’s worth of cash with a mopey teenage girl and not have to worry about it.
    “C’mon by tomorrow night.” Rodney cocked his head, giving Strike a smile as if he could read his mind. “Give them legs another stretch-out.”
    Strike drove back to the projects, thinking, Shopping for kilos. How come and why with me?

2
     
    BORED and bloated, Rocco Klein and Larry Mazilli drove slowly back to the Dempsy County prosecutor’s office after a long and too rich dinner in a Portuguese restaurant way out in Newark. It was nine o’clock on a hot June night of a fairly busy year by Dempsy standards: forty-one murders so far in the county, almost all of them, as usual, in the city itself, a city of three hundred thousand mostly angry blue-collar and welfare families. Still, forty-one jobs in close to six months was not exactly a tidal wave of blood, and tonight’s biggest problem was how to look like they were actually earning their pay.
    Rocco was slowing down on green, stopping on yellow, thinking back on some graffiti he had seen on an apartment door earlier in the tour, when he and Mazilli were trying to locate a possible witness on some three-week-old stabbing. The witness, who wasn’t home, lived in O’Brien, a major public-housing tiger pit, and walking down the piss-reeking hallway to the apartment, Rocco had seen a bumper sticker someone had plastered on someone else’s door: I WORK FOR A NON-UNION SCAB EMPLOYER . And under that, presumably written by the tenant himself, was a fierce Magic Marker response: LEEST I GOT A JOB, MOTHERFUCKER . Now, four hours later, Rocco was still marveling at the ferocity of the gesture, somebody scrawling that profanity on their own goddamn door.
    Rocco stopped for a red light and found himself profiling three black kids sitting on a tenement stoop. The kids made Rocco and Mazilli instantly but toughed it out, swallowing their startlement, their faces going heavy-lidded, deadpan and unhappy, looking everywhere but straight ahead at the sky-blue Aries ten feet in front of their noses.
    Mazilli leaned forward slightly to glance across Rocco’s chest. “Guilty, guilty, guilty,” he exhaled in a trailing drawl, then dropped back in the shotgun seat and waited for the light to change, his pinkie ring rapping a spacey tune on the roof of the car.
    Rocco figured the kids saw all the gray hair and made them as Homicides; otherwise they might have taken off like track stars. The light turned green but Rocco stayed put, vaguely insulted, trying to draw one of the kids into eye contact.
    “Hey you.” Rocco picked out the tallest of the three, a kid sporting red acid-washed dungarees, L.A.

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