Read George Pelecanos Online

Authors: DC Noir

George Pelecanos

DC Noir
edited by
George Pelecanos

ALSO IN THE AKASHIC NOIR
SERIES:

Dublin
Noir, edited by Ken Bruen

Brooklyn
Noir, edited by Tim McLoughlin

Brooklyn
Noir 2: The Classics, edited by Tim McLoughlin

Chicago
Noir, edited by Neal Pollack

San
Francisco Noir, edited by Peter Maravelis

FORTHCOMING:

Manhattan
Noir, edited by Lawrence Block

Baltimore
Noir, edited by Laura Lippman

Twin
Cities Noir, edited by Julie Schaper & Steven Horwitz

Los
Angeles Noir, edited by Denise Hamilton

London
Noir, edited by Cathi Unsworth

Miami
Noir, edited by Les Standiford

Havana
Noir, edited by Achy Obejas

Lone
Star Noir, edited by Edward Nawotka

Wall
Street Noir, edited by Peter Spiegelman

This
collection is comprised of works of fiction. All names, characters, places, and
incidents are the product of the authors' imaginations. Any resemblance to real
events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Series
concept by Tim McLoughlin and Johnny Temple

D.C.
map by Sohrab Habibion

Published
by Akashic Books

(c)2006
George Pelecanos

ePub
ISBN-13: 978-1-936-07025-1

ISBN-13:
978-1-888451-90-0

ISBN-10:
1-888451-90-4

Library
of Congress Control Number: 2005925467

All
rights reserved

First
printing

Printed
in Canada

Akashic
Books

PO
Box 1456

New
York, NY 10009

[email protected]

www.akashicbooks.com

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Part I: D.C. Uncovered

"The
Confidential Informant" by George Pelecanos (Park View, N.W.)

"First" by Kenji Jasper
(Benning Heights, S.E)

"Capital of the World"
by Jim Patton (Chinatown, N.W)

"The
Names of the Lost" by Richard Currey (Shepherd Park, N.W.)

Part II: Streets & Alleys

"East of the Sun" by
Jennifer Howard (Hill East, S.E)

"Solomon's
Alley" by Robert Andrews (Georgetown, N.W.)

"The Light and the Dark"
by Robert Wisdom (Petworth, N.W)

"A.R.M.
and the Woman" by Laura Lippman (Chevy Chase, N.W.)

Part III: Cops & Robbers

"Cold as
Ice" by Quintin Peterson (Congress Heights, S.E/S.W.)

"God Don't Like Ugly"
by Lester Irby (Edgewood, N.E.)

"Coyote
Hunt" by Ruben Castaneda (Mount Pleasant, N.W.)

"Jeanette" by Jim Beane
(Deanwood, N.E)

Part IV: The Hill & the Edge

"The
Bottom Line" by James Grady (Capitol Hill, N.E/S.E.)

"Stiffed"
by David Slater (Thomas Circle, N.W.)

"The
Messanger of Soulsville" by Norman Kelley (Shaw, N.W.)

"The
Dupe" by Jim Fusilli (K Street, N.W.)

About The Contributors

INTRODUCTION

NOTES ON D.C. NOIR

Recently,
on the way to a witness interview on the 1600 block of W Street, S.E. with
detectives from Washington, D.C.'s MPD Violent Crimes Branch, I passed through
the low-rise, government-assisted dwellings off Langston Place in Ward 7.
There, in a dirt and concrete courtyard patched with the last of winter's snow,
was a make-shift memorial of sorts to a teenaged murder victim who had
allegedly been in the life himself. Grouped around a steel pole were various
forms of stuffed animals, teddy bears and the like, along with plastic flowers
and some balloons, long depleted of their helium, lying on the ground. The site
contained no R.I.P. tags or name identifications of any kind. It's what's known
as a "tribute" in this part of town.

That
night, in the comfort of my home, I sat down to read the Washington Post. The
above-the-fold story on the front page of the Style section, which jumped
inside and took up many column inches, concerned an author from wealthy,
mostly-white Ward 3, who had written a book about the anxiety of today's
Washington woman, who has to deal with "soul-draining perfectionism," shuttling
kids to soccer matches, nighttime Girl Scout cookie meetings, and finding the
right art camp and piano teacher for her kids. Buried in the Metro section of
that same newspaper were the latest crime fatalities, all occurring far away
from those houses on the high ground of Cleveland Park and Chevy Chase.
The victims, many unnamed, all young, got two paragraphs of space
inside the section.

By
now you may think you know where this is going. But the truth is
,
it's just an anecdote that describes "that thing"
D.C.-area residents live with every day. The reason so much space was devoted
to the article about "today's Washington woman" was because it would be read by
a large number of Washingtonians, who could relate. Yet just as many read the
Crime and Justice capsule inside Metro, because they might have heard the
gunshots outside their doors, or they might have known the victims or the
shooters, or both, when they were children. Yes, this city is polarized, but
that's a too-easy observation, and it denies the District's complexity as a
whole. In fact, it would be inaccurate to repeat the notion that there are two
D.C.'s.

Here's
another myth debunked: This is not a transient city, as it is often ludicrously
described. A very small percentage of the population comes and goes every
four-to-eight years, blowing in and out of town with whatever presidential
administration sets up temporary camp. The vast majority of the citizens, many
who came up from the South, have lived here for generations. Others came and
still come from overseas, or emigrated from other states, chasing opportunity
and riding the great prosperity boom/hiring rush of the post--World War II
years. Many arrived with a desire to be a part of early-'60s Camelot.

I
imagine they stayed because they liked it. There are easier places to live, but
few as interesting. Nowhere in this country is the race, class, and culture
divide more obvious than it is in Washington, D.C. And the conflict does not
bubble below the surface--this American experiment is disected and discussed,
in-your-face style, every day.

Other
things: The citizens of Washington have no vote or meaningful representation in
the House or the Senate of the U.S. Congress. No taxation without
representation, except for the citizens of the nation's capital. The federal
government controls the purse strings here, and the policymakers dole out the
money according to their own motives. Since there is no vote to massage,
politicians and presidents have historically ignored the neediest people of
this city, as there's little upside to reaching out. Walk into any public high
school in the District, take a look around, and see a stark illustration of an
absolute failure of governance.

That
the kids always suffer is nothing less than a national disgrace. But the
communities, realizing that the financial gatekeepers have turned a blind eye
toward their children, have dug deep and looked in their own backyards for
solutions. Coaches, teachers, big brothers and sisters, mentors, church groups,
and other volunteers are the real heroes of this city, and have stepped up in a
big way to impact the lives of our young men and women. Still, there is a great
deal of bitterness on the part of Washingtonians toward the federal government.

So
don't expect all the locals to get misty-eyed over monuments, inauguration
balls, or care about the society sightings inside Style. What might get them
emotional is the sight of someone who shares their memories. The ones who
remember Riggo breaking that tackle in '83, Len Bias's jersey number, Phil
Chenier's baseline jumper, Frank Howard's swing, or Doug Williams throwing
downfield like God was talking in his ear. The ones who saw Aretha as a child performing
with her father onstage at the Howard, or Sinatra at the Watergate barge, or
Trouble Funk at the old 9:30, or Hendrix at the Ambassador, or Bruce at the
Childe Harold.
The ones who play Frankie Beverly or EWF at
Sunday picnics in Rock Creek Park.
The ones who have Backyard Band,
Minor Threat, Chuck Brown, William DeVaughn, Shirley Horn, and Bad Brains in
their record collections. The ones who know that Elgin Baylor came out of
Spingarn, or that Adrian Dantley and Brian Westbrook were DeMatha Stags.
The ones who hear the voice of Bobby "The Mighty Burner" Bennett on
the radio and can't help but grin.
The ones who bleed
Burgundy and Gold.
The ones who will claim that they know your distant
cousin, or tell you they like the looks of your car, or, if it needs to be
replaced, mention that it's a hooptie.
Or the woman at the
Safeway who hands you your receipt and tells you to "have a blessed day."
Or the matriarch on your street with the prunish, beautiful
face who raised six sons and now lords over a house holding many of their
children.

It's
about the collective memories of the locals, and also about the voices. If you
close your eyes and listen to the people of this city, you will hear the many
different voices, and if you've lived here long enough, the cadences and
rhythms, the familiarity of it, the feeling that you are home, will make you
smile.

This
is a collection of short stories that, in the context of crime/noir fiction,
attempts to capture those voices. Why crime fiction? It involves a high degree
of conflict, which drives most good fiction. It also allows us to explore
social issues and the strengths and frailties of humanity that are a part of
our everyday lives here.

In
the interest of inclusion, we have tried to explore every quadrant of the city
and many of the neighborhoods within them, and have not forgotten the federal
city and downtown. We have enlisted the well-known and the someday-will-be. The
writers include lifelong Washingtonians, imports and exports, a gentleman who
is currently incarcerated, a police officer, an actor, bloggers, journalists,
blacks, whites, Hispanics, males and females, and yeah, even a Greek American.

With
pride, and always with hope and anticipation, here's a look at our D.C.

George
Pelecanos

Washington,
D.C.

November
2005

PART I

D.C. Uncovered

THE CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT

BY GEORGE PELECANOS

Park View, N.W.

I
was in the waiting area of the Veteran's Hospital emergency room off North
Capitol Street, seeing to my father, when Detective Tony Barnes hit me back on
my cell. My father had laid his head down on the crossbar of his walker, and it
was going to be awhile before someone came and called his name. I walked the
phone outside and lit myself a smoke.

"What's
goin' on, Verdon?" said Barnes.

"Need
to talk to you about Rico Jennings."

"Go
ahead."

"Not
on the phone." I wasn't about to give Barnes no information without feeling
some of his cash money in my hand.

"When
can I see you?"

"My
pops took ill. I'm still dealin' with that, so...make it 9:00. You know where."

Barnes
cut the line. I smoked my cigarette down to the filter and went back inside.

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