“What do you know?” I asked in disgust.

“Roke Williams. Roke run a crap game down Alameda. Lund work for the man sell him p’otection.”

I DROVE TO A SMALL BUILDING on Pico and Rimpau. All the way I was wondering why a man in organized crime would be setting a bomb at a Negro junior high school. I wondered but I wasn’t afraid—and that was a problem. If you go up against men in organized crime, you should at least have the sense to be afraid.

There was a weathered sign above the front door of the building. If you looked closely you could make out the word HETTLEMANN and, a little farther down, RINGS. I had no idea what the building used to be. Now it was a series of sales and service offices rented out to various firms and individuals. On the fourth floor was a block of offices run by a man named Zane. They did bookkeeping and financial statements for small businesses.

The three flights of stairs was nothing for me. For the past few months I had cut down to ten cigarettes a day and I was used to the vast stairway at Truth.

When I opened the door on the fourth floor, I came into a small room where Anatole Zane sat. Zane, by his own estimation was a “…manager, receptionist, janitor, and delivery boy…” for his quirky accounting firm. He hired nonprofessionals who were good with numbers and parceled out tasks that he took in for cut-rate prices.

Jackson Blue was his most prized employee.

“Mr. Rawlins.” Zane smiled at me. He got his large body out of the chair and shook my hand. “It’s so good to see you again.”

Zane did my year-end taxes. I owned three apartment buildings around Watts and had the sense to know that a professional would do a better job with the government than I ever could. I had introduced the modest bookkeeper to the cowardly, brilliant, and untrustworthy Jackson Blue.

“Good to see you too, Anatole.”

“Jackson’s in his office doing a spreadsheet on the Morgans.”


I went through the door behind Zane’s small desk. There I entered a hall so narrow that I imagined the fat manager might get stuck trying to make it from one end to the other.

I knocked on the third door down.



I heard the screech of a chair on the floor and three quick steps across the room. Then there was a moment of silence.

After that, a quavering voice: “Easy?”

A door down the hall opened up. A bespectacled Asian man stuck his head out. When I turned in his direction, he jumped back and slammed the door.

“Come on, Jackson,” I said loudly. “Open up.”

The door I had knocked on opened.

If coyotes were black, Jackson Blue would have been their king. He was small and quick. His eyes saw more than most, and his mind was the finest I had ever encountered. But for all that, Jackson was as much a fool as Douglas “Cousin” Hardy. He was a sneak thief, an unredeemable liar, and dumb as a post when it came to discerning motivations of the human heart.

“What the fuck you mean scarin’ me like that, Easy?”

“You at work, Jackson,” I said, walking into his office. “This ain’t no bookie operation. You not gonna get busted.”

Jackson slammed his door.

“Shut up, man. Don’t be talkin’ like that where they might hear you.”

I sat in a red leather chair that was left over from the previous tenants. Jackson had nice furniture and a fairly large office. He had a window too, but the only view was a partially plastered brick wall.

“How you doin’, Jackson?”

“Fine. Till you showed up.”

He crossed the room, giving me a wide berth, and settled in the chair behind his secondhand mahogany desk. He avoided physical closeness because he didn’t know why I was there. Jackson had betrayed and cheated so many people that he was always on guard against attack.

“What you doin’?” I asked.

He held up what looked like a hand-typed manual. It had a cheap blue cover with IBM and BAL scrawled in red across the bottom.

Jackson smiled.

“What is it?”

“The key code to the binary language of machines.”

“Say what?”

“Computers, Easy. The wave of the future right here in my hand.”

“You gonna boost ’em or what?”

“You got a wallet in your pocket, right, man?”

Вы читаете Six Easy Pieces
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