George P. Pelecanos
The third book in the Derek Strange and Terry Quinn series, 2003
THE chains binding Granville Oliver’s wrists scraped the scarred surface of the table before him. Manacles also bound his ankles. Oliver’s shoulders and chest filled out the orange jumpsuit he had worn for half a year. His eyes, almost golden when Strange had first met him, were now the color of creamed-up coffee, dull in the artificial light of the interview room of the D.C. Jail.
“Looks like you’re keeping your physical self together,” said Strange, seated on the other side of the table.
“Push-ups,” said Oliver. “I try to do a few hundred every day.”
“You still down in the Hole?”
“You mean Special Management. I don’t know what’s so special about it; ain’t nothin’ but a box. They let me out of it one hour for every forty-eight.”
Strange and Oliver were surrounded by Plexiglas dividers in a space partitioned by cubicles. Nearby, public defenders and CJA attorneys conferred with their clients. The dividers served to mute, somewhat, the various conversations, leaving a low, steady mutter in the room. A thick-necked armed guard sat watching the activity from a chair behind a window in a darkened booth.
“It won’t be long,” said Strange. “They finished with the jury selection.”
“Ives told me. They finally found a dozen D.C. residents weren’t opposed to the death penalty, how’d they put it,
“Four whites,” said Strange.
“How you think they gonna find me, Strange? Guilty?”
Strange looked down and tapped his pen on the open folder lying on the table. He didn’t care to take the conversation any further in that direction. He wasn’t here to discuss what was or was not going to happen relative to the trial, and he was, by definition of his role as an investigator, uninterested in Oliver’s guilt or innocence. It was true that he had a personal connection to this case, but from the start he had been determined to treat this as just another job.
“The prosecution’s going to put Phillip Wood up there first,” said Strange.
“Told you when I met you the very first time he was gonna be my Judas. Phil can’t do no more maximum time. Last time he was inside, they took away his manhood. I mean they ass-raped him good. I knew that boy would flip.” Oliver tried to smile. “Far as geography goes, though, we still close. They got him over there in the Snitch Hive, Strange. Me and Phil, we’re like neighbors.”
Wood had been Granville’s top lieutenant. He had pled out in exchange for testimony against Oliver. Wood would get life, as he had admitted to being the triggerman in other murders; death had been taken off the table. He was housed in the Correctional Treatment Facility, a privately run unit holding informants and government witnesses in the backyard of the D.C. Jail.
“I’ve been gathering background for the cross,” said Strange. “I was looking for you to lead me to one of Phillip’s old girlfriends.”
“Phil knew a lot of girls. The way he used to flash… even a bitch can get some pussy; ain’t no trick to that. Phil used to drive this Turbo Z I had bought for him around to the high schools, ’specially over in Maryland, in PG? Drive by with that Kenwood sound system he had in there, playin’ it loud. The girls used to run up to the car. They didn’t even know who he was, and it didn’t matter. It was obvious he had money, and what he did to get it. Girls just want to be up in there with the stars. It’s
“I’m looking for one girl in particular. She swore out a brutality complaint against Wood.”
“The prosecution gave you that?”
“They don’t have to give you charges, only convictions. I found it in his jacket down at the court. This particular charge, it was no-papered. Never went to trial.”
“What’s the girl’s name?”
“Devra Stokes. Should be about twenty-two by now. She worked at the Paramount Beauty Salon on Good Hope Road.”
Oliver grunted. “Sounds right. Phil did like to chill in those beauty parlors. Said that’s where the girls were, so he wanted to be there, too. But I don’t know her. We went through a lot of young girls. We were kickin’ it with ’em, for the most part. But we were using them for other shit, too.”
“What else would he have used a girl like Devra Stokes for?”
“Well, if she was old enough, and she didn’t have no priors, we’d take her into Maryland or Virginia to buy a gun for us. Virginia, if we needed it quick. We paid for it, but she’d sign the forty-four seventy- three. What they call the yellow form.”
“You mean for a straw purchase.”
“A straw gun, yeah. Course, not all the time. You could rent a gun or get it from people we knew to get it from in the neighborhood. It’s easy for a youngun to get a gun in the city. Easier than it is to buy a car. Shoot, you got to register a car.”
Strange repeated the name: “Devra Stokes.”
“Like I say, I don’t recall. But look, she was workin’ in a salon, chance is, she still doin’ the same thing, maybe somewhere else, but in the area. Those girls move around, but not too far.”
“Phil’s gonna say I killed my uncle, ain’t that right?”
“I don’t know what he’s going to say, Granville.”
Oliver and Strange stared at each other across the desk.
“You standin’ tall, big man?” said Oliver.
Oliver was questioning Strange’s loyalty. Strange answered by holding Oliver’s gaze.
“I ain’t no dreamer,” said Oliver. “One way or the other, it’s over for me. The business is done. Most of the boys I came up with, they’re dead or doin’ long time. One of the young ones I brought along got his own thing now, but he’s cut things off with me. Word I get is, he still got himself lined up with Phil. Shoot, I hear they got two operations fighting over what I built as we sit here today.”
“What’s your point?”
“I feel like I’m already gone. They want to erase me, Strange. Make it so I don’t exist no