Reverse-Gentrification of the Literary World

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The first title from The Armory, a new high-quality urban noir imprint edited by Kenji Jasper.

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Excerpt from Got

Chapter 1

You’ve been doing the job longer than you want to think about. The bags are always waiting when you get there. Sometimes they’re leather, sometimes the cheapest nylon. But they always weigh the same. Always exactly the same.

You’ve come a long way from the days of smash-and-grabs down at Union Square. You refined yourself beyond boosting whips at the Meadowlands and pushin’ smoke to the trust fund babies at NYU. Any more of that and you were never going to see twenty-one. So there was only one answer when the question got popped like a bottle. It’s only ninety minutes out of your day and they pay you a grand a week, in Benjamins. How the fuck could you ever beat that? Plus the job has a special perk.

She’s about five-six with legs that taste like chocolate, eight-pack abs, and an ass that even she admits is hard to carry. Her green eyes glow in the gelled light overhead and her lips . . . well . . . her lips are the best part of all.

First time you met her was by accident. She was coming out of the spot when you were on your way in. Jeans and a sweater underneath that Dior trench, wine-colored pumps with fur on the heels. Her hair was a dark brown with cranberry extensions weaved into her cornrows. And she had a book in her hand. One Hundred Years of Solitude in its original Spanish. If that didn’t call for bonus points then what did? Half black, half Dominican She told you to come see her sometime. So you came, a lot.

She was a good reason to do some budgeting. You cooled down that fetish for sneakers and jeans, so she could make your snake stretch. You put the phone, cable, and Internet together in one bill so you could come home with that scent that only dancers wear, that flower-bomb knockoff shit that comes in the translucent yellow bottle. You bought her some for her birthday, or at least on the day she told you she was born.

The best thing is that you don’t have any illusions about the arrangement. You’re paying for it and you know it. You’re paying to see her move. You’re paying for the touch of her flesh against your palms, the feeling of her sweet breath on the crucial parts of your lower anatomy. You pay for the daylight delusion that she belongs to you.

You can’t wait for her fingers to wrap around your wrist as she leads you between those walls of tinted glass. You keep the bag closed, right next to you and in reach at all times. She pours you a Hen and Coke to go along with whatever playlist you’ve chosen for the hour: “Your Body’s Callin’,” or “How Do U Want It.” Sometimes you take it old school with that “Voyage to Atlantis.” You stay up half the night before trying to put together the perfect mix. You want each time to be perfect in a completely different way than the time before.

She doesn’t actually dance for that long, just enough to get your pulse rolling, just enough for you to forget about what you’ve done since the last time. She crawls to you, her wrists and thighs gleaming with oil and glitter in the sparse light coming down from above. She takes her time lowering your zipper and then a deep breath before ignition. Her breath is so warm you imagine your dick fogging up like glass in the dead of winter.

Then she locks lips together, forming a union between her and your most prized possession, the bar through her tongue running up and down the elongating speed bump on the underside. You feel those press-on-nailed fingers working the balls underneath, squeezing them as she effortlessly travels your length. You hear yourself moan without recognizing the voice. You clench the extensions on the back of her neck like they’re a horse’s reins.

She removes the sequined fabric that separates her tits from your line of vision. They fall like fruit from a tree, hanging perfectly just above your palms, her plum-colored nipples hardening as you make contact. Titties swing in unison with her head and neck, rolling to the rhythm of the music she can’t hear through your iPod. The Whispers are “In the Mood.”

This started out a one-time thing all those weeks ago. You made your drop early and the club was close, so you decided to come through. At first you only watched her from the stage. You watched the way all those bitch niggas just stared like she was something they could never have. You put 20s in her garter every ten minutes, blowing your bonus before it even got warm. An hour later you’d have her up in the room, one-on-one in a five-by-eight box.

Every week she brings up a different outfit: garter belts and stockings, leather g-strings and the plastic stuff that chick wore in The Matrix. Her fingers and toes are tools of precision. Her rear teeth are in perfect alignment.

She tells you about all the niggas and broads that want to steal her away from this place so they can put her in their own cages. She tells you this because she knows you respect her, because you know that outside of here she’s just another girl bound to give you broad-type problems.

It’s your twelfth week here and you still don’t know her name—her real name, that is. You don’t know how long she’s worked there or where she was born, how old she is or if she’s got rugrats. All you know is that she’s good, and for now that’s all that matters.

You lean back as her saliva flows, as the slip and slide gets more intense. Your feet fall in opposite directions as you get that feeling, that faint rumbling in your nuts begins to build, rising to the top like Doug E. Fresh’s third-most-famous single. One hand pinches her nipples. Another grips the ungrippable left cheek of her divine ass.

You imagine that you’re inside of her, fuckin’ her from behind, her face pressed against the tinted glass, that perfect cleft between her ass cheeks widening as she moves back and forth, pulling you into the depths with your hands as the steering wheel. It becomes more real than where you really are. She is goddess.

You come like you haven’t fucked in a year, and she takes it all, what she can’t hold spilling down the sides of her mouth. You black out for three seconds, and when you come to she’s spitting it all into what looks like a plastic shopping bag. She must have stashed it under the chair.

“Good?” she asks, retying her sequined top. Her face’s sprinkled with tiny beads of sweat.

“Good,” you say, breathing heavily and blushing. You would give her anything, anything in the whole fuckin’ world.

“You comin’ back next week?” The words don’t surprise because of what she says, but how she says them. There’s a twinge of something questionable, something diversionary, something to keep you in your place just a little longer than usual. That intuitional reaction then becomes concern, which almost immediately makes itself over into full-blown warning.

Her eyes move away from yours as you consider what might have just happened. Then something catches your eye beyond the one-way glass. Two shadows are moving quickly, moving as if they’re making a beeline for anywhere away from where they are. You reach to the right for the bag but it’s not there. The entire week’s drop for Brooklyn is not next to you, a drop that totals at least four times your annual salary.

You shove her against the glass and head out the doorway, not staying long enough to see where she lands. You button your pants without zipping as you move toward the spiral staircase. One foot drops in front of the other as fast as you can make them.

You go down the stairs (losing your iPod somewhere in the process) and past the first bar and then through the main lounge where all the working dudes are blowing their checks. One takes his hard dick out and shows it to a dancer. The bouncers are on him before he gets a single stroke off.

All the men in this room are too old and too slow, muthafuckas who might’ve done this a lifetime ago, but not now. They’ve got families and kids and mortgages. There’s way too much to lose after forty, no matter who you are. Something tells you to get to the parking lot.

This is one time when you really wish you had heat. I mean, you’re dealing with two dudes at least and there’s no telling how well they’re armed. But you stopped fuckin’ with burners a long time ago, for reasons you’d rather not go into here and now. Triggers get awful light when you’ve got good aim. And when you’ve got good aim the list of targets can be endless. Too much blood. Too much gear set aflame to get rid of the evidence.

Two shadows turn the corner of the building as you clear the push-bar exit. You pick up the pace, measuring out each stride as you sprint in their direction. When you turn the corner you almost slip on what appears to be a black wig made of cheap plastic hair. Are these dudes actually broads or is this meant to throw you off? Are you running after the right muthafuckas, or is your bag already in a car headed in the opposite direction?

This shit is like a bad dream if you’ve ever had one, one of those really mindfuckin’ ones you get on the nights you don’t go to sleep high. That’s actually why you always try to go to sleep high—cuz then it’s nothing but black space and the sound of your own snoring.

There are no streetlights in the alley but you can see their slender silhouettes heading toward the mouth at the other end. You put on the Jedi hyper-speed. Maybe you can catch up to them, tackle the one with the money, and watch the other bitch run off glad he/she’s still alive.

The thought of something that perfectly easy makes you grin as you run. The grin narrows your eyes in the relative darkness and you fail to see the seven-foot dude with the double barrel stooped down less than ten feet in front of you. But you do hear those barrels roar when both shells explode, forcing a countless number of tiny ball bearings into you at the speed Superman is said to have beat.

Less than a moment later you, like the man of steel, are flying, backwards toward the bulbs above the parking lot, that blinding fluorescent glare just below the stars. The Brooklyn night is so clear, so beautiful. Maybe it’s the last one you’ll ever see. But not likely. You’re wearing Kevlar. No guns, but you never go without a vest.

Somewhere in the distance a car turns over. They, whoever they are, are getting away. You can also hear the sirens in the opposite direction. They’ll have questions and you better make up the perfect answers. Because sooner or later Star will start wondering where the drop is. And you know he ain’t gonna take no excuses. He might, however, take your life.

So you’ll have to run until you catch them, whoever they might be and wherever they might go. There could be others, all of them armed to the teeth. Your ribs could be cracked or even broken from the blast. But that don’t even matter in the scheme of things. You’ve got about ten hours until dawn, ten hours to get that bag and get it to the man who lets you live and pays you as a favor. So you best better start moving.