StripBook - 2010
A bracing and ingeniously cast L.A. crime novel from Edgar Award--winner Thomas Perry
An aging but formidable strip club owner, Claudiu "Manco" Kapak, is robbed by a masked gunman as he places his cash receipts in a bank's night-deposit box. Enraged, he sends out half a dozen security men to find the witless culprit. Their search leads them to Joe Carver, an innocent but hardly defenseless newcomer who evades capture and sets out to make Kapak wish he'd targeted someone else. Meanwhile, the real burglar, Jefferson Davis Falkins, and his new girlfriend Carrie seem to believe they've found a whole new profession: robbing Manco Kapak. Lieutenant Nick Slosser, the police detective in charge of the puzzling and increasingly violent case, has his own troubles, including worries about how he's going to afford to send the oldest child of each of his two bigamous marriages to college without making their mothers suspicious. As this strange series of events explodes into a triple killing, Carver finds himself in the middle of a brewing gang war over Kapak's little empire, while Falkins and Carrie journey into territory more dangerous than they could have ever imagined.
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He had chosen to come to Los Angeles, and some choices could be permanent. He couldn’t go back now to some place where just being alive was work. It was as though when he had crossed the California line, he had stepped off a cliff. There was no way back up. Carver had always been smart enough to know that when he did anything he was choosing to let a thousand other things remain undone, dooming them to nonexistence. But he was also wise enough not to allow himself to waste much time thinking about all of those unborn futures.
When he had arrived in California, he had noticed immediately that the most beautiful women in the world — the best of every race and country — were roaming the malls, beaches, and clubs of Los Angeles, more common than sparrows. He had known instantly that to be anywhere else was to be in exile.
He’s got money and power and all that, but those things don’t come to bed with him. What’s there is a sixty-five-year-old fat guy with a hairy back and trouble getting hard.
“You’re talking about your strip clubs, so it’s strippers?” “Gentlemen’s clubs. The entertainers are exotic dancers, yes.”
Eldon the dog raised his head and turned to Jeff, knowing that in a minute Jeff would probably insist on getting up and spoiling the community and comfort of the couch. Eldon sniffed the air, learning things from it that he kept to himself. All Jeff could tell was that he had not sniffed anything that worried him, like the approach of hostile strangers.
“I’m an entrepreneur. I invest in good ideas, turn them into businesses, run them for a while to prove they work, and then sell them.” He had heard someone say that on television and it had sounded good to him .
He was aware that the number of men who had waited in some public place for some girl they didn’t know and got stood up was in the billions .
His uncle Joe had told him when he was young that if he wanted to get people to take him at his word, he should spend the most he could on his shoes, watch, and haircut .
Nick had been so happy with his wife and family that he had married again right away.
There were girls who seemed to be completely sane. They wanted things a man could understand — maybe a good time she couldn’t afford but the man could, or sex. Actually, the sex they wanted was not so much sex in itself, but a nice friendship that might include sex at a future time. Or they just had an honest wish to kill a long night without being alone in a crummy apartment in a city they weren’t born in. But then there were these strange, incomprehensible women who wanted to play tricks and humiliate men they didn’t even know, who had done nothing but show interest in them. If Jeff had met a girl he wasn’t interested in, he wouldn’t have said he was giving her his number and really given her the number of the police or the YMCA or something. It was a mystery.
He didn’t do it, because he’d lost his heart, not his brain .
The men were loudmouthed and pushy, trying to be intimidating when they didn’t get what they wanted, but most of them had never felt a serious punch or heard a shot fired. The women were self-obsessed and lazy. They were greedy for money and wanted to dress like movie stars. They neglected their children, hired immigrant women to raise them, but wanted other adults to refer to them as “moms.” Seeing them grow up had been like watching a disease arrive and take over a herd of cattle. All he could do was hope that they died off before the disease spread further .
A government that left people alone most of the time was worth a lot of money .
At 6:00, Harkness the day manager would be in opening things up and preparing the building for the morning deliveries: liquor, soft drinks, linens, bar napkins, food. By 9:00, they’d have the place restocked, and the cooks would start preparing for the lunch crowd. The first of the dancers would arrive around 11:00 to limber up and put on their costumes. Most of the early shift had kids they took to school in the morning. They arrived with no makeup and hair either in ponytails or under scarves, carrying cups of coffee. They left in the early afternoon, out the back door to the lot to pick up the kids. Then the sequence of evening shifts would begin again .
There were lots of times when a leader lost his luck. When he did, everybody around him was in for a rough time. Everything they tried to do was five minutes late, one man short .
This is deeper than logic. Human beings have spent ten thousand years working to deny and ignore and get rid of their pure animal instincts and senses. But we still haven’t entirely defeated ourselves, because we can’t help sensing things about people.”
He floated in the bright morning sunlight to the chicken yard outside his little house in the village in Guatemala. He could feel the sun’s warmth on his back and his neck as he squatted in the dust tossing feed to the chickens. Their copper bodies and emerald green tail feathers and bright scarlet combs glowed in the morning light. The world seemed so beautiful, and so safe .
Las Vegas. The banks are open later there, because they don’t want to keep anybody from doing anything on impulse .
It was like that guy in the Bible, riding his donkey and he gets like a stroke, knocked right off his donkey onto the road. He gets up, and he’s a new guy.” “Saul. When he gets up he changes his name to Paul.” “You sure?” “Yes, I am. Didn’t you go to Sunday School?”
“I’m dumping you because you’re not the one. That’s what every single girl is on the lookout for — the one who was meant for her. You’re not him .
Having an understanding with Spence was like carrying a hand grenade. He had to be sure, because he wasn’t going to get to use it twice .
“This is bear country,” he said. “This?” said Jerry. “You’re crazy.” “I’m not. It was in the paper that one of the very best places in the whole country to hunt grizzlies was Laurel Canyon.” “Could you be more full of shit? There isn’t one grizzly bear in the whole state at this moment.” “I said ‘ was. ’ I don’t mean now, you idiot. They said this was around 1860 or so. This canyon, right where we are, was full of bears. You can sort of feel where they must have been — right on those shady spots along the sides of the hills. Right up where you cross Mulholland there’s a place where water just seeps out of the hillside and trickles across the road. That would probably be the spring that fed the stream in dry weather.” “Jesus, Jimmy. These are bears that got shot a hundred and fifty years ago.” “Places are what they are. Just because some people came and shot all the bears and changed the canyon into an unofficial freeway doesn’t make it any less bear country.”
There’s no parole and no time off for good behavior with federal felonies. You’d be in prison until menopause is a dim memory.”
A woman that beautiful must have been conned by older and more experienced men when she was about fifteen. By now she should have assumed that every man who spoke to her was a liar .
She dated the way avid outdoorsmen hunted .
The place he missed so much wasn’t Budapest. It wasn’t a place at all. It was being young .
“You’re missing the point, Manco. I’m not surprised, because your thinking is old-fashioned, like you were still dancing around a gypsy campfire in some part of Europe that God forgot a thousand years ago .
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