Monday 19 November 2012

Books Spotlight: Children of the Enemy by David Swykert

Children of the Enemy
by David Swykert
Cambridge Books


Children of the Enemy is a chilling fast paced story about innocents caught up in the Detroit drug business. It was an OmniLit bestseller as a download every week it was listed on the site. It is now available in paperback from Cambridge Books, an imprint of Write Words Inc. - From Linda Arterberry of The Crime House.

Read an extract of the book after the jump:

Excerpt Children of the Enemy
Copyright David Swykert

The snow was running from the sky, Jude was also running. He lit a cigarette, fumbling with the lighter. Jude's hand shook as he put the cigarette to his lips and took a drag. I really got the shakes. I need to get to Leon's bad, stretch out and light up a pipe, be out of this snow. Yeah, need a good hit, but no time for that now. The farther I get from Detroit the better off I’m gonna be. Parson’s really pissed, and he’s looking for me, but he isn’t gonna find Jude. Nope, Jude’s not gonna be around. This deal went down Jude’s way, I got the dope and he got shit, Jude laughed to himself as he wound the car around the snowy back roads of Sumpter Township.

A thick layer of snow covered the road, including the large chuckhole Jude never saw. The front end of the car slammed into the hole so hard it banged his knees up under the dashboard. Jude let up on the accelerator and slowed down, his heart beating like a sparrow’s. That was a big hole. I've got to be more careful. I'm almost there. This snow isn’t going to stop me. I’ve got Parson’s dope and everything gonna be just fine, he kept telling himself.

The snow continued to fall. Jude felt the steering wheel begin to pull hard to the right and he could barely keep the car on the road. He stopped on the side of the road and got out of the car and looked at the wheel. The right front tire was flat. The rim was bent from the chuckhole he had run over. "Fuck, why does this shit have to happen now? Things were just beginning to go my way, and then this fucking shit has to happen out here in the middle of nowhere," he complained out loud to no one.

Jude opened the trunk. There was no spare inside. He began to weigh his options. Nobody out here in the country is gonna stop and help my ass but the cops. And when those cops get a look at me in this Cadillac they're gonna search the car. Then I'm going to jail. If I go to jail I might as well fucking shoot myself right now. Some snitch at the jail is bound to roll over on me and call Parson. When he finds out the cops have me, and the dope, he's gonna have me done while I'm doing my time. If I happen to get busted by some fucking cops on the take, the cops will keep the dope for themselves, and their report won't show any dope on the arrest record. In which case Parson is gonna wait until I get out and then he's gonna let Swallow kill me, very slowly, trying to find out what I did with his dope. I really don’t have any options, snow or no snow; I gotta take the dope and make a run for it.

Jude looked down the road. There was a slight curve up ahead and drifting up into the sky he saw smoke. There must be a house around the curve. Maybe I can just boost a car and be on my way. He reached in the Cadillac and took a flight bag off of the front seat and tossed it over his shoulder. He began walking down the road towards the smoke. The snow was deep and it filled his alligator loafers as he walked. He didn't get to the curve in the road before his feet were soaked and freezing. But Jude kept on walking, shivering in the cold and beginning to shake from withdrawal. "God damn this fucking snow," he said, looking up at the sky. The snow began to fall even harder.

Around the curve in the road Jude saw there wasn’t any house, or cabin, but a house trailer sitting way back off the road. Around the trailer were plenty of cars, unfortunately all of them in pieces. Along with the disassembled cars there were washing machines; dryers, stoves, cabinets, ladders, windows, (mostly minus glass) bicycles, chairs, tables, refrigerators, desks, beds, mattresses, springs, sinks, tubs, toilets, and vanities. There was also a lot of spare parts for cars; tires, rims, tubes, fenders, doors, hoods, trunk lids, bumpers, steering wheels, dashboards, seats, engines, and a wooden sign with "Ray's Fixit" painted on it.

Much like the machines in front of him Jude was falling apart. Water filled his eyes, his nose began to run, his hand shook, his body shook, and his teeth began to ache. Jude looked up the path that led to the trailer. He reached in his overcoat and put his hand on his gun, might as well see who’s in the trailer. If I stay out here I'm gonna freeze to death. If I go back to the car the cops are gonna get me. If I hitch back to Detroit, Parson will kill me. At least in the trailer I can get warm. Get warm and light up a rock. Yeah, light up a rock and make whoever’s in there help me out of this mess. And they're gonna help me whether they want to or not.

Jude stood on the stoop in front of the trailer door. He seemed smaller and more fragile than his six foot frame. Perhaps it was the heavy woolen overcoat covered with snow that was weighing him down. Or perhaps it was the flight bag full of cocaine and crack that was bending his shoulder. It was a helpless looking mass of cold and sniveling humanity that Raymond Little opened his door to and found on his stoop. "What do you want?" Raymond asked.

"I need a fucking place to warm up," Jude snarled. But when he saw the massive wide body with the graying beard standing in front of him he quickly dropped the edge in his voice. "My car broke down back on the road and I'm freezing. Can I come in and get warm?"

Raymond looked him over, and against his better judgment stepped aside and let him in. "I got a phone. If you need help you can call the police."

Jude had little patience at this point. His hand squeezed his gun and the edge returned to his voice as he stepped inside, "I need to dry off and get warm, old man."

Ray kept a wary eye on Jude. “I’m Raymond,” he said. “You can warm up here.” "Jude St. Onge," Jude mumbled, keeping his hand on his gun, sizing up Ray, thinking, in his day he could probably handle himself pretty good.

Raymond looked at Jude, the snow melting from his closely shaven head and running down his forehead. "You don’t look so good. You need more than just warming up.”

"Never mind what the fuck I look like, old man, or what I need to do," Jude said as he wiped the snow off his forehead.

"Take your coat off. It’ll dry faster if I hang it up," Raymond said, reaching for the flight bag on Jude’s shoulder.

Jude jerked the bag back. "I'll take care of the bag. And never mind the coat. I’d rather keep it on. I won’t be here very long."

Raymond pointed to the living room. "Come in and sit down for a minute. Take off your shoes so your feet can dry out."

Jude walked into the living room and sat down on a large over stuffed chair. He placed the flight bag on a small lamp table next to him where he could keep his eye on it and slid off his loafers.

The room had another chair and a small couch with a fabric of fading flowers. In front of the couch was a coffee table with a couple of shot glasses and a bottle of Kentucky Straight Bourbon. At the other end of the room was a giant screen television; state of the art technology, and it seemed out of place with all the old furniture.

Raymond followed Jude and sat in the chair across from him. "You got a car?" Jude asked, as he struggled to light a cigarette with a trembling hand.

"How are you gonna keep a car on the road the way you’re shaking? If I gave you a car you'd have to get someone else to drive it."

"I just asked if you got a car. Don't get fucking smart with me old man," Jude snarled, giving up on lighting the wet cigarette.

"I ain't getting smart. But you're shaking so bad I don't see how you could drive a car like that," Raymond said.

Jude opened the flight bag and removed a pipe. He took a rock from a small vial and placed it in the pipe. He lit the pipe and the rock crackled as he inhaled. He drew the smoke deeply into his lungs and held it there. When he exhaled he let out a sigh as if some enormous pressure had been released in him.

"That shit pretty good?" Raymond asked.

Jude took another drag on the pipe. "It's better than good, old man," he said, exhaling and coughing as he spoke.

"I’m a whiskey man,” Ray said. “I like good, strong bourbon, think I’ll make myself one."

Jude held the smoke from another hit in his lungs. His confidence was growing and the trembling in his body diminished. Life as he wished it to be was returning.

Raymond got up and moved over to the couch. He poured himself a shot of Kentucky Straight and took a sip. "I'm a whiskey man I am. I like the way it burns all the way down. That's the way most good things are, they burn a little so you remember them," he said, and then downed the rest of the shot. "What kind of work do you do, Jude?"

"I don't do any regular work. Kind of put things together, make deals, I’m an entrepreneur," Jude answered.

Raymond scrunched up his face. "People should work. Best thing a man can have is a regular job to go to. It's not just the money; it's a timing thing. Keeps a man on a regular schedule and with regular people, keeps you out of trouble."

“You’re right about one thing, Ray, it’s not just about the money; this place looks like you don’t get paid at all. It’s no Grosse Pointe mansion.”

"Look at that big television over there," Raymond said, pointing at the giant screen. "My work bought me that. Fixing things got me that television." "Big fucking deal, you can watch giant soaps and giant game shows.”

Raymond poured himself another whiskey. "Ain't just soaps and game shows I watch on that television. I got a VCR. I watch movies too."

Jude changed the subject. "You got any fucking money?" he asked, the edge back in his voice. "I need some loot, some money and a car. You got money and a car, old man?"

"I don't have any loot for a doper like you," Raymond answered, putting his glass down hard on the coffee table.

Jude reached into the pocket of his overcoat and pulled out the gun. He pointed the gleaming barrel straight at Raymond’s forehead and said with a steely voice, “Don’t trash talk me, old man. Just get me some money and the keys to the car.”

"I don't have a car. I've got a truck. I'm a fixit man. A fixit man needs a truck to haul things in, not a car."

"I don't give a God damn if it's a fucking car or a truck. Does it fucking run?"

"It runs good."

"Then give me all the money you’ve got and the keys for the truck. And I'll be leaving,” Jude said, the gun still pointed at Raymond's forehead.

"What if I don't?"

"Be the last fucking thing you don't do," Jude said.

"And what happens to me if I give you my money and my truck?"

Jude cocked the gun. "Worry about what's gonna happen if you don't, not what's gonna happen if you do."

There was a silence in the room. Raymond looked at Jude and the gun, and read the look in Jude’s eyes. "I'll get the money and the keys."

Raymond, under Jude's watchful eye, produced an envelope from the bedroom with about two hundred dollars in it. Then he took the truck keys from his pocket and held them out to Jude.

The two men stared at each other without a word. As Jude started to take the envelope and keys, Raymond, with a quick motion, slapped the gun right out of Jude's hand. Startled, Jude simply stood there empty handed looking at Ray. The money and the keys were in Ray’s left hand, his right hand was empty. He curled his fist and punched Jude squarely on the nose. Jude fell backwards over the chair behind him. Stunned, he sat on his rear, holding his nose with his hand, blood running from between his fingers. Raymond had already picked up the gun and was pointing it at him.

"I'm gonna fucking kill you," Jude snarled from the floor.

"Yeah, you go on ahead and shoot me?" Ray said with a snicker, the gun pointed at Jude's forehead.

Jude just sat there; his face was numb from the nose up, his breathing labored from the blood pouring from his nostrils. "Guess you got me there. I’m fucked," he said.

Raymond nodded his head. "Yep, you’re fucked. You’re out of control. I should call the police, but I’m not going to. I got a surprise for you. I’m gonna help you. I’m gonna teach you how to get things under control.”

Jude glared at him. "Nobody’s gonna control me. Nobody ever has, and neither are you.”

Raymond looked at him for a second. "Get up and take off your coat, and your pants."

"You might as well just go ahead and shoot me. I don’t give a fuck. I’m not gonna take off my pants."

The bullet whizzed by his ear. It was so close Jude felt the heat from the lead as it went by and ended up in the wall behind him. Then he got to his feet and began to unzip his pants. "Why do I have to take off my pants, Ray?”

“You’ll find out," Ray answered.

"I’m not going to forget this, Ray," Jude said, as his trousers hit the floor.

"I don't want you to forget it, Jude. That's why I'm doing it."

Jude took off the overcoat and let it fall to floor with his pants. He stood there wearing nothing but his underwear and shirt. Ray pointed the gun at him and motioned for him to walk towards the back of the trailer. Ray made him stand against the wall with his hands on top of his head. Keeping the gun pointed at Jude, Ray took a pair of handcuffs out of a junk drawer in the back room. “I knew these would come in handy sometime. Hold out your hands,” he said.

“What are you doing?” Jude asked, as he held out his hands.

“I’m helping you. It’s about learning control.”

“How the fuck is this helping me?”

Ray cuffed Jude’s hands in front of him, took a piece of clothesline and tied it to the handcuffs and held the rope like a leash. He opened the door of the trailer. Jude felt the cold wind on his bare skin. Raymond stepped outside and with a strong yank on the rope pulled Jude through the door after him. Ray led him out into the yard and tied the rope to an old refrigerator. Jude stood there, naked in the wilderness, tied to the fixit man's refrigerator, snow falling on his head.

"You aren’t gonna leave me out here. Are you?

"I'm gonna leave you here with the greatest teacher of all, Mother Nature. She’ll teach you how to get control of yourself. I'm going back inside. But I'll check on you every once in a while to see if you’ve got control. And make sure the animals aren't bothering you".

"What animals?"

"You know what animals are, furry things with teeth. You've got to be careful of animals this time of the year; they get real hungry. They'll eat almost anything they can find. Won't even wait until it’s dead, they’ll start gnawing away as soon as they find it."

Jude watched as the trailer door slammed shut. He began to get a much better understanding of the basic difference in lifestyles between man and beast as he stood there in the cold snow.

Inside the trailer Raymond turned on the giant screen television and poured himself another Kentucky Straight. It was warm and cozy in the trailer, but something was lacking. Company, companionship, that’s what’s missing. I could use some company, maybe someone sort of like myself, he thought.

Ray downed the bourbon, its fury erupting in his stomach. He looked in the flight bag Jude had so carefully guarded. Inside were kilos of cocaine and bags of rock. This stuff must be worth at least a hundred grand. Maybe I ought to just let him freeze to death. He's only gonna kill himself using it, or get himself killed for stealing it. He poured another shot and downed it. Ray understood the kind of trouble Jude was in. Whoever he took this from is gonna kill him as soon as he finds him, he thought.

Ray carried the coke into the kitchen. He emptied it into plastic storage bags and wrapped them in white freezer paper. With a black crayon he labeled the individual packages; hamburger, cube steak, ground pork, boneless chicken, and stew beef, and stacked them in the freezer along with the meat already in there. He put the empty plastic bags back in the flight bag and tossed the bag into the bathroom next to the toilet. I’d better check on my company out back.

Jude never realized you could shake so hard. His teeth chattered so bad his gums were beginning to hurt. "Raymond. God damn it. Come out here and untie me. I'm freezing to death out here."

Jude looked around him; refrigerators, stoves, washers, and car parts littered the snow, growing out of the frozen earth like abstract sculptures. On the ground in front of him he saw a squirrel. "Get the fuck away from me. Don't you even think about taking a bite? Raymond, Raymond," he yelled.

The door of the trailer opened and Raymond poked his head out. "You alright out there?"

"No, I'm not alright out here. Fuck you. God damn it. Untie me or I'll fucking kill you."

The trailer door slammed shut.

Jude found himself alone with the squirrel again. "Raymond. Raymond, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. Untie me, please. Raymond. Please." He began to bawl, his voice trembling. "Don't leave me out here. I'll freeze to death. The squirrel’s gonna eat me. Give me another chance, Ray? Please."

Time is relative to your perception of it. What actually wasn't but a few minutes seemed long enough for eternity to have turned around and started over.

The trailer door opened again. "You alright out there, Jude? You got things under control?" Raymond asked again.

"I'm a little cold, Ray. I'd like to come inside before I catch pneumonia. Do you think you could give me a hand out here? I'm kind of tied up on this refrigerator. But other than that, I'm in control. I got it under control just like you said."

"You should probably come back in then. You don't want to stay out too long in the cold."

"You're right, Ray. You're a real intelligent man. You seem to know everything I should do. Could you come out here and give me a hand?"

"I'll be there in a second. Just as soon as I get your coat," Raymond said, closing the trailer door.

Jude could feel the pain of winter on his skin. "You won't forget about me, Ray? You won't leave me out here? I need some help, Ray."

Ray came out and put the wool coat over Jude, and then untied him. Once inside Jude sat on the couch, hunched over, his hands still cuffed, the heavy woolen coat draped over his shoulders. "I could have died out there. You almost killed me." Raymond looked at his prisoner. "You think anyone gives a fuck whether you freeze to death? People care about stuff that matters to them. If it don’t matter they don’t care. And you don’t matter much. That squirrel didn’t even want you. You need to take inventory of yourself, Jude.

“I know what I’m worth,” Jude said.

“I don’t think so. You know what I see when I look at you?”

“No,” Jude said.

“I see a stoned motherfucker that pulled a gun on me. I see an enemy.” Jude looked over at Ray. "Then fucking do me now, motherfucker. You got the gun."

The thought had crossed Ray’s mind. He's more trash then any of the junk I got laying around the trailer. But that’s not what he told Jude. “I'm a fixit man, Jude, and I can fix you.”

"If you're so good at fixing things why’s there so much broken junk around here?"

Ray leaned over and got up close to Jude. "That's my work out there Jude. Those are things I'm gonna fix. This world’s full of broken things because nobody wants to fix things anymore. Look at you. You’re as broken as any hunk of junk out there. What do you fix besides a crack pipe? One of these days someone is gonna find you out in an alley broken and stiff with your mouth open, and shit in your pants. And they’ll throw you away. You’ll get hauled off with the trash.”

"I could use a hit on that pipe right now," Jude said, looking around for the flight bag. "Where's the bag that was on the table?"

"I flushed it all down the toilet."

Jude collapsed against the back of the couch. "Do you know what the fuck you did? You know how much that stuff was worth?"

Ray scratched his chin, "A hundred thousand?"

"At least a hundred, maybe more, you flushed a hundred big ones down the toilet."

"That dope wasn't worth a hundred to you. You’d never sell it. You'd have smoked it all yourself, probably killed yourself doing it. Quit jiving me, quit lying to yourself. You ain't no dealer, no entrepreneur. You're a fucking doper."

“I'm about to be a dead doper. You might as well leave me tied up to the refrigerator. Tell me again how you're gonna fix me."

"I can fix you. It’s what I do. I fix things."

"What I need right now is a fix. My guts are shaking."

Raymond pulled up his chair to the coffee table and sat in front of Jude. He removed the cuffs from Jude's hands and poured a shot of Kentucky Straight in the shot glass on the table. "I'm gonna show you how to get yourself straight. Drink that shot of bourbon," he said, pointing to the shot glass on the coffee table.

Jude drank the bourbon. It burned all the way down, landing like a hot coal in his stomach.

Ray poured him another shot. "Drink it. It'll take the edge off. A couple more and your hands will stop shaking. We're gonna get high, Jude, but no dope. No cocaine. No crack. No smack, just Kentucky Straight."

Jude finished the second shot and several more. His hands began to smooth out and he lit a cigarette. "I've done whiskey to get over a rough spot before. But I always go back to crack when I get a chance. I liked that shit from the first pipe. And I’ll die liking that shit."

"You’re gonna die. It’s gonna kill you or get you killed. I've got a system worked out, and I'm gonna teach it to you. I call it my Kentucky Straight Rehab Program."

Jude laughed and downed another shot of the bourbon. "I've been in rehab before. They put me on methadone. That stuff’s as good as heroin," Jude said with a laugh. “I’d shoot a cap right now if I had one.”

Ray nodded. “Yeah, I know; it’s good stuff, potent shit. That shit is so good it’ll get you higher than God. But you can’t walk over to the grocery store and buy it. All that shit; coke, rope, smack, crack, dope, comes with strings; you get all tied up in the strings, just like I tied you up to the refrigerator. I like to get high, but I don’t want to get roped to the dope. Or tied up with someone in the business, that’s how you get dead. I don’t wanna get that high, that tied up to anything,” Ray said.

“Maybe you got something there. I like to get high, but I don’t want to get that high,” Jude said, pointing up. “Not that fucking high.”

Ray laughed. “Get high, but get smart. That’s my rehab program. I get high once in a while, but I get smart all the time. You gotta choose, do I get high and wake up, or do I get real high and wake up dead. Those are the choices, get high often, or get dead once.”

Ray downed a shot and poured them both another. Then he walked over to the television and put a tape into the VCR. "You like women?"

Jude looked at the screen. A naked man and woman were rubbing and petting each other; kissing, groping, and licking away at each other's reproductive organs. Eventually the man climbed on top of the woman and penetrated her. She responded with a resonant groan.

"I’ve always enjoyed a good love story," Ray said laughing, his eyes glued to the screen.

Jude let out a loud burp and laughed. He lifted his glass and offered a toast, "To love," he said.

"The only difference between this and daytime TV is that on the soaps they keep their clothes on," Ray said.

Jude nodded his head in agreement. "You ever live with a woman, Ray?"

Ray was silent for a while before he answered. "Yeah, but it was a long time ago. I had to do some time and it cost me the woman."

"What were you in for, drugs?”

"Nope, murder."

"Murder," Jude said.

“I killed a guy I was in a drug deal with. I grabbed his throat and crushed his windpipe. You ever see a guy die from a broken windpipe?

“No,” Jude answered a little sheepish.

“You don’t die right away, kind of thrash around for a while. Then you turn blue and bleed from the nose, a few last kicks and you’re out of there, gone, dead. I plea bargained the charge down to murder two. The prosecutor said if I took the plea he wouldn’t charge it was premeditated. But it was. I went there to kill him and I did. I got twenty to life and ended up serving eight. It cost me eight years of my life and the best woman I ever had.”

"I've heard that happens a lot while you’re inside."

The whiskey produced a familiar melancholy in Ray, the whiskey voice. "She came and saw me while I was inside. She said she was leaving and taking my son with her. That’s the last time I ever saw either one of them. If you’ve got a good woman hang onto her. You straighten up and go home. Whiskey and dope aren’t the best friends. They’ll fuck you to death first chance they get. They’ll make you feel better for a bit, but look out. They’ll sneak up on you one night when you’re a little careless and kill you, or get you killed. I’ve lived with whiskey for a long time, but I don’t get too cozy with it. A woman is different; you want her as close as she’s willing. A woman will keep you warm, inside and out, keep you alive. Give you something to get up with in the morning besides a hangover.”

"Did you ever look for them?"

Ray looked at Jude and shook his head, "Too proud then; too old now."

"I’ve got a woman and a little girl," Jude said. "Ariana is a good woman, and pretty. And my daughter, Angelina, is beautiful just like her, fine features and big brown eyes. Those big eyes always get to me. They go right inside when she looks at me.”

“Then what are you doing here?” Ray asked.

“After the deal went bad I had to beat feet. Know what I mean?”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. How long has it been since you’ve seen them?” Ray asked.

"It’s been maybe a month. I need to go back.”

Ray nodded. “Go get them. Find somewhere else to live. Don’t do what I did. Don’t let dope get between you and your woman. Make it right between you, and then keep it that way.”

Later, Ray cooked up a shepherd pie made of peas, carrots, onions, and potatoes baked in a crust. Jude never tasted anything better in his life.

They ate, drank, and laughed until tears ran from their eyes. Finally Jude passed out.

Ray covered him with his overcoat and handcuffed him to the couch. He looked down at his snoring, handcuffed companion. "Yep, gonna be a strange winter."

END of excerpt

Like to read more? The book is available in ebook and paperback

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