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Street Money - The Biography of a Con Man
This book was originally written in 1980 and was passed around the literary agent scene for about 18 months. The "professionals" said they could never sell a book with such an "unheroic hero." Still, I always thought that was the aspect that made STREET MONEY special.
Here's this guy running around doing a whole bunch of not-very-nice-things, but we still like him and we're still pulling for him. Jack is not very different from you and me. He does something stupid at work... really stupid... and gets in a lot of trouble. In time that trouble cost him more than his job. He loses his family, his home and everything he knows about living in the middle- class. Now he's on the pavement and playing the "street money" game.
I don't really blame the agents for not representing the book. The original STREET MONEY was not very well written. But I'm a much better writer than I used was way back then. So I've dusted off the manuscript and I'm doing a full rewrite. Read the prologue and see what you think. If you are interested, I can let you read more.
"Hey, white boy!!" The Butcher called, using a loud stage whisper. "You ain't out this yet. I know you're hurt, and I'm gonna wait here, patient and ready, till you pass out or bleed to death."
The light rain, previously no more than a mist, began to thicken. The cold water fell from the sky and ran down Jack's neck to mix with the clammy hot sweat that already soaked his shirt. The wet cloth to clung to his body like an extra layer of loose fitting skin. His steaming perspiration was generated by his fear so the moisture on his skin was hotter and smelled stronger than normal sweat. The chilling rain released by the clouds added to his nightmare and became one more burden to bear. He tried to ignore the feeling but his body began to shake from the shivering combination of terror and rain.
"I'm armed," Jack shouted back. He hoped that he could put enough defiance in his voice to make the angry black man hesitate at least a little while longer. "The cops are gonna be here soon. Why don't you just leave and forget the whole thing? There's been enough trouble already."
The Butcher was determined. The big black man took a deep breath, tightened his grip around his weapon and simply smiled. If Jack could have seen that grin it would only have added to his terror. The smooth, clean, dark skin was accented by the straight white teeth exhibited between his thin lips. This was clearly a smile of great pleasure. His quarry was trapped and the Butcher knew that all he need do is wait. His professional pride was on the line, his need for revenge stronger than any argument. Jack had become a challenge and the Butcher wasn't going to listen to reason or to anything else. He hadn't earned his nickname by being reasonable.
Jack felt alone and exposed in the vacant lot. The rubble around him offered little protection either physically or emotionally from the dangerous man hiding behind the rusted Chevrolet. Jack could picture the Butcher in his mind, crouching behind the car. His shirt would also be wet from the now driving rain. The cloth would stick to his skin and highlight his broad shoulders and rock-like arms. His face would glisten, reflecting the lights of the emergency vehicles on the other block. Between the flash of the lights, his deep black skin covered by the dark suit would help him to melt into the shadows. His long thin fingers would be tightly grasped around the shotgun while his broad body would lean forward, protecting the weapon from the rain. The Butcher would be tense, ready to spring at the first opportunity, at Jack's first fatal error.
Through his fear, Jack could read only one thought clearly...get help, attract some attention and draw the police to the lonely, littered lot. But how? The solution was suddenly obvious when he became aware once more of pistol held tightly in his right hand. He knew what to do! He knew the idea would work! Jack fired the thirty-eight three times rapidly, aiming toward the blank brick wall of an abandoned apartment building. When the echoes died away everything was just as before. Nothing happened. No one had even heard the noise.
"Your little game ain't gonna work, boy," the Butcher shouted from the void, causing Jack to tense even further. "They're all too busy with that fire. They can't hear you over the racket they're makin'. You're gonna run out of bullets or out of blood. Then, you'll be mine."
Jack hardly heard him. The strong threatening voice faded into the distance like someone had slowly turned down the amplifier in a public meeting. Jack was starting to feel dizzy. His fear combined with the loss of blood from his leg wound was beginning to overcome him. He wouldn't last much longer and the Butcher was willing to wait. Jack had to make the next move. He concentrated, prodding his brain to function, shoving the fear back...desperately trying to push an answer to this problem. An idea suddenly emerged from the fog that had closed in about his mind. Some part of Jack's brain was still fighting hard to survive. This was a really crazy idea, a scene from a movie, maybe a John Wayne western. But this was the only idea he had and he was now in a position where he had to try anything. Absolutely anything.
With shaking hands, Jack reached in his pocket for the extra cartridges. Fighting the growing vertigo, he reloaded the pistol. In the first chamber he placed a bullet, left the next two empty, and filled the remaining three. They were the last of his bullets. Four shots and one insane Hollywood trick were between him and oblivion.
Aiming again for the brick wall, he pulled the trigger twice. All of the events happened in slow motion. The point of the hammer struck the cartridge and the explosion filled the lot. Flying lead struck the brick sending pieces of stone ringing off the rusted garbage cans lying in the alley. The comparative silence of the hammer on the second and empty chamber seemed to fill the air with a sense of anticipation that was almost as loud as an exploding bullet. Jack pulled the trigger again and once more the gun clicked with the distinctive sound that communicated "empty."
The reality was seconds, brief tics on a watch but seeming to Jack as if half of eternity had passed. The Butcher heard the sounds. His ears recorded the messages, sending signals to his nervous system causing his body to respond before his brain could fully analyze the true meaning of the sounds. He leaped from behind the corpse of the car and leveled his shotgun. During that very same split second, Jack raised the snub-nose thirty-eight. Steadying the gun with both hands and bracing his arms against his good leg, just as he'd seen on television, he pointed at the advancing man's shoulder. Another wave of vertigo shook him and the gun moved, just a bit, at the very moment he pulled the trigger. The bullet entered slightly below the Butcher's nose and angled smashing his brain and exiting in a burst of blood and bone from the top of his scull. The man died silently before he hit the ground.
The force of the thirty-eight caliber bullet drove the lifeless body of the Butcher backwards. He disappeared back behind the Chevy. Holding the gun before him, dragging his wounded leg behind, Jack moved around the car and stared at what was now a pile a human debris. The immediate threat was gone and he would not die in a vacant, littered lot in Philadelphia under a cold rain...at least not yet.
There was no emotion...no feeling of victorious elation and no regret for ending the life of another human being. The only thing Jack felt was a growing awareness that the light of the car fire was fading. Soon the flames would be completely out and the police would begin to search the neighborhood for answers. They would find the man with his face shot away, still gripping the double barreled shotgun, and they would have more questions to ask. He knew he couldn't remain there. Justified or not, he had killed a man. He had to move. These were the things told to him by that portion of his brain programmed for survival, weakened though he was by lose of blood and the tension of the chase. But another part of his brain proposed to him that he should just wait and let the game end right here. He had, after all, come so far... so very far from where the story all began.
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