I’ve always been the kind of guy to instigate action. Call me a catalyst, but if you want to do something, don’t fuck around about it. I’m also the kind of guy who gets the same half-cocked response from a sleek and functional weapon as I do from a hot bitch. That’s why I always work guard duty.
It’s why I’m sitting in the cool of the first hours of morning, feet propped on the railing of Noah’s balcony, my .50 cal Desert Eagle resting in my lap with its silencer lodged comfortably against my thigh. It’s why I’m up here sitting in the open, darkened doorway instead of downstairs, behind drawn shades with a bunch of really dangerous assholes who I’d rather fight than talk to.
“Lighten up,” Noah says beside me, setting his lips in a grim line. He makes a dramatic pause, waits for the scathing look that is my reaction. Then he laughs.
I hold the serious expression just long enough to make his smile fade. Then, just as everyone always does, I fall victim to his charm. I grant a dry laugh at his questioning gaze. If it were anybody else, he’d be knocked out already or defending himself, depending on his reaction time. But it’s Noah, so I sneer into the early morning.
“I’m high as a damn kite,” I scoff, watching him produce a cigarette from a pack of Camel Turkish Royals. “Doesn’t get much lighter than that.”
He, too, has been fettered to this guard post. We are strange company, my temperament too salty for negotiations, his far too lighthearted. Noah is the type who’d just as well stay out of that shit. Generally, so am I, if for different reasons. This time, though, I’m pissed that she didn’t take me.
“Don’t you have faith in our girl?” he asks, pushing back the brim of a black, tweed Trilby hat with the barrel of his Glock 9 mm as he closes his lips around a smoke.
“Faith doesn’t stop itchy trigger fingers.” I wave away the pack he pushes in my direction, his arm like a muscled art exhibition. He knows I don’t smoke.
I look to my own tattoo, a red-banded daisho on my left forearm, the handle of the katana starting at the elbow and its sheath running to my wrist. I’m supposed to be her guard, but she ordered me here, where I can’t do a damn thing. I won’t say that shit to Noah, though.
The cigarettes linger in the space between offering and rebuke, and his features crunch in suspicion. I’m used to it, nobody ever really believes me when I say I don’t smoke. The weight of the street life that keeps our heads above water also drags life to a sluggish halt in moments like this. Then he sighs and the haze of introspection clears.
He pockets his smokes and lights up. A haunting, urgent tune drifts from the stereo inside, a song of hot grunge guitar and a high-hat-punctuated beat. My knee bounces with the aggravating rhythm, but I won’t react on base response. I opt for the cold truth that’s been nettling at my resolve.
“Josh doesn’t know dick about protecting her.” I shrug, eyes latching onto a shiny black Crown Victoria below, which creeps into view near the store front. The windows of it are darker than the shadows that hide us.
“Josh is good,” Noah points out, exhaling a thin stream of smoke.
The Vic rolls on down the street and I turn my blatant “beg to differ” on him. The smoke curls against his shoulder like his thick hair, both of which upset as he laughs at the ferocity of my reaction.
“He’s a joke, can’t take anything seriously,” I spit, pulling my legs down and leaning forward anxiously. I nail Noah with a humorless stare and my tone flattens. “Like you.”
“And you’re a dick, Freddy, but they keep you because you’ve got a good eye. That and some twisted fetish with weaponry.”
He leans forward, too, flashing his little boy smile in my direction. That’s Noah: never gets angry over the small hitches in the road, has a penchant for the truth.
It’s not the whole truth, really. They keep me because I have connections they never could. They keep me because I’m a walking arsenal with a need to intimately know the tools that will keep me alive. When you grow up in swamp country, you gain a little respect for personal protection.
There’s humor in Noah’s eyes, but his voice is serious when he says, “That’s why you’re here, it’s what you do.”
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Noah cut the clown shit and lay it down.
“Besides,” he sniffs, taking a drag, “Jack runs a good meeting and Izzy’s there, too. They’ll be fine.”
I stubbornly stare at the street below, and say, “Yeah, great, so Izzy can shove his hands in his pockets and shrug at them.”
It doesn’t matter who else is there – if it’s not me, it’s not good enough. I’ve got the best gun, fastest, most accurate. We all know it. And I’ve got rank. Josh doesn’t know his gun from his ass.
I stand just to move. I lay the black piece against the railing with a clang as I lean on it. Just as several potential nasty replies surface in my thoughts, the Crown Vic glides back into view. I freeze, glaring at it, and so does Noah.
“Still wish you were inside?” he wonders with a hint of sarcasm.
“Negative,” I grunt, straightening and training my barrel on the passenger window just in case.
Frederick is, by far, the most tragic character I’ve ever written. He comes with a hard past, a strict personal code, and a mind like a machine. There’s no gray area with him. He doesn’t play nice for anyone, not even the other men in the crew. He is also my favorite of the four if you rank them on total product.
I feel like the first book really only gives you just a taste of his personality, even the chapters from his POV. He totally steps it up in the sequel. He gave me a view from under the surface, and we get to see his brilliance in action.
Without giving away too much, I will say (for me) he is one-hundred percent the MVP of Rising Tide. His narrative truly drives the story. His decisions push the line. He may also break your heart a little. He did mine. Of all the characters in these two books, he is the one who makes me wish the story weren’t over so I could write more of him. Who knows, maybe I will someday.
And now, for an excerpt from Cadillac Payback: Rising Tide:
I roll the Indian into the garage lot, and park it. I let the engine growl for a bit before I shut it off. The only time I enjoy turning heads is when they hear this streamlined beast coming. This bike came back from the dead. Only true fans could understand.
Josh is already here, the garage door is up, and so is his hood. A greased-up Cajun by the name of Spanky is checking out the car’s guts. I think that’s his name, anyway.
Spanky is one of the few associates of mine whose interest lies almost solely in a legal trade. He knows where to get old parts for real cheap, and though sometimes I don’t know what the fuck he’s saying to me, he’s reliable. He owns the place, and for a fat sack, he lets me use his space when he can. He’s used to seeing the Caddy. The Challenger is a new treat.
I swing a leg over my bike, then replace my road goggles with my wire-framed glasses. The days are fading earlier the closer we get to fall, and the air has cooled from the mid-summer shroud of humidity and heat. The ride over was nice, wind against my face, carrying what last bits of aggravation lingered from the earlier part of the day.
Everything changes tomorrow, but tonight, I’ve agreed to do a tune up on Josh’s Challenger. He offered me money, but I won’t take it. I just want to get elbow deep in that machine.
I’ve dressed down in a pair of stained jeans, my old motorcycle boots, and a pristine white t-shirt. It’s something of a ritual, the process of getting a clean shirt dirty. I can hear Spanky jawing at the engine in an appreciative tone, and I smirk as I approach. Josh is watching Spanky’s backside with a look of confusion, which he turns on me, like I can somehow explain.
I say, “She’s a damsel, eh, Spanky?”
“Daaaaayum straight,” he answers, with a drawn out “Wooooooeeeeee” as punctuation.
He straightens and gives me a half-cocked grin. The grease on his cheeks makes what’s left of his teeth seem almost white. Somehow I think under that layer of muck, his skin is pale as a newborn, and he never sees the sun without a solid mask of grit.
He points at a large dirty cooler full of ice and clear beer bottles, and says, “Youawnt’un?”
I shake my head and hand over a rolled-up fast food bag, which contains a few flat, oozing burgers and his weed. His eyes light up when he sees it. As much as he’d love to stay and drool over Josh’s toy, he’d just as rather go get high and down some disgusting food. He nods to us, and disappears into the bowels of the garage.
“What the fuck?” Josh mutters under his breath as he snags a beer for himself.
He eyes the label, Miller High Life, and his expression turns down in distaste. It’s so haughty that I almost give him shit for being such a picky bitch. He pops the top anyway and takes a swig.
I’ve been riding for a while, so there’s already a layer of road dirt on my face. It was the best way to find the space to breathe after everything clicked just out of place at the Garden District house. That moment has been carefully boarded up and stored for later inspection.
There’s a strange ease in knowing the secrets are out, at least as far as our inner crew is concerned. The mandate has been passed, all applicable parties have been notified. Effective immediately. Except not really. Tonight I’m a free agent, floating too far from the ground to control my landing.
Freddy’s songs on the Rising Tide playlist:
You Lied by Peach
You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine by Death From Above 1979
When I Die by The Heavy
View the whole playlist here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSgJKLWWisA-ZmHhzzvPOacwXC485gR4c