Doc never emphatically denied the stories, especially when he was lonely.
He turned left at the liquor store, slipping around to the parking lot in back where Big Manny the Dope Man lounged against the fender of his car every morning serving the wake-up trade.
Manny, my friend, can you carry me until about lunchtime? Just a taste so I can get straight.
Big Manny was his handle, but in fact, big was simply too small a word to do the six-foot-five, two-hundred-and-eighty-odd-pound Mexican justice. Gargantuan would have been more accurate if anybody on South Presa besides Doc could have pronounced it, but everyone just called Manny Castro Big Manny. Doc shivered in the pushers immense shadow but Manny was shaking his head before Doc got the first word out.
I don know, Doc. You still aint paid me for yesterday. ¡Me lleva la chingada! Fuckin Hugo! He snatched a small paper sack from beneath the bumper of his car and lateraled it to a rangy youth loitering nearby. ¡Vamanos! Manny coughed, and the kid took off like a shot across the parking lot and vanished over the fence.
The portly plainclothes cop never broke his stride, barely acknowledging the runner and producing no ID or warrant as he crossed the lot in a more or less direct line to where Manny, Doc, and a handful of loiterers were already turning around and placing their hands on the hood of Mannys car.
Detective Hugo Ackerman rarely hurried even when attempting to catch a fleeing offender. He had worked narcotics for over a decade, and in his experience neither the junkies nor the pushers were going far. He caught up with everybody eventually. Thats right, gentlemen, you know how the dance goes. Hands flat, legs spread. Anybody got any needles or knives, best you tell me now!
He started with Manny, haphazardly frisking him from just below his knees up, about as far as Hugo could comfortably bend over. His three-hundred-pound mass was all the authority he needed to hold even a big man like Manny in place, leaving his chubby hands free to roam at will.
Hows business, Manny. You know, I just come from Junior Trevinos spot. He looked like he was doing pretty good to me.
Junior! Manny snorted. ¡Pendejo! That shit he sells wouldnt get a fly high, he steps on it so hard! Anybody that gets their dope from Juniors either a baboso or they owe me money. Hey! You see Bobby Menchaca down there? I want to talk to that maricón. When Hugo shoved his hand down the back of Mannys slacks, the big man winced.
Chingada madre, Hugo! Careful down there. My pistols in the glove box if thats what youre lookin for. Your envelopes where it always is.
Thats Detective Ackerman to you, asshole! Hugo continued to grope around, emptying Mannys pockets onto the hood of the Ford and intentionally saving the inside of his sport coat for last and then pocketing the envelope he found there.
Aint you heard? Bobbys in the county. Been there since last Saturday. Fell through the roof of an auto-parts store he was breakin into over on the east side. I guess the doors were in better shape than the roof was cause he was still inside jackin with the latch when the radio car rolled up. He patted the envelope hed put into the breast pocket of his own sport coat.
It all here?
Every fuckin dime.
Doc was next.
How about you, Doc? Got anything for me? Doc half grinned. As a matter of fact, Detective Ackerman, I regret that you catch me temporarily financially embarrassed. You usually dont come around to see me until Sunday so I reckoned I had a day or two. Fact is Im flat broke. Hell, I havent even had my wake-up yet.
Excerpted from I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle. Copyright © 2011 by Steve Earle. Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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