Excerpt from The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Night Gardener

by George Pelecanos

The Night Gardener
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2006, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2007, 364 pages

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That's Holiday all over, thought Ramone.Get results, and all will be forgiven.Produce, and do whatever the fuck you want. Ramone had his own rules: follow the playbook, stay safe, put in your twenty-five and move on. He was not enamored of Cook or any of the other mavericks, cowboys, and assorted living legends on the force. Romanticizing the work could not elevate it to something it was not. This was a job, not a calling. Holiday, on the other hand, was living a dream, had lead in his pencil, and was jacked up big on the Twenty-third Psalm.

Holiday had started on foot patrol in the H Street corridor of Northeast, a white man solo in a black section of town.He had cut it fine and already had a rep.Holiday remembered the names of folks he had met only one time, complimented the young women and the grandmothers alike, could talk Interhigh sports, the Redskins, and the Bullets with guys sitting on their front porches and those hanging outside the liquor stores, could even shoot the shit with the young ones he knew were headed for the hard side.Citizens, criminal and straight, sensed that Holiday was a joker and a fuckup, and still they liked him.His enthusiasm and natural fit for the job would probably get him further in the MPD than Ramone would go. That is, if that little man with the pitchfork, sitting on Holiday's shoulder, didn't ruin him first.

Ramone and Holiday had gone through the academy together, but they weren't friends. They weren't even partners. They were sharing a car because there had been a shortage of cruisers in the lot behind the 6D station. Six hours into a four-to-midnight, and Ramone was already tired of Holiday's voice. Some cops liked the company, and the backup, even if it was less than stellar. Ramone preferred to ride alone.

"I tell you about this girl I been seein?" said Holiday. "Yeah," said Ramone. Not yeah with a question mark on the end of it, but yeah with a period, as in, end of discussion. "She's a Redskinette," said Holiday. "One of those cheerleaders they got at RFK."

"I know what they are." "I tell you about her?" "I think you did." "You oughtta see her ass, Giuseppe."

Ramone's mother, when she was angry or sentimental, was the only one who ever called him by his given name.That is, until Holiday had seen Ramone's driver's license.Holiday also occasionally called him "the Ramone," after having had a look at Ramone's record collection on the single occasion Ramone had let him into his apartment.That had been a mistake.

"Nice ones, too," said Holiday, doing the arthritic thing with his hands."She got those big pink, whaddaya call 'em, aureoles."

Holiday turned, his face catching the strobe of the cruiser light bars still activated at the scene. He was smiling his large row of straight white teeth, his ice blue eyes catching the flash. The ID bar on his chest read "D. Holiday," so naturally and instantly he had caught the nickname "Doc" within the department. Coincidentally, he was as angular and bone skinny as the tubercular gunman. Some of the older cops claimed he looked like a young Dan Duryea.

"You told me," said Ramone for the third time. "Okay. But listen to this. Last week, I'm out with her in a bar. The Constable, down on Eighth ... "

"I know the place." Ramone had gone to the Constable many times, pre-cop, in that year when he thought of himself as In Between. You could score coke from the bartender there, watch the band, Tiny Desk Unit or the Insect Surfers or whoever, in that back room, or sit under the stars on the patio they had out back, drink beers and catch cigarettes behind the shake, and talk to the girls, back when they were all wearing the heavy mascara and the fishnets. This was after his fourth, and last, semester at Maryland, when he'd taken that criminology class and thought, I don't need any more of this desk-and-blackboard bullshit; I can do this thing right now. But then just wandering for a while before he signed up, hitting the bars, smoking weed, and doing a little blow, chasing those girls with the fishnets. It had felt to him then like he was stumbling.

Copyright © 2006 by George P. Pelecanos

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