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Low Down and Dirty

A Novel
By Vickie M. Stringer

Read an Excerpt

C H A P T E R O N E

The oak front door of Red’s hacienda may have muffled Catfish’s threat, but Red still heard it loud and clear.

“You can run, but you can’t hide!” She lay on the floor of the front hallway defeated, still soaking wet from her hot tub, trying unsuccessfully to control her tears. The taste of the Cristal she’d been enjoying just minutes earlier suddenly turned bitter on her tongue as she wondered why she hadn’t been more prepared for this day. She’d planned for it, put most of the pieces in place, but she still had a few things left to do. Like buy a gun. God almighty, why hadn’t she at least gotten a gun?

The one loose end she’d left hanging out there was Catfish, and that nigga was now standing on the front step of her spacious new home in Scottsdale. But how? Her getaway had been clean. She knew that. And Catfish was a scraggly, bottom-feeding muthafucka. He’d be the last person who could have tracked her. “Legit money is easy to trace,” he’d echoed in her head.

She didn’t understand how he’d gotten onto her money, legit or not. Yeah, there were business licenses, but nothing with her name on them. Everything was under the name Go 2 Holdings. Even Gomez Realty was under the holding company on paper. And there were businesses called Gomez Realty in cities all over the United States. Why would Scottsdale stand out?

That was the other part of her plan—go someplace that nobody who knew her would ever think she’d go. Leaving Detroit was a given. What would Catfish think she’d do? She had contacts in New York and knew the town. That’d be the first place a dumb muthafucka like Catfish would look. Maybe he’d think she’d want someplace like Detroit, only bigger and better. Then Chicago would fit the bill. If she was really on the run maybe he’d think she’d want to leave the continental United States—hell, she was a boricua and spoke Spanish like one. Why didn’t homegirl just go to Puerto Rico? Or even Florida would be a logical choice. She could have had Miami wrapped around her little finger. Thinking ahead she didn’t go to any of those places. She went to Scottsdale. How the fuck had Catfish figured to look for her here?

She heard a tapping at the door. Not knuckles. Something else. Hard. Knocking. Like metal. Like the barrel of an automatic. “Bitch, I hear you whimpering in there,” said Catfish in an artificially sweet voice. She could tell his face was right up against the doorjamb. “Pull your shit together and open up. This door look strong, but you know I’m ’bout to come through it. One way or another.”

Red sat up on the floor, swiped at her tears, and wiped the snot from under her nose with the back of her hand. He’s right, she thought. Get it together. If you gonna get ruined, it can’t be by a low piece of shit like Catfish. She thought about pieces of her plan she had working for her. She still had the stashed money. She had accounts in a number of different banks, and a hundred grand in cash in a safe deposit box in one of them. And she had a go kit upstairs—an old, beat up canvas bag containing a passport, a credit card, some clothes, and ten grand in cash. But the chances of her being able to run upstairs, grab the bag, and get out of the house before Catfish came in shooting were not good.

Then there were the false trails, fake letters and e-mails in her desk, phony memos that would make somebody think she was moving one way, when she was going another. But what good was any of that if she couldn’t get Catfish to at least nibble at the bait.

The tricks she used on Bacon wouldn’t work on Catfish. Things such as flattery, remorse, asking for another chance. There was never anything between Catfish and Red but pure, unadulterated hatred waiting for revenge. Catfish, on the other hand, would come through the door pulling a trigger. And the stupider the nigga, the harder he was to reason with.

She had to give him something to wrap his little brain around. She pushed herself to her feet and straightened the bottom of her Parah Noir bikini. Then she sniffled, took a deep breath, and dealt the cards. “All right, now—now listen, Catfish. I know there’s a couple things you want right now.”

“A couple things?”

“Well, I’m guessing one of them’s to just pop one in my head.”

“Huh. Really? You think? What’s the other one?”

“You talking about legit money, so I guess you mean the movie, since that’s the biggest. But I’ma tell you right now, you ain’t got no part of that. I worked my ass off for that.”

“The what?” said Catfish. “Bitch, you . . .”

Red rolled her eyes. Come on, she thought. Use that scraggly head of yours. Two plus two equals what?

“Nah!” said Catfish, catching up with it. “You got a movie deal for Snitch Nigga, Bitch Nigga?”

Hell, the book had been a bestseller that told the authentic story of the game on the streets of Detroit and the hustlers who played it. It wasn’t too much of a stretch that somebody in Hollywood might be interested in it. But now Red had to slow it down. Catfish was dumb, but he was also streetwise. He wouldn’t fall for a sloppy play. “Look! Whatever! You ain’t got no part of nothing I got going.”

“How much?”

Red stayed quiet.

“Open this muthafuckin door, bitch. You and I got some talking to do, but I got to see your eyes when you talk.”

Red put the palm of her hand on the door and breathed heavily. This is it, she thought. Open the door, and play the hand. She kept calm. “Catfish?”

“I’m standing here.”

“I’ma let you in, but you got to be cool.”

Catfish slapped the door, it sounded like with the palm of his hand, like he would slap her if the door weren’t there between them. “Bitch, I’m coming through this door one way or the other. You know that.” Damn.

“All right, all right,” she said, revealing the actual fear in her voice.

She opened the door and stepped back.

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