Book TAKEDOWN TWENTY

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Under the white gauze wrapping, the finger was swollen and throbbing. I felt like a wimp since there wasnt even any bone sticking out, but the finger didnt feel great. I dried off and applied a new super-sized adhesive bandage to my skinned knee. The knee would heal, but my jeans would never be the same. It had been a long time since Id used the oven, but I figured out how to turn it on. Just like riding a bike, I thought. You never forget.more...

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Victory Hardware was next on the list. It was a hole-in-the-wall store that was crammed with lightbulbs, boxes of nails, shelf paper, claw hammers, electric screwdrivers, flashlights, Elmers Glue, birdseed, tape measures, batteries, cans of Raid, bait boxes, trash bags, toasters, sandpaper, Buck knives, various toilet parts, umbrellas, DustBusters, plungers, bags of charcoal, and replacement cords for Venetian blinds. The store was owned and run by Victor Birch. Victor was as old and cracked as the linoleum on the floor. Both Victor and the linoleum looked like theyd been around for two hundred years, but probably it was more like eighty. Victor had been on the job seven days a week for as long as I could remember, chain smoking and hacking and ranting about the way the world was going to hell in a handbasket. The store reeked of cigarette smoke, and yellow streaks of tar stained the walls and Victors fingers and teeth. Victor was both horrible and amazing. He was a living testament to the ravages of tobacco and the determination of the body and soul to survive under ugly conditions.more...

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Im going to follow them and wait for a better place to make an apprehension. Like what better place are you hoping for? A place without his henchmen. The Lincoln eased out of the driveway and rolled down the street the same way itd come. They didnt seem to have noticed us, or maybe they didnt care. I suspected they thought of me more as a nuisance than a genuine threat. We followed at a distance, allowing a couple cars to come between us. The Lincoln took Nottingham Way past Hamilton Avenue and Greenwood and turned onto State Street. Sunny was going back to his home base at Morgan and Fifteenth Street. The Lincoln stopped at the corner of Fifteenth and Freeman.more...

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You probably ironed this same shirt ten times. Its breast cancer, isnt it? You found a lump. Its from those sports bras you wear. I dont have breast cancer. Then why did you go to church?more...

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Yell if you need help, Lula said. Ill be fine, I told her. I was happy with the plan. It was a beautiful day, and I didnt mind walking. You see things on foot that you miss in a car. You hear things. You meet people. Sunny owned properties here. He did business here. He had friends and also enemies here.more...

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Did they come in alone? Were they always here on a certain day? I knew Lois Fratelli. She lived a short distance from my parents house. The others were faces in a crowd. When something as horrific as a murder happens you look back and realize the victim was a customer, but beyond that I dont have anything.more...

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Hunting down felons for my cousin Vinnie isnt a great-paying job, but I make my own hours and I wear whats comfy. A girly T-shirt, jeans, sneakers, handcuffs, and pepper spray, and Im good to go. I gave Rex fresh water and a Ritz cracker, grabbed the messenger bag I use as a purse, and took off for the office. I live in a second-floor one-bedroom, one-bath, no-frills apartment on the outskirts of Trenton. Its not a slum, but its not high rent either. Mostly my apartment building is filled with seniors who take advantage of the early-bird special at the nearby diner and live for the moment theyll qualify for a handicap sticker on their car. Theyre all heavily armed, so the property is relatively safe, if you dont count shootings that are the result of mistaken identity due to cataracts and macular degeneration.more...

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Some of them only got one eye, and a couple times I found fish with two heads. I returned to Broad Street, drove to Cluck-in-a-Bucket, and loaded up at the drive-through. Mary was happy in the backseat with a bag filled with breakfast sandwiches, a bucket of chicken, and a side of biscuits and gravy. Lula had a super-sized diet cola, a single breakfast sandwich, and a medium box of chicken nuggets. No biscuits. No gravy. No apple pie for dessert. I assumed this relatively small portion for her was the result of listening to the car groan under Marys weight and not wanting to go there.more...

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Bella said, pointing her finger at me. Connie ducked down behind her desk, and Lula jumped away and pressed herself against the wall. Youre not supposed to be giving people the eye, I said to Bella. Im going to tell Joes mother on you. Joes mother give you good too, Bella said. You no friend of this family. You hunt down Sunny. Its my job.more...

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At least Im not a slut. Lula went indignant. Are you implying that Granny is a slut? I do get around a little bit, Grandma said to Lula. You should leave, Mildred said to Lula. We dont want your kind here. Lula leaned forward in rhino mode. And just exactly what is my kind? Youre a dumb bunny, Mildred said.more...

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