HOTROCK by David Cornwell

Louw has been a police for forty years, and dirty for thirty-three of
them. He’s a happy guy: he lives alone and he lives humbly, never
drawing attention to himself, content with his retirement fund buried
in his back garden.

Two months ago he’d been hooked up with a guy in Paternoster who’d
managed to get a lot of cocaine in on some fishing boats, and tonight
Louw was fencing a kilo each to two guys who were off all radars – a
Senegalese called Eightball and a white guy who wanted Louw to call
him Mister. Louw knew Capetonians were sick of the stuff that was
being pushed in Long Street, which was nearly yellow, and gave you a
headache on its way up your nose and a suicidal feeling the morning

Louw had paid his connect off at eighty rand a gram. The deal he’d
struck with Eightball and Mister had been one-twenty, except in the
last few days Mister had been calling and saying he wouldn’t go more
than a hundred.

They were to meet in a gutted warehouse in Gympie Street, one of
Louw’s places. The building had no power, but the windows were high
and streetlamps shone through them so it was workable. Louw got there
early and cleared some homeless people out, and carried a folding
table and two gymbags in from his car. He set up the table and from a
small envelope in his pocket, sprinkled out two lines and cut them a
little and made them look right.

Eightball and Mister came in together. Louw had told them many times
each to come without sidekicks, and to his relief, they had. Both of
them had rucksacks. Eightball's looked a lot heavier than Mister's,
but Louw played it cool.

“Okay,” Louw said. “First things first. Open the bags.”

Louw went and dug in the bags and pulled out cashbricks at random and
flipped through them under the light of a special torch.

Satisfied, he went on, “Now look, this stuff is a moer of a lot
cleaner than the Nigie shit that’s around town at the moment. That’s
the whole point. So if you’re going to water it down, don’t get
greedy. And if you mors the colour I will come find you, and then
you’re fucked. Oraait?”

Eightball nodded.

Mister said, “Whatever, I’m not selling a fucking speck to anybody.”

“That’s your business. One more thing. You’re both going to try it
right now, so I know if I have to drive up to Paternoster and shoot
someone tonight or not.”

“Can do,” Mister said, and clapped his hands and walked toward the table.

Eightball didn’t move.

Louw said, “Hey, come here. You’re waiting for me to put it on my
tits or something?”

“It’s been a problem for me,” Eightball said. “Let him have mine.”

Mister took a short straw out of his jacket pocket and bent over the
table. They heard him make that sucking sound in his nose, and then
they heard him choking, and saw him pulling at his collar and holding
his throat and they saw some weird, rustcoloured foam coming out of
his mouth. Then he fell over.

Louw picked up the gymbags and took them over to Eightball. He put
them down and picked up the bags holding the money.

“You’ve paid for two kilos here, Eightball?”

“Count if you want.”

“If you’re short we’re not friends any more.”

“It’s there. What do you do with him?” he said, pointing.

“Nothing. Look at him,” Louw said, and smiled. “What’s a guy like him
doing here anyways?”

David Cornwell was born in 1985 in Grahamstown, South Africa. His
stories have appeared in South African and American literary magazines
of more or less repute. He's busy working on a novel.


Gaby said...

I love it! I think the snappy pace is just right. And I like the tone - you got that dirty wise-cracking hard boiled thing down. Always nice to see S.A genre fiction (well, S.A. fiction in general) that isn't total crap. Can't wait to see the novel.

Anonymous said...

Great piece. Louw's character was on the money. The meek and well respected retired cop with unrepressed corrupt tendencies... it's like the perfect Pacino role.

Anonymous said...

Tight. Dirty. Brilliant!

Rey A. Gonzalez said...

This is the stuff that crawls out of the gutter. Great stuff, David!

Bruce Harris said...

Terrific work!

Anonymous said...

nice one!