Excerpt “A Man of Indeterminate Value” by Ron Felber





 Ron Felber

Chapter One


The Yellow cab slipped into a parking spot opposite the Benedictine Brothers monastery on Martin Luther King Boulevard in Newark’s Central Ward. I felt remarkably well for a man who’d just been shot. ‘Hey, mister, you gonna be all right? You don’t look too good,’ the Puerto Rican driver said. ‘Here,’ I answered slipping him two $100s for the $60 fare, ‘you stick to driving. You never saw me.’ ‘Sí, veo nada,’ he swore as I crossed the street holding my right hand over the crimson circle of blood expanding on my ‘Tailored Image’ white shirt, below my shoulder, just above the heart. In my left hand, I clung to a leather briefcase filled with drugs, booze, even some papers.

I glanced over my shoulder to see if I was being followed—I wasn’t—and climbed the five stone steps leading to the entrance of old St. Mary’s Abbey. I rang the bell. My body threw off one enormous shiver as I waited thinking ‘Come on, Father…Come on, for Christ’s sake, I’m on the run and probably fucking dying!’ A monk answered. He poked his shaved head out beyond the door frame, looked to his left and right, and allowed me to enter.

“Jeremiah!” I gasped.

“Son, son…” uttered the priest, shocked at the sight of my ashen pallor and the edges of the blood stain I tried to hide. Could he ever have imagined that John “Jack” Madson, his former student thirty years removed, would turn up like this?

“Did you get that room where I can write?”

“Yes, yes,” the monk answered leading me down a darkened corridor before opening the heavy hinged door to a room that was empty save a chair, a hardwood desk and a lamp.

“Close the door.”

Reluctantly, Fr. Jeremiah obliged.

I fell, exhausted, into the chair as I watched the door shut like the slab to a mausoleum behind him. I breathed a sigh of relief that caused me to grimace then pulled a laptop from my briefcase along with a half-empty bottle of Chivas. I switched on the pc and took a long swig, washing down a handful of Adderall tabs.

Finally, tapping into the uncanny reserve of self-discipline the Benedictine Brothers had ingrained in us since adolescence, I gathered myself and began typing:

I know I don’t owe you anything, Phials, but I decided to write my confession, offer it on a silver platter, you might say. The reason is you deserve it. You worked hard to finally catch me and maybe you’ll do it tonight if you did your homework. Fact is, I knew the first time I laid eyes on you that you’d be the one—my nemesis—the guy who’s my exact opposite. You, so obsessed with every detail, so drilled full through with—what is it—OCD, isn’t that what they call it? But you know and I know, it wasn’t that simple. None of it. But now I’m going to tell you everything—about the murders, about my death, the women, and how this goddamned nightmare first came to happen. But it wasn’t you started all of this. It was—believe it or not—Tomi, who you know almost as well as me by now. I first met her in Ann Arbor, Michigan and fuck, it must have been the way Clyde Barrow felt when he first met Bonnie because, man, it was electric and I knew this girl was going to be crazy-wild.

I was there on business to shut down another plant in Detroit, and out to dinner to get the General Manager, guy named Larry Bruner, on board with the program. So me and Bruner are sitting at the Black Pearl bar drinking when Tomi sits next to me. Funny, but the first thing I noticed wasn’t those shiny black eyes of hers, or that dazzling ‘let me melt into your universe’ smile. No, it was a silver toe ring. She wore it on the second toe of her right foot and, Christ help me, I couldn’t pull my eyes from it. So, she sits down, orders an apple martini just as Mr. GM and I down our third Glenlivet-rocks and the white guy who’s playing the guitar and singing belts out Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home To Me.”

“What’s that?” I asked, turning to her, the words tumbling out of my mouth before I knew it.

“You mean the drink?”

“No, I mean the jewelry.”

“It’s a toe ring, baby,” she says, oh-so-soothing, “it goes with the tattoo.”

“Can I see it?”

She giggled. It was sweet. Then she hikes up her skirt and shows me a red rose high up on her left thigh.

“They’re a set. They go together.”

“If you say so, baby,” I say like the wise guy I am and then my eyes creep up from that red rose, passed her mid-rift and the cleavage she offered as she bent toward me, up to her perfect white teeth, bared and smiling, to those eyes…eyes like your mother’s eyes when you were a little kid and doing no more than what little boys do, so delighted at the simple fact that you were there, and you were hers. Those eyes said, ‘You. You’re the kind of man I could fall in love with.’

Now, I’m no Tom Cruise with Hollywood good looks and a $100 million smile, but I had qualities women responded to: thick black hair, fair complexion and high cheek bones, with a six-foot frame carried my 178 pounds in a way most understood could spring to life against a bully as easy as laugh myself red-faced at a good bar joke. Still, it was that night, maybe even that instant, Tomi and me fell in love—or deep like, or lust—but, my god, whatever the chemistry was between us, it was fucking mystical. Half-hour later she was feeding me from her dinner plate while the singer wailed “Mystery Train” by Elvis and Bruner stared blankly at the image of himself in the large mirror opposite the bar when, ardent as a schoolboy, I look deep into those black dancing eyes, “I so want to make love to you,” I tell her.

“Anything you want, baby,” she whispers in my ear slipping her long fingers between my legs. “See you got the equipment for it.”

Well, once I ditched Bruner, Tomi Fabri and me drove back to the Detroit Hyatt and if it was fever started at the Black Pearl, it ignited to fire in the car, and was white heat by the time we entered my room. Tomi and me, we devoured one another, mouths, genitals, hands, tongues, ears, hair: total, unconditional, without limits. Until in the early morning we lay, drenched and exhausted, bodies intertwined like lattice work, black on white, white on black, when gazing into my eyes she tells me, “The vibe is so strong, even at 7 am, I can’t refuse you.”

“How about at 7:57 am?” I asked glancing at the digital.

“No, not even now,” she pledged spreading her body wide and long on the white sheets for me to do with her as I might.

Of course, I cancelled my morning meeting (couldn’t just leave her after a night like that) and we batted the fat in the room over coffee. Tomi worked for Head-to-Toe, an escort service in town. She was twenty-six. Her mother taught mathematics at a black college nearby but retired and was now a non-denominational minister tending to a congregation of five hundred souls.

“My father was a good man,” she told me, “like to think of him that way, anyhow. Fact is, he was a heroin addict, couldn’t leave me alone once I developed breasts. Mom let him go on account of that. He went off to prison on a drug charge, died there.”

“Sounds tragic.”

“No just real.”

“Yeah,” I answered. “And working for the escort service, is that also ‘real?’”

“I don’t do much with that, not really. See guys for money. Sometimes ladies. Hang-out with ‘em. Let ‘em have some fun with themselves while I watch. If I like them a lot, we have sex. I do the guys, they do me. Women, too, mostly after couple of martinis.”

“So you’re bi-sexual?”

“I like people. I like sex. I also like martinis. Say, I’ll bet you’re a man lives with a lot of rules, ain’t you?”

I didn’t answer immediately, just nodded. “Yeah, that’s it. I am a guy

lives with rules. Too many goddamned rules!” I finally answered laughing

as Tomi Fabri pulled me down on the bed on top of her and, yeah, we started

all over.



Excerpted from A MAN OF INDETERMINATE VALUE by Ron Felber with permission from Barricade Books, Inc. Copyright © 2013 by Ron Felber. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted in any form without the prior written permission from the publisher.

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