Marcus Sakey The Amateurs

ISBN 13: 9780451230959

The Amateurs

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9780451230959: The Amateurs

The new novel from "the electric jolt American crime fiction needs." (Dennis Lehane)

Four friends take on a risky opportunity to steal a fortune in dirty money. But in this game, any misstep carries lethal consequences-and these four rank amateurs are playing against the most dangerous professionals imaginable.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Marcus Sakey’s thrillers have been nominated for more than fifteen awards, named New York Times Editors' Picks, and selected among Esquire’s Top 5 Books of the Year. His Good People was adapted into a movie starring James Franco, Kate Hudson, and Omar Sy. In addition to Good People, his novels Brilliance, The Blade Itself, and The Amateurs are all in development as feature films.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

PART I

The Players

"There was something seriously wrong with the world for which neither God nor His absence could be blamed."

—Ian McEwan, Amsterdam

Later, Jenn Lacie would spend a lot of time trying to pinpoint the exact moment.

There was a time before, she was sure of that. When she was free and young and, on a good day, maybe even breezy. Looking back was like looking at the cover of a travel brochure for a tropical getaway, some island destination featuring a smiling girl in a sundress and a straw hat, standing calf-deep in azure water. The kind of place she used to peddle but had never been.

And of course, there was the time after.

So it stood to reason that there had to be a moment when the one became the other. When blue skies bruised, the water turned cold, and the undertow took her.

Had it been when they first met Johnny Love, that night in the bar?

Maybe. Though it felt more like when she'd opened the door at four a.m., bleary in a white T-shirt and faded cotton bottoms. She'd known it was Alex before she looked through the peephole. But the tiny glass lens hadn't let her see his eyes, the mad energy in them. If she hadn't opened the door, would everything be different?

Sometimes, feeling harder on herself, she decided, no, the moment came after the four of them did things that could never be taken back. Not just when they decided; not even when she felt the pistol, the oily heaviness of it making something below her belly squirm, a strange but not entirely uncomfortable feeling. Like any birth, maybe her new life had come through blood and pain. Only it hadn't been an infant's cry that marked the moment. It had been a crack so loud it made her ears hum, a wet, spattering cough, and the man shuddering and staring as his eyes zeroed out.

But late at night, the sheets a sweaty tangle, her mind turning relentless carnival loops, she wondered if all of that was nonsense. Maybe there hadn't been a moment. Maybe that was just a lie she told herself to get through the day, the way some took Xanax and some drank scotch and some watched hour after numbing hour of sitcoms.

Maybe the problem hadn't come from outside. Hadn't been a single decision, a place where they could have gone left instead of right.

Maybe the road the four of them walked never had any forks to begin with.


CHAPTER 1

Ian was aware of the cliché.That's what made it OK.

It was one thing to be the trader wearing a suit that belied your debt, sitting in the company men's room at almost eight at night, blasting coke from the hinge of your thumb, and believing you were Gordon Gekko. It was another to see it for the sordid little scene it was. As long as you knew that, you were still running the show.

Screw it, he thought, then bent forward and snorted hard.

It was good stuff, coating the inside of his skull with ice, a moment of brain freeze that released slow and sweet into a glorious warmth. He poured a bump for his other nostril—had to be democratic—and blew that one too. Then he leaned against the toilet tank, the porcelain cool and hard and kind of pleasant through the starched cotton of his oxford.

There we go. There it is.

His toe wanted to tap, but he fought the urge, glanced at his watch instead: 7:58 in the p.m. Almost there. He'd worked here for years, noticed it only subliminally at first. The kind of pattern the human brain catches a bit at a time. Part of him wanted to count the seconds down, but that would have been cheating.

When the air-conditioning shut off at 8:00 exactly, a sudden absence of sound that had measured the whole of his day, he smiled.

Silly, he knew. But if eighty percent of his waking life was going to be spent sitting in a gray corporate office—which, by the way, he didn't remember voting on, thanks very much—he'd seize his little triumphs where he could. He arrived most days before six, in time to hear the fans turn on, and worked the same day over and over in a blur of predatory action, the headset so much a part of his body that he sometimes forgot to take it off when he stood up from his desk, got jerked back by the cord. Maneuver after maneuver, each the one that might get him out from under, might return him to wunderkind status, the guy who had cracked Hudson-Pollom Biolabs and made a quick half-mil instead of the also-ran everyone was starting to suspect he might be. Lunch at his desk, stolen in bites. A bathroom break midmorning and midafternoon, two quick white blurs to keep his energy kicking. Staying after the phones went quiet to read the blogs, make his plans for tomorrow, and try, in an amiable, distracted way, to figure out how to make up what he'd lost.

And finally, the retreat here, to his porcelain palace, to blow a good-night kiss to work and start the evening properly.

He pinched his nostrils, then rattled the toilet-paper dispenser like he'd been using the john. There was no one in the bathroom, but habits were important for the day he didn't hear his boss come in. He flushed, stepped out, washed his hands, then checked himself in the mirror. Nose clean, tie straight. Ready for the world.

He smiled, made guns of his fists and shot the mirror, an intentionally cheesy joke meant only for himself—it seemed like most of his jokes were—and then headed for the door.

It was Thursday night, and his friends would be waiting. Alex behind the bar in a bleach-worn shirt, the cuffs spotted with old stains. Jenn sipping a vodka martini, never a cosmo, not since Sex and the City. Mitch rocking his stool on two legs, trying not to get caught looking sidelong at Jenn. The Thursday Night Crew. Thinking of them made him smile again. Funny how their unlikely foursome had remained friends when all the folks he'd grown up with, the ones who signed yearbooks and made pledges of eternity, had all fallen quietly away. Moved to New York or the suburbs, gotten married and had children. That might be sad if he let it.

But why would he? He was young, secretly high, and his friends were waiting.


When Mitch climbed on the bus, there was only one seat open, next to a black guy wearing a puffy Looney Tunes jacket and loose jeans, his leg thrown across the open seat. Mitch walked over, stood looking down at the guy. "Excuse me."

For a long moment, the man ignored him. Then, drawing the gesture out slow, he swiveled his head to look up at Mitch. His eyes pitched half open, a toothpick stuck to wet lips. Nothing in his expression at all. After a moment of staring, he turned back to the window. He didn't move his leg.

Asshole, Mitch thought and moved back a couple of rows, stood gripping the hand bar, swaying with the motion of the bus. His heels felt like someone was cranking wood screws into them, and the steady ache in his back that began around noon had stretched up to his shoulders and neck. Occupational hazard of spending all day standing up, smiling on cue as he opened and closed the heavy glass doors of the Continental Hotel.

It's only a couple of minutes. Not worth making a thing over.

He shifted from the edge of one foot to the edge of the other. The bus was warm, humid with body odor, and he was afraid some of it came from him. Nothing to do about it, just a day's worth of sun beating down on his jacket and tie, but he wished he could have showered.

After all, tonight was the night. He'd made up his mind that he was going to take the plunge with Jenn. If the right moment came up at least, when the guys weren't there. And probably best to get in a couple of drinks in to unwind from the day. Be loose. Loose was good. Like, "There's this new sake lounge we could check out, you know, laugh at the yuppies." Or was that too casual? He didn't want her to say it sounded great, why didn't they invite the others. Maybe more like, "It'd be really nice to get a chance to talk, just us." Though he didn't want to put her on the spot.

He ran lines until his stop, but couldn't find the right one. Maybe he'd wing it.

Rossi's was one of those identity-crisis places, a bar-slash-restaurant that drew families for dinner but an after-work crowd for drinks. Perched on a stretch of Lincoln that fell between more fashionable areas, the place had become their haunt in the last few years mostly because with Alex there, they could drink cheap. Funny, really; in a city filled with terrific bars, they chose to meet every week at a half-assed restaurant that they'd otherwise never have noticed.

After the heat of the bus, walking into the air-conditioning felt wonderful. Mitch nodded at the hostess, moved past the dining room, with its rich smell of bolognese and carbonara, and into the bar. The postwork crowd was thinning but not gone, men in business casual, women laughing, glasses filled with pink and green and pale yellow, specialty martinis made with syrups and liqueurs. He moved through them, looking toward their customary seats.

Dammit. Other than Alex pulling drinks, he was the first one there. He should have showered.


"That prick," Alex was saying as she walked up. "He should be, I don't know. Drawn and quartered."

"Who should?" Jenn smiled at him, careful not to hold it too long, then hugged Ian, the blades of his shoulders sharp through his shirt, then Mitch, still in his uniform, the jacket with the hotel logo slung over the back of his chair.

"Tasty," ...

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