The Redeemers (Quinn Colson)

ISBN 13: 9781472151629

The Redeemers (Quinn Colson)

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9781472151629: The Redeemers (Quinn Colson)

The extraordinary new novel in the New York Timesbestselling author’s acclaimed series about the real Deep South—“a joy ride into the heart of darkness” (The Washington Post).
 
Quinn Colson is jobless—voted out of his position as sheriff of Tibbehah County, Mississippi. But in the middle of the long, hot summer, somebody smashes through the house of a wealthy mill owner, making off with a safe full of money and shooting a deputy. As Deputy Lillie Virgil hunts the criminals and draws Colson in, other people join the chase, too, but with a much more personal motive. For that safe contained more than just money—it held secrets. And as Colson well knows, secrets can kill.

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About the Author:

Ace Atkins is the author of nineteen books, including six Quinn Colson novels, the first two of which, The Ranger and The Lost Ones, were nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Novel (he also has a third Edgar nomination for his short story “Last Fair Deal Gone Down”). In addition, he is the author of four New York Times–bestselling novels in the continuation of Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series. Before turning to fiction, Atkins was a correspondent for The St. Petersburg Times, a crime reporter for The Tampa Tribune, and, in college, played defensive end for the undefeated Auburn University football team (for which he was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated). He lives in Oxford, Mississippi.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1
Mickey Walls didn’t bring up the subject until after he’d paid the Huddle House check and was walking out to his red Hummer parked on top of a ridge overlooking Highway 45. His buddy Kyle followed, working a toothpick in the side of his mouth, strolling like a man who didn’t have nowhere to be, and leaning onto his truck advertising HAZLEWOOD CONTRACTING. It was winter and colder than a witch’s tit, and Mickey slipped his hands into his thick Carhartt jacket. He stood near the truck gate and said, “I heard you had some problems with Larry Cobb.”
            “Shit,” Kyle said, firing up a Marlboro. “To hell with that bastard.”
            “You were doing some dozer work for him and he jacked your ass?”
            “He says I did a half-ass job,” Kyle said. “That was a goddamn lie. When I come to talk to him, he sent out Debbi to talk. He’s one sorry piece of shit.”
            “Why don’t you sue him?”
            “Cost more for a lawyer than I’d get.”
            “You could whip his ass.”
            “Larry’s an old man,” Kyle said. “He ain’t worth it. You can’t just go beating up some old son of a bitch. That’s like picking on a cripple. What makes me madder than anything is that I thought I was his friend. Me and him used to hunt together. He even took me out to his place in Colorado and introduced me to his high-dollar friends. We’d shoot skeet and drink Coors Light in the Jacuzzi.”
            “I thought he was my friend, too,” Mickey said.
            “Till you and Tonya split up.”
            “I never done a damn thing to that man,” he said. “And he knows his daughter is bat shit crazy. She takes Xanax like they’re Tic Tacs. Then he sued me for nearly a hundred grand, about bankrupted me just because our divorce didn’t sit well with him and Debbi.”
            “Like I said,” Kyle said. “That man’s a genuine piece of shit.”
            The Huddle House hadn’t been there long, opening up that summer with all the other places built after the tornado. People in Tibebhah County saying that twister may have been the best thing that happened since the Choctaws sold out. Even though seventeen people died, they now had a Subway, a KFC, and even a Wal-Mart. Mickey leaned over the tailgate of the big truck, watching the traffic speeding by the exit on Highway 45. Kyle flicked away his spent Marlboro, firing up another. His skin was burnt-red and he wore his graying hair cut long and stylish like some country music singer, along with a thin, wispy beard that was also turning gray. Kyle didn’t know he was old. He still wore a leather puka shell necklace he’d bought down in Panama City Beach.
“Someone needs to put that man in his place,” Mickey said.
            Kyle turned from the traffic to look at his old buddy. His face didn’t show nothing, light blue eyes looking right through him. “What are you thinking, man?”
            “Shit, I don’t know.”
            “Hell you don’t,” Kyle said. “You didn’t call me for the fellowship and biscuits and gravy.”
            “I just think it’s wrong is all,” Mickey said. “The way Larry Cobb has spent his whole life making money by wiping his ass with people in this town.”
            “You can either pray on it, or shoot his ass.”
            Mickey shook his head. “What if there was another way?”
            Kyle squinted into the smoke as he studied Mickey’s face. Mickey knew he was interested, that he had him, even just a little. He’d been about half and half whether he was going to even mention the thing. But he knew he needed help and Kyle Hazlewood was one of the few people he trusted in Tibbehah County, this busted-ass place ninety miles from Memphis and too damn close to Tupelo. He needed a friend right now, a man he could rely on to get the job done.
            “He ever tell you about his special room?” Mickey said.
            “You talking about that room off his closet?”
            “Yes, sir.”
            “Where he keeps his found money.”
            “Is that what he called it?”
            “I seen it,” Kyle said, rubbing his nose. “Larry’d get drunk on Wild Turkey and he’d wander back there just to show you what he got. Man can’t help himself. He got stacks and stacks of money. He told me it was because his daddy told him to never trust no banks.”
            “His daddy also told him don’t pay taxes, either,” Mickey said. “You know how much shit that man has done off the books with that logging operation?”
            “How much?”
            “Last time I seen it, it was more than a million.”
            “Holy shit,” Kyle said. His cell phone ringing. He took it off his hip, saw the number, and turned it off. “Just what you thinking, man?”
            Mickey turned back to the Huddle House, watching the waitress behind the glass refilling cups and talking with a couple old men in the back booth. A raggedy minivan pulled into the parking lot and a fat woman with a fat baby waddled on in to get her morning feed. Kyle hadn’t moved. He was shivering a little, wearing that imitation leather red-and-black motorcycle jacket he’d had for years. Mickey remembered when Kyle was the king of Tibbehah High, rolling around the town Square in his bad ass El Camino. That same El Camino now sitting outside his work shed on blocks.
            “I got a court-ordered judgment against me for a hundred grand,” Mickey said. “I’m just saying it’d be funny to pay back Larry with his own goddamn money.”
            “You talking about robbing him?”
            “No, sir,” he said. “I’m talking about taking what’s ours. I got a plan, but need you to be a part of it.”
            “I don’t know, man,” Kyle said. “That’s a high-tech safe. He paid a couple thousand for it at the Costco in Memphis. It ain’t opening with no crowbar.”
            Mickey pushed himself away from the big truck. “You don’t need a crowbar if you got the combination.”
            “How the hell you know that?”
            “I used to be his favorite son-in-law.”
            “You were his only son-in-law.”
            “I’m just talking,” Mickey said. “I just wanted to see if you’re interested first. Me and you been pals a long time. And when I heard Larry had cornholed you, too. Well, I just started thinking on the situation and how to make things right.”
            “What if the combo don’t work?”
            “I got a backup plan,” Mickey said. “But one step at a time. I just need to know, are you in?”
            The wind kicked up Kyle’s long gray hair, the pinpoint of the Marlboro glowing in the morning cold. Trucks and cars sped up and down Highway 45, passing Tibbehah like it wasn’t no more than a spec on a map. Mickey had wanted to buy him a new jacket for Christmas, but then he’d forgot. If this here deal worked out, Kyle could buy something made of real leather this time. Maybe he could help Kyle pull himself out of the shit. That was the least he could do.
            “How ‘bout I let you know?” Kyle said.
            “Think on it.”
            “I will.”
            “We deserve better,” Mickey said.
            “I done some things I ain’t proud of,” Kyle said. “Drugs, drinking and shit. But nothing like this. I ain’t no criminal.”
“Shit, you know stealing from a thief ain’t stealing at all?”
            “What is it, then?”
            Mickey rubbed his face and spit onto the eroding ridge. “Justice.”
 

 
Quinn Colson sat behind the wheel of his official sheriff’s truck, a big F-250 diesel nicknamed the Big Green Machine, looking out at a tired old apartment complex in South Memphis. There were signs adverting move-in specials and monthly rentals with an entire wing of the apartments gutted, no doors or windows, a big Dumpster below toppling with trash. The complex was on Winchester, a half-mile from the Fed Ex facility, and every few minutes a big jet would take off, rattling the truck, the apartments, and anything under its path. Lillie Virgil had come up with him, as she was the one who’d helped him track down what he needed since she had once worked as a cop in Memphis. They talked a little while they waited. Quinn saying that all the planes reminded him of his last deployment, a tent city outside an airfield in Afghanistan.
            “You were telling me something?” she said. “About some kids you met there?”
            “I talk too much.”
            “You make goddamn Gary Cooper seem like a Chatty Cathy,” she said. “Talk to me, Quinn. What else do we have to do but wait and watch?”
            “You mind if I fire up a cigar?”
            “Yes, sir, I do,” Lillie said. “They smell like shit. Besides, you want those folks to see the smoke coming from the cracked windows?”
            “Hell,” Quinn said. “You really think they’d notice?”
            Quinn glanced down at the ashtray and a half-smoked La Gloria Cubana Black. Seemed like a damn shame to leave it, but he’d rather leave it than listen to Lillie complain. Lillie was what you’d call a strong personality, nearly as tall as him, twice as mean, and perhaps the best shot in north Mississippi. Probably all of Mississippi. Before she’d became a cop, she’d been a star shooter for the Ole Miss Rifle team. Her unruly brown hair was twisted up into a bun and any hint of her femininity covered up with a bulky hunting jacket and ball cap.
            They’d left their uniforms and badges back in Tibbehah County. He didn’t want anyone to confuse why he was working in another state as a Mississippi sheriff.
“My last two deployments were at Camp Eggers,” Quinn said. “I just got an email from a kid in my platoon. He was talking about things that happened there and those kids. I shouldn’t have brought it up.”
“Goddamn it, Quinn,” Lillie said. “Just tell me the fucking story.”
 “The Afghan kids sold trinkets outside the gates. You know, necklaces, tea pots, sometimes old weapons they’d found. They didn’t go to school. They made money for their families, shuffling between two forwarding operating bases at Eggers and Camp ISAF.”
            “Hold old were they?” Lillie asked.
            “There were two brothers,” Quinn said. “Abraham and Abdullah. I think they were ten and twelve. And their friends Noah, who was about their age, and Mariam. Mariam was a cute little girl. Precocious. She couldn’t have been more than seven or eight. Not much older than Jason.”
            “Was this part of winning hearts and minds?”
            “U.S. Army Rangers don’t do a lot of that,” Quinn said. “Mainly we just shoot bad guys and blow shit up. When we’d return from a mission, I’d buy stuff from those kids and send it home. I got to know them. That’s all.”
            Quinn turned on the big truck’s motor to get the heat going again. He caught a glance of his face in the rearview mirror, all hard planes and angles from his distant Choctaw roots and his hair buzzed on the sides with a half inch on top. He was a wiry and lean man, still hard from ten years in the service. The expression on his face wasn’t pleasant. Next to him, Lillie rested her shoulder against the passenger door and its fogged-up window. In profile, Lillie had a very pretty face although to tell her she was pretty might be construed as an insult. Wearing makeup, letting down her hair, or wearing girly clothes wasn’t a big part of her life. She never gave a damn about what people whispered about her.
            “You send that shit home to your sister?” Lillie asked.
            “Mainly to my mom,” Quinn said. “And Anna Lee when I got drunk. The deployment was the longest I’d been on. I got to know those kids pretty well. I’d give them a few bucks on Thursdays before Juma. That’s the Muslims’ holy day of prayer.”
     &nbs...

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