Tuesday, August 20, 2013
RIP Elmore Leonard: The Poet Laureate of Wild Assholes With Revolvers
The only difference between the beer lady's house and what was called the bar--both mud brick with metal roofs--the beer lady made her own banana brew, urwagwa, and sold it in used Primus litre bottles with a straw for five to fifteen cents depending on the supply. The bar offered commercial brands, too, Primus, made with sorghum, and Mutzig, which Terry drank once in a while. He walked into the beer lady's house breathing through his mouth against the stench of overripe bananas and body odor, into a bare-brick room that could be a prison cell.
There was Bernard in his shirt, one of his buddies next to him, both against the wall behind a plywood table, both sucking on reed straws stuck into brown litre bottles, the Primus label worn off from reuse. The third one sat to the left of Bernard in a straight chair with his bottle and straw, the chair tilted against the wall, his bare feet hanging free. The fourth one was just now coming out of a back hall. Terry waited until he was in the room--the same four from the market the other day--all of them watching him now, Bernard murmuring to them in Kinyarwanda. There was no sign of the beer lady.
Terry said to Bernard, "Any more visions?"
"I told you in the Confession," Bernard said, "what thing is going to happen." He spoke with the reed straw in his mouth, holding the bottle against his chest. "I don't tell my visions in this place."
"It doesn't matter," Terry said. "You told everyone at the market you saw me and I saw you. Talking about the time you came in the church with your machete, your panga. Your words 'I saw him and he saw me.' Isn't that right? I saw you hack four people to death, what you told me, and you saw me do nothing to stop you. Now you say you're gonna do it again. Cut anybody you don't like down to size, including me. Right? Isn't that what you said?"
"I speak only to my friends in this place," Bernard said, still with the straw in his mouth. "We don't want you. What do you come here for?"
"To ask you to give yourself up. Tell Laurent Kamweya what you did in the church."
Bernard, smiling now, said, "You must be a crazy person." He spoke to his friends in Kinyarwanda and now they were smiling.
Terry said, "They were with you that day?"
"Oh yes, these and others. It was our duty," Bernard said. "We say, 'Tugire gukora akazi.' Let us go do the work, and we did, uh? Go now, we don't want you here."
"Soon as I give you your penance," Terry said.
He pulled Chantelle's pistol out of his cassock and shot Bernard, shattering the bottle he held against his chest. He shot the one next to Bernard trying to get up, caught between the wall and the plywood table. He shot the one in the chair tilted against the wall. And shot the one by the back hall as this one brought a machete out of his belt and shot him again as the blade showed a glint of light from the open door.
The shots left a hard ringing sound within the closeness of the brick walls. Terry held the pistol at arm's length on a level with his eyes--the Russian Tokarev resembling an old-model Colt .45, big and heavy--and made the sign of the cross with it over the dead. He said, "Rest in peace, motherfuckers," turned and walked out of the beer lady's house to wait at the side of the road.
Pagan Babies (2000)