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Crime Beat

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Crime Beat: An extract from By Any Means by Kurt Ellis

by any menaEarlier this week Kurt Ellis listed his top crime fiction books and authors. Here now is an extract from his debut novel, By Any Means. In his review of the novel, Jonathan Amid remarked that as it ‘hurtles towards its unsurprisingly tragic conclusion, the reader is swept along into a credibly rendered, colourful world, one that, however, is never embellished to the point where it glorifies crime or violence by any means.’ To read the full review click here.

Lazarus, short and skinny, walked up to Captain and stretched out his hand. Captain took it and shook it as firmly as possible. Partly to show his strength, but mostly to keep his own hand from shaking. Lazarus’s sharp, rat-like features were distorted by a grin. He always had a smile on his face.

“Come on in, Tony. We’re just watching the game. You want a beer?”

The last thing Captain wanted was more alcohol, but he said yes anyway. As Lazarus walked off to the kitchen to get another glass, Tyson got to his feet and walked over to him. The first thing Captain noticed was the number “26” tattooed on his cheek. The second was that Tyson looked more muscular than he had before he’d gone into prison.

Tyson smiled, two gold slits in his mouth, and stretched his arms out wide, as if he was welcoming back an old friend. Technically, they were old friends. “Captain, my boy!” he exclaimed and grabbed Captain in a rough hug, grinding Captain’s face into his hard chest. It was more of a headlock than a gesture of affection.

Captain instantly felt afraid. He could not help but shudder. But then, just as quickly as it had sprouted, he killed the fear.

“Hey, Tyson. How you doing, bru?” Captain pulled his face away. He raised his gaze to look at Tyson with belligerence glittering in his eyes but a smile on his face.

“I’m good, bud,” Tyson said. “Just feels fucking good to be out. Pull up a chair. Have a seat.” Tyson spoke as if he owned the house, and that made Captain uneasy. Why is Tyson feeling so comfortable? he thought. What does he know about today that I don’t?

Captain sat down on the double couch next to the third man in the room. Neville Coles, Lazarus’s bodyguard. It was actually Sergeant Coles, or some other rank like that, if he had to be technical. He was a policeman who worked at Sydenham police station, but who also moonlighted for Lazarus. Coles was one of many policemen in the drug lord’s employ. They provided Lazarus with information, and impounded guns and confiscated drugs for him when his supply was late. And to keep Lazarus and his associates out of the grasp of the law, they also overlooked a lot of what happened in Sydenham.

Captain nodded a greeting at the man. Coles ignored him and turned his eyes back to the game.

“Shit, man,” Lazarus said as he walked into the room, glass in hand. “The fucking Crusaders are killing us.” He handed Captain the glass and instructed him to pour himself a drink.

“So how are things your side, Big Man?” Tyson asked.

Big man? Captain thought, but said nothing. “All good. You know, just trying to survive.”

“Yeah. Surviving can be tough, lightie. Trust me.”

Captain noted this vague threat, locked it away in a memory vault and smiled back.

There was silence for half a minute. All eight eyes looked at the television set as the Sharks prepared to take a line-out.

“I hear business is good?” Tyson continued.

Captain turned back to look at Tyson and shrugged. “Yeah, working hard. Doing the best I can. Doing well.”

“From what I hear you have been doing very well. It makes me proud.”

Proud of what? Captain thought. You had nothing to do with this.

Tyson laughed as if he had just remembered a private joke. “When I went in, you were just a little lightie who could stand his ground. Now look at you. The big chief. The nduna.”

Lazarus spoke up. “Tyson here is looking to make some money. He’s looking for a graaf. I don’t have anything available for him right now. But I asked him to talk to you, see if there is any way you can hook him up with something with your crew. You know?”

So this is what the meeting is about, thought Captain. This bastard is looking to get back into the game. Into my game.

He took a sip of his beer, giving himself a precious few seconds to word his response smartly. “Hell, I would be happy to hook him up, if I had a place. Right now, I got the ous working a very tight ship. The money split is just right for everyone to be happy, and the workload is just right for all the ous to earn that crown.”

Tyson leaned back in his chair and nodded, “I see. I see.” He sucked at invisible food stuck in his teeth.

“But if something does come up, bru, you know, I will definitely bring you in,” Captain continued, knowing full well that he would do no such thing.

“I know you will,” Tyson smiled, but his look told Captain he knew he was lying.

Lazarus turned the volume down on the TV and faced them. “Okay, now listen up, gents. I can understand that you guys have a little . . . uncomfortable situation going on here, but shit, the truth is that it’s not my problem. I don’t deal in the past. I deal in the present.” He initially spoke to both Tyson and Captain, then turned his focus mainly on Tyson. “Now, Captain and his crew work for me. And they do some bloody good work, and I don’t want that work to stop. I’m looking to bring in some high-class stuff. Coke and H. Serious shit, to start getting into the white boys. So I don’t want no bullshit and drama. I don’t need the cops looking at me right now. Understand, ouens?”

Tyson tossed out a crocodile grin. “Of course there’ll be no drama, ek sê. Captain and I are thick brus – right, Cap?”

You lying fuck, thought Captain, but said, “Of course.”

Lazarus leant back in his chair and turned the volume back up. “Good.” He reached around the blind side of his chair and, without looking, tossed a small kit bag at Captain. “I need you to take this to

Big Dre in the ’Burgs. Can you get it done today?”

Big Dre sold drugs for Lazarus in Pietermaritzburg. Captain guessed the bag was filled with the cocaine they had picked up from the fat Mozambican, José. He remembered that Lester and Wahied were going to Pietermaritzburg later that afternoon. “Sure, no problem.”

By Any Means is published by Human & Rousseau.


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