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Richard Price is a novelist and screenwriter. His books explore the urban world in a gritty, realistic manner that has brought him considerable literary acclaim. Price grew up in a[…]

“Let me go and I’ll tell you who shot that white kid.”

Topic: Richard Price reads from "Lush Life"

Richard Price: I want to read a passage, it’s almost a monologue. After the murder of this kid in the Lower East Side, the whole community is kind of turned upside down looking for the shooters. One of the people who didn’t get the message that he’s not supposed to live in the Lower East Side anymore is this junkie who sees a crime of opportunity and snatches a bag in front of Schiller’s and tries to get away with it and he gets grabbed by the bouncer. The first thing he says in a panic is “Let me go and I’ll tell you who shot that white kid.” So they have to truck him down in the middle of the night to see the catching detective, who’s this guy Maddie Clark. The two cops in this scene are Maddie Clark and there’s a guy named Iocone, who’s another cop who basically lives in the windowless bunkroom, has been for six months; comes out every once in awhile with a toothbrush, shower clogs, and does police work and then goes back into the bunkroom. So this is about three o’clock in the morning and this is taking place in an interview room in the 7th Precinct. “This city, Lester Kaufmann said, one knee crossed over the other, a cuffed hand dangling languidly from the restraint bar. People are doing so well, you know, but you can’t ask them for shit anymore. It’s never been so bad. Maddie grunted in sympathy. The bouncer had told him that the first thing this guy had said when he grabbed them after the attempted purse snatching in front of Berkman’s was ‘Let me go and I’ll tell you who shot that white kid.’ ‘I swear man,’ Lester said to Maddie for the 10th time in the last half hour, ‘I just said that like in a panic, like the first thing that came into my head, what’s left of my head.’ Unfortunately, Maddie believed him. Lester yawned like a lion, revealing a dull steel ball pierced through his tongue. Iocone roused from sleep for this, yawned in response. ‘But I’ll tell you man, I’m really worried about my girlfriend. I gave her $100 to get me something, you know, get me well. She said 15 minutes and left me standing there three hours. I had no idea where she went, what happened to her, 15 minutes. I mean, I never would have done that if she didn’t leave me there like half the night watching everybody coming out of that place for a smoke, drunker and drunker, half the damned bags right on the sidewalks.’ Another titanic yawn, the dull, dirty tongue pierce winking. ‘Sucks,’ Iocone said. Strapped for a partner, Maddie had cajoled him out of the bunkroom with the promise of overtime and an easy commute. ‘I mean, I’m fucked. I know it but can you just check your computer and see if she’s in the system? I’m hoping she got caught and nothing worse but...’ ‘What’s her name?’ ‘Benita Castro Ocala Nieves.’ Iocone rose and went to the screen on Yolanda’s desk. ‘Where’d you get $100, Lester?’ Maddie asked. ‘Where?’ He shivered, then coughed into his fist. ‘Aw, man, you don’t wanna make extra work for yourself with questions like that.’ ‘No?’ ‘Seriously.’ Maddie let it slide. ‘Nothing,’ Iocone called out. ‘Did you check Brooklyn?’ ‘No, just Manhattan.’ ‘Could you check Brooklyn? She scores on South Second, South Third. No one scores in Manhattan anymore. Manhattan’s dead. You guys took care of that.’ Lester re-crossed his knees, a slice of grimy red long john peeking out between his pale blue ankle and the cuff of his jeans. ‘I mean, what the hell happened to her? She was gonna take me to the hospital. I have fluid in my lungs.’ ‘That’s no problem. We’ll get someone to take you as soon as we’re finished.’ ‘Nothing,’ Iocone called out. ‘She got a third name?’ ‘She’s not in the system, huh? Jesus, what do you think happened to her?’ he asked Maddie. ‘And me here. This is a felony, too, right?’ ‘Not necessarily. Depends on how you say what you say. You know, vis-à-vis, sincerity, remorse.’ ‘I am remorseful. I didn’t menace. I didn’t threaten. I didn’t say anything. What’s it terroristic?’ ‘All right, just capture that in your statement. In fact, if you want, we can even right your statement for you. But Lester, what can I tell you that you haven’t heard a million times before? You help us, we help...’ ‘You think this could go down as a pet law? I just-- I don’t even want-- I picked the fucking thing up off the sidewalk. I don’t even think anybody was gonna notice. When that big black guy started running after me, I was like here, take it. I didn’t even get to open the damned thing. I have no idea what was in there. Obviously, I’m not a pro at this.’ ‘Now, now, don’t get down on yourself,’ Iocone said from Yolanda’s desk. ‘You know, I gotta say right now, we’re pretty much eating out of garbage cans, me and Anita. But a few years ago, we had us a store worth like $200,000.’ ‘Oh, yeah?’ Maddie’s turn to yawn. ‘What kind of store?’ ‘It was like a punk boutique.’ ‘No kidding.’ ‘Can I have a cigarette? Jesus, I gotta get to the emergency room.’ ‘All right.’ Maddie clapped his hands. ‘Here we go, one time offer. The hell with the guys who shot that kid. Just give us the stickup team, just some names. Anybody you know works the hood. They check out, not only do you get a pass here, but we take you to the ER, get you squared away, then we go look for your girl.’ ‘A stickup team?’ Lester shrugged, re-crossed his legs, looked away. ‘You know, she used to use Carmen Lopez. That was like her professional name at this one place out in Massapequa. She’s a bar dancer, exotic, very good, very popular. I had her regulars. Guys would like to see her. And she could go to their houses, some of them, borrow 30, 40 dollars but she’s four months pregnant now so...’ Resting his brow on the curve of his free hand. ‘I don’t know. Maybe it’s time to go upstate. It’s getting too hard out here, you know.’” That’s it.

Recorded On: 3/3/08