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Vanilla Ride

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Vanilla Ride

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Author: Joe R. Lansdale
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009

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Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
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In this Texas-sized thriller, Hap Collins and Leonard Pine-best friends, freelance troublemakers, and tough guys with good intentions-find themselves in the crosshairs of the Dixie Mafia.

Hap is an East Texas smart mouth with a weakness for southern women. Leonard is a gay, black veteran pining for a lost love. They're not the makings of your typical dynamic duo, but never underestimate the power of a shared affinity for stirring up trouble and causing mayhem.

When an old friend asks Leonard to rescue his daughter from an abusive, no-good drug dealer, he gladly agrees and, of course, invites Hap along for the fun. Even though the dealer may be lowly, he is on the bottom rung of the Dixie Mafia, and when Hap and Leonard come calling, the Mafia feels a little payback is in order.

Cars crash, shotguns blast, and people die, but Hap and Leonard come out on top. Unfortunately for them, now they're facing not only jail time but also the legendary-and lethal-Vanilla Ride, who is still out to claim the price on their heads. Full of twists and turns, gunfire and gaffes, this hilarious, rip-roaring novel will have readers turning the pages faster than a Texas tornado.



I hadn't been shot at in a while, and no one had hit me in the head for a whole month or two. It was kind of a record, and I was starting to feel special.

Brett and I were upstairs in our little rented house, lying in bed, breathing hard, having just arrived at the finish line of a slow, sweet race that at times can seem like a competitive sport, but when played right, even when you're the last to arrive, can make you feel like a winner.

In that moment, life was good.

Brett sat up and fluffed her pillow behind her back and pushed her long bloodred hair to the side with one hand, shoved her chest forward in a way that made me feel mighty lucky, said, "I haven't had that much fun since I pistol-whipped a redheaded midget."

"You don't know how romantic that makes me feel," I said. "I think Little Hap just went looking for a place to hide."

"I thought he just came out of hiding," she said, and winked at me.

Thing was, she actually had pistol-whipped a midget. I was there. She was trying to find her daughter and save her life, but still, it was ugly, and I was a party to it. I will say this, however, in favor of the midget: he took his beating with stoic pride and refused to take it while wearing his cowboy hat, an expensive Stetson. He wanted it right on the skull and that's where he got it.

"You know, I think they prefer being called dwarf instead of midget, or Little People," I said.

"No kidding. I don't know about the rest of them, but the one I worked over, I just call him Pistol-Whipped."

"Do you ever feel bad about it?"


"He died, you know."

"Not from the pistol whipping."

This was also true. He ended up dead another way, but, man, that had been some pistol whipping. She had also set her ex-husband's head on fire and put it out with a shovel, which is a far cry from a water hose. My sweet baby, at times, could make a man nervous.

She said, "Speaking of little guys," and took hold of my crotch.

"Little guys?" I said. "That's supposed to fire me up?"

"No. I'll fire you up."

She chuckled and slid over close and I took her in my arms and we snuggled. Things were looking operational when there was a knock on the door.


I looked at the clock on the nightstand. Eleven p.m.

The knock came again, louder.

I got up and pulled on my robe and bunny slippers, and cursed. "Keep that thought. I'm going down to kill a late-night Bible salesman."

"Will you bring me back his head, please?"

"On a platter."


Downstairs, I went to the window, eased back the curtain and took a peek. Two big black guys, one supported on a stick, were standing on the steps. My best friend, Leonard Pine, and an ex-cop buddy, Marvin Hanson.

I opened the door.

"Sure isn't good to see you," I said to Leonard.

Leonard pushed on in. He was decked out in cowboy boots, jeans, a faded snap-pocket shirt that was a little stretched across his broad shoulders, and a shit-eating grin. "Now that's no way to be," he said.

"Your timing as usual is impeccable, brother," I said.

"Thank you."

"Leave your horse and hat at the corral?"

"The horse is wearing the hat," Leonard said. "After the fun me and him had, I thought he deserved a little token of my appreciation. You can bet he'll call tomorrow."

"You're funnier earlier in the day," I said.

Marvin came in more slowly, using the cane.

"Like them foot rabbits," he said, nodding at my shoes.

"Yeah, me and them are buds," I said. "You're getting around good."

"You should have seen me before we went dancing. Those hip-hop steps have a way of making you weak."

"We went for tacos," Leonard said. "This guy, you can't get him to do nothing fun. His idea of a good time is chewing gum with a fruity flavor."

"Where's the love of your life?" I asked Leonard.


"No. Winston Churchill."

"He's mad at me."

"Imagine that."

"It's nothing much. I think we called each other bitches and then I got mad enough to take a dump in the middle of the bed, and did."

"Overshare," I said.

"We both forget what started it, and we're both holding out for an apology. I will, of course, cave, and then we'll be back to normal. You got anything to eat?"

"I thought you ate tacos?"

"Two, maybe three hours ago."

"I'm not feeling all that friendly right now," I said. "Why would I want to feed you?"

"Interrupt something?" Leonard said, sliding into the kitchen to open the refrigerator.

"Yeah, me and Brett were just setting up the checkerboard. Marvin, why do you hang with this riffraff?"

Marvin found a soft chair and was sitting there, stretching out his leg, rubbing his knee. "I hang with him because I pity him."

"So why let him bother me?"

"Leonard said you love late-night company."

"He's a lying sonofabitch."

"Hey, boys," Brett said.

I turned and saw her coming down the stairs. She had on a white shorty robe and her hair was bed fluffed and her legs were long enough to make a giraffe drown himself. Her eyes were half closed and she was beautiful.

Leonard came back into the living room, empty-handed.

Brett finished off the stairs, said, "Hi, Leonard."

"Hi, Brett. You got anything to eat?"

"John lets you out to play this late?" she said.

"I'll make it up to him tomorrow," Leonard said. "I've got some moves, honey. If you like, I could show Hap some of my tricks, though it would be purely theoretical, of course."

"Your biology sucks," I said. "John. Brett. Different plumbing. Wouldn't work."

"Hi, Marvin," she said.

Marvin smiled, gave her a little wave.

"I'm having milk and cookies," she said. "Anyone else?"

"Me. Me," Leonard said. "Are the cookies by any chance... vanilla?"

"They are," Brett said. "Hap keeps them just for you, baby. There's also your favorite. Dr Peppers. These are from the only plant where the original formula is used. We drove over there special to get them."

"We were passing by the plant," I said, "so I thought, why not."

Leonard looked at me and batted his eyes. "You are the sweetest bastard ever squatted to crap over a pair of shoes."

"Cookies aren't just for you," I said. "I like them too. And Dr Pepper."

"He's a liar," Brett said. "He keeps them for you. He drinks that diet crap. Go sit down. Milk or Dr Pepper with your cookies?"

"Need you ask?" Leonard said.

"Marvin?" Brett said. "How about you?"

"Milk and cookies sounds fine."

"Great," she said. "Hap, get your ass in there and get the cookies. Some for me too. Chop-chop."

I started toward the kitchen. As I passed her, she grabbed my arm. "Just kidding," she said. "I'll get them. I was just evaluating your training. You get an A. Later I'll give you a treat, and it won't be a dog biscuit."

She leaned forward and kissed me on the lips.

As I started back into the living room area Leonard said, "Good dog. Next you'll be off the newspapers and using the yard."

"That's my goal."

I sat down on the couch, the far end from Leonard, who had kicked off his shoes and was stretching his legs out.

"I can't see what Brett sees in you, Hap," Leonard said.

"It's the parts you don't see," I said.

"Nor do I want to."

"I'm thinking, maybe," I said, "you didn't really come over here to interrupt my sex life and have milk and cookies."

"I'm having Dr Pepper," Leonard said. "Dr Pepper that you got special just for me."

"Go to hell, Leonard."

"You're right, Hap," Marvin said. "We didn't come over to have milk and cookies. It's a little more complicated than that."


We finished up our milk and cookies, Leonard his Dr Pepper and cookies, then Brett went upstairs to bed. The treat she offered me would have to be held in abeyance. I considered the delay Leonard's fault, and gave him a black mark on my mental chalkboard. No star for you, asshole. Next time I'd get RC instead of Dr Pepper, see how that pulled his chain, maybe get some of those nasty coconut cookies he hated. I hated them too, but the punishment was worth consideration.

We went out in the yard to talk so Brett wouldn't be bothered by our big mouths. She had bought some metal lawn chairs and put them out there, and I kept expecting to come out some morning and find they'd been chair-napped, as our part of the neighborhood was getting bad. Used to, you could leave your wallet on the porch swing and no one would bother it. These days, you left a cheese grater out, someone would steal the holes.

It was a nice night and there weren't too many lights on our street, and the sky was clear so you could look up through the limbs of the elm tree at the edge of the yard and see stars. It was too cool for crickets and there wasn't any traffic on the road out front. The air smelled fresh and a little sweet, like a baby's breath, and in that moment I was glad we lived there in that house with that...

Copyright © 2009 by Joe R. Lansdale


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