Cape Rage: First Look and Cover Reveal

Ron Corbett

The following is an exclusive first look and cover reveal for Cape Rage, by Ron Corbett, forthcoming from Berkley Books in March 2024. In the following passage, we read about a quickly escalating encounter between a local crime boss and an unexpected, and unexpectedly, violent stranger.

I stood there like a waiter left hoping for a tip. “I was actually hoping to speak to you a minute, Mr. Danby.”

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He was slow to turn.

“’Bout what?”

“I’m looking for work.”

“Ain’t got any, pal. Sorry.”

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“You sure? I’m probably better than any guy you got right now.”

“A steam tramper from Duluth? Shit, pal, you probably ain’t better than my sister.”

The giant that came in with Danby slapped the table so hard the bottles jumped and clinked. The kid had spittle running down his chin. I waited until they were done laughing and said, “I don’t know your sister, Mr. Danby, so I can’t comment on that. When I said I was probably better than any man you got, I was looking at who you got sitting here with you tonight.”

Danby had a beer bottle going to his mouth and it stopped midway. The giant sucked in his breath so fast it sounded like a wind tunnel. The kid looked like he’d just been slapped.

“What did you just say?”

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“You heard me. I’ll tell you more—I came two thousand miles to see you, Mr. Danby, because Jimmy Metcalfe’s a pal of mine and he said if I ever needed a place to go and start over, Cape Rage was the place to go, and Finn Danby was the man to see. Stand-up guy, our kind of people, Danny. That’s what Jimmy always told me.

“But here I am, standing right in front of you, telling you I’m a friend of Jimmy’s, telling you I need work, and you try to blow me off with a beer and a shot. I’m getting pissed off at the unfairness in this world, Mr. Danby, I truly am.”

Danby kept the beer bottle where it was before slowly taking it the rest of the way. He took a big, long gulp, and put the bottle back on the table.

“Know what, pal? Don’t think I’m buying you that drink anymore. Say hi to Jimmy for me.”

It had always been a long shot. The Danbys had run Cape Rage for more than a century and the last time someone worked for them who wasn’t from Cape Rage was probably around the time they started. I was going to need to improvise and had always suspected as much. Although I didn’t even have a backup plan this time, and I normally won’t leave home, cross a busy street or climb a high flight of stairs without one of those.

It would come to me. That was the new plan.

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I stood and waited. Eventually the giant stood, walked around the table and put his hand on my shoulder. “You wanna take this outside, pal? Finn just told you to blow.”

The giant smiled. It was the sort of smile someone has right before they accept an award or take a large sum of money from an outstretched hand—a smile of sweet, entitled superiority.

I smiled back. He couldn’t have looked more like a backup plan if he’d had the words tattooed to his forehead.

“Take your hand off my shoulder,” I said quietly.

“I’ll put my hands wherever I fuckin’ wanna put ’em, asshole, including upside your fuckin’ head if you don’t get your ass out of here.”

Finn Danby laughed. The giant gripping my shoulder laughed. The kid laughed. Men sitting at nearby tables started laughing too and I wondered—Why is there always laughter? Most acts of violence have someone laughing just beforehand, and half the time, the person laughing is the last person who should have been. Fifty percent. From what I’ve seen of the world, those are the odds of ever knowing where you’re truly standing in this world.

“I’ll leave when I finish my beer,” I said. “Already paid for it.”

The giant looked at Finn, who shrugged his shoulders and started talking again to the man sitting at the next table. I raised the bottle, taking my time about it, took a good, long sip—it was nearly full, which seemed a waste—and then I threw the bottle over my shoulder.

It missed the giant, but he yelled in surprise and lessened his grip on my shoulder enough for me to slip free. Without turning around, I drove my elbow into his gut. It bounced off like I’d hit a guardrail. The giant never flinched, let alone buckled or lost his balance. I was diving to the ground when his punch came, a right-handed undercut that would have ended the fight right there if it had connected.

But it swung over my head harmlessly, and when it did, I kicked out with my right leg, hitting the giant above the ankle. This time he screamed. When he bent down to grab his ankle, I hit him in the face with my other foot.

It was a beautiful kick. So square in his face I never saw it land; only saw my boot pasted above his crouched-over body, like my boot had become his face, then he flew backward. When he started to get up, I rolled in his direction and gave him a second kick to the face, almost as beautiful as the first. This time he fell backward and when his head hit the wooden floor it sounded like a high-noon cannon shot. He stayed down and an awkward silence filled the tavern.

It didn’t last. I’m not sure how many men tried to jump me right then, but it would have looked like a football scrimmage for a while: men pawing each other trying to reach me on the floor; the kid trying to bite my arm; the man who had been talking to Finn now screaming, “Pin the bastard’s arms an’ll give’m a kick he won’t forget.”

I stayed on the ground and brought them down one by one. I like fighting on the ground, Brazilian jiu-jitsu some people call it, and it was a Brazilian—an old cut-and-corner guy in Detroit—who taught me how to do it. He told me not only the techniques but the history, stories about the Gracies and other fighting families from the jungles of Brazil, showed me grainy black-and-white videos of matches in outdoor rings, thatched buildings in the background, thousands of people watching a way of fighting I had never seen.

“People think being on the ground is a bad thing,” the cut-and-corner guy told me. “In Brazil, we made it a weapon.”

The man who wanted to give me an unforgettable kick went first. I waited until he had raised his foot and then I kicked him in his right shin. He dropped like dead weight. When he started screaming, I knew I had ripped the tendon.

I pulled the kid off me and got my knees around his head, squeezing until his eyes rolled back and his hands stopped clawing my legs. People stopped to look at that, and then I threw the kid aside, arched my body while still on my back—as though I were doing a reverse plank—and crabbed my way to the nearest man.

He looked at me like I was a circus act. Was still looking at me like that when I grabbed his leg with one of mine and brought him down. I jumped onto his chest and gave him a flurry of short jabs to the head. He was helpless from the first blow, unconscious from probably the second or third.

But I kept punching him. I broke his nose and blood squirted out in a fine, high arc, like a pipe bursting. I kept punching.. I knew I had probably done enough to get Finn Danby’s attention, but there was a way to ensure it. Violence was considered a good thing by men like Danby. Gratuitous, over-the-top violence—that was considered a better thing.

I feigned the last couple punches, but it wouldn’t have made much difference by then. I’d been careful to avoid his eyes, and his teeth, but he was never going to thank me for what I’d done. Both cheekbones looked broken. His nose was a mess.

I finally stopped, took some deep breaths and stood. The tavern was quiet now. Except for the cries of one man, writhing on the ground and clutching his shin. Three other men lay around him, unconscious. One was a giant; one was a kid; one was the man I had just beaten to a bloody mess. I looked at all three, to see if there was an urgent need for an ambulance, then I went and stood in front of Finn Danby.

“They’ll live,” I said, and didn’t say anything else as that seemed to be all that needed to be said right then. Danby flipped his hair back, took a last sip from his beer bottle, put it carefully on the table, smacked his lips, and asked, “What did you say your name was, pal?”


Excerpted from CAPE RAGE by Ron Corbett Copyright © 2024 by Ron Corbett. Excerpted by permission of Berkley. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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