Excerpt

Farewell, Amethystine: Excerpt and Cover Reveal

Walter Mosley

Excerpt and Cover Reveal! The following is an exclusive passage from Farewell, Amethystine, by Walter Mosley, the latest Easy Rawlins novel, forthcoming from Mulholland Books on June 4, 2024. As the novel starts, Easy Rawlins has achieved peace, status, and success—all soon to be threatened by the beautiful woman who walks into his office in 1970 and the complicated case she's about to hire him to investigate.

“Mr. Rawlins?” Niska Redman, our office manager, was standing at the door.

“Yeah?”

“That woman, Miss Stoller, the one Mrs. Blue wanted you to talk to. She’s here.”

Niska was tallish for a woman at that time, maybe five nine, and brown like the lighter version of Sees caramel candy. She usually tried to be serious because of her job but you could tell that she was always ready to laugh.

“Well, guys,” I said to my friends, “I guess it’s time to get back to work.”

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And that was it. Saul and Whisper went to their offices. Mouse left for a world of bad men, bank robbers, and bloodletters.

Niska backed up into the hall, allowing the men to file by, then she returned followed by a woman two shades darker than her.

“Amy Stoller,” Niska announced.

The potential client was wearing an ivory-colored dress that had a high collar and a knee-level hem that flared just a bit as if maybe responding to an errant breeze.

Already standing to see my friends out, I took a step in the potential client’s direction and held out a hand.

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“Easy Rawlins,” I said.

“Nice to meet you.” She obliged the gesture with a firm grip.

“Have a seat,” I offered, motioning at any of the three chairs set before my gargantuan desk.

I’d started WRENS-L Detective agency with a quasi-legal windfall I’d come upon years before. Saul and Whisper came in as partners, but they made me take the big office. I’d accepted the allocation with only mild trepidation. I wasn’t humble among friends or clients. But as an orphan in Houston’s Fifth Ward, I’d learned that, in the world at large, if people knew you had something they were liable to take it.

I made it behind the desk. Ms. Stoller waited for me to sit down before she settled in. This struck me along with something else about her, a subtle scent she wore that was reminiscent of the bouquet of some ancient forest, welcoming but having no trace of sweetness.

She was in her mid to late 20s with satin brown skin and amber eyes on a face that was wide and unusually sensual. Her mouth was also wide, promising a beautiful smile. Stoller’s eyes being lighter than her skin meant something that I couldn’t put my finger on. But that wasn’t a bother, not at all.

“It’s a very nice office,” she said. “Kind of like the master bedroom in an apartment, or even a house.”

“The whole building used to be a rich man’s home till the furniture store downstairs bought it.”

She let her head tilt to the left and gave up half a grin.

I knew that this was a very important moment but had no idea if it would be for the good or not.

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“How do you know Jewelle, Ms. Stoller?”

“I work for her and, you know, she treats all the women in the office kinda like they’re family.”

There was an aura of unconscious elegance surrounding her. This brought a question to mind.

“Is Amy your given name or is it short for something else? Amanda? Amelia”

Smiling she said, “Amethystine.”

I was, unexpectedly, enchanted by the name. It seemed somehow… perfect. For a moment I didn’t know what to say and she had nothing to add. This quietude didn’t bother either one of us. We sat comfortably in the expanding silence.

“So, um,” I stammered. “How’d you come to work for Jewelle? You study business or real estate at school?”

Showing more of her left cheek than the right she said, a little shyly, “I was working for her husband at the insurance company P-Nine, and she told him that she wanted to meet me.”

“What you do for Jackson?”

“You know Mr. Blue?”

“I knew Jackson back in the biblical days when he robbed Peter and then robbed Paul too.”

That got me the broad grin I’d been searching for.

“I went to P-Nine to apply for a job in statistics and they gave me a test. I guess I did pretty good on it because the human resources lady sent me to Mr. Blue’s office.”

My eyebrows rose a bit.

“What?” she asked.

“Jackson’s the highest ranking vice president of P-Nine. I can’t even think of a reason why he’d want to meet an entry level applicant. Did he know you or somethin’?”

“We had met. He’s the one told me about the kind of jobs they had. But I didn’t tell him that I was applying.”

“Then why would they send you all the way up to the thirty-first floor?”

“I asked him that very same question,” she exhorted. “You know what he told me?”

“What?”

“He said that those white people in personnel don’t never hire Black people and so he asked the president… ummmm,” she snapped her fingers a few times trying to remember the name.

“Jean-Paul Villard,” I said, filling in the blank.

“Yeah. Jackson asked Mr. Villard to tell human resources to send the colored applicants to Mr. Blue if they did well on the written test. And it was a good thing they did.”

“Because he hired you?”

“Not only that. You see they ask you about your education before getting the transcripts and I lied, sayin’ that I graduated from USC with a business degree.”

“That must’a tickled Jackson.”

“Yeah. He said that he didn’t make it past the fifth grade in school.”

“And he failed the fourth grade.”

We were having an excellent time.

“But then Jewelle got involved,” I prompted.

“Yeah.” She seemed a little bit shy again.

“You don’t have to explain that one. Jackson is a genius by nature and a dog by nurture. He’s been kicked more times than he’s been kissed. I know exactly what happened.”

“There was never anything inappropriate between us.” Amethystine’s words bordered on anger.

“I believe ya. What happened was one night Jackson probably said at the dinner table that he had a Black woman working in mathematical predictions, what he calls statistics. And in that moment Jewelle heard that little twang of excitement Jackson gets when a girl strikes his fancy.”

“Mmm,” was her reply. She nodded, signaling, maybe unconsciously, that we should get down to business.

“So,” I said. “What can I do for you, Ms. Stoller?

“Miss Stoller.”

With a smile I said, “What can I do for you, Miss Stoller?”

“I used to be Mrs. Fields, wife of Curt Fields. That’s why I’m here.”

I waited patiently.

Then, a bit hesitantly, but with no discernable shyness she said, “Curt and I were married soon after we met. When he proposed to me, I thought that I’d never meet a man as good again. I said yes and we were doing really well, really happy, you know?”

“I’ve been there,” I said. Our eyes met and connected.

“I was very happy,” Amethystine Stoller averred, “and then, well, I got bored. So, I left him.”

“You got divorced?” Maybe there was a hopeful little quiver in my chest.

“Yes. But… we’re still friends. I liked him and, I think, he was hoping we’d get back together again. I told him that I wouldn’t do that; I wouldn’t do that to him. I mean, he deserves somebody who would love him like a woman does a man, you know?”

“Yes, I do.”

“But even with all that, when I got into a kind of a jam, he helped me without askin’ for nuthin’. So I feel like I owe him.”

“What kind of jam?”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with why I’m here.”

“Okay. Why are you here?”

It was work getting at what she wanted but less like pulling teeth and more like plucking apples from the upper tiers of a golden tree. There I sat, in the gilt-green dome of my imagination.

It was work getting at what she wanted but less like pulling teeth and more like plucking apples from the upper tiers of a golden tree. There I sat, in the gilt-green dome of my imagination.

“You’re very patient,” the young woman observed.

“I don’t have all the time in the world, but you got an hour penciled in on the calendar.”

Amethystine studied these words a moment or two and then said, “I still feel very kindly toward Curt and so when his parents called me yesterday I knew I had to do something.”

“What did your ex-in-laws want?”

“The Sunday before last he told them that he was going out with some friends.”

“He lives with his parents?”

“No. He makes a good living and has his own place. He’s just a good son. Tells his mother everything. You know… boring.”

“So,” I encouraged. “He called and said he was going out.”

“And nobody’s heard from him since.”

“Black kid?”

“White… man.”

There was nothing this woman said that I did not like. Her sentences were pithy, like a combat general’s orders in the heat of battle.

But she didn’t look military. The dark skin under her pale dress made her seem, somehow, vulnerable.

“Okay,” I said. “A missing person. Gone a week. Tell me about him.”

Amethystine Stoller smiled at me like a refugee seeking passage at a foreign border. The emigrant had shown her papers and now she was being ushered through.

“Curt’s a forensic accountant. He works mostly for courts and lawyers, prosecutors and, if they can afford it, the defense. He uses computer files, libraries, three part-time research assistants, and a newspaper clipping service that works out of Chicago. He goes after hidden wealth, the movement of money, and what Curt calls false fronts.”

I was finding it hard to concentrate on the words she was saying. This because she reminded me of a woman named Anger. Anger’s mother was a Black woman named Angel, fathered by a high-yellow killer called Shadow Lee. A dark-skinned sharp-eyed young woman, Anger worked the back rooms of whatever job she was hired for. And she only did jobs that were in opposition to whatever law there was. For a long time, she worked for a small warehouse that bought and sold stolen goods off Black dock workers employed at the Galveston port.

When I was 15, and nearly a full-grown man, Anger was 17 and had been on her own at least half a dozen years.

“I feel guilty,” Amethystine said, shocking me back to the present.

“Guilty about what?”

“About leaving him. He was pretty useless when it came to dealing with anything but numbers. Numbers and long hours at work.”

Also boring, I thought.

In a bizarre turn of mind, I got the urge to ask her if she was going to get me killed. But instead, I said, “I’m gonna need his parents’ information, and his.”

“You mean like their names and addresses?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t know Curt’s new address. I mean, I don’t see him very often because, because he needs to get over me.”

Nodding, I pushed a yellow legal pad and No. two yellow pencil across the desk.

While writing she asked, “Mrs. Blue told me to come see you, but she didn’t tell me what it would cost.”

“Jewelle and I work on an old-school monetary system.”

Looking up, Amethystine asked, “What’s that?”

“We trade in favors.”

“Trade?”

“Back and forth like two tennis players in hell.”

“Is there some favor you need from me?”

“No, at this point all I need is information.”

She worked the pencil across the blue-lined yellow sheet with intensity. It was then that I noticed she was left handed.

“Do you have any idea of where Curt might be?”

“No.”

It was the first lie she uttered. That’s when I decided, for sure, to kick the tires on her missing person case.

“Does he have any enemies?” I asked, as PI protocol demanded.

“I couldn’t say. I mean, he doesn’t run around with a bad crowd or anything but he’s kind of innocent, know what I mean?”

“Maybe, but why don’t you explain?”

“He’s a soft touch, gives away money on the street to anybody who says they need it. He believes that people mostly tell the truth and keep their promises. He’s a white man but I don’t think that ever, even once, he thought there was anything unusual about us being together.”

“You don’t share his beliefs?” I teased, mildly.

“Do you?”

“Your number on that paper?” I asked in reply.

She took up the pencil once more.

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Excerpted from the book Farewell, Amethystine by Walter Mosley. Copyright © 2024 by Walter Mosley. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company. All rights reserved.




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