After one of the worst nights of his life, DEA Agent T.A. Reddick leaves Miami for Charleston, South Carolina, hoping a return to his roots will heal a wounded heart and the guilt of killing a friend. The sleepy and sultry city of Charleston is filled with echoes of the Old South: genteel playboys, society debutantes, and quiet cobblestone streets. But as Reddick will soon discover, there's danger lurking under her charming veneer. When a movie star's death shines a national spotlight on Charleston's underground cocaine trade, he must go undercover to find the main supplier and shut him down. As a hurricane bears down on the port city and the DEA gets ready to spring its trap, Reddick must contend with more than he ever could have imagined. Brash and bold, TA Reddick is a hero you won’t soon forget. Lowcountry Punch is an action-packed novel that will have you on your knees begging for more.
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On the way to the office, I stopped on the side of the road at Ricky’s Boiled Peanut stand. Big Ricky parks his red trailer in the lot near the Earth Fare, which is James Island’s version of a Whole Foods Market. If you can get past the folks that don’t believe in deodorant or shampoo, it’s a good place to fill your cart.
Ricky was pushing three hundred pounds, so as he waddled over to the back in his overalls to fill up a plastic bag with his boiled peanuts, the trailer tilted with him. He had three choices: regular, Cajun, and ham-hock. I always asked him to layer them in one bag. Love a good surprise. Give me a pound of Ricky’s peanuts and a cup of coffee and I can go for miles. I thanked him and walked back to the Jeep, still thinking about Anna’s letter.
As I put my hand on the handle, I heard motion behind me and started to turn. Something hit me hard on the back of the head. I dropped onto the asphalt and everything went black. When I came to, two black men were hoisting me into the back of a trunk.
I thought I recognized one but my vision was hazy at best. They didn’t have masks on, which was not a good thing. It meant they weren’t worried about me picking them out of a lineup later. Because I would be dead. But why didn’t they just shoot me and leave me in the lot? No matter the reason, I knew there was a lot of pain coming my way. Much to my chagrin, I had the day off, so no one was expecting me.
They tied my hands in front of me with a zip tie and slammed the trunk shut. I kicked and thrashed until I knew I wasn’t going anywhere.
“Damn it!” I cursed. How had I been so oblivious?
The trunk was totally empty, not even a tire iron or jack. It smelled musty and old, like someone’s grandfather had held onto the car for decades. By the vast amount of room, I guessed it had to be a Cadillac—or something big, at least—with a powerful engine.
The back of my head hurt like hell. I felt around with my bound hands. Had a bloody gash on the right side. The pain nearly overwhelmed me. I tried to shut it out and sense where we were going, but it was hard. Much more difficult than figuring out who was behind this little joy ride. I hadn’t given Tux Clinton enough credit. That’s what I get for letting my guard down.
I looked at the glowing hands on my watch and marked the time. Two minutes into our ride, the incline told me were heading over a bridge. I guessed the West Ashley connector. A few more turns and another bridge confirmed it. Then the highway wasn’t too hard to figure out. Smooth and fast. The engine working harder.
Nineteen minutes later, we took an exit. It could have been one of three or four. It was impossible to tell. All I knew was that we had driven into North Charleston. The pain had faded some. I made a few more futile attempts to bust open the trunk. Then we made several turns. Finally, a big bump and we slowed down and came to a stop. A garage door squeaked open. We pulled in.
The engine shut off, then footsteps, and then the trunk lifted. My eyes adjusted. Two of them were looking back at me. I did know one of them. Jeff Cooke. One of Tux’s known associates. He had a shadow of a beard, shaved at the neck line. A flat nose. Street tough. Detectives liked him for Jared’s murder and were looking for him. The other guy wore a light blue Adidas warm up suit. His gray eyes were tucked into deep sockets.
“Did you guys happen to grab that bag of peanuts?” I asked. “I didn’t even get one.”
“Shut the fuck up.”
“Seriously. That was my breakfast.”
Cooke jerked me up by my elbow and dragged me out of the trunk. He had hard, calloused hands. I couldn’t get my feet down in time and fell onto my back. He helped me up in a not so polite way. I was right, it was an old Cadillac.
He walked me through an empty garage and into an abandoned house. Probably for sale. The other guy followed us in and when I turned, I noticed a .38 in the front of his jeans. I wasn’t surprised they were carrying, and I didn’t like how this was going.
Cooke threw me to the ground in the living room. I got onto my back and looked around. The walls were brown. Some spider webs dangled from the ceiling. Two large glass doors led to the backyard with a ragged beige curtain covering half of them.
As they stood over me, the man in the Adidas suit made a call. “We got him… yep. Aight.” He looked at Cooke as he closed the phone and drew the .38 from his waist. “Change of plans.”
I didn’t know what that meant but I had a feeling it had to do with me dying. Was it Tux on the other end of that phone call? Had he planned on beating me up some before killing me and then thought against it? I started talking, just to kill the tension. Buy some time. “You gonna tell me why I’m here? I don’t have all day.”
“Tux wasn’t man enough to show up? Doesn’t surprise me.”
Cooke went to the glass doors and looked out. “Where you wanna do it?” he asked. Obviously not speaking to me.
“The garage,” the other one said, as he started to pace, dangerously close to me.
I rose slowly. It was the only chance I had. I threw my leg up and kicked him in the balls. He nearly collapsed. I got to a squat and thrust my head into his chin. His jawbone cracked and he screamed in pain, dropping to his knees, clutching his face. You can’t beat a good head butt.
Cooke was in between the glass door and me. I pivoted around and was on him before he had time to get over the shock of the action. I pulled my bound hands to my chest and ran right into him with a shoulder. His back hit the curtain and then smashed into the glass door. The curtain ripped from the wall, and the door exploded around us as we tumbled down the brick steps into the backyard.
I stood quickly, knowing I wasn’t even close to being free. I kicked his head with my boot just like the old UVA days, trying to knock it into the goal. I didn’t score but his lights went out.
I went back up the steps. The guy inside was still on the ground, screaming in pain. As I reached the broken door, I started to saw the zip tie with a sharp edge of glass sticking out of the doorframe. Then he looked up. With one hand still holding his face, he eyed his gun on the ground and went for it. I had to get out of there, and I didn’t want to cut my wrist trying too quickly to sever the zip tie. So with my hands still bound, I backed away and darted toward the chain-link fence at the end of the yard.
He began firing.
The bullets whizzed by me, giving me a shot of adrenaline. I increased my speed. Reaching the fence, I leapt into the air. My feet grazed the top but I made it over. I tucked a shoulder and rolled. Coming back up, I didn’t even look back. The bullets were flying by, tearing into the house in front of me.
As I rounded the corner, I felt one hit me in the side. I hadn’t been shot in a while—not since Juarez, Mexico years before—but it was a familiar feeling. Icy and hot at the same time. I could feel the warm blood dripping down my side. As long as I could run, it didn’t matter. Couldn’t be that bad of a wound or I would have been flopping around on the ground. Staying close to the houses, I kept pushing with everything I had.
Seeing some signs of life in the distance, I began to head that way. Breathing like I was dying, I reached the parking lot of a Piggly Wiggly. An older woman was pushing a grocery cart to her car. She was yapping away on a cell phone. I went right for her, mumbling that I’d return it as I snatched it from her hand. I ran toward the store. Didn’t see Cooke behind me. “Call the cops!” I yelled to the first clerk I saw, a teenage girl.
The clerk stalled. Someone else screamed.
“I’m DEA. Call the cops. Okay?”
The clerk went for the phone.
“Is there a security guard here?”
With a phone to her ear, she shook her head. I wanted a gun. I had no idea if Cooke was still coming. I dialed Chester’s number with the woman from the parking lot’s cell, then walked back outside and scanned the area. No signs of trouble.
Chester picked up and I said, “I’m at the Piggly Wiggly off Rivers. I need you here now. Tux sent some guys after me.”
“On it. You all right?”
“I took a bullet. I think I’m okay, though. Jeff Cooke was one of them. Black jeans and a white polo. The other one, same age, has on a blue Adidas warm up suit. White stripes up and down. Probably in an old tan Cadillac. Get an APB out.”
“See you in a few.”
After getting patched up by one of the paramedics, I climbed into Chester’s g-car. The bullet had only grazed my side. Another scar to remind me of what’s important. A crime scene unit was at the house where they’d taken me. Both men were gone. Lots of good DNA, though. They didn’t have time to clean up. The whole county was looking for them.
Chester and I only knew one way to fix this problem. Something we should have done earlier. We both had logged hours dealing with gangs in L.A. and Miami, and sometimes you have to treat them like businessmen. They appreciate it and it prevents trouble. Even when we did catch my attackers, they wouldn’t finger Tux. I had a feeling he already knew about the botched attempt, and he was expecting me.
We drove to his place, only five miles away. He owned a little white house in a neighborhood that had begun its leap into gentrification. He paid the mortgage on it with income from a legitimate landscaping business that he had owned for five or six years. Tux knew how to be careful and cover his ass.
He was on the porch, looking like he was waiting for us, just like I’d thought. His feet were propped up on a table, not a worry on his mind. An older BMW sat in the driveway. I was going to let Chester do the talking, but seeing Tux there got me excited. I stepped out of the car and said, “I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced.” I slammed my door and hiked up the steps.
He had a well-groomed appearance complimented by some gold around his wrist and neck. No visible tats. Dark skin. He had on jeans and a white muscle shirt. Very broad shoulders. Clearly had a thing for lifting. Looked like he’d be a hell of a lot of work to beat down.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“You know exactly who I am.” I pulled the table out from under him and his feet hit the floor.
“I’m guessin’ you’re a cop,” he said, all tough and badass. “I could smell you coming ‘round the corner.”
“You’ve been looking for me. Now you got me.”
“All I know is I have two pigs in my yard.”
Chester came up the steps. “I’m Agent Benton. You know who my partner is. We’re looking for some resolution. You don’t need to admit to anything.”
“You can get back in your car and ride out. I didn’t do nothing wrong.”
“Such eloquent speech,” I said. “No ivy league for you, huh? Very surprising.”
“Don’t you come into my neighborhood insulting me.”
“You threatening me? Is that a good idea?” I got in his face. “That’s what your cousin did.” I stood back and lifted up my shirt and ripped off the bandage covering my wound. “I owe you one for this anyway.”
Chester pulled me back and said, “Tux, I know you aren’t gonna come clean, but I want you to hear us out. You don’t fuck with us. I know you feel like you got to, but don’t do it, man. We won’t let up. I know he messed up your cousin, but I doubt you’re gonna get an apology out of him. You know he had no idea who Jesse was. The guy robbed a bank, took a baby hostage, and shot his mama. He had it coming. But because I want you to owe me, I can help Jesse out. We can make sure the prosecutor goes easy. That is, if you wanna back off Agent Reddick. We’re still gonna track down the boys who grabbed him.”
My turn. “Or you can try again. I’ll dance with you every night, sunshine. We could go right here. You’re the least of my worries.”
Ches waved his hand, trying to shut me up. “He’s got a hot head. You both do. Leave this one alone, Tux. I’ll look out for Jesse.”
Tux thought about it and then nodded at him.
Ches started to walk back down the stairs backwards. “Then we’re cool.”
“We’re cool.” Tux put his feet back up on the table. “Just get this muthafucka off my porch.”
I threw up my middle finger and started down the steps. “You know where to find me.”
As we drove away, Chester said, “You know, Reddick. I’m startin’ to like you. You don’t take shit from anybody, do you?”
“I wanna know who gave him my name.”
Boo Walker spent his College of Charleston years and a few after in Nashville as a banjoist and songwriter for the avant-garde punchgrass band, The Biscuit Boys. Some hand problems knocked him out of the game, and he stumbled into a position with Automated Trading Desk, a short term equity trading firm based out of Mt. Pleasant, SC. To feed his ravenous muse, he began writing his first novel, Lowcountry Punch. Around that time, what started as a passion in wine became a neurosis.
After six years of the Wall Street thing, Boo decided it was time to end his sedentary, computer-driven lifestyle. He grew out a handlebar mustache and moved clear across the country into a double-wide trailer situated on 5 acres of Malbec vines just down the road from Hedges Family Estate on Red Mountain in Washington State. The Hedges family took him in and taught him the art of farming and the old world philosophies of wine. He now travels North America peddling the family's juice, and chances are you can find him in an airport somewhere working on his next novel.
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