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Crime Partners

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Donald Goines's powerful first novel in the Kenyatta series lays bare the bloody, brutal world of crime in the black ghetto—where, as Goines puts it, "kindness is the sweetest con of all." Here is the gutsy and often shocking world of Billy and Jackie, prison buddies on the streets and hot on the trigger.

“All those [other black] writers, no matter how well they dealt with black experience, appealed largely to an educated, middle-class, largely white readership. They brought news of one place to the residents of another. Goines’s novels, on the other hand, are written from ground zero. They are almost unbearable. It is not the educated voice of a writer who has, so to speak, risen above his background, it is the voice of the ghetto itself.” —Michael Covino, The Village Voice

ISBN-13: 9781496733283

Media Type: Paperback

Publisher: Kensington

Publication Date: 04-27-2021

Pages: 208

Product Dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.70(d)

Donald Goines was born in Detroit, Michigan. He joined the U.S. Air Force instead of going into his family’s dry cleaning business. Following his service, he entered into a life of drug addiction and crime. He received seven prison sentences, serving a total of over six years. While he was in prison, Goines wrote his first two novels, Dopefiend: The Story of a Black Junkie and Whoreson: The Story of a Ghetto Pimp. Goines was shot to death in 1974.

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 1978 Al C. Clark
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7582-8155-5

Chapter One

Joe Green, better known to his friends and acquaintances as "Jo-Jo," poured the rest of the heroin out of a small piece of tinfoil into the Wild Irish Rose wine bottle top that had been converted into what drug users call a "cooker."

His common-law wife, Tina, watched him closely. "Damn, Jo-Jo, I sure hate the thought of that being the last dope in the house. The last time your slow-ass connect said he would be here in an hour, it was the next day before the motherfucker showed up!"

Shrugging his thin shoulders philosophically, Jo-Jo didn't even glance up at his woman as he replied. "That's one of the few bad points you run into when your connection doesn't use. They don't understand that a drug addict has to have that shit at certain times. It ain't like a drunk; when Joe Chink says it's time to fix, it's time to fix, with no shit about it."

"Jo-Jo, you don't think the bastard will do us like he did last time, do you?" she asked, her voice changing to a whining, pleading note.

"Goddamn it," Jo-Jo yelled as he patted his pockets, "I ain't got no motherfuckin' matches." He glanced around wildly, his eyes searching in vain for a book of matches on one of the trash-covered end tables.

The house they lived in was a four-room flat. You could enter by either door and stare all the way through the house. The back door led right into the kitchen, which went straight into the dining room, or bedroom, whichever you wanted to call it. The bed came out of the wall, Murphy bed style, and could be put up into the wall after use but never was in this particular house. After the dining room came the front room. Here there had been some sort of effort to gain a partial amount of privacy with a long, filthy bedspread that had been tacked up and stretched across the rooms, separating them. Actually, there were two different bedspreads, each nailed to the ceiling. When a person went between the rooms he parted them in the middle and stepped through, using them the same way you would a sliding door.

"Here, honey," Tina said, holding out a book of matches she had extracted from her purse.

As Jo-Jo leaned over to get the matches his eyes fell on the roll of money in her purse. "Damn, but that seems like a lot of money," he stated, nodding at her open purse.

"Yeah, I know what you mean. It's all those one-dollar bills we took in. Shit, Jo-Jo, we musta taken in over two hundred dollars in singles alone." She smiled suddenly and the smile made the light-complexioned woman look much younger than her twenty-five years. When she smiled the hard lines around her mouth disappeared. Tall, thin, and gaunt to the extent that she appeared to be undernourished, she still retained a small amount of attractiveness.

On the other hand, when Jo-Jo opened his mouth it took something from him. His teeth were rotten, typical of the person who has used hard narcotics for ten years or better. It was catching up with him. He was as slim as his woman.

"Naw, baby, I don't think we'll have the delay we had the last time. Remember on the last cop we were short on the man's money, so I think he did it more or less to teach us a lesson." As he talked, Jo-Jo tore four matches from the book and struck them. He held the burning matches under the cooker until the matches almost burned his fingers. Then he shook the matches out before casually dropping them on the floor.

"Shit! If you had to do the cleaning up, Jo-Jo, you wouldn't be so quick to throw everything you finish with on the damn floor!"

Jo-Jo laughed sharply as he set the hot cooker down on the edge of the coffee table in front of him. His reddish brown eyes surveyed the cluttered floor. There was such an accumulation of trash that it appeared as if no one had bothered to sweep up in over a month. The short brown-skinned man grinned up at his woman. "It don't look as if you been killin' yourself cleaning up."

"Shit!" she snorted again. "If it wasn't for them nasty-ass friends of yours, the place would be clean."

"I'll sweep up for you, Momma," a young voice called out from the dining room-bedroom.

Before either of the grownups could say no, the six-year-old child appeared, pulling a broom along that was taller than she was. Little Tina was a smaller model of her mother, light-complexioned, with dimples in each cheek. She smiled brightly at her mother and stepfather as she tried to make herself helpful.

The appearance of the child didn't stop Jo-Jo in his preparation of the drugs. He removed a stocking from a small brown paper bag, then an eyedropper that had two needles stuck in the bulb part of the dropper. Jo-Jo removed both the needles, then inserted one of them on the end of the dropper.

"Leave me enough to draw up, Jo-Jo," Tina begged before he had even drawn up a drop.

He smiled up at her encouragingly, "Don't worry, honey, don't I always look out for my baby?"

"You can get right funky, Jo-Jo, when the last of the junk is in sight. You're real cool when there's a lot of the jive, but you get doggish as a motherfucker when it ain't but a little bit left."

Unknown to the couple, little Tina had moved closer to the table, swinging the broom back and forth vigorously.

Tina opened up the paper bag and removed another dropper from it. "Is that other spike any good?" she asked anxiously.

"How the fuck would I know?" he cursed sharply as he attempted to open up the needle on his dropper. "This motherfucker of mine is stopped up!"

"No wonder," Tina said as she attempted to draw up some water from the dirty glass that Jo-Jo was using.

"Your glass has got so much filth in it, it's a wonder you ain't ruined the dope in the cooker." She glanced over his shoulder at the cooker. "You used that water in the glass, didn't you?"

Jo-Jo shrugged. "It don't make no difference, once I put the fire under it. It killed any germs that might have been in the motherfuckin' water."

"Yeah," she answered worriedly, "you may have killed the so-called germs, but what about all that trash we got to draw up?"

In exasperation Jo-Jo cursed, "I don't know what the fuck you want me to do about it. It's done, ain't nothing else I can do. If you're really that motherfuckin' worried over it, Tina, take your ass out to the kitchen and get some more clean water."

"Shit!" she exclaimed, using her stock phrase. "By the time I got back, you'd be done drawin' up all the dope and shot it."

"Goddamn, woman, you don't trust nobody, do you?"

"Daddy, I'll go get you some more water," Little Tina said as she rushed over to the table in an attempt to be helpful. The tall broom she carried was too much for her to control completely. As she neared the table, dragging the broom, the handle swung down in an arc.

Too late, Jo-Jo threw his hand up as if to ward off a blow. The handle came down and struck the cooker, sending it spinning off the end of the table. The drug in the bottom of it spilled out as the top fell off the end of the table onto the dirty throw rug. Instantly the rug absorbed the drug so that it was impossible for the two addicts to save any of it.

Tina dropped down on her knees beside the table. She picked up the overturned cooker. "It wasn't any cotton in the cooker," she stated in a hurt voice. She turned it around and around, as if she couldn't believe it had happened. Suddenly she started to paw at the rug, rubbing it as she searched for some of the liquid that had escaped.

"Not a fuckin' drop left!" she managed to say. "The goddamn rug was like a fuckin' sponge!"

The little girl backed away from the table. Her mouth was open as she pleaded, "I didn't mean it, I'm sorry." Tears ran down both her cheeks.

Instantly Jo-Jo exploded as the sound of her voice brought him out of his trance. He snatched the broom from the child's hand and began beating her about the head with it. With one vicious blow, he broke the broom in half across the child's head.

The little girl attempted to cover up, but it didn't do any good. Jo-Jo snatched her hands down from in front of her face and began to beat her in the face with his fists. He rained blow after blow on the child's exposed face until blood ran from her nose and mouth. When Little Tina fell down at his feet, Jo-Jo drew his foot back and began to kick her viciously in the side.

"You little bitch," he screamed in rage. "God damn you, I done told you to stay the fuck out of the way when I'm makin' up." He grew more angry as he cursed and, instead of the sight of the bleeding child at his feet drawing pity, it only aroused his anger.

Suddenly he reached down and snatched the child to her feet. Her feeble cry of pain only enraged him. "You bitch," he swore over and over, "I'm going to fix your little meddling ass once and for all!"

In pure terror, the girl managed to break away. She ran back towards the bedroom and attempted to hide under the bed.

Jo-Jo followed closely behind her. He drew his heavy leather belt from off his pants and, grabbing the child's leg, he pulled her from under the bed.

Her screams rang out clear and loud as the belt began to fall, slowly at first and then faster. She squirmed and tried to crawl away from the pain that exploded all over her body. Sometimes the fire would explode on her back, then around her tender legs, but what hurt her the most was when it wrapped around her and the metal part of the belt would dig into her stomach and hips.

"Jo-Jo, Jo-Jo, what you trying to do?" Tina screamed, holding the dividing curtains apart. "If you kill that child, it ain't goin' bring the dope back."

It took a moment for her words to penetrate the blind rage that engulfed him. For a few seconds he couldn't see or think right, but as his senses returned and he saw the bloody child lying on the floor, his anger fled and fear shot through him. Why was she lying so still?

"Tina, Little Tina, get your ass up from there and go in the toilet and wash up," he ordered harshly. He waited impatiently for the child to jump up and obey his order. "Get up," he screamed, his voice breaking slightly. He took his foot and kicked her. "I said get up."

"Don't kick my child," the mother yelled as she came closer. "I done warned you about whipping her so hard, Jo-Jo. If we have to take her to the hospital, I ain't takin' no blame for all those marks on her."

"We ain't going to no hospital," Jo-Jo stated coldly. "All this bitch has got to do is get up and go in the bathroom and wash up. Get up, Tina, I ain't mad no more. I'll get some more stuff later on, don't worry about it," he yelled down at her before kneeling beside her. He put his arms under the frail child's neck and legs, lifted her slowly, and then placed her gently on the bed. He didn't know that it was too late for gentleness now.

"She looks like she's turning blue," Tina screamed out. She frantically clutched at the child. "What's wrong with her? Why is she laying so still? Tina, Tina, wake up, girl!"

The mother's fear quickly transferred to the waiting man. Jo-Jo could feel the knot of fear growing in the pit of his stomach. The child couldn't be dead; that he was sure of. He hadn't hit her hard enough for that. No way, he told himself in an attempt to quiet his jumping nerves.

"Oh, Jo-Jo, you got to do something. Man, what's wrong with my little girl? Please, Jo-Jo, do something for her."

If there had been anything he could have done, Jo-Jo would have done it. But he didn't know what to do. All he could do was stare down at the unconscious form and somewhere in the back of his mind he realized what he was too frightened to face. The child was dead. He knew it yet wouldn't face up to the fact.

Little Tina had received her last beating. There would be no more sleepless nights for the child because she was too hungry to sleep. No more lying awake, hoping her mother would come out of her nod long enough to get up and cook something. There would be no more fears of uncontrolled beatings, beatings that came for nothing. Yes, Little Tina was beyond that—beyond a mother's love that sometimes seemed more like hate.

Chapter Two

The two men sat in the car in front of the shabby frame house. The outside paint job on the house was a battleship gray that looked as if it had seen one battle too many. In many places the paint was peeling, while in others the boards were coming loose.

"Jackie, do you really think this nigger has got some money?" the man on the passenger side of the car asked.

"He's got to have some kind of cash, Billy," the tall, hawk-faced man driving stated clearly. "Just use common sense, Billy Good," he continued, using the man's full name. It was a habit he had adopted from prison, where most men were called by their last names.

The two men had met in prison ten years ago, and since then they had become rap-partners, having been busted before on an armed robbery charge. Each man had gotten five years out of it, but that had only tightened up the relationship between them. Now, they felt as if they could completely trust each other, each knowing exactly how the other would react during a sudden interruption on one of their many robberies.

"I don't know," Billy began quietly, "I ain't never liked takin' off these small jobs, Jackie. Before we go in the joint we're already up on the fact that we ain't goin' score for no more than a couple of hundred. I mean, it would be different if we were dope addicts or something, but don't either one of us have to have the stuff. Yeah, we'll snort a bit every now and then but that's it. So why should we be frontin' ourselves off for a petty stickup?"

"Goddamn, Billy Good, we went through this shit earlier. You and me both agreed that this would be a safe hit. They ain't goin' call no law in after we leave, plus this punk Jo-Jo ain't nothing but pussy. So it's like takin' candy from a baby. We just walk in and take it, that's all there is to it."

Billy reached over and pushed the cigarette lighter in. "I know, Jackie. Maybe that's what the problem is. I keep rememberin' that cute little kid they got, you know? The last time we were here, she went out of her way to fix me up a glass of cold water. I know it's a small thing, but the kid reminds me of my little girl in New York." Billy removed the lighter and lit his smoke before continuing. "Yeah, I know, a glass of water ain't about nothing, but Jackie, I know the kid's folks ain't got a fuckin' thing, and if we take the little bit they got, it's goin' be just that less that the kid gets."

"That's bullshit, man," Jackie stated harshly. "Dig man, all you got to do is think, Billy. Remember how damn raggedy the child's dress was. Okay, then, it goes to show that the mother ain't even using the fuckin' welfare check they probably get every month for the child. So what we take ain't depriving the child of nothing. What's goin' happen is that they ain't goin' be able to shoot up as much dope this month as they did last month, that's all."

"Ummm-hum, I guess you're just about right," Billy said as he finally made up his mind. "If they were spending any kind of money on that kid it would be food, and as puny as she is I know she's underfed."

"That's right," Jackie answered quickly. "If they ain't worried about feedin' the kid, you know damn well they ain't worried about what kind of clothes she wears."

Billy laughed suddenly as he opened his car door. "We make a hell of a set of stickup men, Jackie, don't we? Here we are, soft as grapes, worried about some kid."

Jackie saw the humor in it himself. He joined his partner in laughing. He had seen Billy shoot down a woman once without batting an eye, and yet here was the same man worried about taking the food out of a child's mouth. It was a strange world, he reflected, and stranger still were the men and women who lived in it.

As the two men started up the sidewalk it was apparent why the detectives in the holdup department downtown had tagged the crime partners as "Mutt and Jeff." Jackie stood six foot four in his socks, while Billy was only five foot six. But what he didn't have in height, Billy made up for in width. He was built like a stocky breeding bull. At first glance he appeared not to have a neck. Billy was naturally a husky person, but lifting weights in prison had added to his frame. The huge muscles under his clothes seemed to roll around as he walked.

Jackie was just the opposite. He was lean to the point of being almost gaunt. He had the appearance of a drug addict, even though he was not one yet. But his love of snorting heroin was leading him down the path of drug addiction. In time, if he continued to use drugs at the rate he was doing, he would become an addict.

When they reached the front door both men hesitated before knocking. Each man checked the pistol in his waist, making sure the gun didn't protrude.

Well, baby boy, this is it," Jackie stated calmly as he raised his fist and knocked. When there was no sound from inside he knocked louder.


Excerpted from CRIME PARTNERS by DONALD GOINES Copyright © 1978 by Al C. Clark. Excerpted by permission of HOLLOWAY HOUSE CLASSICS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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