I take another big hit, like all the talk he’s putting down is just so much street patter, but the whole time I’m wondering to myself, how the heck does this evil cat know I was ever in Knoxville?
Stevens laughs. ”Oh, I know all kinds of things about you, my friend. Your name is Lowell George, isn’t it? You were second trombone for that lush dance orchestra that plays at the Starlight ballroom at the Van Buren Hotel. What’s its name?”
Stevens takes a big long hit. For the longest time he holds it in his lungs while keeping the burning reefer in his right hand as he flexes his wrist, like there’s a point he’s about to make as soon as he lets the smoke out of his lungs. I stare out the window at the marshmallow fog and wonder how I’m ever going to get out of this one.
“The Ray Covington Melody Makers,” I say like it was a long time ago.
But he doesn’t seem to hear me. His mind is his own lungs all packed full with Harlem’s Best marijuana smoke. Stevens begins exhaling and immediately breaks into a hacking fit as he tries telling me something. “Huah, huah!,” he coughs. “But… you… can’t…huah, huah, huah, get…out of it…until, huah, huah, huah,…you get…into it!” he declares. “Huah, huah, huah! Am I right, Mister Lowell George?”
“Oh, you are most definitively right,” I answer, rejoicing that he only seems to know my alias.
I put my hand out for the stick, but instead of handing it back to me, Stevens takes another massive hit, again holding it in his lungs but then almost immediately letting it out as he turns to me and says, “Now is your name Lowell George, or is it Herbert T. Barrow of Eagle Ford, Texas?” He hands the three-quarters castigated reefer back to me with a flourish worthy of a cavalier with a big plumed hat.
“Either name works fine for me,” I say, like there’s nothing particularly amazing about this last feat of his. “But I’ve been thinking of calling myself Lawrence “T-Bone” Dupree. What do you think of it?”
“Oh, I like it,” he says. “I like it a lot. That’s a real bluesman’s name, not one anyone would associate with a bank robber and escaped convict.”
(Excerpt from Friend of the Devil, available on Kindle)