Don Winslow: The Kings Of Cool

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Don Winslow The Kings Of Cool
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    The Kings Of Cool
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Don Winslow

The Kings Of Cool


Fuck me.

Laguna Beach, California 2005


Is what O is thinking as she sits between Chon and Ben on a bench at Main Beach and picks out potential mates for them.

“ That one?” she asks, pointing at a classic BB (Basically Baywatch) strolling down the boardwalk.

Chon shakes his head.

A little dismissively, O thinks. Chon is pretty choosy for a guy who spends most of his time in Afghanistan or Iraq and doesn’t see much in the way of anything outside cammies or a burqa.

Actually, she can see how the burqa thing could be pretty hot if you played it off right.

Did, you know, the harem thing.

Yeah, no.

The burqa ain’t gonna work for O. You don’t want to hide that blonde hair, you don’t want those bright eyes peeking out from behind a niqab.

O was made for sunshine.

California gurl.

Chon, he ain’t small but he’s thin. O thinks he looks even thinner than usual. He’s always been cut, but now it looks like he’s been carved with a scalpel. And she likes the short, almost shaved, hair.

“That one?” she asks, jutting her chin at a tourist-type brunette with really big tits and a retrousse nose.

Chon shakes his head.

Ben remains silent, sphinx-like, which is a role reversal, because Ben is usually the more verbal of the two. This isn’t a high bar to jump, as Chon doesn’t talk a lot, except when he goes off on a rant; then it’s like you pulled the plug from a fire hose.

While Ben is the more verbal, O considers now, he’s also the less promiscuous.

Ben is more Consecutive Monogamy while Chon is more Women Are To Be Served Concurrently. Although O knows for a fact that both of them-albeit Chon more than Ben-take full

advantage of the Tourist Chicks who watch them play volleyball here at the beach, just a few convenient paces from the Hotel Laguna-encounters she refers to as FRSO.

Fuck-Room Service-Shower-Out.

“That pretty much sums it up,” Chon has admitted.

Although at times he skips the room service.

Never the shower.

Basic rule of survival in the Greater Cross V Crescent Sandbox Tournament:

If there’s a shower, take it.

He can’t shake off the habit at home.

Anyway, Chon admits to doing matinees at the Hotel Laguna, the Ritz, the St. Regis, and the Montage with not only tourist women but also Orange County Trophy Wives and divorcees-the difference between the two being strictly temporary.

That’s the thing about Chon-he’s totally honest. No pretensions, no evasions, no apologies. O can’t decide if that’s because he’s so ethical or because he just doesn’t give a fuck.

Now he turns to her and says, “You have one strike left. Choose carefully.”

It’s a game they play-ODB-Offline Dating Baseball. Predicting each other’s sexual preferences and hitting for a single, a double, a triple, or a Home Run. It’s a really good game when you’re high, which they are now, on some of Ben and Chon’s supremo weed.

(Which is not weed at all, but a top-of-the-line hydro blend they call Saturday In The Park because if you take a hit of this stuff any day is Saturday and any place is the park.)

O is usually the Sammy Sosa of ODB, but now, with runners on first and third, she’s striking out.

“Well?” Chon asks her.

“I’m waiting for a good pitch,” she says, scanning the beach.

Chon’s been in Iraq, he’s been in Afghanistan…

… Go exotic.

She points to a beautiful South Asian girl with shimmering black hair setting off her white beach dress.


“Strikeout,” Chon answers. “Not my type.”

“What is your type?” O asks, frustrated.

“Tan,” Chon answers, “thin-sweet face-big brown eyes, long lashes.”

O turns to Ben.

“Ben, Chon wants to fuck Bambi.”


Ben’s a little distracted.

Sort of following the game, but not really, because his mind is on something that happened this morning.

This morning, like most mornings, Ben eased into his day at the Coyote Grill.

He got a table on the open deck near the fireplace and ordered his usual pot of black coffee and the crazy-good eggs machaca (for those in the benighted regions east of I-5, that’s scrambled eggs with chicken and salsa, a side of black beans, fried potatoes, and either corn or flour tortillas, which might be the best thing in the history of the universe), opened his laptop, and read the Gray Lady to see what Bush and his coconspirators were doing on that particular day to render the world uninhabitable.

This is his routine.

Ben’s partner, Chon, has warned him against habits.

“It’s not a ‘habit,’” Ben answered. “It’s a ‘routine.’”

A habit is a matter of compulsion, a routine a matter of choice. The fact that it’s the same choice every day is irrelevant.

“Whatever,” Chon answered. “Break it up.”

Cross the PCH to the Heidelberg Cafe, or drive down to Dana Point Harbor, check out the yummy-mummies jogging with their strollers, make a freaking pot of coffee at home for chrissakes. But do not do not do not do the same thing every day at the same time.

“It’s how we nail some of these AQ clowns,” Chon said.

“You shoot AQ guys while they eat eggs machaca at the Coyote Grill?” Ben asked. “Who knew?”

“Funny asshole.”

Yeah, it was sort of funny but not really funny because Chon has smudged more than a few Al Qaeda, Taliban, and their assorted affiliates precisely because they fell into the bad habit of having a habit.

He either pulled the trigger himself or did it remote control by calling in a drone strike from some Warmaster 3 prodigy sitting in a bunker in Nevada knocking back Mountain Dew while he smoked some unsuspecting muj with a keystroke.

The problem with contemporary warfare is that it has become a video game. (Unless you’re on the actual ground and get shot, in which case it is most definitely not.)

Whether direct from Chon or run through the gamer, it had the same effect.


Blood and sand.

Without the bull(shit).

All true, but nevertheless Ben isn’t going to get into this whole subterfuge thing any more than he has to. He’s in the dope business to increase his freedom, not to limit it.

Make his life bigger, not smaller.

“What do you want me to do,” he asked Chon, “live in a bunker?”

“While I’m gone,” Chon answered. “Yeah, okay.”

Yeah, not okay.

Ben sticks to his routine.

This particular morning Kari, the waitress of Eurasian Persuasion and almost reality-defying beauty-golden skin, almond eyes, sable hair, legs longer than a Wisconsin winter-poured his coffee.

“Hey, Ben.”

“Hey, Kari.”

Ben is seriously trying to get with her.

So fuck you, Chon.

Kari brought the food, Ben dug into the machaca and the Times.

Then he felt this guy sit down across from him.


Burly guy.

Big, sloping shoulders.

Sandy, receding hair combed straight back.

Kind of old school.

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