Authors: Darren Coleman
f I had been a gangster then Priest’s days would have been numbered. He was fortunate in one way but as good as screwed in another. After he’d sent his enforcer to come and do me bodily harm I got angry. I did my best to hide it from Khalil, who’d been my saving angel. But from the second I realized that Priest had sent Big George back to my home, obviously to silence me, it was now a war. A war that I was sure he was too stupid to win. I’d never met an athlete smart enough to outwit a groupie, let alone a cunning diva like myself.
My belongings were in storage for the time being. I was going to go hotel-to-hotel until I got it all straightened out and once I did, money would never be an issue again. Priest had me fantasizing about what it would be like to retire from the life that I lived. I’d go somewhere, warm preferably, to open up a boutique filled with the types of clothes that I like. I’d be able to drive every day with the top down and a pair of Jackie-Os on my face.
sat patiently in the rental car, waiting for the private investigator to arrive. On cue the silver Navigator pulled up. I hit my lights and he drove over to the corner of the lot where I was sitting. We were in the parking lot of Morton’s, a steak house in Hackensack, New Jersey.
“How are you, Miss H?” he asked respectfully. He was a short man and I stared, almost rudely, as he climbed carefully out of the big truck. He might have been five foot three.
“I’m fine.” I reached into my purse and pulled out an envelope. “Three thousand, it’s all there. Mr. Amory spoke highly of you. Said you were the best. A real pro.”
He handed me two envelopes. “You’ll see for yourself. One of those is a set of copies. The third set, I mailed to the address you gave me. I hope that everything works out for you. I had to climb a telephone pole sixty yards up for some of those.”
“Oh, I’m sure it will. You especially made sure of that. All I was looking for was a house, a wife, and a few other tidbits, but you, Mr. Cason, are a phenom.”
He smiled and laughed out loud. My flattery had him tickled. “Well thank you much,” he said. “I guess I’ll be off. Call me if you need me.”
“I sure will. As a matter of fact, I might need you really soon. Do you work out of town?”
“Not sure yet.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “A day, maybe a week. No more.”
“You call, I’ll come,” he said, grinning ear to ear. I was sensing
that the black Danny DeVito had a crush. “I might go to hell and stake out Satan if the price is right.”
I didn’t laugh with him. Instead, once he left I sat in the car and looked into the envelope. I had two addresses for Priest and a few pictures of him with a woman other than his wife. Mr. Cason had taken photos of him carrying diapers and toys up to the door, kissing a pretty Puerto Rican girl and a baby. I was sure that this was going to be interesting to his wife, if the child turned out to be his, but what had me thinking about retirement were the next few photos. I smiled at the clarity of the images of him leaning back in a truck, getting head from none other than Big George. I couldn’t believe the angle Mr. Cason’d shot the pics from.
What amazed me was that Mr. Cason had hit a goldmine himself, if only he’d wanted it. Instead he handed them over to me to do what I chose. He could have sold the pictures to any number of tabloids, but he gave them to me for the price we agreed upon. Either he was a real stand-up guy, or the name and face of the man he’d stalked for me hadn’t rung any bells. I was inclined to believe that he simply operated out of integrity, since Priest had been an All-Star more than once.
Then again the pictures were worthless if you weren’t going to sell them or you weren’t planning to commit a felony with blackmail. I was.
When Priest walked out of the restaurant and to his car I waited for him to pull out into traffic and I followed him. The white man he’d eaten with was his agent. They were both riding high, I was sure. A newly signed contract, a fat signing bonus, and life was good for them.
He was heading for Englewood Cliffs, where he had a three-
million-dollar mansion. I had the address written down and could have used the portable GPS to beat him there if I chose, but he was oblivious as he blasted the music out the windows of his Mercedes. I lagged behind when we reached the entrance to his development and carefully waited as he turned each corner before I pulled too closely. A few minutes later he arrived at his driveway and the gate opened.
Once he drove through the gate I waited for it to shut and then I pulled up right behind him and parked right in front of it. I looked up the long driveway; a half a football field away I saw his brake lights and then, a moment later, the reverse lights lit up. He began to wheel back toward the gate. I remained in the car until he reached the gate and stepped out. I opened the door and stepped out of the rental.
We were face to face now, separated by the white metal bars. “What are you doing at my fucking house? Are you crazy?”
It dawned on me that he had the nerve to call me crazy, yet he’d sent his henchman/lover to my door. “I think you know why I’m here, Priest. You’re lucky I haven’t gone to the police. What did you think you were doing having your goon show up at my house?”
He looked at me quizzically. I was sure he was wondering if I was setting him up. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“I think you do. As a matter of fact, you know he got his fat ass kicked that night by my man. And if he comes back…”
“Your man? Bitch, you’re a fucking whore. A high-class one, but still a whore nonetheless. Any man who’s claiming you has got to be some pussy-whipped idiot. C’mon now.”
I don’t know why but his words hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t even know why I had called Khalil my man, but I didn’t
appreciate Priest’s sick tail having the nerve or the grounds to put him down.
He went on, “So what the fuck are you doing here?”
“It’s okay with me Priest, that you’ve decided to take it there, but you should know you’re way out of your league with me. I’m not going to talk you to death,” I said as I stepped back to the car and reached for the envelope. I walked up to the gate and handed him the envelope. “It’s really simple.”
He opened the envelope and pulled the stack of photos out. It was like watching someone have their soul snatched from their body. I swear his eyes caved in and his bottom lip began to quiver. “Bitch, you’ve been following me? I’m going to kill you. You know who I am?”
I laughed at him. “You already tried that, remember? The fat faggot in the picture, you sent him to do a man’s job.”
He looked at me, his eyes full of hate. Just then his cell phone rang. He looked down at it then backed up toward his house. I waved him off and moved back a few feet but could still hear him clearly. “Hey, baby, I’m coming. I’m just talking to a Realtor. She’s trying to convince me to sell…no I’m not. Gimme a minute I’ll be there.” He hung up. “Honey, listen. All I wanted was to talk to you.” His tone had softened up and he’d changed his demeanor. “I only wanted to make sure that whole thing in Miami was going to stay quiet. I told my agent about it and he advised me to make an offer to you just to be sure…”
“To be sure that I was dead too?”
He shook his head. “No, no. Honey, you don’t understand. There’s a lot of money on the line. I have to keep my name clear of scandal. Like with that Kobe situation. You know how many millions of dollars other people lost when he lost his endorse
ments. It took him like three years just to get his image back to the point where he can use his persona to make money. I don’t have that kind of time left and my agent has been riding me like crazy. All he asks is have you talked to the…”
“To the whore.”
“I didn’t say that. He’s just been on edge like a motherfucker and that’s gotten me on edge.”
“So you sent your goon, or rather your boyfriend, to make sure that I’d keep quiet?”
“That’s all. I just wanted to make sure you and I were cool. We went to your room and you weren’t there.”
“I came after you did and what you did was break into my room.”
“Well you never even told us you were leaving. It looked strange. I thought you might have gone to the police.”
“Yeah, right. You know Priest, your ass is sounding real guilty right now.”
He shook his head “no.” “I didn’t do anything to that girl. I swear. The bitch just wouldn’t put the brakes on with the drugs that night.”
“What about her friend?”
“I don’t know nothing about her friend.”
“Yeah, well she was missing too and I’ve been following up on it and it seems like nobody has any answers as to her whereabouts.” That was the reason why I had barely been home. I honestly didn’t know what Priest was capable of. I was too smart to get caught slipping though.
“I swear I don’t know anything about that, but I’ll tell you this…the first trip to your house was merely because I wanted to drop some change on you to make sure everything with us was
good. That’s the only reason I sent the big man. I just don’t need the controversy.”
“That’s exactly what I was thinking. But I’ll
you this.” I reached into my pocket and pulled out a piece of paper. “It’s gonna cost you more than some change, especially with these pictures.”
His hands were on the bars as if he were an inmate. “So what do you want?”
“Two hundred thousand? That’s robbery,” he shouted.
“Nah, my friend. Two million. I want two million dollars.”
“Have you lost your mind? I don’t have that kind of money. I can’t afford to pay you that kind of money.”
“From the looks of things, you can’t afford not to.” I looked at his house and the cars. “Suit yourself. I won’t negotiate. I won’t take one-point-nine-nine-nine and ninety-nine cents. Hell, I want a nice big house like this and someone to love me. Like you said. Who’d love a whore? It’s time for me to give this life up and unfortunately for you, it’s on you.”
“There is no way I’m giving you two million dollars. I’ll kill you and do twenty-five years first.”
“Really? I doubt that. You just got a nine-million-dollar signing bonus. I suggest you dip into it unless you want these pictures all over the Internet and a story in the papers. Not to mention how much your wife is going to take when she finds out you have a little brown baby on the other side of town. I think two million is less than half.”
He was silent. I handed him a card. “What’s this for?” he asked.
“Wire the money to that account. I’ll give you one week. Call
me at that number and let me know when it’s done. But don’t call until it’s done. If you do, the deal’s off and I ruin you.”
I walked away and climbed into the car. As I prepared to back out I yelled, “Once I get the money, you’ll get the copies and the negatives. If anything should happen to me you can only imagine what the police and the newspapers will find waiting for them.”
As I pulled off and headed for the airport I wondered how long it would take him to pick his jaw up from the ground. Secrets are a motherfucker.
made a few calls before I went to bed, or rather tried to catch up on some of the sleep that had eluded me as of late. The good-night call to Rorrie had been dry at best, as if the happiness was evaporating day by day. I felt like I was merely going through the motions with her. Usually my work was my sanctuary. I’d always found it so easy to escape everything, past and present, when I was behind the camera, but not this week. At this point, I was truly beginning to question my own sanity. I was well on my way to throwing my relationship with Rorrie away.
Right around the time Honey disappeared again I landed a job that was going to have me spend a week to ten days in Los Angeles, working on a project for Fox Searchlight. It was a nice reprieve from the heat of Rorrie’s attitude as she’d now begun to tire of my “strange” behavior. I wasn’t a complete fool though. Not for a minute did I question whether or not I deserved all of the strife that I was going through.
Ever since the night that Honey had invited me back to her
room there was no denying that I’d been acting like a complete ass toward Rorrie. After Honey hung the phone up I pulled over prepared to turn around, but then after looking at the clock I decided to drive home. I called the hotel and hung up when I recalled that all I had was her first name.
I was still in a relationship and though I’d come to terms with the fact that I was attracted to or lusting after Honey, I had to remain decent. True, I’d cheated on Rorrie the first time and for that I had no excuse. As deep as the desire was, I couldn’t bring myself to do it again even after I’d pursued Honey. This, I would quickly regret.
The next day, when I went back to the hotel dressed in my tux, thirty minutes before I was due at the church, and knocked at her door, I got no answer. I’d gone back three times since then and hadn’t had any luck. It took no time for my regret to turn to resentment. I was angry for denying myself what I wanted and began to resent Rorrie for simply being there, a reminder why I couldn’t have the woman that I I’d become obsessed with.
When I left for California, I began to think that perhaps Honey had given up on me. It had been two weeks since I’d heard from her. Her face never left my mind even though I had no idea where she was. I was worried about her, but at the same time my intuition told me that she could take care of herself.
hen my cell rang at five thirty in the morning, my first instinct was to start cursing. I knew it was someone calling from the East Coast. “Yeah,” I moaned out.
“Oh God, I’m sorry. Khalil?”
“Are you sleeping still?”
“Yeaaah,” I mumbled.
“This is Cameron. I was returning your call. Are you sick or something?” It was then that I realized that I needed to clear my throat.
I’d already told her I was knocked out, but from her inquiry as to my health, I was sure I sounded dead. She had no idea I was three hours behind her and was suffering from the early signs of sleep deprivation. And since it usually took my body a full week to adjust to the time difference, this had been only my second night getting a decent amount of rest. “I called your office yesterday evening to cancel my appointment, but I was also wondering if you could call me a prescription in. I’m in L.A. working…but I’ve been…It’s been hard for me to relax.”
“Having problems sleeping or the dreams again?”
“A little of both,” I said, coming out of my sleep.
“You have a number or name of a pharmacy near you?”
“Uhhh, yeah. It’s called Horton & Converse Pharmacy on Santa Monica. It’s right around the corner from me.”
“You got it. Did you reschedule with the receptionist?”
“Yes, for next week.”
There was a little break in the silence as I waited for her to start with her normal probing but it didn’t come.
“Okay, great. Khalil, call me if you need anything, or if you want to do your session over the phone.”
“Take care of yourself.”
hung up and turned over burying my face in my pillow. A rush of emotions swelled through me and I almost wished that I could
just keep it buried forever. I thought about all the problems that I’d carried through life with me. The
, as Cameron called it.
I wondered why my life had never been the way I’d thought it’d be, especially now that I was on my way to becoming a successful filmmaker and I had a beautiful, smart woman in love with me. Why was I feeling tortured while lying in this big bed alone, knowing that there was one girl who would want to be here, and another who I wanted to be with.
I thought about my father. I hadn’t spoken to him in almost five years. The last time I saw him he was only a shadow of the man I’d loved and trusted as a boy. I think his letting me down had been the straw that broke his back. I also believed that the fact that I’d made something out of my life in spite of him was the ton of bricks that crushed him totally. He was expecting much less of me and I know it embarrassed him when we met up for the first time since I’d gone to foster care.
At twenty-one, I’d graduated from college and had landed a job paying me more money than he’d ever made in any two years. I’d only gone to see him because a job took me to Harlem, making the reunion convenient. That and the dozens of phone calls I’d received from his new girlfriend begging me to come. The irony was that it was a commercial that I’d shot, a PSA against drug abuse.
Walking into the same apartment that had been the source of so much pain for me didn’t turn out to be as therapeutic as I’d hoped. Seeing my old room, where I’d been raped, nearly brought tears to my eyes as I stood there. My father had a new family living there with him. His girlfriend, who he’d met at a substance-abuse program, and her daughter along with her two babies now called the old place home.
My visit had been short and when my father walked me back
out to the street, he’d had the nerve to ask me for money. I didn’t have any cash on me, but he rode in a cab with me to the ATM. I still don’t know why I didn’t refuse him. After I’d given him two hundred dollars, he immediately elected to walk home. As the cab prepared to pull out onto Lenox Avenue I told the driver to stop. Then I’d leaned to the window and called him back. “Hey,” I’d said, clearing my throat.
“If you don’t hear from me again, please don’t call and don’t have your girlfriend call me either.”
He opened his mouth to speak. “Khalil…”
I cut him off with an emphatic “Don’t ever call.”
I remember the look on his face as the cab drove off. He hasn’t called since.
spent an hour in the hotel’s gym, running on the treadmill, trying to release some stress before the car ser vice came to pick me up. We weren’t working until two in the afternoon so I had a chance to grab a spinach salad before I slid into character. I was the hot young talent and I was lucky to get called in to work with this director.
Once I reached location I did my best to keep my mind focused solely on the project before me, shooting crowd scenes inside the Staples Center. I spent most of the day talking to the director, a quirky but brilliant guy who had the misfortune of being named Harry Ball. It wouldn’t have been so bad but all day he answered his cell, “This is Harry Ball.”
I actually laughed aloud a couple of times, imagining a set of hairy balls. Harry was cool though and when we finished shooting at ten
. he thanked me for a job well done. He whipped
out the corporate card and we went upstairs to the Fox Sports Sky Box and grabbed stuffed burgers and a couple of rounds for the staff.
“Kid,” Harry called out to me as we were heading to the lot where the crew’s vans were parked. “How are you getting back to your hotel?”
“I had a car ser vice scheduled but I think I missed the call while we were eating. I’m just going to catch a cab.”
“Nonsense, I’ll give you a ride. You’re staying where?”
“The Hyatt in Century City.”
“No problem,” he said and waved me toward him.
We walked over to the bronze racing machine. He hit the chirp and we climbed in. “Nice ride,” I said.
“Nice my pale white ass. This ride is what God Himself would drive if He were the driving sort. At least that’s what the salesman told me when he sold it to me.” He laughed. A quick elbow to my arm and he said, “No bullshit. I love to drive it and I’ll take any excuse. Why else would you think I’d offer to drive you to Santa Monica?” He laughed again.
“So this a Ferrari, right?” I asked, not wanting to sound stupid as I scanned for an insignia.
“A Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. You won’t see another on the road the whole time you’re in L.A. You want to know how much this baby costs? Go ahead and ask me.”
Harry had been pretty relaxed and a complete professional the entire day. But the moment he’d begun with the drinks it seemed as though that Harry had jumped out the window. This Harry was just as pretentious as the rest of the crowd I’d met on the set. “I don’t think I even want to know.”
“That’s bull. Of course you want to know. Two hundred and
twenty thousand. But that’s a whole other story. Listen, Khalil, you have been so quiet these last several days you’ve had me wondering if we were treating you okay.”
“You sure, because I’ve enjoyed working with you. I’ve heard some good things about you and believe me, contrary to popular belief, this business isn’t about who you know, it’s about who the hell knows you.”
“No, Harry, everything was cool. I’ve just had a few things on my mind. Stuff going on back home.”
“I understand. I really do. You definitely seemed a little tense when you got to work and you don’t seem too much better off right now, but you know what? I have the perfect solution. Why don’t you let me call my masseuse and have her meet you at your room? She’s a magician.”
“As much as I could use one, I’ll pass this time.”
“Nonsense,” he yelled as we came to a stoplight. He then jumped out of the car. “As a matter of fact, you drive the rest of the way. I need to make a couple of calls.” By the time I could tell him that I didn’t know how to get back he was already at my door. “Just drive straight. We’re taking Pico straight to the Avenue of the Stars, buddy.”
He didn’t take no for an answer and I was now pushing his death machine up West Pico like I owned it. The car was so powerful that I almost lost track of what he was doing. He’d taken the liberty of calling his masseuse and insisting that she drop what she was doing to come take care of me.
“She’ll be a couple of hours but I have a place I want to take you to pass the time. She’ll meet us there and then she’ll give you a ride back to your hotel.”
We wound up at Club Gotham. There was a nice crowd full of beautiful people and a line at the door. Harry pulled up at the front of the club and the valet ran over to his car. We bypassed the line and went right on in. I followed him up to a level called the Mezzanine, where a party within a party was in full swing. Blondes dancing, a few B-list actors playing pool, and an eclectic mix of folks seated at the glass bar.
Harry and I talked for a good while. It was strange. For some reason I found myself opening up to him, telling him about my dilemma with Honey and Rorrie. He was twenty years older than me, filthy rich, and firmly entrenched in white Hollywood, yet he seemed to be interested in what I was going through. Maybe he was looking for movie material. I couldn’t guess.
“Khalil,” he said as he sat next to me, puffing on a cigar. “Why would you trouble yourself with trying to make a decision? You’re on the cusp of a super career. You’ll be making a shitload of money in no time. Why not simply keep ’em both?”
I laughed and reiterated that I was already engaged and added, “I actually want a family. I didn’t have one growing up and it’d be nice to have some people around you who you know are going to be there.”
He slapped my shoulder playfully. “Khalil, that’s insane. Family sometimes can be the worst thing in your life. I should know. I have two. My wife is back in the Midwest. I grew up in Chicago, married my high school sweetheart, we have two kids, and we’ve been together for twenty-four years. Married for seventeen.”
“That’s great,” I said. You didn’t hear things like that every day.
“Yeah, thanks. I also have a girlfriend that I’ve been with for ten years out here. She’s twenty years younger than me, treats me great, and is a piece of ass like no other. I love her with every ounce
of my soul. I’d die for her. As a matter of fact, she and I are trying to have a baby together.” I was stunned. Not because of what he said, but how he said it, as if it were right. There was no time for me to judge him as he rolled on through with his message. “Moral is…why throw one away if you can afford ’em both?”
“I don’t know, Harry, that could get a little confusing and dangerous.”
“Bullshit. You’ll never get far in this business with that attitude. You’re making movies and you don’t understand the one thing that makes it all possible.” He paused and leaned in closer to me and poked my thigh with each syllable. “With money, any and every thing is possible.”
He jumped up and said, “Darla.” He greeted the tall, bronzed woman. “Meet Khalil. He’s working with me. I’m taking care of it. Give him the deep tissue like you do me.”
I stood up. She was as tall as I was. I looked her straight in the eyes. Not gorgeous by L.A. standards but strong from where I came from. She was thin in the waist and all silicon up top. I saw a little Korean in her face but then she also looked Native American. “Great,” she said. We shook hands. “You ready to go?”
I didn’t remember when I’d said that I was down, but in all actuality, now that I’d seen her, I couldn’t imagine turning down a free massage. “Yeah, why not?”
She gave me a look as if she was a little insulted at my absence of complete excitement. “HB, I’ll speak with you tomorrow.”
He nodded and finished, “Sure thing. Khalil, enjoy yourself.”