Authors: RA Chandler
I dressed quickly to leave the room and promised to return whilst she was still hot; I wanted to see how flexible she was.
Sebastian wasn’t downstairs waiting for me but almost directly outside the door, he looked at me gravely for a minute, then moved away and led me to the emergency staircase.
“Trouble?” I asked finally.
“There are some guys outside to see you Mr. Garvey. I was just outside polishing the area for valet parking, the cleaners don’t do it right, and a tall guy comes up beside me like he’s going to make a move. You know I carry a little switchblade in case shit pops off; well I nearly stabbed the man. Anyway, he says ‘get Garvey’ in a Jamaican accent and doesn’t smile or anything, so I move with the quicks in case he’s got a burner.”
Sebastian was nineteen, about six-four with braids and trying to get a scholarship to play basketball at Brown. He was a good kid and kept himself clean, he was from Flatbush though and experience had taught him to give unfriendly Jamaicans a wide berth.
“He give you a name?”
“Said they call him Gravedigger.”
I tightened my belt and retied my laces, fixed my tie and checked my gun, and began to walk towards the lifts.
“Mr. Garvey listen,” Sebastian began, holding onto my sleeve.
“They came in a big black car, tinted windows; think it’s a pimped out S-class or something. The guy who talked to be is guarding it like it’s the president’s ride. He’s wearing a dark overcoat and cap like the ones Samuel L. Jackson likes to wear. You don’t have enemies do ya?”
“I used to work for the state, what do you think?”
We got the serviced elevator that was staffed by a guy called Javier, he was Hispanic, partially disabled in one arm, but never missed the buttons. He was possibly the cheeriest person I knew. He had on a blue uniform with a yellow stripe down the side and silly hat like a French Gendarmerie. He asked me how my evening was going as though as if I were his favorite patron and whistled Brown girl in the ring until we reached the ground floor.
“You hear pops like a gun I want you to call the police and then this number and ask for Detective Cellout,” I said handing him a phone number on a post-it note.
I left him at the automatic doors and wandered off down the block, past the drugstore, the news stand and up to a black car parked outside an all-night convenience store. A tall Jamaican with a deep scar down one side of his face stood to attention as I approached.
The street was dark despite the light from the convenience store, the odd car idled by, but no one stopped for snacks. Across the road the driver of a Lincoln was taking his cigarette break, careful not to let the smoke waft into the interior and mess up would be passenger’s journeys.
The dark car’s engine turned over loudly as I approached it, the tall figure detached himself from his centaury post and strolled towards me, both hands entrenched in his pocket.
We stopped maybe three feet from each other.
The tall man spoke with a Jamaican accent spiced with the Bronx, “Garvey it’s been a while, good to see you.”
“Feeling mutual Barabbas, you calling yourself Gravedigger again?”
He laughed a little, “habits die hard.”
He began to take his hands out of his pocket before he stopped himself, “you probably don’t want to shake hands do you?”
This isn’t my first day at school, what you want man,” I said tersely.
“Still straightforward Garvey right, even though you don’t work for the D.A no more, just saying what you mean.”
“I guess,” I replied, my throat getting tighter. Gravedigger wouldn’t kill me, he got rid of bodies. I’d busted him once, but let him go because the man he was disposing of had a rap sheet for molesting children. He was getting rid of the body because he’d reneged on a deal with is boss, a man called Solomon Adash. I’d heard rumors he was still working for Adash, but I wasn’t about to ask, he hadn’t visited to catch-up on the good old times we’d never had any.
“You like the job Garvey, nice number you got, heard you do some close protection too, plenty a pussy right?”
“I do okay, it’s a job and they pay me when they say they will.”
He laughed again with his light chuckle, “here’s the deal, you got a girl up in your place named Saffron Cormount, used to be a dancer, kinda a hot for a white girl, get her out fast and we’ll take it from there.”
He looked up and down the alley masquerading as a street and back at me again, a man behind him coughed lightly. “She made a bad choice, nothing against her personal like, but she has a tendency to get people into trouble. Get her out, Garvey. You got forty minutes, maybe an hour tops.”
“Sure thing chief,” I said aimlessly, without emphasis on what I actually intended to do.
Barabbas took his hands out of his pocket, I flicked of the safety on my Dueller, and he stretched out one of his longs arms and placed it on my chest giving it a short but hard push with the tips of his fingers, it was lazier than an aggressive offensive.
“I is not telling you this for fun, serious business going on, get her out.”
“Sure,” I said again with less sincerity than the first time.
He took his hand back before I could shoot a hole in it and reached for the cars door and opened it. A strong smell of cannabis rushed out of the car as he leaned in to speak with its occupants. He stood up abruptly and marched back over to me. I wondered how many people were in the car and turned so he was in the line of fire first should anything start to go wrong and his associates feel the need for a little hard intervention. Whilst I was with the D.A I was bulletproof and could afford to take risk because SWAT or some other department would avenge my death on behalf of the NYPD or state or white conservatives,, but I didn’t have that insurance policy anymore and operated with a little more caution.
“Listen Garvey, I know you’re clean and I know that’s why you got thrown out the big job…”
“I didn’t get thrown out, I worked my notice and left.”
He smiled, “I heard they couldn’t corrupt you, you played by the rules.”
“You’re right I couldn’t be corrupted, that’s why I didn’t follow the rules. I let you go didn’t I?”
“You did good, but if you hadn’t I would have had my bail and no witnesses would have turned up to my trial.”
It was my turn to smile; there was a hit out on him from inside the NYPD from a corrupt unit whose toes he’d stepped on. He didn’t need to know, it wasn’t useful for our nocturnal conversation.
He leaned forward and spoke quietly so those in the car couldn’t hear him, “its trouble, all trouble. My people won’t like it but I’m telling you all the same. Cormount was married to a fella named Nerac Fratp, now he’s coming out of Attica in a couple of days or so, did a stretch for manslaughter. It was the girl that put him there, he ran down some man one night one he was drunk and didn’t stop and she was with him. She couldn’t handle the guilt so she told him to tell the cops about it, thought it would make things better. Anyway, the man didn’t go in so she made a call and they came for him and rolled on some people in relation to some outstanding warrants.”
“D.U.I? You want her because of a D.U.I?” I said.
“Act smart man, they wanted to come in all guns blazing and mash up the place, but when I hear you work here I knew we could reason. Her husband or ex-husband did brag about how she is waiting for him when he got out, he would forgive and forget, and he would be going straight to her to make up for his lack of conjugal visits.”
“Okay, I’ll bite because I need to get back to work, what is he to you?”
“The Percales brothers want to speak with him, they wish to make some loss adjustments. He was working a table at a club on they got and figured out a scheme with magnets or something. We know about the magnets because we caught his accomplice, he was kind enough to cough up a hundred grand, but we still need a hundred from Nerac. The Percales brothers feel that letting something like this slide isn’t the best standard to set in their line of business. One let of and you end up with an epidemic worse than bird flu.”
The Percales brothers were identical twins original from Cuba who had come into the New York as infants. Their real family name was Sanchez but they liked Percales because he was arguably the most prominent and influential Greek statesman, orator and general of Athens during the Golden Age. They prided themselves on having principles and generally only killed people with long rap sheets, the kind of people that would have gotten the chair. They did drugs, prostitution and protection from other gangs if you paid enough. It was strange to think of them as honorable, but they were. They sold drugs mainly to celebrities and sports stars, the prostitution thing was more like escort work and the protection was run through a security company that paid taxes. That said, they were hard as nails and only cared about each other more than money, if you were in the way they would simply remove you.
I watched as a chauffeur flicked his cigarette end into the air, it arced creating an amber blur like the end of a striking light sabre. It hit the pavement fizzled out like a cheap firework as the S-class’s motor revved.
“I don’t want any part of this shit,” I said. “I’ll get her out.”
Barabbas backed away from me nodding, “you have sense man.”
“How’s your grandfather these days,” said Barabbas tonelessly.
It was my grandfather that saved him; he’d always told me that you measure a man by all his actions and not those that you see once. So I’d asked the right people about him and I’d been surprised by what I heard. He got rid of bodies, but he had his own code to follow and he only never killed and every decapitated man had a track record of violence, sexual abuse and on occasion had played an indirect part in the wider abuse or fatal impoverishment of others. He was ex-military and I couldn’t access his files Navy files which made me think he was ex-special forces. He didn’t work for any specific person, but the Percales brothers had a lot of work. I’d told him what my grandfather had said, so if I came across him he’d always ask, he felt obliged.
“He’s dead, trying to figure out why but I think the government had something to do with it,” I said.
“Education, he was against it.”
“I thought he was a teacher.”
“Yeah, well I guess it’s a dangerous profession.”
“Well. I will see you,” he said and turned and took two long strides back to his car. The car turned around in the road like a lazy elephant wading through a muddy bog, the light from the Xeon headlights sprayed the garage doors like a creation from Marc Ecko. I watched it go. The smell of high octane fuel drifted up my nose to remind me that until I did what they wanted I’d have to watch my nose. I turned and went back to the hotel, thinking about what to do next. I’d almost had sex with a woman that used to be married to a scam artist that wasn’t concerned with taking the rap for the death of others. And now I was apparently going to send her to some gangsters so that she could be used to give her ex-husband a choice of her life for his. If he was smart he’d know she was going to die anyway and cut his losses; if he however he was truly in love he’d try and find a way to get them both out without immediate incident.
It was good we hadn’t slept together; it meant I wasn’t in love.
I always fell in love after good sex.
I felt it was my duty.
With warm, hopeful thoughts still in the air I turned off the sound system in the restaurant bar and poured myself a small rum from the guest fridge whilst I figured out how to get myself out of someone else’s problem. I went back into the lobby by the bank of elevators and looked at the dials denoting which floor they were on, the middle elevator was on the top floor waiting to be called back down.
“Sound asleep,” I muttered to myself.
“What you say Garvey?” asked Veronica behind me.
“Nothing, just thinking about sex,” I said absently.
“Just like most of the guys at Columbia.”
“What you say?” I said turning to her. She has a beaming smile that was so bright it could guide an Airbus A308 to land at La Guardia.
“Sex, kinda good when you're high.”
“Honey, if you're doing it right you don’t need the extra stimulus.”
“I bet you know how to stimulate a woman,” she said.
“Little girl I would snap you in two.”
“Whenever you're ready.”
Okay so she’s flirting with me, it’s not the first time and I doubt it will be the last, but it’s the first time I’ve actually considered acting on anything. It was probably just residual horniness, I mean she’s hot but you shouldn’t mix work and pleasure.
A door next to the reception marked ‘staff only’ opened and Javier the lift man walked out in his own clothes. His clothes consisted of a pair of loafers, slim fit jeans, polo shirt a sports jacket with a fleece lining. I knew he’d drive down to the local diner and get breakfast, sleep in his car for five hours and go to his job as a teaching assistant at a kindergarten. I once asked him why he still did the night job. His family was back in Columbia and he didn’t want too many connections here because it sometimes made things complicated. His goal was simple enough; keep free time for eating and sleeping, get a teaching qualification, teach English as an additional language to immigrants, then he’d send for his family and a girl from his area he’d been sweet on since he was a teenager. I admired him, and not just for his hope, but because to him life was simple and he didn’t concern himself by living to rules made by others.
“Goodnight boss,” he said with chestnut colored eyes.
“See you tomorrow.”
I took out my smartphone and looked up the news report on my grandfather’s death two years earlier. I’d tried to investigate it once but come up against a wall of bureaucracy because I was related to the deceased. Nothing about his death made any sense; he wasn’t mugged, the victim of a stray bullet or some illness related to toxic waste or power cables. He’d been shot by a student, that’s why I’d suspected something. The student wasn’t gang affiliated and didn’t have a history of mental problems. He was an A grade student who was part of every intellectual club available. But he’d behaved like someone in a terrorist cell or a Black Op and planned the attack, only captured by a newly installed CCTV camera that wasn’t on the schools structural documentation. I’d just started reading a book by John Taylor Gatto and was developing my theories about his death or assassination.