Isaiah hadn’t seen Grace since he’d met her in TK’s wrecking yard. He’d helped her remove a wiring harness from an old car. He was intrigued by her, but she’d given no indication that she had the slightest interest in him. It was a month later when he saw her again, standing in front of an art supply store talking to her friend. He’d watched them awhile, and when the friend left, he wanted to say hello but was too intimidated. Instead, he sent Ruffin to smooth the way, the slate-gray pit bull with fierce amber eyes that scared the hell out of most people. The dog ran over to Grace and sat at her feet and she responded the same way she had at the wrecking yard. She smiled, big and warm and glad, kneeling down to scratch him behind his ears. Ruff was usually standoffish with people, but you could feel the connection between them, like sister and brother reuniting after years apart.
“Hello, beautiful,” she said. “How are you, huh?” Ruffin could hardly sit still, waggling with his butt still on the ground and mewling with happiness. She stroked his head and beamed at him. “How are you, huh? You doing all right?”
“Hi,” Isaiah said as he approached. She gave him a quick glance and went back to stroking the dog.
“How’s it going?”
“It’s going fine.” Her voice was flat, not a hint of friendliness or anything else, the pale green eyes giving nothing away.
“Did the wiring harness work okay?”
“Yeah, it worked okay.”
“Good. That’s great.”
He had reached the limits of his conversational skills and a couple of awkward, endless moments went by, the girl holding the dog’s big head in her hands. He felt her sadness again. He recognized it from before. Like his, far away but imminent, anguish buried in a shallow grave.
“It’s Ruffin, right?” she said.
“You have a good memory.” At the wrecking yard, she’d chided him because the dog was unruly and hadn’t been neutered. “I did some training with him,” Isaiah said. “Got him fixed too.” If she was impressed there was no sign of it. “I’m Isaiah,” he said, getting desperate. “Isaiah Quintabe.” He knew her name but didn’t want to say it because it would sound creepy. She thought a moment, like she was gathering her memories of him, deciding if he was okay.
“Grace,” she said simply. She was wearing worn jeans and a chambray shirt over a gray T-shirt. She smelled faintly of turpentine. He remembered the pocket watch tattoo on her forearm. It was an antique, the numbers in an ornate font and nicely done too. Crisp lines, subtle shadowing, the sheen on the bezel just right, the time frozen at five after eleven.
Isaiah said the only thing he could think of. “So you’re an artist.” She looked at him sharply, a little alarmed.
“How do you know?”
He rushed to explain. “In the wrecking yard you had paint on your shoes and a Royal & Langnickel T-shirt. They make paintbrushes. I just happened to notice, that’s all. Sorry, I didn’t mean to pry.”
“Don’t worry about it.” She looked like he’d taken her wallet and given it back. “Gotta go.” She scratched the dog one more time, turned, and walked away, the dog trotting happily beside her.
Isaiah wanted to say goodbye or ask if he could walk with her or invite her for coffee but those things were beyond him. “Ruffin? Here, boy.”
The dog stopped, looked wistfully at Grace, and reluctantly came back. Isaiah snapped on his leash and watched her. She was walking fast, like she was escaping. Had he done something threatening? Was he giving off some kind of weird vibe? Was he so bumbling she had to flee so she wouldn’t laugh in his face? Probably. She was an artist. Cool. White. Creative. She probably hung out with other cool, white, creative people. Actors or documentary filmmakers or somebody who raised seven different kinds of heirloom cucumbers or had a line of yoga pants or made crazy sculptures out of old dental chairs, and if there were some black guys in her circle they were probably named Zado or Ska and they had dreadlocks and walked around barefoot and wore white peasant shirts and sacred beads from a monastery in Machu Picchu and had tats that meant fight the oppressor and performed at poetry slams or played the timbales in a reggae band.
Grace was almost a block away, just turning into an apartment building. Isaiah got in the car and drove past it. It was an old stucco low-rise called the Edgemont; scarred with gang graffiti, front steps scuffed down to bare wood, the burglar bars weeping rust. He parked the car and went furtively to the intercom. He checked the list of names. G Monarova resided on the top floor.
#406. Monarova? What kind of name was that?
He drove away wondering what had gotten into him. Twice now, he’d been clearly rejected, and here he was almost stalking her. It was ridiculous. Why was he so intrigued? Okay, she did remind him of himself; removed, wary, her eyes searching for a crack in your armor, trying to see inside you, see what was really going on. Those weren’t exactly attractive qualities. Dodson had told him about meeting Cherise and how he’d been hit by the thunderbolt like Michael Corleone when he saw the shepherd girl in Godfather II. It bordered on the mystical, being so drawn to someone you didn’t know; longing to be with her after two minutes of conversation. No, Isaiah thought, this is crazy. What was he going to do, knock on her door with a bouquet of flowers? This was some kind of errant brain wave or a whim of imagination. Drive on, he told himself. By this time tomorrow you’ll have forgotten all about her.Isaiah was meeting Dodson at the Coffee Cup, a neighborhood institution stuck between a dry cleaners and a Mexican market. He was nervous about it.
Isaiah was meeting Dodson at the Coffee Cup, a neighborhood institution stuck between a dry cleaners and a Mexican market. He was nervous about it. They were going to talk about partnering up, the conversation long overdue. Dodson had been busy with his new baby. He’d sold his half of the food truck to Deronda and was presumably living on the proceeds. He’d promised to bring in high-profile cases with serious paychecks and Isaiah could sorely use one. As usual, his client fees were dribbling in, along with the usual assortment of casseroles, cookies, needlepoint homilies, left-over Christmas presents, home repairs, and knitted woolen scarves so perfect for the California weather. The whole Erwin family had painted the house. Javier had installed a new water heater. Mr. Yamasaki had reroofed the garage. Things that needed doing but didn’t pay the bills.
“There’s my hero,” Verna said. She said that every time he came in, which was almost every day. Awhile back, he’d saved her from a robbery, and she wouldn’t let him forget it. Verna was a wizened sprig of a woman who must have been in her eighties. She wore a waitress’s uniform even though she owned the place and arrived before dawn to bake her fresh goodies. Danish, muffins, cinnamon rolls, and sourdough bread from a starter that was forty years old.
Her croissants were what Isaiah craved. Verna said her recipe only had two ingredients. Warm snowflakes and a tub of butter.
Isaiah was still embarrassed about the conversation with Grace. He was apparently less appealing than a four-legged creature that ate dog food, shed like a dying Christmas tree, couldn’t speak English, and crapped all over the yard. He was twenty-six years old and couldn’t carry on a conversation. Pitiful. Just pitiful. On the other hand, the nut he’d chosen to crack was as hard as the sidewalk and cold as a bag of frozen peas. Maybe pick someone easier next time, someone who already liked him. Maybe Winetta Simpson, a neighbor who was always inviting him over for coffee and a chat. He’d felt bad about turning her down all the time, so he’d gone over there once. She greeted him at the door with a bottle of Crown Royal, glittery purple eye shadow, and a negligee that looked like a lace tablecloth thrown over a buffalo.
Since the 14K Triad case, Isaiah had handled the usual assortment of neighborhood woes. Store thefts, break-ins, lost children, wife-beaters, bullies, and con men. The only halfway-interesting case involved a girl who’d been accused of hanging her boyfriend and making it look like a suicide. There wasn’t enough evidence for an arrest but the boyfriend’s family was sure she’d done it. Isaiah made some initial inquiries and discovered the boyfriend was a meth dealer who stalked his estranged wife, beat his twin girls, and had kiddie porn on his laptop. Isaiah decided the world was better off without him and turned down the case.
“What’s flamin’, son?” Dodson said. He strolled in like the landlord; an icy breeze with an attitude, condensed of stature but walking large. He’d gained a few pounds but was still thin and roped up; immaculate in a white T-shirt, jeans, and a modest gold chain. “So what’s up with you?”
“Nothing special. How’s Micah?”
Dodson made a face like he was remembering a car accident.
“Man, that baby is work. You know he can’t do nothin’ for hisself? Can’t even hold his oversize head up. You got to watch him all the damn time.”
“You didn’t know that going in?”
“Knowing and doing is two different things. You know Cherise makes me wash my hands every time I pick him up? I don’t keep my toothbrush that clean, and the kid is always spittin’ up and he farts like he’s full of propane. I couldn’t believe it the first time I changed his diaper. He don’t eat nothing but mother’s milk and his shit’s the same color as hot dog mustard and got birdseed in it.”
“Birdseed?” Isaiah said.
“It looks like birdseed,” Dodson replied, “and for some reason, we’re always hurrying and rushing around, why I couldn’t tell you. Damn baby ain’t no bigger than a pot roast and he ain’t goin’ nowhere. And everything’s a damn crisis. The boy gets a rash on his ass, and Cherise and her mama carry on like he had a tumor on his neck. I said, what are y’all worried about? Everybody gets a rash on they ass at one time or another. I got a rash on my ass right now.”
“How’d that go over?” Isaiah said.
“Like I farted at a funeral, and Cherise done lost her sense of humor altogether. Other night, I was changin’ the boy’s diaper, trying to keep it light, you know how I do. I said, ‘Cherise, check this out. The baby’s got a hard-on, and he takes after his daddy too!’ Girl didn’t crack a smile and her mama looked at me like I was Crip Walkin’ on her grave—and check dis. I got to use my inside voice. The fuck does that mean? I am inside. And pictures! Lord have mercy. It’s like we got to record every minute of that li’l nigga’s life. Might as well get a movie camera and set it on forever.”
“So you’re not enjoying this at all?”
“Sometimes,” Dodson said, thoughtful now. “But mostly when it’s just me and him. Like when he’s asleep and I’m carrying him on my shoulder. All that other stuff goes away.” Dodson went quiet a moment, like he was feeling the love and wonderment of having a child.
The moment was too heartfelt for Isaiah. He fiddled with his spoon. “So we’re partners.”
“I’m ready,” Dodson said, coming out of his reverie. “But we need to talk about some other things first. Are you on social media?”
“No,” Isaiah said, perishing at the thought. “Do you advertise?”
“Have you got a list of former clients?”
“Do you keep books?”
“Do people owe you money?”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” Dodson said. “How can you not know?”
“I don’t keep track. I figure people will pay me sooner or later.” Dodson looked at him like he’d flunked his GED. “If this is business, we got to run it like a business.”
Over the next couple of weeks, Dodson got a Facebook page up and running and had his nephew design a simple web page. Isaiah was shocked when he found out Dodson had named the partnership.
“IQ Investigations?” Isaiah said. “Where did that come from?” “The company needs a name. What are people supposed to tell each other? You need help, go to Isaiah’s house?”
It’s a company now? Isaiah thought. The word smacked of cubicles and secretaries and employee handbooks. At least Dodson hadn’t inserted his own name. That would have been too much.
“After we get going, get some size to us?” Dodson said. “I want my name on the door.” He made Isaiah write out a couple of lists. The first was his former clients, Dodson saying the best contacts were the ones you already knew. The second list was all the people who owed Isaiah money and how much.
“It’s a lot of people,” Isaiah protested.
“You got a memory like a tape recorder. Just write the shit down and quit whinin’ like a bitch.”He wished they’d talked about the partnership in more detail. How long would it last? A year? Five years? Was it ’til death do us part?
Isaiah almost snapped back but managed to restrain himself. He wished they’d talked about the partnership in more detail. How long would it last? A year? Five years? Was it ’til death do us part? There should have been a trial period, and what happened if you wanted out? Could you just cut the cord, no hard feelings? That didn’t seem likely.
Dodson got serious about collections. He called, wrote emails, badgered and harassed and made house calls on the recalcitrant. Tudor was a mortgage broker and a wealthy man. Isaiah had tracked down a young couple that had wrecked one of Tudor’s rentals, and Tudor had never paid a nickel for his services. Dodson went to his office.
“Pay him?” Tudor said, dusting imaginary lint off his shiny gray suit. “Why should I pay him? I hold the mortgage on his house. And that other one too, for that kid, Flaco.”
“And you think that entitles you to what? Not paying your bills? I’m not leaving this office ’til I have a check for the full amount.”
“Is that so? Well, you might need a sleeping bag and some groceries because you’ll be here a long time.”
“And you might need a security guard to guard your house at 674 Piru Drive,” Dodson replied. “Be a shame if somebody broke all those fancy windows, kicked down your door, and made off with your bling collection and that raccoon coat your wife wears in the summertime.”
“It happens to be mink,” Tudor said. “Are you threatening me, young man?”
Dodson went into his gangsta stance, chest to chest, his head tipped to one side, weight on his back foot, hands down but curled. “You’re goddamn right I’m threatening you. That’s our livelihood right there and if you take food out of my baby’s mouth I’ll flush your whole life down the toilet.” Dodson left with the check.
He started contacting former clients, introducing himself and explaining the new situation. “We’re here,” he’d tell them. “No need to stress yourself out. When life throws some bullshit curve ball at you, me and Isaiah will catch it for you and throw it right back.” Make it an opportunity like they did on the shopping networks. If you don’t have that dress that goes from work to date night with hubby? Ladies, do we have the answer for you.
Dodson presented Isaiah with an Excel spreadsheet. There was a list of client names, dates, payments, accounts receivable. This was exactly what Isaiah feared. Being controlled by the bottom line. But his fear took a backseat when he saw how much money Dodson had collected and how much was still owed.
“That’s incredible,” Isaiah said.
“It’s a damn shame is what it is. And these people over here said they already had deals with you.” Some handwritten notations were on the bottom of the page.
Orlando Suarez Clean carpet. Three rooms only
Billy Phan Build doghouse.
Adam Papadakis Reupholster sofa.
Louella Barnes Reindeer Christmas sweater
“Reindeer Christmas sweater?” Dodson said. “Maybe it’ll be nice,” Isaiah answered feebly.
“I saw it. Louella’s eyes are bad. The sweater will come down to your belly button and only got the antlers on it. I told her she should go buy you one at the store if she can get there without getting hit by a bus.” Dodson sipped his coffee, more sugar in it than a Snickers bar. “And from now on, no more sweaters, cupcakes, gardening, plumbing, or any other damn thing. Everybody pays real money. Are we agreed?”
Isaiah felt rushed. “Okay. But only what they can afford.”
He thought his decision would be final but Dodson said, “But most of ’em can’t afford diddly. How about this? We set a minimum. A hundred bucks.”
“Too much. If you’re making minimum wage that’s almost a whole day’s pay. That could be rent money or food money.”
“Or lottery ticket money or Miller High Life money. People are taking advantage of you, Isaiah. They don’t think before they call you, they just call you. What the hell were you doing looking for Winkie’s cat? It was under the house and she could have looked under there herself—and what about Cheesy Williams? You helped him with that insurance thing. Took you two whole days.”“And from now on, no more sweaters, cupcakes, gardening, plumbing, or any other damn thing. Everybody pays real money. Are we agreed?”
“What’s wrong with that?” Isaiah said.
“Nothing’s wrong with it, but he’s a garbage man. He makes union wages, seventeen dollars an hour, and what did he pay you with? His girlfriend came over to your house and washed the windows. He didn’t do nothin’ but watch.” Dodson had a point, Isaiah thought. “Look at it this way,” Dodson went on. “Your windows might be clean, but can you spend ’em? Let me be in charge of the finances. I know about money and you don’t.” Dodson was right, Isaiah thought, which was aggravating in itself.
“Okay,” he said. “You’re in charge of the money.”
“You promise?” Dodson said skeptically. “ I know you don’t like people fuckin’ with your business.”
“I promise,” Isaiah said, immediately wanting to take it back. “Okay, how about this? A fifty-dollar minimum and they can make payments. Spread it over a year and that’s four dollars and sixteen cents a month. Anybody can afford that.”
“I don’t know,” Isaiah said, trying to draw this out until he could think of an argument.
“Do you want to live by the skin of your teeth for the rest of your life? You got to get ahead, Isaiah, put some away. What if something comes up and you really need cash? You can’t get a second on a dog house. You need to be sensible.”
Isaiah could feel his scalp tingling, a sign of fear, oncoming disaster, loss of control, or all of the above. So what did he expect? Partners meant being reasonable, compromising, sharing control. This was starting to seem like a bad idea already. “Okay,” he said in a voice that was nearly a whisper.
“All right,” Dodson said. “We rollin’ for real.”
“What about those big cases you talked about?”
Dodson smiled, ever confident. “Don’t worry about it. I got some irons in the fire.”
Dodson was worried about it. Rich people had all kinds of resources at their disposal. Needing Isaiah’s services would be a rare thing. The Facebook page had received a grand total of a hundred and seventeen views, and all of them were people Isaiah already knew. Dodson posted articles touting Isaiah’s accomplishments, an announcement of their partnership, a mission statement, headshots of himself posing like Kat Williams, and the only personal photo Isaiah would let him use: standing twenty feet away in the shade of a lemon tree. He looked like he was hiding. But the thing that kept Dodson up nights and made him sweat was that he hadn’t told Cherise he’d sold his half of the food truck.
He could just hear her: Let me see if I understand, she’d say in her are-you-stupid voice. You used all of our savings and took out loans to buy the truck and then went ahead and sold it so you can play detective with Isaiah? Do you know Louella Barnes paid him with a reindeer sweater?
They got married at the United in God Baptist Church. Reverend Arnall performed the ceremony. Cherise’s family and friends were seated on one side of the chapel. A normal collection of black folks. Dodson’s people were on the other side: his mother and sister, his father not sober or interested enough to attend. Isaiah, Deronda, and Nona were there, as well as Dodson’s old friends; the kind of people you’d see on wanted posters in the post office; thugs, hoochies, gangstas, hustlers, and bruthas on parole for a variety of felonies. Their idea of dressing up was to wear whatever they wore yesterday, except for Cheesy’s girlfriend, Libertine. She was heavy and round and had on a silver halter top and matching shorts. Cherise said she looked like a ball of Jiffy Pop coming off the stove. At Cherise’s insistence, none of them were invited to the reception, but a few did bring gifts. A box of 9mm ammo, a cock ring, an old version of Grand Theft Auto, and a bong made out of a clarinet.
If Cherise found out about the truck he wouldn’t see her naked again until his nuts were like dried apricots. He was paying the bills with the checks he got from Deronda, which weren’t much, and Cherise was on maternity leave and getting half pay. He could feel his checkbook scraping the bottom of his bank account.
Dodson drove home from Isaiah’s, pissed he hadn’t stood firmer on the minimum. He was either in charge of the money or he wasn’t. He stopped at Beaumont’s to grab an overpriced grapefruit juice, a habit he’d developed in his drug-dealing days to get the crack taste out of his mouth. He was glad all that was behind him. The violence, the hustling, prison.
“How are you, Juanell?” Beaumont said as Dodson stepped up to the counter. “You still selling counterfeit Gucci bags out the trunk of your car?”
“I quit that a long time ago,” Dodson said. “What are you doing these days?”
“I partnered up with Isaiah.”
“Isaiah?” Beaumont said in disbelief. “You mean our Isaiah?”
“Yes, our Isaiah.”
“What are you, some kind of secretary?”
Dodson paid for the juice and left. As he came out of the store Deronda pulled up at the curb in a brand-new, bright red Miata. She was bobbing her head to Mos Def’s “The Edge.” She was dripping bling, her hair straightened, unflattering bangs on her forehead, her nails too long to be functional and so sparkly you could see them from Jupiter.
“Whassup, Dodson?” she said, sounding suspiciously cheerful. “How’s everything in your fucked-up world?”
“Fine. How’s everything in yours?” He wondered where she got the car but didn’t ask, assuming she’d smothered yet another baby daddy with that world-class badonk.
“Heard you and Isaiah might be getting together.”
“We’ve formed a partnership. We have compatible personalities and other attributes that complement each other. He appreciates my business acumen and instinct for opportunity and I’m happy to say we’ve far exceeded our financial goals and look forward to a successful future. Is that broke-down food truck doing any business?”
“It’s not truck anymore. It’s truckssss. I got three of ’em now.” “What three?” he said.
“Do you know Tudor, the mortgage broker?” Deronda said. “That’s a smart man, right there. He saw my potential, my charisma, my star quality. He got the bank to give me a fat-ass loan.” Deronda looked at her nails and blew on them. “Yeah, I’m an LLC now and a CEO on top of that. Oh and by the way? It ain’t D&D’s Fried Chicken no more. It’s just plain D, and I’m makin’ money, son.” She looked in the mirror and patted her hair. “I really do appreciate you sellin’ me your half of the food truck for a muthafuckin’ song. Definitely shows your business acumen and instinct for opportunity.”
Dodson was silent a moment. He hadn’t been this tongue-tied since his early days with Cherise.
“What was that?” Deronda said, cupping her hand around her ear. “I can’t hear you? Are you okay? Because you look like you choking to death on your jealousy.”
“Nobody’s choking,” Dodson said, struggling to maintain his cool. “And I’m happy for you. An uneducated stripper from your poverty-stricken background deserves a second chance.”
“Y’all still gettin’ paid with blueberry muffins?”
“No, we have new regulations about fees.”
“I hope they keep you out the poorhouse.” She revved the engine. “Y’all take it easy now. I wish you success exceedin’ your financial goals.” She gave him a wide-eyed laugh, did a few fuck-you head bobs, and sped off to the beat. Dodson felt humiliation ooze over him, hot and slimy. He’d never live this down. Never.
When he got home, Cherise was in her sweatpants and a long T-shirt that said mama bear. There was another one that said papa bear but he’d accidentally thrown it in a dumpster. Cherise was walking in little circles with the baby in her arms, cooing and patting him on the back. She was still on the heavy side but at least you could see where her waist used to be. She hadn’t put on lingerie since Before Christ. All she wore now were big, white, senior citizen panties and the same bra the Russian women wore at the Olympics.
“We’re out of Pampers, Juanell,” she said, not even looking at him.
“How we can we be out of Pampers again?” Dodson said, wondering what happened to Hello, sweetheart and a kiss. “That baby shits like a grown man.”
“Didn’t I tell you about that kind of language? I don’t want to hear it around the baby.”
“Since when does he speak English? If that’s the case, we don’t need that baby monitor. He can just holla at us.” Dodson kissed her and kissed the baby. “Whassup, Micah? How’s my big-head boy? Damn, are you giving him hormone shots? He’s bigger than when I saw him this morning.”
“He’s perfect,” Cherise said with that dreamy-eyed smile she’d had since she left the hospital.
“Say, Cherise. You got an ETA on when we gonna be hittin’ it again? It’s been a whole month.”
“And it might be another month,” she snapped. “I just had a baby, okay? An eight-pound baby.”
“That’s why I thought you’d be all loose and juicy.” Dodson wished the words were a boomerang that would turn around and come back. Cherise gave him a look that sliced off the top of his head.
Cherise’s mother, Gloria, came out of the kitchen. “Did you see Micah’s diaper rash? I don’t think that ointment’s doing anything. You should switch to that organic brand, Motherlove, I’ve heard good things about it.” She looked at Dodson, scowled and said, “Oh, it’s you.”
“Yes, it’s me. Who’d you expect? Your ex-husband who went all the way back to North Carolina just to get away from you?”
“Josiah was a bum just like you. I’m surprised you two aren’t related.”Hello there, Mr. Dodson! You and I have yet to meet so I will, without further ado, get to the point. I have recently come across some information that I’m quite sure might be of great interest to you.
Gloria was an ossified, dead-certain old woman who wore dark print dresses, glasses with rhinestones embedded in the frames, and nurse’s shoes. She was one of those people who was right about everything and knew the proper way, the only way, to do everything from making a pie crust and removing stains to child-rearing and dealing with the white man. She brushed past Dodson like he was a dead branch on an azalea bush and slipped a towel between Cherise’s shoulder and the baby. Gloria tossed her head. “How something as beautiful as this child could have a father like you, God only knows. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times, Cherise should have married Earl Cleveland. That man is a plastic surgeon now.”
“He needs to be,” Dodson said. “His whole damn family is ugly.” “Juanell,” Cherise said, glaring at him. “Go get the Pampers.” Dodson turned and headed for the door.
“And some Motherlove too,” Gloria said. “I think they have it at Whole Foods.”
Dodson stopped. Whole Foods was way over near the harbor. It would take him forty-five minutes to get there in the traffic and forty-five minutes to get home again. He started to protest but he could feel the women’s eyes daring him to turn around, and he knew if he did those eyes would become sledgehammers and beat him into the ground like a fence post. “See you in a while,” he said.
He was walking around Whole Foods looking for Motherlove. He couldn’t believe all the shit they sold in here. Amazing Green Grass Superfood, Deer Velvet Extract, Neptune Krill Oil, Organic Certified Noni Juice, Cranberry Proanthocyanidins, and more Omegas than there were cars on the 710 freeway. Did white folks really need all this shit to stay alive? No wonder people of color were taking over. All they needed was a bowl of kimchee and a fried baloney sandwich and they were good to go. He bought the Motherlove and went out to his car. There was a note on the windshield. He read it and dropped the Motherlove, an icy daddy long legs skittering up and down his spine. “Lord have mercy.”
Hello there, Mr. Dodson! You and I have yet to meet so I will, without further ado, get to the point. I have recently come across some information that I’m quite sure might be of great interest to you. I have been informed by a source (unimpeachable) that you and your friends, Isaiah Quintabe and Deronda Simmons, are the individuals who, some years ago, relieved Junior (a drug dealer) of a large amount of money, and in doing so, caused him and a companion serious bodily harm. It would be in your best interest (and health) to meet me tomorrow at exactly 9 am Pacific Standard Time at 775 Atlantic Blvd, Long Beach, California 90803. Don’t be late. Warmest Regards. C Babbitt, Esq.
When Dodson was seventeen, he lived in an apartment with Isaiah. Deronda was his girlfriend, and at the time, they were broke. They either had to come up with some cash or move out and be on the street. At Deronda’s urging, Dodson robbed a drug dealer named Junior, and in the process, things went very wrong. Junior and his bodyguard, Booze Lewis, were about to execute him when Isaiah came to the rescue. He shot and severely wounded both men. Michael Stokely was in charge of Junior’s security and the scariest muthafucka in the hood. He was humiliated. Junior, Booze, and Stokely were back on the street now, dangerous as ever. Dodson thought about showing the note to Isaiah but changed his mind. It would put that whole painful mess in the spotlight again and he’d endured enough humiliation with Deronda. He picked the Mother- love off the ground. No, he decided. He’d dig his way out of this all by himself.