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A Novel By Milton McGriff
© 2007 Milton McGriff. All Rights Reserved.
Mister Jake knew he’d be hearing about this one for a while. you watch. He started setting up a new game to keep proof of his humiliation from remaining in evidence.PROLOGUE or what?” Mister Jake stared at the board. “Even you.” Varnell said. How in the world did he let that happen? He never got triple jumped. and then turned it back. and in Sam Butler Center. everybody gets lucky every now and then. and a bad one at that. talking trash and playing checkers. “You got some nerve talking trash after I’ve put a whupping on you. could remember when The Checkers Gang hadn’t been seated by the front window on weekends. who didn’t preface “Jake” with “Mister. No one employed at the Sam Butler Center. “Big Larry won’t win another game ’til next year. well. In the kufi. They called themselves The Checkers Gang.” “Don’t y’all make Jake mad. Then he turned them over and shook his fingers. “He really did a job on you.” Not that Mister Jake cared. “Yeah. looking very pleased with himself. where they held court. Big Larry just rubbed his palms together rapidly for a few seconds and then held them palms up like a surgeon preparing to operate. He wore his white hair and walrus sideburns like a warrior’s helmet.” Big Larry snorted. That’s the last time you triple jump me.” Mister Jake said.” The other two men were tickled. He cursed under his breath. or any of the young people who played there. Mister Jake turned his ever-present kufi skullcap around for a moment on his silver white Afro. as he always did after a loss. his wizened face resembled that of a dark-skinned Elijah Muhammad. Mister Jake. U nh!” Whap! “Unh!” Whap! “Unh!” Whap! “Now! What you got to say about that?” Big Larry sat back. It had been that way so long he didn’t really notice. he was the only person in the entire Dock Street neighborhood. “I think you’re slipping. “Did you just take a butt whipping 1 .” Two years Jacobin Robinson’s junior. dismayed. At least until he could put a real hurting back on Big Larry. Mister Jake and Big Larry ran through their rituals in preparation for the rubber match.” Mister Otis said.
“Man. I’d tell people. I know you didn’t think they was going to jail. I heard. black. Mister Jake always gave the same answer.” Mister Otis said. It’s You. Varnell stood up and started doing the slow drag with an imaginary partner. a new coda: “And President Hugh Bruder is white the last time I looked. regardless. Baby. they had no reason to shoot that girl.” “I thought these cops might go to jail. smiling. Betty could kiss like nobody’s business.” He paused. At other times they let the television set drone in the background. What you expect? They white cops and she’s a Negro. “Aw. Cooler heads in the pickup game separated them. large hazel eyes closed. what difference do it make? White folks ain’t gonna treat you right. Sometimes.” Mister Jake said. “They play like they playing for money. It had been out a few years by then. The older men looked up as a hard foul by one teenager nearly sparked a fistfight with another boy. missing only a dozen weekends or so in all that time.” Mister Otis said before turning his attention back to the checkers game. “Negro. just let me burn!’ And Lord.” Mister Otis said. the Spaniels doo-wopped. “ It’s your move. African-Americans.” “Things have been for real crazy since this fool Bruder got in the White House.2236 The front window overlooked the center’s basketball court on an uneven asphalt surface. Betty would rub it up against me and I thought heaven was right there. on the oldies station blaring from the portable radio at Otis’ side.” “Yeah. “I wasn’t no more than thirteen. As Mister Jake regrouped for battle with Big Larry. The Checkers Gang played on the painted surface of a scarred white Formica table with one leg shorter than the other three. 2 . it was both. like today. sit down. “I mean. A wad of napkins more or less evened the short leg. The ones that killed that young girl. “You know.” Mister Otis said. the cops shoot a lot of women out there in Los Angeles. The table had been there ever since they had. but all the older kids still played it. colored. They usually listened to an oldies station that played what they referred to as “Moldy Oldies” from the Fifties.” Then. fool. Man. He looked through his coke bottle glasses at Big Larry.” he said. pulling at the silver puff of hair directly below his lower lip. “I guess y’all heard they let them cops off out in Los Angeles. don’t you think?” “Why do you still say Negro?” Varnell asked for the umpteenth time since they had started playing checkers twenty-four years earlier. My brother had a copy and I’d take it to our blue light basement parties. this girl named Betty used to give me fever when we danced on this song. “He’s worse for black folks than Reagan and the two Bushes put together. Afro-Americans. ‘Don’t throw water on me.” He twirled his imaginary Betty.
. They come back with the cops. shaking his head as if he’d been there. you my next victim. He gets there and fakes his voice again. knocking on the door and trying to sound like us again. Anyway. “A white cop who did a whole bunch of funny shit.” He paused. young woman named Delores Olds. “Now. tried to set her up or something. eight 3 .” Mister Otis moved to the table. Mister Otis continued with his story.A. “The other one. A housewife. I think she was about thirtyfive or forty. That television rots your brain. Otis.” Mister Otis continued.” he said.” Big Larry said as he moved a checker. yelling that the cops are after him. “Now. “C’mon. This young lady. “Boy. and that. and it’s about one in the morning and he fakes a call to his station. I ain’t no Big Larry.” “Yeah! Yeah! They did have something on about that. He was well read and the preeminent researcher among them.” He moved and realized his mistake as soon as he took his hand away. “Yeah. “I didn’t see anything on television about them shooting black women.” Mister Jake said. Mister Jake made a double jump.” He held up a forefinger at Mister Jake. before all these recent killings. . “Killing black folks isn’t news no more. The sister got behind in her gas bill and cussed out the people come to turn her gas off. Delores Olds was her name. “I got something for your ass. . . that’s what you better do. “Jake. knowing they’d send him to investigate. one happened a while back. “After the mess was over.” Otis went on. this was a little overweight lady who was unarmed after she threw the knife. “White folks ain’t gonna treat you right. “I’ll take that. where you learn to play checkers?” He looked at the other two men. . “It wasn’t L. it came out that he was the only deputy on duty in her area that night. and that!” Mister Jake said with his cigarette-stained grin.” Mister Jake said.” “You are lying. and tries to sound like one of us.. She had a kitchen knife in her hand.” Big Larry said. they could have arrested her. and he emptied his gun on her.A. .” he said. he claimed he thought she was selling drugs and he wanted to make the bust. moving a piece. saying there’s a disturbance going on. Cop didn’t kill her but he killed her baby.” “Just set them up and play. they didn’t have to kill her.” “You better keep your mind on the game.Milton McGriff She’s the third one I know of in the last four or five years. but it was somewhere near L.” Mister Otis said.” he said to Big Larry. just happened last year. “You need to read more. and that. and the knife didn’t even come close to the murdering bastard who shot her. regardless. I mean. let me finish this before we start the game. She got upset and threw it toward the cop. “Name was Eunice Valentine.
The trio beat him to within an inch of his life. That motherfucker blasted her in the stomach as soon as she opened the door. came on the radio.” Walker said. David and his father. Mister Jake had been a supporter of the Covenant since a summer night in 1973. they paused when the voice of Minister David Walker. told the police in quiet tones the Swords had no intention of leaving unless and until their comrade received medical attention. took ninety-two well-dressed members of the Covenant’s paramilitary arm. the Covenant’s founder. to the precinct. Four Swords rode in the ambulance with their injured comrade. but I think that’s because he was such an embarrassment after he had to admit how he got there. didn’t he?” Big Larry asked. During the second game. Lined up in military formation. were local celebrities. Mister Jake posed the question several times a year.” Mister Otis lost his first game and won the second. a Covenant member stoked the fury of three police officers by refusing to stop selling the organization’s newspaper. Covenant of the New Commandment?” It was Mister Jake. thinking she’ll scare them off. and then arrested him for assault on a police officer. the Scabbard. Opinions had both changed and remained the same over the years. a leader in the Covenant of the New Commandment. So she goes to the door with an unloaded rifle in her hand. Walker was holding a news conference in Los Angeles. Shot her baby in the head. Around dusk that steamy August night. and we will settle for nothing less than the full weight of the law finding Deputy Milford Sales guilty of second degree murder as charged. the Swords of the Master. Hundreds of nearby residents. then a young Turk of twenty-eight. Sales was free on $2.500 bail because he was not considered a flight risk. after being ordered to do so. headquartered in their city since being founded there more than forty years ago. their bearing and discipline startled the policemen. they stood at parade rest when Minister Johnnie ordered them to do so. Minister Johnnie. Asking the question was another routine for the Checkers Gang. told that some angry Negroes were lined up outside the police station.” The newscaster said the trial was expected to last at least two weeks. once he was 4 . The Covenant.” “But he did get arrested. Minister Johnnie “Black Label” Walker. I was surprised that he got charged. came into the streets to watch in disbelief. had just come home with a girlfriend and she don’t know who the hell’s knocking on her door sounding stupid. Its leaders. was a local institution. Johnnie “Black Label” Walker. depending on what was going on. I don’t think he’s had a trial yet though. Although unarmed. “What do you think of these folks. “I have to tell you. “It was a heinous crime. “We are here to monitor the trial of this murdering deputy who killed Delores Olds’ unborn child and seriously wounded her. They had thrown their battered and bleeding colleague into a cell to languish.2236 or nine months pregnant. “Yeah.” Mister Otis said.
Attendance. but they never do nothing. Allah. but they talk tough more than they act.” “That’s all right. though.Milton McGriff under medical care. “They all right. And whatever you think. They do say what needs to be said. they just didn’t smoke or drink alcohol. that’s for sure. Jake. Black Label don’t bite his tongue.” Mister Jake said. clean up. “And I got you. and membership.” Mister Jake said. “That’s where their name comes from. loving God and loving each other. Eventually though.” 5 . rising from the table. “I’m with you.” He ambled off to the bathroom. Even though he didn’t join.” Mister Otis said. Yahweh. Marcus Garvey. or something like that. spiked at the Covenant meetinghouse. he came close to joining the Covenant that year. “God. it’s all the same.” Varnell said as he took Mister Jake’s seat. but he knew the “cleaning up” meant his pack of Viceroy cigarettes and weekly pint of Vat 69 or Cutty Sark would have to go. Mister Otis. He wasn’t really big on their “wake up. Within minutes. they say Yahweh. stand up” pronouncement either.” “Not God. Even though Jacobin Robinson wasn’t a religious man. We sure need more of us doing that. They didn’t talk about it being a sin or anything. “They all right. Unh! And unh!” He jumped Mister Jake’s last two pieces. unless you think the NAACP or the Urban League are saying what needs to be said. Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X were the only black men Mister Jake admired as much or more than Minister Johnnie “Black Label” Walker. Some people (and a dismayed nearly all-white police force) hadn’t even known an organization that big existed in their neighborhood that was so well organized. “You on a losing streak. He attended their weekly community meetings for over a year. Jehovah. all the talk about Yahweh and Yahshua wore him out. the squad of Swords at the precinct disappeared. the Swords called Minister Johnnie Walker. they all we got. He called after Mister Jake.” “They stand up for their own. Mister Otis always said the same thing. Black barbershops and beauty parlors buzzed about it for weeks. I need a break anyway. One brother did tell him that poisons kept the temple of his body from functioning at capacity. The waking up and standing up he liked.
Prudence. That to secure these rights. a long train of abuses .One We hold these truths to be self-evident. it is their right. . that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights. . and to institute new Government. . --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends. But when . indeed. and accordingly all experience hath shewn. while evils are sufferable. as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism. that among these are Life. that all men are created equal. and to provide new Guards for their future security. to throw off such Government. . laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form. . deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . that mankind are more disposed to suffer. . it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it. . it is their duty. than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. Governments are instituted among Men. and usurpations. will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.
. slipping in and out of slumber. why were they shooting? All the people shooting wore police uniforms and they were smiling…the people being shot looked like Jhanae. . One of a kind curves. Time flies when you’re having fun. She moved like Jhanae. The City Hall beat in Inglewood and Hawthorne. but he liked coming home better. . He stared out the window at what he could see of an enormous cumulus floating beside the plane. tried to focus the bleariness from his eyes. It was definitely her … for one thing. too. The pinging seat belt sign punctuated her message. Whoopee. we will begin. What was that about? He liked California. How did he know it was Jhanae if she had no face? How did he know she was smiling if she had no face? He just knew. two suburban towns. When Romeo had offered full time work with the Scabbard. The flight attendant’s singsong voice nudged him toward wakefulness. had her Hershey chocolate coloring. tall with long lean legs that stopped short of being skinny. He stretched. the pilot has requested that you please return your seat to the upright position and fasten your seat belts. pushing his arms above his head and to the side. it was a chance to move back and he accepted immediately. Working for the Bugle. had been bearable and almost fulfilling. The five years since the breakup and divorce felt like five months on days like this. . a black weekly. he called it. Full bosomed with sista girl hips. watching her become many people. With no face. In a few moments. A smiling Jhanae —at least she looked like Jhanae — stood on the far bank. Even with no face. His seat belt had remained fastened during the impromptu nap. He’d been dreaming about Miss Ex-wife. and thinking about his ex-wife. along with occasional drama and entertainment reporting. A. . The river gently rippled and flowed between them. men as well as women…and people were shooting. ..ONE ndy dozed. she was wearing Jhanae’s wedding dress … he sat at his computer watching her. leaving the pain of Debora behind in L. “. Flight Lite reading. Andy pressed his armchair button and straightened his seat. . But 9 A . He closed the half-read airline magazine on his lap. replaced it in the net basket behind the seat in front of him. Now here he was. She had Jhanae’s height. even the men…they were smiling.” Andy blinked. and gentlemen. kept him busy. . she looked like Jhanae. Airline magazines took bland journalism to a whole new level. curved the way Jhanae curved.
He slipped his feet into his worn no-name white sneakers and tied the laces. he was a virtual encyclopedia of Negro Baseball League history. little brother. I have to get to the gate. As an all-city high school second baseman.” George said. “I really thought you were working.” He turned his cell phone off and hurried to the line for his flight.” “Bring me and Marian some cheese steaks and I might forgive you. and you’ll find out when you get here. I called Rome. Coach Bernardino was a deep dude. “Come on through when you get here. Stop giving me shit. See you tonight. Feelings about returning to his 10 . one should not take big risks.2236 being senior correspondent for an advocacy paper whose organization was already in his life seemed as good as it got. The plane began its descent toward the airport. too. they still analyzed the possibilities of meaning in “playing line drives safe. “Yeah. meant they should not give up easily on anything they tried to accomplish.” The voice on loudspeaker called his flight again. The charcoal gray running suit and T-shirt felt good.” George said. “It’s a deal. when they still thought they were cousins and didn’t know they shared a common mother. He wondered what baby brother’s surprise was. feigning sternness.” Andy’s most recent philosophizing thought it meant that in sudden. The baseball metaphor valediction was an old one for them.” “I was all ready to come get you.” George had given him a dose of mock attitude when he told him Romeo was picking him up. unexpected happenings. It would be good being back with George and Romeo. I’d smack you upside the head when you did get here.” was all George would say. Both he and George figured out quickly that “playing all fly balls to the wall.” As always when flying.” George said. George was an absolute baseball fanatic at the time.” Andy said. “Play all fly balls to the wall. “Romeo lives closer to Uncle Sherman’s place anyway.” which he got from the coach.” “Yes. When I lucked into Uncle Sherman being away for the next couple of weeks and letting me crash there. George. dating back to adolescence. “Come on through. maybe. Andy’s mind returned to the jumble of feelings he had fallen asleep to escape. “If Romeo wasn’t like family. Andy laughed. George. far less analytical than he. Andy was glad to have opted for comfort over styling and profiling. More than twenty years later. he’d been close to the team’s coach. “And line drives safe. the next best thing to traveling in pajamas.” his half brother said. “I’ll call you when I get in. “You still don’t weigh enough to be hitting me upside the head. would only say. sir.” Andy said. He was not only current on major league baseball.
He retrieved his carry-on bag and laptop computer from the overhead compartment. their reminisces about the good parts of their college days. feelings about his feelings. raw memories of L. it took no time to disembark.A.. “Whassup?” he hollered. he caught a bargain flight. Romeo Butler stood near the inert baggage carousels. interrupting his mawkish reverie. Andy stretched again. feelings about L. On a warm weekend in May. Understanding they came first for Debora didn’t make it hurt less when both of them realized it wasn’t going to work out. “Whassup?” Andy hollered back. She surprised him with a visit on Valentine’s Day weekend. The plane bumped down. a city he liked. Designed by both of them to tease the other. And sitting alone. Andy visited for the Christmas holidays. the brimmed porkpie-styled hat. surprised smile. He knew he needed to get back in the gym. They started with a long phone call. One day he’d been eating a quick sandwich. He looked up and there was fine Debora Benson. he said he’d always wanted to live in California anyway.A. they reminded him at every turn that he wasn’t their daddy. cocked just so. he stayed five days. Later. A big hug had followed a big. or something. She said she was in town from Los Angeles attending a seminar and visiting relatives. feelings about the specific raw memory named Debora. feelings about working for the Covenant full-time. Shit. feelings about his new. or start jogging again. Debora actually lived in Santa Monica. the invitational softness in her dark eyes. sold his furniture. between kisses on the beach. progressed to a candlelight dinner. he packed his clothes and books.. styling as only Debora could style. minding his own business. no less. his college love. enhanced by the tiny birthmark above her upper lip. The two men grinned and embraced.Milton McGriff hometown. in a pricey high rise not far from Third Street Promenade. there was no thought of returning home to live. One morning. Two years ago. Because the plane was half empty. After interviewing and getting a job with the Bugle. What was it folks said about life being what happened while you made other plans? Moving to the West Coast had surprised him as much as his move back. grinning. feelings about Jhanae. their rummaging through memories succeeded in a big way. Because he had vacation time. and moved in with Debora that fall. and transformed it all into four semi-magical weeks while she completed the executive training seminar. they drove up the Pacific Coast Highway and had breakfast at a funky little restaurant in Santa Barbara that served huge portions. But from his first day there as a resident. They treated her two children to a day at Disneyland. felt the tension in his thirty-nine-year old body. Her two pre-pubescent daughters warmed to him on the Christmas visit and again on the springtime one. having lunch four tables away. 11 . tried another lunch. A year of less magical communicating and miscommunication followed. The tentative smile.
the concoction hadn’t tasted all that bad to him. and one big half gallon of Gypsy Rose. the wines were barely bearable. Speaking of uncles. First. Then one of their partners. “After you get over your jet lag. His rimless eyeglasses masked the length of his eyelashes.” “If he’s got a two-bedroom. when they were about sixteen. going on twenty-two. “Damn. “I’m glad to be back. For reasons he could never explain. But then. She’ll be glad to see ‘Uncle’ Andy.2236 “Hey.” and finally to “Any. “I want a room for an office. Once. Except Andy. She’s almost twelve.” Romeo said “A new member of the Swords owns a building with some furnished one-bedrooms. I’ve got a lot of books being shipped from L. that was like a mantra from Minister Johnnie for all members of the Covenant. Now. As a boy. Andy. man. how you doing?” Seeing his old friend.A. His homeboy seemed to be taking care of himself. but especially this brother who was like a blood brother. Andy knew he was really glad to be back. Romeo. “this nigga will drink anything. Any. red and green stylized oval with two crossed swords below it.” which gave way to “Anything. he became “Anything Andy.” He slapped his homeboy on the shoulder. and a few other brothers had pooled their money and bought three seriously cheap bottles of wine through an older intermediary. On his lapel he wore a black. another of Thunderbird. blue and pale yellow patterned silk tie. nevertheless had a degree of prettiness.” His buddies had whooped and hollered. He wore a chocolate brown pin-striped suit. Rome. do you remember where my Uncle 12 . Separately. the minister said. she thinks.” It was good hearing it from Romeo. his bearded chin. It was always good to see anybody from back on the block.” Andy chuckled. He’d almost choked laughing himself. I’ll probably want that. we’ll start trying to find you a place. spewing the cheap wine in every direction. As always. No one could take more than a swallow. He hadn’t heard his childhood nickname since the last time he’d seen Romeo. his good looks had gotten him into more than one fight. a light blue dress shirt with a brown. Andy had chug-a-lugged several large gulps as his buddies looked on in disgust and wonder. Barry.” Andy said. he was sartorially immaculate. Take care of your body and treat it like a temple. As a boy. They were cheaper than cheap: a bottle of Tokay. Romeo’s long eyelashes and smooth brown skin. The result resembled a putrid chemical dreamed up by a mad scientist. although not feminine. How’s Fredericka?” “Growing like a weed. came up with the bright idea of mixing them. Glad to see you back. and life’s lessons had erased most of the youthful soft features away.” Barry said. Expensive midnight brown suede tasseled shoes set the combination off. his closecropped hair edging toward salt-and-pepper. “I’m great. Only his boys from his old ‘hood ever used it.
“He went out to monitor the opening of the trial of that deputy who shot the pregnant sister.” In the throes of an epileptic seizure in her car. you haven’t been gone that long.” “Why don’t you crash at my place tonight? Malikah and Fredericka would love to see you.” “Yeah. I was just messing with you. “I’m sorry.” “No. Oh. I wanted to stop at the courthouse yesterday but I just ran out of time.” Romeo said as they started out of the airport. He was really impressed.” Andy’s smile had no humor in it. We’re both carrying baggage from school. I’ll take you over to your uncle’s place in the morning. Romeo looked at his friend as they walked. “Yeah. He wants us to stop by. Said you’ve grown into a strong reporter. “You have to fly in from Los Angeles to take your brother some cheese steaks? What’s up with that?” “It’s a joke thing. How long is he away?” “Two weeks.Milton McGriff Sherman lives?” Romeo smiled. about you picking me up instead of him.” Romeo laughed. if I don’t have a place. Debora sure fed you well while you were out there. they just didn’t have to even mention women is all that is.” The carousel lurched and began to spin. and he said to bring them some cheese steaks. but getting to that probably needed more patience than either of us had. “Although you look like you don’t need to be eating cheese steaks.” “Black men and women have no rights they are bound to respect. “Bro. They played bi-coastal catch up during the drive through the city. Andy placed his bags in the trunk and back seat of Romeo’s Honda Accord. “And the sidebar summary on wrongful shootings going unpunished. After retrieving his two suitcases. “Back in 1857 when they wrote that.” he said.” Romeo tapped his friend on the stomach. “I wish it could be different. I want it different. we crisscrossed. That was a big move on your part. Tanya Morris had managed 13 . the piece you wrote on the Tanya Morris shooting was first rate. And that wasn’t all of it. Although he said I can hang there a while. if you ask me. his face suddenly cold with memory. So is Minister Johnnie. she did do that. Wonder what this shooting of sisters is all about? She’s the second one out there this year. you know? Her girls might have eventually accepted me. “Did you see Minister David?” Romeo asked.” Romeo said. Too bad you two weren’t able to make it. but it is what it is. I said I would. You okay with it?” Am I okay with it? Andy cocked his head as they approached the baggage carousel. I’m really glad you’ll be working here with us full time. I’m tired and I’m hungry. Hey man.” “Sound like a plan to me. we can do that. I called George while I was at LAX. they made their way to the parking lot. I guess.
In their analysis.” “That’s another thing. Teacher and soon-to-be Teacher Emeritus. you know?” “Rome. He’s said he’s turning the leadership over to David. I believe the Swords commandant will get the chief 14 . Andy glanced over at him. was the youngest old man Andy knew. Three deputies responded.” “You didn’t even have to say that much. “Andy. and almost the entire national Covenant membership. Minister Johnnie just placed me in a new job. I thought it was just me feeling that way. I mean. “I hate to say this. You supervise the Scabbard.” Andy said. the deputies had good reason to believe their lives were in jeopardy. “Maybe David has to grow into it. now in his mid-sixties.” Andy said. He sensed that Romeo was taking his time with a response. I’d almost say he lacks confidence in David. I think he doubts his ability to lead the Covenant. “He talks the talk. One spotted the pistol and shouted “Gun!” The other two fired three times from behind. killing the young woman instantly. She took a pistol from her purse and placed it in her lap. and I wouldn’t to anyone but you.” Andy said. and I’m rank and file who doesn’t need to know a lot of stuff.2236 to pull off the road and lock her car doors. “I understand it’s like that sometime. From what I read. does he?” When Romeo didn’t say anything. City authorities ruled her death justifiable homicide. was his successor. I thought he was retiring. it’s hard to fill Minister Johnnie’s shoes. you’re chief of staff. Not that Howard is a bastion of militancy. you are my best friend. assumed that David Walker had been groomed from childhood to succeed his father. where Minister Johnnie has such a legacy and connections. but so many Saturdays I hear David saying all the right things but it feels mechanical. currently called the Teacher-Designate. but it’s not like David is ultra-spiritual either. the Minister seems busier than ever. He. and partly something else that’s been hard for me to pin down. Minister Johnnie Walker.” Romeo fell quiet again. He doesn’t know how to retire. which is not something I would say to anyone but you either. practically family. “It’s partly that. I appreciate it. I’m Minister Johnnie’s special assistant. Basically. too. He spoke after they were in traffic and moving along the freeway. David. he said. An uncle had called the sheriff ’s station.” They both laughed.” “Yeah. “Thanks. Andy smiled at the compliment from the Covenant’s founder. I’m no longer chief of staff. but it’s just not deep down in him. “If I didn’t know better. ” That puzzled Andy. There’s more to why I feel this and I can’t discuss it now. but…” He fell silent again. “David’s not as political as his father is. It has nothing to do with trust. and then used her cell phone to summon help from relatives. Finally. It’s like being chief of staff with more work. His son. a lot of Covenant people realized that when he wanted to go to Penn State instead of Howard. I will when I can.
” He paused. Wardell has worked his way into the leadership of Swords of the Master. “I thought you were over it. He’s part of David’s security detail. “And I am over it.” It had been five years. If some man told her to come back. actually. I think she’s back because of him. So now she’s back.” “You okay with that?” “Oh.” Romeo said. Her submissiveness had been interesting and ego satisfying on one level. I didn’t join to please her. boring on another. but couldn’t prove. which is a story in itself.” Romeo turned off at the Liberty Heights exit near his home. “She was just plain ‘Janet’ then. I guess. He turned into a mini-mall and parked in front of a steak and pizza shop doing vigorous business. He’d joined the Covenant because she was there. I mean. It’s better I don’t know. no need trying to front and pretend I don’t want to know. “I thought I was over it. He tried to ignore the residue of jealousy still lingering over his ex-wife.” Romeo continued. where all leadership has security with them virtually all the time. he thought. Now David wants to start something new. possibly to please somebody. Rome. he thought to himself. man. “Let’s eat our sandwiches here and you can give me the gory details. too.” Andy said. he thought.Milton McGriff of staff job. and that they’ll promote somebody.” He smiled without mirth. “Jhanae has started back in the Covenant. that she left to create distance between them. deliberately changing the subject. but I did come because of her interest. I would lay my life down for that man. There was a line at the takeout counter and several people waiting for seats. and I came to see what the Covenant was about because it was part of her life. He wants Wardell with me and I’m 15 . He saved my life. and still he felt heaviness in his stomach at the news.” Andy said after a while. “I’ll just give you the short version for now and explain the details later okay?” Romeo said. to replace him. I’m just reflecting. I’ll be working with him some. he had been in another relationship. They’re engaged.” “I hear you.” Romeo said after they had ordered their sandwiches and a pitcher of homemade-style iced tea. I love working with Minister Johnnie. “I am starved. but stayed because of himself. “She’s seeing a brother named Wardell Keyes. Andy wondered how deep the political intrigue went. “There’s not that much more to tell. Plus. maybe Glenn Greene. “How’s Jhanae?” Andy asked. hell yes. I wasn’t all that religious. He felt. but she’s back. “Not like when you two were together.” That would be Jhanae. It’s just funny. she’d be listening to him instead of herself. even you couldn’t get me but so interested. If David has his way.
” Romeo said. We’ve found nothing at all to make us think that. A tall man. he doesn’t. which would be good in the Swords of the Master. she’d still be alive. and could do as much as ten years if he’s convicted. And you know the brothers in the joint will have something for his ass when he gets there!” “They will literally have something for his ass. “I think it’s what it’s always been historically. Those deputies would have taken that extra moment. and not much regard for our lives. They knew she was sick. and would have seen she was sick. “Does Minister Johnnie believe there’s any connection between the shootings?” Romeo emptied his glass of iced tea. They both chuckled at the sordid image. Tanya Morris. this man makes both Bushes look like flaming liberals.” Andy said. The suburb where Olds lives is in a county that’s overwhelmingly white. other than the climate in the country since Hugh Bruder became president. And Minister Johnnie and Minister David both want us to look into these shootings of unarmed black folks with as much depth as we have resources for. I don’t. “No. “But the downside is there’s an all white jury. “This messed up system may actually work every now and then. They would have fired only if she had pointed it at one of them. Sales is about to go on trial for murder two. To my surprise. I felt that way when he first showed up about four years ago. “Now take the story you covered last year. There’s all the regular daily stuff. “As senior reporter on our modest staff. but I don’t like the man. her uncle’s call said so.” The waiter arrived with their food.” Romeo said. More like an unspoken license to kill. Witnesses say Tanya never pointed the gun. So maybe we shouldn’t celebrate just yet. as if he’d just thought of something clever. It’s not very spiritual of me. the one on Delores Olds. “As soon as he brings the cheese steaks for George 16 . Not only was he famished. He vaguely remembered Wardell Keyes. I think it’s much simpler than a connection or a conspiracy. “Contempt for black people.” Romeo said.2236 resisting. who looked as if he worked out a lot and had something of a military bearing. Romeo decided to change the subject.” Andy sipped his drink. refilled it. I don’t have to tell you. picking the conversation up again. “If that had been a white woman with a pistol in her lap.” he said. Andy immediately started wolfing his sandwich down. I have an assistant named Claudia Greene who’ll be a big help with the research.” Romeo cocked his head and smiled. you’re going to have a really tough workload. “You’ll like Claudia. “For instance. it was his first authentic cheese steak in two years. either. And that has nothing to do with Jhanae. about thirty.” He looked at his watch.
we can roll.” Andy said. got involved in a fender bender on nearby Dock Place with a man named Michael Patrick.” “Yeah. who lived three doors from George on Dock Street. just to make him mad.” About the same time the two friends sat down with their sandwiches. Carl Harris. “It’ll be good to see old Nappy Head. iced tea and memories. That’s what I used to call him when we were kids.Milton McGriff and Marian. I’ve caught a second wind. 17 .
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