Hold on to My Feets
by LaKimbra McKinley
Table of Contents|
parts 1, 2, 3, 4
Life on the mean streets of L.A. gives new meaning to the old saying “If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” But a young woman shows a flair for business. With the help of friends and relatives, she makes a bold move to turn her luck around and be able to tell her children, “Hold on to my feets...”
Pulling into the drive-thru allowed me time to steady myself. This was shaping up to be a horrible day. My phoned beeped. It was my son, texting that he was on the metro rail heading to Lancaster. He said he had gotten into an argument with his father.
I told him that this wasn’t a good time. He protested a bit then let it go. I told him the police were arresting everyone. I told him to call his auntie and see if he could go over to her house. He agreed and turned back to Los Angeles.
I turned down Mulberry Avenue, clicked the garage door opener and pulled into the garage. I bawled like a baby. I had just spoken to Tim. The shootings must have happened shortly after we hung up the phone.
Unforeseen occurrences such as these really put your priorities in order. I could hear the house phone ringing from the garage. Moving awkwardly on autopilot, I went inside. After a quick woosah, I answered on the fourth ring. It was Francine.
“Took you long enough,” she said. “Girrrrrl, the block is hot. The po-po are at Tim’s. I know you smoke from time to time, so be careful.”
“Thanks for the heads-up, Francine,” I said. “I’ll call you back. I got to pee.”
“Wonder why they at Tim’s?” she inquired.
I wanted to tell her, but I just couldn’t. I couldn’t burden her with another bad decision made on my behalf.
“Is everything okay, cousin?” she asked. “It sounds like you’ve been crying.”
“I’m not feeling well,” I said.
“He’ll be back,” she said. “Men are so dumb.”
“I know. Right. Anyway, let me go. I’ll call you back in a few. Love you.”
I took a swig of Hennessy from the bottle. I went back to the car to get the money and a snatch of weed. I went back upstairs and rolled a blunt while I counted the money. It totaled thirty-six thousand dollars. I put it into a sandwich bag and hid it in the soap powder in the laundry room.
I ran steamy water, lit candles and turned on the television. Sanford and Son played quietly in the background as I slid into the tub. I took drags from the blunt as Fred had his umpteenth heart attack when Lamont announced he was moving out. I drifted off for a snooze and awoke twenty minutes later to a Channel 5 News Alert.
The reporter said there had been a double murder and another man was in critical condition. I was scared, because I didn’t know which one had survived. I hoped it was Ant and not the masked gunman.
The reporter concluded with, “Tomorrow community outrage will culminate with a peaceful march to the mayor’s office. Loved ones of Timothy Daryl McGee and Anthony Treadwell will plead for answers and demand justice. Details are coming in slowly. Anyone with information is urged to call the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station.”
* * *
Two hours later the phone rang. It was Detective Stewart Bertalli, from the Lancaster Sheriff’s Station. He said he needed me to come down to the station because the phone records indicated that I was the last one to speak to Tim.
I arrived at the station two hours later. Detective Bertalli met me in the lobby. “Do you know why you are here?”
“I’m in the Homicide Unit so I know it’s pretty serious,” I said.
“How do you know Tim?”
“Tim and I are like brother and sister,” I said.
He opened a manila envelope and showed me a picture of Tim. It was the same image I had stuck in my head. I drew my hand to my mouth and turned away.
“Tim was always trying to help people. I warned him to stop inviting folks into his house and stop telling them about his safe and stash. He was too trusting. A month ago, he had some new guys there. I kept telling him to be careful about mixing with too many new people. I can’t believe he’s dead.”
“Tell me what you saw when you arrived,” Detective Bertalli said.
“I knocked, called his name, called him on the phone, and still nobody answered,” I lamented.
I went over the same story a dozen times before he cut me loose. An hour later he said he would be in touch in a few days. I left the station knowing my first priority was to get rid of the money and the weed. With my luck, the sheriffs were already preparing a search warrant, or maybe they were at my house already.
When I got home, I put on sweats, a t-shirt and boots. I took a shovel and two green trash bags. I separated half a pound of marijuana for my personal stash and took half the money. I buried the rest of the money and weed in the middle of the desert. I made a map and hid it in a locker at the train station.
* * *
When I arrived home it was 3:30 in the morning. I was covered in dirt and sweat. My chest, arms and hands hurt so much they made sleeping impossible. I smoked a blunt and took two pain pills. Still I only slept in increments of thirty to forty-five minute spurts.
I dreamt that when I went to Tim’s house, he opened the door flashing that million-dollar smile of his. We smoked a blunt. I told Tim about Reginald and his recent disappearance. Tim did as he always had: he lit another blunt, poured a shot of patron as we listened to the radio.
Tim was a gear-head and an old-school buff. He was always listening to something classic. Then my dream turned ominous; I was abducted by Reginald, Tim, Ant and the masked gunman. They dragged me out to a field and shot me. I woke up pleading the blood of Jesus and screaming.
I searched the room for the perfect doll. After looking over maybe a half dozen dolls; I found the perfect one, it had a hollow belly. I removed the head and carved a hole in the neck.
I put three pounds marijuana and ten thousand dollars into two plastic freezer bags. Next I surrounded them with an outer bag of coffee grounds. Then I rolled and duct-taped the bags and placed them into the belly of the doll. The last step was to reattach the head. Tired to the bone, I tossed the doll on the couch.
* * *
The following morning I turned on KTLA news. A reporter along with Detective Bertalli said the masked suspect had died from complications to his wounds. Detective Bertalli reiterated that there is still a second suspect at large and pleaded for anyone with information to come forward and help solve this case. He played the 911 Call.
“Lancaster Sheriff’s station, may I help you?”
“I need help, I’ve been shot. Two dudes broke in demanding money.”
“Where are you shot at? What is your name?”
“In the chest.”
“Then there is no response,” Sheriff Bertalli continued. “The phone falls to the floor and then an inaudible conversation ensues as the phone goes dead. We are asking anyone with information to come forward and help us solve this senseless crime. Let’s not allow Timothy and Anthony to die in vain. Although there has been an outpouring of love and support, we still need more information.”
* * *
I turned off the T.V. and went downstairs. Before I got to the last step, three thuds rapped at the back door. I crept slowly to the door with my phone in one hand and my gun in the other. A large black man stood on the other side.
“Yes, may I help you?” I said.
“I’m Smoke,” he said. “Word on the streets is you have something that belongs to my peoples.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said. “I went to Tim’s, but the police were everywhere. I didn’t even get out of the car. I don’t have anything that belongs to you.”
“I’m Tim’s main man. His dope was purchased on credit, and he still owes.”
“I don’t care how his stuff was purchased. I don’t have anything that belongs to you or your people.”
“Temper, temper. A little birdie told me you took the money and weed.”
“Now I know you’re lying, ’cause I didn’t take anything. Your source is lying. Tim never came to the door. The cops were everywhere and I am on probation. Cops make me nervous.”
“Well don’t be surprised if you get a visit from me, the big boys and the old lady. I want to play fair ball first. But things can get ugly quick. The choice is yours.”
“How do you know that your little birdie friend didn’t stash it for himself? Remember, there’s no honor amongst thieves,” I said repeating something DeShawn had told me. “But suit yourself. Be my guest and take a look around.”
I excused myself briefly and tucked the gun into my waist. I unlocked the door and stepped back and asked him to come in. He made a phone call. Twenty minutes later, three bigger dudes and an Asian lady known only as Madame M entered. She was a revered kingpin in the Yakuza crime family and rumored to be a direct descendent of the Ming Dynasty.
The three thugs tapped on wooden panels, tore up cereal and jewelry boxes and tossed aside the doll that lay in plain sight.
They searched the house and car while I spoke to the boss lady. She calmly explained the nature of her visit. She was dressed like a geisha complete with hair and make-up.
“You know,” she said, “when I was a little girl, my mother brought a swan feather over from the old country. It looked old and worn. My sister tossed it into a box while cleaning and donated it to a secondhand store. How my mother grieved for that swan feather. Although it looked useless, it signified hope. I am same as swan feather. On my journey to America, I was a goose and now look: I am a swan, a creature that became more than what was hoped for. So don’t fuck with me because I see through the bull.”
“No, ma’am,” I said. “I’ll keep it one hundred with you. I saw The Joy Luck Club. I know where you coming from, Madame X.”
“Oh, you poke joke. The next time I won’t waste my time explaining. I’ll just give you a quick pain injection and shoot you in the head. That way, less cleaning from all the bleeding,” she said matter-of-factly and pursed her mouth tightly.
Now I consider myself a pretty tough female, but I wasn’t prepared to go against Madame M or the power she wielded. Three hours into their ransacking, they had found nothing. Before they left, Madame M said they would be watching and made a promise to return. As an avid forensic documentary buff, I knew that not heeding their warning is how you end up on one of those shows.
* * *
Copyright © 2014 by LaKimbra McKinley