A FEW CASUALTIES SO WHAT

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Chapter 7

There was something about the slow harmony of a Saxophone in a dimly lighted night-club

room with a smidgen of people lingering that made the atmosphere on a late-night at Nadine seemed

melancholic. The left-overs were five guys and six dames not counting Birdie and Red perched at the

bar sipping their signature drinks. Birdie had her Strawberry Daiquiri and Red nursed a Long Island ice

tea.

“Your sax man really knows how to set the mood.” said Red.

“We call him, play it again Sam,” said Birdie.

Red chuckled. “Okay . . . that’s original.”

“You want original, ask him to play the piano.”

Red toasted Sam. “A man with many talents comes in handy.”

“Especially one with restraints.”

“You sure he’s not your jazzbo(boyfriend)?” Red rolled her eyes.

“You wanna go slang, huh?” Smiled Birdie. “I ain’t his boo boo, main squeeze, or tenderoni. Can

you say the same?”

“We both care about Pony.”

“I don’t have a leash on him.”

“Call it what you want, but if I cut it, he’s dead.”

Birdie shook her head. “Damn code of ethics . . . either stay in the game . . .thought your sisters and

brother adore you?”

“The youngest child usually gets his or her way, but this is business.”

“Poor Chub,” said Birdie.

Red giggled.

“What?” asked Birdie.

“There’s not a ounce of fat on him.”

“It’s a play . . .”

“I know, so is Pony.”

Both women smiled. They had companions, but occasionally pondered the thought of Pone being

more than amicable.

“He sees you as a sister,” said Red.

“We’re both forbidden fruit.”

Red surveyed the club. “Nadine.”

“Her middle name.”

“Pony mentioned her, was she special?”

“More than you know,” Birdie looked at the Budweiser digital clock above the bar. “He’s late.”

Red gently touched Birdie’s hand. “I worry about him too.”

Lucille pulled up in the VIP parking lot section of Nadine. Pone smiled. He felt good riding in his

baby realizing that he was truly a truck man. He got out and was about to head to the club entrance

when a colossal shadow engulfed him. On a chilly night, a normal man would have wet his pants, but

Pone recognized the shadow.

“Damn Ben . . . you should know better,”

“Sorry to bother you, but thought you forgot about me,” said Ben in his baritone voice.

Pone loved the sound of Ben’s voice. It reminded him of those R & B groups of the nineteen

seventies who had that one member that could swoon hearts of the ladies with his deep bedroom bass

voice. A la Barry White.

“Look, this thing I’m doing now won’t give me a lot of wiggle room, so … “

Pone pulled a business card. It had a basic red line with an ink stamp name and phone number.

He handed it to Ben.

Ben studied it. “Mercury Slim?”

Pone snorted. “Yeah, mention my name, tell him your situation, and he takes cash, nothing less

than a thousand depending on how serious your case is.”

Ben nodded. “All right. Will do.”

Pone entered Nadine and scanned the sparse crowd. He was quickly greeted by two gorgeous

women each taking an arm.

“I’m touched you two waited for me,” said Pone.

“Shut up, “ said Red.

“Ditto,” said Birdie.

Pone smiled and kept quiet. He knew better than to argue with women. His escorts took

him for a ride on the elevator.

Pone stepped off the elevator with his two lovely escorts. The gambling room as it was

affectionately called was occupied by three others: Deputy Mayor Harvey Crowe, Hip-Hop lieutenant

Rufus Brown, and Prohibition lieutenant Martin Rudenbaugh. Crowe sat at the head of rectangular

mahogany table while Brown and Rudenbaugh sat across from each other in a stalemate stare

down. Pone was glad they were not sitting at a round table. Knights of the round table they were

not.

Pone was released and the two ladies took their places at the table. Red sat next to the well

educated former stock broker Rudenbaugh. Slightly under six foot, dark hair slicked back looking

like a Bela Lugosi Dracula in his pin striped gray gangster style suit. Rudenbaugh used his degree

to work with his Aunt Lorna who worked for and kept track of Macone’s books. As she got

older, she convinced Macone that her nephew was a chip off the old block and would make an

excellent replacement as she began to battle early dementia. Macone liked what he saw of

Rudenbaugh, gave him more responsibility, and realized in no time that the investment in the

then young man was a smart one. Birdie sat next to the average height Brown, he sported a tan

suit with a pink shirt. His faded hair cut and goatee had a little silver. He wasn’t college-educated,

but was Harvard street smart, Brown was a cliche` raised by his grandmother his father’s mother

to be exact and once upon a time had a thing with G. G wasn’t as old as Brown’s grandmother, but

when the two met, the rumor around town made her to be an original cougar back in the day. His

father made a living as a street hustler, but he wasn’t a very good one, and it got him killed. His mother

as they say was fast in the ass and ran off with a gangster whose name is not worth remembering, he

hated kids, and so his mother left town with him leaving Brown in the care of his grandmother. As a

favor, G, who still had a soft spot in his heart that replaced his hard on in his pants respected Brown’s

grandmother so much that he took young Rufus at the time under his wing and from that day on,

Brown’s gratitude turned into one-hundred percent true loyalty. Pone strode over to the other end of the

table facing Crowe.

“About time,” said Brown.

“I know right,” said Rudenbaugh.

Pone smiled at the two men agreeing with each other. So far a good start. Thought Pone.

Red stood in her body-hugging scarlet dress, black hose, and pumps. “It’s a sad occasion

that brings us here tonight. Hopefully, we can put the mayor’s office at ease about a possible

gang war. “ Red paused to eye Brown and Rudenbaugh. “We don’t want that to happen which

is why Mr. Pone will be in charge of finding who caused this tragic incident.”

Pone rested his chin on his cupped hands and studied the lieutenants. Despite putting bullets

in both Probonos and Hip-Hoppers, he never had serious run-ins with the two lieutenants. He

couldn’t explain why himself, except maybe they both didn’t have anything to with the hits put on him.

Like cats and dogs, they would never be close friends, but when they did have conversation, mutual

respect came from their voices.

Rudenbaugh was the first to fire a shot. “Mr. M. was devastated by the news of his daughter

especially when he read about it on the front page of the blab sheet (newspaper).”

Pone shook his head. Rudenbaugh had to represent using probono slang.

“We got no beef with the hoppers. Besides, they wouldn’t be that brainless to kill one of their own.”

Here we go, thought Pone.

Brown cleared his throat. “Same here except the brainless part. We don’t make it a point to kill

children . . . like some have been known to do,” remarked Brown.

“You need to watch that scene in Scar Face when Tony said I ain’t killin’ no kids,” said Rudenbaugh.

“You ain’t Italian,” said Brown.

Pone knew the importance of having Red and Birdie present. They weren’t there for just eye candy,

but to whether the storm and both played their part well. A gently placed hand on the shoulder and a

one handed rub on the back soothed the beast in both men.

A crooked smile came across Rudenbaugh’s face. “Good thing we got these two broads.” A quick

smack to the back of Rudenbaugh’s head. “Hey, whoa . . . did I say something wrong?”

Birdie swallowed hard. “If you prefer to refer to us in slang, please refrain from calling us broads,

shorties, ho, hoochie, puta, skank. Skeezer, and any other disrespectful female analogy.” Birdie raised

an eye to Brown.

“I respect females . . . women . . . ladies . . .” said Brown.

Rudenbaugh looked as though he needed a smoke. “Apologies to you both, is dames okay?”

Red and Birdie nodded.

“If the dames don’t mind,” Pone ignored the icy glare from the ladies “How did G. get the news?”

“Me,” said Brown. “Hit ’im pretty hard.”

Rudenbaugh grunted. “Might have too much lard in those collard greens, salty fat-back, and too

much sugar in that red glass of Kool-Aid.”

Brown snorted. “Must be tough eating linguine on all four.”

“What’s the difference between hip-hop slang and Ebonics”

“Gentlemen!” Pone rose from his seat. “If you two want to off each other, fine by me. Hell, I’ll help

you kill each other, but this is not about you. It’s about two teens who lost their lives for what reason we

do not know. I give you my word, I will find the culprit, but I need your cooperation, okay?”

Both men nodded.

“Before I get started, let’s get one thing straight . . . no more surprises like the morning of last

week.”

Rudenbaugh looked like a kid trying to figure out an algebra problem. “What are you talking

about?”

“Not you,” Pone gave Brown a stern look. “Some-body put a hit on me using youngsters.”

“Swear from the cross it wasn’t me, boss,” said Brown putting up his hands like he was being held

up. “On my grandmother’s grave, Pone On my grandmother’s grave.”

Pone didn’t know which of brown’s grandmothers bit the dust. The one G. use to drill or his mother’s

and he didn’t bother to ask. It proved to him that this would be a meeting of crossed fingers.

“Can’t help you if I’m dead,” said Pone.

“We don’t send boys to do a man’s job,” said Rudenbaugh.

“You have. But I’m still standing.” said Brown.

“Again, enough of this shit,” Pone pursed his lips. “Helen and Reggie didn’t know they were going

to die. Like any teenager they were enjoying a Friday night at the movies. Both were headed off to

college and all of a sudden their lives were cut short and here you two grown as men are acting like

children on this important matter. Again I will help you two kill each other if you want . . . make up

your minds because right now you’re wasting my time.”

“G. wants closure,” said Brown.

“Like wise for Mister M.” said Rudenbaugh.

“That’s all we want, gentlemen,” said Red. “We need to make sure this does not escalate into a gang

war.” Red made eye contact with both men.

“Nadine is where you air out your differences, bullets flying back and forth won’t solve this,” said

Birdie.

“Y’all living in the old days,” said Brown.

“We’re more civilized than you give us credit for,” said Rudenbaugh.

Crowe stood up and cleared his throat. “I assume we’re all good here? Mr. Pone will have

parlay so he can keep havoc from running amok in the city? He is working on behalf of the

mayor’s office.”

All eyes were on the deputy mayor, but not one reflected respect.

Rudenbaugh checked his watch. “Pone, you have immunity.”

“We cool?” asked Pone.

“Straight from the fridge,” said Rudenbaugh.

“Solid as a block of ice,” said Brown.

Pone nodded, but he knew both slang had a symbolic meaning. Take something from the fridge

long enough and it won’t stay cool and a block of ice melts. He was aware that after the job was

done he’d have to watch his back.

After the meeting, only Pone and Brown stayed behind to have their conversation. They both

perched themselves on stools at the small bar. Neither had a drink.

“If you didn’t send those boys then who did?” asked Pone.

“That’s the point, they were boys,” said Brown.

“Who wanted to be men.”

“Now they’ll never get the chance.”

“I want you to tell that to the mother of the eight-year-old boy they took out. Unless

you want to that friendly fire.”

Silence took over for a few seconds. Brown studied Pone. He knew of Pone’s reputation as

a poker player. He was aware that this wasn’t a poker face, but a face of a killer.

“They have relatives,” said Brown.

“You don’t think that boy did. His mother is grieving too.” Pone glared at Brown. “What if they

had taken me out? Who would handle this situation between you and the Prohibitions? I have a

feeling somebody wants a gang war.”

“ I wouldn’t jive you, man, we had nothing to do with that shit,”

“I got that with that … yeah, swear from the cross boss,”

Brown laughed. “A Rage In Harlem. One of my favorite movies.”

Old movies from back in the day had their place on the cable movie channels, but Pone didn’t have

as much free time as Brown to watch them.

“They were trying to impress somebody. You know you have to do something big to get in

the good graces, and they definitely had hip-hop brand.” said Pone.

Brown look as though he could use a smoke or a drink, but he didn’t want to stick around Nadine

longer than he had to and he could tell Pone was getting angry.

“I promise I’ll personally make the person responsible in my group pay, but we didn’t do this.”

“Nothing worse than looking up to someone who carries a gun for a living. Makes you feel

sorry for the police.”

“I understand where you coming from, but you crossed a line.

Pone cracked his knuckle. “They tried to kill me.”

“You burned the bodies, man.”

“Had to send a message.”

“Loud and clear, but them boys had mamma-s.”

“Then they should’ve raised them right.”

Brown let out a frustrated laugh. “They wanted one last look at their babies.”

Pone gave a stern look. “That’s why you have pictures.”

“You a cold ass brotha … you know that?”

“As a block of ice.”

“They wanted to bum rush yo ass, but G’s word is golden.”

“Live by the sword, die by the sword.” Pone leaned in. “Somebody in your click sent those

boys to their graves … instead of sitting here preaching to me about guilt, you might try looking

for that snake in the grass.”

Brown swallowed hard. “Yeah … don’t worry nobody’s gonna fuck with you. You have my

word.”

“As long as I’m on the job.”

Brown stuck out his hand. Pone didn’t like hand-shakes, especially with an adversary. Then

again opposing athletic teams shook hands after the game and politicians; democrats and republicans

before and after a heated debate. Pone indulged him. Sure enough, Brown gave a vice grip, and Pone

returned one of his own.

Brown drew closer. Pone knew that Brown was a heavy smoker; he turned his head for a

moment taking a deep breath. He wasn’t in the mood to smell bad breath.

“One day a bullet will have your name on it,” said Brown.

Pone pulled back and smiled. “Yeah, well, boy … when I die, I’m really going to miss me.”

A stare, a few seconds of silence, then a release of hands followed by loud laughter.

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