It was 2:45 AM.
Mid-morning did not mean 10:30. Fast food joints stopped serving breakfast long before then. Mid-morning was 4:30. Take a job stocking shelves at Kroger and you get a new appreciation of time.
‘Course, Bray’s cohorts ditched their shifts tonight. Wasn’t unusual for one of them to bail if they had a date. Which rarely happened. More often, they hookied for a show at Kitty’s or a late night game of ball.
Then Rock Band came along. Now, at least one of the four amigos took off once a week. Kroger wasn’t so hard that the remaining threesome couldn’t cover his, Mo’s, Stew’s or Coop’s absence. But all three of them skipped out tonight. For a video game.
The manager, Pedro, was cool about it. He had a kid of his own about their age; so long as the amigos weren’t gangbanging, Pedro let them roll. When someone “accidentally” tripped the fire alarm tonight, he told Bray to clock out and go home.
Home wasn’t going to happen. Not when Coop had the setup. During his stint unloading tock at Best Buy, he’d lifted an entire entertainment center. Plasma screen. Surround sound. PS360.
Bray hadn’t been in this neighborhood at this time of morning. ****, developments around here looked the same in the daytime. His hoopty coasted down Dorr Street as he scanned houses for action. Bray caught a glimpse of light and movement up the street; somebody entered a front door.
Bray parked his car as silhouettes passed behind a window shade. He collected four forties from the backseat and closed the door with his foot. Having removed anything of value from the Nova, he left it unlocked.
He lined the bottles next to a leafless bush in the “garden” on the porch, pulled a pellet gun from his jacket pocket, and stepped back from the door. One swift kick near the knob and the wood came entirely off the hinges. Oops. Bray looked in to find his friends scared shitless, frozen, holding their fake instruments while colored bars scrolled down the screen.
Except this wasn’t Coop’s crib. There was no TV here.
Bray split. He dove across his hood and screeched his piece of ****’s tires loud enough to wake the entire block. If they woke up to that kind of sound. Which they didn’t.
* * * * *
“You hear that?”
Coop paused the game with his guitar. He peered between the bars on his front window and caught Bray’s Nova bouncing over potholes and street debris. Stew told Coop to get back to the biznit. Mo, stoned, banged away on drum pads to a beat only he heard.
“Jus’ Deek,” offered Stew.
“Deek don’t own no car,” said Coop. “That was Bray-Bray.”
“Think Pedro sent him to get us?”
Coop shrugged, pulled the shade, and resumed playing Sabotage.
* * * * *
Coop was right; Deek didn’t own no car. Last Deek checked, he didn’t have no forties either. Even through his buzz, he did remember his shack having a front door. He peered inside and saw three more things he didn’t remember. Delta sprawled out on the floor with a bruise darkening around her eye and forehead. Some sweaty, wheezing **** with a gun. A pile of cash.
Some deal must’ve gone down. In his shack.
He was pissed that some other Joe smacked up his ho. He was downright furious said Joe waited around afterwards. Worst of all, cash was involved and Deek wasn’t. That was unforgivable.
Deek drew his piece. It was time to negotiate.