Chapter 6 Fingers in the Foyer
A soft digital purring ring came from the phone on the nightstand in room 314. It was barely loud enough to wake Manny. No matter. He hadn’t been asleep long. His eyes peeled apart slowly. He picked up in the middle of the fourth ring.
“Hello?” Manny answered.
“Good Morning, Mr. Wright. This is Louise from the front desk. This is your wake-up call. It’s six a.m., Monday morning and the temp is seventy-five degrees, with a sixty percent chance of rain.” Louise sounded older, like his aunt, maybe mid forties. Her voice was lively like she had been awake for hours.
Manny had been awake most of the night, himself. Between the two doors down the hallway and Khia Jameson’s pretty ponytail, the party had left Manny’s mind overflowing with questions.
“Thank you, Ma’am,” Manny said.
“We can send room service up with breakfast, if you wish”
“What will you be having,” Louise asked?
“Do you have French toast?” Manny’s could hear the soft sizzle of Aunt El’s toast frying in real butter.
“We sure do. Would you like to add a fruit topping?”
“Huh? Um, no, just syrup please.” Aunt El never added fruit to hers.
“As you wish, Mr. Wright. Our special on the menu today is Eggs Benedict. Would you like me to place you an order of that, as well?” Louise offered. Manny wondered what the hell that could be. He didn’t want to ask.
“No, thank you. Is there steak?”
“There’s always steak, Mr. Wright. How would you like yours cut and cooked?”
Manny was stumped and out of embarrassment of not knowing how to order it he decided to do without, “Um, never mind, cancel the steak. I’ll just have French toast, four pieces. Thank you.
“Got it. Room service will be right up with your order.”
While he waited on his French toast to arrive, Manny used the larger of the two bathrooms to get himself cleaned up. Walking into the shower was like entering a spaceship. Inside were two built-in seats, made of bamboo wood, to match the flooring. On the shower wall was a computer control panel with acupuncture massage, steam, and aromatherapy options. Manny pushed a few buttons and before he knew what hit him a minty rainfall began rejuvenating his most inner being. He let out a moan louder than he was comfortable with. He pushed another button and jazz music whistled while he washed. He tilted his head back and let the water soak into his dreads and run over his face.
No wonder rich people are able to bounce back after a long ass day, Manny thought as all his worries seemed to go down the drain. Manny wished his aunt could experience this. He knew she needed it and deserved it way more than he did.
Manny pulled down two of the folded towels from the shelf, one to wrap around his waist and one for his dreads. He sat on his bed and took his phone in his hand. He swept the bad idea he had, to call up Khia and spit a little sexy good morning game, into a corner in his brain. He called his aunt instead. Manny knew she was at work, which made it the perfect time to call. He could get away with just leaving a message.
“Hey, Auntie. It’s me, Manny. I was just checking in with you. Letting you know I’m good.” He thought about telling her about how nice his room was but he knew she would only have something negative to point out. He knew better than to tell her about the bullshit at the welcome party. She would have hopped in the Jetta and drove straight through the gates to save her nephew.
“Anyway, I love and…I miss you already. Alright. Bye”. Manny sat staring at his phone for a second after ending the call in disbelief that he was really missing Aunt El. Not her food or the care she provided, but her love. He had never before went a day without it.
Manny stood up and left the towel that used to be around his waist on the bed. He loved seeing his clothes in the regal looking dressers, even though his no name brand, over-worn clothes truly didn’t belong. This morning a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt served sufficient to eat breakfast in and then later to run down and get his marching orders from Mrs. Lemon.
A knock at the door turned out to be room service. A well put-together studious looking brother stood in the doorway balancing a silver dome covered dish on his white gloved hand.
“Here you are, sir. Enjoy” said the man.
Manny took the tray and told the man thank you. The man stood politely but did not move. Manny smiled an odd smile, looked to the side and closed the door slowly.
He sat down at the dining area and pulled the top off of the dish. There was four pieces of French toast with a generous warm cup of syrup as he had asked. There was also a steaming, juicy looking, steak and a side of scrambled eggs. A small bowl with sliced kiwi and strawberries inside sat on one side of the tray and a small cup of coffee on the other. Beside the coffee were two tiny cups of cream and a few sugar cubes. There was a small card folded down on the tray as well. Manny opened the card:
I took it upon myself to add a little more to your breakfast order. I hope you do not mind. The steak is cut New York Strip style and cooked medium well. If you ever need any help with our menu or anything else throughout your stay, please ask. That is what I am here for.
Ms. Louise, front desk
P.S. Don’t forget to tip the room service
“Shit!” Manny ran back to the door but the gentleman that had brought him his breakfast was gone. It didn’t matter, Manny had no money. He closed the door and grabbed a glass from his cabinet and filled it with orange juice from his refrigerator.
The French toast didn’t have shit on El’s but it was good. The steak was definitely the best he’d ever tasted. Manny demolished everything that was brought to him including the coffee. He usually didn’t drink coffee but he could use the extra kick this morning. The excitement of being at Westerlynne mixed with the hot cup of coffee and that amazing shower were the perfect ingredients for a great first day.
When Manny got to Mrs. Lemon’s office she stood turned with her back to the door, her wide bottom pressed against the desk. The large digital clock read seven fifty-seven. Manny would have been down sooner if he wouldn’t have dripped a little of the syrup on his sweatpants. He hadn’t expected it to be that thin. At home the syrup was thicker and stickier. Manny stood in the small office wearing the black pants from last night. He kept on the sweatshirt hoping that it made the pants look different. Manny produced a cough and cleared his throat.
“Good morning, Mr. Wright,” Mrs. Lemon began her journey to turn around, slowly, to give her hips time to catch up with her feet. She shuffled and wiggled her butt while her petite painted hands pressed against the desk eagerly trying to assist her. He said good morning back and then looked around the room to give her hips and ass a little privacy.
“So, how was your first evening?” Mrs. Lemon asked, smiling wide. He hadn’t noticed before the gold tooth located on one of her top molars, highlighting the edge of her smile. Maybe because of the lighter colors she had wore previously. Today she was dressed in a navy blue pants suit. The gold tooth stood out like an accessory. He figured she was asking about his sleep being that she was at the party.
“I slept well,” Manny lied.
“Wonderful. Well, first order of business will be to shadow Maurice Hines, the detective.”
Sounds boring, Manny thought. Of all the careers to shadow, Manny thought this had to be the stupidest. A detective, no matter how good, didn’t make Westerlynne money.
“Sounds exciting,” he said.
Mrs. Lemon checked over what Manny had on and shook her head no.
“Today’s dress is business casual. I’m not sure what Maurice has in store for the day but he rarely ever dresses up. Business casual should cover it.”
She reached into the front drawer of the desk and pulled out a set of keys. She used one of them to unlock one of the desk’s bigger drawers. She pulled out two twenty dollar bills and two fives.
“This should handle lunch for the day, including the tip.” Mrs. Lemon stretched her arm to hand Manny the money. Manny walked toward the desk looking down in the drawer where she had just pulled the money from. A charcoal gray cash box with the top open, filled to the top with brand new dollars. Manny estimated it had about a thousand dollars in it, maybe more. Mrs. Lemon’s knee closed the drawer. Nothing else about her moved or changed. Manny took the money and said thank you.
“After your shadow, the day is yours. Maybe you should use your free time to get acquainted with some of the younger ladies and gentlemen of Westerlynne. It’s supposed to rain today, so I’m not sure how many people will be down at the club,” Mrs. Lemon shrugged her shoulders.
“ But if the weather lightens up, you should really get over there and introduce yourself.”
Manny nodded. “I will do that.” He wondered if Khia hung out at the country club.
Mrs. Lemon clapped her hands together.
“Alright. That is all. Your driver will be to pick you at nine-thirty to take you to the Hines residence. From there you will be with him until he is done with you.”
Manny took the elevator back up to his room.
Casual in the hood usually meant joggers, a t-shirt and basketball shoes. Manny matched a khaki pant with an orange polo. He stood in the mirror until he came to terms with the fact that this was as good as it got. He hoped it was business casual because there was no better option.
Shit, this is a church outfit, Manny thought to himself.
Rich people golf in shit we wear to job interviews.
Manny was standing outside of the hotel when a dapper man, seeming to be in his early 60’s, pulled up in a Lincoln MKT limousine. The man got out and walked around to the back door of the limo. His rich black skin was a direct contrast to the white hair on his face. The blue eyes that pierced through the driver’s dark skin, like marbles in tar, had taken Manny by surprise. He had never seen such a thing.
Westerlynne’s dark skin niggas have blue eyes, he thought and chuckled to himself.
“Good morning, Sir. My name is Ritz. I will be your driver throughout your stay here. I am at your service so you feel free to call me any time. Understand?” The blue eyes stared, waiting for a response.
Manny nodded. Ritz opened the door for Manny and he got in.
“Where to this morning?” Ritz asked, hopping in the driver’s seat.
“To Detective Hines,” Manny told him. He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to have an address. If he was, he didn’t. All he had was a name.
“Detective Maurice Hines’ residence,” Manny clarified.
Ritz looked in the rear view mirror at Manny.
“Got it,” He said.
The old black limo driver didn’t say much on the five minute drive to Detective Hines home. Every so now and again, he would whistle a tune or tell someone who couldn’t hear him and wouldn’t listen to him if they could, to slow down or watch where they were going. Manny stared at the homes from out of the tinted window. Massive homes, they were, with pointed roof tops. Each house was different from the next. Personal and customized. Some had huge windows that let you see right into their living rooms. Others were hidden and barely able to make out through the bushy northern red oaks.
The limo stopped in front of a brick Tudor style home. A variety of plants filled a large bay window. There was a sport sedan BMW 750 parked in the over-sized driveway. Manny stepped out of the limo and it pulled off, but not before Ritz handed him his business card.
On the porch, was a medium sized box. It had no type of postage or anything but it seemed to be a delivery left by someone for Hines being that the box read “Hines” smack dab across the front of it. Manny took the box under his arm and knocked on the front door. The door opened. Like Déjà vu, the tall man from door number two the other night was looking down at him again. This time not nearly as angry but still not smiling.
“And so we meet again. Let me formally introduce myself. I’m DEA Agent Maurice Hines,” he said. He held out his hand to shake Manny’s but then noticed the box. His hand went limp.
“This was left on your porch. I thought you might want to bring it in. It’s supposed to rain.” Manny said looking into Hines’ eyes when he spoke. Hines seemed to be the type that would take advantage of a man if he noticed the space and opportunity. Manny wanted to set up their relationship of man to man instead of boy to man, off rip.
“Emmanuel Wright,” Manny’s hand was firm while they greeted. Hines took the package and led Manny into his home. They had only made it to the middle of the the foyer when Hines opened the box and then quickly threw it down. Manny watched in terror as four bloody fingers rolled out of the box and scattered across the shiny marble floor.
“What the fuck?” screamed Hines. Fear had stolen Manny’s voice and only air pushed past his lips when he tried to scream.
“Everything alright?” a woman’s voice called form upstairs. Hines frantically fell to the floor to gather the dismembered body parts.
The pregnant woman from the other night stood in a nightgown, holding her protruding stomach while she squinted from the top of the stairs.
“Everything, okay?” she asked again.
Hines stared at Manny, trying to read if he was the ride or die or the snitching type.
“Yes, Ma’am. I accidentally dropped my hash browns and got ketchup on your floor. My bad,” Manny improvised while he bent down and snatched up the last of the fingers that had landed at his feet.
“Maurice, if you yell at that boy one more time, I swear to God…” She said walking back away from the steps. “Let me get on my robe and I’ll come clean it up.” Manny handed the the finger, not attached to his hand, to Hines.
“I’m sorry, baby,” Hines chimed in taking the finger. He stuffed the mess back into the box from which it came and rubbed the blood from his hands onto his dark blue jeans.
“My dawg,” Hines said quietly. For the first time he smiled at Manny. Then, without missing a beat, he yelled back up the steps to his wife.
“Babe, we’ll get it up. You just relax. Last thing you need is to be down here scrubbing floors.”
Mrs. Hines never did come downstairs. Hines left Manny standing in the foyer to regroup, while he went and mixed up a concoction of peroxide, water, and dish soap. When he came back, he and Manny wiped the blood stains from the floor, in silence.
Hines looked at his watch. “We need to get out of here. Let me lock up and tell the Mrs. that we’re out,” Hines said turning around and punching in a numeric code into the alarm system. He ran upstairs to talk to his wife.
Manny stood there speechless. He looked at the spotless floor and pictured the fingers rolling out of the box. He let his eyes follow the ghost of their fall and remembered the sickening sounding thud they made when they hit the ground. Along the side of the steps camouflaging with the white paint of the staircase, was a small note. Must of fell out of the box when Hines threw it down. Manny bent down and picked it up:
SEVEN MILLION BY THE END OF MONTH OR WIFE AND BABY NEXT
Manny slipped the note into his pocket and waited for Hines to return.
Copyright © 2017 by Aja Brown Crowder