Chapter 7 Maxine’s Diner
Instead of riding out in the BMW parked out front, they left the house through the garage and got into a matte black Dodge Challenger that sat on two pair of black twenty inch rims. The 35 percent tint on the windows prevented people outside the car from seeing inside at all. Manny sat down in the gray leather bucket seat. Hines pushed the button next to the steering wheel and the engine growled. Inside was decked out as if Batman himself rode in it. Once the car was on, a touchscreen laptop and police scanner unfolded from out of the dash.
They rode away listening to nothing but the grumbling sounds of the muscle car until the gate of Westerlynne was closing behind them.
Hines let out a loud sigh of relief.
“Thanks again, Man. You had my back, back there. I ain’t think you had it in you.” Hines looked at Manny like they had just become buddies, partners in crime.
Manny couldn’t conjure up a “You’re Welcome” for the life of him. For what, exactly? Hiding chopped off fingers from Mrs. Hines and cleaning up blood stains. He wasn’t even sure why he hadn’t just told her the truth or run out. Manny nodded and looked out of the window uncomfortably at nothing.
“Look, Youngin, I’m sorry to pull you into my shit like this. You just showed up to the wrong place at the wrong time,” Hines said.
“Fingers though, Nigga?” Manny blurted out. Many of times, he had found himself in a suspect place at an inopportune time, but he had never seen no shit like what he’d seen in the foyer of Detective Hines home this morning.
“Let me explain…” Hines started.
Manny interrupted, “Keep it real, too, nigga, because according to this letter, you ain’t got a lot of fucking time.” Manny retrieved the letter from his pocket and held it up for Hines to see. Hines snatched the letter from Manny and read the threat printed inside.
Manny stared at Hines, and watched as his emotions turned from anger to fear to nausea. Instantaneously, Hines veered over to the side of the road, slammed on the breaks, opened his door and tossed his cookies on the curb. When he positioned himself back into his seat, Manny couldn’t distinguish if the tears in Hines’ eyes were from crying or puking.
“Fuck!” Hines yelled, smacking his steering wheel. “Okay, fuck it. This shit is outta control.
Look, you in this shit with me or not?”
Manny looked at Hines who seemed to be quickly spiraling away from all imitations of sanity.
“Hey, I ain’t got shit to do with this,” Manny said putting both of his hands up as if he was under arrest.
“I mean you’re a cop can’t you just show the letter and the, um, box to some of your officer friends or whatever? Maybe they could trace the fingerprints. Shit, you have the fingers!”
Hines was obviously crying. He held his nose and mouth in his right hand as tears streamed down his face. Manny felt bad for Hines but this shit had nothing to do with him and so far, he had already bit off more than he could chew. Hines wiped his face with his hands.
“Ok,” he said trying to get control of himself. “You’re right. You don’t have anything to do with this but you do know what they gone find if they search that box for fingerprints, Youngin?” Hines was mad now.
“Hell, as far as I’m concerned you delivered the fucking box! I ain’t see no box before you got to my house! The way I see it, you’re just some hoodlum from the bad part of town trying to con me and my wife out of our hard-earned money. I could report your ass to the Westerlynne security right now and this whole little internship shit you have going for yourself… gone.”
“Man, please! You know this shit was going on way before I got here!”
“I don’t know what I know,” Hines said realizing he had gotten Manny’s attention. Hines had techniques to persuade a person into making the choice he wanted them to make. One of the first things he had learned in Interrogation.
A part of Manny was telling him to hop out of the car and call Mrs. Lemon, the police, his auntie, shit, anybody. If he could explain himself before Hines spread the lies, he could surely get someone to understand how he had ended up in this situation. On the other hand, another part of Manny was wondering if this was just the in he needed. Hines wanted a rider. Someone to have his back in whatever this mess was he had gotten himself into. If the situation wasn’t too crazy, Manny might be able to prove his worthiness and be taken up under Hines’ wing, like a son or little brother. AS of right now, after the three-month internship was over, Manny would be escorted back home by limousine to the west side of Columbus from where he had come from. Unless. Unless, he could prove to someone in Westerlynne that he was too valuable, way too essential, to be let go of.
Manny looked out of the car window as the rain poured down it.
“Who’s after you,” Manny asked. He could at least find out how bad it was.
“You mean after us?” Hines said, glaring at Manny.
Nah, nigga, I mean after you, Manny thought. He glared back
“Whatever,” Manny said.
“It’s a long story, I’ll fill you in over breakfast, you hungry?”
“No, I ate.”
“Ok, well I’m going to stop for coffee.”
Manny and Detective Hines sat across from each other at a window seat in a small mom and pops restaurant called Maxine’s Diner.
“Good mornin’, Detective. I thought maybe you weren’t comin’. Probably got held up in all that rain, huh?” A simple faced, mature white woman wearing a red button up dress shirt, jeans and a ruffled red apron walked up to where they sat. The dress shirt had “Maxine’s” written in cursive on the chest in white lettering.
“Yea, it’s coming down, Max,” Hines answered.
“You want your regular,” Max asked, clutching a small yellow notepad and blue ink pen in her hand. She chewed ferociously at her gum.
“Yes, thank you,” Hines said.
Max switched her almost friendly focus from Hines to Manny.
“And you, honey, whatcha want?”
“I’ll have a glass of water,” Manny said.
The lady nodded and scooted off.
Hines looked out of the huge window. The gloomy weather was fitting for the story he was about to tell.
“Alright,” Hines sighed, “ Three years ago, my partner and I was assigned a case. The goal was to infiltrate Borgella Cartel.”
“The who?” Manny asked.
“The Borgella Cartel.” Hines repeated. “It’s a Haitian drug cartel. They’re biggest cocaine trafficking ring in Haiti and a major midpoint for cocaine en route from Colombia to the United States.”
“Oh,” Manny said, kind of understanding. Kind of not caring.
“A few years ago, the Senator made it the DEAs top priority. He believed that cutting the Haitian and US ties here in Columbus would be beneficial in stopping the distribution throughout the Midwest. We were successful and after two years of building the case we went in and seized drugs and money from their major stash house during a routine exchange. Two hundred kilos of cocaine and ten million in cash.” Hines looked at Manny, earnestly. “Have you ever seen ten million dollars in cash, Youngin?”
Nigga, you know I ain’t seen ten million dollars in nothing.
Manny sucked his teeth, and his facial expression told Hines what he was thinking.
“Right” Hines said!
“I figured just a couple handfuls of that could change my entire life. I mean the money was going to rot in evidence for years and then who knows what the department would finally decide to spend it on. So, when the opportunity presented itself,” Hines paused then frowned, “I shaved four million off before turning it in.”
So that’s how a DEA agent gets to live in Westerlynne.
Hines checked to see how Manny was taking this information so far than focused back out of the diner window. Outside the rain was coming down even harder than before. He went on.
“My partner was shot and killed during the raid,” Hines said. “So, the final report was all on me. I turned in everything except for the four million I took.” Hines looked down and shook his head, then looked at Manny.
“You know, we aren’t too different, you and I,” he said.
Shiiiit, four million dollars! We are very different, Manny thought.
“I grew up in a small ass town about two hours north of Columbus, in a raggedy ass project housing with nothing but my hopes and dreams of making it out one day.”
He had Manny’s full attention.
“After I graduated high school, I moved here to go to the University. I loved the big city feel. So after I completed my DEA training in Virginia, I came back and made Columbus my home.
I met Kerris in college but we got more serious after we graduated. Dating her was biting off more than I could chew. She’s from a well to do family down in GA. When I asked her pops for her hand, he made me promise to give her at the very least, what she was accustom to. We got married and with her teaching and me on the force, we bought a nice little home not too far from Parkway Mall.”
“Oh shit, ya’ll was balling,” Manny slipped into the conversation and then back out again. The Parkway Mall area was definitely not to be scoffed at. Yet, no Westerlynne Ridge.
“It wasn’t like our shit now but it was nice, her father was happy, but I wasn’t satisfied. I had to show her pops that I could give her more than he ever could,” Hines covered his face with his large hands. Manny could tell he was spiraling downward again.
“What the fuck was I thinking?” Hines shook his head and slammed his hand down on the table, “I was just too fucking wet. I couldn’t wait any longer. Trying to impress Kerris and her uppity ass family.” Hines looked up to the ceiling, almost seemed to be praying.
“I knew when I took that money it was going to come back around to bite me in the ass. Now, I’ve put my family’s life in jeopardy.”
A different white lady, wearing the same shirt as Max, but much younger and prettier, strutted up to the table. She sat a glass of water in front of Manny and placed a straw down on the table. In front of Hines, she placed a small white mug along with a slightly tarnished carafe full of black coffee. He also had a plate of scrambled eggs and toast. The toast was smeared with butter and grape jelly spread in the shape of a heart. Manny wondered did they do that to all the toast. Or maybe just the grape-jellied, or maybe only for the detective.
“Thank you, doll,” Hines said. He winked at the girl.
The young lady smiled a flirtatious smile and switched away. Hines bit into his toast. The food calmed him a bit and he ate silently for a few minutes. Manny sipped at his water, not because he was thirsty but to avoid looking across the table. The rain outside was letting up.
Hines chewed and licked his lips. “Where was I?” He asked.
You were banging on the table and whining like a punk.
“You were too wet,” Manny said. Hines snapped his head to the side so much Manny wondered did it hurt.
“What you say?” Hines asked as he peered into Manny’s eyes to let him know they weren’t equals. Hines may have been in an unfortunate situation and sure, it had brought him to tears one too many times this morning, however, it were these same emotions that made him seconds away from strangling the next motherfucker to come at him crooked.
“You were saying…uh, how you were too wet and you knew you shouldn’t have taken the money,” Manny stuttered.
“Oh, right, right,” Hines shook his head and then an uncomfortable smile grew across his face. His eyes still somber. He went on, “I sat on the money for about three weeks. Went to work like everything was normal. No one at the office noticed the missing money. Still, at one point, I got so damned paranoid I thought about turning it back in but what the fuck would that help? I would’ve been fired and probably laughed at for being a such fucking pussy. Still, I hadn’t spent a dime.”
Manny couldn’t imagine having that kind of money at his disposal and not spending any of it.
“Finally, I caught a break. I’m watching the news one night and they were talking about an anonymous person hitting the Powerball for 4 million dollars but choosing to stay out of the public for safety reasons. It was like a gift from God. I told my family and colleagues it was me. I hit the lotto,” Hines admitted, a sense of pride trying to break through his emotional roller coaster.
“What about your wife? She ain’t want to see the ticket?” Manny asked, more cautiously this time, not wanting to strike another chord.
“I told her I had already turned it in to the Ohio Lottery Association.” Hines said as he stuffed eggs and toast into his mouth. “I told her it would be best for us to keep a low profile and to not tell anybody if it wasn’t necessary.” Then he added while shrugging his shoulders, “She ain’t have no reason not to be believe me and she could care less about the details once she seen that cash.”
Manny nodded. He understood keeping people on a need to know basis.
“That same day, I bought her the Beamer you seen parked out front my house and we turned in our application to purchase an estate in Westerlynne Ridge, that same week.”
Hines pushed his empty plate to the edge of the table and sipped his coffee, black.
Manny was still waiting for the story to add up to this morning. The fingers in the foyer. The note he’d slid in his pocket.
“We were living our dream until about two months ago. I started getting phone calls, first at the office then, starting last week, at my house.”
“What they say?” Manny asked.
“They would say shit like, ‘You’re gonna pay’ and ‘Borgella wants his money back.’”
“What would you say?” Manny asked.
“Nothing. I would just hang up. I didn’t want to panic because they might not really know shit and may have been fishing for information. You know, trying to get me to talk.” Hines lowered his voice and moved in closer to Manny, “Thing is, last week when they called my house, that’s when I knew it was real. They know too much and they asking for way more than what I took.”
“Damn, so this morning it just got extra real, huh?” Manny said, knowing the answer because he had witnessed it.
“Yea, man. That was they’re way of letting me know they ain’t fucking around.”
“Why they wait ‘til now to want they shit back? I mean you said you stole this money a year ago, right?” Manny asked.
“Because they’re just now finding out their money ain’t locked up in evidence,” Hines said as if he shouldn’t have had to.
“How they find that out?” Manny questioned.
Something had dawned on Hines that hadn’t before. Without even trying, Manny had given the detective exactly what he needed. A brand new puzzle . A way to start thinking logically. A way out of his emotions. A way out, period.
“Not how, Youngin. Who. Who the fuck in evidence is leaking information to Borgella? That’s the question.”
Hines reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet. He slapped a fifty-dollar bill on the table and stood up.
The weather was just as flaky as Hines’ mood. The rain had now completely stopped and the sun was trying to make itself visible through the gray clouds. Manny pulled on the wet handle and got into the car.
“So, I wanna run something by you. Just listen, alright?” Hines peered at Manny.
“You have a good head on your shoulders and I could use a sharp thinker. A street kid, hungry and not afraid of the grind. A lot of dudes in the hood know me and I’m not going to get anywhere fast asking questions, but you, you could be my eyes and ears. You can get the answers I can’t. I promise to keep you out of danger and I’m willing to pay…a lot,” Hines offered.
There wasn’t any amount that could make Manny get involved with this mess. However, he just wanted the day over with no more cinematics. It was barely noon and his day had already been filled with too much horror and drama.
“I’ll think about it,” he offered.
Hines wasn’t pleased but he was patient.
Copyright © 2017 by Aja Brown Crowder