Chapter 15 Ball ‘Til You Fall
In the wee hours of the morning, finding it difficult to sleep, Manny figured it was the perfect time to take advantage of his full featured Jacuzzi tub. He had the day off, as stated in the amended schedule he had found at the foot of the door on the inside of his room when he returned to it last night.
The bubbles beat at Manny’s tense muscles. He let out a moan of relief and appreciation and allowed his head to fall back. Sweat beaded and framed his face while the tips of his dreadlocks floated atop the water. He held his breath and slid under, looked around for a moment and decided to drown the drama from the past few days, right there. When Manny resurfaced he felt a little better. Of all the shit that had happened to Manny in the last 48, the most tragic was having love snatched from him just as quick as it had been handed to him. Honestly, right now, he should have been more concerned about what else Detective Hines might have been keeping from him but he couldn’t stop replaying his kiss with Khia over and over in his head. The thrill he had felt on the balcony, in the dark, under the stars. The first time he felt like everything was right, just the way it was. On the balcony, he wasn’t worried about being good enough, or rich enough anymore, because Khia’s eyes had begged him to take her into his world. She wanted him. Manny couldn’t forget the look on Khia’s face when he had pretended not to care, pretended to be just fine not speaking as she and her friend stood across across the parking lot from him and his homeboy while waiting on their rides. He remembered how her eyes fell to her sandals when he looked past her as she got into the car. Feelings he thought he’d just drowned surfaced all over again.
“Fuck” Manny said, as he grabbed a towel and dried his warm red skin. He opened a package of boxer briefs and slipped into a new red pair of Hanes.
I should call her. Manny stared at the cell phone lying on the bed. He knew Raele was right. He needed to call Khia and make things right, but his ego was still bruised and he hadn’t gotten his words in order yet. He pulled back the perfectly folded bedding and climbed into his bed where he pretended she was there next to him sipping sodas, sharing dreams and kisses.
The telephone rung. The same telephone that had rung yesterday and the day before that, but now it sounded loud and angry. The clock on the nightstand said it was 7:30 in the morning.
A half sleep and groggy Manny grabbed the noisy nuisance and brought it up to his ear.
“Gooood morning, Mr. Wright. This is Louise from the front desk. This is your wake-up call. It’s 7:30. Wednesday morning and the weather is 80 degrees, bright and sunny. Would you like me to send room service up with some breakfast?” Louise asked.
“I’m off this morning, I don’t have anything on the agenda. Would I be able to sleep a little longer and call down later for lunch or something,” he inquired?
“That’s sounds excellent, Mr. Wright. I apologize for waking you, but since I have you on the phone, would you prefer me to have your cleaning services canceled for the day,” Louise suggested?
“Yes, please,” Manny answered.
“Well, okay, then. You are all set, Mr. Wright. Sweet dreams”
Mixed emotions made his dreams everything but sweet, but he did fall into a deep sleep, where bouncing ponytails slipped from his grasp and bloody fingers fell instead of rain. When he finally woke up, it was in a gasping sweat.
“Damn, it’s 4:30?” Manny asked no one, looking at the clock. He checked his phone to see if anyone had called. He had one missed call and two messages. He looked to see any of the correspondences were from Khia. The call was his aunt. She hadn’t left a voicemail. One of the messages was from Brandon, just making sure he was good. The last was from Detective Hines:
Sup Youngin. Cancelled our business for the day to follow up on some leads. I think I may be on to something. I’ll call you later tonight with more detail.
The message had been sent three hours ago. Manny wondered when was “later.” Hunger knocked on the back of Manny’s rib cage. He grabbed the phone and ordered supper. Afraid the chefs and room service attendants would leave for the day and he would be left to starve until morning, he ordered enough to last him throughout the night.
Waiting for room service to show up Manny used his phone to scroll through his Instagram. This time he went straight to “24K.” Khia had posted a meme about over-complicating relationships earlier in the day. She had also posted two pictures of herself sporting the hell out of yellow bikini, putting paid models to shame. She posed on a lawn chair beside her in-ground pool. Her hair wavy and wet. Manny tried to think of a clever way to comment that would not make him look neither salty or thirsty, however he decided against any comment at all since the action within itself said that he was probably a bit of both.
Manny grabbed a controller and pushed the button on the XBOX One. He sat back on his bed and decided to see what the Call of Duty craze was all about.
Half an hour later there was a knock at the door. Manny’s stomach growled at the thought of the steamy silver platter that was about to be delivered.
“One second,” Manny shouted hurriedly tripping into a silver pair of basketball shorts. He grabbed up a few dollars from his wallet to tip the room service with and rushed to the door to get his dinner.
Hines stood there looking like a wild man. His five o’clock shadow looking like dirt and his wrinkled flannel opened showing another mess of a shirt underneath it. He pushed himself into the hotel suite.
“Fuck, man. They got her,” Hines looked at Manny with puffy red eyes that had already cried too much to produce any new tears.
There was no need to ask who.
“Shit,” Manny said shaking his head.
“I swear if they hurt her, man. If they hurt my child, I don’t know what I’m gon do,” Hines pressed his fingers against his temple, his teeth gritted.
Manny couldn’t lie and say it was going to be okay because he didn’t know if it was. From what he’d already witnessed these guys weren’t fucking around. So, he skipped the part where he tried to make Hines feel better and instead tried to help him figure the shit out.
“Did they leave any clues behind, any way for us to trail them?” Manny asked.
“I don’t know.” Hines answered, desperation falling off every word. “Oh, God, please don’t let them hurt her?” Hines paced the floor.
There was another knock at the door. Hines jumped and his bulging eyes demanded to know who was at the door? Manny walked to the door and looked out the peephole. He looked back at Hines, “It’s just room service.”
The exchange was quick. Manny shut the door behind the attendant and sat at the table with the platter.
When Manny looked up from his smorgasbord of a supper, Hines was staring at him, disgusted.
“How can you eat at time like this?” He asked Manny.
“My bad,” Manny said and recovered his food with the silver dome.
“Okay. Okay,” Hines was pacing again and contemplating the next move. His phone chimed and he looked to see what the notification was. Hines fell to his knees, phone in hand and let out the cry of a wounded beast.
“What?” Manny asked scared of whatever could make a grown, six-foot five-inch man crumple to the floor. Hines face flushed, he stood up slow, holding his stomach. Tears were streaming down his face.
Damn. They must’ve killed her and sent him the picture.
“They…. they…they emptied my bank account.” Hines stuttered. He was drained. He could barely get a grip. Suddenly, he jolted to the bathroom and hurled.
Damn. Manny watched with empathy. He couldn’t conceive having it all one moment and then it being taken away like that.
Hines went to rinse his mouth out in the bathroom sink. When he joined Manny back in the living room his chest was moving up and down fast and hard. He looked around the room as if he needed help remembering where he was.
“How much money do you still have left?” Hines asked Manny. Manny’s first thought was to lie. To say he had already spent it all but then he thought “why”. What business was it of Hines how much money he had left? He wasn’t getting it back.
“Why?” Manny asked.
“I may need it to get my wife back, man!” Hines said as if he shouldn’t have had to.
“Hell nah! I’m sorry about what’s going on with Mrs. Hines and all, but the money you gave me is mine. Fair and square. I’ll do what I can to help you get her back but I can’t give you that money back,” Manny said straight forward. Manny didn’t want to sound insensitive but he was wondering how Hines planned to pay the rest of what he owed.
“No. You’re right. It’s my problem. My bad for even asking,” Hines said. He wasn’t pleased but he was patient. He gave the room another glance over, quick but calculative, and then walked toward the door to leave.
“Hines, I’m for real. I’ll help if I can. Just call me when you want to ride,” Manny shouted to Hines on his way out.
Manny watched Hines walk out wondering how he planned to deal with the mess he’d gotten himself into. He looked down at his phone and watched it for a second as it buzzed and sang. He answered as he sat back down to his meal.
“What’s up, B? I meant to call you back,” Manny said, chewing on al dente cooked fettuccine noodles covered in Alfredo sauce.
“It’s all good, bro. I just had to make sure you were good after the other night.” Brandon said. He sounded way better than what Manny had expected.
Nigga you the one the that got shot down, Manny remembered the series of L’s they had both taken last night. Brandon had definitely taken the biggest one.
“I’m alright. What about you, Pimp?” Manny asked. Brandon tried to shush a female giggle in the background.
“Never mind, I see you bounced back quick, like usual,” he laughed.
“Nah, it ain’t like that this time. Hold on, Dog” He brought his voice down to a whisper.
“Shhh. Dominique! You crazy,” he laughed.
“Dominique?” Manny asked.
This nigga! I’ve been sitting around here lonelier than a mutha…
“Oh yeah, I tried to call you earlier. We worked it out. You and your girl kind of got caught up in our crossfire. Sorry about that, bro. Hope ya’ll good,” Brandon said.
How the fuck we gon be good!?
Manny sighed loudly. His mind traveled to Khia for the first time today without feeling guilty about it.
“Where ya’ll at anyway?” Manny asked.
“We hanging out at the country club,” Brandon told him.
“Out here?” Manny asked.
“Yeah, bro, Dominique came through and scooped me. You should come down,” Brandon said.
“Alright, give me a minute,” Manny said. “I have to get dressed.”
The sun only had about another hour or so before it called it quits for the day. The future night’s shadow was beginning to drape over what was left of the present daylight hours.
Brandon and Dominique were sitting at the pavilion table, where Manny had first met her.
“Hi Emmanuel,” Dominique said. Her face wore embarrassment from attempting murder on him and his homie the other night. Brandon chuckled hearing her for calling his boy by his government name.
“Hey Dominique,” Manny responded. He wasn’t as worried about the events of the other night as he was interested in finding out how they got back to cloud nine so quick. Dominique was sitting with one of her chunky legs across both of Brandon’s. Manny held out his hand and his boy dapped him up.
“What up, B?” Manny asked. “I see ya’ll back chummy like last night ain’t even happen. What’s really good?”
“About last night, Emmanuel,” Dominique began. “I’m really sorry I went there. You didn’t have anything to do with it and I was wrong for talking to you like that.”
Dominque stood up and walked over to Manny. She bent her knees a little and clasped her hands together, “Do you forgive me?” She asked.
“We’re good.” Manny nodded. Brandon leaned over and gripped Dominique’s small waist. It was his favorite part on her body. Well, that he’d been given permission to touch. He pulled her back over to him and she smiled and sat in between his legs.
“Why were ya’ll even tripping in the first place tho?” Manny asked.
Dominique pursed her lips and looked back at Brandon. “Oh, you didn’t even tell your boy about that ignorant comment you made?” she asked.
Embarrassment was seeming to be quite contagious tonight. Now it had spread all over Brandon’s face.
“So, what’s up. You gon’ let me fuck or nah,” Dominique did her best Brandon impression.
“Oh shit, B!” Manny yelled. “I thought you had more class than that?”
“I do, nigga,” Brandon fired back. He looked at the yellow curves sitting in between his legs and shook his head. “Like I told Dominique, bro, I ain’t never lost my head around no girl like that….never met a girl like her. I’ve never been so out of my element, I didn’t how to be… before I knew it I was saying some stupid shit!” Brandon turned to Dominique. “It’s your fault! Your beauty had me tripping,”
She blushed and giggled. With Dominique squeezed tight in Brandon’s arms, they rocked side to side like some old couple.
These niggas! Manny was happy for them, but he wanted his happy love cloud back too.
“Look whose back,” A voice called out from somewhere.
Chance and his pack of laughing hyenas were back. Only they weren’t laughing. Chance couldn’t hide the disgust on his face if he’d tried.
Manny checked himself to make sure he wasn’t in for Deja vu. He felt good about the fresh Kobe’s on his feet but he knew Chance could buy his outfit a hundred times without even blinking at the receipt.
Chance couldn’t care less about Manny’s attire. He wanted to know who the hood ass negro was that Dominique was so openly fond of.
“What’s up, Dominique?” Chance asked as if he deserved an answer.
She rolled her eyes. Then found the lowest, least excited octave in her vocal range to greet him with.
Brandon could sense the hate. Chance didn’t care.
Dominique excused herself and went to the bathroom.
When she was out of earshot, Chance walked closer to where Manny and Brandon were.
“Why every time you come out here, we can always find you chilling with the bitches?” Chance fired.
“You mean chilling with your bitch,” Manny fired back. Brandon was starting to understand the problem. He was every bit of game.
“Fuck her,” Chance said trying hard to not catch that embarrassment bug that was going around.
“I plan to,” Brandon chimed in.
“Who is this cat?” Chance asked no one in particular, pointing his hand at Brandon. Chance looked back at the pack and they snickered and scowled.
“Emmanuel, you brought a friend. You want to play another game of ball?” Chance asked.
“These corny ass fuck boys,” Brandon said to the same no one in particular. He pointed at Chance and his crew. He stood up from the bench to let them know he would be more then obliged to introduce himself. “I know you ain’t asking us to play ya’ll in hoop.”
“You better ask your man, Emmanuel about us, boy” Chance said. Dominique came walking back up to the pavilion. Her face read, “Damn. They’re still here?”
Brandon grabbed her by her juicy waist and she molded to fit his grip. The hyenas looked to their leader for direction. Chance winced. They winced too.
“Me and Manny are about to go commit homicide on the court. Wanna come watch?”
“Sure,” Dominique said cheesing at the thought of someone murdering Chance.
“Good, cause I’m shooting for kisses,” Brandon winked at Dominique then at Chance. She giggled and slapped his arm, which was still wrapped tightly around her juiciness. The pack looked worried. Chance was mad.
“Bitches,” he said under his breath and stormed down to the court.
Manny and Brandon joined Chance and his boys on the court.
“Alright, I got Corey and Jeff,” Chance yelled out. Corey and the dunking six-foot-three fellow from the last game, walked over to Chance.
“You can have all those whack ass niggas. Me and Manny about to ice ya’ll.” Brandon said. He finished the braggadocios comment with a slap on Manny’s back.
“Let’s do this,” Brandon said to Manny.
Again, they played a game to 10 points, ones and twos.
“We won last game so we got the ball first,” Chance shouted.
“Check up,” Chance bounced the ball to Manny. Manny passed it back.
Chance dribbled and ran down the court. He passed the ball to Jeff who caught the ball and went in for his famous windmill dunk. Chances team pumped their fists and gave fives.
They checked back up. This time it was Brandon and Jeff. Jeff had the ball. He passed it to
Corey, but Manny was quick with the steal. Manny dribbled and walked slowly. Brandon called for the ball.
“I got you, I got you!” he clapped. Manny passed the rock off to Brandon who took it way out to where his new flame was sitting and let it fly. Nothing but net. Dominique jumped from her seat, clapping and cheering. Brandon kissed her swiftly and ran back for his ball.
Brandon repeated this same move two more times, until Chance, Corey and Jeff were playing defense so tough on Brandon they had forgotten all about Manny. Brandon passed the ball to the side of him and Manny grabbed it. Manny took a quick jump shop and swished one.
It was Brandon and Chance. They checked up again.
“Ya’ll niggas sure ya’ll don’t want to play to twenty?” Brandon laughed while dribbling the ball in front of Chance. “We could do this all day.”
“You can’t go to the hole,” Chance challenged. “All that shooting, but you can’t go to the hole.”
“Who can’t?” Brandon asked. He walked to the middle of the court.
“Come over here so I can put your ass on skates,” Brandon fired.
Brandon juked to the right, Chance jumped to the right. Brandon juked to the left, Chance jumped to the left. Brandon crossed the ball over to his right and then put the ball behind his back, Chance’s ankles gave out and he slid to the ground on his butt.
Manny yelled out, “Yeeaahh, boy! You got your shit broke!”
Two younger teens who were sitting on the sideline waited to play. One of them yelled out, “He need some milk!” Dominique laughed loudly with the young boys.
Brandon sliced in to the lane and flipped a high arching finger roll up over Jeff’s out stretched arm. The ball dropped through the bottom of the net. Manny and Brandon dapped each other up.
“What about my kiss,” Dominique shouted out.
“Oh, you know I’m coming for it. I put the works on Oh Boy, so I’m going to need a good one.”
Dominique gave Brandon a sloppy wet one and he pretended to fall to the ground like Chance had. She cracked up and pushed him back out to the court. However, Chance was done playing games. He pulled his shirt off and threw it to the side of the court.
“Dominique, you’re a fucking a slut?”
Dominique looked stunned, “How Chance?”
“You were just going out with me,” He yelled. Sweat dripping. His eyes bulging.
“We went to prom together. That’s it!” She screamed. “I had a horrible time by the way,” she added for good measure.
“Call her another name,” Brandon dared Chance. Chance looked around to see if his boys had his back. The pack looked exhausted. Not from playing but from following behind someone who had just been demoralized. Not one of them stepped up. Manny walked over to join his boy.
“It’s whatever?” Manny said letting Brandon and Chance both know.
Chance looked at Brandon who had not once broken his glowering stare. Then he looked at Manny who wore a smirk that said “try me.” Dominique had on her usual face of disgust.
“She ain’t worth it. None of ya’ll are,” Chance said throwing his arms up. He grabbed his shirt and walked off the court in the opposite direction. Alone.
Copyright © 2017 by Aja Brown Crowder