Night shift up town. All the pimps and drug dealers come out of the shadows to ply their trades in the streetlights. Jimmy or Jeffery or whoever Iverson says he is today says he’s got to see in order to count the cash. Says he’s got to give it a good look.
Susan, she calls herself “Sadie” on the streets. Doesn’t want the johns to know her real name, or the pimps for that matter. She’s been around a long time. Longer than most. She’s seen the pimps come and go and the other girls.
An old sedan lit up curb between the light posts. Fran, Peach, and April were out on tricks, so Susan started into the darkness. Iverson said, “Bitch, you better stay over here where I can see you.”
“This guy is new. He just doesn’t know the rules yet. You’ll get your money.”
Iverson slapped her in the back of the head, she just hunched down and kept walking. “Sadie, you don’t leave here without my permission. I’ll slap the shit out of you.” He took a few more tenuous steps in her direction. He threw a wild kick just glancing off the back of her skirt, but he stopped short not wanting to leave the safety of the light.
Susan said, “You shouldn’t have done that not tonight. The city is awake. Can’t you feel it?” But when she glanced over her shoulder, his safe swath of light was empty. Tomorrow or the next day there would be another to take his place, but for tonight she and his other girls were safe.
When Susan came back, there was a body under the lamp post. It was Peach. There was blood all over her clothes and drying on her arms. She had her knees pulled up to her chest arms wrapped around. Her tears were black with makeup. Susan sat down next to her.
Peach said, “You said it would happen. Fran went to call the cops. We didn’t believe you. April still doesn’t. She left. She’s gone over to Big Nose Tony.” Susan put her arm around the girl.
Peach said, “I found him though. Iverson, he’s at the parking garage. The bottom of the stairs where the light’s burned out.” She sobbed again. “His insides are out. I tried to stuff them back in.” She held her bloody arms out palms to the sky. Her arms were shaking. “He cut him. He cut him from groin to gullet.”
Susan said. “I know, honey. I’ve been there before. We’ve all seen the bodies.”
“Not like this. He was still alive. There was a man behind him. Had him by the throat. Iverson tilted his head down and watched as the man opened him up. It was dark but I saw the man’s eyes. They were open. I mean they saw. They saw everything.”
“No, honey. You didn’t see nothing. He was dead when you got there. Long dead. You didn’t see nobody.”
“What do I do when the cops get here? What do I tell them?”
“Just tell them exactly what you saw: Nothing.” Susan sat there for a while holding her. “I’ll tell you what we are gonna do. Were gonna sit here and come up with a name. The men out here are lonely and nervous. We need a good calming comforting name. Something that his grandma might have been called. What do you think about “Maggie?”
Susan looked over to the parking garage. In the waning light coming down from the second floor stairs, she could see dark ropes that had been pulled over the low wall. They were draped over the bushes like party streamers and drug over the concrete in their direction. If she had been pushing them back in she hadn’t tried that hard. “You know what, honey? Maggie. You go home and get cleaned up. I’ll talk to the cops. I’ll tell them that I found him.”
Jenkins showed up at Stephen Dupree’s Detective Office with his the same .38 covered this time with a blue windbreaker. He walked in to see Chauncey McGee pouring a cup of coffee and talking to Steve. The man was extranormally rugged in his sleeveless tactical and sunglasses that he was wearing on the top of his head.
Chauncey said, “There you are, Officer Steele. We were just talking about you.”
Steve said, “Chauncey here, Officer McGee if you would rather, has been moonlighting here for a while. He is going to show you the ropes and lead you on your first bounty. Since he is the lead man, he gets the majority share on the bounty. That is the way we work things around here.” He hands a folder of papers to Chauncey. “Here is the updated list of bail jumpers. The ones that just became delinquent are usually the easiest to catch. Get me two or three of them before you start going after the big money. You’ll make more money and so will I. Anything else you need to know Chauncey will fill you in.”
Jenkins said, “Steve, this is what you do most, right? Why don’t you have “bail bonds” on your sign?”
Steve said, “I ask myself that same question every day.”
Chauncey flipped open the folder and laid a few files on the table. “First thing.” He looked up at Jenkins. “You’re gonna have to get some new clothes. You still look like a cop. This job is about fear, and ain’t nobody afraid of no cop.” They went over their tentative plans for the morning and headed out to the parking garage to get the company car. It was a black windowless van with a couple of seats in the back for those who come quietly and a cage in the back for everyone else. Chauncey said, “Remember that we don’t need probable cause so follow my lead and don’t get weird.”
They drove uptown fighting the morning traffic. They moved only three or four car lengths between each red light and the van was too big to drive between the lanes. Jenkins said, “The subway would be faster.”
“But there’s laws against transporting prisoners.” Chauncey stopped talking abruptly. He looked at Jenkins through the corner of his eyes. “You stepping out on your old lady?” Jenkins didn’t answer. “I was working the desk the other day when she called trying to get a hold of you. I got your back though. I didn’t tell her that you took the day off. What you ain’t telling, she don’t need to know.”
They got to an old tenement apartment and left the van double parked. “Don’t be surprised if the people are jumpy. A pimp was killed last night. Real nasty. You looked at the picture real good right? He is the only one we are after.” They walked up to the top floor. It was hot in there and the stairs sagged and creaked. Jenkins knew he had done the right thing by living so far out from the city, but there was a charm to this building that smell of mold just couldn’t destroy.
Three doors down they found the apartment they were looking for.