Chapter Twenty-seven

After Travis left Me’shelle in Queens, he made the long ride back to the Bronx. When he arrived at his house, he was surprised to see Jackie’s and Ronnie’s cars still parked in the same spots.

He walked through the door and was met by Jackie’s eyes, cutting through him like a knife. “Wake up, Ronnie. Travis is back,” she said, shaking Ronnie out of his sleep.

“What’s up, y’all?” Travis asked as he sat down on the chaise.

“What’s up? That all you gotta say? What’s up?” Jackie said.

“You wanna tell us about it, Tee, or what?” Ronnie asked.

“What do you want to know?”

“Let start with who the fuck is Me’shelle?” Jackie asked. “I think that will be a good place to start.”

“She’s a friend of mine.”

“No shit,” Ronnie said, bouncing up off the couch. “She must be a damn good friend for you to run out on us while we in the middle of planning a job.”

“Yeah.”

“Yeah? What the fuck does that mean?” Jackie asked. “You gonna have to break this one down for us, Travis, ’cause I really ain’t feelin’ this yeah shit.”

Travis stood up. “Is there any weed left?”

Jackie smiled. “Ronnie tried to smoke you out, but I saved a blunt for you.” She pulled a blunt from her cleavage and handed it to Travis. He lit the blunt and proceeded to explain to Jackie and Ronnie, in much more detail than they expected, his relationship with Me’shelle. He described the day they met at the grocery store when he came back from Connecticut. He told them about the dreams he’d had, and how those dreams led him to stake out the grocery so he could see her again. He explained why he aborted the job when he saw Me’shelle walking across the parking lot. “You remember her, don’t you, Jackie? You thought she was fine.” He even admitted that when they did actually run the job, the reason he overslept was because he had been on the phone with her all night. Lastly, he told them that her brother and sister-in-law had been killed and that her niece was raped.

“Now you know the reason I haven’t been around much these last couple of months. I’ve been with her every day. Which reminds me, Jackie. Why you have to go and tell Freeze that?”

“Tell Freeze what?”

“That I haven’t been around much.”

“It’s the truth. You haven’t been around much.”

“Yeah, well, you made him think I was talkin’ to the cops.”

“What?” Jackie said. “Travis, I’m sorry. I just mentioned to him that you didn’t hang out like you used to, that’s all.”

“You know how paranoid that nigga is, Jackie,” Ronnie said. “Don’t ever tell that nigga shit unless you have to.”

“He rolled up on me today, wanted to know what I was into. Had a nine in his lap,” Travis told them.

“You think he was gonna kill you?” Jackie asked.

“If he thought I was talkin’ to the cops, yes. He would’ve shot me twice in the head and had his upholstery cleaned.”

“Damn, Travis, I’m sorry,” Jackie said again.

“When did you have time to see Freeze anyway?” Ronnie asked. “I thought you was at the hospital all day with what’s her face.”

“I called him to ask about this cop name Kirkland. He’s the cop investigating Me’shelle brother’s murder. He came to the hospital.”

“What you want to know about a cop for?” Ronnie asked.

“He said I looked familiar to him. So I asked Freeze about him.”

“What! A cop said you look familiar?” Ronnie shouted.

“Shit! This is not good. Do you think he recognized you from the parking lot film?” Jackie asked.

“I don’t think so. Freeze said he’s a homicide cop. He doesn’t think he’d be interested in us.”

“Fuck what that nigga think. Fuckin’ Freeze don’t know every fuckin’ thing,” Ronnie said. “You got to pull away from this woman, Travis.”

“Why?”

“If the cops are investigating her brother’s murder, they gonna start lookin’ at everyone around him. That includes his sister, and if you’re hangin’ around her, that means you too.”

“He’s right, Travis. You’ve got to leave her alone before this shit goes any further,” Jackie added.

“I can’t do that,” Travis said and dropped his head.

“Do you love her?” Ronnie asked.

“Yes.”

Jackie bounced up from the couch and left the room. Travis and Ronnie watched her storm into the kitchen then looked at one another.

“What’s up with that?” Travis asked.

“I don’t know, and right now, Travis, I really don’t give a fuck. Travis, listen to me. Whether you love her or not, you have got to let her go. I mean back all the way up off her. You already got that nigga Freeze trippin’ on you about the cops, and if they start lookin’ at you, they start lookin’ at us, and that ain’t good, Travis.”

Travis sat quietly.

“Do you hear what I’m sayin’?” Ronnie yelled.

“Yeah, Ronnie, I hear you and I know you’re right.”

“Damn right, I am. If the cops get onto you, they have the manpower and the resources to get you, and if Freeze thinks it will lead to him, he’ll kill you, me and Jackie.”

“I’ll back up off her.”

“Don’t fuck around on this one, Travis. I’m serious.”

“Okay, Ron. Shit. I said I’d back up off her. At least until things quiet down on her brother’s murder,” Travis said.

“No, Travis, you really ain’t hearin’ me. How you know when things quiet down? Huh?”

Again Travis sat quietly.

“That’s what I thought. And even without the cops fuckin’ with you, you still got Freeze to deal with. So, I’m tellin’ you that you are going to leave her alone.”

“Who are you to tell me what I gotta do?” Travis asked angrily.

“I’m your best fuckin’ friend, Travis, that’s who I am. And I’m the one who’ll go down right along with you if it comes to that. Now, I don’t wanna go to jail, and I damn sure don’t want Freeze to kill me.”

“You think I do?” Travis asked.

“No, I don’t think you do, and I know Jackie don’t either. So, what I’m tellin’ you is to think about whether you being in love with this woman is worth riskin’ any of that. I know that it’s not.”

“It’s not, Ronnie. I know that. But it ain’t easy.”

“Yes it is, Travis. Us stayin’ alive and not gettin’ caught, that’s what hard,” Ronnie told Travis in a sober tone. “I’m glad we got that settled. And I’m glad to know that you didn’t lose your nerve. And I’m sorry for thinking it. Who knew that all the time you were just pussy whipped?” Ronnie said and sat down.

“Yeah, who knew?” But Travis knew what the truth was, and now was the time to tell him. “Maybe I have lost my nerve, Ron.”

“What are you talkin’ about?”

“I’ve been thinking about making this my last job.”

“Because of this?”

“No. I’ve been thinking about for a while now. Ever since the jewelry store job. But now with all this happenin’ with the cops and Freeze-I don’t know.”

“I do.” Ronnie yawned and stood up. “You’re just trippin’ about Freeze with a nine in his lap, and I’m too tired to argue with you about it. Now you can go in there and see what Jackie’s trippin’ about.”

Travis went into the kitchen and found Jackie sitting at the table, drinking Hennessey. He got a glass and joined her. “So, what’s up?” he asked as Jackie filled his glass.

“Nothing. I’m just being stupid.”

“So, tell me what’s up anyway.”

“No. You’re gonna think I’m being stupid.”

“No, I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. Because I am.”

“What’s up, Jackie?”

“I’m jealous.”

“Jealous? Jealous of what?”

“You’re in love with another woman, Travis, and I’m jealous ’cause it’s not me. Sounds pretty stupid coming from me, right?”

“I don’t get it, Jackie.”

“I don’t get it either. And that’s what so stupid about it.” She drained her glass and poured another. “I guess I’ve gotten comfortable with the idea of you being my man.”

“You lost me.”

“Travis, you’ve been my man for years. Every time I needed to show up someplace with a man, it’s always been you. Prom, college parties, office parties, family gatherings, whatever. It’s always been you. Shit, my parents still wanna know when we’re getting married. Don’t ask me why, but somewhere in the back of my mind I thought-” Jackie paused, “I don’t know what I was thinking. Stupid, right?”

“Damn, Jackie. I never knew you felt like that.”

“Neither did I. Not until I heard you say you loved her. You’ve never taken a woman seriously.” Jackie laughed. “Neither have I. But to hear you say that you’re in love with her, that just caught me off guard. But I’m cool.”

They sat quietly at the table looking at one another. Jackie smiled at him as Ronnie came into the kitchen. “You two kids got your shit worked out yet?” Ronnie asked as he poured himself a glass of Henny.

“I don’t know,” Travis said and turned to Jackie. “Do we, Jackie?”

“Like I said, I’m cool.”

“Good, ’cause we got a job to do in a couple days, and both of y’all need to have your minds right.”

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