My main man! Clarence Richards… It’s sure good to see ya man! What brings you ‘round these parts? This ain’t no place for you.
How’s it going Slimmy? It’s been a while. But you know I check on you here and there. I like to make sure you’re staying out of trouble… and… I need protection. I got into it with some guys on campus. I don’t want them to know that I don’t know how to fight!
You’re not talkin’ bout them pigs are you? They’ve been ‘round here trackin’ my moves lately. Wantin’ to see receipts for my inventory, licenses and permits… You’re not talkin’ bout hittin’ one of em up, are you?
No, no, nothing like that. Just to scare them up a little bit. Let em know I’m not afraid of them.
Well you sure ain’t getting very far with them trousers and church shoes on brotha… You lookin’ real threatenin’ with those fancy flare bottom breaches… Where you goin’ lookin’ like that anyway? Pretty boys like you don’t belong round these here parts.
I’m on my way to that jazz joint around the corner, Jade Fontane is singing tonight. I figured I should get there early to grab a good seat, but something told me I might need a little extra protection. Something that can fight for me, if you know what I mean. I don’t know how long those guys have been following me, or what they want. I’m just trying to be safe. I don’t know when I’m going back to campus. I’m certain I’ll have to figure that out soon.
Ahhh, yes, Jade. She sure is somethin’ special ain’t she?
Yeah, she’s spectacular. But she’d never give me the time of day. Her voice sounds like the perfect harmony swaying in the wind, powerful enough to freeze time dead in its tracks. Every second ticks slower until finally nothing. Her smile is so breathtaking outlined with her red lips, complimenting her caramel complexion… And her curves, they gracefully rock and move like the perfect rhythm to a drummer’s beat.
Yup, looks like you’ve got the hots for her alright.
That may be the case, but she doesn’t even know I exist.
Where you headed to boy? Anyone round here this time of night is looking for trouble.
Evening officer. I’m just heading to the jazz joint over there. Minding my own business. What’s the matter sir?
Get over here nigger! I’m asking the questions. You keep your mouth shut unless I tell you to talk! You understand me boy? Spread your legs apart.
But officer, I didn’t do anything. Tell me what this is all about…
It was my moment of realization when I knew I wasn’t going to make it home that night. I just picked up a piece from Slimmy’s moments before I was walking to Jazzy’s Place. My intuition told me that night wasn’t going to go as planned. After the cops stopped me and requested backup when they felt my 9 mm in my jacket pocket, it was nothing but harassment and abuse to follow. I wasn’t able to see a judge until Monday morning. I had no idea how I was going to get out of that holding cell containing actual criminals, or even make it through that evening.
I tried to portray a tough image by standing tall, frowning up my face, and developing a nervous twitch. I presumed that would also make me appear to be crazy and unapproachable. I later caught my reflection in an interior window leading down a narrow hallway, with handcuffs restraining my arms behind my back. Tough was the last thing to describe me. I resembled a pathetic wet bed sheet hanging out to dry. My 6 foot 2 inch height and 145 pounds of a frame wasn’t fooling anyone. I had to think quick, to keep my manhood.
“Look at that nigger over there, I bet I can scare him and make him mine by the end of the night.”
That was all I needed to hear before my brain went into a frenzy replaying any gangster movie or trial I was forced to view for my elective class at the university. When I say I contemplated slowing down my heart rate, passing out, and hoping the guards would come and rescue me, that wasn’t exactly the reason the guards were called.
Those two overgrown gorillas stood nearly fourteen feet tall if they were standing on each others shoulders. Tattoo ink covered their faces and every inch of their exposed skin, making them appear to be green, as opposed to their original pale complexion. A few tattoos stood out, especially the ones on their bald heads and knuckles. One tattoo displayed colored men being hung on a tree, along with the letters “KKK” engulfed in flames. Seeing this made every nerve in my body tense from anxiety. My fight or flight response was kicked into high gear, ready to run.
They were getting closer to me, I had to think fast…
What you in for Nigger?
“I don’t want any trouble.” I said with a stern face, slightly twitching my right eye and shoulder like my twitch was starting to flare. Doesn’t look like they were buying it though. My heart was pounding and I could feel beads of sweat rolling down my back.
Ooooh! Well, well, well, what do we have here? This nigger ain’t scared of us Jasper.
That’s what it looks like to me, Neo. Looks like we got us a lil situation on our hands if he ain’t gonna cooperate.
I reckon he don’t understand the question. I’m gone ask him one more time… What you in for nigger?
With the most confidence that I could summons up, mixed with intense emotions to not show fear, I replied, “My house just got busted by the pigs.” I shifted my head to crack my neck, then spat on the floor by one of their foot. I continued to say, “They found all of my lethal injections used to torture select individuals that display hatred for colored people.” What did I say that for? I don’t know, because the next thing I heard was a loud thump that had a lot of bass… it was my body hitting the floor.
The next morning was a painful alarm clock. I rose up to a throbbing jaw, a few bruises on my face, chest and legs, and my arm was questionably in a sling. As I tried to adjust my eyes to focus, I was confused on what I was seeing. I didn’t know where I was at. I wasn’t certain of the owner of the clothes that I was wearing. The room was naturally lit from the sun with beautiful curtains dancing from the breeze. This place smelled like the best home cooked breakfast I could imagine. I heard pots and pans clinking in the kitchen, combined with the most incredible singing. I tried to get up and follow the aromas and sound, but my pounding head, swollen legs, and sense of vertigo forced me back to the bed with immense pain.
It was then, Jade Fontane was standing in front of me with a cool and wet cloth in one hand, and a glass of water with aspirin in the other. I whispered in curiosity, “How did I get here?” She told me, but I couldn’t focus with my head in it’s current state, then on top of that, she was beautiful. Standing in front of me was the Jade Fontane. Her linen sleeveless dress exposed her sun-kissed skin that seemed to glow at every angle that she turned. Her hair was freshly washed, and caressed her shoulders as she spoke and gestured in a girlish and flirty manner. Her lips were moving, but I couldn’t hear anything.
“Clarence?… Clarence, are you listening to me? Is everything okay?”… she snapped me out of my daydream.
Yes, I’m fine. Umm, I think my head is just getting the best of me. What exactly happened? How do I have this sling on my arm? How did I end up here, and where am I by the way?
You don’t remember anything do you Clarence? Slimmy called me when I was at the club, he left a message for me saying you were in an accident and arrested. Apparently you called him from the holding cell saying where you were and needed bail. I’m assuming that’s when he called me. He mentioned you were on your way to Jazzy’s Place before you were stopped by the police.
Really? What else did he say?
Nothing to be alarmed about. He wanted to make sure I didn’t tease you for wanting to have a gun. I’ve been watching you since you’ve been coming into Jazzy’s Place. You don’t seem like the type to have a gun or to end up in jail. I thought you were an attractive man, quiet and soft spoken. You didn’t hound me like everyone else. It was hard to tell if you even liked my music. So I had some friend’s of mine follow you to make sure you didn’t get yourself into trouble. I liked seeing you at my shows. I wanted to keep you safe and… out of harms way.
Wow! Jade Fontane just admitted that she liked me! Well maybe not in those words, but it was a start. I couldn’t find any words to say. What blurted out of my mouth without reservation was, “Where’s your restroom?”. She looked confused and pointed down the hallway.
In the bathroom, I couldn’t compose myself. My reflection in the mirror became my best friend, and we were having a conversation and talking this thing out…
Okay, let’s get it together, we’re in Jade Fontane’s home.
She’s the one that had those crackers following close behind us watching our every move on campus! We can’t trust her.
Wait a minute Clarence, we can’t be mad at her, she was trying to help.
What was she doing having them to follow us in the first place?
Now if you can think hard and remember, she said she wanted to keep us safe. Again, we can’t blame her, she was looking out for us.
I don’t know man, something doesn’t seem right. Keep us safe from what?
You’ve seen her, she wouldn’t hurt a fly. And her body is calling me to do something bad, in a good way.
Stop! This is too much to handle and process right now! … I splashed water on my face and heard a voice from the other side of the door… “Clarence? Are you okay in there? Who are you talking to?”
“Who? Me? I’m fine!”, is all I could form for words as I tried to clear my head and pull myself together. “I’m just a little light-headed. I was just giving myself a pep talk to wake up, I learned it in Psychology.” Ughh, I keep saying dumb stuff. She probably thinks I’m the biggest square of all time.
“Umm… alright… well just let me know if you need anything. Try to… talk yourself into getting better. Your food is getting cold.”
That’s the last thing I heard from Jade before I heard her kitten heels on her shoes prancing down the hallway. I was finally alone again. I wonder how long had she been listening in. The thought of her caring about me made me feel nervous and nauseated at the same time. I knew it was coming, there’s my dinner finding it’s way back out to greet me from the last meal that I remembered eating the day before… I just need a minute.
Clarence, I’m glad you’re feeling a little better to come and join me. Maybe we can finally get a chance to know each other a little better.
Coughing and choking on my orange juice, I uttered, “Yeah, let’s get to know each other.”
Uggh! I can’t believe I just said that. Something about her makes me feel so small and almost irrelevant. Here I am, sitting in her eat-in kitchen that happens to be larger than my apartment. I’m still baffled on how did I get here, one minute I’m talking to Slimmy about getting a little protection, then I’m riding in the back of a cop’s car to a holding facility. I think I was man-handled a little bit, I wouldn’t doubt it, and now I’m in Jade Fontane’s home. Nothing makes sense right now.
To the left of where we are sitting in her eat-in kitchen is the housekeeper cleaning and preparing the kitchen for the chef to come and start lunch at some point. Right outside this bay window is an enormous lawn leading to a swimming pool in the distance. There’s no way she’d be interested in me. I can’t give her these things. I’m positive I can’t even afford to pay half of the water bill. I knew she was beautiful, but I’d have to do something grand to keep the attention of this woman, that’s assuming she’d want to keep me around, and for what? I don’t know much of anything right now.
Ms. Fontane? …Can I ask you something?
“Please, call me Jade, ‘Ms. Fontane’ is my mother”, she smirked at me from the top of her Memosa after taking a sip.
Okay, Jade… How do you and Slimmy know each other?
He and I go way back. We used to live in the same neighborhood when we were kids. He knows me by my birth name. Our mother’s used to go to some bingo hall together every Sunday night. More often than not, the babysitter would watch both of us together. I look up to him as my big brother. We grew apart as we got older, but stayed in touch. I wanted a career. I wanted to sing on stages from New York to California. He didn’t see the point in going to school. Nevertheless, we never downed each other for the decisions that we each made.
I thought to myself, “How come Slimmy never told me that he knew Jade Fontane?”. Maybe he knew I’d never have a shot at her. Maybe he didn’t want me to feel like if she and I ever met, it was because of him… Well we actually did meet because of him, he called Ms. Fontane, I mean Jade, to let her know I was detained and in custody.
Jade, what is it that you want from me? Why did you bail me out?
I want you to come and work with me.
I don’t know anything about singing or a band.
No, not that. I want you to be my inspiration, and protector. Kind of like a bodyguard.
Me? Do you see my arm in this sling? I don’t fight. I don’t like conflict. And I’m a lightweight, look at me!
Laughing, Jade responded, “Try to calm down. You’re perfect. I heard how you stood up to those guys in the holding cell with you. They took you down, but you had heart. That’s what I can appreciate. At least I know you’re going to stand up for what’s right. I fired my last two guys because they just wanted to shoot people with their fancy guns to prove they were tough. But when it came down to it, they didn’t care about me at all. They only marveled over the ladies that thought they were tough guys with an important job. You on the other hand, I’ve watched you at my shows. You’ve turned down beautiful women approaching you, you would rarely have a drink while at the club, and you would also look uninterested in me! I wasn’t ever able to figure you out. That intrigued me.
I didn’t have a response. In fact, I felt the remnants of whatever was left in my belly making it’s way back to the top of my throat. Jade Fontane had been watching me; of all people. I had to accept the position with her. But first, I need some extra cash.
Slimmy?… Slim?… Where are you?
I’m in the office, I’ll be right out.
Usually that meant Slimmy was navigating through a narcotics deal in the back of his chop shop. In the front of his store, he sold used cars. Cars that he obtained at auctions. It was still hard for us colored folks to own a car during the sixties. If you were fortunate to get a car, you were either a drug dealer and had the cops on your payroll, or a pimp. Either way, you were a direct target to cops that were not in your inner circle.
Clarence! What’s up man? How’s it hangin’?
Oh you know, same ol’ same ol’… I’ve been meaning to ask you something.
Sure man, anything!
Okay, I’m just going to say it, how come you didn’t tell me that you and Jade Fontane were close?
Oh, you mean Natalie? Yeah, me and her go way back. I knew you had a thing for her. I ain’t wanna come between what could happen on its own. When you got locked up by the feds…
“They were just cops, Slim.” I interrupted.
You know what I mean… But I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to bail you out without gettin’ the third degree on where my bread was comin’ from, you get what I’m sayin’? Natalie was da only one legit with da cash where she would have all her ducks in a row.
Okay, then do you know anything about those guys that ran up on me on campus? When I was talking to Jade, she said she had them to follow me to keep me out of trouble, whatever that’s supposed to mean. That’s the reason I wanted to get protection, I didn’t know their intent or motive for even spying on me.
Now that you mentioned it, she did tell me she had her troop to keep an eye on some cat over. She said homie she was watching struck her as being shy, but very well put together or some junk like that. I never put two and two together that she might be talkin’ ‘bout you… dawg, you’re in there! Welcome to the fam bro!
Whoa, let’s not get ahead of ourselves Slim… First things first, I need to interview on your narc team. I need larger pockets to hold my own and join with her team.
Shhhhhhhh… Quiet down! You tryna get me locked up or somethin’ round here? … Puttin’ my business all in the street!… Don’t trip, you ain’t gotta interview. Meet my partner tomorrow at 3pm, at the park on Main Street.
How would I know I’m meeting the correct person?
They’ll find you.