Authors: Allison Hobbs
itting in the passenger seat of Brick’s car, Anya pointed to a row house with neatly trimmed hedges. “That’s where his mom lives. The house with the white security door.”
“Why should I believe you?”
“I don’t have any reason to lie. Come with me; I can prove it.” She opened the car door.
“Nah, I’m good. You go. I’ll be watching from the car.”
“Okay.” Anya shrugged and stepped out of the car. Brick half-expected her to make a run for it. He watched her warily as she sauntered down the walkway. Remembering that her overnight bag with all of her worldly possessions was stored in the trunk of his car, Brick relaxed.
Turning his attention away from Anya, he examined Cash Money’s contact list and tapped on, “Mom.” Brick held the phone to his ear, and listened to the ringing phone on the other end. On the third ring, someone picked up and began shouting in his ear.
“You gotta lot of fucking nerve, calling me from my son’s cell phone. Listen, you barbarian, you better stop harassing my son. Troy told me you threatened to come to my house and hurt me. Well, it’s gon’ take a lot more than some threats to scare me. I’m sick of you thugs bullying my child. Troy’s a good boy; he shouldn’t have to live in fear, looking over his shoulder all because you think he stole something from you. Troy was raised in the church, and he doesn’t steal.”
Brick took a breath and attempted to get a word in edgewise, but the woman kept up the tirade. “And another thing, you can tell that little bitch, Anya, that I have a pot filled with bleach and boiling water for her. After I welcomed her into my home—fed her hungry ass—she’s got the audacity to bring trouble to my front door. Yeah, I got something for her when I see her. I’ma burn the skin right off her body. Think I won’t? Make sure you tell her what I said!” With those hostile words, Cash Money’s mother hung up on Brick.
Anya was at the front door, prepared to rap on the front door. Brick honked the horn, and then jumped out of the car. He yelled Anya’s name. Rushing toward her, waving his hand, he beckoned her to get back in the car.
Anya turned around; she looked at Brick and shrugged. He gestured for her to move away from the door. She trotted toward him in the knick of time. The door burst open and a tall, thick woman stood in the doorway. Smoke and steam wafted from the pot that she held in her hand. “Lowlife bitch!” the woman yelled.
“Run! Get in the car!” Brick yelled in desperation.
Anya looked over her shoulder. When she saw the smoking pot, she began sprinting toward Brick—racing like Marion Jones trying to cross the finish line.
Anya was half in and half out of the car as Brick peeled away.
After she caught her breath, Anya closed the door and put her seat belt on. She looked at Brick. “Now, you know where C’s mother lives. Do you believe me now?” Anya asked, and then burst out laughing.
“Dude might be cowardly, but his mom’s got heart. She ain’t scared of nothing.” Brick chuckled and then his expression turned serious. “I’m sorry for putting you in that situation. I wasn’t expecting her to be waiting with a pot of bleach and boiling water. Who does shit like that?”
“That’s what was in the pot—bleach
boiling water? Goddamn!”
Brick nodded. “That’s what she said when I called her.” He held up Cash Money’s phone.
“Oh, my God.” Anya shuddered. “Wow! That’s ghetto warfare.”
Brick grew quiet. It was hard enough dealing with the fact that he’d failed Misty; he didn’t want to be responsible for bringing harm to this innocent young woman.
“Can’t blame a mother for trying to protect her son, but I’m curious, can you please tell me what’s going on? Who is this Misty chick and what happened to her?”
“I can’t get into that with you.”
Now Anya fell silent.
“What’s your story?” Brick asked merely to make conversation.
“It’s long and crazy. My father is out there living on the streets and nobody cares except me. I’d been searching for him for about a month when I…uh…fell on hard times. I feel like giving up, but can’t. I won’t be down much longer. Once I’m on my feet, I want to help him. Make sure he has decent food; put a roof over his head.”
Being homeless had always been one of Brick’s biggest fears. He was homeless right now, but he was surprisingly unworried, viewing his situation as more of an inconvenience than a hopeless state of being. His mind was too focused on revenge to worry about a comfortable bed.
“How long has your pop been living on the streets?” Brick asked.
“About seven or eight years. I don’t know if he’s dead or alive, but I have to try to find him.”
“I got a room with AC back at the hotel. I’m not gonna use it. It’s yours for the night, if you want it. But I really don’t think it’s safe for you to stay there, now that you got beef with Cash Money—and Mom Dukes.” Brick chuckled uneasily, trying to make light of the dangerous encounter he’d led Anya into.
“Can you give me a ride to the women’s shelter in Germantown? I’ve stayed there from time to time. They may have an available bed.”
“No problem.” Brick wished that he could be more of a help to Anya, but he had troubles of his own. He didn’t need any extra baggage.
Driving along Stenton Avenue in Germantown, Brick noticed one fast food place after another. “You hungry?” he asked Anya. The least he could do was offer the poor thing a meal before he dropped her off at the shelter.
“Is KFC all right with you?”
“Anything’s all right with me. Beggars can’t be choosers,” she said with a pained smile.
nside KFC, Brick and Anya ate in silence. Anya tore into a drumstick and then a chicken wing while Brick was still working on the same chicken breast. Big and muscular as he was, Anya was eating him under the table. The girl was hungry.
Noticing there were no napkins on their tray, he got up and grabbed some napkins from a dispenser. “Here you go.” He set the napkins down in front of Anya.
“Thanks,” she muttered, steadily chewing.
“How old are you?” he inquired.
“I’ll be twenty-one soon.”
“You don’t look any more than seventeen or eighteen.”
“Well, I feel like I’m eighty.” She gave a weary sigh.
“Where you from, if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I was born here in Philly; moved to Indiana when I was a little girl.”
“Did your pop stay here in Philly, after you and your mom left town?”
“My mother didn’t exactly leave town. She’s deceased.”
“Sorry to hear that.”
“I was eleven years old.” She shrugged. “It’s been so long, I barely remember her. Anyway, I stayed with my father and grand-mom for a while. After my grandmom passed, my dad wasn’t able to take care of me. He sent me to Indiana to stay with my aunt.
Aunt Minerva isn’t a blood relative. She’s more like a friend of the family. I didn’t have an easy life, but I try not to dwell on the past,” Anya kept her eyes down as she wiped her hands with a napkin. She was acting as if she hadn’t been affected by losing her parents, but Brick could sense the subject made her tense and upset. He was sorry he’d persuaded her to divulge her personal history.
“I’m broke right now, but not for long,” she continued in a much stronger voice. “When I get on my feet, I’m going to hire a detective…do whatever it takes to find my father. I’ll get him his own crib or he can come back to Indiana with me. It’s his choice—whatever makes him happy.”
Brick had also lost his mother when he was young, and he felt a connection to Anya. She was lucky to have a support system back in Indiana. Part of what made Brick tick—the dark, treacherous part of his soul—had developed during childhood, when he was whipped and abused, threatened and taunted by the adults that were supposed to be taking care of him.
He wondered if Anya’s aunt had treated her right. But since he wasn’t willing to share his personal story, it wasn’t fair to ask her for details about her life.
Besides, Brick and Anya were only two passing ships. He was on a mission that would end in murder. While Anya, on the other hand, was desperate to save a life.
They were on two separate journeys.
Back in the car, Anya gave Brick directions to the shelter. The women’s shelter was on a nice street in a residential neighborhood. Brick popped open the trunk so that Anya could get her bag.
She grabbed her red bag and hurried to the front door. She gave Brick a quick wave when someone opened the door. Brick let out a breath of relief once Anya was inside. Instead of pulling
off, he sat in front of the shelter with his motor running, wondering what his next move should be.
He needed money. Couldn’t accomplish much without it. He could get a loan from the credit union at work. After he got his hands on some paper, he’d put in for a two-week vacation—or better yet, he’d ask for a leave of absence.
Infiltrating Smash Hitz’ camp would probably take longer than two weeks. Finding a way to abduct both Smash Hitz and the tranny broad was going to take patience and cunning.
Now that he’d figured out a way to finance a trip to Miami, he decided to splurge on a clean room in a decent hotel. Still sitting in his car with the motor running, Brick searched the Internet on his cell, and located a hotel near the airport that offered a full kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom. The price wasn’t bad, either.
Satisfied with his plan, he pulled out of the parking space and drove a few feet, tapping on the brakes when he reached a stop sign at the corner.
Glancing in his rearview mirror, he spotted Anya. She was leaving the shelter, head hung low. Red bag tossed over her shoulder.
Brick immediately put the car in reverse and cruised backwards until he reached Anya. “What happened?”
“No room. They’re only taking women with children. The administrator called a shelter on Thirteenth and Arch. They have two beds open. But it’s first come, first serve,” Anya said, sounding dejected. “I hate to ask you, but can you give me a ride downtown?”
“Yeah, I can do that.” Brick unlocked the passenger door. He felt somewhat responsible for her predicament. If he hadn’t shown up at the flophouse, Anya would have continued her daily routine with Cash Money. As pitiful as her life with Cash Money must’ve been, at least she’d had a place to stay. Now she was out
on the streets. Brick noticed the sky was darkening. It looked like it was going to rain.
Suddenly affected by the gloomy sky, Brick thought about his family. Thomasina had always shown him nothing but love; she’d given him the utmost respect throughout their short marriage, and now she hated him. His son was going to be distraught when he woke up in the morning and couldn’t find his daddy.
Oh, God. Misty!
His anguish over Misty was all consuming.
I fuck up everything I touch.
“Is something wrong?” Anya asked, picking up on Brick’s sudden mood swing. “I can take a bus and the subway if you don’t feel like—”
“You don’t have to go to a shelter; you can stay with me,” Brick announced, making a sudden decision to take care of Anya for a few days. He’d have a guilty conscience if he left her stranded with nowhere to rest her head.
“You know the deal,” he told her. “I got shit to take care of. I’m only getting this room for a few days…a week at the most. After that, you’re on your own.”
Brick swiped the key card. He and Anya entered the cool and nicely decorated hotel room. Carrying a shopping bag filled with milk, cereal, and munchies, he strode to the small kitchen and set the bag on the counter.
Anya lingered in the living room area for a moment, checking out the widescreen TV and the modern furnishings. “Wow. This is nice,” she said as she joined him in the kitchen. “Thanks for looking out for me.”
“It’s not a big deal.”
“It’s a big deal to me. It’s been a minute since I’ve been in clean place with all the comforts of home.” She ran her hands along the surface of the countertops, and then swung open the door to the fridge. “Ooo, they gave us complimentary bottles of water.”