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By DONALD GOINES
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2001 Donald Goines
All rights reserved.
EARL'S APARTMENT WAS elaborately, tastefully, and expensively furnished. The three young men lounging on the floor had completely disregarded the plush gold velvet couch and matching chairs to stretch out on the deep-pile, red wall-to-wall carpet. Charles, a tall Negro with brown, bumpy skin and a high natural, began crawling towards the coffee table while Earl and the others watched listlessly. "Anybody want me to roll them a joint?" he asked.
"You can twist me another, as long as you're at it, man," Billy, a slim, dark-complexioned black man called from the far corner. Billy pushed the cushion from beneath his head and rose to a sitting position, patting his hair lightly, pushing the process back in place. He eyed Earl, who was standing across the room looking out of the picture window. "Say, Earl," he said, "let's call up some square bitches and have them come over and dig this penthouse of yours, man."
Earl, tall and brown-skinned, ran his fingers across his mustache, smiled, and walked to the glass-topped coffee table where Charles was busy twisting reefers. He picked up a joint and pointed it towards Billy before lighting up. "That's the reason I got this penthouse, Billy, instead of some run-down, cold-water flat across town," he said.
"What the hell you mean by that?" Duke, the fourth member of the group, asked as he came over and joined the men at the table. He accepted one of the joints Charles held out to him.
Earl took a slow drag from his reefer before answering. "I'd feel like a damn fool if we had some square bitches sitting around getting high and one of my whores should happen to come home," he said.
Billy picked up a cushion and tossed it over beside the table so that he could kneel on it. "What difference would it make? You're supposed to be the one doing the pimping, Earl, not one of your whores."
Duke laughed loudly. "I ain't got nothing to do with it, Earl, but Billy is pulling your coat to the real."
"Pimping is my livelihood, nigger, so I don't need any goddamn instructions!" Earl replied sarcastically. "Neither you nor Billy would give me a goddamn penny towards my rent or car note if I blew my whores, so don't worry about how I take care of my business."
"Goddamn, baby," Billy replied jokingly. "If someone who didn't know us heard you talking, they wouldn't believe we was real cool with each other."
"That's right," Duke yelled, putting his two cents in. He removed a large bankroll and began counting hundred-dollar bills on the table. "I'll gladly loan you any parts of this case, if you need it, man. Go ahead, take what you want."
Charles twisted up the last reefer. "Why don't you motherfuckers quit bullshittin'. If it wasn't for them bitches Earl got out on the track, he couldn't borrow five dollars, let alone some big stuff. That ain't nothing but neck—and the side of it at that—that you're talkin' out of!"
Earl spoke up with the youthful gaiety and irresponsibility of a young man who didn't care what others thought of him. "Ain't nobody asked your greasy black ass to loan me no money, so you can quit flashing that little roll of yours. You sure in the hell ain't impressing nobody with that A-D-C trap money."
Duke stuffed his bankroll back into his pocket.
"Okay, nigger, I hear you rappin'. Just 'cause you got this pad up here, you must think that makes you one hell of a pimp."
Earl laughed harshly. "They rent these penthouses to anybody, Duke. All you got to do is be handling."
All of the men laughed, while Duke sneered, revealing a perfect set of evenly spaced, well-kept teeth. There was a constant undercurrent of competitiveness between the men in the apartment. None really trusted the other, not where their women were concerned. It was great sport for one to end up by taking one of his friends' girls.
Duke continued his harassment. "I still don't know how you went about getting this place, Earl. You sure don't look like no peckerwood. What did you do, send one of your white girls up to rent it?"
Again the men in the room laughed. Earl adjusted his pants and straightened his shirt. "Whatever I did, Duke, you can bet I did it like a player. In fact, if you should want a place here and can't get it because of your extremely dark man-tan, you can let your white girl rent it, and you put on a white jacket and carry her bags in for her."
"That ain't nothing but bullshit ya keep kickin' back and forth," Billy said suddenly. "I don't understand it, but every time you two get together, it always ends with both of you trying to drop lugs on each other."
Charles nodded in agreement. "That's right. Instead of pimps, you act like two bitches."
Earl and Duke glared at the other two men. Neither man actually wanted to discontinue the light exchange. Both men had a hidden dislike for one another, and yet they ran together almost every day.
"Let's ride down on the whores and see who's catching them the biggest," Duke said suddenly as he stood up.
A dry, bitter laugh escaped from Earl. "Since you ain't got no whores down on the track, how in the hell are you goin' find out who's catchin' what and how?" Earl grinned at the other men, then added, "unless what you really mean is, let's ride down and see what them thoroughbred bitches I got are doing."
"Not really, Earl. You know you ain't the only person in this room who happens to have a soul sister working down on the track."
"Bravo, bravo!" Billy shouted, clapping loudly. Earl watched Billy with the attitude of a man well aware of the deceitful nature of the people he deals with.
Charles bent over and knocked the ashes off his joint. "Well, all the reefer is gone now, so let's do something."
"Here," Billy said, tossing a small package on the table. "Let's snort this little bit of poison up before we pull."
Earl stared at the package as though someone had tossed a snake on his table. "Well I'll be damned, Billy. You mean to tell me you've been carrying all that smack around in my car all day without me even knowing about it?"
"You didn't have nothing to worry about, Earl, and besides, it ain't nothing but a fifty-dollar bag," Billy answered.
Duke bent over the table and tore off a piece of matchbox cover. He quickly creased the torn piece down the middle and stuck one end of the quill into the white powder. With an adept motion, he picked up some of the white powder with his quill and quickly stuck it into his nose. Snorting loudly, he looked around the small group. "What's the matter, baby," he said directly to Earl. "Is a little bit of money really making you get shitty?"
Earl spoke up sharply. "You can call it anything you want to, Duke, but I don't want you or Billy or any goddamn body in my house, car, or just in my company carrying no dope without me knowing about it!"
Charles tried to relieve the sting of Earl's words. "That's about the way Dicky-boy will feel about drugs by the time he gets out of prison," he said quietly.
His words put Billy on the defensive immediately. Everyone in the house knew just what he was saying. "What you're talking about ain't shit, Charles," Billy stated loudly. "That dope that was found in Dicky's car belonged to the white bitch, Pat. If he hadn't had the funky bitch sitting damn near in his lap, the dope wouldn't have been found at his feet."
There was a slight tightening of nerves, and the tension in the room could be felt. "Well, all of you were in the car together, my man," Earl said sharply, staring at Billy's flushed face. Before Billy could reply, Earl continued. "And I know for a fact that Dicky didn't fuck with no junk, so it sure didn't belong to him, and he's the one that got five years for it."
"That's bullshit and you know it!" Billy exploded. "They gave Dicky all that time because they knew he was driving a Cadillac that his white whores had bought for him. They been wantin' the man for years, and they got the chance and just socked it to him."
Earl stared around the room at the other men. He was young, strong, and full of confidence. "Well, that may be the case," he said, "but for the record, I want you to know that I don't want any drugs in my car unless you done pulled my coat to it."
"Aw, man, why you come up with that weak shit?" Billy asked, then added, "You act like I ain't got no Cadillac of my own, baby. I ain't just got to ride in yours."
"Well, you said it, Billy, I didn't. But since you stated it, I think that's the best thing I've heard. I know you ain't goin' do right, and every time you get in somebody's car, you're going to be carryin' some kind of drugs—for either you or your woman. So, you know, take your own weight."
"That's cool," Billy answered while in the process of snorting up some dope. "I guess you remember I left my car across town when I got in your car with you and Charles."
"You don't have to worry, Billy Banks," Earl replied. "I'm going to drop you and Duke back off at your car when we leave. I just want you to let me know when you get into my car if you're carrying dope on you. I like to be careful. I hate to have the police find a package of stuff on my floor when I don't really know how it got there."
The men stared at each other. Billy was far from being a fool, but he didn't really get angry over what Earl had said. If push came to shove, and he was in Earl's car and they got stopped, he knew in his heart that he'd stick the dope down in one of the cushions if he hadn't had the time to throw it out the window. Anything, just as long as he got rid of the dope so that the police couldn't take it out of his pocket. With the dope found in the car, he'd never have to worry about going to prison, not on a rap like that. Maybe Earl would end up losing his Cadillac, but that would be far better than getting a few years behind bars.
The phone rang, and since Charles was sitting right next to it, he got Earl's nod, then picked up the receiver.
"It's long distance, Earl," he said, holding the phone out as Earl reached for it.
"Hi, honey," Earl said, then hesitated and began to listen. He picked the phone up and started to walk away with it, but changed his mind. "What's the name of the doctor you're seeing?" he asked suddenly. He waited, then continued. "Well, if the doctor thinks you should go into the hospital, honey, then you do what he says. Female trouble can become a problem if you don't take care of it. How much money have you got? Four hundred.
Well, that should be enough. Get you a private room, and if the bill should run over that, let me know. But what you try and do is tell them you'll pay the rest, if it should turn out to be more than four hundred dollars. As soon as you get back to work, you should be able to take care of that yourself, Lill."
He nodded his head at something she said, then hung up. "The bitch done come down with female trouble," he said to no one in particular. Earl turned his back and walked over to the window and stared out. His mind was busy with how to handle the problem that had just come up.
While his girl was in the hospital, he would miss the money that came regularly from the whorehouse in Pennsylvania, but the money wasn't his real problem. What he was pondering was whether or not he should send another girl up to fill the place of the one going to the hospital. If he did that, then when the one in the hospital got out, there would be confusion between the women. Lill was a good prostitute, but she couldn't get along with any of his other girls. That was one reason why he kept her working out of town. Whenever she came back to Detroit, she managed to always get into some kind of scrape with one of his other girls.
"Damn, baby," Duke said loudly. "You sure believe in blowing your money, don't you?"
Earl turned from the window and stared at him. "I don't know what you mean, man."
Duke smiled, revealing yellow spots on his teeth. "I mean by blowing all that money on a hospital bill. All you had to do was have her check in a general hospital somewhere, and when she got well, just leave. Ain't no way they can make a whore pay no bill." He grinned widely at his own cleverness. "Yeah, baby, if she was mine, I'd of had her mail that four hundred, maybe lettin' her keep fifty, or something like that. But she'd never have blown all that money for no doctor bill."
"Yeah, I see what you mean," Earl replied, then laughed harshly. "That's the difference in pimpin' and simpin', man. I let all my ladies go first class, all the time. That's why I got a stable of good young whores instead of some dopefiend bitches that shoot up all the profit."
"You can call it simpin' if you want to," Duke continued, determined to get his point across, "but I'd be four hundred bucks richer sometime today if I had been in your place."
"Fuck all that shit!" Billy said loudly, as he snorted up the rest of his dope. "I'd have asked you to take a blow, Charles, but I know you don't want your big chief Earl to know that you like a toot now and then." He glanced up at Earl, "Hey, man, how about running us back over on Johnny-R street so I can pick up my car?"
Earl picked up the vest that went with his mod walking suit. He walked into the bedroom to see if the brown silk outfit was fitting him properly. When he came out, he was ready to go. The rest of the men got up and followed him to the door.
Billy laughed loudly as they walked out into the hallway. After closing the door and shaking it to make sure it was locked, Earl caught up with the group at the elevator. He spoke directly to Duke. "Everybody seems to have a lot of advice about how somebody else should treat their whores, but when it comes down to the real, all a nigger will find out is that all his so called friends have but one thought in mind, and that's how to steal one of them whores from his stiff ass if he lets his game get funny."
The elevator door opened in front of them. Earl stepped in before Duke could reply. There was an elderly, well-dressed couple already inside, so they discontinued the conversation.CHAPTER 2
AFTER DROPPING DUKE and Billy off, Earl, known in and out of all the craps-houses and after-hours joints in the city as "Earl the Black Pearl," decided to drive up on Twelfth and see what kind of action he could find on the corner so early in the evening. He didn't bother to ask the quiet man riding next to him if he wanted to go.
Slumped down in the front seat, Charles stared out of the wide Cadillac window. "You know what we should do for this coming holiday?" he asked sud denly, his voice a deep bass and seeming to rumble as he spoke.
"I don't know what we should do," Earl replied easily, "but I got a damn good idea of what I'm going to be doing." The news came on the radio, and Earl quickly switched on the tape recorder.
Charles stared at the slim, dark-skinned man behind the steering wheel. Some black men seemed out of place behind· the wheel of the expensive automobiles they drove, wearing work clothes, factory outfits in a ten-thousand-dollar car, but Earl appeared as if the car had been made for him. The white on the white Cadillac fitted him to perfection. The diamonds that he wore glittered as his hand moved over and flicked the button to let down the electric window a crack. He lit up a stick of reefer. "That don't mean that I won't listen to a good idea for the coming holiday, though. Run it down, baby; I just might go for it."
"Naw, man, that's okay. It wouldn't have made no sense no way." Charles shrugged his shoulders and straightened up in the seat. "We just passed the Man coming out of that alley."
Excerpted from Street Players by DONALD GOINES. Copyright © 2001 Donald Goines. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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