No Damn Good
There was a New York City Police cruiser parked in front of his building when Charlie drove over to unclog Mrs. Tarkanian's toilet.
"Not again," he sighed. He followed the sounds of police radio dispatches to the third floor, apartment 3-F.
There were two of them. Ebony and Ivory. Ivory was standing in the hall outside, swinging his night stick.
"What's going on, officer?" Charlie tried to sound respectful.
"Who're you?" Ivory had a serious case of Italian attitude.
"I'm the landlord. Charles Largent." Charlie enjoyed the look of disbelief that played on Ivory's face. "You mind if I go in?"
"It's your buildin'." Ivory moved aside.
Yeah, it is, Charlie thought. I'm a black man who owns an apartment building – with a huge monthly mortgage payment.
Inside, Elmore Caster was sitting at the kitchen table, his face covered with his hands. He was a dark Haitian, in his late fifties, maybe five and half feet tall and weighing a hundred and thirty pounds after a big dinner. Ebony was sitting across from him, filling in Police forms. Charlie looked around. He knew without asking there was a robbery – stuff just felt missing.
"It ain't right … it ain't right … it ain't right … it ain't right … it ain't right …" Elmore was ranting. Grief talk.
"Elmore?" Charlie put one of his big hands on Elmore's scrawny shoulders. Charlie liked Elmore. He was clean, quiet, and paid the rent on time. Never complained. Charlie wished he had more Elmores.
Elmore looked up into Charlie's eyes like a whipped dog. "He cleaned me out, Charlie. Took the tv, stereo. All my jewelry. Even the watch my Daddy gave me. Took five hundred dollars I had hid, was gonna send it to my momma in Haiti. It's all gone."
"I'm sorry, Elmore," Charlie said, feeling sympathy.
"Sorry don't help, Charlie. Gettin' it back, do. Tell the po-leece-man here who done it." Elmore looked over at Ebony.
"Mr. Caster claims it was the kid in apartment -" Ebony began.
"Claim. I don't claim nothin'. Everyone knows it was Norwood Jonesin 3H," Elmore interrupted.
"We need witnesses, Mr. Caster, not accusations." The cop looked at Charlie and shook his head.
"Charlie, they don't put that boy in jail, I'm moving out," Elmore continued. "Can't be going to work wondering when he gonna break in again, take more of my stuff. I like livin' here, but it ain't worth it if I keep gettig' ripped off. That boy like a cat, watchin' and waitin' and lickin' his lips. He know my schedule better than I do. Soon as I'm gone, he gonna come in again. Can't live like that. No sir, can't."
"Elmore, I want to speak to this policeman privately," Charlie responded. "And then I'd like to come back and talk with you. Would you excuse us for a minute?"
Elmore didn't answer. Instead, he went to a cabinet and got out a bottle of Seagrams. He poured himself half a glass and downed it.
"Charlie, only thing I want to hear is that boy is locked up," Elmore finally spoke. "If these policemen can't do something, then you better, or you're gonna have an empty buildin'. I hear people talk, sayin' they gonna move out." Elmore poured himself another.
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© Copyright 2012 by Zalman Velvel Inc.
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