Estimated reading time — 20 minutes
When I was eight years old, I saw someone in my bedroom closet. More like, I saw something in my bedroom closet. My mother knew about it – she used to call it Corinthian’s Specter, naming it after me and using the word Specter to teach me a new word, on a count of I didn’t used to read much. I told her about it but never called her in when it appeared. Those glowing yellow eyes and that disapproving sneer just paralyzed me in my place. Pinned me flat to the bed. It’s hard to explain; it was like a person made of shadow and hate instead of flesh and bone. My mother, of course, just told me it was my overactive imagination. After a few years I thought the same – or rather convinced myself of the same. It was easier to believe it wasn’t real after we moved, as the thing didn’t follow us to our new home – a tiny-ass high-rise apartment in a bad neighbourhood. I didn’t mind though, ‘cause I didn’t see that heinous son-of-bitch lurking around anymore. I still felt it though – its presence, but it was nowhere near as strong as before. That was until eleven years later.
That’s when this story takes place. This all happened some years back. I mean back in the day. I was a nineteen-year-old hustler, trying to make it in the game. At the time, I was soldiering up for this big player name of Sean Demetrius. Big Sean wasn’t like most of the dope kingpins that came and went in our part of town: he was a learned man, college educated. But learned or no, he had to make his throne the same as those before him: on a foundation of bodies. He dropped maybe two dozen poor bastards on his way to the top. He unified all the projects on the east side – unified meaning they were all under his thumb. Under his thumb and under threat of the gun – particularly that of his lethal, sociopathic enforcer, “Chuck” Norris Eunick.
Me, I didn’t need to be part of that blood bath, seeing as that was before I got started slinging for the man. I had no choice but to work for him; if you wanted to sell product in the city, it better be Big Sean’s crack or crank you were slinging. Especially seeing as he had no rivals to put him in check. None left anyhow. All that changed though, after this old player – Lowkey Lloyd Robinson – came back uptown. Robinson had once been the big shot in the east side projects but got convicted on aggravated assault and did a ten-year bit. With him gone and his crew dispersed – some incarcerated, some dead, some just out the game, it was easy for Demetrius to seize the reins of power. You didn’t say shit like that though. Not to his or Eunick’s face, you didn’t. And if he caught a whiff of someone spreading dissent, you knew there was hell to pay.
Robinson hadn’t even been released yet when Eunick pulled my coat on the matter. I’d been steady slinging on my corner that day, making good bread, when his truck eased up against the curb. I looked through the window and saw him. As usual, he was wearing a warm-up suit, carmine polyester with white trim. He signaled with a tilt of his head for me to climb into the passenger side.
“What’s good, Chuck,” I said, not too boisterously. Eunick didn’t have a sense of humour.
Grim-faced, he replied with a curt nod. From his interior speakers I could hear play by play of some kickboxing tournament, maybe in Europe or some place. Eunick didn’t listen to music. Didn’t care for ball either. He was obsessed with that MMA shit, loved watching old Kung-Fu movies too. He’d been taking Karate and Taekwondo classes ever since he had the money to take them. Before that he mostly just read instructional books from the library and watched Bruce Lee movies to learn all the ill maneuvers. Fucked a guy up pretty bad with this one takedown, I recall, after the dude had made a crack about his last name sounding like the word ‘eunuch’. Chuck was the onliest nickname you could call him without losing teeth. You didn’t risk making cracks behind his back neither. Eunick was 6 foot 2, 200 pounds. All muscle and fist.
“We got a problem, Money,” he said presently. He always called me Money – don’t know why. “You heard of Lowkey Lloyd Robinson?”
I nodded. “Yeah, big player from back in the day.”
“He getting out tomorrow.”
“Word? I thought he was dead.”
Eunick looked at me, flashing those light bluish eyes of his, which were more unsettling and intense than they were beautiful. Without saying anything, he turned one of the nobs on the dash, the volume of the commentator’s voice now deafening. Knowing he had more to say, I leaned in closer.
“Big Sean says he’s got to go,” he whispered in my ear.
I almost didn’t hear him with the volume so loud and the adrenaline already singing in my veins. But I did hear and knew what he meant. This guy Robinson had to be gone– permanently – and I had to host the going away party.
For the first time ever, I heard Eunick laugh – the sound all high and cracking, like a kid.
“Easy, fam,” he said, having read the panic in my face. “I’m going to be there with you, make sure it goes right. He ain’t got no muscle, seeing as he’s been in the joint all these years. That’s why we gotta stomp on him now, make sure he don’t build up.”
I knew my voice would betray me, so I just nodded my head. I felt the adrenaline subside; if Eunick was there, I knew he’d be the one taking Robinson out. Not me.
Eunick told me to come back to my corner tomorrow night, around nine. He’d pick me up and we’d do what needed to be done.
I should probably mention that around this time I wasn’t living with my mother. Not anymore. She’d banished me from her new house after finding out I was dealing. Well, not her exactly, but her new bow tie-wearing, Allah worshiping, husband. He’d never liked me from the jump, and I swear I never saw the man crack a smile. Not even once. At this time, I was mostly couch surfing with anyone who’d take me, mostly at the apartments of my crew’s grandmothers. Truth is, I didn’t mind; I was tired of hearing that poisoning-your-own-people mess from my stepfather.
I got to my corner at half past eight. It was already dark, being February, and colder than a witch’s tit. I was dressed as nondescript I could: black hoodie, no logo, grey tired kicks and washed denim jeans. My outfit was complete with a pair of leather gloves and a ski mask half-wedged inside my back pocket, the other half dangling out like a bandanna. It was cold but I made sure not to wear anything too bulky. I didn’t carry a piece – Eunick said he’d provide the hardware, plus I didn’t want to get myself violated. I didn’t have a gun permit but plenty of priors to land me in hot water if I got popped by the police. I did bring along a box of baby wipes though, figuring we’d be rolling in a stolen car and would need to wipe down the seats and steering wheel before ditching it.
When I saw the unfamiliar tan SUV crawling up, I knew I was right. Eunick had obviously boosted it. When I got in, he commented immediately on the box I was carrying.
“Damn, boy,” he said, his voice high with that juvenile giggle of his. “I knew you was a Similac motherfucker, but Goddamn!”
“It’s for after,” I said. “When we’ve got to wipe the car down. You know, for prints.”
My eyes adjusted to the dark. I saw that Eunick was wearing a navy-blue and grey tracksuit. On top of his cornrows, rolled up to resemble a skull cap, was a wool mask.
“Man, ain’t nobody going to investigate a stolen car, fool. The owner’ll just make off with the insurance money, buy himself a new one. Ain’t like the police in this town don’t have enough murders to keep them occupied.”
I knew then – like a know now – that what he’d said wasn’t necessarily true about the insurance company. Plus, if there was a stolen vehicle involved in a murder, you better believe the police would track it down. A lot of my awe and illusions over Eunick vanished that night. I wondered how a guy who’d gotten away with so much blood on his hands could afford to be so careless.
“Anyway,” he said more evenly, peeling out into the road. “We’re going to burn it before we jet.” Was he being serious before or just playing with me? I’ll never know. I do know this though: no matter how careful or fierce, every gunslinger has his day.
We drove east into Marlow Village. Eunick told me Robinson’s grandmother had a townhouse in one of the neighborhoods there, which was where he was most likely to rest his head.
“We might not get to drop him tonight,” said Eunick, steering us left into an intersection then onto Vine Street. “Word on the street is that there’s a big coming home party. It’ll probably go all night. Definitely you ask me; Lloyd Robinson knew how to throw down, you know what I’m saying? So, we just gonna case the place, see who comes and goes so we know who we gotta lean on after the shit pops off. It’s gonna be all his people but not all of them are players. So, we’re just going to watch and see.”
I felt both relief and tension hearing this. Relief that I wouldn’t have to be party to a man’s death that night. Tension in that, as much as I hate to admit it, this caper had got me excited. Thing is, I’m one of those people who doesn’t always think before they act. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a knucklehead, and I do come prepared when I can. It’s just that, I don’t hesitate in doing something that could be scary or dangerous. Especially if there’s a high reward in it. But especially if I know it’s something I need to do; thinking about it too much will make me lose my nerve. Always has. Just like when I got involved in drug dealing. I knew what rewards selling drugs for a big kingpin motherfucker like Sean Demetrius would bring me: status, money, cars, pretty women. I didn’t think about all the despair and danger I’d face in the life till I was in it – scabby tweakers, stickup boys, pregnant mothers trying to get their heads up with rent-money. Now that we were closing in on Missus Robinson’s home, the reality of being an accessory to a murder was hitting me hard in the stomach.
We made a right onto Frederickson Lane, a narrow stretch of concrete with shabby rectangular homes cramped together on either side. Each house had an attached garage, but few had a car within, the odd abandoned vehicle being parked on the curb. A sorry yellow grassed playground with a vacant basketball court sat a few dozen yards down the block.
“Man, what the fuck?” Eunick exclaimed in a shrill whisper. I squinted into the windshield and my jaw must have hit the floor.
We had stopped ten feet from Missus Robinson’s domicile and couldn’t believe what we saw. It was dead. Nobody was in front of the house. There was no music playing, no heads visible through the windows, not even wrappers or empty bottles littering the lawn. Just nothing. All we could see were a dozen Welcome Home balloons, still plump and inflated, scattered along the grass and some pulpy pink streamers dangling from the front door frame. There was an orangish light glowing faintly from one window – probably the grandmother reading a book before bed. Other than that, no signs of jubilation. No signs of life. Nothing.
“Maybe we’re too early?” I said, looking to Eunick.
“But – all his people were going to wait for him to come home. Surprise him, like. Where the fuck is everyone?”
“Maybe he sent them away.”
“This is Lloyd Robinson we’re talking about, dog. We called him Lowkey to be ironical and shit.
I shrugged. “Maybe his time in the joint changed him. Set him straight.”
Eunick flashed those piercing eyes my way, the irises almost luminous in the dark.
“Maybe,” he muttered. “We’ll sit on the house for a while. See what comes.”
The adrenaline was pumping in me again. Clearly, if the party had been a bust, and no one showed that night, we’d be making our move. Shit, I thought. Why can’t we just get it over with! My right knee started pumping in place. I bit my bottom lip, hoping like hell that I’d never have to leave that car. Truth was, with all the time that’d passed since Eunick had told me we were going to do this, I’d lost my nerve.
After an hour, the orange light flickered out. All was quiet. And dark. Even the other townhouses surrounding us seemed vacant. If we were going to do the business, now was the time.
Without emotion, Eunick said, “Reach under your seat.”
I did so. It took some fumbling and stumbling, but my fingers eventually found purchase – something cold and metallic duct taped to the bottom. I wrenched it free, making the tape squeal, then held it up so I could see. A nine-millimetre hand-pistol, silver aluminum barrel with a black grip. By now my knee was jackhammering, as was my heart.
“Stop shaking your leg, fool!” Eunick barked. I forced my leg still. “You know how to use one of those?”
I shrugged, which meant I know if I have to. Eunick had trained me with paint-guns in an abandoned warehouse on the south-side, just like every other hustler under his wing, a year prior.
“That thing packs 13 with one in the chamber. Safety’s near your thumb.”
“W-where’s yours, Chuck?” I asked, hating the fearful sound in my voice.
Eunick didn’t reply. Instead, he tugged on the hem of his glove, fitting his fingers more comfortably inside the leather. “Big Sean wants you to do it.”
My breath caught in my throat. In that moment, I actually saw myself outside my body. The moment passed before I realized Eunick was still talking: “Demetrius likes you, Money. Sees potential in you. But if you’re going to be more integral to our organization, you need to step up. Don’t worry, I’ll be right here if anything happens.”
I stared down at the ugly chrome cradled in my hands.
“But, shouldn’t I have a silencer? His grandmother’s in there too.”
Eunick shrugged. “Couldn’t get a silencer. His grandmother got a hearing aid or something, so you should be good if she’s asleep. If you’re worried, shoot him through a pillow, that should muffle the blast some.”
There were a million other concerns and excuses I wanted to voice. But Eunick had already peeled his mask down over his face and opened the driver side door. Not seeing any way out, I put my own mask on and stepped into the street.
It was not only dark when we breached but eerily quiet. Unable to help myself, I looked up at all the surroundings windows – ten to twenty feet above us – and saw they were all unlit and shuttered. I got this feeling that, something wasn’t right. Not that feeling of being watched people talk about but – the opposite. I felt like we weren’t being watched by anyone. Like we were invisible, even to God. Like something horrible had happened and we were the only people left on the planet earth.
We were now on the doorstep. Eunick produced a monkey wrench from his right sleeve. Like a giant termite, its jaws chewed through the door handle and excavated the lock. The door drifted open past the dangling streamers. No turning back now.
“Check all the rooms,” hissed Eunick into my ear. “Meet you back at the car.”
He then turned and swooped to the SUV.
Inside, the apartment smelled familiar. It smelled like my mother’s house: same cleaning supplies used for the furniture; same soaps and oils used by the grandmother; same ingredients for cooking – thyme, fish, plantains, cayenne peppers. The scent of a home-cooked meal made me nostalgic, lulling me into a false sense of security. I forced myself to snap out of it and scoured the living room. No light except for the black light over the fish tank and the moon through the blinds, no noise except the percolating tank filter. By now I was shaking like a leaf.
I shouldered up to the closest shut door and inhaled deeply. Holding my breath, I ripped it open and pointed the pistol inside. Bathroom.
My blood pressure through the roof, I ducked out and searched for the next closed room – worried someone had heard me. The thought that I might find the grandmother first – and worse, wake her – flashed through my panicked brain but I shook it off. Too late for that. No turning back now.
With what at the time I thought was luck, the next door I opened was a bedroom, and inside, sleeping soundly on the mattress, was Lowkey Lloyd Robinson. I recognized him from a pic Eunick had flashed me on his phone. The relief I felt for it not being his Grammy was fleeting, overshadowed by the roar of adrenaline as I crept toward him with the gun raised. He lay there, still as the bed linen, like some child’s stuffed animal. My eyes could just see him in the moonlight through the window. He looked small, aged and frail. Weak. His face was sallow and puckered, his hair matted and grey.
I checked that the safety was off then pulled back the hammer and pointed the gun. I stood by the foot of his bed. I didn’t want to use a pillow to muffle the blast. Didn’t want to get that close. At that moment, all I wanted was to have it over with and to get the hell out of there. Didn’t care if the neighbors or his grandma heard the shot. Didn’t even care if it got back to me later on. I just needed this to be done.
That’s when it happened. I flinched, my finger almost pulling the trigger when I heard a voice. I leaned closer and realized he’d moaned in his sleep. His time-ravaged face twisted with evident discomfort as he groaned and tossed. A nightmare, I guessed. I looked up, thinking I saw someone else in the room. On first glance, my mind registered a shadow, but I did a double take. That shadow had volume – it was three-dimensional, not flat to the wall, and was looming over Robinson’s head. The clearer the figure manifested before my eyes, the more desperately Robinson groaned and trashed. When I saw the frowning lips and the glowing yellow eyes, I knew what it was: the specter! The thing that had haunted me when I was eight years old. The thing that had never truly left me be.
It began floating away from Robinson and peering hard at me with that dark, brooding face. That admonishing, judging look. Then, it did something I didn’t remember it ever doing before. The black pupils sunk and vanished into the yellow glow, the eyes now burning like flashlights. Those frowning lips evened, then curled upward and parted, revealing a wide, too-perfect set of pearly white teeth. Grinning at me. The smile at first looked hungry, then – I don’t know how but – I knew it was mocking me. I felt as if I were eight years old again – remembering that time I’d wet myself in gym class. And hearing the malicious, endless laughter of the other boys. I realized I wasn’t imagining laughter: I could actually hear it in the room. It began as the children’s voices from my memory, then sped up into a shrill, hissing sound, like a buzzsaw. It was malevolent and taunting. At my expense. It seemed to be coming from the spectre.
The smell of the apartment’s kitchen – the ghosts of home-cooked dishes, grew more pungent. Nauseating. My mask suddenly felt hot on my face – as though it were blistering my skin. I thought I was going to puke.
The hideous, grinning thing crept closer, having seemingly grown legs. Skeletal arms hung at either side of its gaseous torso, the dark grey fingers claw like, knuckles almost touching the floor. Its vaporous body solidified, its hide black and visibly slick. Then, the skin grew scaly. The dark scales were hexagonal and large as silver dollars. Within seconds, the scales hardened and shrunk – like armor made of clay. They grew farther apart, revealing lines of fleshy space underneath. From no discernible source, a red liquid dripped down the space between the shrunken plates, like bloody raindrops down a windowpane.
And still, that grinding, metallic laughter continued to pulsate in my head.
My pistol was now aiming at the floor, dangling from my quivering fingers. The taunting maelstrom quieted then disappeared. Then, through a hoarse, hollow voice, I heard it speak: “Corinthian Jones…”
That was it. Able to move again, I spun from the room and sprinted out the front door before realizing I’d dropped the pistol. I dove into the SUV with Eunick at the wheel, the engine humming.
“What happened?” said Eunick, gunning us out toward the main road.
“It-it saw me!” I sputtered out. Stupidly, I had torn off my mask and hurled it to the floor.
“What? Somebody saw you?”
“It-it-it was in his room, beside the bed…”
“What? There was someone else in there?”
We were now making our way up Vine.
“A bodyguard? Was he strapped? How many guys?”
I couldn’t answer him; I was hyperventilating with hot tears streaming down my face.
“Money, what’s good with you, bro?”
“Just-just-just keep driving.”
But I sensed the car beginning to slow down. Eunick eased right into a plaza parking lot. He stopped in front of a shawarma joint, closed at this hour.
“Corinthian,” I heard him say, laying his hand on my shoulder. “You need to tell me what happened in there.”
Gulping hard, I forced myself to breathe evenly and composed my thoughts. Probably through a lot of panted breath and gibberish, I told Eunick what had happened. I don’t know what I expected his reaction to be. Truth is, I should have lied. Before I was finished, he threw the SUV into reverse, screeched out into the road, threw the gear into drive, and began hauling ass back to Frederickson Lane.
“Wuh-Wuh-What are you doing!” I yelled, my heart punching through my chest. The car leapt as we plowed over the median.
“Man, you lost your damn mind!” he barked, his hands wringing the steering wheel like it was chicken neck. “You pissed your pants and ran out of their cause you thought you seen a ghost? Man, you is a Similac motherfucker. Damn!”
“Man, I’m telling you I saw it, it’s real!”
“Only thing real about you is that lemonade sloshing around your drawers.”
It was only then that I smelled the sterile odor and felt the warm moisture against my thigh. Jesus Lord. I really had pissed myself.
We were then back on Frederickson Lane, outside the Robinson residence.
“Never send a boy to do a man’s work,” Eunick said to himself, reaching beneath his seat and pulling free a Glock. “You fucking stay here and keep the engine running.” He opened the door.
Desperate, maddened with fear, I lunged for him, grabbing at his shirt. “Please, Eunick,” I begged. “Please don-”
My words were cut off from catching a ferocious elbow to the bridge of the nose. Eunick fired a second one, this one likewise meeting its mark. Stunned, blinded with tears, I went limp in my seat. But I was still conscious enough to hear Eunick’s warning:
“Listen to me you pee-smelling baby. After tonight, you’ll be lucky if you end up being lookout on the corner. But if I come out and you ain’t here with this car, you are smoke. I mean you are deader than Bruce and Brandon Lee, you feel me?”
“Yeah…” I mumbled through splayed, bloody fingers.
Satisfied, Eunick stepped into the road.
I watched him sneak into the house, holding his gun in both hands like police on TV. I then looked around, observing the buildings. The windows were still dark, blinds drawn. I knew that a car screeching out from the lot wouldn’t be enough to wake people – not in this neighborhood – but something felt very, very wrong.
I then heard the scream. It was loud and piercing but clearly from a man. I couldn’t rightly tell but, somehow, I knew it belonged to Eunick. I then jumped in my seat, startled from the unmistakable sound of gunfire. Ducking low, I looked up at the townhouse, seeing the flash of fourteen shots light up the front window. Acting on some supernatural urge, I swiveled my head around to the other houses. Still no lights on. No blinds pulled back. Not even a dog barking. Even after that scream with fifteen loud-ass pops! What the fuck was going on?
It was deathly quiet then. Scary quiet. I wondered if I’d imagined all the commotion. If this entire blessed night was some God-forsaken dream. That silence was then broken by the woody creak of Missus Robinson’s front door. I stared wide-eyed at the dark opening, waiting for Eunick to come out. Instead, I was greeted by two, glowing yellow orbs.
That was it. Not needing another reason, I sped out of that lot like a bat out of hell. Motherfuck Eunick and Robinson both. Fuck Demetrius too. I drove that boosted SUV all the way to the south-side and parked beside an abandoned building. I still had the baby wipes, so I rubbed both seats and the steering wheel clean. Took me damn near an hour, trying to get all the blood and urine out. By then the blood flow from my nostrils had stopped, though I could feel it was swollen and hurt like the Dickens. I then hoofed it to the nearest bus stop. I couldn’t go back to my crewmate’s grandma’s house – where I’d slept the previous night. I couldn’t seek out any of Demetrius’s people. Begrudgingly, I knew who I had to go see. This was going to be hell.
My mother opened her front door on the sixth knock.
“Corinthian Jones!” said my mother. She spoke in that tone of voice they all have to make their kids feel like a puppy that just shit on the rug. “It’s three o’clock in the morning!”
My mother and stepfather’s home was an amber brick split house in Cedarwood, a neighborhood that looked damn near suburban. Middle-class folks – white, black and brown – came to live here and raise their kids. My stepfather could afford the safe, cozy environment because he managed a warehouse for a trading company that wholesaled flower arrangements and moonlighted as an assistant manager for a Dairy Queen on weekends.
“Ma…” I muttered, not meeting her eyes.
“Boy, why the hell are you out this late?”
“Ma, I need your help.”
“Son,” she said directly, making me look her in the eye. “You know your step-father doesn’t like you being here. You’re not welcome in this house.”
“Ma,” I pleaded, my voice all shaky, my eyes burning. “I need your help.”
I looked back at her right in her eye. She saw it. My fear. Her facial expression went from admonishment to worry in a heartbeat.
“Come inside,” she muttered. “Go into the kitchen, I’ll make some tea.”
Stepping aside, she made room for me to slip past her into the house.
I could never learn to enjoy being in my stepfather’s house. Inside it looked so sterile: stiff leather cushions and glass furniture. It didn’t smell of good food but of stale coffee and moist cardboard. It was good to see my mother again though; she looked just as beautiful and strong as I remembered.
I didn’t tell her about the spectre. Not at first. I just told her about Sean Demetrius and Norris Eunick. How I’d fouled up and needed to lay low somewhere to avoid getting hunted down by their henchmen. They would seek me out and would surely kill me for splitting on Eunick like I did. For obvious reasons, I omitted the part about almost murdering a man in his sleep.
“Okay, honey,” she said, blowing on a hot mug of tea. “I’ll call your Aunt Dana. She’s got a place way up in the country where you can stay. I’ll pack some clothes and we’ll leave in the morning.”
Anxious, I scratched the back of my head vigorously. “I-I need to go there now, Ma. They might already be looking for me.”
My mother pursed her lips then nodded. She stood from the couch and went to the kitchen-phone where she called my aunt, apologizing for the hour and explaining we were on our way. I was still freaked but felt much calmer knowing I was getting out the city ASAP.
“Do you still have some of my clothes here?” I asked.
She nodded. “We packed them away in the basement. I’ll show you so we can get going.”
I got up, letting her guide me to the basement. She stopped just before the steps, turning around to face me.
“You saw it again, didn’t you?” she muttered. My flesh prickled, knowing what she meant.
“What?” I balked, acting dumb.
“When I saw you on the front porch just now, I saw that look on your face. I hadn’t seen that expression on your face since we lived in that old house.”
I averted my eyes, trying to brush it off but felt my hands begin to tremble.
“I used to see it too,” she whispered.
I did a double take, examining her face, not sure what I just heard.
“You…” I began.
“It used to hover over my bed late at night,” she interrupted, her eyes downcast, her mouth drawn. “It never did anything. Never came close or even moved. It just stared down at me, glowering with those Goddamn eyes. I don’t know why but, every time I looked at it, it made me feel guilty. Or ashamed. Like I was a bad mother or something.”
My throat constricted. I felt a damp lump forming but swallowed hard, too used to showing no heart all the time to let myself be caught slipping. Even by my own mother.
“Even after I stopped seeing it, I knew it was still there – around me. Like the feeling you get just before you come down with a bad cold. Like the smell of the air before it rains.”
“Do you still see it, Mama?”
She shook her head. “No. I haven’t seen it for almost a year now.”
“You mean, you saw it a year ago?”
“Yeah, in this house.”
“Dag! But, it’s been gone?”
My spirits lifted.
“Really? When? What did you do to make it go away?”
Without answering, she bit her lip and tossed her braids over one shoulder. “I stopped seeing it after I married your step-father.”
We drove a solid five hours out of town until we reached my auntie’s. Ma had me sit in back with the luggage and told me to crouch down, in case someone looking for me passed the car and peeked inside. I stayed at my Aunt Dana’s for six months before feeling it was safe to come back.
Before I moved back to the city though, there was news from my hometown. While up in the countryside, I kept checking Google News and the papers at the local gas station, looking for any mention of Eunick, figuring he’d been killed that night. I scanned the obituaries for his name but came up with nothing. Instead, about a week later, I saw this headline: CITY COPS MAKE HUGE DRUG BUST – EAST-SIDE KINGPIN IN CUSTODY. I tore through the pages and found the full report. Sean Demetrius and his entire crew had been rounded up by the cops, dead to rights. The government had everything: the shipment of drugs, the guns, the ammo, even intimate details about hits Demetrius had ordered. It was unreal. The guy had been so smart – so careful. And everything had seemed fine when I was there. How the hell did the cops bust him so fast? I got my answer a few days later.
I followed the case in the papers and on TV as much as possible. They ended up giving Demetrius life without the possibility of parole. The prosecutors had a star-witness: Norris Eunick. According to reports, Eunick copped to everything: the drugs, the illegal firearms, even the murders. Even testified in open court. I found out a few years later while reading studies about the case that Eunick had agreed to testify without even being offered a deal. He hadn’t been arrested or coerced by the police. He just went to the police station on his own volition and rolled over on everything, like he was going to McDonald’s to order a hamburger. I found out he confessed to the cops the same night our hit on Robinson fell through. He didn’t even get much lenience afterwards, seeing as he’d been the one who’d actually carried out the murderers. Had to spend time in the joint just like Big Sean. Needless to say, he was killed about a week after Demetrius was sentenced.
For years this story plagued me. What could possibly have made a cold-blooded gangster like “Chuck” Norris Eunick turn himself in like that? A week ago, while reading up on the case, I found a clue. In this true crime article on the rise and fall of Sean Demetrius, they had the last known photograph of Eunick before he died. It was a picture of him sitting on a bench inside a courthouse – just outside the chambers where he would testify against his former boss. In his face, it looked like the whole world had ended. In the right corner of the frame, just above his shoulder, was what looked like a shadow. But it was too thick and prominent to be a shadow, obscuring that side of the frame like a black cloud hovering over him. The photographer and editor had probably figured it had been some kind of technical glitch – like a smudge, but the tiny yellow pinpricks sitting parallel inside the black space told another story. I knew better. It was the thing. My spectre, hovering over Eunick, just before he took the stand to testify.
Lloyd Robinson died a month after Demetrius’s trial. Suicide.
Credit : Malcolm MacDonald
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