I fumbled in the dark for the phone, fighting the knee-jerk fear that something terrible had happened to someone I care about. Again.
I picked up on the first ring and said, “What? Do you know what time it is?”
A pause, then: “Almos’ midnight, Cool Breeze.”
I recognized that baritone immediately, and my body went rigid. “You better be suicidal.”
“Not in this lifetime. Sorry for the late call. Easy to lose track of time when you’re on a stakeout. I have a favor to ask, but I’ll call back in the morning–when your head’s clear.”
“I’m busy in the–,” I said as the line went dead in my hand.
How times change.
And how tragedy changes us.
The baritone belonged to JoJo Baker, a towering, bald black man with bulging biceps and a nasty scar that serpentined around his left eye and ended well past his cauliflower ear. For months he’d been a major player in some of my worst nightmares, but since I rarely slept these days, he didn’t haunt me anymore. Still, his voice brought back memories best left buried.
I imagined Baker parked strategically on some dark street, hunkered down in the front seat of his battered, souped-up black ’95 Fleetwood, eating Power bars and drinking stale coffee, enjoying an old Marvin Gaye song with the volume turned low, leafing through the latest Ring magazine, a pee jar at his side and the back seat littered with trash while he stalked his latest homicide suspect. At least he’s not trying to imprison me for murder this year.
Baker belongs to the night. Me, I wonder if I belong anywhere.
My instinct was to forget about the call, forget about Baker, pull the covers over my head and go back pretending to sleep, pretending not to think about Kris.
But Baker has a way of getting under your skin, so I got up, checked the front door locks and glass for signs of illegal entry before I returned to bed. No glass on the landing; this time the break-in was internal.