“Tia stop playing and give me the keys!” Tone shouted while trying to catch Tia before she made it out the door.
“Stop bitching, I’m only going to pick Jada up.” Tia said as she reached for the door knob.
“Tee, you’re bullshitting, you never just do one thing.”
“Dang, I said I’ll come right back with your bullshit ass bucket-on-wheels. Shiiiiittt, even the rims cost more than the car.”
“Fuck you, Tee!” Tone shouted as he watched his sister disappear into the stairwell.
Tia stepped outside her building appreciating the semi-cool afternoon air. She scanned her block looking for Tone’s 95 Maxima, which wasn’t hard to find as it was the only car on the block that stood out. Tia smiled to herself as she approached the car. The black paint job was Tone’s way of giving his hooptie a glossy appearance and the faded tints gave it a down-low kind of appeal. I don’t know what made that fool put $1,200 dollar rims on this piece of shit! The NERVE, Tia thought as she got into the car. She put the keys in the starter and turned the ignition. Like always, she had to repeat the action.
“Damn!” She slapped the steering wheel. “Why do I always have problems starting this car?” Tia sat back, tried again and breathed a sigh of relief as the engine roared to life. “Okayyyy that’s what the fuck I’m talking ‘bout.” She began to pull out of the parking space but stopped. Matter-of-fact, I better call Jay first let her know I’m on my way ‘cause she’s forgetful as hell.”
Tia listened to the phone wailing. A male voice answered on the third ring. “Hello, who dis?”
“Who’s this?” Tia responded, aggravated that Jada was too lazy to answer her own damn phone. That Jada always has some man up in her crib. “Let me speak to Jada.”
“Hello,” Jada said into the receiver with a sluggish voice.
“Do you know what time it is?” asked Tia.
“Oh shit, Tee. My bad. I was just about to…”
“Whatever, Bitch! Just be downstairs in 10 minutes,” Tia disconnected the phone.
As Tia drove down 7th Avenue she noticed that 125th Street was jammed packed as always. That was Harlem for you. Harlem, though in Manhattan, was considered another world. In the mid-nineties it was a dangerous place crawling with gangbangers, drug kingpins and hustlers. There was always something going on down below 96th street and it wasn’t good for the soul. Tia was bopping to the song on the radio and looking around at the throngs of people in front of her favorite store. If it wasn’t for the fact I gotta handle some business, I sure would of stopped in Strawberries and catch their midday sale. She kept moving. As Tia rounded the corner on 115th Street coming up on Manhattan Avenue, she noticed the regular heads in front of Jada’s building. The area used to be decent when she and Jada were little; now with drugs flooding into Harlem, it too was infested with a bunch of wanna-be gang bangers.
Tia parked across from Jada’s building. She got out the car to ring her intercom because Jada wasn’t downstairs. “Typical of her ass,” Tia said loudly releasing a deep sigh and staying on the buzzer.
“Yooooo, Shortieeee!” Somebody shouted, but Tia did not turn around to acknowledge the individual who thought calling a female Shorty was cool.
“Ma, slow down!”
Tia heard the voice coming closer toward her. She swiftly turned around ready to put the dolt in his place. “First of all, I’m not your mother, so save that weak shit for the woman who gave birth to you and second, don’t be running up on me like that.” Tia said, pointing her finger in his face.
“Damn, why you acting all stuck up?”
“Listen Mutha…” Tia was interrupted by the outburst from Jada calling her name.
Tia approached Jada. “You was supposed to be downstairs.”
“I know but I had to wait for C-Black to give me money.”
“Oooh. So that’s the niggas name that answered your phone? I don’t know where you find these stupid ass dudes that be handling your bank rolls, but you better watch yourself and make sure that shit don’t come back to haunt your trifling ass.”
Jada responded with a smirk. “I’m not worried about that. This shit here (while patting her crotch) is like crack, one hit and you will be back.” Jada was indeed a beauty. Her petite 5’ frame camouflaged her deadly actions.
“Whatever, just get in the car crazy lady. Next time,” Tia shouted to the man-boy, “I’ll whup your ass for talking to a grown up like that.”
As they drove off, Tia grabbed her cellular off the dash and began dialing numbers. The phone rang once before a dude with a deep Jamaican accent answered it.
“Ah who dis?”
“Stan, it’s Tee. I’m on my way.”
“Al’rite,” Rude Boy answered as Tia hung up the phone.
As Tia slowed down to a red light, she turned to Jada with a serious look on her face. “Listen Jay, when we get there, wait in the car, leave it running, ‘cause I really don’t trust home team like that.”
“I got it, Tee.”
“The burner is under the seat.”
“Alright,” Jada replied.
“After today, we will be able to handle that situation. Stay on guard.”
As Tia made a left on 161st in Washington Heights, she handed Jada a paper bag and told her to put her half of the money in the back pack on the back seat inside. They pulled up to a three-story red brick brownstone building Tia grabbed the knapsack and exited the car leaving it running. Jada was on the passenger side with a fully loaded Glock 9 tucked between her legs.
Tia walked up the three steps leading to the front door of the dilapidated brownstone and knocked on the metal-fitted door twice before she heard footsteps approaching, then the clicking sounds of the locks being opened. A dark figure with shoulder length dreadlocks stood in the doorway.
“Wah a gwan Star,” Tia brushed pass Jamaican Stan. The man was beastly looking. He stood six feet tall with a heavy, raggedy beard and his accent even heavier than that. Stan was known for his variety of chebba, but his second and more profitable hustle was dealing guns. “Yah Man, come in?” Stan said sarcastically and led Tia down some narrow steps.
When they reached the basement, it was so dark that Tia had to wait until her eyes adjusted just to see shadows. When the light finally came on Tia was amazed at the artillery one person could have. If this nigga wanted, he could start his own Taliban chapter right in Harlem. Though awestruck, Tia remained silent. Her motto was to never open any doors for those whom you may eventually have to close the casket on.
“So, Star, watchyu need?” Rude Boy asked as he picked up an A-K 47 assault rifle and ran his hand over the barrel. “Dis good for distance.”
Tia looked at the A-K and wondered what she’d do with his mammoth doofy-ass gun. The average nigga would probably spot the heat way before they even notice who was carrying it.
“Naw, Stan. I need something less obvious, but with the same kick,” she said.
“A’wright.” Stan moved over to the corner of the room.
Tia’s eyes followed him to a crate marked “PROPERTY OF THE U.S. ARMY.” Stan reached into the crate and pulled out a black Heckler & Koch automatic machine gun. She had heard about the release of this gun in Don Diva magazine but she never thought twice about it being on the street so soon. “Now you talkin’.” Tia took the weapon from Stan and measured its weight. It was light. “How much?” Tia inquired as she handed the gun back to him.
“Fifteen Hundred, Star.”
“Woha. Damn. Those shits are expensive!”
“For a reason,” Stan deadpanned.
Ah fuck it, you gotta spend to earn. “A’wright Stan, let me get two, and five boxes of hollow head bullets.”
Business concluded, Tia stashed her goods and walked out of the brownstone carrying the knapsack. Out of habit, she looked around to make sure everything was as it should be. Jada was now standing outside the car with a newspaper folded under her arm. Tia smiled. Her girl was on point.
“Damn, Tee, what took you so long?”
“Chill. Everything went well plus some, but wait ‘til you see this shit.” Tia discretely patted the knapsack. “First though, I gotta drop you off then get this piece of shit car back to my brother before he has a nervous breakdown.”
“Don’t let him hear you calling his car that! This piece of shit car is your brother Tone’s pride and joy.” Jada swore he put more money into it than he’d paid for it.
Tone, Tia smiled was a good kid. He was only 7 when their Mother had died and Ebony, their younger sister, was 5. Tia was 9. Breast cancer is what the death certificate said but Tia felt her mother died from a broken heart. After their father left them she started to go downhill. Their Pappy was a long-haul trucker so he was gone for days, sometimes weeks at a time. But when he came home it was like Christmas as he always brought something for his “little heartbeats.” That’s what he called them. After he’d left for the last time, their Mother found out that he’d gotten some woman in North Carolina pregnant. She knew he wasn’t coming back but he never stopped sending money to take care of them. A few years later, she found out she had breast cancer.
“I still can’t believe Tone so grown up,” Jada said.
“After Mommie died, shit, we all had to grow up fast. As the oldest, it was my responsibility to step up and take charge but Tone really surprised me with how quickly he changed from a snot-nosed kid to responsible man. Ebony was too young but me and Tone held down the fort. Of the three of us, she had less time with Mommie and even less time with Pappy so Tone and I tried really hard to protect her as best we could and make sure she had everything. That’s why that bitch is so spoiled now. We might have made a mistake.”
“Nah, she just a teenager.” Jada reassured.
“Yeah, and she giving me the blues. If I hadn’t promised Mommie and myself that I’d do whatever it took to keep us together, I’d put her ass in an orphanage!”
“Shit Jada can you believe? We’ve come a long fuckin’ way from then in six years.”