Not One ClueBy: Lois Greiman
A black man in his forties was propped upright against the wall in the foyer, his legs splayed and stretched out in front of him. A dark pool had seeped from the bullet hole and accumulated on the rosewood flooring.
His eyes were open, his teeth gritted. Even in pain, he was Hollywood handsome. A woman with a smooth, Michelle Obama hairstyle was kneeling beside him, holding a bloody towel to his side. She turned toward me. Her movements were jerky, her eyes very dark. “Who’s that?” Her brow puckered.
Micky ignored her. “I’ll get Jamel.”
“What you talking about?” The woman rose to her feet. She was approximately my height, but lacked some of my admirable “heft.” Barefoot, she wore blue sweatpants and a white tank top. Still, her ensemble beat the hell out of mine. My bare legs felt cold and stubbly under the shabby shorts, my arms scratchy beneath the denim jacket.
“I’m Christina McMullen … Ph.D.,” I said. Maybe I was trying to defuse the situation. Maybe I was nuts. She, on the other hand, looked higher than a Pasadena mortgage. “I’m a friend of …” For one fractured second I considered telling the truth, but I’d made that mistake before. “Jamel’s,” I said.
She cocked her head. “You’re a liar is what you are.”
Ahh, hostility. I kept my tone level. “Is he all right?”
“’Course he’s all right.” Her tone was offended and a little slurred. “You think I’d hurt my own sister’s kid?”
“There will be retribution,” Jackson said, and smiled. They were the first words he’d spoken since my arrival. His voice was singsong smooth, like one in a trance.
“You should keep pressure on the wound,” Micky told Lavonn. The ghetto had died from his voice.
“You’re the asshole that shot him.” Lavonn sounded near hysterics. I could feel myself slipping in that direction. “Made him bleed …” She paused to breathe. “Bleed all over my pretty rosewood.”
“The girl loves her rosewood,” Jackson said. His voice sounded dreamy. “Floor matches the hearth. You see that?”
“An ambulance should be here soon,” Micky said. There was worry in his tone, but Lavonn snorted a laugh.
“You ain’t lived in the hood for a while, have you, Michael?”
“This isn’t the hood,” he said.
She scowled, seeming to remember where she was, but Micky was already speaking.
“I have to get Jamel out of here.”
“Just like that.” She pursed her lips, eyes angry.
“I’m his father, Lavonn. Blood tests proved that.”
It was a long story. But Micky had just discovered a few months ago that the boy was, in fact, his son.
“I don’t care about no blood tests,” Lavonn said.
“Your sister would have wanted—”
“I don’t care about no blood tests!” she yelled, and jerked up her hands. There was a gun in them. It was pointed at Micky.
“No!” I rasped the word, and she swung the weapon toward me like a laser.
Terror squeezed my throat shut. I stumbled back a step.
“How’d you say you know Jamel?” she asked.
For a moment my voice failed me entirely. “I just …” It squeaked. “I’m his teacher.”
“You’re a liar!” She spat the words and took a step toward me, arms shaking as she snapped her head toward Micky. “You his ho, ain’t you?”
I didn’t dare glance away.
“Listen …” The situation was spinning out of control. And I had been using my shrink voice. I was keeping my “dear God, don’t let me die” voice in reserve.
“No!” She shook her head. “I ain’t gonna listen. I been listening to him.” She turned the gun toward Micky. “Says he’s Jamel’s poppa. Says Kaneasha woulda wanted him to have ’im. But why didn’t she never tell me about the two of ’em?”
Micky was shaking his head.
“’Cuz he’s a liar, too. That’s why,” she said, and squeezed the trigger.
The bullet whined through the house like a banshee seeking souls. I screamed. Micky swore. Then someone spoke, her voice as firm and solid as the floor beneath our feet.