Disclaimer: Face Value is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual persons is coincidental.
I could swear I just saw my father, then. If the idiot behind me didn’t start to blow he horn, I woulda had a better look.
Nah, that couldn’t be him. Not that musty, paro-looking… thing. But, something ’bout the walk looked familiar, and I swear the man duck he head when he saw me. But then again, for all I know he could be dead, ’cause I ain’t see him for nearly 10 years.
But if it was he for truth, what I would do, though? Hug him up? Well no, not to nasty up my gear. I should knock him down for real, after what he did to my mother. Yeah, I better turn around and go back and see if it was him and knock him to hell down.
I wonder if I should tell Mummy? She might think it funny that she living large now and the bastard living on the streets. Then again, if I tell she, she might tell Beverley and that softy I have for a sister might start looking for him. Nah. I goin’ keep this to myself.
I turned left on to Spring Garden Highway and let the Escalade cruise.
Mummy. She deserved a good life now after that son-of-a-**tch use she for a punching bag. Beverley too young to remember, that’s why she always Daddy this and Daddy that. Who the hell want a father who would burn you with an iron if you get back in the house five minutes later than he told you to? He brutalised my mother for fifteen years, that’s why his backside like it on the streets now. Or dead. If I wasn’t in a hurry I would really turn back.
Anyhow, I got business to mind. If this deal goes as planned, I goin’ be set for a while. My boo could open her own salon and spa, Mummy could go on that world cruise she always talking about and Beverley could get to study overseas. The mortgage done pay for on the house so I clear.
Wait, look Wayne Skeete who used to live up by us. Look at muh, yuh brute, you think you could drive wanna these? Better drive long before I ram that ole Baleno. I could never stand him, then. He always thought he was better than everybody else ’cause he went to Queens. I only went to St. Leonard’s, but I could buy and sell he now, the so-and-so.
At the top of University Hill, I turned left and headed towards Clermont.
I hope this fellow home,‘cause I ain’t have no time to waste. I need to get this done.
I pulled up outside the cream and brown two-storey mansionette and parked behind Tony Griffith’s green 7-series BMW. I took a package out of the small compartment beneath the floorboard of the vehicle and stepped outside.
Damn, it’s hot today. I hope the Met office right about this rain coming, ’cause we really need some right now.
“I was looking fuh you every since, old man,” Tony said as he opened the large oak door.
I stepped into the cool entryway, and pushed the door closed. A flicker of fear passed his face and he held up a hand to speak.
“Before you start up, I ain’t get through,” he began, “my contacts lying low after that big bust a week ago and things just dead right now. I need more time.”
“Things dead? You’s some kinda **ite or something? The same way I waiting on you, I got people waiting on me fuh their cut and I doan’ plan on disappointing them. So I doan’ know who you goin’ kill but I want my money now.”
“Paul,” he started to back up as I unwrapped the brown bag in my hand, “look, you know I would never con you, old man. We raise up together and thing.”
“That’s why I ain’t goin’ kill you,” I replied as I pulled the .45 from the bag and shot him in the right kneecap. He fell to the floor screaming as blood and soft tissue spilled on to the white ceramic tiles.
“Now I want my f**king half million by next week or you’s a dead man.”
As I slammed the door behind me, I could hear him sobbing from his position on the floor. I blocked out the sound, placed my piece back into its hideaway and pulled out of the driveway. Some days I hated my life. But business was business.
“Paul, I giving serious thought to becoming a Christian.”
I lowered the Sun on Saturday I was reading and stared at my mother.
“God might have a big problem wid that, Mum. You’s the one that always say He doan’ like ugly, so I ain’ know ‘bout that!”
She frowned and curled her legs under her body as she sat on the cream leather sofa.
“Well, all I know is that I can’t keep on like this. Look how Esther Brathwaite just up and dead sudden so last week. I need to make things right wid my Lord.”
I rolled my eyes. It was no wonder that among her friends my mother had earned the nickname “grim reaper”. An avid listener to the “deaths” on CBC, Mummy had a photographic memory of the dates on which everyone we knew had died, and kept the funeral leaflets as confirmation. Now that she was headed for her “sunset years” as she put it, her preoccupation with death had grown to an obsessive level.
“So wuh you suggest?” I asked, “give up all of this and move back to some rickety board and shingle in Chapman Lane? You could really give up all this?”
She stared around at the lush drapery and matching carpeting, the leather upholstery and the walnut entertainment centre with its 57 inch plasma screen television.
“You enter this world with nothing and you leave with nothing,” she replied, “and as for you, you need to hurry up and marry Veronica and get out this business before you get yourself or that sweet girl killed. Don’t forget I know where all this come from,” she added, waving her hand at the objects in the living room.
I hastily raised the paper and pretended to be engrossed in yesterday’s news. Once my mother got started on a topic, she was like a dog with a bone. She had never forgiven herself for turning a blind eye to my “business” for the sake of our financial betterment. Poverty was no joke, and we had experienced our fair share. I had seen how an easier lifestyle had erased the creases of time from her face, and we both knew it would be nearly impossible to give up the vehicles, cruise vacations and designer clothes my money could buy.
“Besides, you ain’t hear what they do to that fellow last month? I hear how he did owe somebody money or something. They like they break every bone in he body.” She shivered at the thought.
I kept my face impassive. Not every bone, just the critical ones, I thought. Dwayne was one of my distributors, and a tough nut to crack. When
I discovered he was skimming off a bit of the profits for himself, I knew I had to make an example of him. Otherwise, every dealer, buyer and schoolboy lookout would think I was an easy mark. I took no pleasure in the beating, but after all, business was business.
“Anyway, it’s not like this life’s a bed of roses anyhow. I can’t sleep worrying ’bout you, and when I hear a car outside I think the Task Force coming to kick down the door. These heights and terrace snobs we have for neighbours would love that.” Mum unraveled herself from the sofa and started to pace the living room.
I snorted. “So wuh? Even if I was a banker they would still act cold, ’cause to them nobody our colour should be living up here. I’s a Bajan, and I got even more right than a foreigner to own a big-ass house on a hill in my own damn country. I ain’t care how I get here, I here now and to hell with them!”
“So wuh ’bout Beverley? She got her whole life ahead of her and I don’t want it tainted with this drug business.”
“Well, this drug business is wuh goin’ send her to some fancy college overseas,” I retorted.
Just then, the front door slammed and we heard the sound of footsteps running in the hallway.
“Mummy, Paul, you all home?” I heard my sister Beverley call out excitedly.
“In here Bev,” Mummy replied, raising an eyebrow questioningly. I shrugged, folded the paper and waited to find out what the fuss was all about.
Beverley burst into the room, her shoulder length twists swinging around a beaming face. In her left hand she clutched a white envelope.
“Guess what! I got accepted to John Jay College! New York City, here I come!”
I frowned. “John Jay College? But I thought you applied to one of them fancy Ivy League universities I hear so much ’bout?”
Beverley plopped down on the sofa. “Yeah, I did, but John Jay was my first choice. Now I can study what I always wanted: criminology and forensic science.”
Mummy stared at me in shock as I sank back into the sofa. If there was a God, I’m sure he appreciated the irony.