Either the start of something new or another piece of the puzzle...
"Shit, it never fucking fails."
Grace turned off the shower and grabbed the phone, It was Angel as usual.
"Hey babe, got a eight-ball run for you for that dude on 112th. You got enough stash or you need to come by and get some?
It was a bullshit question. He always knew how much I had and he knew I had more than enough. Just his way of testing whether I was dipping into the stash or selling some for myself.
"You know what I got. I'll make the run and be by later. What's the address?" I heard him chuckle a little on the other end. I'd been with him for a few years and was still paying the price for the past. I wanted to tell him to fuck off, but last time I did that he threw me into a wall and knocked out two back teeth.
He gave me the address. I knew the building. It was a regular although this was a bigger order than usual. He must have company. I toweled off, threw on some jeans, wife beater and leather jacket. I dumped the baggies in my cowboy boots, ran the towel over my hair a few times and grabbed my keys and headed out the door. Normally, I might bring a knife or even the pistol Angel gave me last month when he started to expand his turf. This guy though wasn't a problem and the truth is I didn't like carrying a piece. I didn't do big deliveries. If I got busted it'd be a first time offense and I could probably skate but throw in a gun or even a knife and I'm fucked. Anyone who wants more than a grand or is new and Angel uses one of his boys. I'm the delivery girl for his high end clients. See it makes an addict feel like he's made it if he thinks he has a white dealer. Make it a white girl dealer and he's really full of himself.
It was Saturday afternoon so the streets weren't too crazy. I was on 116th and Lenox. I had a nice deal on a one-bedroom. Never would've thought that nice deal and Lenox and 116th would be in the same sentence, but a lot had changed in the last ten years up here. I used to climb over bodies to get out the door. Now I step over empty Stella Artois bottles and sushi wrappers. Of course, half the tenants use my guy. I don't deliver in my own building. I stopped hooking in here so I'm sure as shit not going to start dealing. I was only about a year away from having my debts cleared and that was my focus. Stay out of trouble and then get out of here for good.
The doorman was helping some old lady with her groceries when I came in and headed to the stairs. I steer clear of elevators. I got jumped in one when I started doing this. On the stairs, I have a fighting chance. This guy lived on the ninth floor and I was a little winded by the time I got up there. The boots weren't made for the stairs either. By the time I knocked on Matlin's door, the sweat was pouring off of me.
"Hey Grace, I was getting nervous."
"Yeah, I could tell."
Gotta love these guys. He was right at the door when I knocked. His window was wide open and he was on his little terrace watching for me, probably for the last half hour. The ashtray was full of Reds and four empty bottles on the table. The picture frame he used for his goodies was clean and there were cut open straws all over the place. No, he wasn't in any hurry.
"Just a hunch. Get me a water, I'm dying here."
While he went to the kitchen, I plopped down on his couch. It was a nice couch so I made sure to rub my sweaty back into the cushions while I pulled my boot off and emptied the baggies onto the floor. The money was on the table. I grabbed it, counted it and jammed it back into my boot and put it back on. He came back out, handed me the water, picked up the bag and held it to his nose and inhaled deeply.
"Mmmm, smells so good."
"Uh, yeah, like sweat."
Then he licked the bag. Gross. He was usually a lot more timid. This was more out there then I'd seen him before and I knew what that meant. He'd crossed another line and was moving ever closer to his inevitable crack up. I'd been delivering to this guy for five years. Used to be he'd be good for one or two deals a month and he barely said a word when I showed up. Then a few years ago it became once a week and he got a little friendly. Now it was a few times a week and he acted like we were old fuck buddies. The amounts he bought were growing. His face had aged ten years in the last three. One of two things happened with these guys. Either they got cleaned out and cleaned up or they checked out. And either way it meant I lost a customer.
He picked up his dictionary and begin pounding on the bag to break up the rocks.
"You want some?," he asked.
"Thanks, but I don't take my work home with me."
"Well, you want a beer?" He suddenly looked a lot sadder.
"No. Look, I gotta go. You take care."
"OK Grace, I'll see you around."
I reached the door and turned back to see him empty the bag on a picture frame. He looked up at me and smiled.
"I'm really a good guy."
"I'm sure you are Michael, I gotta go."
I got to the fifth floor when I had to stop and catch my breath. I had a feeling I wouldn't be seeing him anymore after today.