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Authors: Eric Jerome Dickey

One Night

BOOK: One Night
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Also by Eric Jerome Dickey

A Wanted Woman

Decadence

An Accidental Affair

Tempted by Trouble

Resurrecting Midnight
(Gideon series)

Dying for Reveng
e (Gideon series)

Pleasure

Waking with Enemies
(Gideon series)

Sleeping with Strangers
(Gideon series)

Chasing Destiny

Genevieve

Drive Me Crazy

Naughty or Nice

The Other Woman

Thieves' Paradise

Between Lovers

Liar's Game

Cheaters

Milk in My Coffee

Friends and Lovers

Sister, Sister

Anthologies

Voices from the Other Side: Dark Dreams II

Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing

Mothers & Sons

Got to Be Real

River Crossings: Voices of the Diaspora

Griots Beneath the Baobab: Tales from Los Angeles

Black Silk: A Collection of African American Erotica

Movie—Original Story

Cappuccino

Graphic Novels

Storm
(six-issue miniseries, Marvel Entertainment)

Published by the Penguin Group

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Copyright © 2015 by Eric Jerome Dickey

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LIBRARY OF C
ONGRESS CATALOGING-I
N-PUBLICATION DATA

Dickey, Eric Jerome, author.

One night / Eric Jerome Dickey.

p. cm.

ISBN 978-0-698-18624-8

I. Title.

PS3554.I319O66 2015

813'.54—dc23 2014030840

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Version_1

To Dwayne Orange.
Run with the angels, Poppa.
Run with the angels.

CONTENTS

Also by Eric Jerome Dickey

Title Page

Copyright

Dedication

Epigraph

6:31 P.M.

6:36 P.M.

6:42 P.M.

7:27 P.M.

7:36 P.M.

7:40 P.M.

7:46 P.M.

7:51 P.M.

7:56 P.M.

8:04 P.M.

8:05 P.M.

8:13 P.M.

8:34 P.M.

8:59 P.M.

9:48 P.M.

10:09 P.M.

10:16 P.M.

10:28 P.M.

10:32 P.M.

10:41 P.M.

10:47 P.M.

11:00 P.M.

11:11 P.M.

11:29 P.M.

11:38 P.M.

12:19 A.M.

12:28 A.M.

12:36 A.M.

12:47 A.M.

12:56 A.M.

12:59 A.M.

1:07 A.M.

1:29 A.M.

1:31 A.M.

1:43 A.M.

1:47 A.M.

1:49 A.M.

1:51 A.M.

1:54 A.M.

1:56 A.M.

2:06 A.M.

2:08 A.M.

2:13 A.M.

2:18 A.M.

2:25 A.M.

3:47 A.M.

3:51 A.M.

3:56 A.M.

4:14 A.M.

5:44 A.M.

5:59 A.M.

6:09 A.M.

6:19 A.M.

Epigraph

Acknowledgments

About the Author

 

After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal.

—House of Cards,
Season 1, Episode 7

We are our choices.

—Jean-Paul Sartre

I only sleep with people I love, which is why I have insomnia.

—Emilie Autumn,
The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls

6:31 P.M.

. . . and then sirens interrupted my unlawful transaction. Law enforcement sped in our direction. I winced, cursed, and shivered. The Hawaiian Gardens Police Department and the sheriff's department were coming to arrest me. The abruptness of the sound of so many sirens caused my body to shake, caused adrenaline to rush, triggered my fight-or-flight mode. The prolonged scream of sirens became louder. Came closer.

The darkness that had arrived long before five o'clock in the afternoon deepened as a perpetual winter rain, cold as ice cubes, intensified the misery on this frigid, colorless night.

I turned and confronted the man in the expensive gray suit. He was tense, twitching as if he had also experienced the sudden heat that comes from fear, from fight-or-flight, but a man dressed like he was would never have anything to run from. He looked like he knew the cops were coming here.

I snapped, “Are you with the police?
Are you a friggin' cop?

Winter rain was being spat from the miserable skies, traffic was bumper to bumper; there was no way I could get to the truck that fast, nowhere to run, and the sirens called my name as they sped closer.

Closer.

The truck. They were coming for me because of the goddamn truck.

Brow furrowed, the well-dressed man made fists and turned toward the incessant wails.

I wasn't ready for this. I didn't have an exit plan, not under these conditions.

A winter storm had been going since morning and had caused at least six hundred traffic accidents in three hours; at least five of those were within spitting distance. Traffic was a bitch with PMS, and all the diehards were out Christmas shopping. Cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, minivans, and hearses clogged the entrance to the Long Beach Towne Center, Hawaiian Gardens Casino, and every strip mall that made up this waterlogged city. That made it impossible for me to get back in my ride and speed away. And if I did manage to get to the truck, the world before me crept toward the 605 at three miles per hour, and traffic heading in the opposite direction on Carson Boulevard couldn't be breaking five.

And as the sirens sang, my frustration was like a slow ride to hell in a flooding dystopia.

Closer. Closer.

He remained tense, his jaw tight, not blinking, his body language speaking of nothing but trouble.

This was unexpected. Fear arrested me. I almost let my weapon slide down to my hand.

Closer. Closer. Closer.

Patrol cars sped by with their fiery lights flashing, raced toward Lakewood, toward Long Beach. We were underneath the shelter between two gas pumps. Behind us was a nonstop line of traffic, a line that stretched both in the direction of the 605 freeway and deeper into Hawaiian Gardens.

The man in the suit took a hard breath, opened and closed his right hand, his face thunderous

Voice trembling, feeling my fear, I asked, “Now, where were we?”

“You parked your truck and came to me with an interesting proposition.”

“I can let the MacBook Pro I have go for seven hundred. Cash.”

He said, “Really? Seven hundred dollars for a stolen MacBook Pro?”

“Once again, it's the fifteen-inch, and this sells at the Apple Store for over two thousand dollars. If you get it for seven hundred, you've saved at least thirteen hundred.”

“You don't save money by spending money.”

“Well, that'll never be on a billboard on Sunset Boulevard. Saving is bad for the economy.”

“Really? You're expecting to get that much for a stolen computer that has no warranty?”

“Well, how much are you willing to give me?”

“One hundred dollars.”

“Dude, you're crazy. This has the latest-generation Intel processors, all-new graphics, faster flash storage, and retina display. This bad boy has over five million pixels. That's better than HDTV. The battery lasts up to eight hours. Don't tell me you're a PC guy? You look too hip to be a PC guy.”

His left eye was bruised. Maybe he had been mugged, or involved in a Christmas brawl. Customers throw hard blows for two-dollar holiday sales at Walmart, and there was one up the street, its lot packed—but his suit and car were made for Rodeo Drive. He considered something beyond me, glanced at the battered old white Nissan truck I was driving.

He said, “Best Buy sent you to do deliveries in that truck?”

“I had to drive my own vehicle tonight. Company cutbacks.”

A few minutes earlier I had driven from my resting spot by the Towne Center and the Edwards Cinema into a Chevron station. There were seventeen gas pumps, all but three occupied, and the twenty-four-hour Subway attached to the gas station was just as busy. I had pulled up to pump number 17, stopping opposite pump number 12 and a brother in a modern gray suit. When I eased out of the truck, he was holding his gas hose, his shoulders hunched like he'd never been rained on in his life. I put on a cheerleader smile, walked halfway to him—bouncy and perky like Katie Couric—told him that his whip was very nice—used that praise as an opener—then engaged him with a flirty smile and started a conversation. I eased closer, whispered that I had a MacBook to sell, asked him if he might be interested in a deal. He had paused, inspected me. My wig was long and loose, like a bad-hair day, and I wore a stolen yellow polo shirt and Dockers that had come at the same five-finger discount, both too big, and a stolen Best Buy badge on my jean jacket. He stepped closer and asked me to repeat what I had said. I told him I had a new laptop in the truck, asked him if he wanted to buy it before I sold it to someone else. I told him the price. Then sirens had echoed and passed. Now we were back to haggling in the rain.

He evaluated me from shoes to eyes and asked, “Are you Egyptian?”

“Am I Egyptian? Are we in Egypt?”

“You look Egyptian.”

“I'm part broke and part black, all mixed with hard times and frustration.”

He looked down his nose at my uniform, my face. “Your tongue is pierced.”

“Yeah. So what?”

“What do you do at Best Buy?”

“That's not important. You want to buy the MacBook or not?”

A frigid breeze kicked in and chilled his condescending attitude.

His phone buzzed. He held it up, read a message, then scowled at the traffic.

I asked, “Need to go so soon?”

“A long text message from my wife.”

“You okay? Look like you just received bad news.”

“She's just arrived at a hospital.”

“Is she okay?”

“Distraught. Family friend had an accident. Someone close to both our families.”

“Do you need to go to her?”

“I'm not a doctor. Nothing I can do but watch her break down and cry.”

“Need to text her back?”

“She's type-A, not a woman that many men can date, let alone marry, because she is always stressed out. She will have a fit if I don't respond right away. For her, everything's urgent. So I won't.”

“Type-A. She's the type of person who loves to win at everything.”

“She is.”

“You know how she is, and you're going to leave her anxious. That's cold.”

“Cold like winter in Siberia.”

“So do you want the computer or not? You're making me miss out on other customers.”

“Tell me again, how did you manage to get a brand-new MacBook Pro?”

I turned up my jacket collar, shivered, shifted from one hard-toe shoe to the other, and told him I worked the stockroom over in Hawthorne, just east of the 405. It was a rainy Wednesday night and I had been sent on deliveries. Despite Amazon running the world, I told him, Best Buy still did drop-offs.

The man in the gray suit asked, “How'd you manage to come across that . . . that laptop?”

“Told you. They had an extra one. I went over the electronic invoice and it wasn't listed. So it fell into a black hole. I never signed for this one. It won't be reported. It will simply vanish from the database. My dilemma is trying to decide if I am going to take it back and get somebody in trouble for the screwup, or see this as a sign and sell it and make enough money to pay my rent this month.”

“You're short on your rent.”

“Most of my income goes to paying frickin' rent. Like everybody else in L.A., I'm always short.”

I had said too much. That admission gave him bargaining power.

Another police car zoomed by, forced angry people to pull to the right, made a bad traffic evening a lot more frustrating. The siren was so loud I had to wait for the downside of the noise to go on talking.

He asked, “How much is your rent?”

“Dude, it's cold out here, and it's raining. Half the people in L.A. are coughing and the other half have the flu. So before I end up getting sick as a dog, do you want to buy the MacBook Pro or not?”

“Might be a way that I could help you out.”

“I'm only bargaining with the laptop. Nothing else is for sale.”

He said, “Three hundred. Take it or leave it.”

“Six. That's my bottom line.”

“So you better take that stolen computer to eBay.”

I was about to curse him, but he pulled his wallet out and let me see a fresh row of greenbacks inside. Couldn't remember when I'd had that much cash and it wasn't being used to pay a bill.

I said, “You can afford the six. This laptop cost over two grand. Don't rip me off.”

“I could afford to go the Apple Store and buy one brand-new with a full warranty.”

“Do better than three hundred. Three hundred is below Black Friday prices.”

“You're a pretty woman.”

“I'm almost as pretty as that silver wedding ring on your left hand.”

“You're wearing a pretty nice ring as well.”

“On my right hand.”

“Why is it on your right hand?”

“Because it won't fit on the middle finger of my left hand.”

“But that is a wedding righty, right?”

“Your ring is on your left hand. That means you bought the cow.”

“Yours on the right hand means?”

“It means I'm no one's cow. So where's your cow? Where's the woman you make go moo?”

He said, “We're estranged. I guess that would be the best way to put it at the moment.”

“At the moment? What, you're estranged until you get home? Then you make her go moo?”

“It's been a long day for me; a long day with lots of driving and lots of stress, and anger, and too much drama. This traffic is starting to look like they're evacuating Los Angeles. We're both going to be trapped in this dull city. Let's go somewhere warm and dry and grab a bite to eat and talk about it.”

I said, “Buy your wife this laptop, maybe stop by 7-Eleven and pick up a hot dog, find her some crotchless lingerie at the ninety-nine-cent store, go to redtube.com and look at some hot porn by Belle Knox or Lisa Ann, role-play, and I guarantee you that by tomorrow evening you two will be tight.”

“Mind if I take a look at the merchandise first?”

“It's hot off the press and still factory-sealed. So, yeah, I mind the box being opened.”

“Mind if I check out the five million pixels and retina display that's better than HDTV?”

“I'm in a rush. You can open the box when you get home.”

“I can't do it now? I can't open what you're selling me from Best Buy now?”

His tone darkened, sent a chill up my spine.

He repeated, “Open the box. Let me turn the computer on.”

BOOK: One Night
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