One Night Stand: A Novel by Roland S. JeffersonOne Night Stand: A Novel by Roland S. Jefferson

One Night Stand: A Novel

byRoland S. Jefferson

Paperback | April 3, 2007

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How did a street hustler, in and out of jail since he was ten, beat a murder rap, no matter whether he did the crime or not?

Meet Myra Cross, a thirty-one-year-old redheaded beauty with a take-no-prisoners reputation as a Public Defender. She confounds her colleagues and clients alike as she not only wins acquittal after acquittal but poses for Playboy in her spare time. She has the face of an angel, the body of a goddess, and a mind like a steel trap. But with secrets and demons, she neither pretends to be a Girl Scout nor to have all the answers. This time, when she's once again assigned the defense of Napoleon T. Booker -- aka Little Dog Nine, who's charged with another homicide -- she gets much more than she bargained for.

Acclaimed author of the cult classic The School on 103rd Street, Roland S. Jefferson weaves an explosive literary mix of contemporary urban authenticity and classic old-school crime into a mesmerizing, pulse-pounding thriller.
Title:One Night Stand: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8.25 × 5.31 × 0.8 inPublished:April 3, 2007Publisher:Atria BooksLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:074326889X

ISBN - 13:9780743268899

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Chapter 1 The Mustang 5.0 roared out of the darkness on tires grown accustomed to the brutality of decaying asphalt. The car was followed by the banshee scream of LAPD sirens, flashing red and blue lights of a half dozen black and whites in dogged pursuit. Overhead drama. The familiar low-pitched coughing drone of an LAPD helicopter playing hopscotch with its halogen beam spotlight joined in the chase, followed by the higher-pitched whine of news helicopters approaching in the distance. Without braking, the driver attempted a tire-punishing right turn onto a one-way street. His lights off, he misjudged his speed and plowed into the side of a parked car, shearing off its door and sending it flying through the air like a Frisbee. The explosive force of the collision sent the Mustang skidding sideways across the street. The driver manhandled the wheel, brakes, and gearshift all in a single motion, careened into the glaring headlights of an oncoming pickup truck, near-certain lethal impact in the making. But skill and luck were still with the driver. He regained a measure of last-second control and prevented a head-on collision, but not the slamming impact with a parked car that left the mangled white door with streaks of blue. The chase continued -- with the shrill, ear-splitting squeal of tortured rubber, whiffs of smoke from rear wheel wells, and a whining transmission through five forward gears of acceleration down the one-way obstacle course -- as the Mustang approached a spike strip visible at the corner. Show-and-tell. The driver downshifted, avoided the spike strip, hit the curb and sidewalk, and took a shortcut across a vacant lot that kicked up clouds of dust and clipped the rear fender of another parked car as it exited, sending pieces of metal, red plastic, and shards of glass clattering across the pavement. Tires screamed for relief. Near-deserted Market Street an LAX runway as the Mustang approached liftoff speed. Suddenly the halogen light of the helicopter caught up to the pony, painted it in a circle of daylight like the tractor beam of the Enterprise. Inglewood. Family Bloods. Hard choice: spike strip or Bloods. Both lethal. He gambled on Inglewood, made a tight last-second tire-shredding turn onto a tree-lined street of graffiti-covered apartment buildings. Hoping to become invisible in a world of infrared sensors and global positioning satellites, the driver raced down a darkened corridor toward the next intersection. But there was no intersection. There was a cul-de-sac. Downshifting and locking disc brakes put the muscle car in a screeching, out-of-control skid that destroyed a pair of expensive twenty-inch rims with all the blunt force of its five thousand pounds slamming headfirst into a curb, up, over, and into the immovable mass of a concrete light pole that brought the 5.0 to a crashing, bone-jarring stop. A swirling cloud of coolant hissed and seeped from the radiator like steam from a teapot. One way in. No way out -- unless the Mustang could fly. Black and whites swarmed in like a flock of helicopter gunships on a search-and-destroy mission. All they needed was a declaration of war. Bail or assume the position. Only partial halogen sunlight through the trees. He could've run for it, lost himself in the massive apartment complex, found a sympathetic tenant who didn't like cops. Waited it out till the K-9 squad gave up. Only problem: graffiti-covered apartments were not friendly. Driver read the gang graffiti, knew his blue scarf was the wrong color to wear in a Blood neighborhood. Bloods in a war with LAPD on a daily basis, battling Crips on a second front. Driver figured his odds were better with the cops. Tractor beam of the helicopter, blinding spotlights on top of a dozen black and whites turned the battered Mustang into a show car, optical reflections from whirling spinners on damaged rims bathing the perimeter like strobe lights in a disco. Drawing beads on the driver with their nine-millimeters, twice as many cops cautiously approached the car from all sides like hunters on safari stalking their prey. The chase was over. Five-O won. Ignition key off, deep-throated mufflers fell silent, all too familiar command on the charged-up bullhorn barking orders. He knew the routine. Both hands out of the window, open the door from the outside, step out slowly. Don't make any sudden moves. Don't even sneeze. Cops on edge after a chase, adrenaline rush, hair-trigger index fingers itching for exercise. Hands over his head, walk to the center of the tractor beam. Slowly. Down on both knees, then flat on the pavement with both arms outstretched, wait for the pat-down, wrists handcuffed behind his back. Sleepy-eyed South Central LA residents fell out of bed, crowded into barred front windows, porches, and litter-filled streets to see the latest inner-city reality show as if on cue from a Marine Corps drill sergeant. A group of curious residents, some men, more women, ten times as many teenagers, all wearing red in some combination -- shirts, scarves, sweats -- began hurling insults across the street, as much at the driver as at the police, his blue head scarf to the growing crowd what a red cape is to a bull. Angry youths gave the finger to helicopters above, hitting up gang signs behind arriving TV commentators who were interviewing police and spectators. Drifting in and out of the tractor beam, shouting profanities over the loud popping of helicopters circling overhead like buzzards waiting their turn to feed, amid the constant chatter of police traffic on radios and walkie-talkies, the gathering crowd began to make a block party out of the event. The aroma of blunts, primos, and weed daring police to say a word or risk Rodney King time. Boom boxes started to blare. Teenage girls wearing scarcely more than hair curlers began wiggling, bouncing, and dancing in a wild sexual frenzy to the beats as if auditioning for a Dr. Dre music video. Gangbangers rapping along with 50 Cent, Jay-Z, OutKast. A few got out lawn chairs, ice chest full of forties. All they needed was barbecue. Three o'clock in the morning. Someone should've sold tickets. A pair of hands jerked the driver roughly to his feet, brought him eye level with a small white face, blond mustache, name tag that read MONROE. Rifling the driver's wallet, he asked, "Your name Napoleon Booker?" looking first at the photo on the driver's license and car registration, then at the driver. "If that's what it says." "I can't read. Suppose you tell me. I run a check, what name's coming back?" "You can't read, go take a special-ed class." The cop shook his head and mumbled to no one in particular. "Comedian, huh? Okay, Napoleon, here we go," he said, and he withdrew a small card from his shirt pocket. "You are now under arrest," he began formally. "Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Do you understand these rights?" Napoleon shook his head and said, "Whatever, but whose court and whose law?" "Got any warrants, Napoleon?" Monroe said, ignoring the comment. "What do you care, muthafucka. You can't read!" "Smart-ass, huh," the cop spit out, not really looking at Napoleon, expecting little more, like it would be unusual if he cooperated. He ripped the blue scarf from Napoleon's head, revealing a field of cornrows in need of attention. "What set are you in, Napoleon?" the cop droned on, fingering gold chains around Napoleon's neck, going through zippered pockets of baggy pants hanging miraculously at his butt line as if by some unseen force, lifting up his shirt, turning him around, inspecting prison tattoos on both arms. "Who do you bang with -- Fruit Town Crips? Rolling Sixties? Hoover Crips? What do they call you? What do you go by?" "Fuck you." "That's good," Monroe said, then called out to the clan, "Hey, fellas, says his name is Fuck You, but his license says Napoleon, if you can believe that. Any you guys know him, what set he belongs to, his gang name?" Several cops walked over, took cursory looks at Napoleon, shook their heads, drifted away. "You Mirandize him?" The name tag said CALVIN. The razor-bumped face was black, nose broad, the beady penetrating eyes cold and deep-set, a vicious mouth that snarled like a rabid dog when it opened. Attitude pure Gestapo. Not waiting for Monroe to answer and not really caring, he said to Napoleon, "Homeboys never learn, do you? Trying to drive like Mario Andretti. Don't you know you can't outrun a computer, or the ghetto-bird up there?" He pointed toward the helicopter, nine-millimeter still in his hand. "Or did you keep your black ass in school long enough to learn that?!" he said, attitude on full throttle, words hostile and venomous, absent any kinship with the suspect. "You don't have three strikes," he went on, face inches from Napoleon's, spray of spit a fountain between them. "You will when we get through with you. Won't need them gold chains on your neck where you're going. Know what I'm saying? You feelin' me, homey?" The cop slammed the nine-millimeter into his chest several times, like Tarzan declaring himself king of the jungle. Only thing missing was the yell. Napoleon said, "Why don't you get the fuck outta my face!" Calvin bristled at the challenge, put both hands on his belt, brought his broad nose, razor-bumped face, malignant stare, and rabid dog's mouth a hair's breadth from Napoleon's, like he was Mike Tyson squaring off with an opponent in the ring, and said, "'Cause I don't want to. So what you gonna do about it? Huh? I'll tell you what you're gonna do -- nothing! You ain't gonna do a goddamn muthafucking thing 'cause I'm the man, see." He waved his nine-millimeter in Napoleon's face like a flag. "And you ain't nothin' but a little punk-ass bitch. Know what I'm saying, homey? You feeling me?" Mindful of news commentators broadcasting live, restless crowd watching the exchange, Monroe thought it best to intercede before Tarzan lost control. He said to Napoleon, "Why'd you run, Napoleon?" "Why'd you stop me?" "'Cause you were driving with no lights and had no plates." "I just bought the car!" "I can understand the plates," Monroe said. "What happened, they forget to install the lights?" "Whatever." Calvin looked over at the mangled muscle car, back to Napoleon. He laughed. "Really? You just bought it, and you with no visible means of support," he said, knowing from instinct and experience he spoke the truth. "Let me see that," he said, and without asking he snatched the registration from Monroe's hands. "Who's Mary Booker?" "My moms." "That's what I thought." Calvin handed the registration back to Monroe and said, "How's a little punk-ass gangbanger like you gonna pay for a new car -- legitimately?" "Negro, suck my muthafuckin' dick, why don't you!" Calvin smiled, said to Monroe, "Hard little punk-ass nigga, isn't he. Wants me to suck his brains." In his face with it -- nigga, what they call black cops behind their backs. Monroe said, "Man's name is Fuck You, what'd you expect?" Calvin said to Monroe, "Not very creative, was she, his her kid Fuck You." And with an expression of utter disdain, beady eyes looking Napoleon up and down as if appraising a contaminated rat, he said, "Then again I can see why. I mean what else do you call garbage. Know what I'm saying." And he stepped back, wiping his hands on his uniform as if he had just touched a dirty rag. "Just look at him." Monroe's face brightened with amusement but he didn't comment. What he saw was a black youth in his mid-twenties, muscular, well conditioned, skin the color of night. His cherub-looking unshaven face was sprinkled with hair and anchored by a wide mouth enhanced by large African lips that exposed two rows of crooked teeth when it opened. A large, flat nose, heavy lids struggling to stay open over hard brown eyes grown suspicious beyond their years, and a low forehead buttressed by flat ears, pierced with small diamond studs, rounded out its contour. The brown baggy pants with a dozen zippered pockets and matching sweatshirt were generic. But the blue head scarf said who and what he was. "You still haven't answered the man's question, homey," Calvin went on, trace of foam at the edges of the snarling mouth. "Why'd you run?" "'Cause I ain't white, popo! That's why!" Calvin half laughed, half grunted, said that answer was played out, suggested Napoleon try something a little more original. "Naw," he said, "that ain't why you ran." And the cop took Napoleon's car registration from Monroe a second time, waved it in front of his face, saying, "Nice car like that, all torn up...half a dozen other cars totaled." Calvin shook his head and said, "You one of these little thugs that ran 'cause you got something to hide. Wanna tell us what it is, or we gotta find it?" "I ain't tellin' you shit, you cracker-ass nigga! Fuck you." Calvin laughed for the third time in as many minutes, gave the registration back to Monroe. He said, "Right. Retard with a limited vocabulary and poor memory. Keeps repeating his name so he won't forget it." Calvin holstered his nine-millimeter, walked away in another fit of laughter. "Have it your way, Fuck You." Gesturing toward the crowd in red, Monroe said, "Maybe I ought to let them question you. Bet they could find out the four-one-one...what set you're in? Gang name? What do you think, Napoleon? Yeah? No?" Napoleon didn't say anything right then because he knew this tactic to be true, knew cops threatened to drop a suspect from one gang into the neighborhood of rival gangs if they didn't talk, and sometimes did exactly that even when they did talk. But he knew that was unlikely this time. He'd run, they'd chased him down, and it was on the news. No way they were going to let him go after this much drama. Napoleon said, "I think you should kiss my ass, white boy. Know what I'm saying?" Monroe said, "Well, your eyesight's good. Can't say the same about your choice in names." Napoleon said, "Fuck you." Monroe smiled for the first time. He said, "I'll be damned. He was right -- only way you remember your name is repeat it. Have it your way then, Napoleon. We'll go with what it says here while we're waiting for your sheet to come back. Meantime, we search your car, what are we gonna find?" "Whatever you plant, muthafucka," Napoleon said in truth, knowing from personal experience the way LAPD can frame suspects. "That's what you'll find." "You got a weapon in there?" another cop with crooked teeth asked, knowing from instinct there probably was and hoping to save time in the search. "Hell no, I ain't got no weapon," Napoleon said, knowing it was a lie, knowing too that if they didn't find the trapdoor compartment behind the dash where he kept his Glock and if they were angry enough and wanted him bad enough, they'd plant one. Plant dope too if it suited them. They'd find the half-empty fifth of Johnnie Walker Red, his dime bag of weed, crow about that. They'd charge him with an open container, possession, try to charge him with sales if they thought they could get away with it. The cop with crooked teeth just looked at him, fingered the blue scarf, then called out to the team checking the Mustang. "Hey, guys. Napoleon here says he hasn't got a weapon, but he's wearing Crip colors, so what does that tell you? It tells you he's either the bravest Crip I know, traveling in a Blood neighborhood without packing, or he's the dumbest wannabe I've ever met. And looking at him, way he's dressed and all, I don't figure him for a wannabe. Either way, we get back to the shop, you go through that buggy with a fine-tooth comb and find me something, 'cause it's there, somewhere." Find me something. That said it all. Code name for a setup. "Like I said, ain't nothing to find less you put it there," Napoleon said again, knowing he should be quiet but helpless to control his anger, his explosive temper, letting the cops get next to him like that. Especially the black cop. Knew black cops always had something to prove, were harder and more brutal than white cops. "And the money," Calvin's voice blurted from somewhere in the pack. "Don't forget that." "Money?" Napoleon said, twisting around to face Calvin's voice, see if he could read the cop's face, see if he was just baiting him to make him talk or if there was another agenda. But all he saw was a group of blue shirts gathered around the crippled Mustang. Napoleon was suddenly feeling uneasy about the situation, knowing his only money was the hundred and twenty dollars in his wallet Monroe had already counted. "What money you talking about?" he shouted to the knot of blue shirts. Monroe continued the inquisition. "What about dope, Na-po-le-on," he said, pronouncing his name with as much derisiveness as he could muster. "We gonna find any dope in your car? Any Sherm? Rocks? Weed? Primos? Blunts?" "Wait a minute," Napoleon said. "What is this? What money...?" "I wouldn't worry about money now, Napoleon," Monroe said. "From the looks of things, Calvin was right...where you're going you won't have any use for money either." But Monroe knew this was not true, that jailed inmates always had money on the books to negotiate favors and privileges. Napoleon knew this too. Still, he wondered why the black cop had brought it up. "You got all my money right there in your hand," Napoleon said to Monroe. "No coins. Six dubs...hundred and twenty dollars all total. You can count, can't you?" Street smarts still in hiding. The cop cut intolerant eyes at Napoleon, could understand why Calvin's patience wore thin with hoodlums like Napoleon. "Talk to me about dope, Napoleon," Monroe said, his own patience waning. "Naw, muthafucka," Napoleon spit out angrily, "you talk to me about money!" he said, continuing to press the issue. "What money you looking for I'm supposed to have?" Napoleon said, watching a sea of blue around the Mustang suddenly part as a police flatbed arrived, backed up, began to hook up chains and braces. Monroe said, "I'd like to say you cooperated in my report, Napoleon, giving us the heads-up on what's in the car...?" "What's in the car? Ain't nothing in the car," Napoleon said. "I told you, popo, whatever you planted is what you'll find. You illiterate and deaf too?" Arrogance still ruling the day. Anger. Temper out of control, the way it had been all his life. With tremendous reserve Monroe said, "All of the above... none of the above. Take your pick. At least I know my own name. You, on the other hand, wanna go for bad. Your car's all jacked up, you're standing here in handcuffs not offering an ounce of cooperation, looking at more strikes than the law allows, knowing you're gonna do some time...and you call me illiterate?" "Listen," Napoleon said, touch of reality finally creeping into his voice, street smarts coming out of deep freeze. "I don't know anything about any money. What kind of game you playing?" Napoleon was used to the games played by cops. Knew from past experience just how far they'd go, Rampart far, if necessary. He knew they planted dope. And guns. Sometimes both...if they didn't kill you first. He had in fact been set up before by LAPD who'd planted a gun used in a homicide, knowing too they'd be out to get him once his sheet came back and they found out who he was, that he beat the 187, beat their setup. Murder or drugs -- he could see that, understood that kind of frame, how it worked, and knew there was a way to beat it if you had a good lawyer. He knew they wouldn't plant anything in front of a crowd, news commentators, TV cameras. They'd wait until they had the car secured in police impound, plant whatever they wanted. But why money? What would that get them? A gun...dope, he could see that. But the cop had said money. What money? Whose money? From a dope dealer? Evidence room? If that was the case they wouldn't be advertising, they'd be helping themselves and keeping very quiet about it. Whatever cops were about, honesty wasn't included. Extortion? Gambling? Counterfeiting? No, that wasn't him. They'd know that once his sheet came back. He couldn't see them setting him up on a counterfeiting case. Murder...carjacking, maybe. Not counterfeiting. And absolutely not bank robbery! He could beat that blindfolded. Street smarts back in high gear now, but they weren't working on all fours. He just couldn't figure the angle about money. Then maybe it was just a cop trick after all. He was just too paranoid, reading more into it. Had to be the drugs...driving a new car with no plates and no lights. No wonder they flagged him. Jesus, what was he thinking about? He was wired from hits on the freebase pipe, he had to admit that. Which is why he took off when they flagged him. He wouldn't have run like that if he wasn't high. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Still, the cop did say to find the money...? With the Mustang secured on the flatbed, the driver followed several black and whites out of the artificial sunlight of the tractor beam, signaling the party was over. Army of occupation started piling into black and whites, began their orderly but well-practiced retreat from hostile territory. News commentators and broadcast technicians packed up their gear just as fast, filed out behind the police ground units and headed to the next hot spot. Helicopters faded away one by one in search of tomorrow's news today. With lawn chairs folded, boom boxes silent, residents returning to their apartments, the tractor beam shut off, plunging the street back into darkness. The inner-city reality show was over -- for the moment. Tune in tomorrow night for a new episode. Monroe walked Napoleon over to a nearby black and white, put him in the backseat with a white female cop whose close-cut, slicked-down ash-blond hair was her only saving grace. Her severely acne-scarred, pockmarked Elephant Man face so distorted her features it was hard to tell if her mouth was open or closed. Her name tag said TAYLOR, and after getting settled on uncomfortable manacled hands, Napoleon asked if Taylor was her first name or last. She didn't open her mouth to answer him. But when her robot head rotated to face him, her eyes raked across him with the cold, impassive hardness he'd seen on female cops that was far more intimidating than that of their male counterparts. He figured the wedding ring was just for show, couldn't imagine anyone so ugly with such hard eyes ever being married. He wanted to ask her if she had children and if they were just as hideous-looking as she was, decided it was prudent to stay silent. "Right," said Napoleon after a moment, guessing conversation was not one of her strong points. Monroe rode shotgun next to the driver, a white cop he called Darryl who had a knack for chewing gum despite missing half his teeth. "We'll book him at Seventy-seventh Division," Monroe said after they'd joined the parade of black and whites leaving the fire zone, turning his attention to the car's computer. They drove east out of Inglewood on Century Boulevard in silence, passed Hollywood Park racetrack, crossed over Crenshaw, turned north on Normandie for the run to Seventy-seventh. Monroe said, "Well, well, well. What have we got here?" He was looking at the computer screen. "Napoleon T. Booker, aka Little Dog Nine -- what's the Nine, Napoleon, type of piece you use or how many gangbangers you've killed?" "Fuck you." He should have expected it. The elbow that rammed into Napoleon's rib cage knocked the wind out of him, caused him to double over with pain, his chin almost to his knees. He looked up at the Frankenstein face responsible, started to speak, doubled over again with the second blow she unleashed, tried to catch his breath, knew a third blow was coming and tried to protect himself by turning away from the sadist. No good. It caught him just below the kidney. Napoleon thought he'd pass out. "Says here you've been in and out of jail since you were ten," Monroe droned on, ignoring the rear seat action. "B and E's, burglary, assaults, GTA, theft, one eighty-seven -- a one eighty-seven...?" It sounded like he'd just discovered gold. The cop hesitated, typed on keys, mumbled to himself as he read green lines that rolled down the screen. Momentarily he turned around, spoke to Napoleon's doubled-over form: "How'd you beat a one eighty-seven three years ago?" Napoleon didn't answer. Couldn't answer. Couldn't catch his breath, but managed to spit out a weak "fuck you" a second time. Suddenly the gargoyle reached over, grabbed a fistful of loose cornrows, snapped his head up and around to face Monroe, and spoke for the first time. "Officer asked you a question. Be to your advantage to answer him." The voice was surprisingly feminine, but it was just as cold and hard as the eyes stuck on the face. "I was set up," he said truthfully after a moment, remembering the harrowing trial that threatened to put him on death row at twenty-three. Monroe and Darryl both laughed. Frankenstein too. "That's what they all say," Darryl said over his shoulders. "I was set up -- give me a muthafucking break, why don't you." "Don't take my word for it," Napoleon said, trying to shake loose from the fingers attached to his cornrows, his head feeling like a trophy held up by cannibals victorious in battle. "Read the transcript, you don't believe me," he went on, tether of fingers still attached to his hair. "My PD proved the gun had been planted 'cause there were no prints, the ballistics didn't match, and the only witness was a basehead informant for LAPD." "PD did all that?" Monroe said somewhat incredulously. "Who represented you?" "White lady, Myra Cross." "Myra Cross," Darryl said, excitement in his voice. "The hottie. Built like a -" "Down, boy," Frankenstein interrupted from the backseat. "There's a lady present." Lady? Napoleon wondered who she was talking about. "She's a good lawyer, way I hear it," Monroe said. "Was cross-examined by her on a burglary case once. Don't remember much about the case, but I sure remember Ms. Cross. Hard to pay attention to details when you're staring at her rack all the time." He tried to stifle the laugh but it slipped out. And still snickering, he turned to the figure in the backseat and said, "No offense, Lila. You have a nice rack too." Patronizing her. Just like that, questioning her femininity. Good-old-boys' club alive and well in the LAPD. No women, niggers, or dogs need apply. Not necessarily in that order. Lila. The name fit the voice, but not the Frankenstein image. Lila grunted deep in her throat and said, "My, aren't we in a patronizing mood tonight." Neanderthal man. All he needed was a club. Half turning in his seat, eyes taking in Monroe, trying to catch Lila's and start damage control, Darryl said, "He didn't mean anything by it, Lila." Lying politely, almost sounding like he meant it. "I know what he meant," Lila said. "Watch the road, please." Concrete hardness of words matching the icy stare of a pair of blinking shell-holes in the cratered face. A no-win situation for the good old boys. Six and a half blocks of frosty silence before Monroe's courage returned. He said to Napoleon, "You're going back to the joint, Little Dog Nine..." It sounded as if he almost regretted saying it. "On top of your priors we'll add felony hit-and-run...that's a strike. Felony evasion...that's a strike. Resisting arrest, parole violation...two strikes there. Plus whatever we find in your car." Napoleon shook his head violently, got rid of the tether of fingers. "You mean whatever you plant in the car." Darryl said, "We don't need to plant anything in your car to put your little gangbanging ass away. You're a TV star. Made the eleven o'clock news, remember?" Napoleon knew they were right. They didn't need to plant anything. He'd fucked up. Still, it pissed him off to have the cops remind him. Unable to rein in his seething anger, he said, "Fuck you, popo. Fuck all you white cocksuckers!" Monroe said, "Race card." Darryl said, "Yeah." As if on cue, Lila's pile-driving elbow returned to Napoleon's rib cage, his nose dropping down to meet his knees. "Muthafuckin' bitch, you!" "It's Officer Taylor," Lila said through the hole that passed as a mouth, "since you asked. Remember that, why don't you -- Officer Lila Taylor." And almost immediately one fist grabbed the other, and like a jackhammer she rammed another elbow into Napoleon's side so hard he cried out in pain and toppled over on the seat, his head hitting the armrest of the door. It took great effort for Napoleon to speak. He said, "I'm gonna sue your assess for police brutality!" The trio of cops all laughed in unison. Monroe said, "I don't see any police brutality. Darryl? Lila? You see any brutality?" A hairy white arm reached over the front seat, inspected Napoleon's neck, lifted up his sweatshirt, inspected his chest. "I don't see anything on your neck, your chest. No cuts, bruises. What police brutality you talking about, Napoleon?" "Man, fuck you, popo," Napoleon said, bracing for the elbow, surprised when it didn't come. "We get through with you, Napoleon," Monroe said, turning back around, fingers working the keyboard, "you won't need Myra Cross -- you'll need Houdini himself." Napoleon said, "Houdini's dead." Monroe said, "My point exactly." The explosive laughter of the trio sounded prerecorded, like the laugh track for a TV sitcom. The pain in his side unbearable, Napoleon lay crumpled over on the seat in silence. He thought about what the cop had said, about needing Houdini instead of Myra Cross. If it wasn't for the pain he would have laughed. Myra Cross. Houdini incarnate. Copyright © 2006 by Roland S. Jefferson