The beating was intense for a couple of seconds before the door came down and the police were everywhere. They took me out the bedroom, cuffed, and made me kneel down in the living room. Corey was in the kitchen. I could see him from where I knelt, his face pressed into the tile. The officers stood around him, one with his foot placed squarely in Corey’s back.
“Do you want to be pepper-sprayed or shot motherfucker?” the officer asked with his shoe in Corey’s back. “We just gonna have a look around. Before we take you out of here. Keep still or we see how tough you are with your brains on the carpet.”
“What was she doing in there?” the blonde, blue-eyed cop asked.
“What’s it look like?” replied the one standing over me. He smirked, scratched his curly head. “Waiting to get fucked.”
The cop shined his bright ass light on my face, on my chest, my legs, and thighs. The light was everywhere. My throat and chest burned but I was still. So was Corey. Be still. They can kill you. And if they do, they will get away with it. Be still. They took Corey out the door. I kept my head down; tears in my throat. I didn’t know why they were there. Be still. There were no lights or sirens in the pre-dawn shadow. Be still, Kalo. Be still, I said to myself.
“Alright Pocahontas. I need to see your ID,” the curly -head policeman said, flicking one of my two braids behind my shoulder. “Kaloneeka Bagneris,” the officer read my name aloud.
They didn’t ask me much beyond that and let me go. Lucky for me they did not realize I lived there. The blonde one offered me a ride, his light still on my ass. I declined.
When the sun came up, I caught the bus over to Habibti’s. The store had been a part of my morning for years before I moved in with Corey; wake-up, cross the street and get coffee and a biscuit before school. I always had a little crush on Fadi, whose uncle owned the store. But when Corey opened a tattoo shop on top of it, whatever mild flirtations had taken place between us were put to an end.
Corey and I had moved to be away from it all. Besides the tattoo shop on top of Habibti’s, he also co-owned a barbershop and a rim-shop. Corey was doing well, which meant if he wanted to stay both alive and free, he had to be low-key. The apartment we found was cut from a generous portion of an antebellum home, a block off St. Charles Avenue. The house’s massive construction made us feel like giants. Corey was rarely there during the day and it was right up the street from my university. We watched birds for hours from the balcony on the gallery side of the apartment. Just the day before the police arrived, a red bird, a yellow bird and a blue bird lined up on a branch. Corey said it was unusual, almost unbelievable, that they got so close to each other.
Fadi was standing outside smoking a cigarette when I approached. His curly black hair was wild around his head like a halo; his beard so shiny it glittered. He was gorgeous in the sunlight.
“What’s up, Kalo?” Fadi said in his heavy voice.
“The entire world, I don’t know. Fadi, what the fuck? You know what happened last night?”
“Course, Kalo. Me and the entire city, baby, when they wake up. Look at this shit.” Fadi pointed to the copy of The Times Picayune, resting on top a vending machine full of the papers.
Corey and Xavier’s pictures were plastered across the front page. “The Two Most Dangerous Men in New Orleans” the headline read. My breath was gone. Fadi tossed his cigarette on the ground.
“They got Corey as the shooter, Kalo. Seventeen-shots. They say Xavier was driving.”
I picked up the paper again. There were several other articles on the front page discussing other aspects of the case besides the headline article I had read at Habibti’s. They were digging up all of Xavier and Corey’s family history. The reporter on television spoke of the long-standing ties between the St. Martins and the Jamesons. There was also a story on the local news about Cheryl Jameson, one of Corey’s second or third cousins. She was going on trial for some kind of fraud.
“What do they mean, how did Cheryl post her bond?” I asked Fadi. “She has a job.”
“You know how they do, Kalo. They try to connect all the dots. And the ones they can’t they make it up.”
“I think I’m going to be sick, Fadi. I don’t have anywhere to go. I can’t go back to that apartment. ”
“Don’t trip, you know you can stay with me. But, brace yourself, Kalo. You ain’t seen nothing yet.”