Chapter 3: Their Back
Tina shot up, swung her legs off the bed and snatched her robe from the hook on the door. Pulling it tighter around her body she was in Janiyah’s room in an instant and rocking the seventeen-year-old in her arms like an infant. There was no explanation needed and no sound escaped either of the women’s mouths except the whispering words of comfort coming from Tina.
“Shh. It’s alright now. It’s alright. It’s over.”
She rocked and rubbed the young woman’s head with her eyes closed. This was her routine. Running into Janiyah’s room in the early mornings, though she didn’t think it would have lasted this long. She also worried she could not sympathize with her sister’s daughter, now her own. To lose your baby brother in such a violent way was one thing, to witness his murder was another thing. And then, there was the other thing.
Tina’s cell was singing in the room downstairs. Peering down at her exhausted teenager, she quickly untangled her body and let the girl fall sleepily back into the sheets and covered her before running downstairs, into her bedroom and silencing the phone before it woke up the other kids.
Hmm. Tina looked down at the tiny screen. That was odd. What was the office doing calling her so early?
She looked toward the window. She still couldn’t believe the city had settled and despite four people living here, the house was still too big. No amount of money could bring her nephew back though, even if it did help to raise his brother and sisters. The money was good. She couldn’t lie. It felt good not to have to worry about bills or pray she didn’t have to investigate some asshole just to make ends meet. Tina loved this time of day. Early, when the sky was still dark, the sun not yet peeking through. Tina threw herself back into the bed and called the office back.
“You better have a damn good reason for calling me so early in the morning.”
“What?” Tina’s smile faded, and she sat back up in the bed.
“When did this happen?”
Tina got out of bed and balanced the cell between her ear and shoulder as she slipped on a pair of slacks. Trying to do the same with a blouse was not going to work.
“Hold on a minute…”
Placing the phone on the bed she slipped on her shirt and put the phone on speaker.
“The phones are blowing up over here. Officer Parks said she started getting them as early as last night,” said the caller.
“Calls? What calls? I thought I told you to hold…” she said before almost slipping on a sock. She picked it up and put it on. Now if she could just find the other one. Tina wasn’t the organized type at home. What she could do at the office did not manifest in her private life. It was one of the worries she had about being a mom. Cops didn’t exactly have a lot of time on their hands. She found herself hiring a Nanny against her better judgment to help maintain that balance. She had little time for laundry and housework and now that Janiyah had her license, she could pick up her brother and sister from school. She did make it a point to be back in time to make dinner and spend time with the kids. It made her feel motherly like she was upholding her end of the bargain. Miss. Bernice was not allowed to cook for her family except on occasion and during emergencies. This sounded like one of them.
“All I know is you better get your butt down here asap.”
“I’m on my way,” said Tina looking under the bed. Where in the world is that other sock?
“Yea, I know what that means. I’ll give you an hour.
“Freddy, chill. I said I’m on my way.”
“Your on-the-way has a different meaning from everyone else’s on-the-way,” Freddy chuckled.
Tina rolled her eyes and hung up on her partner.
“Kayla…Michael…” she called, grabbing the toiletries bag on her way out the door. She only had enough time to jump in and out the shower.
“Niyah,” she called, climbing the stairs and walking the length of the hall where a giant blue M hung against a door. She banged.
She turned to the door facing Micheal’s where a giant pink K hung and banged.
Turning to her left, where the door was already slightly open from earlier, Tina peered in.
“Janiyah, ya’ll come on. I need ya’ll to get up.”
The young woman stirred and sat up, a black night scarf covering her head. Her elegantly arched eyebrows shot up,
“What time is it?”
Tina smirked. She didn’t know how she did it, but Janiyah managed to be cute at every occasion, even after waking up. The nose ring she begged Tina for didn’t look bad against her golden-brown skin. Janiyah scratched at her nose as if reading Tina’s thoughts. As anticipated, her nails were freshly done.
“I need you to call Miss. Bernice, tell her I need her to come in early. Like, right now.”
“Okay.” Janiyah patted her head. “Where’s your other sock?” she laughed.
Tina cut her eyes and smirked as she turned away from the room and ran back downstairs, calling names as she descended.
“Mike, KK. Up. Now!”
As she hurried her mind flooded with Freddy’s urgent message.
Another man was found dead yesterday in the Cicero neighborhood of 145th Avenue, now the fifth black man to die in the past seven days. It happened the same as the others, in broad daylight. All the men had suffocated, found dead in hotel rooms or their own homes. The latest death is the oddest of them all. Some Insurance Company worker found dead on the floor in the bedroom of an empty home. He was still wearing his blue-collar Insurance shirt and Khaki pants. Tina pondered as the shower poured its steaming hot blessings over her body. She hated cases like this. They made her think of…them. Tina stopped moving, letting the water drench her skin. How could she have forgotten the most important piece of the puzzle? Ronnie.
Her nephew Ronnie lost his life in a drug deal gone bad last year. There was a shootout at an empty warehouse where his sisters and brother had been kidnapped and held hostage. Ronnie’s loyalty to Big Sam, the dealer who hired him, ultimately costs him his life. But Tina knew the truth. It was the year everything began, the deaths, and the sightings all over the world. Tina knew better. They had killed him. Is that why the city had settled? Who would want to admit that the impossible was possible? That they did come but were not the friendly miracle workers we thought they would be? Was her team trying to sweep the truth under the rug?
Tina’s body trembled, not from the air now cooling her skin as she stood shivering under the water, but from the truth. Tina knew that Big Sam had blue eyes and that Ronnie’s death was no accident. They had murdered her nephew, were back, and killing again.