Chapter 12: “My Brother’s Keeper”
Sweat pooled along Jason’s forehead and poured down his face, dripping from his body. Shirtless, he attacked the bag, beating it with all the anger inside of him. Word on the street was that Big Steve, Marquise, and Chris were murdered at El Che the other day. Not only was this shocking but it reminded him of how close he had come to his own death. He was supposed to meet with them that night. If it weren’t for that car accident, he would be dead too. Damn, he thought of Tina. That woman saved my life.
Their first date was approaching, and now that he understood the weight of why the accident happened, he’d have to treat her to something special. He was eternally grateful even if also sad. In one day, he had lost all his friends. He didn’t understand how no one had seen anything when it happened in broad daylight in front of a room full of people.
It was also reported that Steve’s phone was missing, which would explain why he didn’t answer his texts. Jason didn’t believe the cops and detectives and assumed they were not doing their job as usual to solve his friend’s case. Was it because they were all black men? There was no way no one knew anything. There was no way no one saw anything, and now he was organizing a fundraiser to raise the money to bury three of his friends.
“Ah!” Jason yelled out loud in frustration.
“Everything gonna be alright, man,” said Eddie, Jason’s workout buddy.
“Somebody gonna find out something.”
Jason sat down on a bench and wiped his head and chest with a towel. “It’s just not making sense. How the hell three men die in your establishment in broad damn daylight and nobody see nothing? Somebody lying.”
“I agree with that bro, for real,” said Eddie punching a bag.
“They saying it might be drug-related.”
“Yea, man, talking about they found cocaine in their system.”
“What?” Eddie said again.
“And you know my brothers didn’t smoke. We may have hit some weed or something but not that other shit.”
“I know,” agreed Eddie. That’s not how Jason rolled. He didn’t get high, and he didn’t hang with people who got high. Jay wasn’t perfect, but he tried to be an upright man. Eddie knew that he wouldn’t hang around with no scrubs.
Jason’s cell rang, and he stared at the screen in disbelief. “What the…?”
Eddie stopped punching the bag, and Jason showed him the screen.
Jason pulled the phone back. “What I say about people playing games?”
“That’s some spooky shit,” said Eddie. Silence filled the room as the phone went silent and then started vibrating again.
Eddie tilted his head, “Didn’t they say Big Steve’s phone was missing? Yo answer that.”
Jason held up a hand and answered. “Hello?”
There was no answer.
Eddie thought he’d stopped breathing as they listened, the phone on speakerphone.
Jason hung up the phone and grabbed his shirt off the bench, pulling it over his head. “Eh, man, I’m out. Gotta find out what the hell is going on here.”
“Take care of your businessman,” said Eddy.
The men hugged, fist-bumped, and Jason was out the door. Eddie returned to punching the bag in front of him.
Jason’s head pounded as he drove to the nearest police station, thankful Amarie was still with his parents. He had not gone back to get her since the news came. They understood and offered to give him as much time as he needed. “Just remember this is your daughter,” his dad cautioned.
Jason cursed under his breath at the Chicago traffic and hoped the cops could trace the call back to the killer.
When he drove past a police station, Jason made a U-Turn and barely parked his car when he jumped out of it and ran into the building.
“I need to speak to someone,” he said to the receptionist, a white woman with brown freckles and glasses that hung off the tip of her nose. She frowned at the sweaty-faced, out-of-breath man with the wet t-shirt and grabbed a sticky note.
“I got some information about the El Che Steakhouse murders.”
The woman removed her glasses and raised a brow. “What kind of information?”
Juan typed into his computer and scribbled words onto a notepad. They were still investigating the death of Byron Jones, and now three more people had died. They were being slaughtered with paperwork and follow-ups.
“Mr. Emerson? You have a visitor.”
Juan sighed and kept typing.
“One moment Kathy,” he said, finishing the last of the sentence his secretary had interrupted. “Do you think you can handle that for me? We’re swamped in here today.”
“He says he’s got information on the Steakhouse murders.”
Juan stopped typing and looked up. “We don’t know if it’s murder yet. Send him in.”
A light-complexioned black man entered, sweaty-faced and out of breath.
“Good afternoon. I’m detective Emerson. Please, have a seat.”
He watched as the man sat and looked around the room. Juan smiled. That was the usual response to his office. He was an avid reader and took great pride in his collection.
“What can I do for you? I hear you have information on the Steakhouse case?”
The man pulled out a cell phone and started scrolling.
“I need ya’ll to track this number.” He put the phone down on the desk. “That number belongs to Steve. Steve is my friend,” the man sniffed. “Was my friend. My best friend.”
“Okay,” said Juan picking up the phone. He recalled Steve being one of the names of the victims. “And by Steve, you mean Steve Richardson?”
A tear escaped the man’s eye, but he wiped it away quickly.
“Yes. Steve Richardson, Chris Washington, and Marquis Johnson. Those were my friends and I believe that whoever killed them called me from that number just now. Why? I don’t know that’s why I’m here, but I know I got a call from that number and that’s Steve’s number, and I don’t know what’s going on, but I need someone to explain to me why a dead man is calling my phone.”
Juan leaned back in his seat and held out a hand. “Did you say these were your friends?”
“Yea man, so what ya’ll gonna do? Can’t you put some tracking shit on that or something?”
Juan typed into the computer. “I’m sorry. I never got your name.”
“Jason. My name is Jason.”
Juan nodded. So, this is Jason.
“What?” asked Jason, annoyed.
Juan cleared his throat. He hadn’t meant to stare. “I’m sorry, this is just the first real lead in this case.”
Juan scratched at his chin. This could be a real opportunity for them. Tina’s suspension can prove more valuable than they had anticipated. She needed to be out of the picture for what he had in mind.
Jason’s phone vibrated, and he looked down at it and typed. “Look, man,” he said, “I gotta go. Ya’ll gonna help me solve my brother’s murder or what?”
“First, it’s not technically a murder. There’s no proof that anyone killed these men. No witnesses and no weapon. Right now, it’s looking like a freak accident.”
Jason waved his hand, “man, that’s bullshit.”
“It’s called Asphyxiam,” said Juan. “It’s what happens when your body doesn’t get enough oxygen to keep you from passing out. When you breathe normally, first you take in oxygen. Your lungs send that oxygen into your blood, which carries it to your tissues. Then your cells use it to make energy. Any interruption to the process of breathing in oxygen and breathing out carbon dioxide can make you pass out or lose your life.”
“What’s your point?”
“It looks as if the men suffocated, on what we don’t know. It could be aspiration, when food goes down the wrong pipe or choking. Perhaps they choked on the food they were eating, but our only witness, the waitress, said the men hadn’t ordered any food yet. We are still waiting for her to come in to confirm it. She says they were too focused on some women at another table.”
Juan stopped talking and cocked his head.
The women. How had he missed that? Who are these women?
He picked up the phone and started dialing.