Chapter 17: “Altgeld Projects”
Janiyah sat up on the couch, took out her flip phone, and scrolled through her MySpace page.
“Tab girl, come on.”
She didn’t like spending too much time at Tabitha’s house. She just wanted to get her money and go home. Tab lived in the Altgeld Gardens, one of the last remaining housing projects in Chicago, located on the city’s far south side bordering Riverdale. The complex had undergone renovations but had continued to perpetuate the same gun violence and poverty associated with any Chicago housing complex. But that’s not why Janiyah hated it. Before Tina moved them out, she had grown up in the projects, and she was pretty enough to be protected by the gang members who still lusted for her. She knew that it was arrogant to think, but it was true. If the gangbangers thought you were fine, “a dime,” they showed you favor. “Redbones,” were in, and everyone wanted that pretty light-skinned girl named Janiyah. Word on the street was she was a virgin, and they all wanted to be the one to boast they had popped that cherry.
Word on the street was also that her auntie was a detective and ruled with an iron fist. While they wanted Janiyah, they also wanted to stay out of jail. They watched her with lustful eyes, flirted, and hoped to navigate Tina’s iron steel fence with the two pit bulls in front of it. Terms like, “You ready yet?” You eighteen yet?” were common when Janiyah sashayed down the halls. Her footsteps hit the concrete with confidence, kissing the ground like she poured the cement herself or knew who did. Her laughter was a flirtatious innocence, and her hips danced, and her booty bounced made them swear she knew what she was doing, even if she didn’t. She was a Goddess no one had the authority to touch, and she knew it. Janiyah walked the patio like she lived there and never had a problem if she needed to spend the night. Though, she would never let goodie-too-shoes Tina know this is where she kicked it. Janiyah wasn’t ashamed of the projects. Here, she was home. But Tabitha’s apartment also reminded her of Big Sam’s apartment in the building across the street and too much of Ronnie. He was alive then.
“Let me put my wig on,” shouted Tabitha from the back. Janiyah smiled and shook her head.
“You got something to drink in here?”
“I think it’s some Kool-Aid left.”
A phone sang in the back room. Tab always had a busy line. “Hey stranger,” she could be heard saying from the back. “Yea, I’m here, what’s up?”
Janiyah, smiled, shaking her head at her crazy friend.
Tabitha was half Asian and half black, and it drove the men crazy. She was a different kind of beautiful to them and not just because of her looks. Tab was straight hood and didn’t give two shits about her Asian heritage. Her mother tried to convince her to widen her perspective and learn more about her history, but Tab was a wild card with Asian eyes, brown skin, and street in her veins. All of this and she was still a “pretty girl.” Tabitha liked everything cute and yellow, lipstick, foundation, and heels. It didn’t matter what she was doing, Tabitha always dressed up. Janiyah teased her about looking like she was going to the club when she knew they were going to be sitting in the house.
Freddy leaned back into the sofa and sighed. It was refreshing to sit back and enjoy the moment: no investigations, no phone calls, and no Juan.
He jerked back, pulling his hand away from Tabitha, who was laughing.
“You are such a big baby. Are you gonna let me clip those claws or not?”
“Not,” laughed Freddy.
Tabitha laughed and put her manicure kit on the table in front of them. “Fine.”
The two laughed some more before settling into silence.
“You called,” said Tabitha, smiling.
Freddy smiled back. “I told you I would.”
“Took you long enough. What’s going on?”
Frederick was a cool friend, but he wasn’t Tabitha’s type. The nature of their relationship was platonic, but they still kept it on the low. Tabitha was young, and they both knew no one would understand why such an older man was visiting such a young woman. The two met during an investigation into a drug deal gone wrong at the buildings where Freddy and Tina were both assigned. Tina turned down the job, not wanting to have anyone make the connection that she knew anyone in the buildings where the crime took place. Tabitha struck up a conversation with Freddy about the dirt under his fingernails, and since then, the two have been tight. Freddy made her promise not to tell Janiyah or Tina about their relationship.
“They wouldn’t understand,” he had said.
Tabitha didn’t force it. It wasn’t like he came around a lot anyway, and she always wanted a big brother, which is what Freddy was to her. What she provided for him was an ear.
“I don’t know, man, some crazy shit.”
“Like Tina acting weird. Talking to herself.”
“Talking to herself?”
Fred nodded, and Tabitha frowned. “Niyah ain’t said nothing about that. Guess she still grieving.”
“Juan is acting weird too. Damn near cursed me out the other day. Now I gotta chase down this Jason cat.”
“Yea, some dude Tina had me look into.”
“You said chase down.” Tabitha folded her arms. “What, Juan, got you on a leash again?”
Freddy frowned, “what? Hell no. Ain’t nobody got me hemmed up. Juan thinks they got something to do with the Steakhouse case.”
Tabitha’s body froze, and Freddy noticed.
Tabitha hesitated, picking the manicure case back up from the table. Freddy took it from her hands and put it back on the table.
“What’s going on Tab? What do you know?”
“First of all, don’t ever take nothing out my hand,” she said, picking the case back up.
“What you know, fam?”
“I don’t know shit. I heard about the Steakhouse Case is all. You know, people talk. You the detective, what you know?”
“I don’t know shit.”
“Okay, then. Don’t be coming for me. I ain’t Juan.”
Freddy laughed, “whatever, man. Since you ain’t gonna tell me what you know about the Steakhouse case, cause yo ass know something…”
Tabitha clipped her fingernails.
“…what you know about Jason and don’t say you don’t know who that is cause you and Janiyah real tight.”
“Yea, we tight, but I don’t know a Jason. Niyah ain’t mention nothing about Tina having a man.”
“Find out for me.”
Tabitha stopped picking at her nails, “oh, so you want me to spy for you now?”
Freddy laughed, patted Tabitha’s leg, and stood, “naw, ma. Nothing like that. Just see what Niyah knows. Who dude is and all that. I know Tina like an Auntie to you, and she like a sista to me, and I don’t know dude, feel me?”
Tabitha stood, “yea. I feel you. I’ll see what I can do.”
“Aiight friend,” Freddy leaned in for a hug.
“Aiight homie,” said Tabitha, hugging him back and then walking him to the door.
Tabitha locked the door and bit her lip. Something was up. If Fred asked her about the Steakhouse, that meant the Feds was getting close, and a friend or no friend Tab wasn’t saying anything about the operation. Wasn’t nothing or nobody gonna mess up her cash flow. The Feds called the deaths murders, but she knew it was Trip.
*We are getting closer to finding out more about how Paschar and her legion operate in the physical realm. Be sure you are caught up on all the chapters!