Make It Last Forever, page 15
Confused, he shook his head and sat down. “Are you sure Janice isn’t here, Grandma?”
Janice had to be there.
Because if she wasn’t there, that would mean one of two things: either she got his grandmother to wait up for the women when the deed was done or…
No! Please, God, no!
He covered his face with his hands and shook his head.
His grandmother picked up her chair and cleared off the table, removing the three glasses and the bottle of Johnny Walker Black. She grabbed some paper towels and a wet dishrag to clean up the mess. He narrowed his eyes on her as she flittered around the kitchen.
“You want some tea or something? You look like you’ve had a rough night. You need to talk about it? I’m not Janice, but I could listen. You used to tell me everything when you were a little boy. Would you like some pie? I think I still have some sweet potato pie left. I can cut you a slice.” She started to get up.
“That’s okay, Grandma. I was really only stopping by to see Janice. I’m having girl trouble, and I thought she might be able to offer some insight into the female mind.”
His insides felt raw, gutted. For the second time since his cousin’s funeral, he actually felt like he wanted to cry, not just cry, howl at the injustice of it all.
Janice betraying him would have been one thing, and he would have expected it.
This was just too much to take. And it cut him so deep that he almost thought something was physically wrong with him.
Can a person die from this kind of betrayal?
Because he felt like a part of him was surely dying, even if there wasn’t any telltale physical signs. Something in him had died.
He wanted to shout, scream, rage, all of that.
He wanted to sob and ask her why, how?
How could she of all people do this to him?
“Girl trouble? What happened? You can tell me all about it.” She seemed like she really cared, like she really wanted to help make it all better.
It was all he could do not to snarl. He took a deep breath and told her everything that happened that night from the time the two tramps showed up to him coming to confront Janice.
She listened intently and shook her head. “Now, I know you don’t think Janice had anything to do with sending naked women to your place, do you? I know y’all have had your differences over the years, but she wouldn’t do you like that. You’re family. We’re all that’s left of our family.”
She paused, and he found it hard to look at her with a straight face, especially when she started spouting off about family.
“Now this girl you claim to have lost. Maybe that was for the better. With your kind of jet-set lifestyle, it’s hard to find a girl who can really deal with all that. And if she ran at the first sign of trouble—even after you tried to explain things to her—well, maybe she isn’t the girl for you.” She paused and gave him one of her encouraging smiles—one of the smiles that used to make him think he could take on the world and win because people loved him and had his back.
He could feel the anger building in his gut about to blast forth. He bit down and squashed it. No matter what, she was still his grandmother.
“I know it hurts. But sometimes you just have to let things go. You need to just pour yourself into your work right now—maybe go back to Hollywood and get your creative juices flowing. Wasn’t there some hot, new producer in California you said you wanted to work with? Or maybe some new movies you could try out for. In your business, you’ve got to strike while you’re hot, and you’re smoking now, son! I’m so proud of you. Just forget about that girl, and think about what’s important right now.” She rambled on, and he just looked at her.
He knew it then for sure. In his gut, he knew that his grandmother had set him up.
“Grandma, only two people knew my security codes, had keys to my place and could have set me up like this. You and Janice.”
“Only me and Janice? What about your friends and your employees? None of them have keys to your place? One of them could have done it. You know folks are back stabbers. Smile in your face and all the while they wanna take your place. Maybe one of your boys wanted to be there to pick up the pieces when you lost your girl? It happens all the time.”
“My boys don’t have keys to my place, Grandma. Only you and Janice.” He stared at her.
She folded her hands on the table and fiddled with them for a moment before looking him dead in the eye. “Oh. I see. It must have been Janice, then.”
His cell phone rang, and he excused himself from the kitchen to take the call. It was Rob, one of his bodyguards who used to be a cop. They had the girls, and it hadn’t taken them long to get them to talk.
He listened to Rob tell him that the girls were tied to Cullen. And Cullen told them to approach him and show up at places where he’d be. His grandmother had provided the keys to his place and was responsible for paying them the second half of the money once the job was done.
He listened with half an ear and half a heart. He’d already known that his grandmother had betrayed him, and knowing that had already killed him inside. He thanked Rob and told them to stay outside with the girls until he called them, and he went back into the kitchen with his grandmother.
He couldn’t feel a thing. He didn’t think he could feel any worse than he felt earlier tonight when he watched the woman he loved crumble, heartbroken, right in front of him.
But he’d been wrong.
Knowing that the woman who loved, raised and cared for him all these years was the reason behind Karen’s broken heart made him feel one hundred times worse.
“Grandma, the guys are outside. See, I left out the part about having them meet me here. And I left out the part about me pulling up and seeing those low-life skanks leaving this house—the house I paid for—counting cash money as they laughed and got in their car. And I need to know if there is anything you want to say to me, your grandson—the man you claim to love like your own son. Is there anything you want to say to me, Grandma, before I bring them in here to tell their side of the story?”
His grandmother looked up at him with tears in her eyes. Where he normally would have gone to her immediately and tried to console her, all he could do now was sit there and watch her as she started sobbing.
“I’m sorry, Darius. I’m so sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you, but the gambling came back and I was in so deep this time. They wanted their money, and they killed Frankie to send a message. If he had just stayed in school like you told him, they wouldn’t have found him. But that boy never could stay off them streets. And Cullen helped me. He heard about the debt, and he paid it off for me, because those people were serious. They were almost as bad as the people who killed your mother. Oh, Lord, why did the gambling have to come back? I was too ashamed to tell you. I didn’t want you to know this about me. I didn’t want you to know that I was to blame. That’s why I went to Cullen for help. Lord, I was so good for so many years. So many years after I lost my child, I cleaned up to take care of you and do right by her. Then Janice had Frankie so young and couldn’t be a mother really. So I had him to focus on. But he grew up, and I didn’t have nobody left. Janice just runs the street looking for men. I just needed something.”
He wanted to scream, but nothing could come out.
His grandmother had a gambling problem so bad that people were willing to kill to get her to pay back her debt? His mother? His cousin? Dead because of her?
A gush of air came from his gut to his mouth. He opened his lips, but no sound came out. Now he understood why Karen could barely talk earlier that evening. He now knew what it felt like to be utterly and completely shattered.
He sat there for a few minutes, which seemed like hours, listening to her cry. Finally, he was able to speak. “You owed so much money that you got my mother and little cousin killed? You had to take money from my manager? And you had to set me up? Why? Why did you have to se
“I’m sick. I need help. I go to church, and I pray on it and I pray on it and I’m trying so hard. I want to stop. I didn’t want you to know. I didn’t want you to know that it was my fault Frankie was murdered. I was so ashamed. My grandbaby was killed because of me just like my oldest baby girl was murdered because of me. I didn’t want to see you look at me like that. I didn’t want anybody to know. I thought I could handle it and stop. I didn’t want you and Janice to know that my gambling debts got Frankie killed. I didn’t want you to hate me. I wanted to keep it a secret, and Cullen was going to tell…plus he had paid my debts. So I had to do what he said. I had to put the bugs in your house so he’d know when to send the girls. I had to give those women the keys and the security code. I had to pay the other half of their payment as part of my debt to him, the bastard. Oh…son…I didn’t want to hurt you. And now that you know, I can try and help you get your girl back—”
“I don’t want your help!” He stood up. “Clearly you and those tramps were in here toasting to a job well done. And you should pat yourself on the back, Grandma. Because if you wanted to see me broken, you did an excellent job!” He glared at her.
He took a deep breath and knew he had to leave before he said something that couldn’t be taken back. She was still his grandmother, the woman who had raised him—even if he no longer recognized her. The weight of the situation was just too much.
“You say you need help? Okay, I’ll pay for you to get the help you need, Grandma. You raised me. I guess I owe you for that. And I’ll even continue to pay the bills here so that you and Janice can have a roof over your heads. But after today, I no longer have a grandmother.” He then got up and left.
Cullen signed the letter and placed it in the envelope. He pursed his lips in contemplation. Things had certainly taken an unexpected turn.
The phone call from Darius’s grandmother surprised him to say the least. He should have known that the old woman would eventually crack under pressure. He hadn’t factored in Darius automatically going to blame his aunt.
Where’s the trust in families these days?
How was he supposed to know that Darius had only given those two women and no one else his keys and codes? He’d figured that at least his bodyguards would have had access and it would have taken Darius a little longer to figure out exactly how he got set up if he ever figured it out at all.
And now they had Peaches and Cream. He had grown rather fond of his recent playthings and would hate for anything to happen to them. But he wasn’t about to stick around and wait for Darius to show up at his place with his band of merry roughnecks.
Sometimes you have to have collateral damage.
However, Cullen still had one ace to play. Darius hadn’t won this round yet. Cullen would have given anything to see how crushed the little rapper was when he saw Karen’s signature on those documents. The documents along with a note implying that she was in cahoots with Saul to murder D-Roc and a copy of the DVD of Saul shooting Shemar would crush the boy even more than him finding out that his grandmother had betrayed him. If only he could have been there when Darius figured that out!
He was so glad he’d had the foresight to have someone in the alley behind the studio to capture Shemar’s murder for his continued viewing pleasure. Watching that cocky rapper get his over and over again made him feel all warm and tingly inside. The only thing better than that would be seeing the look on Darius’s face when he got this package and Cullen’s note, or when he showed up at that bitch’s place and found Saul there. Too bad he couldn’t stick around for any of it. If only there was time to have someone film it for him…
He turned to his manservant. “Get my lawyer and my accountant on the phone. I need the bulk of my finances moved to Swiss bank accounts yesterday! And my lawyer needs to be ready with a kick-ass criminal defense team just in case that idiot Saul forgets that snitches get stitches. I don’t expect him to tell who hired him, but you never know.” Cullen chuckled.
You win some and you lose some.
At the end of the day, it was all about how you played the game.
It wasn’t even about Darius or his little bitch—not really. It was about winning the bigger game and coming out ahead of the family that had forsaken him a long time ago.
Divine might have won this round, but some of his cards were still out there waiting to be played. And even if she did win this round, there were many rounds to be played in the future.
Hell, he could play this game forever.
“Didn’t I say get my damn lawyer on the phone? Use the cell phone, idiot! Let’s get out of here before Darius shows up. Put this package outside in front of the door. Let’s roll!”
When he and his boys ended up at Cullen’s place with the women in tow, Darius almost thought they were going to have to break down the door to get in there and get some answers. It became clear that his grandmother had called Cullen after he left her house and warned him, because no one was there. After several minutes passed, it was apparent they weren’t going to get an answer from the dark house.
“Hey, D-Roc, check this out. This has your name on it.” Rob picked up a large envelope and opened it. “It’s some papers and a DVD.”
Darius ran his hand across his face and looked up toward the sky.
He let out a sigh.
“I have a DVD player in my SUV. We can see what’s on this.” Rob said. He turned to the women and then back to Darius. “Are we taking them with us?”
Darius frowned and shook his head.
He walked away from Cullen’s house with the rest of the crew.
“What about us, sugar?” The blonde woman was standing on the steps with her hands on her hips.
“Your boys made us leave our damn car!” the black one yelled.
Darius turned and glared at them. His frustration level was beyond high. He’d really wanted to confront Cullen. And the fact that he wasn’t going to be able to left him with very little patience for the floozies.
“What about you? You’ve been returned to Cullen. I suggest you call a cab or something. I really could care less. Just make sure you stay the hell away from me and mine.”
He and Rob got into Rob’s luxury SUV. Darius took out Cullen’s note first and read it.
Sorry I couldn’t stick around and wait for you to show up. I hope that one day you realize everything I did for you and your career. I tried to keep that little gold-digging bitch from getting her claws into you. So I paid her off. I also did some digging into her past and the people around her. And I found video footage from the night Shemar was gunned down. Apparently someone was there documenting activity in that alley behind the studio where Shemar was murdered. The DVD cost me a lot, but I was curious to see who had taken down the great Shemar Sunyetta. Karen’s love killed Shemar, and she inherited a lot of money. Tell me, do you think it was a coincidence that Saul showed up now when she had another hot rapper in her grasp? Please use your head. I have a feeling they were planning a similar demise for you. I bet if you went to her place now, you’d find them together. In this envelope, you will find a copy of the video and documents signed by Karen Williams that show she was willing to dump you for a measly $50,000.00. I have no way of knowing if she was going to keep her word and leave you alone. But I had to try. I hope that this evidence convinces you that I had your best interest at heart. If it doesn’t? Well…more power to you. You can’t say I didn’t try. Finally, do not harm Peaches and Cream. They are innocent in all of this. They just wanted to help me help you. I guess no good deed goes unpunished.
Darius let out a harsh huff and passed the note to Rob. He didn’t believe a single word of Cullen’s note—not after everything that went down. If Cullen really had his best interests in mind then he would have come to him like a man and not send two tramps to invade
Darius pulled out the other documents in the envelope. He looked at the papers with Karen’s signature. They were contracts, one stating that she would stop seeing Darius, which was signed by Cullen and Karen, and another to authorize the transfer of funds from Cullen’s account to the center’s account.
Darius shook his head. That crap had to be fake or forged, because he knew Karen wouldn’t have done anything like that.
But then he’d also known that his grandmother was the one woman he could count on to have his back and that she never would have betrayed him for anything in the world. Could Karen turn out to be just as faithless as his grandmother? He shook his head.
He didn’t believe it. He’d need more than Cullen’s letter and those bogus documents as proof.
A calm unlike anything he had ever felt came over him. “Turn the DVD on.”
Rob turned the DVD on, and they watched the overhead flip-down monitor in silence. Even though the image was on such a small screen, the DVD showed clear as day Saul murdering Shemar.
“Damn.” Rob let out a hiss of breath. “I know I don’t have to tell you what you have to do with this DVD, man. It’s evidence of a crime, and it should go to the police unless you want to be arrested as an accessory after the fact?”
Rob had been a cop before becoming Darius’s head bodyguard. But Darius didn’t need a moral compass on this one. He already knew the right thing to do.
“We’re turning the DVD in to the police. Saul has to pay for what he’s done.” Darius’s head was spinning, and he didn’t know what to believe anymore. But he did know that he wasn’t going to let that murderer continue to walk free around Karen or the youth at her center.
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