Short Story: Pain
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Pain was the name on the streets.
It was a name that carried with it enough power that the crooked Narco detectives out of the 13th precinct on Chicago Avenue didn’t even attempt to pull Pain over and rob him for what he was worth (possibly millions) because they knew he was paid up to the right people; the kind of people who could force a cop into early retirement with half the pension. Plus, it didn’t hurt that he was backed by cold-blooded killers who could go out and make whole families disappear before returning home and fucking the living daylight out of their girlfriends as if it were nothing.
Pain was a name that warranted fear, and that fear churned deep down inside Dr. Jesse Crains’ stomach when the bone colored SUV with its dark-tinted windows pulled up to the curb of his mother’s two flat brick home, which he had just recently sold, and the back door was thrown open wide like a Venus flytrap.
“Ah yo, Doc, you comin’ or what?” A voice said from the interior of the truck.
Jesse wiped his face clean of any perspiration that had formed on his brow. He was twenty-six, less then a year out of Howard, and he didn’t like the idea of being called Doctor; at least not yet, the title would start to take six months from now when a cute assistant by the name of Jessica Chan called him Doctor Crain in an almost sensual tone. It would be on that day he would know that the sins he had committed were ones he could carry to his grave without regret.
It’s now or never, he told himself as he stepped outside the fenced-in yard and shut the gate one last time to his mother’s home. He stared up at the building, remembering all the times he and his best friend Bones had sat on the wooden front porch, dreaming of their time when they’d be the young lions running the streets, chasing tail.
“Ah, Doc, I ain’t got all day.”
Right, right, get your head in the game, Jesse, he told himself as he released the gate and stepped over to the open truck.
Inside he found Gator, Pain’s right hand man, sitting with a baseball cap dipped to the right over his dreads. He was a charcoal-colored man with a triple overbite. Gator smiled, showing his crooked incisors. “Hop on in,” he said, patting the leather seat.
Jesse stole a look at the driver, some piss-yellow light skinned kid no older than 18, then he slid in and closed the door behind him.
“Damn, where the lab coat and all that Doctor Huxtable shit at? You look like you from the streets,” Gator said.
Good, thought Jesse. But instead he said, “Just because I’m a doctor doesn’t mean I have to dress like one. I grew up in these streets, too.” It had taken him at least an hour to pick out the jeans and button down shirt, something that would blend with the culture but not enough to attract attention.
“Yeah, but you’ve been removed from these streets for some time now. They ain’t what they used to be.”
“I guess that’s the evolution of all things.”
“Evolution? Shit, Doc, things gone back to prehistoric times. Niggas shootin’ up Niggas for no reason. Youngins ain’t honorin’ nobody. The only thing that’s still the same is Pain. We stayin’ on top till the world blow. You feel me?”
“I feel you.”
They showed each other love by shaking up, their fingers snapping as they parted hands.
“Ah yo, Fin, get us up out of here. Let’s head to the spot.”
The teen shifted the truck into drive and they were off, speeding down the street into the night.
“I know you saw some fine ass bitches when you was down there in college?” Gator asked, smirking, showing about ten teeth.
“A few? Nigga, I heard the stories about those country bitches with asses so fat you nut on one pump.”
Jesse chuckled. “Yeah there may have been a few of those down there but I was more into my studies.”
“So what you sayin’? You didn’t tap none of that country bumpkin ass while you were down there?”
Jesse smiled. “Nah, I hit a few chicks, but you know, I had to keep my mind on my work.”
“Okay, okay, I feel you. Business before pleasure. I can respect that.”
“So where we headed?” Jesse looked out the dark window at the growing silhouetted landscape. Potholes littered the streets like mined out craters. Whole blocks were either trash-filled vacant lots or dilapidated rat and roach infested sanctums.
“To a party,” Gator said, smiling. “Thought we should bless you back into the hood since this being your first night back.”
In actuality this wasn’t his first night back. He had been back almost a month. The first week was to bury his mother and the remaining three he spent his time making the rounds to the known hustlers, advertising his services, letting it be known that he was, as Kwon, a wannabe big timer, once said: “Cuttin’ bricks of coke like slices of cake.”
The truck pulled up to the front of a club called the Pocket. Jesse recalled hearing that another big-timer by the name of Prince Paul owned it.
“We’re here,” Gator said, “But before we head in I need to check you.”
“Check me? For what?”
Gator narrowed his eyes, putting on his killer stare as he grinned. “Come on, Doc, you know how this street thing go.”
“I thought we were going to a party?”
“We are but it’s best I get this out of the way now then later, you feel me?”
What the hell, he had nothing to hide.
He bent down on his knees and turned to face Gator. He raised his arms and waited for him to commence with the pat down. The two men locked eyes as Gator moved his hands up and down Jesse’s torso. He dropped a hand down in between his legs and quickly felt up his crotch for a concealed weapon.
“Satisfied?” Jesse questioned.
“One more thing. Lift up your shirt.”
Jesse did as asked, but instead he unbuttoned his shirt revealing a green cross and bones tattoo over the left side of his chest.
“We good,” Gator smiled. “Time to meet up with the Pain.”
They exited the truck leaving the kid at the wheel. At the entrance, two men wearing thick black puffy vests and baggy jeans met them. The men nodded to Gator and then threw open the door.
The VIP section of the Pocket was lit with black lights. Each table at the twelve private booths were shaped like rackets with pool ball themed lights differentiating the table numbers. Caramel, vanilla, and chocolate complexioned women moved about the room serving drinks in scantly clad black and white uniforms while wearing green visors, as if they were bookies taking bets.
Gator led Jesse through a line of hustlers and gangsters seated around the room. Along the way a few hugs, some fist pounding, and a lot of “love” was shared between Gator and his any-given-day rivals. At the end of the procession, far in the back, and flanked by two men with sharp murderous eyes, sat Pain.
Jesse ran his hands down the side of his jeans. His heart was pounding. After all these years of growing up and hearing Pain’s name run rampant through the streets, he was finally going to meet the man that was said to have cheated death more than Houdini; the same man who escaped three indictments unscathed because witnesses either went missing or changed their stories. The living legend that ran the streets for over a decade. Pain the merciless.
Jesse, catching the guards glaring at his hands, stopped fidgeting and tried to remain calm, telling himself that Pain was just another test in his already test-filled life.
Gator stepped up to the table first, giving Pain a warm embrace. Then he nodded, gesturing for Jesse to come over.
Pain stood at a mere five feet, maybe even five feet and one inch, but no taller. His eyes were small and his nose was large with round nostrils. His hair was cut low with waves that wrapped around his head. Adjoining each lobe of his ear was a 2-caret diamond earring.
“This the doctor I been telling you about,” Gator said.
“You the doctor? You the bricklayer?” Pain asked, more with his eyes than with his words. Bricklayer was the new word of the week. After Jesse had cut three keys of coke for Jamaican Tommy (who was now dead, killed by Gator’s own hands, as it was said on the streets) without diminishing the potency of the product his stock had since risen as one of those Chem boys that knew how to mix, cut, and cook coke like Chef Boyardee.
Jesse nodded his acknowledgement of the epithet and took a seat.
“What are you drinkin’?” Gator asked, flagging down one of the waitresses.
“I don’t drink,” Jesse said, afraid that if he took a drink now he’d just throw it up.
“Yeah…ummm,” Gator said to the waitress. “Let me get two rum and cokes and a sprite for the good doctor.”
The waitress fluttered her eyes at the word doctor. She held Jesse’s whole being in her captivating stare. He faked a cough to break her spell. He had to keep his head on straight.
As the waitress turned to walk away he thought about his ex-girlfriend Tanisha and how he had told her over the phone, hours after burying his mother, that they were over. When she’d asked “Why?” through broken sobs, all he could say was that he didn’t want her to get caught up in what he was doing. When she asked specifically what that was, he hung up.
“You like what you see?” Pain asked, not looking directly at Jesse. He was too busy scanning the room, looking for an unknown assassin.
“She’s cute, but not my type.” Jesse sat back against the cool cushion of the booth.
“Your type?” Gator said. “My only type is pussy, no matter what color it is.”
The two guards laughed.
“So what’s your type?” Pain asked, this time turning and looking at him.
“I don’t really know. I just know that she’s not my type.”
“Why’s that? Is it because she works in this club or because she’s dressed like a Ho? Just because she dressed like one doesn’t mean she’s a ho. You one of those uppity educated niggas who tend to look down on black women and his own race, huh?”
“No, not at all. I love black women. Actually I love all women, but if you really want to know, she’s a little too tall for my taste. I like ‘em short and thick.”
“That’s cool. As long as you ain’t on that gay shit. I don’t really care what your type is.”
The waitress returned with drinks, fluttering her eyes once more in Jesse’s direction, but he didn’t bite. He had a job to do.
“So I hear you from the hood,” Pain said to Jesse after they had been sitting for a bit. “How come I ain’t never seen you?”
“I been away at school,” Jesse replied matter-of-factly.
Pain may not have known of Jesse’s existence, but Jesse grew up watching Pain run their hood. Pain was who everyone wanted to be. He could remember nights when he and Bones would stay up talking and dreaming of the day they’d be like Pain. For it was Pain who threw the nastiest block club parties. It was Pain who gave out turkeys on thanksgiving and presents to little kids whose drug addicted parents (also Pain’s customers) couldn’t afford to buy them gifts. It was Pain who drove the newest model car or truck a year before it hit the streets. It was Pain who went through and shot up his rival’s block, killed No Thumbs Larry, but damn, some shorty on the basketball court got hit with a stray. And it was Pain who held the block down with cocaine and marijuana when there was a drought throughout the city. Kept every hustler working and his family eating; that was better than government aid, wasn’t it?
“School, huh? So if you went to school what’cha doin’ back in the hood? That education didn’t get you a job at one of those big white corporations?”
Jesse bit back a smile. Pain was no one’s fool.
“What can I say, I got too much debt and not enough money.”
“So you decided to hit these streets. But you know it’s dangerous out here for a freelancer. This game will chew you up and spit you out. You sure you’re ready for something like this?
Pain took a sip of his drink. He surveyed the club, taking in every individual, dividing the different posses by their street affiliations.
“I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t sure,” Jessie finally said.
To their left were five members of the Four Corner Hustlers street gang passing a bottle of Moet between them. Across from the 4′s was a group of six Gangster Disciples drinking on a number of libations. Jesse calculated that the two rivals created a high probability of an incident occurring and so he asked, “Are we going to get down to business or what?”
Gator looked to Pain and then looked away. That’s when Jesse realized he had made a fatal error. Pain carried the power so they would conduct business whenever he was ready and not before then.
“Gator you check this fool?” Pain asked.
“Yeah, I checked’em. He’s clean.”
“What? Now? Right here?”
“Yeah, right here?”
Gator sighed. “You heard the man, stand yo ass up.”
Jesse did as told. Gator went through the routine of patting him down once more; proving to Pain that the good doctor wasn’t a snitch.
“Aight, so you clean. That don’t mean shit. Give me one good reason why I should work with you?”
Jesse knew that the question wasn’t pointed directly at the quality of his work because that was speaking for itself. Why else would he have an audience with Pain? No, the question was more, Why should I let you live? And Jesse had only one answer.
“Because I have my own lab.”
“Yeah?” Pain said, taking a sip of his drink. “Your own lab, huh?”
Jesse could see the gleam in Pain’s eyes. There was no mistaking it. A lab opened up the doors to ecstasy production, Marijuana growing, and if careful, maybe even meth for those college kids every year that came into the city with eyes wide open. Hell, a lab introduced the possibility of the word limitless.
“Gator tells me that this is your first night back in the hood. How about we enjoy it a little longer and then we can talk business.”
“Sounds good to me,” Gator said, flagging the waitress back to their table.
Jesse didn’t want to party. He just wanted to do the business and be done, but Pain was calling the shots so party it was.