1947 Noir – Chapter 07 (The first job)
It’s two days later, Dee has been staying with Edward almost constantly. She’s been to their apartment only to rush a shower and change clothes while he’s sleeping.
During the time they’re together, they’ve talked and talked. The bond between them is growing stronger every day. They never discussed her as a young teenager being gang raped, related pregnancy, forced abortion or sterilization.
She has no idea her uncles told Edward everything about her. He will never do anything to harm the woman he’s in love with.
A couple of days later, they exit the ‘hospital’ and return to the apartment late morning. After a slow journey up the stairs, Edward welcomes the sofa, the doorbell rings.
Dee tells him; “You stay put while I see who the hell it is.”
About a minute later, Big Mike enters the living room; “I heard you’ve been having a tough time. It’s good to see you’re looking well. Maybe not too well, at least you’re still breathing.”
“I think I’m on the mend. At least I hope I am.”
“Alex sent me here to give you a message. You’re hospital bill has been taken care of.”
“That’s almost the best thing that’s happened all day.”
“If that’s not the best thing, then what is?”
“The woman standing over there smiling at me.”
Mike looks to Dee, then turns back; “Oh. I understand. Anyway, the six organizations picked up your hospital costs. They feel you’re a good investment for their combined futures.”
Edward grabs his right abdomen; “I’m sorry Mike, the pain killers are wearing off. Every now and then, it feels like I’m being cut open again.”
“Yeah, I understand. Every time I’ve been shot or stabbed, the healing process hurts like hell. Take your time, heal and get well.”
“Please thank the organizations for me.”
Turning to Dee; “Make him some of that chicken soup you used to make the ladies whenever they were sick. He looks like he can use all the help he can get.”
“I will. He hasn’t had any solid food in days.”
Mike reaches into his pocket and pulls out a fist full of bills and hands them to Dee.”
“What’s this for?”
“This is from me, for you two. Since neither of you are working and won’t be for a while, I figured you can use some cash.”
“You know I’m good for this. I’ll pay you back soon as we get on our feet.”
“No you won’t. This is my gift to you and him. Heck, I may need a favor or a few bucks someday and maybe you can help me out.”
“You’re an angel Mike.”
Turing to face the now snoring Edward, he turns back; “Say goodbye to your partner for me.”
“Those medications for the infection and pain knock him out. One minute he’s fine, I turn and he’s out cold.”
Over the next couple of weeks, the romantic affection between Dee and Edward grows at a snails pace. Both of them are somewhat afraid of making serious advances to the other. The most they’ve accomplished is hold hands, put there arms around each other and kissed while on the sofa. That’s only been achieved recently.
Today, Edward is walking around feeling his oats. With the assistance of the kitchen table to hold on to, he calls Dee.
She enters the kitchen; “I see you finally more or less dressed yourself. Your shirt is on crooked, but you look like you’re ready to take on the world. Well maybe one careful step at a time.”
He gives her an odd smile.
“You look like you have something on your mind. Are you going to tell me you don’t want my help any more? That better not be it.”
With great effort, Edward lowers himself to the floor. When he lets go of the table, he almost tumbles. Dee catches him before his face hits the floor.
Now red faced; “This is not happening the way I thought it would.”
“What the hell are you trying to do? Clean the floor? I cleaned the apartment yesterday. Did you drop something? I’ll look for it.”
When he becomes stable on his knees and holding his abdomen; “I know I’ve not been the example of the man you deserve.”
“Oh be quiet. Now get off the floor. I’ll help you up.”
He waves his open hand signaling no.
While looking up; “I have a couple of questions for you.”
“Well spit them out before my hair turns gray.”
“Would you ever consider sharing your life with me?”
“I’m already sharing my life with you fool. Where else can I go?”
She folds her arms across her chest, placing one hand across her eyes to cover the tears as she turns to hide her face.
“I mean sharing the rest of your life with me as husband and wife?”
“Why on earth would I ever want to do that?”
“Because I love you and I know in your heart you love me.”
Still facing away from him; “What’s the other question?”
“Could you help me up? I’m afraid I’ll tear open the stitches if I try to get up by myself.”
Turning back; “Well okay. If you insist, I’ll help you get up.”
He sees tears flowing down her face.
While lifting him; “You’re right on tearing that wound open.”
On the way up, he grabs a small towel from the kitchen table; “Did my asking you to marry me make you sad? Is that why your crying?”
She grabs the towel from him, half crying; “These are tears of joy you knucklehead. I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life.”
She sniffles; “This is so soon. We’ve only known each other for a couple of weeks. We’re not even the same race.”
“How about when I’m healed in a few weeks. I’ll propose to you again with all the pomp and circumstance you deserve.”
“Things might change by then. We might change.”
“We’ll be the same. I guess the only thing that would change for me is I will love you even more than I do already.”
Taking the kitchen towel from him, she wipes her eyes; “We’ll talk about it then. Right now I need to get you in the bedroom and you to lay on your back. I need to take care of you.”
His eyes open wide; “I would really like that, but are you sure? I don’t think my body could take any thing like that right now.”
“No we are not going to do anything like that. You’re bleeding through your shirt. I need to change those bandages.”
Two weeks later, one evening around eight, the phone rings. Dee answers, she hears a male voice; “I have three carpets that need cleaning. My address is nine thirty nine Wolfish Avenue.”
“Do you need us now or what time will you need us to make the cleaning?”
“Nine thirty. Park in the rear. I’ll come and get you when you and your crew are needed.”
“I will require payment on arrival.”
“That’s what I understand and will be arranged.” Click
She calls, Larry, Albert (who’s now living back at home) and Bruno. She tells each of them to come over for their first job. Bruno starts his shit.
“I’m not sure I want to get involved with this. You know I need my sleep and I have to work tomorrow.”
“You lazy so and so. How much money do you make?”
“Ninety cents an hour before taxes.”
“Tonight you’re going to make two hundred and twenty five in cash for maybe an hour or two of work. No weapons, just man a bucket and a mop that I supply. Now if that’s too hard for you, I’ll find someone else.”
“Two hundred and twenty five in cash? I’ll be right over.”
Dee’s next call is to Uncle Herbert to tell him they’ll be there sometime after ten tonight with his first cash customers.
Everyone gathers behind the former studio. They check the back of the truck for supplies. Bucket, wringer, mops, 10 gallons of water, two gallons of bleach, boxes of surgical gloves, flashlights, and several army surplus blankets. (to roll the bodies in)
Because Edward is still healing, he’s sitting in the front passenger seat with Dee driving.
They arrive at the rear of a warehouse. Three men start to approach. Two stop several feet before reaching the van. It’s clear they’re armed. The third man walks to within a few feet of the truck.
“Who’s in charge?”
Edward exits the truck; “I am.”
“Where’s the crew?”
Edward turns; “Everybody out. We have a job to do.”
Albert is first, then Larry with a mop and Bruno with a bucket. Dee is last.
The man hands Edward a bag; “Three for disposal. You realize this is expensive don’t you?”
“If you want the bodies found or you want to dispose of them yourself, we’ll leave. No charge to you.”
“No. Too many things have gone wrong before. That’s why Alex recommended you. Check the bag so I can leave.”
Edward looks in the bag. It’s full of cash. He nods and everyone goes to work.
“I assure you the three grand is there. It would be bad business to play games with a service many of us need.”
“Pass the word around, use gloves when loading automatic weapons. Just in case we don’t find every shell casing. Fingerprints you understand.”
“All my people use revolvers, but I’ll pass the word around.”
Bruno quickly searches each body and passes what he finds to Dee before Larry and Albert wrap each of them in a blanket.
Bruno spreads some of the water – bleach mix on the floor, then mops it around to destroy any blood evidence.
Within 20 minutes, they’re on there way to the funeral parlor.
When they arrive; Herbert, Harold and Cousin James are waiting. The bodies are loaded onto gurneys. Dee and Edward check for watches and other jewelry.
Herbert tells them; “The crematory furnace and controls are all fixed. Everything is working perfectly. Each body takes about 3 hours and another hour for the furnace to cool down. Your three friends will be gone before lunch tomorrow.”
Dee looks to Edward; “I’ll stay here tonight to make sure nothing goes wrong. You go home and get some sleep.”
“No, I’ll stay here with you.”
“Why? Do you think I’m not safe with my uncles”
“No, that’s not it. I want to be with you is all I meant.”
She has a look on her face that Edward can’t figure out; “If you insist, there’s several sofas in the parlor. This is going to be a long night.”
Herbert tells them; “We have two burials scheduled. One tomorrow and one the day after. Let’s cremate one now. By the time that’s finished, it’ll start getting light outside.
James will deepen each of the grave plots another couple of feet. We’ll put a body in each plot and cover them to the six foot line. Nobody will ever know they’re there.”
Edward is curious; “Are you sure?”
Harold smiles; “Now why would anyone ever dig up the grave in a negro graveyard? No body cares about dead black people.”
Edward agrees and is about to pay Herbert when Dee interrupts; “No. We pay after every thing is done.”
Harold and Herbert both object. She’s having no part of their objections; “We will pay you in cash by the job. Our crew gets paid by the body and so will you.”
There’s some grumbling, but Dee will have her way. She and Edward go to the office to pay each of the crew $225 each ($75 per body). The newly deceased had a total of $45 on their persons. The three man crew split the money between themselves. The crew left with the truck and returned it to the cleaning business garage.
Dee and Edward took the money clips, watches, rings and any other jewelry. They borrowed Uncle Harold’s pickup, drove to Long View Lake where they dumped the jewelry. Wallets and other flammable positions were incinerated along with the body.
They returned to the funeral parlor where Herbert, Harold and James, at sunrise, placed the two bodies in the now deepened grave plots where they are now covered with soil. Dee pays her uncles. Harold brought them to their apartment where she made breakfast for herself and Edward.
Afterwards, they sat at the table discussing their good fortune. $600 to Herbert. $675 to the crew. A $100 in supplies left them with a healthy profit for a nights work. (The average wage in 1947 was $7 to $8 a day)
With Dee watching, Edward divided the money equally and pushed Dee’s share towards her.
She looks down. With some attitude; “What’s this?”
“We’re still partners, right?”
He looks into her brown eyes for a clue; “Yeah, I thought so. That’s why I gave you half.”
She pushes her money next to his; “Then this is our money. Is that okay with you?”
“That’s fine with me. I didn’t want to offend you.”
“You are the strangest man I ever met. I’ll put this in a safe place for both of us.”
“You understand, this is going to change me.”
She looks at him with a serious look on her face; “What the hell are you talking about?”
“I love you Dee Barbara Mullins even more today than yesterday.”
She hits him with that smile that melts his heart; “I’m going to take a shower, alone. Then I’m going to bed, alone. Am I making myself clear?”
“I’m so tired, I’ll shower and hit the sack.”
“And have dreams about the woman I wish would marry me.”
“You won’t want me as your wife when you know the truth.”
“And that truth is what? You’re secretly a white woman with one hell of a tan?”
She shakes her head; “Take your shower. I’ll take mine after you. Now go.”
“One quick question. There’s several bottles of shampoo in the bathroom. Who’s the Madam CJ Walker Hair Products for?”
“Most of the stuff in there belonged to the women who used to live here. The Madam CJ products are for my hair, leave them alone.”
“Oh, I had no idea. I thought they were for the other women who lived here.”
“You know how Larry’s hair is all kinky? Mine would be the same without hair relaxer and other products.”
He looks like he was hit with the stupid stick; “I never even gave it a thought.”
“Remember, even though I have Caucasian facial features, I’m still mostly negro. I want to at least try to blend in with society, not stand out.”
He stands there trying to think of something to say for a moment; “You’re a beautiful woman Dee Mullins. I can’t say any more than that.”
“Thank you. Now go take your shower before my hair turns gray. And don’t use any of those other shampoos. They’ll make you smell like you’ve been to a whore house. Because with your marine haircut, stick with the bar soap.”
Smiling; “Okay. I’ll stay using Lifebuoy so I don’t smell like a brothel.”
After Edward took his shower, he looks to Dee. She’s wearing a long robe; “I promise I won’t look through the keyhole.”
“I know you won’t because there’s no keyhole to look through.”
With a wide smile; “Damn!”
“Now take a drink of water, then go to your room and lay on your back.”
“Can I leave my towel on the floor?”
“No you may not. I need to put a new bandage on your wound.”
“Oh. I though because you’ve given me some of the most wonderful kisses, I thought we could … you know, get to know each other a little better.”
A look of sadness comes over her face; “I don’t think we are ever going to get there. There are things in my past that will break us apart. If we keep everything as it is, we’ll be fine.”
“I love you and I wish you would trust me. There is nothing about you that could ever turn me away.”
“Oh yes there is.”
“What could that be? You’re really a man?”
She’s been standing in the kitchen with her arms folded; “So you think I might be a man?”
She fully opens her robe to expose her well toned, groomed, fully nude body; “Do you see any man parts?”
Edward’s eyes look like saucers. She closes her robe; “This conversation is over. I’m going to take my shower, wash my hair and shave my legs.
When I’m done, you better be finished with what men do. Then be on your back with the towel covering what needs to be covered so I can change that bandage.”
“How do you know I’m not really a woman?”
“The haircut is a dead giveaway. Your hairy chest and if you look down at the front of your towel, it’s obvious you’re a man.”
Ed looks down and turns red faced; “I’m going to my room now.”
With a chuckle in her voice; “I think you better. And take a wad of toilet paper with you.”
“Yeah.” Dee walks to the bathroom chuckling.
e1183 – 810410 – The Empty Coffin
e1083 Wanted, A Husband 800507