Louis and Bobby Deo sat parked in Bobby’s black Cadillac on a street they had to find called Ramona. Louis saw it as a low-rent neighborhood of little Florida houses in need of fixing up, the home hidden among old trees and shrubs. Nothing better to do, he asked Bobby how come people that named streets couldn’t get it straight? Come up Ocean Boulevard it was the same as A1A till along here it became Banyan Boulevard; go up the line a half mile it was Ocean Boulevard again. How come, if it was the same road? Bobby took time to look over at Louis, then turned back to look straight ahead again. Bobby somewhere in his head, Louis decided, not wanting to talk. Not much of a talker anyway. No doubt his mind fooling with the hostage proposition, Chip’s part still a question in Bobby’s mind, Bobby asking on the way here if Chip knew what he was doing.
The way Louis explained it, he said, “The man wants to be bad. Understand? Get into a hustle that pays on account of he don’t have a trade, only a rich mama forgot who he is. The man thinks he’s a sport, loves to gamble, bet on games. Only he don’t know shit how to pick any winners. What the man does have is ideas, ones that might pay or not, like this taking hostages. The thing about his ideas, they different. Understand? Kind of gigs haven’t been tried that I know of. The man watches the news on TV and reads the paper to get his ideas. The idea of the hostages, the idea of snatching one of these millionaires cheating on their savings-and-loan business you read about. What the man don’t have is experience.”
Bobby said, “Can he keep his mouth shut?”
Louis said, “We’ll watch he does.”
Louis was letting it become “we” to get next to Bobby and know what he was thinking, and because they were both in the life and had done state time. Bobby for shooting a man Bobby said pulled a gun on him instead of paying what he owed and went up on a manslaughter plea deal. Louis convicted on felony firearms charges when he took part in the drive-by of a dwelling with MAC10’s converted to full auto. Louis went up without copping-naming any names to have his time cut-and was respected among the population, all the homeboys up at Starke, where he met Bobby Deo. After they’d got to know one another some Bobby said to him, “How come you homes call each other nigga?”
Louis said, “Mostly when you trippin’ on some motherfucker, giving him a bad time, you say it. Understand? Or you say it, you not trippin’ but vampin’ on him some and you say it like you calling him ‘my brother.’ Either way is fine.”
So what happened, Bobby Deo tried him that time in the yard at Starke. Looked Louis in the face with kind of a smile and said, “Yeah, nigga. Like that?” To see how Louis would take it, the man standing there waiting.
Louis said to him, “Yeah, like that. Only it ain’t fine for somebody to say it ain’t a brother. Understand? Unless you being P.R. has nigga in you?” Louis looking Bobby Deo in the face the same way Bobby was looking at him, eye to eye.
Bobby said, “You asking me, uh? You not accusing me of having mixed blood or what some call tainted? No, I’m not one of you.”
Louis saying then, “So I know you and you know me, who we are. You know you fuck with me you got the whole population of homes on your untainted ass.” It was a question of respect was all.
The only time Bobby said more than a few words it was about his working as a repo man. Sitting here waiting for Harry’s car to show up reminded him.
Bobby saying yeah, he did that work for loan companies, repossess cars when the owners got behind in their payments. Now, he said, repo men were called recovery agents and drove a van they called an illusion unit. All it looked like was an old beat-up van, no company name on it, but had a winch with a motor in the back end. Go in a ghetto neighborhood to pick up a car with a wrecker? Man, everybody knew why you were there, they stand around the car you want and make it difficult. With the illusion unit you took your time. Wait for a chance to park in front of the car. When nobody was around, open the back, winch the front end of the car up, hook on the support bar and drive away. He said, “We could do Harry’s car that way.”
“We get the key off him and drive it,” Louis said. “What we need to go to all that trouble for, borrow somebody’s illusion van?”
“I’m saying it’s a way to do it,” Bobby said, sounding like a hard-on, like a man who thought he was always right.
While they sat waiting, Chip was already in the house; his car, his mama’s tan Mercedes, up by the trailer park next door, in some trees.
“You have the idea of using the fortune-teller,” Bobby said, “you see Chip? He was angry he didn’t think of it.”
“I noticed that,” Louis said.
“She know what we’re doing?”
“She don’t want to know. She delivers Harry for a price and that’s it.”
“That’s low,” Bobby said, “to take a risk. You have the money to pay her?”
“When we sell Harry’s car.”
“You mean when I sell it,” Bobby said. “If this guy I know, he gives me a thousand or two until he moves the car, I keep it for making the deal. Then when he pays me the rest, you and Chip get some of it.”
Louis was thinking he could sell the car himself, ship it to Nassau-he’d done that plenty of times in his youth-but didn’t say anything about Bobby’s arrangement. Keeping the peace, for the time being.
He said, “So we don’t pay Dawn right away. It ain’t like she can take us to court.”
What Bobby was thinking now, watching the fortune-teller’s house, there could be a problem with her. He knew it without knowing the woman. Felt it looking at the house, the vegetation almost hiding it: an old melaleuca rotting inside itself, palmettos that had never been cut back growing wild across the front windows. A woman who lived alone in a house like that had problems. And a woman with problems, man, could make you have some of your own.
When the white Cadillac rolled past, crept up the street to stop in front of the house, Louis said, “Here we go,” sitting up now, alert. “Your friend Mr. Arno. Man, it worked, huh? I wasn’t sure it would.”
Bobby watched Harry get out of the car and stand looking at the house, his hand resting on the mailbox mounted on a crooked post.
Louis said, “Man’s older than I thought.”
Bobby didn’t say anything. He had no feeling about Harry, one way or the other.
Now a compact Toyota came past them, faded red, trailing a wisp of smoke from the tailpipe. The car braked and turned into the drive that looked like gravel and weeds. Bobby watched Harry Arno walk over to greet the woman getting out of the car, saying something to her, Bobby seeing the fortune-teller for the first time. He said, “She isn’t bad,” sounding a little surprised.
“She’s something else,” Louis said. “Can tell you things about yourself you never even knew.”