The Case of the Death Dealer
By Lawrence Johnson Sr.Part One of Four
Part One: Pusherman
The cool evening breeze didn't seem to faze the crowd of music lovers as they tapped their feet and bobbed their heads to the Latin rhythms of music legend Carlos Santana. The open air venue on the west side in Philly's Fairmount Park was the perfect night out for Alexander Steele and his longtime girlfriend Shakia.
Shakia ignored the occasional pungent scent of marijuana wafting past her nose, feeling the chill in the air as she tugged on her powder blue shawl and snuggled up closer to Steele. An interior designer by trade Shakia, dressed in royal blue pants and a white top she could have easily been mistaken for a model. When the concert came to a close Steele, the six foot browned skin ex-detective looked around as he stroked the corners of his mustache wondering if getting front row seats was worth the hassle of dealing with the crowds after the show.
As the two made their way through the crowd to the parking lot Shakia gently held on to his arm while the couple discussed the concert. Steele made a habit of parking close to the brightly lit parking lot lights in case an old enemy or two should be lurking about. It didn't take long for him to notice the small white piece of paper tucked under the driver's windshield of his midnight blue Jag.
He unfolded the paper and read the note.
'Steele meet me on the corner of 57th and Master at 11:00 tonight. It's a matter of life or death,' signed Trench.
Shakia folded her arms and looked toward the stars in the night sky, it was clear that Steele's usually calm girlfriend was upset by the note. "Oh hell no, what does that low life bastard want now?" Shakia was known for her kindness, she shared a mutual respect with just about everyone she knew but when it came to Trench respect went out the window and Shakia never held back. "He's bad news baby. Everything he touches turns to …"
Steele placed his index over her lips. When she noticed that more than a few people in the parking lot were watching she dropped her arms to her side and let out a sigh. Early on in their relationship she learned that Steele was a confident man who always made his own decisions. Not only did she respect him for that she admired his confidence.
Steele read the letter again aloud, "A matter of life and death," he said.
Shakia pranced around in a small circle, you could hear her heels clicking against the parking lot's asphalt, "Life or death alright," she muttered, "yeah probably his."
Steele checked his watch, 10:45. 'How did he know I was here?' he wondered. He explained to his Shakia that lives may be at stake; he didn't want that to be on his conscience.
It was exactly 11:00 p.m. when Steele rounded the corner and parked his car in front of the corner lot on Master Street. A few seconds later a black Escalade pulled up behind him.
Steele patted Shakia on the hand, "I won't be long baby."
Shakia watched silently as he got out of the car. She always joked with her girlfriends about his looks. She would say, he's like Denzel and Billy Dee combined, but she was always quick to add Billy Dee when he was in his prime.
Steele stood face to face with the man he had grown up with and had learned to despise. The stocky built man wore a dark blue jogging suite, his hair was cut close. His mustache seemed to grow wider when he smiled at Steele.
When Trench reached out to shake hands the small diamond studded earring in his left ear glistened through the darkness. "Alexander Steele in the flesh, man I wasn't sure if you were gonna show."
Steele pretended not to see Trench's outstretched hand, "Okay Trench, what's up? Why am I here?"
Trench stretched out his arms and looked around. "I got people around here, people who look out for me. I got wind of something the other day. There's a shit storm headed this way." Trench looked around again. "You sure you want to do this out here. I mean you got a reputation to protect and all, I didn't think you wanted to be seen with me that's why I left you the note."
The men sat inside the Escalade to continue their conversation while Trench explained. "There's a guy, a big time drug dealer named Fat Daddy. Him and some chemist got into a thing in Florida about six months ago about manufacturing a large quantity of pills, probably Ecstasy. Anyway it ended badly and Fat Daddy had his sister offed," he motioned as if he were using a knife to cut his throat. Trench nodded, "That's right; they found her floating in one of the back bays in Miami. According to what I've been told this chemist swore that he would get revenge for his sister's murder. Well it took a while but he is about to get even. He's created this odorless, poison to spray on Fat Daddy's next coke cocaine shipment. If it's true, and if it works, folks from Philly to Maryland are gonna start dropping dead within 48 hours after using the drug. Not only will it put the fat man out of business. The friends and family of those dead junkies will hunt him down and kill him like a rabid dog."
Steele reached for the door handle, "You don't need me, you need to go to the cops with this."
Trench grabbed Steele by the arm but when Steele gave him a nasty look Trench quickly let go. "Come on Steele, just here me out. I can't go to the cops. They'll ask me where I got my info from and besides you know how I feel about cops."
Steele took his hand off of the handle and eased back into the seat. "Okay, where did you get this hot news flash from?"
Trench gripped the steering wheel with both hands and stared out of the window before answering. "I got it from my cousin. Remember I told you I got out of the drug business, well, somebody once sad that 'Nature abhors a vacuum.' My cousin stepped into that vacuum; if I go to the cops they will bring him in, that's why I need you. What's your fee?"
Steele looked out of the window then back at Trench, "Man you know that I am retired."
Trench threw his hands in the air. "Okay, fine, who cares if a couple of hundred junkies die?"
Steele got out of the car and slammed the door. "Oh don't give me that crap. For years you ruined thousands of people's lives selling them drugs and all of a sudden you decided to grow a conscience?"
Trench got out of the car and walked around to the sidewalk to face Steele. "I'm doing it for my cousin, he's blood. If all of those people die Fat Daddy will be dead, out of business and when the heat dies down John will take over his turf giving him control of half of the city. I want him out of the drug business not further in."
Steele held up his hand, "Wait, do you mean Little John? Little John is your cousin?"
Trench nodded and waived his hand, "Yeah but don't call him that. He's got a big rep now and a bad temper to go with it and besides he ain't so little anymore."
Trench walked around to the back of his SUV, when he opened it Steele saw that it was loaded with all kinds of knock offs. LeBron James, Nikes, Aviator sunglasses, Prada, Sean John clothes, even a couple of pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes. Trench fished through the sea of merchandise before pulling out a yellow folder.
"Here," he handed it to Steele. "I printed this out from the internet."
Steele held it to the light and thumbed through the dozen or so pages of stories about missing drug addicts whose deaths were of an undetermined nature.
Trench pointed to one of the papers, "You see that? From the Bronx in New York to North Philly it's always the same, unknown causes. It's odorless, colorless, and tasteless. He's been experimenting on those dudes and now he's ready." Trench held up both hands as if he were surrendering, "I tell you what, why don't you sleep on it and give me an answer in the morning?" He reached inside the SUV and picked up two pairs of the sunglasses, "Here, for you and your lady, no charge." Steele reluctantly accepted the glasses and agreed to give Trench an answer tomorrow.
After dropping Shakia off Steele went home and tried to get some sleep but his conscience wouldn't cooperate. His thoughts drifted back to grade school and how the kids used to joke about how God forgot to give Trench a heart. How do you do business with a guy who robbed a nun at age fourteen?
Two hours later Steele found himself driving through the roughest neighborhood in the city. No one in their right mind would come down here alone in the daytime and most cops wouldn't risk traveling through this part of town late at night but somehow on this dark and quiet night Alexander Steele seemed to be drawn to it. There was movement in shadows of the blocks and blocks of abandon buildings where it was commonplace to see hundreds of crack vials strewn about the sidewalk. The movement came from the remnants of lives that once had promising futures until somehow it all went wrong, somehow dreams were shattered and goals were forgotten. This was a microcosm of the millions who chose unwisely at life's fork in the road. These were the forgotten whose primary concern was not what to wear to work tomorrow morning but how to survive another day.
Up until now Steele had never given it much thought. Every now and then a homeless drug addict would be bold or desperate enough to step out of the shadows and approach his car asking for money. At that moment the cold stark reality had set in, Steele thought to himself that could have been me, or one of my friends. Deep down inside he knew that he could not just sit idly by and let them all perish.
Find out what happens next in Part Two: The Inner Sanctum Crew