I arrive at the club. This was a disaster. It's been a week since we found out that someone broke into the safe and stole every last drop that we had. There was no sign of damage to the safe. We had just seen the money earlier. There were only four of us that knew the numbers. There were only four of us who could have done it.
"You alright?" a voice says.
I'm surprised when I hear the voice there. Someone comes from the back area in the large dusty Marchioness space. It's Keon, of all people.
"What the hell you doing here?" I ask.
"Cleaning up," he responds.
"I don't know if you really understood, but the money we were going to use to build up the club is gone. It's completely gone," I tell him.
Keon stares at the ground. He's sweating. He has a dirty tank top on that clings to his muscles. You would think he's been up here working all night but I'm not completely sure why.
"I hear you. That's why I'm not charging for cleaning this place up," Keon laughs.
He thinks it's a laughing matter.
"I'm not joking man. Go home. It's over."
Keon gets a little serious. We haven't been on the same page since Jamison and now that he knew that two could play that game I wondered where our friendship was now. Keon sits the dustpan up and puts on a serious face. He can change it up from being like a little boy to a grown man relatively quickly. I guess this was supposed to be his grown man stance. I have to admit there is something sexy and provocative about the way he stands at that moment.
"So if it's over then why you here?" Keon asks, "I been cleaning up for days. You're the first one to come visit this fucking place."
"Who are you the gatekeeper?"
"I got a key. Hell. I made progress too. Starts working on the bar, polishing up the wood, taking out all the debris."
I sigh, "Listen Keon. I know this is your first job and all that, but it's not happening. You need to give it up. The only reason I'm here is to try to see how much I can offer Travis Kim for this dump."
I shrug, "I'm thinking about heading down to his club tonight. And trying to cut a deal. Hopefully it's not too late."
Keon is struggling with this, "Don't."
"Don't tell me what to do Keon. Jamison would agree with it. That's what he wanted in the beginning anyway. So would Jamila and Joyous. We are the ones who own this spot. Don't forget that," I tell him.
I'm being a dickhead and I know it but Keon has to understand this isn't about legacy. This isn't about the community. This is the fact that whatever money Big Mama had to build this thing is long gone. There is nothing else to it.
The worst part of it is one of my fucking siblings decided to steal it. If they felt it was that serious then I wanted absolutely nothing to do with them.
Keon shakes his head, "So you giving up. Just like that?"
"I guess. Cut my loses and head back."
"Is that what this place is to you, Memphis? Is that what all of us here are to you? Just your losses?" he asks me.
"My dad hates me. My family doesn't even care to be around me. Everyone hates me."
"You don't hate me?" I ask laughing, "Is that what you were about to say?"
"Matter of fact no. I have a lot of love for you."
"You had love for me when you were fucking my brother without telling me?" I ask him.
Keon gets quiet. He doesn't say anything at that moment. He takes off his cleaning gloves and places them on the table. I can see him steaming about what I just said but he doesn't raise his voice like I think he wants to. He just sighs a little bit and takes a minute to form his response.
"You not going to let that up, are you?"
"Nope. I'll always remember."
"You left me," Keon tells me, "You did that. Who knows what would have happened if you didn't leave me. Did I get with your brother? Yeah. Hell yeah. I can't lie. Would I have gotten with you if you were around? Hell yeah. Without a doubt."
He sounds so sure. He sounds so sure as if he hadn't met my brother Joyous. Maybe Keon did think he was above all that. He had been fucking with Jamison underneath me this whole time.
"How long?" I ask him.
"Does it matter?"
He stares straight in my eyes. I'll give it to Keon. He's not backing down at this moment. This confrontation was long overdue and he was definitely letting me know everything that was on his mind.
"Long enough," Keon states, "But it doesn't matter. You left me. How you going to leave and then get mad that I move on?"
"You act like I had a choice."
"You ever reached out to me?" Keon asks, "I would have taken you in. I would have took care of you..."
Keon knew damn well why I didn't reach out to him. He had acted all freaked out when I tried to kiss him back then. He knew damn well why I was nervous to go to him when I needed him the most. When I needed any of them they weren't there for me. My family hated me and my best friend was disgusted with me.
The bitterness of it all just rises to the top at that moment.
"With your drug money?"
Keon gives me a hard stare, "See...there you go with that condescending shit. Yes. With the drug money. People around here make it happen no matter what. We bust our ass. We might not have assistants and this extended vocab like you, nigga, but we still do what we can. While your bitch ass just runs."
Keon never spoke to me like this before. He's getting red in the face as he talks. I've never seen him so hype. The fact that he is raising his voice and getting aggressive with me right now is beyond surprising.
"You running. You leaving me. Like a bitch. And I hate it because we could have worked shit out. Even with this whole Jamison thing I could have worked shit out."
"You think I want Jamison's sloppy seconds? Honestly?"
"Man fuck you. You so FUCKING salty about Jamison. Do you know I haven't slept with him since you came back? Did you ask? No. I haven't even thought about another dude besides you but the first thing you do when you get back is sleep with my friend."
"So you can sleep with who you want to but when I do it, you get mad?" I ask.
"Cause you doing it out of spite," he tells me.
"You so sure?"
"You're salty as fuck," he is angry shaking almost, "Bitter and mad at the world. It's not my FUCKING fault your parents don't like you. It's NOT my fucking fault you came in town trying to be messy and it resulted in your grandmother's death."
I'm shocked when he brings that up.
Shit gets quiet. Looking in his eyes I can tell that he means those words. They sting when he says them. They fucking hurt actually.
I bite my lower lip unsure of how to actually deal with this. It wouldn't have been so shocking from someone else but from Keon it's pretty devastating.
"Have a nice life Keon," I tell him.
When I say those worse to him I actually mean it. I start walking out. Keon follows me out into the hallway. He looks like he wants to say something but he doesn't. He just watches as I walk out of the door.
I stand in the parking lot expecting Keon to run out and maybe apologize. I expect him to maybe even admit what he said crossed some sort of line. He doesn't do any of that though.
As if it can't get any worse it's starts raining. I look back at the big sign in the parking lot. Marchioness. The club that never happened. The club that never will.
I call Marcella.
Marcella is shocked when I call her. I haven't talked to my assistant in quite some time. I hardly hear from her except from the briefing reports of all of my stock options.
"How's it going boss?"
"Buy me a ticket out of here."
"You leaving, finally boss?"
I look back at the Marchioness.
"Yeah. Get me the fuck out of here."
Travis Kim's night club is booming. I walk in there and you can just tell the energy that he has in the place. It's more upscale than I expected but almost immediately I see the gangsters at the door.
"Surprised you invited me here," DJ Battery says.
I look over at Battery. He's a cool cat. I let him know that I was leaving town soon and we decided to link up before I did. I wasn't sure why. Maybe I just figured I would get some good dick by the end of the night. Someone like Battery was definitely good for something like that, I assumed. I hadn't seen how big it was but I could only imagine. He walked like he carried a big stick. The way he paced as he walks me up to the spot at the night club is definitely nice.
"Last time I got jumped. Figured I wasn't going to come here alone this time," I state.
Battery looks a little confused, "Jumped."
"Yeah. Some cat named Sosa."
Battery's eyes get a little wide. I can see true concern when he hears it. The look on his face definitely looks like someone who has something to be concerned about.
"You got a death wish coming back here?" he asks me.
"My brother's cool," a voice states.
I turn at that moment and am surprised when I see my sister. Jamila. She isn't the normal looking Jamila too. The girl definitely looks different. I haven't seen my sister this clean ever. She is wearing nice clothes. Her hair is done. Her nails are done. She has some expensive looking shoes. She also seems to glide around this club with this effortlessness to her.
I should be happy for her but for some reason I can't even tell who this new Jamila is. She definitely doesn't seem like the girl I know.
"You like?" she asks me.
"You look nice."
"Travy got me everything," she tells me.
I almost throw up on myself when I realize she's giving Travis Kim a nickname.
"He's the sweetest guy," she states, "He's buys me things. He even lets me drive his car. I've been thinking about moving in with him."
"It's a little too fast Jamila."
"Love is never too fast. It's always right on time."
I look at her confused and bothered. She looked clean from drugs. I can give you that. At least she must be doing them a lot less. Still. I don't know about this.
"Did you steal the money Jamila? Cause you sound real stupid right now? You sound like the kind of stupid that would steal the money for love."
"Are you really asking me that?"
"NO! Fuck no. I didn't steal a damn thing," she explains at that moment, "I can't believe you really think I would do something like that."
"He sent you here?" I ask.
Jamila gives me a long stare.
"I can't come out to greet my brother?"
"Jamila. Don't distract me. I'm wondering if Kim sent you out here to greet me."
The way Jamila looks at me says it all. The answer is yes. It's a booming yes. It's sleazy stuff like that I don't like. I had reached out to Kim. Why did he still think it was necessary to send my sister out here to butter me up?
Jamila smiles as though she doesn't hear my question after a few awkward silent seconds.
"Follow me," she says, "Travis is back here."
We walk in there. I look over at DJ Battery who is standing by my side. He seems to be concerned and I know why. As soon as we walk into the club I can see some familiar faces in the club.
It's Sosa and his gang.
"Those are the boys that jumped me," I tell Battery.
"Man maybe we should get out of here."
"If you're scared you can go..." I tell him, "I understand."
"If you knew what I knew about that Sosa guy, you would be scared too. Some people said he escaped out of prison three times. Everyone knows where he is but he never stays locked up too long. Some people say he is a straight up killer," DJ Battery tells me.
Battery's face shows unmistakable fear. I look back over at where Sosa is. He definitely seems like the sort of gangster that would instill that kind of fear. As I keep staring I notice someone else. Someone sitting. The person notices me at the same time.
Our eyes connect across the room.
"You OK bro?" Jamila asks me.
"I'm fine," I tell her.
"Right this way. Travis is waiting for you," she tells me.
We walk into Travis's VIP. I look over at where AK and his goons are. They have a VIP section as well. As soon as I see Travis he has that sleazy smile on his face. He tries to shake my hand and pretend like everything is all good.
"Joshua, how are you----"
I stop him mid-sentence, "You told Joyous you didn't run with Sosa and his people. Why come they are always here?"
These were the people that hurt me. They beat my ass. They would have killed me if it wasn't for Travis at that moment.
"I talked to them. Guys like Sosa can be reasoned with. I let them know you weren't a threat to them. I'm all about peace."
Jamila smiles, "Travis told me how he saved you. That's even more reason to trust him."
"I appreciate you helping me out," I tell Travis, "I really do. Don't think I'm not appreciative. It's just that these guys are around your club a lot for people you say you aren't associates with."
"They are thugs. You can' tell them where to go," Travis explains, "I'm only a business man. Just like you, Joshua. So what do you say we do this business and get it over with."
"You were going to give me an offer for the club."
"Yes. I was think 125k," Travis Kim states.
"You got to be kidding me. That club has some of the biggest space in California and with all of its history..."
"Your sister tells me that you might not be staying in California for much longer," Travis Kim states, "I know you want to get this over with. So how about 200?"
I look over at Jamila. Had she lost her complete mind? Why was she telling this guy information about me? I had text her that when I bought my ticket. I had sent her that information in confidence. The fact that she was going around telling him my business pissed me off.
"I need higher."
Travis gives me a long stare. The smirk fades. He is going hardball. I can tell a mile away.
"That's my offer," he states.
"Jesus Christ. Final?"
Jamila puts her hand on my hand, "You should just take it. We can split it four ways and you can be done with this fucking god-forsaken family. I know that's what you want. Hell that's what I want too. Let's just be done with it."
It was tempting. I could leave and go back to my life where I didn't have to care about being accepted by anyone for who I was. I wouldn't have to deal with this.
I could get away from it all.
I still had to consider a lot though, "Let me talk to Joyous and Jamison about it."
"I spoke with Joyous and Jamison, already? They are both defaulting to your decision."
I could see Joyous letting me make this decision but Jamison? I wondered if he was still thinking I was holding the proof of his affair with Keon out there for everyone to see.
"Both. What's it going to be?"
I'm struggling to decide. It was a robbery but I don't think I was going to get a better offer without spending months or maybe even years talking it over. I wanted out of California and I wanted out now. Travis Kim was giving me a way out. Everyone would be happy. I'd be able to leave this place once and for all.
I lean forward. Kim stretches out his hand. I can see the sweat beads in his palms. I don't know what comes over me but I just feel like something isn't right with this guy. If it was someone else maybe but being that it was him I just can't.
"I got to run to the bathroom."
I don't respond to him. I head to the bathroom as quickly as possible. I get into the bathroom and press myself up against the mirror. I look at my reflection at that moment. I keep seeing the beads of sweat in his palm. I keep hearing his slimy ass voice in my head. That's when the bathroom door opens and someone walks up to the sink.
"Don't do it," the person says.
I turn and almost jerk away. It's fucking AK!
"Yo get the fuck away from me!"
AK raises his hands, "I don't mean you no harm."
"Right like last time."
"This ain't like last time," he tells me.
I shake my head. I can't believe he was in my face again. I didn't want to see this fucking guy again. I didn't know shit about AK except that he had a thing for public sex and he clearly was a gangster who had no trouble stabbing you in the back after his nut.
He keeps his hands up as though I'm putting him under arrest.
"I just text my brother," I state, toggling a quick text to Joyous.
"You did what? Why the hell would you go ahead and do that for?"
"Same reason you let those dudes attack me last time," I state.
"I let them? Bruh. I didn't know you were going to be here," he tells me, "What did you expect me to do? Turn against my blood and my gang for some stranger. I mean the sex was good but..."
"I apologize. It's my fault. You want me to apologize. Fine. I can apologize or I can make up for it by saving your fucking ass right now," he tells me.
"How so?" I explain.
"I came in here to warn you. That's all," he tells me, "About Kim. About his relationship with my brother."
"Kim said he wasn't down with your boyfriend."
"Oh he said that? Huh? He's down alright. He's bends over for my brother every night."
My mouth drops.
"He's dating my sister," I explain.
"He's using your sister," AK states, "You must know that. You must feel that somehow..."
The feeling that I felt when I couldn't shake Travis Kim's hand. I just knew he was a snake and somehow that snake had gotten to Jamila. I shake my head. He wasn't just a snake either. He was a gay snake who was using the fuck out of my sister.
"What does he want?"
"What do you think he wants? He wants the club. You think my brother just beat your ass out of nowhere. No. Kim told him to do it."
"Kim rescued me."
"Kim had them beat your ass so he can rescue and put himself into your good graces," AK informs me.
"You knew about this?"
"No. I swear...not till later."
"I don't fucking believe you bruh. You knew about this."
I try to get away but AK grabs me up. He's hard. He's tough. He slams me up against the wall and he starts kissing me. I struggle to fight back but before I know it his hands are rubbing up in my crotch area. They enter my pants struggling to dig deeper and deeper in. I try to tell him to stop but each time I open my mouth to speak his tongue enters desperately kissing back.
"I was wrong but I'm helping you now, ain't I?" he asks, "Don't that count for something, shorty?
I don't get the chance to answer. That's because there is a knock on the door. It's a random person. I look over at AK. He's sexy as all hell, but I don't forgive easily.
"Have a good night man."
"Can I at least see you again?" he asks me, "Just to vibe with you. No sex..."
"Probably not a good idea."
I get back to the front of the hall. That's where I see Travis Kim. I look around. Battery is nowhere to be found. I'm surprised however when I get to the table and see that Keon is actually the person at the table. I look over at him and Keon is spazzing out on Travis Kim.
"What the hell are you doing here?" I ask Keon.
"What do you think? I came here for you," Keon responds, "I can ask you the same question. You really would come here alone."
"I didn't come here alone. Battery...I came with Battery," I explain.
"Your friend left. He says he wasn't feeling well," Travis states.
He left me? Alone? Just like that. I shake my head. The dude most definitely was a coward. I find it hard to believe that this guy just came here to up and leave like that.
Keon grabs me by my arm, "We're leaving."
"Hold on one second. We were doing business."
Keon doesn't take no for an answer. I don't know how to feel at that moment. Keon is taking charge. Whereas DJ Battery punked out and left, I knew that Keon had come all the way out here to try to actually help me.
I'm shocked and happy at the same time.
Keon repeats to Kim with more emphasis this time, "We're leaving."
He guides me towards the door. We get through the crowded area and I can see Keon steaming the entire time.
"I can't believe you. You would really come here with Battery of all people?"
"You are the one who told Battery I was gay. You told him what happened between us."
Keon stops me, "No I didn't. I never told Battery that you were gay. Me and Battery are cool but he's always been jealous of me. It's definitely not a good relationship. We used to be best friends until he tried to sleep with Jamison."
"He tried to sleep with Jamison."
"Yeah. So no. I didn't tell him how I felt about you. I would never put him in my business like that. The only person I told about us was your sister."
"If not you then who?"
I shake my head. We all sit there and think about someone that could have been in communication with Battery. Someone who knew about us. Someone who would have something to gain from Battery hitting on me and taking my attention away.
Keon rolls his eyes, "I'm going to fucking kill him. I know he did that so he can get you out of the picture..."
"Sounds like Jamison."
"I can't believe him..." Keon states shaking his head.
I want to hold up a big sign that reads "I TOLD YOU SO". I know it would be extra and I think right now Keon deserves it for being so dumb when it came to Jamison. People thought I was shady and petty. They had no idea what Jamison was capable of. Keon seems to notice though. I'm glad that this time Jamison actually did his shady behavior at his expense instead of mine.
I don't say I told you so. Truthfully I'm just happy that after that big blow-up we had that Keon was here right now. Maybe we weren't meant to be together in a relationship. Maybe things were just too complicated, but at least Keon was here when I needed him the most.
Instead of rubbing Jamison's messiness in Keon's face I nod, "Listen, calm down. Let's just get out of here and we can discuss any shit we have with Jamison later."
Keon nods in agreement but we don't get far. When we get to the front we see two big men. I try to walk past them. I even say excuse me but they don't move. I try to push past but one of the two men give me a hard sturdy push. I fall to the ground immediately.
"YO WHAT THE FUCK?" Keon yells in my defense.
"You two aren't going anywhere," Travis Kim states.
"What's going on here?" I ask.
"I need you to agree to this deal before you leave."
"You don't leave here. Ever," he threatens me.
"Who the hell are you threatening?" Keon states.
Keon pulls out a gun from his belt. Just as he does that I realize that we are surrounded. Travis Kim wasn't talking bullshit. We are surrounded by Sosa's gang. Guns are pointed all at us. My heart is racing. I can't believe this. I can't believe I'm stuck here like this.
"As you can see...I'm not taking no for an answer," Travis Kim states, "I have the paperwork. Sign it and you're good to go."
It was highly illegal what he was doing. He was making me sign a contract under duress. This was ridiculous.
"What's going on here?" Jamila states.
"Mind your business."
"Travis, that's my brother," Jamila argues.
Travis gives her the biggest backhand I ever seen. She spits up something. I think it's blood mixed with lipstick. I can hear her jaw almost snap. I get up in an attempt to charge but I don't make it far before a gun is in my face.
The guns are all surrounding us.
My pride speaks for me, "No..."
"Then you die," Travis Kim tells me, "All three of you. And oh Joshua. I'll save you for last so you can see them suffer."
To read the next chapter in advance go to www.crushedcrown.com