Sunday, August 15, 2010

Oak Cliff Confidential: Chapter 16

  “Anyway,” said April, finally relaxing her death grip on the fried turkey, “we’re just about to my house, and then I can leave you fine people to killing each other or whatever it is you have planned for the rest of the day.”

  Hexom turned around in his seat to face her. “You don’t want to go with us to the cemetery?”

  April shook her head vehemently. “That would be a HELL no. We almost got killed by the damn manhole cover. It’s not safe to be around you. Why would I go with you to a cemetery? Seems like that’s asking for trouble. Besides, I gotta find somebody to bang so they can go fix my jacked-up car.”

  “It’s nice that you have such lofty goals for yourself,” muttered Sharon.

  April glared at her. “Do you really want to get me started again. God, you rich people make me itch. You forget what it’s like to have to work for a living. Oh, that’s right, you never HAVE worked, so there was nothing to forget. See, I’ve already started. It’s just not good for my blood pressure to be around you, and my prescription is almost out. Alejandro, turn left on Hampton, right on  Plymouth, and then just throw my ass out the window.”

  “Did it ever occur to you,” mused Sharon, “that if you yourself weren’t so quick to judge other people, you might get along with everybody a little better, and then you wouldn’t have to take blood pressure medicine? Although something tells me that taking drugs is second nature with you. You run across something small and round, you instinctively pop it in your mouth.”

  April’s brow furrowed. “You Oprah now?”

  “You sober?”

  “God, I hate you.”

  “Hate you more.”

  Alejandro suddenly slammed on the brakes, causing the greasy box to slide from April’s lap and crash to the floorboard, and the butternut squash tumbled under the front seat and came out betwixt Hexom’s legs. He glance down in surprise, because although a lot of things had been in that position, there had certainly never been a squash. Well, except for that time at band camp.

  Alejandro put the car in park and turned around to face the bickering women, ignoring the growing chorus of car horns, because people in Dallas will honk at anything, even a leaf falling from the sky, so it really didn’t matter. “Look, you little skanks,” he began endearingly, “I’m going to throw BOTH your asses out the door if you don’t stop with that mess. This isn’t kindergarten.”

  Sharon drew in a sharp breath. “Might I remind you that-”

  Alejandro help up a hand. “That I work for you? No, you don’t need to remind me, because you tell me every damn day. You might as well get a t-shirt made. But I’m trying to drive here, and I have to concentrate because most of these idiots have no concept of a lane, or what a turn signal is for, and you’re making it worse screaming like banshees over stupid things that nobody is going to care about ever again. So shut up, or maybe it’s time that I start looking for another pool to clean.” He turned around and threw the car back into gear.

  “Wow,” said April. “This is a really angry chapter.”

  “Exactly,” agreed Sharon. “And we were such good friends at the end of the last one.”

  Then they both realized that they were talking again, despite the recent violent threats from the front seat, so they fell silent. They stared out the window, they admired some of the historic homes on the east side of Hampton, they watched a cute little bird doing something gymnastic on a power line. But after two minutes, this was just too boring to go on living, so the vocals were activated again.

  “Maybe it’s the key,” muttered April.

  Sharon, happy for any conversation, leapt on this proffered topic with gleeful abandon and excessive linguistic structure. “Whatever do you mean, this talk of the key being a possibility?”

  April, instantly irritated at more unnecessary Sharon foo-foo, started to head down another sarcastic path, but then glanced at Alejandro and decided to remain neutral. “We weren’t fighting until you got the key. Maybe it’s cursed.

  Sharon pulled out the key and studied it, considering the possibility.

  Hexom spoke from the front seat. “Why would the key be cursed, April? I thought you looked down on all that voodoo mess that some of your lesser relatives supposedly practice on a Saturday night when they run out of other things to do.”

  “Why you hatin’ on my people?”

  Hexom sighed. “April, honey, YOU hate on your people. All the time.”

  “That’s different,” she protested. “I’m part of the joke so that means I can tell the joke. That’s how it rolls on the street, not that you would know.”

  Sharon piped in. “Something tells me that Hexom has been rolled on a LOT of streets. Must be hell on his couture.”

  Hexom turned to face her. “Look, if you want to go that way with it, then I-”

  Alejandro slammed on his brakes again. All three passengers immediately slumped back in their seats, lips sealed, expecting another outburst from Alejandro concerning decibel levels and road-focus issues. Instead, he simply announced “We’re here, Miss April.”

  “Oh.” April looked out the window to see that they were indeed parked in front of her condo building. “Okay, then.” She gathered her belongings, stacked them on top of the greasy box, started to open the car door, then hesitated.

  “Yes?” inquired Sharon.

  April turned to look at her with a slightly subdued expression. “Well, I was just thinking. It might be interesting to find out what that key goes to.”

  “Really?” questioned Hexom. “I thought you hated Sharon. How could you bear to stand another second in her car?”

  April grinned. “Oh, I was kidding about that. I just like to yell a lot. Sharon‘s my girl. We tight.” She then patted Sharon’s hand on the seat beside her.

  Sharon returned a weak smile, not really sure of the responsibilities that might come with “being someone’s girl”, but appreciating the thought anyway. “So you want to come with?”

  April nodded. “I think so. Give me two secs to put this turkey in the safe.”

  Hexom, handing her the battered butternut squash, found this statement intriguing. “You keep your turkey in a safe?”

  April confirmed. “Yep. My people. They’ll eat anything whether it belongs to them or not. Be right back.” She slipped out of the car, dashing up the sidewalk as her goodies jostled about.

  Five minutes later she returned, slipping back into the car and sporting a completely new outfit, just as tight as the previous one, but slightly more feminine.

  “What’s up with the costume change?” asked Hexom.

  April smoothed out a crease in her snug skirt. “I checked the online polls while I was inside. It seems the readers think I’m coming across a little too butch for a straight woman. So I thought I’d soften up a bit.”

  “But they can’t even see you,” pointed out Sharon.

  “Doesn’t matter,” responded April. “They can sense things. Hit it, Alejandro.”

  Alejandro hit it, and the car sped back down Plymouth and turned right on Hampton. A few traffic lights later, they were at the Merrifield Cemetery. Since the grounds were so tiny, there was no parking lot. Alejandro pulled into a nearby side street, parked, and they all piled out. A short walk later and they were standing at the small gate to the cemetery.

  Sharon started to open the gate, but was surprised to find it wouldn‘t budge. “That’s odd. I’ve never noticed this being locked before. Of course, I haven’t been here in years.” She fiddled with the catch and found a small padlock.

  “The key,” said Hexom.

  Sharon nodded, taking the key out of her pocket. It fit perfectly, and three seconds later the gate swung inward.

  “Well, hell,” said April. “I got changed for this? I could have just stood on my front porch and watched you do this from there.”

  Sharon slipped the key back into her pocket. “I still don’t understand. Why would anyone lock this cemetery? There’s nothing here. Two headstones and some unmarked graves. That’s it.”

  “Unless,” suggested Hexom. “There’s something here now that only you are supposed to see.”

  Sharon studied his face for a minute, before turning back to the gate. “Then I suppose I should go in alone. Wait here.” She pushed the gate further open and stepped through.

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