“Well Sergeant Thompson how is the family?” I asked, when I finally got her on the phone. Yes I realized that calling a new homicide investigator, while there was a body floating in the river seemed pretty damn stupid. Then again maybe not, since I wasn’t calling with anything to do with the floater.
“Everyone is fine and I hope you and your band of cut throats are as well,” she said obviously referring to the Ex patriots who hung around the Cloak and Dagger.
“As far as I know they are all fine., I do know that I am just fine. I’m sure you are busy so let me cut right to it. Your mom has decided that I am the devil for some reason. I was hoping that you might suggest to her that we meet and iron out our differences,” I suggested.
“I have nothing to do with my mother’s business, and she has nothing to do with mine,” she said.
“I see well I don’t guess there was any harm in trying. Just thought I would mention it. So have a good day and be safe,” I suggested. The worst the call could have done was put me into her mind. The truth is I expected her to call her mother just to ask what the hell was going on. When I called Althea the next day, she would most likely have heard my name mentioned enough time to be curious. Curiosity should lead her to either call me or at least agree to a meeting. That was just one scenario.
I ran the situation through my logic program and the only thing that made any more sense was that Althea wanted something from me. If she had opposed the project just on it’s merits, she should not have let it be known that it was personal. No she wanted the meeting as much as I did. I just had to play along to find out what she wanted.
The best I could tell she was the god mother of the black good guys. There was probably a thug god father as well. I had no idea. If there was, he hadn’t made himself known to me. As long as his business didn’t effect me or my friends, then it was purely live and let live.
I was positive that Althea expected me to make the first move. After all I was the one who needed something. I didn’t even mind making the overture. It was just how business was done in small town America. Come to think of it maybe it was how things were done among all humans.
I waited two days, then had Sylvia call her assistant to make the initial contact. The suggestion was lunch together at a place of her choice. If not that then a meeting in her office at a time of her choosing. What I did not authorize Sylvia to say, was that there would be a meeting somewhere and soon, regardless of Althea’s response.
During those two days Sylvia took care of the day to day details of the Mill Village. Either Edsel or Jennifer was doing research on how I could be sure that the people I wanted to help, got the help they needed to buy inside the Village.
“I think I have a plan to finance the ‘Village of the Damned’,”Jennifer said when she called. “If you are agreeable, I will have Walter, the money man, meet us at the office one day this week. At that time we can lay it out for you.”
“I’m going to bring Sylvia, since she is more closely involved in this than I am at the moment.” I replied.
“No problem at all, Actually I expected her to be there.” Jennifer said.
Jennifer sounded a little snippy. Surely she wasn’t jealous, I thought. I smiled as I went to relay the information to Sylvia.
“I got a call back from Althea Thompson’s assistant. You are on for lunch Friday at Sadie Mae’s Cafe.” she said.
“That’s great, I can almost walk there,” I said. Sadie Mae’s was a legend in the black community. Sadie Mae was actually a man who had opened the comfort food style cafe in the fifties. It was a struggle, but legend has it he fed white cops free, in exchange for protection. The protection might well have been from the white cops.
Since everything politicians do is to send a message, the site of the meeting had to be a message as well. If she was trying to make me nervous, she needed to come up with a lot more than a restaurant filled with black people. Give them all guns and it might work. Short of that, I expected that I was a lot more dangerous with the cutlery than any of them.
“Edsel called, she has arranged the meeting with Walter the money man for Friday at 4PM.” Sylvia informed me.
“Friday is going to be a busy day,” I said.
“More than you think, we are going to have the model ready to open as well,” Sylvia informed me.
“You don’t need to be there do you?” I asked.
“No, I am going to show it by appointment only, until we have the open house. We need a little publicity before we do that,” She admitted.
“It looks like your life is about to become complicated,” I commented.
“Yes and I have exams coming up. The end of the year is almost here,” she said. “We need to talk about what happens after I graduate. Just not right now.”
“I agree with the not right now part. Let’s just get past Friday, then we will have the talk.” I suggested.
“That’s the same thing I had in mind,” Sylvia admitted.
For the next three days the business ran on auto pilot. Yes I had begun to think of it as a business. I never considered myself a business woman, but I did consider those around me competent to take care of my interest.
Friday morning I was met at Helen’s by Peter. I hadn’t forgotten about him, but I hadn’t worried much about him either. I figured Sylvia was keeping up with him. “Good morning Ms. Stone, could I show you something.” He asked before sitting down.
“Sure,” I replied between gulps of coffee. Helen’s was probably my Sadie Mae’s, I thought. I had the meeting with Althea on my mind. Anyway Peter handed me his I phone. There was a picture of a comic book page ,with something that looked a little like me, on it. “What the hell is this?” I asked.
“It’s what I have been working on, since we got back from D.C. I have done an on line comic book about what happened there. I used lots of creative license and fictionalized everything but it’s pretty real. I think that is why it will work.”
“Well good luck with it,” I suggested.
“I was wondering if you would sign over the rights to use your image?” he asked.
“Are you going to call your hero Maxine Stone?” I asked.
“Yes, it’s because you have an audience already with the TV show and all,” he suggested.
“Peter you need to talk to Jennifer. She handles all that kind of thing for me. If you two work out something, I have no objections at all.” I said. “I will tell her to give you a startup break. It won’t cost you anything up front to launch your site. If it works you will have to pay for the license to someone, I’m not even sure who. Jennifer knows all that,” I admitted.
“Thanks Maxine, I knew I could count on you to help me out,” he said.
“No problem just don’t make her another wonder woman please,” I said with a laugh.
“No super powers, I promise, just bad ass to the bone,” he said with a laugh.
“Just like real life,” I said with a smile. He had no idea why I was smiling and I preferred that it remain that way. I really wanted to ask him if he and Sylvia were still doing the deed, but I figured it was still none of my business.
I went to the mall on my bike. At the mall I walked three miles. When I left the mall, I took a tour of the town before I went home. My tour took me by Sadie Mae’s Cafe. Sadie Mae’s was a one story brick building which would probably hold thirty or so diners at a time. That was probably why Althea set the meeting for 2 PM. She most likely did it so as not to cause too much commotion. That would have been thoughtful of her. I had my doubts about a politician not seeking maximum exposure all the time, but I could be wrong, I thought.
Back in the office Sylvia and I put-zed around until almost two. I decided not to take her, since it might get ugly. Not necessarily physical, but name calling was possible. Since Sylvia wasn’t along, I rode the bike to the meeting. It allowed me to wear a heavy cloth coat which easily hid my shoulder holster. I had no intention of using the concealed hammer .38 revolver, but one just never knew.
When I stepped inside Sadie Mae’s, I was glad I had the pistol. I didn’t need it to survive, but I might need it for respect. Althea sat in a booth in the center of the restaurant. What got my attention were the two young thug looking black men sitting in the booths, one in the booth in front and the other in the booth behind her.
I walked toward Althea, when the young man sitting in the booth between the door and Althea stood to block my way. I said to him. “You show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” He was at least six inches taller then me. He extended his ham sized hand toward my coat. I quickly chopped his forearm and broke it cleanly.
“If I were you son, I would go to the ER and get that looked at. You might want to get your friend back there to drive you.” I said while looking at the sixty year old black lady with the short haircut.
“I could call the cops,” Althea said.
I stood with my hand on the butt of the .38 as I looked around the room. Finally I said, “You could, but then it would be my word against yours. Jennifer, my lawyer, would love it. You set up the meet to lure me to an ambush. It has happened before, you know. I’m sure these kids are not only armed but also known to the cops. My story should play well in Peoria, even if you are a city council woman and your daughter is a detective. Is that the kind of publicity you really need.”
“Have a seat, lets talk without all this drama,” she suggested without a smile.
“You set the tone of the meeting, when you brought your armed thugs,” I said.
“You have to know that I am hated by some people in town. Some of the racist around here would love to get me out of the way,” she said in that paranoid voice so many politicians, black and white, seem to have.
“Well let me till you this right up front. I am what I am, and I don’t care what label you attach to it. I’m most likely not going to change. That said, Tell me what you want to clear a path for my office building.”
“You don’t seem to like me?” she asked.
“They tell me you called me the devil. I expect what you really called me was a white devil. So let’s say I’m not crazy about people who judge other people.” I said.
“Okay Maxine, you are as tough as they say, now lets see if you are as fair as Reverend Archer says. I want you to clean up the Sunny Valley housing project,” she said.
“What do you mean clean it up,” I asked.
“It is owned by the city housing authority but run by Reverend Harold’s ministry. It would not be good for any of us to evict people without cause. Nor to have the police called often enough to give us that cause. We need that project to stay open. I would like for the people who operate it to continue doing so. For those things to happen without a lot of drama, we need some people to choose to move out,” she said.
“From what I just saw you might not have the best thugs in the world, but they should be good enough,” I said.
“I can’t be involved,” she said. “The black community doesn’t hold you in very high regard. They do respect you, but they don’t love you. They love and respect me, I need that.
“If I do this, you get my office building approved?” I asked.
“You bring it up again at a different location and it will be approved,” she said.
“Give me the names,” I said. Althea slipped me a piece of paper.