Burberry Escalade ESV
It was two weeks before spring break and the sun and heat were relentless. The temperature was in the upper nineties, with Kool-Aid blue skies. Sitting on twenty-six-inch spinners, the canary yellow Cadillac Escalade ESV pulled to a stop on Sixty-second and Seventeenth in Liberty City, near the Pork-n-Beans projects.
“The world is mine. Yo, ya hear me, son?” Menage said into his Nokia cell phone as he lowered the tinted window to check out the two shorties walking past his SUV. He pressed a switch, closing the window, and settled back into the coke-white and yellow Burberry print leather seats with his phone to his right ear and waited for the light to change. “You hear me, Dwight?” he repeated. “Hot as a bitch out here!” he added as he activated the AC by voice command.
“Yeah, man. What's up?” Dwight replied over the cell phone. “You get my message about DJ?”
“Yeah, about five minutes ago,” Dwight said. DJ had brought a black DB-7 Vantage Volante into the chop shop the night before. Both men knew that the going rate on a DB-7 was close to $170,000, so Menage would make a lick once he tagged it. “How the hell he pull that off?”
“Don't know yet. I wasn't in when it came. I'ma holla at him later on, but for now I'ma let it sit,” Menage said.
“That's a good moveâhope it's not out-of-state.” Both men knew that transporting stolen goods across state lines would wake up the big dogsâthe feds.
“Nah, nigga, I know the rules on that.”
“Word . . . so where you at now?”
“In the beans, 'bout ta head on over to 103rd to check on shorty I met last night at the strip club. Yo, Dwight, shorty thick to def,” Menage said as he adjusted the rear view mirror.
“Bruh, you trippin'. What's up with you and Chandra? You need to stop trying to live up to your name.”
Menage frowned. “Nigga, please, since when you became the Pope? Yo, I'ma holla.” Before Dwight could reply, Menage had snapped his phone shut and tossed it onto the passenger's seat. He activated the sound system, cracked the tinted windows down a few inches and slid the sunroof openâall by voice command. The ESV slowly cruised down Sixty-second with its four, fifteen-inch Alpine speakers thumping a hit by Outkast. Menage was in his element. He wore an all white, silk and mesh Sean John baggy jogging suit with a matching sun visor turned to the side. Around his neck hung a diamond-encrusted rope that swung below his chest. Attached to it was a matching medallion that spelled out his last name. Dangling from his left wrist was a custom-made, iced-out Millennia Bulova watchâa perfect match for the six platinum teeth in the front bottom row of his mouth.
As Menage made a right turn on Twenty-seventh Avenue, his left wrist draped over the chrome and oak steering wheel, he thought of the girl he'd met the night before. The Bounce Back strip club was his second home, and the instant Benita hit the stage in high heels and a thong she had his complete attention. She had said that she was twenty-two as she gave him a lap dance up in VIP. She was built like a dream, and she had a face and body that any manâand from what he had seen last nightâeven a few women would lust for. Without heels Benita stood at five foot ten, with thick juicy thighs and smooth, blemish-free mahogany skin to match. She had a rule about dating guys she met at work, but for some reason she made an exception for Menage. His lean, five foot eleven, 190-pound frame stood before her and he looked into her eyes, knowing she expected him to zero in on the two natural thirty-eight double-Ds that were smack dead in his face, spilling out of her mesh Fendi bra. He played it cool; he didn't want her to regret breaking her rule for Menage Unique Legend.
Benita was looking forward to the date to see what Miami was really all about. For two months she had been staying with her cousin, Lisa, who was a full-time nurse at Jackson Memorial. For five years, Miami, which was a whole lot different from Kinston, North Carolina, had been her home. Since Lisa worked more hours than she could stand, she really didn't have the time to show her cousin around. In the meantime, Benita was content with attending Dade Community College, making a few bills at the club and crashing out on the couch in Lisa's one-bedroom apartment. Lisa and Benita Alston acted like two sisters instead of cousins. Lisa was in her early thirties and kept her five foot eight petite body in the best of shape. She was easy to get along with, just as long as you didn't tell her she looked like Amerieâsomething she'd heard over a million times. “I'm taller and my tits are bigger than hers,” she would always say with a smile, knowing that it was the truth.
“Girl, who is that out there with that loud-ass music!” Lisa said sticking her head out the bathroom door holding a towel around her naked body.
“I think it's for me, girl,” Benita said all bubbly as she peeked through the blinds. “Yesss, it's him,” she said to herself. Outside Menage waited for the gulwing door to raise before stepping out of the stunning ESV. “Lisa, how do I look?” Benita held her arms out, turning around for Lisa to check her over.
Lisa smacked her lips. “Just don't stretch my top too much with your big tits.”
Benita dropped her arms. “Girl, please.”
“Hey, I wanna meet him.”
“Not while you're nude you ain't.”
“Girl, he done seen some breasts before,” Lisa teased playfully.
“That might be true, cuz, but he won't be seeing yours.” Lisa rolled her eyes and shut the bathroom door. Benita turned to open the front door just as Menage started to knock. “Dang he's so fine,” she thought as he stood in the doorway flashing his twenty-thousand-dollar smile. She knew that Lisa would try to be nosy and she quickly moved things along. “Lemme get my tote bag and I'll be ready,” she said hoping she didn't say anything stupid.
“I'm not in a rush,” Menage said watching the glare from his jewelry blind her.
Walking toward the ESV, Benita tried to play it cool as the passenger door slowly lifted. “Nice,” she said as it slowly closed on its own with a soft click. “I . . . didn't know they made 'em like this,” she added running her fingers over a silver slab of wood on the dashboard that surrounded one of the five Panasonic plasma screens.
“They don't.” Menage was trying to see where her head was. Last night she had turned him down for some one-on-one and since she presented a challenge, he pressed even harder until he got the digits. He figured she didn't know what he was worth, but he didn't play himself by saying what he had. But he wondered if maybe he went a little overboard by slipping five hundred in her g-string, which was really a small thing for him. Most nights he would leave with a stripper who gave up the ass as soon as they got into his whip. So far, Benita didn't act all childish over his material things, so he gave her a few points.
Menage had plenty of nicknames around the hood. The most common one was, “The Most Wanted Baby Father.” His man, Dwight, always said, “Why waste time when you have a main girl?” Menage cared deeply about Chandra Lovick but if he cared so much for her, why was Benita sitting next to him? Well, if you let him tell it, he'd say because she had a phat ass and juicy tits, but that was in his worldâand he set the rules.
“So I'll give you your first official tour of the M.I.A.,” Menage said as he lay back in the Burberry seat. “I guess we can just play it by ear . . . roll through the hood and whatnot. How you feel 'bout dat?” He managed to steal a glance between Benita's thighs. Now he knew what inspired Ginuwine to write that damn song, because he sure as hell wanted to get in those jeans.
“That's straight,” she said putting on her seat belt.
“Hey, can I ask you a question?” Menage said, sitting erect.
She turned her hips in the seat to face him.
Horns blew from the heavy traffic as the ESV cruised down Seventh Avenue, but Menage's attention was on Benita as he fought to control his raging hormones. She was definitely having an affect on him.
“Yo, do you feel odd knowing I done seen you half naked? No disrespect, ma, but when you came out on the thong song . . .”
“It's okay. I don't feel odd at all because it's a job to me,” she said smiling, moving her bang from over her right eye.
“I know dat's right!” Menage knew they had all day to kick it, so he told her to sit back and enjoy the ride.
Benita couldn't stop the goose bumps as they drew attention at the light; the Alpines mercilessly vibrated the pavement with Mobb Deep's hot beats.
* * *
In a lavish condo in North Miami Beach, Dwight McMillan flopped down on a leather couch as his woman, Tina Townes, nagged endlessly. The twenty-eight-year-olds were at odds again.
“Dwight, baby . . . it's been . . . it seems like since day one you've been letting Menage tell you how to handle your affairs!” Tina snapped, standing in front of him with her hands on her thick hips.
Dwight let out a deep breath and rubbed his face with both hands. “Tina,” he said looking up at her, “for the last time, no one is in charge. You know he's fair and if it wasn't for him, do you think we'd have all this?” He made a sweeping gesture with his arm, adding emphasis to his statement as he glanced across the living room with its two-inch-thick plush carpet. “So why are you stressing twenty-four/seven? You got the ride you always wanted, you wear designer clothes . . . what more can you ask for, Tina? If it wasn't for Menage, we'd still be trying to make ends meet.” Dwight stood up and wrapped his arms around Tina's waist. She stepped closer to him, resting her head under his chin.
“Baby, I'm sorry. I guess I do need to look at the whole picture,” she said softly.
“Menage has come a long way, Tina. That was a tough block he grew up on in Liberty City on Sixty-fifth. And I can say this: He hasn't forgotten where he came from. He was the one that gave money to the city and the NAACP to build that new park in Liberty City.” He raised her chin with his right index finger and lightly kissed her on the lips. He then gazed over her shoulder through the tinted floor-to-ceiling window and watched a few cruise ships heading out to sea. The view always lifted his spirits.
“Baby, he's just so . . .” Tina searched for a word to describe Menage. “All those girls he fools around with, you know he's gonna break Chandra's heart if she finds out.” And he's so damn conceited, she wanted to add.
“I'm trying to talk to him about that . . . and you're right.” Dwight looked at her with a warm smile.
Tina gripped his shirt, pulling him closer. “I love you so much,” she whispered, standing on her toes to stick her warm, wet tongue into his mouth. She shivered as his soft hands slid under the edge of her tight-fitting Miami Heat Jersey dress, cupping the bottom of her butt cheeks.
“No panties?” he said breathing heavily as Tina began to take off his shirt.
“Not when daddy's home.” At the last shirt button and just as he managed to slide a finger into her sex, the phone chimed. “I'll get it,” Tina said pushing him playfully down onto the couch. She swayed her voluptuous hips as she walked toward the bar, knowing that she had her man's full attention. Flinging her hair from her face and ear, she picked up the phone on its fourth ring. “Hello?” she said softly as she leaned against the bar and looked back at Dwight, now sliding his sex-coated fingers into his mouth.
“Yo, Tina, what up shorty?” Menage's voice seemed to taunt her, and her mood quickly changed. She rolled her hazel eyes and gripped the phone.
“Look, boy! I'm not your shorty, okay, so don't call me that!”
“Damn, Tina, calm down, you know I'm just trippin'. Anyway, let me holla at Dwight.”
“Hold on, boy!” Tina trudged over to Dwight and dropped the cordless phone on his lap before going back to the bar for a drink.
“What's up, bruh?”
“Hey, Dwight, meet me at the Omni Mall 'bout six tonight.”
“Why, what's up?”
“Oh, this the remix for âTwenty-One Questions?' Relax homie, and bring Tina, too.”
“Where you at now?”
“Damn, Dwight . . . I'm at Bayside wit' shorty I told you about. But we need to handle some money figures tonight. You feel me?”
“Yeah, bruh, I feel you.”
“One,” Menage said.
“Two,” Dwight replied and pushed the disconnect button. He scratched his chin and laid the phone on the mirrored end table.
“Let me guess,” Tina said sarcastically, handing Dwight a glass of Bacardi Vanilla Rum, “General Legend wants private McMillan to do his bidding today, huh?”
Dwight jumped up from the couch, nearly spilling his drink. “Tina!” He raised his voice, causing her to take a step back. “Will you please cut the bullshit? Matter of fact, he wants both privatesâthat's you and me. We're going to the Omni tonight.” He hated that he had raised his voice at her. Tina was shocked and unable to speak. Dwight lowered his drink onto a coaster, then took Tina's and did the same. “Listen, baby.” His tone was considerably lower now, and he reached for her hips in the cut out space on her jersey. “Many people overlook the good things he do. Sure, he's a player, or whatever. Remember when he came over with that girl last weekend?”
“The one that's only sixteen!” Tina snapped looking up into his eyes. Tina was tall but Dwight was taller at six foot four.
“He's not sleeping with her, if that's what you're thinking.”
“Oh, really!” She laughed. “Menage in a platonic relationship with a female? Please!”