“You better sit your punk-ass down and mind how you speak to my woman.”
Izzy the Ice Cream Man stood in the doorway and glared at Deacon Kieran. He held the look for an extended moment before stepping over to Delilah, relieving her from Mama Lou’s grasp. He leaned down towards her, eyes softening the moment they met hers. “You okay bae?”
At her tentative nod, his eyes lifted and took in the other occupants of the room. “This” he eyed Kieran from head to toe. “- deacon don’t know what he talking ’bout.”
Mama Lou said, “What are you doing here, son? Who are you?”
“I guess that’s fair.” Izzy turned back to Delilah. He said, “It’s time to come clean, bae. The man is dead. Ain’t nothin’ he can do to hurt you now.” He lead her to one of the chairs and assisted her down. He tenderly kissed her forehead before turning back to his audience. “I guess I’ll go first.”
“I’mma give it to you straight. I’ve done some things, your cop friend would probably frown on it, ya feel me? But I ain’t never tried to represent myself as nothing but what I am, a hustler, man, I was born hustling. Probably gone die that way too.”
For the first time, Ethel Mae spotted a flicker of vulnerability, a crack in that hard street persona. She was curious about the cause of it.
Izzy glanced back at Delilah, who smiled encouragement at him. “Okay, lookit: Let’s say that Pastor G allegedly approached me and my, uh, alleged organization. And during that meeting, Pastor G, allegedly, proposed that he a scheme that would yield huge profits for all of us.”
“And what was that? Allegedly?” Mama Lou’s voice was skeptical.
“He alleged that he could hold our money.”
“Hold your money? Why would he want to do that?” Mama Lou’s brow cleared and she nodded as understanding flickered across her face. “He suggested laundering your dirty money through the church?”
“In this scenario, he might have,” said Izzy. “Lookit, I ain’t no saint. Like I said, I’ve done some things, some pretty low but messing with the church? My grandmother would reach out from the grave and slap me stupid if I ever went against the saints.”
“So, what happened?”
” I knew that if I refused, he would just find someone else. So, I hung around, strung him along a bit, just till I could figure his angle. See, I know guys like Pastor G. Maybe not as well-dressed or as well-spoken but you can see it. It’s in the eyes.”
“Anyway, I come up here a few months ago. It was late but I knew I’d find him here. Except that he wasn’t alone. I saw your punk-ass,” Izzy gestured towards Kieran. “Y’all were all cozied up on the couch. Fortunately, I’d missed the main event but got there just in time for the pillow talk.”
“You’s a lie,” Kieran sputtered. “There’s no way you could have gotten in.”
Izzy threw him a look that suggested there was nothing that would prevent him from being anywhere he chose to be. Ethel Mae gave herself a mental note to double check that her phone number was still unlisted and to verify the privacy settings on he social media sites.
“Anyway,” Izzy continued over Kieran’s objections. “That’s when I learned about the dream he was selling you, that he would take the land from the church and sell it to some real estate developer for a healthy profit and then the two of you would disappear and live happily ever after.”
“I didn’t know where the money was coming from,” Kieran said, defensively. “At least, not at first. By the time I knew it, he’d already mortgaged the land.”
“That’s convenient,” said Izzy, as he approached the younger man. “And possibly believable except for one thing.”
“What?” Kieran demanded. “I don’t have to defend myself to you. You’re a criminal. A thug. All you trying to do is take the heat off your -“
Kieran abruptly clamped his mouth shut when Izzy silently shook his head back and forth. The threat was clear. One more ugly word about Delilah and Kieran would pay for it, in a physical, pain-filled way.
“- Delilah.” Kieran finished, looking past Izzy’s shoulder, his bluster depleted.
“While you’re tossing out stones, try this one.” Izzy once again assessed his audience. “A mortgage loan like the one taken out by Pastor G requires at least two signatures. One guess who owns the second signature.”
Each of them looked towards Kieran, who started sputtering again. “What are y’all looking at me for? It wasn’t me. I never signed no papers.”
“Yes, you did,” replied Izzy. “Maybe not with your awareness, the man probably had the signature page thrown in among some other legal papers you signed, but the signature is definitely yours.”
Izzy crossed his arms over his chest, his head tilted slightly to the side.
“How’s that for a motive for murder?”