Police Director James Hardaway poured a cup of coffee for Judge Willie Pierce before resuming his seat behind his desk.
“So, how’re we going to handle this situation with Andre? This public rivalry between him and The House of Peace is getting out of hand. The Feds are starting to ask questions.”
“About what? What’ve you heard, James?”
“It was bound to happen.” The director stood up and started pacing the floor in front of his desk.
“Threats, assaults, harassment, attempted murder, all against a public official? Its’ a wonder they haven’t started a full out investigation. Your son has been very vocal to the press and whoever asks, about who he thinks is behind his recent troubles.”
“This does bring a layer of attention that we want to avoid.”
“I agree but how?”
“I have an idea but we’re going to need Calvin to buy-in.”
James shook his head in disgust. “He’s on his way. Late as usual.”
Before James could finish his thought, he heard a commotion outside his office door. The door flew open and was quickly filled with the larger-than-life presence of the Senior Pastor of The House of Peace, Pastor Calvin Reynolds. James’ secretary fluttered behind him, even now trying to get him to wait to be announced. James waved her away and she closed the door behind her.
“Willie, James,” came the effusive greeting from the self-proclaimed minister of God. He walked over and embraced each man. “I haven’t seen either of you in church lately. Remember , the Lord has told us to ‘Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy’ and not to forsake the assemblyof believers. So, can I expect to see you both this Sunday?
“Cut the crap, Calvin. We’ve got a problem.”
“Yes, yes, but there’s no problem too big for God. Let’s go to the Lord in prayer before we begin.”
James and Willie eyed each other across the bowed head of Calvin Reynolds. However, when the prayer continued into the third minute and showed no sign of an “amen”, James interrupted again.
“Calvin, we ain’t got time for this shit! We’ve got a problem.”
The short, portly man, lifted his head and for a moment, they thought he would argue. But then he shrugged his shoulders and slumped back in his chair. “What’s up?”
“We need to discuss the upcoming election and The House of Peace’s role in it.”
“Have y’all seen the latest polls?” Calvin interjected. He sat straight up in his chair. “Carmichael is a shoe-in. Our conservative brothers and sisters have really rallied behind him and our cause. We are sure to defeat that fascist spawn of. . .” He trailed off, and had the grace to lower his eyes under the harsh countenance of Judge Willie Pierce.
“No offense intended, Willie.”
James spoke up to diffuse the tension. “The Feds are making inquiries.”
“Into what?” Calvin asked.
“Into your campaign of harassment against my son.” The judge answered quietly.
“So what? There’s no proof of anything. Right now, it’s his word against mine. Besides, we all agreed…”
“Yes, we agreed,” James interjected with heat. “that Carmichael was a better candidate to push forward out agenda. You decided, on your own, to start a smear campaign.”
“The people needed to see him and his demonic ideals for who he really is. No offense, Willie.”
“You crossed the line with attempted murder.”
“That wasn’t an attempt. That was just meant to scare him, Willie, I promise. That was all. Besides, no one got seriously hurt. We just wanted him to back off, like we agreed.”
“Well, your little scare campaign has backfired, you sanctimonious prick. And put us all in danger. If there is a full-on Federal investigation, we may not be able to protect y. . .”
“Now, hold on. Protect me? We’re in this together, gentlemen. If I go down, we all do.”
“We agree, and so we have a plan.”
Judge Willie stood up and faced Calvin directly. “You will cease and desist the smear tactics, harassment and threats towards my son. Effective immediately. There is a press conference scheduled for this afternoon. During which, you will recant every vicious rumor you’ve started. I don’t care, tell them God came to you in a dream and showed you the error of your ways. But you will publicly endorse my son’s campaign and encourage your members to do likewise.”
Calvin sputtered. “I will do no such thing. The Good Lord frowns on . . .”
It was James’ turn to interrupt. He stood up and joined Judge Willie. “If you do not convince the citizens of Memphis of your sincerity, I will have no choice but to assist the Feds in their investigation of the House of Peace. Any questions?”
Calvin angrily stood up and rushed for the door.
“The press conference is at 4pm, on the steps of the courthouse. Try to get there early Calvin, so they can take the shine off your forehead before the cameras start rolling.
Andre stared up at the massive shrine that housed the House of Peace. He mentally reviewed his plan and his arguments. He felt like he was preparing for a final summation. And, in one way, he supposed he was.
The parking lot was nearly empty. He wasn’t surprised. It was nearly seven o’clock Thursday evening. But he recognized the ostentatious pearl-white vintage Cadillac parked in the reserve spot for the pastor.
The doors to the church were locked but his request on the call box was immediately answered. He followed directions to the Pastor’s study. Calvin Reynolds met him in the hall.
“Andre Pierce,” Pastor Reynolds was jovial in his greeting. He pumped his hand forcibly and patted Andre firmly on the back. “What a pleasure to finally meet you in person.”
“Likewise, I’m sure, Pastor. Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”
“Anything for you, son, anything. Can I get you something to drink? Wine? I have a fine vintage Chardonnay. Or perhaps you want something stronger. Hennesy?”
“Nothing for me, Pastor. Let me get to the point. I watched the press conference this afternoon. I want to thank you personally for your support.”
“No thanks are necessary, son. I’ve seen the errors of my ways and I always believe in making a wrong thing right. You are the best candidate for the job.”
“Yeah, about that. See, I know you’re the one behind the harassment and attempts on my life.” Andre leaned in close to make certain that Pastor Reynolds heard every word clearly. “I know that your church is somehow connected with my father, who is probably the real reason for your little dog and pony act this afternoon. But, I want you to know that I’ve had an investigator look into your and your little church. Initially, because I wanted to know what I was dealing with. But you know what? When the first reports started coming in, I got kind of curious. I started to wonder how a congregation, made up mostly of street people and the homeless could possibly support this amazing monument to the Good Lord, much less keep you in the finery and lifestyle to which you have no doubt become accustomed.”
Andre now aware that he had the Pastor’s full attention, looked away. “So, I instructed my investigator to ‘follow the money’. You didn’t come from money, like my father or some of the others of your little group. You are straight off the streets, just like most of your followers. So, where’s the money coming from, Calvin?”
The Pastor avoided direct eye contact but otherwise did not miss a beat. “Why yes, well, we have a radio and television ministry. Our flock extends beyond the walls of this building. I’ve published several books on ministry and . . .”
“Yeah, I know about that. That doesn’t quite cover it either. But then we found your ‘side business’.”
“I have no idea . . .”
“Look, Calvin. I’ve got a date, so I really don’t have time to dance with you tonight, so let me just tell you how it’s going to be.” Andre stood up and walked around the office, pausing occasionally at pictures of the reverend with various civic, financial and political leaders. “I’m going to keep my reports to myself. For now. But just in case you’re interested, I’ve made several copies and left them in various safe deposits boxes at several banks both here and elsewhere. I’ve also left a couple letters with my attorney to hold in trust. If for some reason I have any more “accidents”, those letters are to be instantly mailed to the press, the attorney general and the Feds. If I hear one more piece of negative press from anyone in your camp, the letters will be mailed.
Andre paused to smile gently at the Pastor, who seemed to be having some difficulties catching his breath. “Oh, and there’s one other thing. I was really impressed, Calvin by the bottom line figures from your ‘side business’. I want some of it.”
Andre reached into his pocket and extracted a card with the name of a bank and an account number handwritten in block letters. “You will make monthly deposits into this off shore account in the sum of $100,000. The first installment is due tomorrow morning, as soon as the banks open.”
Andre stood up in preparation to leave. The Pastor had stopped speaking, and if the purple mottling about his face was any indication, he’d stopped breathing too. Good, Andre thought. I think we understand each other.
“Don’t bother getting up. I’ll show myself out.”
Catherine pulled up in the front of Andre’s house and noticed the car already parked. She was curious about the visitor, especially when she recognized the female figure standing on the stoop, presumably waiting to be let in.
What was Aria doing here?
Before she could ponder that thought for long, another car pulled up behind hers. She waited until the driver stood up out of the car before moving herself. Catherine didn’t recognize the curvy, petite woman, who wore evening makeup in the middle of day and whose jewelry probably came from a beauty supply store. A client? Catherine wondered, then quickly dismissed the idea. Andre didn’t see client’s in his home. Besides, with the election less than a week away, he had transferred most of his clients to other attorneys.
Catherine stepped from the car and joined the other two women at the front door. Both of them turned to watch her closely as she climbed the steps. Before she could inquire, the door opened.
Andre made no attempt to mask his surprise at finding them there. “What are y’all doing here?”
“Honey,” Catherine began. “I thought you were expecting me. I got your message.”
Before Catherine could voice her own confusion, Aria interrupted. “Andre, who are these women? Why are they here?”
“I asked you, what are y’all doing here? I didn’t invite either of you.”
“I got a message to meet you here.” Catherine started to say and realize that the other women were speaking the exact same words. They looked at each other in confusion. And then as realization hit, she saw the anger she felt reflecting off the faces of the other two women. She turned back to Andre, certain that her growing attitude was reflected all over her face. And she was equally certain that he would send the others packing so that they could work out whatever this was, in private.
The short woman started speaking, “I don’t know who these tramps are, but you need to tell them both to step. I don’t have time for this bull shit.”
“Carla, you need to calm down.”
Catherine looked at him in surprise. How could he come to her defense? I’m standing right here.
“What the fuck is going on here, Andre? I came all the way over here because you left me a message telling me to come. As your fiancé, you owe me an explanation but first you need to tell these tramp-hos to move on.”
“I don’t know who you’re calling a tramp, ho, but Andre is MY fiancé. The only tramp here, I’m looking at.” Aria pulled herself up to her full height, looking straight down her nose at the shorter woman.
“Andre, help me understand. What is this about?” Catherine asked.
“Yeah,” Carla smacked an envelope on his chest. “What the fuck is this shit about?”
Andre opened the envelope. He looked curiously at the three of them before glancing down at the photos he’d removed. As he thumbed through them, Catherine recognized them as a duplicate of ones she’d received several weeks ago.
“Where did you get these?” Andre demanded. A cold rage had settled on his face.
“I assume one of these bitches sent them. There was no return address.”
“I’m bout getting tired of you calling me out of my name.” Aria declared. But before she could continue, Andre interrupted.
“Look, I didn’t call either of you. I didn’t invite either of you over here. One of you is playing games but I’m not laughing. I don’t know which of you, and right now, I don’t care. I don’t have time to deal with it. You claim that you care about me. If so, then you know today is not the day to be putting this kind of bullshit on me. Now, y’all need to go home. I ain’t dealing with this shit right now.” Andre slammed the door in their faces.
Catherine was dumbfounded. Andre has just been outed, exposed, for having an affair with not one woman but two and he had the gall to slam the door in their faces?
She immediately turned and started walking to the car. No, no, he’s not going to get away that easy. She turned back to the other women who had followed her lead and were walking back to their car. Carla was openly weeping and Catherine felt concern about her ability to drive anywhere safely. She called out to them.
“I think we need to talk. Y’all got time for a drink or cup of coffee? At Tsunami’s?”
Andre slammed the door shut and stormed down the hall towards his office. He was brought up short when he saw her. Eula stood in the hall watching him with a cat-who’s-just-eaten-the-canary smile on her face.
“Now what the fuck do you want?”
“Oh, nothing. I was just wondering who was at the door?”
Andre stared at her open mouthed.
“It was you. You did that? You set me up?”
“I wouldn’t say that, darling. I think I did you a favor. Neither of those women was worthy of you.”
“Who took the pictures, Eula?” Andre advanced on her, slowly, methodically. “You took them yourself, didn’t you? Did you get some kind of masochistic thrill running around with your camera, watching me fuck other women?”
“Andre, I told you. You can’t keep treating me like this. I won’t have it.”
“You won’t have it? Who the fuck are you? Bitch, I’ll treat you any damn way I choose. And not only will you tolerate it, you’re gonna like it.” They stood together, almost nose to nose. Eula was close enough to see that he needed to shave.
“No, I won’t. You’re going to stop seeing those women. Today. I won’t tolerate you being with them and seeing me too.”
“You are married to my father. You get no say in what I do and who I do it with. Get away from me.”
“Andre, listen to me.” Her voice was strident. She was near hysteria but she couldn’t seem to control herself. “I’ll leave Willie. There. I said it. I’ll leave him and we can be together.”
He slowly turned back to her. “You are out of your fucking mind. That’s it. I’m done. There’s something seriously wrong with you. Here, take your pictures and get the fuck out of here.”
Without thinking, Eula grabbed the vase off the hall table and threw it at his head. She watched in almost objective curiosity at the blood flow from the deep gash she created on the back of his head. He reached up and gingerly felt the wound. She didn’t even try to avoid the blow from Andre’s fist. The blow forced her into the wall. She may have even blacked out for a few seconds, for the next thing she knew, Andre was carrying her towards the backdoor.
Andre threw Eula down the back stairs and then walked back into the house. She landed hard on the packed earth, the wind knocked out of her. She lay there for endless moments, praying for the air to return.
She was just beginning to stir when she heard him return. Fearful now, she scooted away from him. She paused when she saw he had her purse and keys. He removed a key from the ring, presumably, his house key, then threw the bag and key ring at her head.
“Don’t you ever let me see you around here again?”
“Stay tuned for tonight’s continuous coverage of Election Night results, live from Pierce headquarters.”
The news was replaced by a commercial ad for constipation. She waited patiently, carefully inhaling the last of the menthol cigarette. She stubbed it out in the ashtray next to the bed and then poured another glass of wine.
The news resumed. The headline above the anchor read, “Pierce Wins Election by a landslide.” A camera panned the crowd of Pierce supporters. The reporter promised live coverage of newly elected Judge Andre Pierce’s acceptance speech. But while the audience waited and cheered for his appearance, the studio showed a video taken earlier in the evening.
The clip featured a smiling and confident Andre Pierce standing alongside his father, the Honorable Judge Willie Pierce and his wife Eula. Long time supporter, Police Director James Hardaway and newly converted supporter, Pastor Calvin Reynolds of the House of Peace were also in attendance.
The camera moved in closer until Andre’s face filled the entire screen. She picked up the gun and fired.
Okay readers. We’re down to the wire, just three more chapters to go. A lot happened this week; Andre is obviously under a lot of pressure. The more I learn about Calvin Reynolds, the more I wish I had titled this piece, “The Execution of Calvin Reynolds.”
I’d love to hear what you’re thinking, so leave me a comment.
Be certain to come back next week for Chapter 10- The Murder