“Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water,
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
and Jill came tumbling after”
“Got any coffee?” Lois asked anxiously as she surveyed her surroundings, the dimly lit interior of a humble condo on Sheridan overlooking the baseball fields in Loyola Park, a skip away from the lake shore.
“Iced, hot, espresso?”
“Hot,” her eyes found a desk that looked like a bomb had hit it. Case files were strewn about as if the surface was prepared to slaughter a hog upon.
“I know. I really need a secretary,” his crow’s feet creased as he put on a half-hearted grin. His instinct wanted to put her at ease, but his intellect knew this goal was not likely achievable nor desirable, given the circumstances.
“No. You need a file cabinet. Or a dumpster,” she retorted. He chuckled, it seemed it was her who had put him at relative ease. “What is all this about? Why were those men following me? Why did you contact me?” She should have been an investigator, she knew just how to disarm and interrogate.
“Well, I’ll tell you what I know. Someone tipped the state’s attorney off, and her office is quietly investigating some old, closed cases involving people connected to the upcoming mayoral race.”
“Alvarez is a real shark, isn’t she. What kind of old cases?” Her gut turned and she tried to cover her reaction with a sip of coffee. “This stuff’s kind of strong.”
“You know your politics.” He pretended not to notice her reaction. “Different kinds. One concerns a police shooting in ’94.” Another is–”
“–Wait. Who hired you? I need to know where your interests lie.” Lois’ face flushed, her vision collapsed to focus only on Ramos’ face.
“Enyia’s campaign manager came to me.”
“Amara Enyia? The candidate? What’s her angle in this?”
“If you let me talk, for chrissakes… She got wind about the investigations. Says one of them may implicate a large donor for one of her opponents.”
“Who, Emanuel?” His practiced lack of reaction confirmed her guess. “They say he’s eyeing the governor’s chair though?”
“He is, but he’s still the most powerful politician in town right now.”
“So, you’re supposed to dig up the dirt first to what, blackmail him? Offer to bury it better for a favor?”
“Something like that. Investigator-client privileged information, you understand.”
“Sure.” Her thoughts swept back to that cold night, November, 1994. Her own cries reverberated off the walls and gave her further chills. Leaves rushed in through the open apartment door which flailed as if in the throws of an epileptic seizure. He lay there, his eyes pleading, his hair sticky and warm in her hands. He coughed and rasped. She leaned in, touching her ear to his mouth. “Run, girl. Run to auntie Mina’s. When you get away, you remember…overcome it, overcome them with love.” His eyes clamped and he grimaced. “Go, please,” he managed. Her tears dropped onto his face. She sniffled and looked up. The navy blue uniform stained with crimson. She couldn’t see how she was supposed to love him ever. Her feet pushed her up, with an urgency contradictory to her aching soul, which was firmly planted by her father’s side. She ran against the wind, crimson and blue flashes reflected off the windows and engines hummed as her little bare feet turned the corner.
“I want to ask you some questions, but I’m sure you’re tired. I’d recommend you stay in a hotel tonight, there are a couple around here. I’ll call you in the morning, if that’s alright.” Her mascara laced tear intrigued him.
“Okay.” She lied. She thought it was a good time to finally visit her sister in Florida. “Thanks for what you did back there. And the coffee,” she flashed her money-making smile.
“No need. I’m just glad you’re safe. You’ve still got to be careful, though. Unfortunately, I don’t think this mess will be over any time soon.”
“I will be careful. Listen, Enyia’s good people. Don’t let anybody else’s cash find your pockets this case.” He seemed surprised by the warning, but whether by her guts to say it or its content, she couldn’t tell.
“I wouldn’t think of it.”
“God, what’s burning? Do you smell that?” She felt faint. She took a deep breath. She reached for the table to brace herself. She looked up slowly, dreamily , to see a smile crawling onto Ramos’ mouth. Then it all went black.