No Time to Die

Free No Time to Die by Grace F. Edwards

Book: No Time to Die by Grace F. Edwards Read Free Book Online
Authors: Grace F. Edwards
ordered an Absolut on the rocks. “I wanted to go to the service,” I said, “but after Claudine, I just couldn’t handle it.”
    “Don’t feel bad.” She reached over and touched my arm. “I know how it is. Too much get dumped on you at one time, you don’t know whether to face it or fold. Life’s a bitch sometimes. But I can say this: she had a big, beautiful sendoff. All her coworkers were there. And Clyde sent a blanket of roses. A blanket. And oh, did he cry! You know how they say some love is strong enough to move heaven and earth? Well, Clyde was strong enough to move earth, but heaven had the last word. Now see, he had eyes for her for years and he was the one she shoulda hooked up with in the first place. Not that low-down James. Now, just as she and Clyde was about to get together, she gets killed. That was no time to die. Girl hardly had a chance to live.”
    I lifted my glass and thought of Claudine, who was just getting her life back together. It was no time for her to die either.
    “And as for James, he didn’t even show. Probably too embarrassed at the way he came off at the party. Man is a complete fool. How she put up with him longer than one day is beyond me. I always say a woman can do bad by herself.”
    I didn’t mention that one jug too many of Gypsy Rose had James laid up in a fog at Bellevue. Instead I said, “Has he been in here since she—”
    “Hell no. Not after the way he mouthed off, he better not show his face in this place.”
    She leaned over the bar, lowering her voice. “And I’ll tell you this, Mali. I heard through the vine—one of his drinkin’ buddies was in here the other night—he was sayin’ that James is goin’ ’round blamin’ you forinterfering in his business. Said you turned Claudine against him and that’s why she left.”
    “And that ain’t all. Said he saw you talkin’ to Marie the night of the party and you musta told her somethin’ about him. So you watch your back, girl. He is sneaky and he’s crazy. Bad combination.”
    Two men came in and she moved away to take their order. Aretha Franklin’s burning voice filtered from the jukebox now, a praise song for feeling like a natural woman. When the tribute ended, I listened in the short silence to the tap of the chess pieces at the retirees’ table and wondered what their days would be like without the presence of Marie, or someone like her, whose young and easy smile helped make them forget the injury of growing old.
    “Where does James live now?” I asked when Betty returned to perch on a stool near the register. The two men had bought her a brandy and she brought the small glass to her mouth before she spoke.
    “Last place I heard was a rooming house on 136th Street, couple doors off Malcolm X Boulevard, but he’s probably long gone from there now. You ain’t goin’ lookin’ for him, are you?”
    “Not particularly, but it’s always good to know where the enemy is hiding.”
     … And also to find out why he’s spreading these lies. I had never interfered between him and Claudine. I’d never mentioned a thing, especially about the incident on her wedding day. I was willing to let sleeping dogs lie, but this lying dog has to be straightened out.
    “Well,” Betty sighed, “I’m hoping that they catch whoever did this. I mean I heard she wasn’t even robbed. Just murdered. Nothing was taken from the apartment.”
    “That’s strange,” I said, waiting to hear what else might be on the vine. If anything was there, Betty would know, but she only shrugged and finished her drink. I finished mine and paid my check but she pushed the money back at me as I rose from the stool.
    “Listen, Mali.” She leaned over now. “You be cool. Watch your back. Your dad’ll be no more good if something happens to you. He already lost one daughter. This ain’t no time for you to die. You still got your sister’s kid to raise.”
    “You ’re right, Betty. I’ll remember.”

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