Black Water Rising

Black Water Rising by Attica Locke Read Free Book Online

Book: Black Water Rising by Attica Locke Read Free Book Online
Authors: Attica Locke
name.” Bernie turned to Jay, as if they were on the bus right then. “I said, ‘Jay,’” she whispered. “‘That’s Melvin Hempnill if I’ve ever seen him.’ And you shushed me. Well, then the cops turn to you. They looking at you now.” She smiled, enjoying her own story, the clever turns it was taking.
    It was early. Jay was on his side, facing the wall. He had not slept two consecutive hours all night. He slid a hand under his pillow and felt the .22 nestled there. This is his morning ritual, the way he greets the world.
    â€œSo now the police want to know what you got to do with the whole thing,” Bernie said. “This woman jumping out a window like it’s nothing.”
    Jay sat up and swung his legs off the side of the bed.
    â€œâ€˜We got some questions need answering,’ something like that.”
    Jay stood and started from the room barefoot.
    â€œI’m listening.”
    There’s only one bathroom in their three-room apartment, in the hallway between the bedroom and the kitchen. Jay left the door open. “So like I said, old Hempnill is looking at you, and everybody else on the bus is staring at you too. So you get up…and this is the crazy part…you get up and go out the same window she did. Only you don’t float at all. You drop like a bag of bricks.”
    He put the toilet seat down and walked back to their bedroom.
    â€œAin’t that something,” she said. She was sitting up in bed, a paperbackresting on her belly. Jay realized she’d been up for a while, that she’d waited before waking him. “You left me on that bus, didn’t wave back or nothing.”
    Jay found that amusing, the idea of him leaving her anywhere.
    Bernie slid the paperback off her belly. “I told Evelyn about it.”
    Jay hiked his pants on over his shorts, keeping his mouth shut about his sister-in-law. “Maybe we shouldn’t have left her out there,” Bernie said softly.
    She fiddled with her paperback, sliding a bookmark back and forth between the same two pages. He saw she was upset, but in some way he didn’t recognize or understand. “We didn’t do anything wrong,” he said.
    Outside, by the thin light of a nearby streetlamp, Jay reads the newspaper article again. The date at the top of the page makes his stomach turn. The article, he sees, is from today’s paper, which means the body was discovered yesterday, the day after their boat ride. He wonders if his wife read these same words, and if she did, why she didn’t say anything to him about it. Maybe she read the article and thought nothing of it. Hell, there must be a couple of shootings a week in Fifth Ward, Saturday night being the favored day for mischief making. The gunshots they heard on the water and the report of a shooting death in the area are surely no more than an uncomfortable coincidence. Still, the whole bit bothers him enough that he takes the time to tear the page from the newspaper, folding the article two, then three times, and sliding it into his pants pocket.
    Bernie’s awake when he comes into the apartment.
    She’s standing in her house shoes and a faded brown robethat won’t close over her belly. She stares at Jay standing in her kitchen, smelling of smoke, newsprint stained on his fingers. She looks him up and down, lingering about his face, trying to read his expression, why he’s breathing funny.
    â€œI heard you go out,” she says.
    â€œI was taking out the trash,” he says.
    Bernie nods. This makes sense to her, makes her feel better.
    â€œYou gon’ put another bag in?” she asks.
    â€œI always do.”
    â€œNo, you don’t, Jay.”
    He reaches under the sink and pulls out a black trash bag, snapping it open to make his point. “You gon’ fight with me about trash bags?”
    â€œI’m just saying. Sometimes you

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