Little Green

Little Green by Walter Mosley Read Free Book Online

Book: Little Green by Walter Mosley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Walter Mosley
thegreater part of my exhaustion and banished pain to the outer regions of awareness. “I’m here because Ray Alexander asked me to come. He told me that your son, Evander, has gone missing and you might need someone to root him out.”
    The permanent scowl on Timbale’s face hid any reaction she might have had to these words. But I didn’t care. I was still tickled at the magic quality of speaking my name.
    “You a preacher, Mr. Rawlins?”
    “No, ma’am, a private detective.”
    “I never met a Negro detective before.”
    “We’re a rare breed,” I acknowledged. “But you know a black man has to be twice as good if he claims to be equal with a white.”
    The hardscrabble woman nodded against her will. When the truth is spoken among women and men like us there had to be an amen, had to be.
    “You don’t look like you could root out a radish from sandy soil,” she said, thick Mississippi in her words.
    “If you’re saying that I look tired, you’re right,” I said. “I wouldn’t refuse a chair and some lemonade.”
    Asking a Southern woman for plain hospitality was like winking at a leprechaun: She had to give up her pot of gold no matter what.
    “Come on in then,” she said.
    She unlatched the screen door, pulled it open, and, after a stutter of hesitation, moved to the side.
    I entered the small and bare foyer. The floor was waxed pine and the wallpaper was light lime paper decorated with tiny cherry branches that were set in slanting lines. Timbale walked through to a slip of a room that ended, after only fifteen feet or so, at a glass door that opened up to a plant-filled terrace. It was a small veranda with room for just two iron chairs, painted white, and a low glass-topped cast-iron table.
    We didn’t go outside, however. Timbale had me sit on a backless couch in the den; then she went off to see to my refreshment.
    “Excuse me a minute, Mr. Rawlins,” she said as she went.
    There were so many plants out on the platform that all I could see above them was the sky. Succulents, ferns, and a couple of potted pines made up most of the greenery. Plants that were simple to pot and grow.
    A rattling from a distant place in the apartment caused me, for no identifiable reason, to wonder exactly what I was doing there. This inner question brought me to a memory of when I had been wounded six days after the Battle of the Bulge. A sniper had been aiming somewhere else, missed the mark, and the ricochet grazed my shoulder.…
    “Here we go,” Timbale said.
    She came back into the room carrying a plastic tumbler in each fist. The liquid contained in the semiopaque containers was reddish in color.
    “Don’t have no fresh-squeezed lemonade,” she said. “Kool-Aid will have to do.”
    She put the glass down on the TV stand next to me. I let my whole body list forward to pick up the plastic tumbler.
    “What you got to do with Ray Alexander?” There was no give in her voice.
    “He has retained me to help you find Evander, if that’s what you want to do.”
    A spasm of anger went through her thin body. A little red sugar water sloshed out and down her knuckles.
    “You really are a detective?” she asked.
    I took out my wallet and showed her the license I’d procured after helping the police with a crime that they would have never solved on their own.
    She read it, nodding her head angrily, and then passed the little card back.
    “I was at work,” she said. It was the beginning of a story that she had gone over again and again, hoping for a different ending. “At Proxy Nine, where I’m a nighttime security guard—”
    “Proxy Nine?” I asked. “The French insurance company?”
    “Yeah. Why?”
    “Nothing. I mean, I got friend named Jackson Blue that works there.”
    “I never heard’a him. He work days?”
    “Anyway,” Timbale said, “I was at work at a little after nine o’clock and Evander called me. He always calls around then. I could tell that he was outside, because

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