After his staff had gone home, he invoiced his latest gig. Four weeks of sold-out concerts at the Inglewood Forum. The Zulu Boyz, Priest KZ, and Th’ Flava Foolz, the cream of L.A. bands, performed. His young firm, Universal Detection, furnished security and muscle. There had been no violence.
He was getting ready to call it a day when the buzzer rang.
The shadow on the screen flipping him the bird, putting on a show for the surveillance camera, was his old friend Ramon Yippie Calzone.
“This is a raid, you old ass mutherfucker! Come out with your hands up. I know you got bad Negroes up there.”
Cravitz buzzed him up. When he opened the door, Yippie embraced Cravitz, who, at 6’5”, was taller than him by a head. Then his friend strode past him into the office. “Okay, birthday boy, I got good news and bad. Which do you want first?”
The two men grinned at one another. With his black briefcase, and the hooch he carried in a brown paper bag, Yippie looked like a cholo Republican: He wore a black leather jacket, faded jeans, motorcycle boots, lumberjack shirt; his long, graying hair tied in a ponytail with a silver clasp; his handlebar moustache pepper-gray. A gold earring in the form of a crucifix dangled from his right ear. A tat of Montezuma with an Aztec princess peeked through the break in his shirt.
“Good news first,” Cravitz said.
Yippie Calzone raised the hooch: “ Pulke, ” he said.
The two men drank in Cravitz’s conference room overlooking 43rd. The potent cactus brew was thick and cool and sweet, and Cravitz was genuinely thrilled to have a taste of the fabled Mexican moonshine. Even more, he was happy to see his old carnale , Yippie Calzone. Yippie, a cop, had been a neighbor back in the old days of South L.A. Later, Yippie was Cravitz’s mentor at the police academy. Cravitz got out after only three turbulent years on the force.
“I’m giving you Esmeralda,” Yippie Calzone said abruptly.
“Pretty-ass Esmeralda? You nuts?” Cravitz asked, genuinely surprised.
Yippie Calzone opened his briefcase and pulled out Esmeralda—his custom-made service revolver, a snub-nosed Colt .45 Peacemaker—and carefully laid her on the table.
Cravitz stared down at the beauty. She gave off a brazen sparkle that seemed to bewitch the mind.
The piece was one of a matched pair that once belonged to Jack Johnson, the Negro heavyweight champion, in 1908. Her grips were fashioned from Alaskan whale bone and her barrel and frame were forged with silver from Civil War—era coins. There was a flaw in her muzzle that gave her bulletholes a distinctive teardrop shape.
“I’ve decided she’s a cold-hearted bitch. I don’t love her no more,” Yippie said. “She’ll listen to you; she’ll take care of you.”
Like most of his pals, inside the law and out, Cravitz had always had a hard-on for Esmeralda. The weapon had been a gift to Calzone from the City of Los Angeles for his years of courageous service—twenty years back.
In his lawless teenage years—when Cravitz was pursuing his ambition of becoming a criminal just like his big brother, Cash—he and Cash had once worked out an elaborate plan to steal the treasure. The scheme fell through when Cash was arrested for a shootout—at a goddamn crap game.
The arrest of his big brother turned out to be a boon. Good and thoughtful people—including his own folks—swept into the breech left by his thuggish brother. It would take a brutal stretch at Pelican Bay before ol’ Cash saw the profit in pulling at least one of his feet out of the mire of everyday crime. Since the ’92 riots, Cash had rehabilitated his reptilian image and remade the Château Rouge, the abandoned, rat-infested hotel he’d bought, into a hangout joint for politicos and big shots; all attracted like flies by the old G’s deep greasy pockets and his doe-eyed and perfumed, big-titted bar girls.
“This feels like the bad-news part,” Cravitz said.