I have to dash this off before embarking on that impending trip I was telling you about the other day, so I can get this done and out of the way.

Java returned rather late after his rushing off to get The Cherry Lady to try to get that stash of cash back to where it belongs. He looked decidedly pleased with himself as he eased himself into a comfy position on the couch and got his doob going. I said nothing and continued with reading the latest copy of ‘Total Film’ that had arrived yesterday. I guess he couldn’t stand it anymore, so he gets going with the story:

Yo won believe dis sheet maan – yo ready fo dis? Shuurre? All right den. I pick up da Cherry Lady at da Bar on da Boulevard an as we be walkin to da car I decide to check out dat phone booth an dat number dat Leon give yo, so Cher an I we get to dat booth an find it be locked. I tell Cher to hang in dere an I make it to da Bar to get Mo open up dat booth an maybe aks him bout Leon too. I get dere to find ol Mo in his little ol room – he be comfortably numb wit his headset round his face, immerse in Floyd – might have been dat ‘Umma Gumma’ album. Anyways, I rouse his ass an I aks him bout Leon. Know what he tell me maan? He say dat Leon rent dat phone booth – he pay up double of what it bring in each month an he keep it fo his private use. So I aks him if he know dis cat an jus what he did, an he say dat Leon be havin som high flyin frens, all into dealin arms an sheet an also ‘odder’ stuff – mus be dat ‘spam an jam’ he be talkin bout. So I tank ol Mo an make it back to Cher.

When we get to dat cemetery it mus have bin close to five. A few folk be payin dere respecs to dere deceased love ones an dat sun be settin slow. We get to da grave – da gravestone say  all dat good stuff bout Cher’s mamma , Marguerite, an it be havin dis alabaster angel ttached to da peak of dat stone by a rusty iron rod wit dose rust-water-tricklin stains runnin down dat marble slab like a trail of dried blood. Da mound of earth coverin Marguerite be full of weeds growin over da concrete rectangle roun dat grave, an as I check it out I see dat dere’s dis spot dat has no weeds or grass, so I know dat dis is da spot! An I also know dat if I can see dis, den maybe som odder curious person also notice it an wonder why. An maybe dey check it out. I look at Cher, who is getting dat garden fork outta her bag, so she don catch ma eye. By dis time da sun has gone and it be near dark, da people also be gone. Cher give me dat fork an I start to dig.

Java stops for a moment and gets himself a beer – and one for me as well. Then he gets out an album and turns it on. It’s an old Paul Winter Consort album and I wonder why. Anyway, the music’s very pleasant and I listen while Java rolls one of his specials. He goes on:

So I’m diggin – must be more dan two feet down – I nearly be at de end of ma reach, when I feel dis hardness. Sheeet! Ma heart be racin as I get ma fingers under dat package an get it out. It’s Leon’s all right an it looks like it be intac. It’s dark now an Cher has got her penlight flash out. We get dat package in her big ol bag, da garden fork also, an we head out of dat place an back to her pad. We try dat phone booth number an I lissen to it ring – over an over an over. No one dere! Cher be countin dat bread – an dere’s a whole lot of it. She gets it done, but befor she can tell me da phone rings. She picks up:

Hello?

She makes a face at me an points at dat phone while moutin a silent LEON to me. Den she get her sweetest honey-tone voice goin an say:

Why hello Leon, how are you? Me? I’m fine, I’m just fine. No, no, I’ve been in all day, then went to visit my mum and got back and was just getting ready to step out for the evening when… What’s that? Yes, yes we did. Java went looking for you but you had disappeared. We tried calling, but the number wasn’t good and then the website wasn’t functioning. What? Oh. Okay. Uh huh, sure I understand. What’s that? When? Java? He’s right here, we were just going out. Let me ask him.

She put dat phone down on da table and look at me wit dis strange look on her face an in a low whisper:

He wants us to have dinner with him at the Café. What do I say? I told him I would ask you! He didn’t even mention the package. What do I tell him? Here, you talk to him.

She give me dat receiver and makes faces at me, gesticulatin fo me to say somting.

Heey Leon ma maan, where yo bin hidin dude? We bin lookin all over fo yo ass. How com yo jus upped an split dat day – no word of farewell or anyting? Waaas dat? Who? Big dark dude? Yeah, but he dint say nuttin to us, he jus smiled an nodded. No. Hold on lemme aks Cher.

I wait fo a few seconds an den:

Leon? No maan, da Cherry Lady don know nuttin – she dint even see dis cat an don know who yo be meanin. Yeah? Why’s dat? Oh okay den. What time? At da Café? We be seein yo ass dere at nine sharp. Later!

I hang up an wonder jus what I be getting Cher an me into by agreein to meet Leon again. An who dat big, black guy be an why Leon got all shook up bout him. Cher be lookin equally worried, but we see no alternative:

I guess we will have to meet this weirdo again! Now listen Java, let’s not get involved in any more nonsense with this guy – okay?

Shuure babe. But you know we gotta return his cash right? We both be hearin bout his connecshuns, we know he be into som straange ass sheet, so do we wanna cross dis dude’s path takin his bread wit us? No, we don! We don want our asses bein hauled outta som deep water somwhere or be food fo dem fish, so we go. We go an see where dis dude be comin from. Now gettcha pretty lil ass in gear and les make like dat shepherd an get da flock outta here.

So we do. We make it to da Café bout quarter to nine – place be not quite buzzin, but dere be a fair crowd of folk havin dinner an som at da Bar. We head over an get Dan to get us a couple of brews. I see Mo in his den – he be havin Brubeck on – ‘Take Five’ – always fine fo a good lissen. Reeal soft like, I aks Cher if she bring dat package an she nod her head – affirmativ. My eyes be on dat door off an on – more ‘on’ tho – an den, dere he was! He walked strait to us two an say:

Well hello – why, fancy meeting the two of you here!

Dat weird-ass voice of his be soundin like a needle gratin cross vinyl – reeal shrill-hard an scratchy like. He pull up a stool an order his Chilean White from Dan, den he un-slings his drum-shape manbag wit dat ‘Rhydmic’ bran name an ‘Lose Proof’ emboss an lays it on da bar. He lights up a cigarette:

How have you been, Cher?

He bin givin da Cherry Lady dat look – from tip to toe an he be smilin dat leerey-ass smile of his. An Cher, she give him dat tumbs-up sign and take a slug of brew:

Fine, Leon. Where have you been since you did that vanishing trick the other day? We were trying to locate you – like I told you – but didn’t know how. We wanted to…

I couldn’t let you two know that I had to leave the country suddenly – business, you know.

And den dat knowin wink he do:

But listen, to get back to where we were the other day – have you given much thought to my little proposition? Remember? That ‘Spam and Jam’ business I mentioned? Offer’s still good you know. Want to take a ride in a while and we can talk?

I look at Cher, but she be ignorin my stare. She draw her stool up closer to Leon an look right in dat face – wit dat weathered look, dat pencil mustache an wit dat black an greasy-slick hair comb back an she say reeal soft like:

Leon honey, you just have to know more about the people you invite to do business with. Java and I – we have known each other for donkey’s years and we don’t ever get mixed up in any business that is in any way going to hurt anyone. We also don’t want to get mixed up in anything even resembling intrigue or any stress related situations. That stack of dollar bills you left behind that day – we took it with us to return it to you, but like we told you, there was no way to do so. All your contact numbers were false – like your website. Even the number you said was a friend’s house turned out to be for that phone booth over there. Just what it is you are up to doesn’t sound all that great to us, but that’s your business. We just don’t want any part of it. So here’s your cash – it’s all there – and thanks for the offer, but really, I’m sure that there are lots of others out there who would line up for the opportunity you’re offering us.

Den she take dat package out of her big ol bag an lays it right by Leon’s drum shape manbag wit dat ‘Rhydmic’ an ‘Lose Proof’ on it. I’m lookin at ol Leon’s face durin dis whole ting an now it be a study in bewilderment. He be too fuckin stunned by our Cherry Lady’s monologue to say anyting for a few seconds – seem like minutes to us two! Den dat cracklin falsetto:

Er – ummm, I must have misjudged the two of you entirely. I’m usually a pretty good judge and my first impressions are rarely, if ever, mistaken. However, it does seem that this time I have erred and I do beg your pardon for this. Pheeewww!

He blows all dat air in his lungs out thru his mout an shakes his jet black, greasy-slick head – look like he be wonderin how to take it from dis point. Cher be lightin up one of my roll-ups and takes anodder swig of brew. I be watchin Leon.

Look, tell you what. I do appreciate your candour – and your honesty with regard to the cash as well, so why don’t we call it quits – okay? You forget you ever met me and I’ll do the same. And, as a token of my inestimable appreciation, I would be honored if you would keep this.

He slides dat package back along da bar to Cher.

There’s a whole lot more from where that came, so I will book it as ‘consultancy fees’ and let’s call it a day.

Cher says nuttin and neider do I. We be too fuckin flabbergasted to reack. Ol Leon finishes his Chilean White, squashes his cigarette in de ashtray, picks up dat manbag wit dat ‘Rhydmic’ bran and dat emboss ‘Lose Proof’ on it, puts out dat big ol hand of his and in dat unbelievable vocalese:

It was a pleasure meeting you – and if you ever do change your minds…

He shakes ma hand and kisses Cher’s and walks out. Cher and I, we look at each odder – she shrugs dose pretty shoulders and gives me da speshul ‘look’ and we don need to say anyting more. So we finish our brew, give Dan behind dat bar a fat ol tip – and split.

Java lights up and heads for the sound. He turns off the Gershwin album that replaced Paul Winter Consort and turns up the volume on Floyd doing (what else could be more appropriate?) ‘Money’! He sits back down and passes me the doob.

And that – was that!

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