Chapter 1

He finished the final touches on the track he’d just sung, his own rendition of One Less Bell, originally performed by The Fifth Dimension, back in the early 70s. The tracks from his tears dried moments after he stepped out of the sound booth. He did this remake for no one in particular but himself, and his lonesome heart. He thought it would make great background music for his pity party, but the tears and sorrowful heart had left him thoughtless. Before his mind went void, he thought about a lot of things—like in the last few weeks, after Yvonne, his wife, made her departure from their residence.

She took little with her that night. She was too choked up and upset to stay under the same roof with him any longer than she had to. Quiet as it was kept, she had thought about leaving him so many times, for a long time, but the timing was never right. She had not planned on leaving the way she did, not on his terms, but he put all the cards on the table. She should have remembered he was a skillful player, and he always played to win. But, since that night, he regretted showing his hand at all. He never dreamed his marriage would come to a division.

He never wanted to live his life without her. She was his world; even when he whored around and gave himself so easily to others, he always thought she would be there. He never understood how a couple could live together for ten, twenty, thirty, or more years and separate for some stupid, bullshit indifferences like adultery. He’d always thought love could overcome anything and everything, but his home became a house for damn near two years. She grew cold and distant, and started working late and later, till it seemed as if she just wasn’t there.

The track was completed; he sat and stared at the console. The project gave him something to do; his usual routine had changed. When she left him, she took away her small talk, her constructive criticism, and her nightly needs, which he reluctantly became accustomed to providing them for her. Those needy chores of hers, like wrapping her hair before she went to bed, and like demanding she pick out her clothes for the next day so he could iron them along with her uniform, and like taking her eyeglasses off her face while she slept, and like getting up in the mornings to brush out and style the hair she wrapped the night before. But more importantly, to be near her so he could wake her when she screamed silently in her sleep during her nightmares.

William peeped into his oldest daughter’s room, as he had done for twenty-two years. She was out again, and the room was a mess, as usual. Clothes laid in all corners, on the desk, on the dresser. Maybe if she spent a little more time at home, she would have some control, or concern. He would wonder just where the hell he went wrong. He closed the door and walked a few steps to the next room. His two youngest daughters were asleep. They had separate beds of their own, but they chose to sleep together, his two darling little angels. Over to his son’s room—where he found the television on, the computer on, the Play Station on—he looked over at his son where he laid in bed asleep with his clothes on. William stepped into the room and thought, this kid. I should wake him up and make him do this. Instead, he began his usual task of shutting everything off.

He headed for the stairs, switching off the hall lights as he started his descent, then the phone rang. He hurried down the stairs to the phone on the end table in the living room. His heart quickened. Could it be her? Oh God, let it be her.

“Hello?” William inquired.

“Yo, Will. Still up, I see.” It was Friday, 12:36 in the night, and Jake, his best friend, was looking for a place to hang out. “Want some company? Shit, I got nothing to do. I’m tired of this damn house and the damn woman getting on my nerves. I need to escape, shit.”

“Yeah sure, that’s cool, nothing happening over here. How long?” asked William, knowing it would take Jake at least forty minutes to reach him.

“Fifteen, twenty minutes,” Jake replied.

“Twenty minutes?”

“Yeah, actually, I’m halfway there,” Jake confessed.

“Then why call? Hey, just drop by, walk in, and make yourself at home. Have a sandwich or something,” William said sarcastically.

“Thanks, I was planning to do just that.” Jake welcomed the invitation even though all of which was his norm.

“Yeah, cool. See you in a bit.” William placed the cordless phone back into its cradle. He headed toward the back of the house to his study. He stopped when he’d stepped in and stared at the canvas painting of his wife and him, standing sideways, embracing each other, kissing. She was on her toes reaching up to him, his arms wrapped around her. Their nude bodies looked as if they

were painted with the finest, silky smooth dark chocolate with butterscotch for

their muscular tone.

He’d updated his day planner earlier before he’d checked on the children. Next week was going to be just as busy as this one was. He was tired; it had been a long day, and a quiet evening. He turned the computer and the lights off, and headed for the basement/business.

He entered his basement, walked past the lounge area and over to one of the three desks, and seated himself. The lounge area was actually two and a half rooms before he took down the partitions. He used the entire basement for his business. It consisted of a professional studio, with two large sound rooms—both were fitted with medium orchestra sized main rooms, and three booths for vocalists; on the tech side there was a high-end, high-tech, state-of-the-art mixing console; and the heart of it all, his computer network and file system. The lounging area consisted of a full bar, a mini-kitchen, two full-length white leather sofas, and two matching loveseats centered around a large thick squared jewel, a gold leaf coffee table with the top made of onyx. On the coffee table sat all the usual black publications—Black Enterprise, Essence, Ebony, Source, Vibe, and others—to entertain his guests, followed by the small work area, with the three desks, and computer terminals.

At one of the computer terminals, he searched for an album, just one of thousands stored on the system. He selected The Best of Sade. The volume was preset at a low and moderate level. The music played through the eight pairs of slim line speakers placed in various locations throughout the oversized room.

He walked behind the bar and began to prepare his drink—Chivas Regal and Coke on the rocks—in his favorite crystal rocker glass. After a long sip, he walked back to the computer and selected the track, The Sweetest Taboo.

It’s been over three weeks since his wife left him. She told the children she would be staying with Aunt Vanessa. She needed time to get away and to think things over, sort out the details and weigh her options. Her plane landed five days ago. The Bahamas was her destination. She left no phone number other than her cell phone, no hotel name, nothing. Well, not with him anyway. She refused to speak with him; she’d only conversed with the kids. Shit, she really did not give a damn whether he wanted to speak with her or not. The bastard had the nerve to have done what he did, and she really wasn’t feeling him. Was putting his cards on the table actually an act of some stupid shit he did and got caught? Hell no, he was too good to get caught at the shit he did; his game was mad tight. Yet, she left her home, her domain, her position of absolute authority.

William was a woman’s dream—tall, dark, and trained. He possessed the ability to do all domestic house chores, all the handyman chores, all the major electrical and mechanical chores; and besides being able to sew, make patterns, crochet, and garden, he loved pleasing a woman. So what were his faults? Well, he was highly intelligent, he was very secretive, he dreamed too damn big, and he was too damn pleasing to women.

He sat at the desk and sipped from the glass. A sense of loneliness washed over him, making him feel empty. He looked into the glass—ice and brown liquid—not enough to get him drunk, or fill the emptiness. He had not been sleeping well the last three weeks since she left. He missed her, deeply. Hell, he had it so bad he had yet to change her pillowcases. The scent reminded him of her—she felt closer—and provided him with hope of her return. His cell phone rang, he lifted it from out its pouch.


“Hi, Poppy,” said a young woman.

“Hi, baby girl.”

He only called one person by that name, and that was because she would not have it any other way. It was his oldest daughter, Jasmine, and only she solely retained that title. She just turned twenty-two years old and began to explore her sexuality. She stood five-foot-nine; almost as tall as her father. She liked to keep her hair up, her nails long, and she had the lightest skin tone in the family. She would be best described as a smart, sassy, big-boned, big-assed young woman, who has nothing but love for her father.

“Where are you tonight?” he asked.

“I’m out with Jess and Helen. I’ll be spending the night with Helen, unless you need me to come home.” She prayed he’d say no.

“No. No reason for you to come home, I’m okay.”

“Sure, Poppy?”

“Yeah, baby girl. I’m all right. Coming home tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. I might be in late, but there is something I want to watch at nine. So I’ll be home before then. Okay, Poppy?” She prayed he had nothing for her to do.

“Yeah, cool,” William responded.

“Has Ma called you yet?”

“No,” he replied.

“How’re the kids?”

“They’re okay. Everyone’s asleep. Jake will be by in a little bit. So we’ll just sit here and get drunk together, play some music, and talk shit for the rest of the night.”

She chuckled. “Okay, Daddy. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Good night, baby.”

“Good night, Daddy.” She knew he had everything under control.

They disconnected the call. He slid down in the loveseat and took a couple of sips. He spied into his glass, and it was three quarters empty. “Hum. Down. Now that’s a no-no.”

He stood and headed back to the bar. As he reached for the Chivas, the doorbell rang. His heart pounded for a second at the thought—could it be her?—but quickly he realized it should be Jake. He placed the bottle on the counter and headed upstairs. He opened the door. No surprise, it was Jake. They embraced and headed back downstairs.

Jake took off his Yankees baseball cap, tossed it over to the far-end of the sofa, and said, “Hey, drink time.”

“Oh yeah. Pour your own. And bring the bottles over to the table.” William smiled to himself. Finally, he had some company, it had been months since he and his longtime buddy, Jake, had shared any time together.

Jake knew where everything was. And why not? It truly was his second home. He had been a part of William’s life for over fourteen years. They worked the same job for more than seven years. They started about the same time. Jake watched William climb his way up from a company delivery driver to the company’s operations manager. All was going well for William until he stepped in to save Jake from getting fired and from possible imprisonment. Back then, keeping Jake out of trouble was something William had done many times before this last great sacrifice.

William took the blame and confessed to stealing over nineteen thousand dollars of produce. He was fired and was lucky not to have served time. He was sentenced to serve three years probation. To Jake, William was a success story, because he turned his life around. William went back to college, graduated with a masters degree in electrical engineering from NYU, started his own company, made lots of money, bought a modern mansion, and rubbed elbows with the stars, so he thought. Actually, William hosted or leased out the studio to a few of the music industry’s celebrities. But, he primarily corrected, sampled, or created sound recording; produced masters for some of the top recording labels, companies, and soundmen from around the world. Occasionally, he would provide his services to government and local law enforcement agencies.

Oh, and the Pentagon. William had a patent on an invention called “the Filtrex,” a five-year project, which paid off big time. The Filtrex was a box, which could filter out the sound of a roaring disco to hear an ink pen drop and bounce off the floor. The Filtrex had the ability to filter out and focus in on whatever sound one chooses to hear from a recording, tape, disc, or live. William was hoping to make lots of money by selling thousands, millions, but instead he’d only sold twenty.

The Pentagon dropped the ball, and William’s patent was granted before they realized what the plans actually yielded. They stopped the manufacturing for the Filtrex, and for two years, there were threats, court battles, and bullshit harassment techniques used against William. They went as far as labeling William and Yvonne as major drug dealers. They said William murdered three dealers in the Bronx for their drugs. They could not provide any evidence to lay to their claim, so when that did not work, they threatened to have William and his family erased. William informed them that several people had copies of the Filtrex plans and would publish them on the Internet if anything were to happen to his family or to him. They came to an agreement. William could only market the Filtrex in a scaled-down version, and he had to retail that version for an unreasonable one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. And last, a contract and a five-million dollar–a–year grant to perfect the Filtrex where it would be able to pick up sound from great distances in real time, like from a spy plane, or from a satellite out in orbit. William was more than your average man, he was into more than smarts, a career, and money. Unknown to family and friends, he was in bed, sleeping with Uncle Sam. William R. Green was connected and protected.

“Hey? Where is that fine Latino chick Maria?” Jake asked as he placed the bottles and his glass on the large coffee table.

“Gone. Got her check and split,” William said from his seat on the far-end of the sofa as Jake took a seat on the sofa opposite him.

“Damn. That girl looks good. Let me ask you, is that why Yvonne left?” He poured the Absolute Vodka into the glass he held.

“No. She didn’t say she was the problem. Although there was a time she did accuse me of fucking her,” William admitted.

“Have you?” Jake poured in the orange juice.

“No. She’s my housemaid, my babies’ nanny. I don’t fuck people who work for me. They expect more and do less. Thinking they got something over you.”

Jake chuckled. “Actually, I’m not screwing anyone. I told you this crap before. I’m out the game. I don’t have time for all that. I have enough on my plate. No time to be chasing ass,” William confessed.

“Think she’s coming back?” Jake asked.

“Don’t know. Don’t know much of what she does anymore.” William finished his drink, looked into the empty glass and felt his life running in parallel—empty and uncertain. He never fathomed the thought of living without his wife, or her ever having the courage to leave him.

“Maybe that’s why. You weren’t spending any time with her, you bastard. You’re all wrapped up in this shit you do.”

“Naw. I was always available for her and the kids. My time is my own. No, she stopped coming home, she stopped having conversations, she stopped everything . . .”

“Yeah, because she caught your ass fucking somebody. I know. Yvonne loves you, and the only thing that would make her leave you is another bitch. A woman has got to be out of her fucking mind leaving all this shit behind.”

“I’m telling you man, no. I’m cool now. Nothing’s happening outside or inside of this house.” William started to fix another glass.

“William, let me say this. You’re a nice guy, but you’re also a real bastard. Confess you’ve done something. What about those panties?” Jake downed the remaining half glass and joined William in the preparation of another glass for himself.

“That was damn near two years ago,” William stated.

“Yeah, like women forget shit. They love making us guys pay for shit years later in life. They get off on that trick.”

“I don’t know, man.” William leaned back.

“And you still don’t know whose panties they were?” Jake leaned back.

“No idea. That sport jacket sat on that hook over there…” He pointed behind him, at a wall with seven hooks. “…for like three, four days, and people were all in and out of here. Don’t know who she is—”

“Or he,” Jake added.

“Oh shit. Don’t destroy the fantasy.” William paused. “No clue, man. She never revealed herself.” He sipped. “Man, back then, at that time I don’t even know if I would have, but these days, I’m getting backed up.”

“Backed up? You really haven’t been doing anything?” Jake sipped. Knowing the history of William’s whorish ways and past behavior, he was surprised. He would have bet money his friend was operating under the radar.

“No. I’ve been good for a while. I’m talkin’ years. There have been lots of changes in my life. A lot of shorties pushin’ up on me, but I’m tired of all that crap.”

“Yeah, your ass is getting old, that’s all, or finally growing up. Now me, I need the exercise.”

“What, Tam’s not taking care of you?” William asked.

“Man, I’m chasing Tam off me. Shit, you know she’s still asking me to do that.”

“Do what? The booty?” William chuckled.

“Yeah, man.”

“What’s up with that?”

“No.” Jake waved his hand at William.

“Yo. You better take care of your girl. She’s calling. You better hit that before someone else does.”

“Yeah, like you, you bastard.”

“Your girl looks good, but no. That’s okay. I like you, you dumb fuck.”

“I don’t know how you can do that shit. It’s nasty. Putting my dick in someone’s ass. That shit is sick,” Jake declared.

“How the hell would you know, if you’ve never done it?”

“I did it before, and seeing shit all over my dick wasn’t pleasing, or a rewarding sight, let me tell you.”

“You did it wrong. You got caught up in the moment and got nasty. Now if you’re going to do that, you have to prepare.”

“Prepare?” Jake reached for the bottle again. “How the fuck you do that?”

“I told her how. She’s ready for you. She’s going to get tired of that dildo.”

“Yeah, you and your conversations. Ever since that night, she has been getting on my damn nerves.”

“Jake, not for nothing, that’s your lady; take care of her needs and dreams, and she’ll be with you for life.”

“Bullshit. Where’s yours? And I know you took good care of her.”

“Now that’s low, you bitch.” He leaned forward toward the table to mix another drink. Jake’s statement was why William disliked telling people his business; they always threw it back in your face at some point and time. “But you’re right. I did everything I thought I should be doing. I’ve tried to give her all of her desires and still it wasn’t enough.”

“Did you try giving her you?”

“Look who’s talking? Won’t fuck his wife in the ass and you ask me that shit? She always had me. I was always here. Even when I whored around, she came first. I love her Jake. She’s my girl, my friend, my boo. Hell, I like her more than I like you.”

“Something pissed her off. Man, maybe it was that shit on your back.”

William wondered. Could that be the reason for her behavior? No. She couldn’t have a clue to its legion, what it really symbolized. No one knew. He caught a chill. The same cold chill he received when he was looking in the mirror while shaving a week ago. Oh God, was it true? He saw it in the mirror. Could he have been mistaken? Silence reined for a moment, and it wasn’t from the possibility of Yvonne having a clue to the tattoo on his back.

Chapter 2

Yvonne laid in her bath, surrounded in bubbles, speaking long distance on her cell phone. She lifted a leg and ran her fingers along its contour.

She looked at the smooth dark-skinned leg, admired it, and gave silent praises to it. Yes, it was just one of her many assets, one of several twins of beauty. She continued to stare, barely listening to the voice on the other end, but she stayed on cue. “I know girl. You know, I know.” She lowered the leg back into the steam, beneath the bubbles, into the hot water, which suited her comfort. “I love it here in the Bahamas.” She paused to listen to her number one girl for the last twelve years, Vanessa. Their friendship began while they were classmates in the academy for New York City’s Corrections Department. They even served together in the same house—Rose M. Singer on Riker’s Island. Vanessa had always been there to keep Yvonne grounded. She lived through many of the “William sagas,” so much so that it made her head ring with every new episode. “Girl, I gave up so much stuff. I wouldn’t have given William this much for a whole year. . . What? Where? Where haven’t we done it? On the beach, in the bay, under a waterfall, girl, my thang is tired. . . Yeah, but I needed to get away. I had to see if this is what I really want. Robert has been so wonderful to me.”

“Are you leaving William, or what?” Vanessa asked.

“I don’t know. William said he would fight for the kids. He said he would never let them go,” Yvonne replied.

“Eve, do you still love Will?”

“Yeah, I still love him. It’s not the love; it’s just all of the bullshit. I can’t compete with his life, his love, his sex—”

“Compete! Yvonne, why would you want to compete with your husband?”

“Not compete. I don’t know. I’ve been through so much with him. I can’t trust him. Whenever he’s out, I’m wondering if he’s fuckin some bitch. Will I find another pair of dirty, smelly, funky lookin’ pair of panties in another sport jacket pocket? All the phone numbers he has, all the phone calls he receives. It drives me crazy. I can’t.” Her right foot vibrated vigorously, causing ripples in the water. “I just can’t do it anymore. I’m not beating bitches down no more.

I’m not fighting for him anymore. It was always me out there actin’ a fool,

damn near losing my job chasing behind his ass. Not once, not once has he ever fought over me. He’s a punk. Robert called him out. Robert told him—no badge, no gun, no department, just them two—and he just walked away. No, Vee, no. Staying out for days at a time, not calling home, not telling me where he’s been. It’s too much for too long. It’s my turn. If he was a real man, he

would fight for me. He would be here. He would make me feel like the queen that I am. Like I’m the only woman on this earth. Instead, I try to measure up to him, to understand him. He’s too much for me. Hell, I can’t even fuck him right. I don’t please him, the fuckin’ bastard. I don’t want to talk about him no more. Switch gears, or hang up,” Yvonne pouted.

“You guys have been together for twenty-five years. There should be a lot of history, which is good and bad. And as far as it goes for Mr. Asshole calling someone out, William showed a lot of character. Your man doesn’t have to do the Neanderthal thing to prove shit to anyone. You’re just tripping, girl. You drive a new sport Lexus, with all the latest gadgets, all paid for; and your money is your own, girl, humph. You have a big beautiful remodeled home, with beaucoup land and a giant pool. Living like rich white folks, and here you are chasing after a dick that got caught in your web. Humph. You trippin’, Alice, and you’re stuck in Wonderland. You better wake the fuck up, get off the soapbox, and stop playing yourself.”

“If he’s that wonderful, why don’t you take him?”

“Eve, I’m trying to find one just like him. I need one of those. He can fuck every bitch in Cali for all I care. Shit just take care of me—and mine—and don’t bring me home no diseases. Look, I’ll talk to you later. I gotta go. We’ll talk when you get back.”

“I won’t be looking for you.” She pressed a button and ended the call. She placed the phone on the floor, feeling betrayed. As she lifted her hand off the phone, it rang. She picked the phone up and peeked at the caller information. She read Vanessa Steward on the screen. She pressed the power button, and the unit shut off. Tears rushed from their ducts. How could Vanessa say she was tripping? This wasn’t a thousand years ago where a woman had no choice but to live through her husband’s bullshit: She doesn’t know about all the BS I’ve gone through with this bastard. He got everyone fooled—my family, his family, and now even my best friend. How the fuck can she say such a thing? Well, she was my best friend. I know she doesn’t really care for Robert much, but still she should be happy for me being happy.

I’m happy, damn. And even my sister’s gonna tell me dump Robert and grow up. I didn’t say that shit to her when she was messing around with Curtis. What the fuck was her man doing for her at the time? Not a

damn thing. Fuck ’em all, ’cause I ain’t trippin’.

She placed the warm bath cloth behind her neck to ease the tension that was building from the thoughts of family and friends’ opinions toward her affair. She sighed because not one of them rode her emotional roller coaster when William’s shit was stinking, like the one time a number of years back:

William’s pager sounded as it lay on his night table. Yvonne stepped out from the bathroom into the bedroom and stared at it crimping its alert signal. He must have forgotten it; he never left the house without it, not even when he made a quick run to the store. His pager and cell phone always made the run with him. But not this time. Oh, he was in a hurry this night, so much so that he messed up. Yvonne walked up to the noise box. She watched it, and wrestled with the thought to view the returned number. Besides, it could be important, it would have to be someone from the job with an emergency; it was the job’s pager. William was in charge of the entire transportation department—maybe someone had broken down, or worse, had gotten into an accident—so she convinced herself she was obligated to view the number and return the call, you know, to take a message or something.

Each number she dialed, she knew a woman would answer on the other end, and if so, then she would play stupid and pretend she called the wrong number by mistake. The phone rang, a woman answered.

“Hey,” the woman said in a voice that was soft, low, and sexy as hell.

“Hey my ass, and when he gets there tell him the game is over, bitch,” replied Yvonne.

“Excuse me?”

“What about this you ain’t getting? Get a quick piece, ‘cause it’s your last, and send him home to face the music.” Yvonne paced.

“I think you have the wrong number, or something, your man ain’t here. But I do suggest you get a leash and some skills if you want to keep him home.”

“Bitch, I’ll fuck you up!” Yvonne screamed.

“No, bitch, you better fuck your man up, all right? ‘Cause this way he won’t be sniffing around every other woman’s


“Yeah, talk that shit over the phone,” said Yvonne.

“What! You wanna step to this, bitch?”

“Yeah, where you at, ain’t no fear in my heart, bitch. I got some skills for that ass, alright,” Yvonne declared. “You wanna know where I’m at? You better ask somebody.”

“Yeah, well, so just for you to know, when you go down on him tonight keep this in mind, I just got off of it, you nasty, tricky ass hoe.”

Yvonne slammed the phone down on its base. “Bitch!” She turned and threw the pager against the wall. “I’m gonna kick his fuckin’ ass. No more, no more, no more. I ain’t takin’ this shit no more.” The phone rang.

She sighed deeply and tried to focus on the last few days, sorting through the highlights with Robert. She wanted to validate her declaration of happiness. She could only focus on the sex; it was wild and uninhibited. She hasn’t been sleeping well the last few days. Unlike when she was with William, where she would place her feet on his thighs, Robert disliked the entanglement. She’d envisioned William rubbing her tired feet, patting her bottom, and sending her off to sleepy land. She would wait for William to get in bed, where she could assume her usual position, her butt pressed against his extremely warm body; she just hated her butt to be cold.

Yeah, William was sweet like that. He would draw her bath when she dragged herself through the door, prepared her dinner, fluffed her pillows, and sprayed down her side of the bed with her favorite perfume, Trésor. But he stopped pampering her about a year ago. That was when the arguing started all over again. They’d moved into their new home and filled the place with love. Three years ago, William felt she wasn’t being faithful, and at first, he ignored the itch. But after she found the panties in his sport jacket, she grew cold, and he became slightly insecure. She just couldn’t trust him; he would always do something stupid to violate that trust. She figured he must have screwed her in the house, downstairs, somewhere. She figured the woman was one of those nasty, treacherous bitches. One that had the nerve to leave her calling card to let the wife know just what took place under her nose. Well, fuck her, and fuck him too. She wasn’t going to sit around and cry over him anymore. Robert had been more than deserving of her love. If William wasn’t so damn evil, she would have been packed her bags, but she knew he would give her pure hell and not a moment peace. He told her many times that even if he died, he would visit her often and scare the shit out of all her lovers whenever she tried to get a piece. Now if that wasn’t evil, what was?

William didn’t have anyone fooled. Everyone who knew him knew he had a nasty side because he was so damn sweet and kind and, to add, he looked mean. William would go out of his way to help and please everyone, which was one of the many things that pissed her off. He would be so damn nice it made her look like the evil one when she put her foot down; she couldn’t compete with his kindness. She would come home so drained it took days for her to reenergize, and making love to him was a chore. He wanted it in different positions, lots of foreplay, and for as long as possible, but twenty minutes to a half hour was all she could muster. She felt she wasn’t pleasing him and he was faking his satisfaction. She felt she couldn’t compete with his freaky behind, because she was a simple and an easy-to-please type of woman. A little went a long way, and the standard missionary position couldn’t be more perfect, unless she wanted topside. She sank deeper into the oversized tub and closed her eyes. The door opened, and a yellow-skinned well-built man walked in. He stood about five-foot-nine and was wide—her black Arnold Schwarzenegger, as she so often referred to him. Even in his long white robe, one could tell he had the body of life. What one couldn’t see was he had an ego to match. An ego that never backed down, never stepped off, never let anything go unchecked. His body made men fear him, and his strength crashed those that should have. He didn’t know fear and didn’t know how to dismiss a challenge. His timing was on cue; she was going to prove to those nonbelievers she wasn’t trippin’.

“Are you all right in here? You’ve been away for so long,” he said in a semi-deep voice as he stood inside just beyond the doorway.

She looked up at him, his bold figure pushed aside the images of William and for a moment, she became numb. She wiped her face with her bath cloth and raised herself to stand. “Sure. Come here, baby.”

He complied. He stood before her. She climbed up his robe to kiss him while untying the belt as she rose to his face. The belt fell to the floor. She kissed his neck and nibbled on his bottom lip. Then she licked her way over to his left earlobe, she suckled, she licked inside, and blew her hot air softly. His breathing picked up immensely as she licked and sucked on his nipples, while massaging his manhood. He rubbed and massaged her shoulders when she kneeled to please him. She watched his member’s reactions as her tongue circled its head. She loved making it hard; she got a kick watching, feeling it inflate inside her mouth. He was feeling it; he began to moan as her tongue danced up and down upon him. He was breathing heavier as she deeply swallowed him. She felt the blood flowing to her diamond, her juices warming her insides; and he watched her magic act with his penis of now you see it, now you don’t. He cried out loudly; she took him in deeper, and deeper. A depth she never considered with William. Actually, she never went down on William unless she was nearing the point of her own orgasm. But here with this man, she drew on him, out of her sheer willfulness to please him. She wasn’t herself, and she knew she wasn’t herself. She was free. Free of William, free of his spell. She had a will of her own, a soul that chose to be different. Free to explore, a soul that was free to be other than itself. A soul, which scared her for it was uncontrollable, fearless, and sinful. She didn’t know if it was the man before her, or an inner being exercising her right to exist. Yet right there, for that minute, she welcomed her for the change, if nothing else.

Chapter 3

Hell, William knew why Yvonne left, he just wasn’t telling anyone. He was private like that. Besides, if he told anyone the truth, then he would have to tell all the facts, like what he saw in the mirror. That image scared him more than any event in his entire life. He refused to think about it and pushed the thought back through the door from which it came and returned to the conversation at hand.

“No. I don’t think so. You know it’s finished,” he stated.

“What’s finished?” Jake asked while he rubbed his belly and realized he can go for a little something to eat.

“My back. It’s done.”

“Yeah, let me see. It took long enough. It’s been what, two years?”

“Yeah, about that long.”

“How did they do that shit around your bullet holes?”

“The scars are just about gone. My guy didn’t have a problem at all.” William stood, walked over to the desk behind the sofa, opened a drawer, and pulled out eight compact discs. Four of the discs contained his memoirs of his last twenty-five years; the other four had music that was backdrops to his spoken words. His memoirs told of all his secrets, truth, lies, never to be mentioned secrets he’d lived with his whole life. They contained information about Yvonne and the other women—Dana, Joann, and Andréa.

He walked back around the sofa, seated himself, and handed Jake the discs. “These eight discs are about a portion of my life, the life you don’t know about, as well as about the meaning of the things on my back. Now, Jake, what I’m going to tell you is some off-the-wall shit.”

“What are you talking’ about?” Jake asked while he stared down at the discs, each one labeled The Unicorns followed by a subtitle.

“Just listen, will ya? Now you think you know all there is to know about me. We’ve been friends for what, about fourteen years or so? But you don’t know everything, like who I am, what I am, or about all the things I have done in my life. So get two fresh bottles of spirits, your juice, me a soda, and the bucket of chicken from the microwave, ‘cause I’m going to tell you something that will blow your mind, and I really want you to listen. Someone should know about this, and I love you, man. So you’re elected.”

Jake stood up. “Shit. I got to hear this. What is it? You’re some spy, working undercover, or some shit?” He walked behind the bar and began to retrieve the items. “You have to go back to Russia to be with your fourteen kids and fat wife?”

They laughed.

“No, but close.” William rose to his feet when Jake placed the items onto the coffee table, and started to take off his shirt.

“I don’t have any dollars, so don’t dance,” Jake said.

“I won’t, besides you’re a lousy tipper.” William turned his back toward Jake. There were no words for a moment. Jake just stared at a mural that stared back at him. “Look closely,” said William.

“I’m looking…”

After a moment passed, William turned around to face Jake, sat, and mixed a fresh glass of his tonic. “Those CDs, along with my tattoo, tell my life.”

Jake was speechless. He tried to make sense of what he’d seen. “Yeah, yeah, you told me that. Man, there’s a lot of shit on your back.”

“There’s a lot of shit on those discs. They tell the events of what took place in my life. There was so much happening to me, I could no longer keep the pieces together. What you’ve seen on my back showed my babies, Yvonne, my lovers, and the lives I took.”

Jake stared at William dazed, as a chill froze him in place. “Wait, wait. I don’t know if I should hear this. It’s, I mean . . .” Jake stood, shook his head, and placed the discs onto the coffee table.

“Jake, stop bitching and listen.” William turned around, exposing his back once again. “The large unicorn with its head superimposed within the moon is me. The ones on the clouds beneath me are my family—Yvonne, Jasmine, Jayson, Jernece, and Jerliner. On the cloud underneath them, off to the right side, the four smaller unicorns are four women whom I shared past lives with and have loved. These four women still exist in my life today. Now the seven angels that’s spaced out beneath them, from one side to the other, are the seven times I neared death and will come near death.”

Jake sat down, leaned back, and said, “What’s this shit? Who are the women? Do I know them?”

“No. I never spoke of them to you. They were in my past life. No, that’s not correct. They are a part of my original existence. I also know them by their true names—Love, Sunshine, Xzavia, and the fourth one I’m still not sure of.”

“Hum, your original existence. How much of these bottles have you had?”

“You want to hear this or not?”

“I’m thinkin’. And what about the skulls?”

“The skulls and skeletons are the lives I’ve taken and will take.”

“Woo! Hold up.” Jake stood up and walked to the counter, not sure if he really wanted to hear this. How in the world could this man he’d known for so long take a person’s life when he’d so strongly believed only God reserved that right. “Who the fuck you killed?” William turned around to face him, not sure if he was ready to reveal this secret. “Well, speak. Say something,” Jake demanded.

“Can I finish? Thank you. The rocks that quarry around the lake are all the women that I’ve sexed. The water is my blood. The hand holding the sword above the water is the hand of someone or something, I don’t know. And the sword is the sword that was given to me by Yvonne—my favorite Black Katana Samurai sword. Hum, it reminds me of the Lady in the Sea and the sword Excalibur. The water flows and breaks into a waterfall. Now the large skull at the bottom center of the waterfall is me again. The reason why the water stops at the top of the skull is—well, it marks my death. Beneath the skull, the colors red and orange at the bottom represent the blood of man and a fire unleashed on earth. He brought the flame up to look like a bird or something underneath the skull’s chin. I have no clue as to why the guy placed it there, but it looks cool. Lastly, once again, the seven skeletons you see scattered everywhere, upon the rocks and beach, are the lives I’ve taken, or will take. Any questions?”

“Do I have to ask again? What are you telling me here? Explain this shit!” Once again, Jake demanded an explanation.

“Explain which part?”

“Don’t get stupid. Explain it all. I don’t understand. I’ve known you for more than fourteen years, and I never witnessed this. Oh yeah, a few women, but those are a hell of a lot of rocks!”

“Three hundred and nine was all I could manage to add up to.”

“Shut up. You hate violence. How the fuck you manage to kill someone? Who the fuck is these four women? What is this shit, Will?”

The light brown-skinned, five-foot-eight, fifty-one-year-old; Jake believed he knew William. Thoughts bounced around his slightly salt-and-pepper head. They were like brothers. William wasn’t the type to commit murder. He was too kind to take a life. Sure, as long as he knew him, he knew he was a whore, but a murderer? Hell no. The man loved nature, animals, and freedom. He took everyone at his or her word. In fact, he took William to be a bit gullible and too damn generous. Who was he? For the first time in fourteen years,

the man before him, the man he would call brother, said something he didn’t understand. They had the same interests in common like music, women, basketball, handball, tennis, women, partying, the studio, singing, and the women. A cold chill sprinted from his head to his toes.

Is this why she left his ass? Did she also come to find that this man she was sleeping with is a murderer? That he’s been lying to everyone? Damn, how long? Shit, is he a nut? She’s a cop, how could she live under the same roof with this man? Or worse, did she find out all this and he got rid of her too? Jake wondered.

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