UNIQUE III (The Epitome of Balling)
The party, hands down, was the hottest ticket in the city tonight.
So hot that an underground bootlegger inked fifty additional invites, identical to the real thing, and put them up on the Net and made them available to the highest bidders, who were not privileged enough to get on the guest list. The knock-offs started at $2,500 a pop...and were gone less than an hour after hitting the black market. Took wasn't going to miss this for anything in the world. He was determined to get to the party and it was nothing but God's grace and mercy that he managed to stumble upon one of the fakes. The bogus invite set him back five Gs. Then he forked out another G for the black-and-white mandatory monkey suit and another $800 for the Ferragamo shoes to match his tux. He didn't complain one bit; it was the best seven thousand dollars he'd spent in a real long time. But this was one shindig he wasn't going to miss it.
Took stood in the corner and took it all in. Roulette, slot machines, blackjack, and crap tables transformed the Icon Club into a swanky high-roller casino. Reveling among the timeless games of chance--rubbing elbows and $1,000 chips--were a combination of entrepreneurs, athletes, entertainers, and hustlers donned in tailored tuxedos at the black-tie affair. The gorgeous honeys, in full hunt mode, armed with big smiles and even bigger butts and short dresses, outnumbered their counterparts by at least two-to-one.
Took smiled and shook his head in approval. As much as he might've wanted to, he couldn't deny or hate for one second that the hostess of this elaborate celebration had definitely done an opulently fantastic job on laying out the platinum carpet for the guest of honor, who happened to be her newly married husband and renowned boxing promoter Kennard DuVall.
Took didn't know the man from Adam but he sized him up anyway. He took another sip of his drink and checked out the birthday boy from head to toe as DuVall made his way around the room greeting his guests. Tonight was definitely his night and Took had to give it up for the dude he didn't half step. The invitation had said to come formally dressed to impress and the invitees followed the directions well. However, DuVall was definitely suited and booted in a way that nobody could steal his shine.
Took had to give credit where credit was due: Kennard was clean as hell and wearing a custom-made purple velvet tuxedo. It could have ended up like Prince in Purple Rain but Kennard pulled it off, with a bow tie, and cummerbund to match. He nailed the ensemble together with some custom gator-and-ostrich-skinned shoes with different shades of purple that blended perfectly.
Before coming, Took had done his research after receiving the letter about Unique from his source, Fat Tee, and for once, he found that the no-good cocksucker wasn't exaggerating. In fact, Took had come across a Forbes magazine piece that estimated Kennard's earnings for the last year at $150 million. Whether in the streets or while doing a media interview, whenever Kennard was asked if Forbes's numbers were correct, his answer was always the same: "It doesn't matter. Regardless of what a person earns, if he spends more than he makes he's guaranteed to go broke."
Then he would grace them with his trademark smile. And whoever had asked the nosy-ass question in the first place would smile along with him.
Really? What did they think he would say?
Hell, Kennard was born a product of Harlem U.S.A. Raised in the streets among the rest of the rats. And in the streets, he was taught that a man who went around spouting off about what type of chips he stacked was nothing more than a clown that wanted people to believe that he was something he wasn't. But Took wasn't mad he gave the interviewer the old brush-off; he knew that when a true hustler stacked more cake than anyone could even imagine, he kept it to himself. That's what made Took get his shit right and make his way to the big city to get up close and personal, to see if it was all fluff and talk. And Took observed that Kennard was definitely the real deal holyfield.
It was DuVall's thirty-sixth birthday and Took was surprised that Kennard's new wife, Unique, had every single detail was in place. Between the many ice sculptures, the beautiful flowers all strategically placed around the room, the models strutting around in body paint, and the drinks constantly flowing, she had done it up for her husband. And since she was now a chef and had recently opened up her own restaurant, one that Kennard had given her for a wedding present, she didn't cut corners when it came to the food. Before he left, Took intended on trying out every one of the gourmet food stations prepared by chefs from all around the world, which were set up throughout the club. Damn right he was going to get every dollar's worth that he had invested in this trip.
As he stood off near the huge ice sculpture and surveyed the room, he locked eyes with a big, light skinned guy that looked kind of familiar to him. The world was small, but Took knew that none of the folks he rolled with, ran in the same circles as Kennard. So, he quickly dismissed him as one of Kennard's celebrity friends' security detail.
After someone whispered something in the big guy's ear and he walked off into the crowd, dude became an afterthought. Took accepted another drink off of the tray of the waitress passing by thought about what he had invested, it was a small amount of money to get exactly what he wanted. There was only one problem: he still wasn't sure exactly what he wanted from Unique.
The relationship Took and Unique had shared in the past, so many years ago, had been...eventful.
In the beginning, they had been like Bonnie and Clyde--ride or die, living out life like the Tupac song, he and she against the world. Back then, the Unique he knew was as shiesty as she was beautiful as they came, two lethal characteristics that had attracted him to her. Took often wondered if they would've still been together at this moment if she hadn't quit taking his calls after he got pinched by the police and sent to prison and then had blown through every single penny of the eighty Gs he had left with her. At that time it was all the paper Took had to his name, and the most fucked-up part of it was that he could have left it with his mother or grandmother for safe-keeping, but he didn't think twice about trusting his girl. When the money was gone...Unique was gone, was the chant with which his cellies would tease him.
After Unique stopped taking his calls, all he had left was time.
Time to plan.
This was one instance when time didn't heal his wounds, heart, or ego.
"May I help you with a drink, hon?'"
The chick with the long sexy eyelashes and a tray of crystal flutes filled with yellow-colored bubbly got his attention. Took looked her over from head to toe--the woman looked too good to be serving drinks. He was familiar with her kind. It was clear she was simply playing her position as a barmaid until a better one presented itself, one that she could take advantage of.
"Sure." Took gloved one of the flutes from the tray, and offered the server a smile, looked her over again, and said "Thanks" before taking a sip of the bubbly. The provocative sway of the server's hips as she sashayed off was her way of saying, "You're welcome."
Took watched from across the room as his ex-girlfriend Unique engaged with her guests. She was dressed in a long, elegant, form-fitting purple backless gown made out of the same material as Kennard's tux. She had definitely evolved, but still had her same walk though she had grown into a more beautiful woman.
His feelings for Unique were bittersweet. In one way, he despised her for always being able to survive, with or without his help. In another way, one that he'd never admit to anyone, he was proud of her, of what she'd become and how she had taken a busted hand and turned it into a straight flush. That was one of the things he always loved about her--she knew how to take nothing and turn it into something. She knew how to play the game and knew the right buttons to touch with any men. To feed his own ego, he took credit for Unique being the beautiful, freaky, charismatic, could-hook-a-steak-up, good-pussy-having, bad bitch that she was today and had always been. Damn, I always knew how to pick 'em. He said wanting to give himself a pat on the back.
The promotional campaign that the makers of Virginia Slims cigarettes used to push their cancer sticks was, "You've come a long way, baby." This certainly fit the little bull-headed, cat-eyed girl that just happened to be born and bred in the city of Richmond, Virginia.
Took was still in awe of how everything had turned out for Unique. He reflected on the letters he had written her many years ago from jail and about the rumors he would hear about her messing with two-bit hustlers, who didn't measure up to half of who he was, to get what she needed to get by after she had run through his money. He recollected how he would tell her, "If you're going to leave me, make sure you take a step up with somebody above my level but never a step down." And all these years he thought he was talking to deaf ears, this proved that she must have been listening...as much as he didn't want to admit, Kennard was definitely a step up.
Kennard was only a few feet away from him and Took decided to move in closer to ear hustle a little more but couldn't help studying the man.
Kennard walked over to a guy, the size of a tank, standing over one of the three crap tables, tossing ivory bones.
The Tank shouted, "Nina Ross!" in search of a nine on the dice, as he scooted the bones down the length of the red felt lined-gaming tables. The bones, either they not hearing him or not taking requests, stopped on seven.
When the house man barked out, "Loser!" The Tank cringed.
"Next shooter," said the houseman.
Before The Tank could place another bet, Kennard tapped him on the shoulder. The Tank spun around with the grace of a dancer. The ease with which he moved seemed odd for a man of his size.
Kennard--no small dude himself--stood at least four inches shorter and was considerably lighter in mass and muscle.
"Let me rap with you for a second," he said with a swag that made it clear who the real "Big Man" in the room was.... And it wasn't The Tank.
That's when Took noticed for the first time that The Tank was actually former heavy weight boxing champion of the world, Billy "Grimm-Reaper" Jones. Boxers had literally fought for their lives when they got into the square with him.
Apparently not in the mood for talking, Grimm-Reaper asked, "Can it wait? I'm behind right now," which was the story of his life.
It was widely known that Billy Jones gambled compulsively--just one of the many bad habits he possessed.
Shaking his head, Kennard said, "No Grimm, it can't wait." Then he paused and asked, "Unless you want to throw away a chance of a lifetime, for the second time in your life?"
Kennard had invested a lot of bread in resurrecting the ex-champion's career, and didn't intend to allow his investment to fall by the wayside.
"So, you got everything ironed out with the purse. Man, Kennard my money still fucked up, in the worst way. I'm going to need an advance on that purse."
"You already pawned off half of your purse thus man. However I'm going to see if I can get you a few dollars to hold you over. You need to fall back from the tables, booze and women." Kennard firmly said in put emphasis, "but most importantly you need to get your ass back to camp first thing Monday morning."
"Yes, I will. On the first thing smoking after I swing by your office to get check and get it to the bank. Matter fact, I hate to ask you on your birthday--but you got a couple of stacks on you I can hold until I get that loot from you on Monday?"
Took read Kennard's expression and it said that, nigga you got to be out yo mind, you begging for presents on my birthday. But he kept his composure, afterall it was business, and said, "see me before you leave."
As Kennard finished his lightweight conversation with the heavyweight, he walked off and made his way over to another fella that Took had no idea who he was either but he soon eased his way over to find out. In the midst of playing his position he couldn't seem to keep his eyes off of Unique who was now having a conversation with another beautiful woman, who looked to be a friend. As soon as the other lady walked off, Unique took a glass off of the waitress tray, sipped a little of the bubbly and started to overlooking the room, making sure everything was intact.
Took caught himself staring at Unique and when she had made eye contact with him, he could see how her entire facial expression and body language changed. She looked like she was about to either faint or shit a brick. He knew she couldn't believe her eyes, and he smiled at the priceless look on her face. He lifted his glass to her and she sashayed off quickly toward her husband.
Took was entertained and was ready for whatever was about to go down. He was prepared for security to throw him out or for Unique to approach him and make a scene. To keep his composure, he redirected his attention to the two up-and-coming boxers across the room who were verbally sparring, using words as if they were sticks of dynamite, as to which one had dibs on a certain young lady's assets. Thick in all the right places, the brick house they were arguing over seemed more than willing to share her talents with the highest bidder. In a field this loaded with bad bitches, her talents, whatever they were, of a title fight because it seemed like it was about to go down.
"Nigga, she don't want you," Thunderbolt said. "Get that through your skull."
"And she damn sure don't want your herpes-carrying ass," Tee-Quick said.
Thunderbolt, who was wearing a cream-colored double-breasted suit and a dub hat, smiled before he spoke. "Well, if I got herpes, then so do you. 'Cause everything she done did to you, she done did to me and my homeboy a hundred times over. So, we all better go get tested." He took a pull of his cigar--that's real talk.
As Unique made her way across the room, he moved so she lost sight of him but he was still close enough to be in earshot of Kennard to hear whatever it was that Unique was going to say to Kennard. Wonder what she gonna conjure up to tell this nigga? Took wondered, trying to humor himself.
As she approached Kennard, Took took another sip of his drink, and thought, This shit right here is about to get good.
"John, have I introduced you to my beautiful wife, Unique?" Kennard asked the fella he was talking to, while grabbing her hand.
"Damn." There was a pause as the man checked her out. "I mean, no, you haven't." John's eyes were glued to Unique. Took watched as the guy undressed Unique with his eyeballs, then listened as he tried to stroke Kennard's ego. "You were too busy trying to further blow up your already morbidly obese bank account. But I now see why."
"Put your tongue back in your face before I snatch that motherfucker out." Kennard said it jokingly, but was dead serious. Then he turned back to Unique. "Baby, this googly-eyed clown's name is John Bookerman. If I can get him to stop counting my chips and staring at my wife, I think we could get some business done."
She smiled at Kennard, but Took knew that was her way of trying all she knew how to hide that something was indeed wrong, and it made Took feel good that Kennard couldn't see beyond Unique's poker face. Maybe they weren't as madly in love as they portrayed to the world, Took thought to himself.
"Nice to meet you, John. I'm sure you guys will work it all out," she said curtly. "But, do you mind if I steal my husband for a second?"
"Take a couple of minutes if you need to," said John. "That husband of yours could talk an angel out of his only pair of wings. I can use a few minutes to regroup from his tough negotiations." John took a swallow of his drink and walked away. Took rolled his eyes at John who peeped Took ear hustling. Get off that nigga dick, he said under his breath to John, but the man kept it moving and tried to catch up with a Miss America chick. It was annoying the hell out of Took that he couldn't recall her name. But he wasn't going to get distracted with John and the beauty queen--he wanted to hear the convo at hand.
"What's going, baby?" Kennard looked into her eyes and Took knew the way he held her in his arms that it was apparent that DuVall could finally sense that something had to be really bothering Unique, especially for her to chase the paper away. "Are you okay?"
Before Unique could answer, someone screamed out, "Fight!"
Together, Unique and Kennard watched as everyone started gathering near the smoked glass of the VIP suite, to look at the floor below. Unique and Kennard, reflexively, didn't join the crowd, as they tried to figure out what was happening. Kennard wasn't overly concerned since he'd hired enough security, bouncers, and off-duty police officers to protect Obama if the brother had wanted to attend. He still put his arms around his wife as if he were going to protect her above everything else.
"It's Thunderbolt and Tee-Quick," somebody said.
"I got a thou on Tee-Quick," said another guest.
"Make it five and you got a bet."
"I bet they're rumbling over that gold-digging bitch, Pinky," John said, as he walked up to Kennard.
"They couldn't save that shit for the ring?" Kennard shot back as he went for a look.
"Yeah, that bitch been going between the two of them for years now. Dealing with whoever holding the biggest purse. I thought the niggas had accepted that she comes with the belt--whoever wins is who she is with," John joked.
"Unbelievable," Kennard said. He couldn't believe what he was hearing with the side betting or seeing down below. After all, Tee-Quick was one of his fighters. While he was trying to make the deal with John for those two fools to go at it in the ring on pay-per-view for $40 million, they were brawling it out in the middle of the club, becoming the entertainment for his birthday party. "These some stupid-ass niggas. I can understand the Patrón may have them a little riled up, but this stinking broad, Pinky?" That pissed Kennard off.
The woman with pink hair and a body like a superhero looked back and forth, saying, "Fellas, stop it," as she tried to calm them both down but the look in her eyes said that she was loving every minute of the two prizefighters arguing about her.
Amid all the commotion, Took slipped away...like a ghost.
UNIQUE III Copyright © 2012 by Nikki Turner