PART 1: 10 years ago
Doctor Cruz placed his thick lips to the rim of the porcelain mug and took a quick sip. “The hotter, the better in this damned deep-freezer you call a laboratory.”
“It’s going to get much hotter in here in a minute,” Yemi said as she smiled, knowingly, at her team. “How’s your Chai?”
Doctor Cruz closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. The tea smelled pleasantly of cinnamon, vanilla, honey and cardamom. He took another sip. “Tastes good, I think. My taste buds are too cold for adequate critique.”
Everyone laughed. Yemi raised her wrist to her face and squinted at the hands of her watch. “Red should be waking up any minute now.”
A high pitched, electric chant rose from the storage room at the rear of the lab.
Charles, the electrical engineer on Yemi’s team, shook his bald head. “Voodoo Child. It’s always Voodoo Child.”
Red shambled out of the storage room. His long, kinky locks danced upon his shoulders as he threw back his head in ecstasy and worked his wizardry upon the strings of his guitar. The ivory guitar looked to Yemi like an axe of bone. An axe, wielded by a master woodsman.
“Well, I’ll stand up next to a mountain and chop it down with the edge of my hand.”
Dr. Cruz pulled at the collar of his sweater. “Is the tea making me so warm?” He said to himself. He looked around the laboratory. Everyone was unzipping their parkas. Dr. Cruz quickly unbuttoned his wool trench-coat. “I’ll be damned!”
Yemi smiled and patted Dr. Cruz on the shoulder.
Dr. Cruz stared, wide-eyed, at Red as he sang and continued to play. “You guys have done it!”
The team’s thermodynamics expert, Paige, rose from her chair and waved her sinewy arm towards Red’s guitar. “Dr. Cruz, we present to you…the Thermophone!” Paige took a deep bow. Everyone applauded. Red bit his bottom lip as he hit a hard-rock double crescendo.
Dr. Cruz joined in the applause. Red slowly opened his eyes. “Warm enough for ya’, Doc?”
Dr. Cruz leaped from his seat, wrapped his arms around Red’s shoulders and squeezed. “Son, you just made history!” Tears welled up in the corners of his eyes as he stood before the triumphant team. “You all have just made history!”
“We couldn’t have done it without the financial backing of Cruzcorp.” Yemi said.
“Yeah,” Red agreed. “Now, maybe Yemi can relax, settle down and have me some babies.”
Yemi laughed and shook her head. “We can’t raise babies in that storage room, Red.”
The lab erupted in laughter.
“Hey, my little condo beats that tent on Lower Wacker I used to call home.” Red replied.
“Dr. Cruz’s mouth fell wide open. “You’re homeless, Red?”
Red shook his head. “I refer to my present situation as ‘residenceless’. Home is where the heart is.”
Yemi rose from her swivel chair. “With your permission, Dr. Cruz, let’s continue this demonstration.”
“Please, do, Dr. Falana.” Dr. Cruz replied.
Yemi turned to her audio engineer, Trina, who was sitting at her mixing board. “Trina?”
“The Thermophone – as we call it – absorbs externally generated sound, and then transduces the sonic vibrations into heat,” Trina began. “The stronger the sonic vibrations – meaning the louder the sound – the greater the heat it generates.”
Trina began deftly pushing levers and pressing buttons on the mixing board. A large amplifier, which sat in the corner of the laboratory, popped and hummed. Trina nodded at Red. “The guitar is now calibrated to the amplifier’s wireless frequency.”
Red climbed up onto a desk, pushed the papers on the desk onto the floor with his feet and assumed a wide-legged stance.
Charles checked the thermometer at his terminal. “The temperature is now sixty-two degrees Fahrenheit,” Charles turned a dial beneath the thermometer. “I’m reducing the temperature to fifty degrees Fahrenheit…thirty seven degrees…button up everybody…twenty degrees…six…four below zero…we are now congruent with the external temperature of negative twelve degrees Fahrenheit.”
“It’s all yours, Red!” Paige yelled.
Red closed his eyes and gently caressed the sleek body of his guitar. “C’mon, Pearline,” he whispered seductively.
Red lovingly stroked Pearline’s strings until she moaned her approval.
“Whoa,” Dr. Cruz quickly unbuttoned his coat and tossed it to the floor. He turned to Yemi, who’s removed her parka as she closed her eyes and enjoyed the music. “What is that he’s playing, Dr. Falana?”
“Maggot Brain.” Yemi replied.
“Strange name for such a beautiful song.”
“Not so strange. Put maggots on a wound and they will eat the decay and filth, leaving clean, healthy flesh. This song, played by a master guitarist like Red, does the same for the brain of the listener.”
“Interesting. It is quite cathartic. Who came up with such a brilliant idea for a song? Bach? Dylan? John Lennon, perhaps?”
Yemi laughed and shook her head. “George Clinton and Eddie Hazel of Parliament-Funkadelic.”
Dr. Cruz turned away from Yemi. His face had turned from dark olive to beet red. “Okay, back to the experiment.”
Pearline’s moans and lamentations faded to a whisper. Sweat poured from Red’s mahogany forehead and down his cheeks. Red leaped from the desk. Yemi rushed to him and snatched the down-filled jacket from around his shoulders.
Charles looked at the thermometer. “Seventy-eight degrees. One more bar and we should reach a hundred degrees.”
Red resumed playing “Maggot Brain”. Pearline’s whispers increased to ecstatic cries.
The room grew very hot.
Dr. Cruz wiped the sweat from his neck with his hand.
Suddenly, Pearline’s cries died, as if cold hands had encircled her throat and cruelly squeezed. The track lights popped and the equipment coughed and then…darkness…and silence.
“Damn it! Trina groaned.
“Coats on everyone,” Yemi ordered. “The generator should kick-in in just a second and we’ll commence with the demonstration.”
Minutes ticked by. The temperature plummeted.
“That generator’s a no-go,” Charles said. “Come on, Paige. Let’s go check it out while we still have daylight. More likely than not, the snow knocked a power line down and the generator probably just needs some oil.”
Paige slid on her mittens as Charles pushed open the heavy, steel door. A rush of cold wind and snow slapped him in the face. “Let’s make this quick,” he said. “It’s getting nasty out there.”
Paige and Charles trudged out into the uncompromising Chicago winter.
Heavy flakes of snow and marble-sized hailstones pummeled Paige and Charles as they struggled towards the alley behind the laboratory. A high-pitched whistling pierced the baritone howl of the wind. “What the hell?” Paige said, as she looked skyward towards the conspicuous whistling. Suddenly, a massive, shimmering cube came into view above her.
“Shit,” was all she could manage to scream before the immense block of ice crushed her under its tremendous weight. The Buick-sized ice-block hit the ground with a thunderous crack and then exploded into thousands of shards.
Charles was caught in the maelstrom of frozen shrapnel. His flesh shredded like cheese through a grater.
Charles fell to the ground beside the mass of bone and skin that was once Paige. The wind snickered as snow quickly consumed their tattered bodies.
“Dunno.” Red replied, as he plucked the theme from ‘Enter the Dragon’ on Pearline. The temperature held at a brisk fifty degrees.
“Red,” Yemi sighed, as she pointed at his guitar. “The light.”
Red examined Pearline. The low-battery indicator flashed blood red. “Damn,” he groaned. “We’ve got ten minutes at best. If Charles and Paige don’t get that generator on soon, it’s gonna get cold as a witch’s tit in here real quick!”
Trina yanked her wool cap over her forehead. “I’m going out there. They should be back by now.”
Trina pushed the door. It did not budge. She pushed harder. Still, no movement. She placed her back against the door, bent her knees and then burst backward, slamming her weight into the steel door. The door remained defiantly still.
“The door’s frozen shut,” Trina said. “Gotta go up top.”
“Be careful, Trina.” Dr. Cruz replied.
“Careful’s my middle name.”
Trina bolted up the stairs and ran to the French windows on the balcony. The windows were covered in frost. She unlocked a window and snatched it open. “I’m gonna take the fire escape,” she yelled, leaning over the balcony railing.
“Okay.” Yemi yelled back.
Trina turned back to the window and was met with by a battering-ram of snow, which slammed into her chest and sent her rocketing over the balcony railing.
She hit the floor with a loud thud.
Columns of snow poured over the balcony.
“Madre de Dios!” Dr. Cruz screamed, as he drew a cross on his forehead and torso with his fingers. He stared incredulously as the avalanche continued to pour from the upstairs window and over the balcony.
“Trina!” Red cried, staring at Trina’s twitching body, as it disappeared under a mound of reddening snow.
Yemi fell back into her chair. “No. No. No!”
Pearline’s low-battery indicator flickered and then went dull. The guitar choked out one final note.
“Pearline’s dead,” Red said. “No spare batteries.”
Yemi pulled her cell-phone from her jacket pocket. Her fingers shook as she pressed ‘9-1-1’.
“Hello? We’re at forty-three thirteen west Lake Street…Falana Technologies…there’s been an accident…my audio engineer…my friend…is dead.”
Tears flooded Yemi’s cheeks and exploded as they landed on the armrest of her chair. “She…she fell…Trina Malloy…My name is Efunyemi Falana…Efunyemi Falana, yes…okay, please hurry! Thank you.”
“What did they say?” Red asked.
“The streets are covered in ice. There’s five feet of snow out there.”
“Jesus,” Red said, as he hung his head. “It’ll take hours.”
“Yeah.” Yemi’s shoulders shook as she began to sob.
Dr. Cruz ran to the door and pushed. He pushed until the color under his nails went from rosy to off-white. “We have to get out of here! If we don’t, we’ll freeze to death!”
Yemi closed her eyes and rubbed her temples. “Dr. Cruz, calm down. The door is snowed shut. The windows are death traps. Let’s huddle together and think this through.”
Dr. Cruz slowly turned away from the door. “Yes, of course. You’re right. Think this through. Yes.”
Red ambled over to his ad hoc condo. “Be right back,” he said, as he disappeared into the storage room. He reappeared a minute later with a bundle of newspapers cradled in his arms and several thick, wool blankets over his shoulders.
Red spread one blanket out on the floor and then covered it with the newspapers. He threw another blanket over the newspapers and then sat upon it cross-legged. “Sit here,” Red said. “I have blankets for everyone.”
Dr. Cruz and Yemi sat close to red and wrapped themselves in blankets.
“Why the newspapers?” Dr. Cruz inquired.
“For insulation,” Red replied. “Holds the heat. Old vagabond’s trick.”
Yemi forced her eyes to look everywhere but the crimson snow-mound in the center of the laboratory. Her gaze caught the thermometer, which read ‘nine degrees’.
Dr. Cruz blew his warm breath into his clasped hands and then rubbed his palms together briskly. “C-cold.”
Red handed Dr. Cruz and Yemi two large wads of tissue paper each. “Squeeze a wad in each fist, place your hands under your armpits and rub your forearms up and down your chest,” Red ordered. “It’ll warm you up, some.”
Dr. Cruz and Yemi followed Red’s instructions. Red craned his head towards Yemi and peered into her eyes. He noticed that Yemi’s walnut-brown face was now a blue-brown patchwork. “Hang in there gorgeous.”
Yemi forced a smile through the shivers. “We make it out of here…dinner’s on me.”
“And a movie.” Red replied.
A laugh crawled from between Yemi’s blue-brown lips. “Sure. I’ll even throw in a bucket of popcorn.”
“Damn, it’s a date, then.”
Red, Yemi and Dr. Cruz laughed weakly and huddled closer in the darkening lab.
The thermometer cracked at eighteen degrees below zero.
“Christ, what happened here?”
Uniformed police officers cleared a path as the paramedics rushed in with stretchers…and body bags.
A paramedic knelt down beside Red and placed two fingers on his neck. The warmth against Red’s cold flesh stirred him. His eyes fluttered open.
“This one’s still breathin’! The paramedic shouted.
“Guess there is a friggin’ God.” A police officer responded.
As the paramedics strapped Red onto the stretcher, movement on the balcony caught his eye. If his vocal chords were not constricted from hypothermia, he would have screamed.
On the balcony was what appeared to be a man – or a man-like thing. The creature was stark white and dressed in a white, tailed tuxedo and white top-hat.
The man-creature leered down at Red, smiled and then tipped his hat.
Red felt nauseous. The room whirled and dipped. Whirled…and dipped.
The creature kicked his white, spindly legs up like a dancer in a cabaret burlesque. It pirouetted and then disintegrated into delicate flakes of snow.
Red faded into unconsciousness as the wind cackled in his frost-blackened ears.
PART 2: The Present
An adolescent boy crawled into the spacious, four-person tent. His corduroy trousers made swishing noises with each movement of his thin legs.
“I’m right here, Stew.”
A lantern flickered on, illuminating the tent in dim, white light. Red sat cross-legged at the far end of the tent.
Stew giggled. “Pushups in the dark again, huh?”
“Gotta always be ready son.”
“Ready for what?”
Red did not answer. Stew looked around the tent. The walls were lined with prints and photocopies of articles about Chicago blizzards spanning several years, but – in particular – about the blizzard a decade ago, which claimed the lives of hundreds of homeless people – and a team of scientists, along with a billionaire industrialist, who were all involved in some sort of failed project.
“Oh,” Stew nodded. “Ready for him.”
“It.” Red said.
“But, isn’t it still in hibernation? You said…”
“It’s been ten years, Stew. Today’s the first day of winter. Nap-time’s over.”
“So, what do we do?”
“I destroy the sumbitch. You stay your ass away from here until I kill it…or until the first of spring.”
Stew shook his head. “I wanna help, Red! I…”
Red pushed upwards with his massive arms and sprung to his feet. “I’m not kiddin’, Stew! Old Whitey ain’t nothin’ to play around with!”
Red drew his guitar from its leather case. “Besides, Pearline is all the help I need.”
The tent’s door-flap flew open and the tent was flooded with sunlight. Red blew out the lantern.
A woman stuck her head into the tent. To Red, her smile seemed brighter than the imposing sunlight.
“Come on, guys. We have to set up. In about two hours, the lunch crowd will be pouring in.” The woman said.
Stew scrambled towards the door-flap. “Coming, mom.”
Red slipped his parka on over his safari vest. “I’ll be right out, Denise.”
Red dipped his hands in and out of a crate in the corner of the tent, snatching out handful after handful of D-batteries, which he quickly stuffed into the many pockets of his vest.
“C’mon, Red!” Stew called.
Red grabbed Pearline and then glided out of the tent. “Ok, let’s motivate!”
Denise kissed Red on the cheek. “Morning, Red.”
Stew tugged at Red’s parka. “So, what are you doing after we close, Red?”
Denise rolled her eyes. “Here we go, again.”
“Going home…probably work on some material for tomorrow’s performances.” Red answered.
Stew smiled slyly. “Mom rented ‘Manchurian Candidate’. The Denzel version. I know the Sinatra version is your favorite movie, but this one’s even better, Red!”
Red shook his head. “Well, if anyone could top ‘Old Blue Eyes’, it’d be Denzel, but a better movie? I dunno.”
“You’re welcome to come over, Red,” Denise said. “Now, give the matchmaking a rest, Stewart!”
Stew crossed his fingers behind his back and smiled. “Yes, ma’am! Whatever you say.”
“I wish I could,” Red sighed. “Next time, for sure.”
“You’re welcome, any time, Red.” Denise replied.
Red snickered as he nudged Denise. “Ever miss it out here?”
“Actually I do, sometimes,” Denise answered. “Not enough to make me move back though!”
Red laughed. “I bet. We can’t have that, anyway. We need you right where you are.”
“Especially me, mom,” Stew chimed in. “Without you and Streetwise Café, my game collection would be lame!”
Denise shook her head. “If I could get you to read half as much as you play those video games, I would be overjoyed!” Denise pressed a button on her keychain. The doors of her SUV clicked as the locks were opened.
Stew frowned. “If I read that much, my joy would be over!”
Denise smiled and shook her head. “Get in the truck, Stewart.”
Everyone climbed into Denise’s vehicle.
Denise crept along Michigan Avenue. Large snowflakes clung to the windshield.
Denise turned on the wipers. “Snow’s getting heavier.”
Red stared out the passenger window. He felt his heart racing. His throat constricted and his tongue felt thick. It was almost time.
Denise gasped. “What in the world?”
Red snapped his head in Denise’s direction. “What’s wrong?”
“Some fool in tails is dancing in the middle of the street!”
Red peered through the windshield. About half a block away was Old Whitey, the thing that had taken his friends from him a decade ago. The thing that had taken his home. The thing that he had been waiting for, had been – it seemed –waiting for him also.
Stew peeked over Red’s shoulder. “Red is that…?”
“Yeah, son,” Red replied. “That’s it.”
“That’s what?” Denise asked.
Red threw the hood of his parka over his head. “Stop the car, Denise.”
Red planted a gentle, but firm hand on Denise’s arm. “Denise, stop the car!”
Denise veered towards the sidewalk and slowly came to a stop. Red continued to stare at Old Whitey as it danced closer.
Old Whitey’s stick-like limbs and angular joints whipped through the crisp air as it performed its ballet on ice.
Denise stared at the creature through the windshield. Her fingers gripped the steering wheel tightly. “Okay, guys, explain. Who is that?”
Not ‘who’,” Red answered. “What. The Norsemen called it ‘Ymir’, the ice giant. When it came to America with the Pilgrims, Native Americans called it ‘Winter Katsina’ and also the ‘One Who Sleeps Like Bear’, because it sleeps for ten years after every feeding season. I call it Old Whitey. It’s the thing that murdered my friends and all those hundreds of homeless ten years ago.
“Like Daddy, mom.” Stew said.
Old Whitey skipped closer. Denise could now make out it’s sharp features. Like a man, but…different.
“My God!” Denise grabbed Red’s hand. “What do we do, Red?”
Red undid the latches on Pearline’s case. “We’re going to get out and head for Grant Park. Stay on my heels!”
Denise shook her head. “Shouldn’t we drive? It’d be quicker and the snow is getting worse.”
“If you stay in this vehicle, it will become your tomb. That thing will trap you in here, Denise. Now, let’s go!”
Red hopped out of the SUV. Denise followed. Stew climbed out of the SUV and ran to his mother’s side. Denise tucked Stew’s scarf into his jacket and then took his hand.
Pearline began to purr as Red’s fingers danced gracefully across her strings as he played a rendition of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ ‘I Put a Spell on You’. The snow beneath the trio’s feet began to melt into puddles as the song escaped Pearline’s internal amplifier. Red increased the volume. A wave of heat emanated from Pearline. Old Whitey grimaced in pain as the searing air struck it. The creature leaped backwards out of Pearline’s range.
Stew unzipped his jacket and untied his scarf. Red unzipped his parka. Denise stared at Red as she unbuttoned her coat. “Red, how in the hell are you doing this?”
“It’s what we were working on ten years ago,” Red replied. “Let’s move. Stay close!”
Red trudged on. His fingers did not cease caressing Pearline’s strings. An expanse of warm, moist land stood before them, as Pearline cleaved through the ice and snow. The ground behind them, however, was buried under massive mountains of snow.
A short distance away, Grant Park’s band shell rose up out of the snowy horizon.
Red yelled over Pearline’s cries. “Almost there!”
Stew peered over his shoulder. Old Whitey was on their tails, surfing on a mammoth wave of snow. The creature flashed Stew a wide, crooked grin. Stew snapped his head forward. “It’s close, Red! Real close!”
“Don’t worry, it won’t come close enough to harm us. It can’t stand the heat.” Red replied.
“So, what’s the plan, Red?” Denise asked.
“Me and Pearline will keep Old Whitey at bay while you turn on the speaker system at the band shell.”
Denise shook her head. “They keep the band shell locked, Red.”
“I busted the lock a week ago. Pearline is already calibrated to the wireless system. Now take Stew and go!”
Red whirled around to face Old Whitey. Denise and Stew jogged towards the band shell. Red strummed a chord on Pearline. “Come on, you murdering sumbitch!”
A flock of crows flying overhead cawed in support of Red’s defiance.
Old Whitey smiled at Red and then looked up at the birds.
“Oh, God! No!” Red whispered.
Old Whitey returned his gaze to Red. It nodded and grinned and then blew a kiss skyward. The crows, now frozen solid, stopped in mid-flight. They hovered in the thick air for a moment and then began to rain down over Red’s head. As the birds descended into Pearline’s field of heat, the ice melted, leaving the dead birds heavy with moisture.
Red was caught in a rainstorm of crows. The birds battered his skull, shoulders and arms. Pearline was knocked from his hands. The guitar slid across the pavement and landed in a patch of dirt. Red stumbled and fell. “Denise! Stew,” Red cried. “Pearline! Grab Pearline!”
Denise turned around and darted towards Pearline, but a piercing scream stopped her in her tracks.
Denise turned in the direction of her son’s cry. Old Whitey had it’s cold, willowy fingers curled around Stew’s neck. Stew shook violently. His skin was a pale blue.
“Stewart!” Denise rushed towards Old Whitey.
The creature held Stew off the ground with one hand. With the other hand, it slowly unzipped its fly. Old Whitey licked its snowy tongue across its lips as it leered at Denise.
A column of thick ice, in the shape of an erect penis sprung from Old Whitey’s fly. The cold-beast torqued its hips powerfully. The ice-penis struck Denise in the face. Denise tumbled across the sidewalk. Her momentum came to an abrupt halt as she careened into a light pole. Denise lay still. Blood streamed from her nose and mouth.
Red struggled to his feet and then stumbled towards Pearline.
Old Whitey hurled Stew in Red’s direction. The boy collided with Red’s back. Red and Stew collapsed onto the pavement.
Stew raised his head slightly. “Red,” He groaned. “You okay? M-mom? Where’s mom?”
Red was silent. Stew looked around to check on him and found Red standing – statue still – behind him.
“Stew,” Red called softly. “Run, son.”
Red’s eyes were as big as silver dollars. Stew looked up to see what had Red so spooked. What he saw nearly drove him to madness.
Old Whitey had transmuted itself into a massive, gaping maw several stories high. Its teeth were icy stalactites and stalagmites. Its tongue, a vortex of snow.
“Run!” Red screamed.
Stew dashed towards the band shell. Red turned and leaped towards Pearline, which was now nearly covered in snow.
The gaping maw roared and rushed forward, swallowing Red’s legs in mid-leap as he bounded towards Pearline. Red stretched his arms as far as he could. He wrapped his fingers around Pearline and held her tightly as Old Whitey completely consumed him.
Stew ran into the band shell and closed the door behind him. His heart beat a drum-song in his chest. He wanted to hide somewhere and cry, but his mother needed him. Red needed him. Hell, the whole city of Chicago needed him as far as he could tell.
Stew cracked open the door and peeked out.
Old Whitey had taken the form of a naked woman, whose belly is full with child. The creature pinched its turgid ice-nipples and squeezed its snow-mound breasts. Ribbons of cold mist streamed from its tits. Old Whitey pirouetted gleefully and rubbed its rotund belly.
Stew fought the urge to vomit. “Oh, no! Red!”
Stew frantically searched the band shell until he found the mixing board, which was similar to the one at Streetwise Café, only bigger. The boy quickly examined the board.
“Here it is!”
Stew pressed a small, black button. “Come on, Red, please!”
Stew peeked outside. Old Whitey continued to prance around. To Stew, the creature looked like an expecting mom from some cold Hell.
“Red, if you’re alive, please do something!”
Old Whitey danced.
Tears streamed down Stew’s cheeks. “Please.”
A familiar tune – low and distant – tickled Stew’s ear. “Is that…’Summer Breeze’? Red?”
Old Whitey stopped dancing and grimaced.
The speakers on the stage hummed. Sound exploded from them. “Yep, Summer Breeze!” Stew shouted!
Old Whitey clutched its belly and screamed in pain.
Denise, stirred by the music, rose to her knees. The music grew louder.
Old Whitey’s belly split open. Red fell to the ground and continued to play furiously as the cold-creature screamed and convulsed.
Old Whitey melted away, as did snow and ice within a mile radius. The air grew balmy.
Denise threw her blood-stained coat to the ground.
Stew darted out of the band shell. By the time he reached his mother, he was sweating. “Feels like summertime!” Stew said as he held Denise tightly.
Red stood up and limped over to Stew and Denise. “It’s over,” he said, as he embraced them both. Old Whitey’s gone!”
Denise nodded her head towards a small mound of snow behind Stew. “Almost gone.”
Red limped over to the snow-mound. “Turn your heads.”
Denise and Stew complied.
Police sirens wailed in the distance.
Red unzipped his fly and moved his hips in circles as he urinated on the mound. The snow hissed as steam rose from it.
Red paused to inspect his handiwork before limping back to Denise and Stew. “We’d better get out of here before Johnny-Law arrives.”
Denise nodded. “Yeah, I wouldn’t want to try to explain this.”
“Everybody okay?” Stew asked.
The sirens grew louder.
“We’ll live.” Denise replied.
Stew patted Red on the arm. “So, Red, what are you doing tonight?”
Red smiled at Denise. “Checking out the Denzel version of Manchurian Candidate if the offer still stands.”
“Denise grabbed the lapel of Red’s safari vest, pulled him to her and pressed her soft lips to his. Denise winced as pain radiated from her lip to her left eye. “Ouch!” Denise shook her head. “That didn’t go as well as I planned it, but you get the point.”
Red blushed. “Yeah.”
Denise and Red embraced as they laughed.
Stew clapped his hands. “Yay-uh! Don’t sleep on the matchmaking skills, bay-bee!”
“Must have been some kids playin’ around in here.” A burly, ruddy-toned man shouted as he searched the band shell.
A slimmer man, but just as ruddy-skinned, peeked his head into the band shell. “Hey, Karczewski, check this out.”
Officer Karczewski shuffled out of the band shell. “What ya’ got, Valentine?”
Officer Valentine pointed down at the steaming mound of snow. “Looks like they just left. Whaddya think it means?”
Officer Karczewski stared down at the numbers and letters scrawled in the snow with urine. “Number four…Y…E…M…I…‘Four Yemi’? Hell if I know. Probably some hippity-hop homeboy slang.”
Officer Valentine pulverized the mound of snow with his tactical boots. “Yeah,” he said with a nod. “Probably.”