7. Butter (D1)

They were claiming he had been high out of his mind, so far gone that he had killed his mom, but not just killed her, torn her apart in her room as she slept as if the devil had possessed him. The detectives were claiming that they had found him trying to break into a neighbors home, covered in blood and had turned a knife on them before taking off running and being apprehended shortly after.

It was bullshit. Sugar wasn’t a junkie. He barely drank, didn’t even like taking the pain pills his mom had given him. All he ever did was smoke reefer. He also hadn’t been covered in blood when he had shown up at his doorstep.

Unless these fuckers expected me to believe that he had somehow rinsed off with a shower after they had found him and then sprinted all the way to my aunt and uncle’s, there was something seriously off.

But there they were, doing an interview for the news crew. The two fucking perfectly detective-looking dudes that had been at my doorstep the night before.

“It was very scary,” said the guy who had stuck around. He was looking down as if reliving a terrifying experience. “He was like a rabid dog. When we put him in the car, he tried to bite through the metal. Made his whole mouth bleed. When that didn’t work he began slamming his head against the window. We tried to stop him but he shattered through the glass and kept going, just bashing his face into the broken shards of glass.

“It’s like he could feel nothing,” said the second guy.

They showed a shot of the car, blood all over the back seat and door where the window had been busted. They claimed that Sugar had begun to seize and before they could get him to the hospital he had died. They went on to plead with everyone to stay away from the drug and bring any and all information of known drug dealers to them so they can help put a stop to this.

“One less junkie to dirty up our neighborhood,” spat my aunt, glancing at me with her lip curled. I could feel my fingers trembling. I clenched them into a tight fist, all I could do to keep myself from hitting her. “Shame about his mother, but at least the bastard got what he deserved.”

It’s alarming how detached we are to tragedies when we have no direct investment with them. Someone could be tortured, raped, cut into pieces and placed into an arranged display of twisted art for the world to see, but all you’ll likely get out of anyone watching at a distance is “wow, that’s horrible.”

I think what’s horrifying is how little we give a shit about anything that’s not us.

I stormed off to my room. I tried to make it look normal, like I was bored, but I knew she knew. I could see it in her face, the smug grin she flashed as I closed the door. I’m ashamed to admit it but I’ve never wanted to kill anyone more than in that moment.

-Do you often think about killing others?

What? No.

They’re just thoughts. We all have them occasionally. They come in and leave just as quickly. Fleeting flashes of anger that everyone has from time to time. Doesn’t mean everyone goes around acting on them.

It’s like craving ice cream and choosing not to eat it because you know it’s not good for you.

-Some people eat it anyway.

*silence*

Why the hell are you here? I didn’t sign up to be-

-Public image is everything. You know that. I have to ask the questions that anyone might think of, even if they are uncomfortable. That’s all.

You could do it without being such an asshole.

-You’re right, I’m sorry. It seemed like I was cornering you. I wasn’t, I promise.

*silence*

-Please.

Asshole.

First chance I got I took off. I needed to talk to the guys. THey needed to know I had seen him before he died. I ran all the way to AP’s place and banged on the door until it opened.

AP stood there, groggy and rubbing his eyes.

“I need to tell you something,” I said.

“It’s like, eight in the morning nigga. Can’t it wait?” he said, looking off to the clock on his right.

“Sugar’s dead.”

I immediately regretted the way I said it. I saw the lost look in his eyes as he tried to process the information, the frustration as he refused to accept it.

“Fuck you talking about? Sugar ain’t dead, he was-”

“Turn on the news man, it’s all over there,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

He blinked a few times before his arms came up over his head. He locked his fingers behind as if it were the only way to keep his head from rolling off backwards. He took a few steps back and I let myself in.

“We need to tell the guys,” I said. 

“H…how?” said AP as he took his phone from his pocket and handed it to me.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Whadda you mean you don’t know?” he spat.

The phone dialed and I watched AP with a little fear, hoping I wouldn’t become the shot messenger.

“What do you-” he started again before I put my hand up to stop him.

He stared at me like a wild animal but what I had just done had at least surprised him enough to slow him down and recognize that I wasn’t responsible.

“AP, dude. I’m so sorry,” came Jackson’s voice over the phone.

“It’s E,” I said.

“E?” said Jackson. “Where’s AP? He okay?”

“We’re at his place,” I said. AP began to pace back and forth. “Can you get Benny and meet us here?”

“Yeah, we’ll be there in five.”

AP took the remote and began flicking channels. I snatched it from his hand and turned it off, earning a glare from him that let me know he was ready to shove his fist down my throat.

“Don’t,” I said, staring at him straight in the eyes. “Trust me AP.” He breathed like a bull ready to stampede. “I know you want answers, but you don’t want theirs. I don’t know what really happened, but I do know that what they are saying isn’t true. I can tell you what I think and we can all piece it together.”

He pursed his lips and clamped his jaw. It was all he could do to keep himself from crying. He sat down on the couch and put his hands over his head again. I sat down beside him and we didn’t say a word to each other for some time.

“He’s my best friend E,” said AP in a trembling voice. I heard him sniffle and without realizing it, my hand was on his back to console him. I truly believe that in AP’s eyes, we were all his best friend. “Please tell me this is some fucked up joke.”

I wanted to, but I couldn’t. I wanted to say something, anything, but like usual in tough moments, I found myself at a loss for words.

Eventually a knock came at the door that took me from the couch as AP wiped his eyes. Both Benny and Jackson stood at the door, sweaty, out of breath, exhausted. The way someone is supposed to look after they spring a few blocks. 

Jackson immediately embraced AP and said, “It’s not true. What they saying on the news, it’s not true.”

AP’s eyes shot toward me. He stared until Jackson followed his gaze toward me. I shook my head and said, “I haven’t let him see the news yet.”

Jackson looked at AP as if to validate my words. He began to nod and look around at all of us. “Okay, good. That’s good. All of it is bullshit. They’re up to something. Ain’t no way. I’m telling you, they’re up to something.”

“Could you just tell me what happened?” said AP in a shaky voice.

“I don’t know for sure, but I don’t buy it,” continued Jackson in his usual tone he got into when he delved into his conspiracies. Benny took the opportunity to step into the kitchen and pour himself some water. “We just saw Sugar, what, two days ago! He was fine! I mean, yeah, he was a little paranoid and all, but who wouldn’t be when you’re cooped up for that long? He wouldn’t have, no. That’s just, no fucking way. Someone did this. I’m telling you, someone set-”

Glass shattered against the wall closest to Jackson as AP screamed, “Shut the fuck up!” All of us went dead still. Benny stood with his cup to his lips, too scared to take a gulp. “This isn’t the time for your bullshit conspiracies Jackson! Just tell me what the fuck happened to my friend.”

Jackson stared back at AP, a gloss over his eyes. AP’s tone trailed like a defeated child watching his favorite teddy bear floating further and further down the current of a massive river. 

“AP,” I said. “I don’t think he’s wrong.”

I told them all what had happened the night before. How it hadn’t been the rantings of a maniac, but a kid scared for his fucking life. 

All three of them watched me closely, analyzing my every word, my tone, my movements. Each had their own agenda. AP sucking up as much information as he could, trying to make sense of it all. Jackson, digging for anything to feed his theories and Benny, trying to figure out how he could make light of such a shit moment.

“Who were the guys? Why weren’t there any regular cops there?” said Jackson.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Fuck,” said AP, shaking his head. “He wouldn’t have.”

“No,” said Jackson, “he wouldn’t.”

“I should’ve kept looking for him,” said AP. “I shouldn’t have stopped ‘till I found him.”

I knew what AP was feeling then. Grasping at any detail to feel like somehow things could have gone differently if only he had acted. In a way, we do it so we don’t have to admit that there is no such thing as free will. Like we’re not all just pegged together and having life decided for us.

“This wasn’t your fault dude,” said Jackson. “Ain’t nothing we could’ve done different.”

“Hell yeah there is!” said Benny. “We could’ve stayed the fuck away from that fucking house.”

“That’s got nothing-.”

“If we hadn’t gone in there he wouldn’t have busted his leg and gone psycho on us.” said Benny.

“Shut your mout-”

“Nah nigga!” continued Benny. “We graspin’ at fuckin’ straws here! You think I want to believe that our friend done killed his moms? Fuck that. But let’s just be real here for once and admit to ourselves that Butter ain’t our motherfuckin’ friend.” He waited to make sure none of us would argue. “We fucked up by going to that house. We’ve always known Sugar wasn’t the most stable nigga alive, it’s why we kept going to visit him every day. Maybe e was in pain or some shit, I don’t know. Probably went to Juice so he could get some other shit and that nigga probably pushed Butter on him instead.”

Jackson made an attempt to protest but AP quickly shut him down, surprising us all. “He’s right. We grasping.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. After what I’d seen and told them about, I couldn’t believe they would write it off as if it were just another of Jackson’s far out theories. 

I could have tried telling them about the glow in the man’s eyes, about the lack of signs of exertion, but it was too late already. If I had tried in that moment, I would have been met with only hostility. 

“Sugar had some issues we all took a blind to,” said AP, rubbing his head as if it physically hurt him to have to admit it. “Fuck! He was so close.”

“He would’ve been one of the greats,” said Benny, a sad smile over his face. “I always imagined I’d turn on the tube and see him in his own music videos. Ass and titties jiggling all over his face.”

“Would’ve been nice to be in one of those with him one day,” said Jackson.

“I don’t think he would have had the type of walruses you be into in them,” said AP, forcing a sad grin. “My man had champagne taste, and rightfully so.”

They laughed. Somehow Benny had found a way to make light of a shit situation, like always.

I forced myself to chuckle along with them as I listened to them reminisce, but all I could think about was how fucking wrong they were. I refused to believe that the answer was that simple. He had been painted out as guilty without a single drop of investigation.

You know what they say though, the winner writes history.

I couldn’t sit there and pretend with them. Not when I could feel the wrongness of it all in my core, but I also wasn’t man enough to threaten my friendship with them by telling them something they didn’t want to hear anymore.

I’m sure the three of them could tell something was wrong, but it wasn’t my moment. I headed home early, way early. 

I searched around the house, trying to find anything Sugar might have dropped before my aunt got home but I came up with nothing. 

We ate dinner and silence and I excused myself to bed, but I had no plan of getting any sleep that night. I waited until my aunt and uncle went to bed and dumped my bag out, replacing everything with only a flashlight and gloves.

Right as I was about to open the window, a faint knock forced me back. I was so scared I nearly shit my pants. All I thought was ‘If I pull back the curtains, I’ll either find Sugar’s dead face staring back at me, or those things that came to collect him. Or both.’

-Things? You mean the detectives?

They weren’t detectives. That much was obvious.

I opened the window and found AP clad in all black. I’m almost ashamed to say this but, if he would have closed his eyes, ain’t no way in hell a single soul would have ever seen him.

He took one look at me and said, “Who the fuck are you robbin’ tonight?”

“Same person as you by the look of it,” I said. I climbed out the window and gave myself some distance between us and the house.

“I’m glad you weren’t just making shit up,” said AP as we walked toward Sugar’s place. “When Jackson and Benny took off, I fuckin’ cried man. Like straight up bitch cried. I watched the news, all the shit they were saying. Everyone so quick to denounce him. Even fuckin’ East Millz! Mother fucker acted like he was ashamed that he had even considered Sugar, like if he was some kind of secret leper. It just…”

“I know,” I said.

We walked the rest of the way without saying a word. Our footsteps were the only sound either of us had to disrupt the melancholy of our thoughts. I had liked Sugar, he had been warm toward me from the start and he definitely hadn’t deserved any of it, but my sadness was not for the dead. 

Sugar’s pain was gone.

We crouched at a distance from Sugar’s place, just far enough to scope out the area without making it obvious. The night was dark and the streetlights barely illuminated his place. It was taped off all around, which wasn’t much considering it was a tiny house. It was enough to tell us that we would be going into another house we shouldn’t be in.

“See anyone?” whispered AP.

“No,” I said, letting out a breath that I hadn’t realized I’d been holding in.

“You sure you wanna do this?”

“Not at all,” I said as I pulled my gloves over my hands.

“Me neither,” he said, stepping toward the house. I grabbed his arm before he got too far.

“How are we getting in?”

He shrugged and took off leaving me with no option but to follow.

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