Monday, August 8, 2011

Figured Out

Davis thought he had it all figured out.

He told me that the first time we met. I was trying to pin his stunted buddy C-Note for pushing rock on the Carver Junior High playground. Davis was trying to avoid flipping on a pal he’d known since reusable diapers.

“Don’t worry about me, Detective Jurgis, ma’am. I got it all figured out.”

I sized Davis up: Homemade haircut. Pants, pressed by an iron he borrowed from Missionary Baptist. Buffed white plastic of his Chuck Taylors.

He was a thirteen-year-old squirt in a clubhouse slathered in graffiti, but Davis’ eyes were sharp as cartography tools.

I believed him. I believed him so much that I took an interest.


Two months of checking in with his teachers and staking out the playground, and Davis still stood out.

He didn’t front, thumping his chest and slapping girls’ asses like the other boys. He was never truant. He slunk off to the clubhouse with C-Note every afternoon but he took a bus into New Orleans Mid-City every day, returning after dark every night.

I followed the bus once, all the way to the oaks and quiet of the Garden District.

I watched Davis stride, satchel at his side, up to a manor. He knocked. He was let in. When he came out five minutes later, I sidled up to have words.

He didn’t smile at me. Davis stopped smiling years ago.

“Magazine subscriptions, Detective, ma’am.”

Mama worked hard, Davis explained, but Mama needed the help. She had the arthritis. She had the diabetes. She had a lot of kids and a lot more work and no men she could trust in.

Except for Davis.

I trusted Davis had it figured out. I didn’t even check that satchel.

Three months later, Davis’ name is in a file slid onto my desk.

My desk was full already. I had bigger fish than scrubby C-Note. I’d stopped watching Carver.

Then here comes a surveillance report with names of Carver kiddos seen skulking around Lady Aces, the skagged-up brothel across the Industrial Canal that’s the most recent epicenter of sleaze. C-Note’s in there. So’s Davis.

I pay a visit to Carver. Teachers sing his praises.

Davis is always in class with his hand up. Davis is never in the principal’s office. Davis has his homework in hand, his pants around his waist, his eyes on the student body presidency.

Those eyes are tired when I catch up with him. One’s bruised.

“I was just trying to back up my buddy, Charles,” Davis explains about Lady Aces. Charles—C-Note—was in a “dispute,” Davis says, with a thug named Rabid. Davis went to make sure his pal came out alive.

I keep asking questions. Davis has all the answers.

The bruise was from C-Note, another “dispute.” The magazine subscriptions fell off but Davis has applications for jobs all the way down to Bywater. Mama’s not doing better, but Davis can watch his brothers and sisters.

Davis has smudged glasses, wrinkled pants and dragging speech. But Davis has it all figured out.

I decide we can live with that.

I’m wrong. As usual.


I’m bored a month later. I decide to roll Rabid.

Sure enough, he’s carrying a gun. And sure enough, he snitches to avoid the weapons charge. Rabid’s the sociable sort.

He tells me the new soldiers at Lady Aces. There’s one that shows a lot of promise for a thirteen-year-old.

“Little iceman named Davis.”

“Not C-Note?”

Rabid just chuckles.


I find Davis at his clubhouse. He’s busy, as usual.

I find C-Note too. Davis isn’t quite done sawing him up in the tub.

Davis brought ammonia to wash off the blood. He brought hefty bags for C-Note’s pieces. He had to sell his mattress just to buy those. Melting C-Note in lye was too pricey.

He had it all figured, except one thing.

Davis asks me as I put on the cuffs, “How’s Mama going to get the money from the Aces? She needs a foot taken off.”

I don’t say anything. My only answer is the usual: I send him off to OPP.

I don’t have any of it figured out.