I didn’t know how she found me. I didn’t know why she was out that late, Sullivan was known for keeping his family and men to a strict schedule but somehow she found me. Somehow she dragged me out from my deathbed and started to haul me down the street. Estell, brought me half a block before I gathered enough strength and sense to let my toes skim the ground in an attempt to help her. She grunted as she hunched under my weight, as half dried blood smeared her sky blue dress. It wasn’t the knick that hurt me the most, it was buzzing in my skull. The buzzing that made my stomach turn again and spit up on the side of the road. I didn’t know where she was taking me. Back to Sullivan? A man who I had never met. Back to my apartment? An apartment she should have no knowledge about. Back to Richard, my worst nightmare. Sebastian, who would just hurt me more. Jadiel was who I hoped for but somewhere in my tangled mind I knew that wasn’t an option. I didn’t expect us to stop just two blocks from Mulneer. A beautiful brownstone, our first house in the city. The Boston Spade’s residents.
November Seventh- 12:57 am
Do you know where Luce is?
No, I am sorry to say I don’t. She has been running around doing her own thing. Or at least, I assume. My daughter doesn’t even have time to contact her own mother.
Yes. She is a wild child, isn’t she? Valentine, do me a favour and give me a call if she happens to turn up around you?
I will let you know Seb- Sorry, there is someone at the door.
The look on her face faced me with sorrow and pain while she turned to Estell with a hateful glare. I wanted to tell her that all of this was not her older daughter’s fault but I had no energy to open my mouth. I was brought to a couch and that is when time started to speed up again. My dress was changed, my exposed flesh covered, my mouth washed. The only thing unable to be mended, my head that still let knives swarm like bees around my brain. William and Emmanuel sat with me through the early morning and the next day. I was in and out, black and fuzzy rooms. Vomiting and one trip to the washroom mirror to see my messed up hair and face as pale as a white person. Calls were made, heavy feet held in boots ran up and down the stairs. And as the city kept turning outside, I kept my eyes shut to the hushed voices, the outburst of shouts and pain of everything.
November Seventh- 4:34 am
William, where is Valentine?
She is talking with Estell down stairs. Did you hear Luce is back?
Yes. Yes, I heard. Where is your brother?
He is right here. Wait a moment.
Are you all still at the house?
Yes, it’s me, William, Mom-
Shut up. Shut up! Get Valentine on the line.
Richard, I have a lot going on right now!
You all need to leave right now!
Are they-they are listening… Richard, meet me at Liam’s bar, William’s birthing time.
I tried to stay grounded. I tried to keep from crying, it wasn’t hard, my whole being was still frozen in shock. I read the numbers off my number line but somewhere along pink mixed maroon and sixes and nines started to blink between each other and that is when the first tears started to slip. Only eleven out of my seventeen combinations still sat nestled in my brain, while the others started to fall and the more I tried to hold on to them the faster they crumbled. My eyes squeezed shut allowing the bees with knives as stingers to attack me harder. The pain the only thing distracting me from my disappearing value. No longer did anyone keep me company on the couch, they were all busy packing bags. One designated to me, filled with my mothers old clothes and a few of Estell’s belongings she had brought over on her second trip back to the house, Sullivan by her side. He was giant and my brain was still able to connect his form to the one of the bigger Parchment man. Though his face was more angled, his stomach less round, I still kept my unfocused lenses attached to his back as he travelled around the house helping my mother.
Sullivan’s car fit four, but once the house was packed up and all of us were ready, we were not about to go back. He drove with emmanuel on his right. I was cramped tight and secure in between William and my mother in the back. Estell was small and back seat driving from my mother’s lap. Although I felt claustrophobic I was thankful for their bodies that kept me from jostling, every tiny bump threatening to spill my stomach, what was left of it that is.
Liam’s bar was the Monroe’s third apartment on the westside of Harlem, where he would distribute cash to members and hatch schemes to launder bigger sums of money. William’s birthing time was ten pm. We didn’t go inside, we all climbed out of the car where Richard and Sebastian were awaiting us in the shadows. I wanted to hit them, crush their toes with my heels, smother them with my hat but I couldn’t even pretend to be threatening, my arm slung over William’s shoulder, him taking half my weight. My eyes were grateful for the blanket covering the sun and letting the soft silver moon be our only light.
Richard and Sebastian helped us load our few bags into the back of a newer car that still managed to shine in the dark. I was the first one put in, my eyes slipping shut when I lay down on the cool leather. Goodbyes were brief, whispers in the silence of night, no sound, no clubs nearby. Emmanuel sat in the back with me, taking as little room as possible to allow me to continue resting. Mother took the wheel and William sat next to her. Estell leaned in and whispered a departing note in my ear. Her breath tickled my skin, and I wish I could have kept her as a sister, I wish the city wanted to keep me longer, maybe with her I wouldn’t be locked up, she could have talked to Sullivan who would have talked to Richard. I could have been free and had a sister. She was the only one who said goodbye to me. The three men ignoring my twitching form.
I said goodbye to Jadiel as we drove past Mulneer. Or at least what I thought was Mulneer. I was disoriented and unable to see out of the fogged window. I wished his body to not be one of the ones that was mostly likely left out while photos were taken, finally placed under a sheet and wheeled out. I wished him to be home, wherever his home was, I never asked. I never asked if Sullivan was his brother or cousin. Was Liam his dad? Did he want to be in a gang or was it something he just had the misfortune of being born into? I didn’t know anything about the man. All I knew was Jadiel Monroe might be dead or alive, like everyone else in the city and the ground. Like everyone else in the city, he would never see me again.
November Seventh, 1920
Luce, it has been too long since I last saw you. I remembered when I used to see you every weekend, when your mother and I were on better terms. I would have liked to have seen you before your nineteenth birthday, because I missed that I will be extra eager to find you for your twentieth. I had a belated gift for you and I went to drop it off at your house but it was all locked up and empty. I went to the small apartment I knew your mother to have but that too seemed to be vacated. I hope half my family has not picked up and left the city without my knowing. I know we have not been in constant contact for the better part of your teenage years but I do miss you and your brothers and hope that if you get this you do come and search me out. I guess I am somewhat of a hypocrite myself as I have moved as well, not out of the city, just across the park. My new address is enclosed in this letter. I have no doubt that you will pass on this message to your brothers and mother. I wish you all the best with adulthood and your career, whatever they might be. In addition, may the prospect of love be in your near future.
We drove all through the night and when morning came my eyes shut to the light to avoid the pain. I was no longer nauseous from my head’s buzzing, the buzzing had stopped and in its place a throbbing ache that could be calmed by utter silence and stillness but nausea stayed from the swaying of the car along potholes and bumps. When we arrived in New Jersey the five closest motels were whites only. We had already switched drivers twice, everyone but me taking a turn behind the wheel. Everyone exhausted. Everyone distressed. I didn’t know what was to come of life now. Would we drive forever? Make it far enough away to start a new life? Would we make it across the country or would the klan and the riots grab us. We opted to sleep on the side of the road, tucked behind some trees, it wasn’t safe but nowhere was. I stayed up the whole night, a secret vow to be the lookout. I had slept all through the past night and day and even though my body refused to move, my mind was still half alive. I tried not to think about the most painful parts of the past days. I tried to not to recall my side opening to the stinging air. Or the sharp crack and dull thud of my head that replayed over and over in my mind. My tongue had stopped hurting but if I sucked on it long enough the iron taste started to fill my mouth again. I tried to focus on my numbers. I still held a few combinations and though I knew they would never be used, never be won, I still kept them for the strangers who offered up their money and hope to the system. I made new number combinations to commemorate the passing days. 11720, the day we ran.
For three days we drove, refilled, drove and slept. Food was scarce and hard to come by. It was a task no one wanted to go into a store and risk being recognised. As we got further and further away from New York, the calmer we became. Once we were in Delaware, food became an everyday pleasure and the upcoming safe haven became a constant joy to wash over our minds. My mother had gotten word to a close family friend, a Spade by law but no ties after his wife died. He left the city and the gang let him loose but he vowed to provide a home for those who needed it. So just at the border of Delaware we rounded the corner on to our temporary stay. Waiting, a quaint house with a wooden fence, unsuspecting to a citizen of the law. 1111, the day we were caught.
The police blockade was a quarter mile out from the house, on the large property where we thought we would be safe but they lurked and waited in the shadows, like we used to. Emmanuel was driving, my mother was shouting, William was trashing. They didn’t wait to shoot, didn’t let us slow down, the car only sped up when the first bullet smashed through the glass. A woman screamed and a man followed. A woman slumped forward, a man leaned forward across the seats, trying to hold her up. The same man reached for his gun and his fire was returned twice as strong. The man no longer fought. The last standing tried to swerve the car away from his and her death, driving them both off the road and into a frozen field. The vehicle’s nose dived into the ground, which in spring would have cushioned their fall but in the frigid cold, smashed metal on metal and leather seat slammed forward, ending the last man. And the girl lived. Though she lay like the rest, she was lying from the start, avoiding the lethal silver insects that pierced the air. In the back, her seat jolted but she clung on for dear life until the structure settled and she clung on for dear life as torches and weapons neared. And she hung on as they hauled her half gone capsule out from the back and she hung on for days until her body could catch up with her mind and she stirred in her new home.
November 22, 1920
I know for sure that this letter won’t get to you but as I have nothing better to do I don’t see the harm in writing. I was able to see a photo of the crash. A newspaper from Harlem got them first. I wonder if you saw the same. The grey grass sprinkled with glass. The black car, smashed in the front and whole in the back. I wonder what happened in your head when you read the head line. Boston Spades ended in Delaware. I wonder what you felt when you read further. “Valentine, Emmanuel and William Spade were killed in a fatal car crash after being met by a spray of bullets from law enforcement at nine pm on November 11. The youngest, Luce Spade, sustained life threatening injuries but pulled through and is now being held at St. Bell Prison.” At least now you know where to find me. It will be easier, I have nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. A year is the minimum, it would have been different two years ago, two years ago I was still a kid. Once I get out, I will officially be out of my teen years and maybe then I can come back to Boston. I won’t be a burden to you. Somehow I will get money, somehow I will survive. I will survive here too, I have already completed the first step in my new life. My number. 7612. Next the rest of the numbers. My new goal is eighteen. If I can memorise eighteen of these women’s numbers in a week then I move to nineteen and twenty and twenty one and I regain my mind. I regain my worth.
Luce T. Spade-7612