A Journey for Justice
(The Detective Series)
The warm summer Tuesday morning began as normal for Rachael Thomas. She was the owner and operator of Studio 455 located in the heart of Shaker Square; a well-to-do suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. The beauty salon staffed nine stylists, one barber, two manicurists, and had a masseuse on-call for clients wanting extra pampering. A small second Studio 455 was located on the westside of Cleveland offering almost the same amenities. The space was too small to section off a portion for the masseuse, but the tenants next door were going out of business and she planned to expand into the empty space, but an impending move to New York put a hold on all plans concerning the salons.
Rachael untangled the cords of the flat irons and blow dryer and placed them in the drawer. She started straightening the counter of her station, cluttered with towels, capes, rollers and other styling products, after her last appointment of the day canceled.
She reached over to unplug the ceramic thermal stove from the electrical outlet and put the curling irons in their prospective holders. “Yvonne, I’m getting out of here before someone calls with an emergency. It’ll be nice to watch a little television and relax for the rest of the day,” she said wiping down the counter and chairs with antiseptic spray.
“I feel you, Rachael. I have two more people scheduled and one is getting a sew-in that will take me a few hours, but I will lock up when I leave tonight.”
Rachael packed the designer leather backpack while talking to the stylist who occupied the booth next to her. Yvonne Saddler was the first to rent a booth when the doors to Studio 455 opened for business. She had a loyal clientele and was busy almost every day. Her weekend hours were booked from early morning to being the last stylist to leave at night. Yvonne knew many people and came from a large family. From her alone, word quickly got around town that Studio 455 was the place to go for women looking for the latest in hair fashion and a little gossip.
Rachael slipped off the comfy clogs and put on her street shoes. “Why do you schedule your clients to come so late in the evening for a sew-in? I don’t want to be stuck here till midnight doing hair.”
Yvonne finished off the client’s hair with a spray of oil sheen before giving the woman a mirror to admire the perfection she always achieved. “Girl, a sew-in is a $200 dollar job and Marie tips well on top of it. I will stay late to do it and move one step closer to my goal of opening my own shop one day. Is Devon with Terrell again at the radio station?”
“Yes he is. I hate Terrell has to watch him at work, but the daycare was closed again today. Oh well, at least I can get downtown before it gets dark. That parking lot is not the safest place to walk alone at night.”
“I don’t blame you! Your man is acting like he has around the clock bodyguards watching y’all. Terrell better be careful calling those thugs by name on his show. I’m surprised he ain’t scared to walk to his own car.”
Rachael slung her heavy backpack over her shoulder. “You know Terrell; once he takes a stance on a subject, it’s hard for him to walk away from it. I’ve tried to warn him about being so vocal, but what do I know—I just do hair for a living.”
“I understand a good man is hard to find and no doubt Terrell is a good man, but you should seriously consider leaving him. Rachael, there is a good chance you or Devon will get caught in the middle of these thugs looking to get revenge on Terrell. Girl, you have too much to live for to be cut down in the prime of your life because Terrell wants to play hardball with dangerous people.”
“Yvonne, I don’t think it will go that far. But you have to give him credit for helping the police get a lot of illegal drugs off the street.”
“I do give him credit for getting the police off their asses and making them work for their paycheck, but those were little wanna-be dealers he got busted; he’s going after bigger fish now.”
“I doubt those guys are tuning into Terrell’s talk show on a daily basis. To them, he is just another local radio personality spewing off at the mouth and not a threat to them,” she said grinning.
“Don’t be stupid, Rachael. You remember Anton Jackson? He ran his operation from the projects for years before FBI got wind of what he was doing. Rumor has it some of his old associates are back in the area and regrouping his old territory.”
“How do you know about that stuff and live in the suburbs?”
“I have people that live in the hood and I get the latest gossip from them.”
“Then they should know when Anton was killed, his territory was disbanded by the Feds and Terrell had nothing to do with any of that.”
“That’s not what I heard.”
Rachael felt the anger rising in her tone and squashed it. Yvonne had a way of getting under her skin and this was one of those times. “Yvonne, quit listening to rumors that hold no value.”
“I’m just saying the Feds didn’t get all of them that scattered after word about Anton’s death hit the streets. They’ve had a few years to regroup and change the game.”
Rachael twitched her lips. “Anton Jackson was not stupid and neither was his crew; they wouldn’t return to set up shop in the place that got them busted.”
Yvonne shook the rattail comb she was holding in Rachael’s direction saying, “Haven’t you ever heard about criminals returning to the scene of the crime? They didn’t get to be criminals because they’re smart!”
“Seriously, Yvonne,” Rachael said laughing. “You really believe Anton is helping to organize a drug ring from the grave?”
“I didn’t say that; I said some of his former associates are back in the area. Terrell is taunting these guys by telling them their days are numbered; you don’t know who’s taking what Terrell is mouthing on the radio personally. Anton was smart but trusted the wrong people and got bit in the end. This new organization might have learned from his mistakes.”
“So you think someone wants to shut Terrell up? Let me ask you this—have your people heard Terrell’s life is in danger? Is there a tag on his head?”
She shook her head. “Nobody told me that; I’m just looking out for you. If you don’t have a babysitter for tomorrow, I’ll ask my sister to watch Devon for you.”
Rachael’s skin clammed with chills when she noticed the chatter throughout the shop stopped to listen to their conversation. Regaining her composure, she fiddled with the leather strap on her backpack. “Thanks for the offer, but I refuse to live my life looking over my shoulder because of Terrell’s job. Nobody has ever approached me or come here threatening me because of him.”
“That don’t mean you aren’t known to them. They know who you are and what you do because you’re Terrell’s woman.”
“Yvonne, would you stop already with the premonitions and crap! Anyhow, Terrell will be in New York in a few weeks working on his television show and that content will have nothing to do with dope boys or gangs, thank God.”
Yvonne did not want to upset Rachel and by the sudden switch of her mood and tone of her voice, she knew she had. “I didn’t mean to upset you. Is the television show a for sure thing?” She asked lightening the subject.
“I believe the bigger issues have been completed; his lawyers are working on tidying a few odds and ends. Terrell is so excited about finally getting to where he knew he belonged. He has all the makings to be on television and I get to witness him enjoy his success.”
“You two are a power couple. You set your mind to do something and make it happen. What about your business, Rach? If you are thinking of selling, I might be interested if the price is right,” Yvonne said sweeping the floor around her station.
“I don’t want to sell just yet. These shops are my dreams come true. If I do sell, I want the person to be dedicated, passionate and continue to build and be an asset to the community. I’m meeting with a consultant later on in the week about hiring a firm to oversee the operations of the shops until I decide what I want to do with them.”
Yvonne snickered making a funny face. “You’re handling your business like white folks. What about your clients; have you told them you’re moving to the Big Apple?”
“I have recommended my clients to all of you. They can’t go bad with any stylist here. But, I’m already planning on opening a salon in New York in a year or two.”
“Wow, you go girl! I will be friends with a celebrity and will have proof to show it,” she said giggling. “Seriously, I’m happy for y’all. It’s always good to see black folks doing it right.”
Rachael relaxed on one foot. “It takes a lot of ambition and patience but it has paid off. OK, I’m out of here—see you tomorrow. Don’t forget to make sure everything is shut off and locked when you leave tonight.”
“I’ll make sure.” Yvonne called to Rachael before she reached the door. “Rachael, be careful.”
Rachael smiled leaning her head up to the sky. “The sun is shining and I will be home with Devon before noon, so stop worrying, girl; I’ll see you tomorrow bright and early.”
Rachael weighed upon the intense conversation with Yvonne while walking to her car. Looking around the parking lot and watching the people going about their business, she shook off the eerie sensation and unlocked the door of the midnight black 2012 Chevy Tahoe sliding behind the wheel. Touching the soft black leather seats and inhaling that new car scent, she started the car. The quiet hum of the engine oozed luxury as it glided from gear to gear effortlessly; not the jerky motion her old car used to do where the gears stuck constantly between first and second. Although, she hated driving in heavy traffic, she at the same time loved the looks from men when she pulled beside them at traffic lights. Most expected a man to be driving the powerful machine, but when they saw it was a woman; she couldn’t resist and would wink a thick sexy eyelash before driving off.
Rachael adjusted her designer sunglasses using the rearview mirror. She fluffed her long hair around her shoulders and fixed her lipstick. Sliding her favorite CD into the player, she turned up the volume to let the smooth voice of Mary J. Blige escape from the Bose speakers. Snapping her seatbelt together she backed from her personal parking spot and headed to the highway and for downtown Cleveland.
Terrell Freeman’s current job as morning talk show host for WSAM.FM, a local radio station whose broadcast area reached as far as Dayton, Ohio, was coming to an end. He’d first met Rachael Thomas during their college freshman year at Ohio State University. He played football and she was a member of the Majorettes. They began dating exclusively after their second date. Terrell came from a poor background and attended college on a scholarship he’d won playing sports in high school, but was interested in journalism and mass communications as a career instead of becoming a professional athlete. Rachael was the total opposite. She came from an upper middle-class family and had her heart set on receiving a degree in business management and finance.
The couple was inseparable and held common interests in many things, but being successful was a goal both hoped to achieve by the time they reached thirty. Terrell became Rachael’s biggest supporter when she decided to switch her interests from working in Corporate America to owning and operating her own business; she was extremely smart and Terrell had no doubt she wouldn’t succeed at whatever she attempted.
After graduating from college, Rachael enrolled in cosmetology school to obtain her license, she didn’t want to just own a salon, but wanted to be part of the action. She had a natural ability for doing hair and decided to put her talents to work. Terrell took the job as a disc jockey with WSAM.FM working the late night shift.
When a slot was added to the programming for a morning talk show, Terrell pitched a proposal for him to host a talk show revolving around issues concerning Cleveland, instead of streaming in other popular talk shows to fill the four-hour slot. The owners of WSAM.FM liked the idea but would only allow him six months to prove the project worthy, or the original plan would be implemented. Within three months, Real Talk with Terrell Freeman became a hit placing him on the A-list of informative talk radio shows to follow.
Terrell was on the fast track of becoming a local legend in the radio industry. He’d always had the gift for gab, and could talk the talk better than anyone in the game. Over the past eleven years, Terrell had interviewed the country’s most notable figures. From political candidates to musicians—if the name was big and they were in town, he’d find a way to get an appearance from them on his radio show.
Even though he showed candor towards his guests, he was a likeable person and had developed a solid foundation with many of the city’s leaders and members of law enforcement both on the local and federal level. When information was needed from the public in getting tips to assist the police, the police would come to him for help. His persistent begging and pleading to his audience would eventually lead callers to the tip lines that eventually lead to persons of interest.
The couple’s golden road leading to their dream continued even when Rachael announced her pregnancy. Terrell took courses on parenting. He wasn’t prepared for fatherhood and didn’t know or have a relationship with his father, and his mother was pretty much an absent person in his life also. Patricia Freemen’s numerous close-calls with death due to overdoses from her crack cocaine addiction, was the driving force behind his hate for street pharmacists. Terrell began naming known dealers and pushers on the show whenever the format called for it. He felt that would be the only way to help police rid the streets of these dangerous individuals.
As the years passed and Terrell’s reputation and listening audience grew, the radio show caught the attention of a CBS network program executive in town on other business. After hearing the directness of Terrell on the radio, Clark Barnett hoped Terrell had the physical attributes that would transfer over to television. In other words, he was praying Terrell looked as good as his voice sounded on the radio.
Taking a chance, Mr. Bennett contacted Terrell for a meeting before leaving town. To his surprise, he was pleased with both Terrell’s appearance and down-to-earth disposition. He did not hesitate to ask Terrell to do the test drive for the daytime television talk show he was developing. Terrell at first declined the offer; he wasn’t interested in doing trash-talk shows like Jerry Springer or Maury Povich.
Clark, who was the Director of Programming at CBS, promised that would not be the format and the show would revolve around world events, sports and politics. And, if the show did well in the ratings, Terrell would be used to host similar shows for the network which would increase his visibility on air and build a working relationship with other CBS affiliates.
Negotiations with the network were finally over and Terrell was happy to be moving his family to New York. He was extremely proud to be able to provide a better standard of life for his son than what he was given. With a guaranteed six-figure paycheck for shooting the pilot, this sealed the deal his son would never experience the struggles he did when growing up.
Terrell bounced Devon on his knee. For a toddler, Devon was quiet and would play in the corner with toys while he did the show. Once or twice the toddler would wonder over to see what was going on at the big desk, but never screamed out or caused a ruckus if guests were in the studio or, if other employees were hanging around.
He said hugging the child that yawned sleepily. “Mommy is on her way for you. You’ll have a good nap in your own bed instead of on that old lumpy couch. Are you happy about that?” The child laid his head on his father’s chest closing his eyes. Terrell kissed his forehead and held him while he slept. “That’s my little man, rest until mommy gets here.”