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“Everybody Know Deyz Dee-tectives.”

He’s Black, male, 31 years old. That’s what he informs me anyway. By that I mean his life in years; his color and sex I know with my very own two eyes. I react with my standard “no you are not!” when he tells me the number. I usually say that when someone gives his age; not so much because it makes him feel good -- although I do like making a man smile -- but because it compels him to give more details about himself like date of birth, place born, whatever. You might be bombshelled at how many guys who will even dig out their driver’s license as “proof.” To an info junkie like myself, that’s at least fifteen minutes worth of euphoria.

The man I’m referring to is slightly taller than I, medium build. It’s hard to tell much more about his physique given that most of him is being swallowed by the nine times too large denim pants and oversized black hoodie he’s got on. Next to me his Timberland-boots-shod feet are stomping the pavement in echo to the taps of my tennis shoes. Everything about him seems uniform to the neighborhood I’m plodding through and, whether he realizes it or not, he’s helping me blend in better.

While I was afoot seeking three specific things (obviously each pertaining to Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement, or you wouldn’t be reading this here), the fellow’s path had intersected with mine. Tell me a time when a Black guy didn’t get friendly with a chick who stepped into his space and I’ll swear you’re talking about an episode of the Twilight Zone.

He’d called a greeting to me as I rounded the corner coming out in front of him and feeling his immediate how-do-you-do was friendly rather than lascivious, I’d replied in kind. That led to him issuing an invitation to walk with me, which I’d accepted on the condition “as long as you keep up,” and now here we are, a couple out for a stroll on a cool but pleasant evening.

He makes a lot of inquiries as we move along the sidewalk, including what my name is. I tell him and he waits for me to ask him his. I oblige. Somehow I just know the one he gives me is his actual name but it sounds exactly like something I’d’ve fabricated for I HeArTE JADE. In fact, it’s macro-better than anything I could come up with. For the purpose of this account though let’s render him “Fred.”

Judging from Fred’s interrogatives alone, I deduce in short his intelligence is nothing to scoff at. He’s eloquent in conversation and when I provide him with my answers, which I confess are by design compacted and made-to-order for this impromptu interaction, I can sense from his eyes he’s conscientiously weighing out the particulars of what I say. I don’t lie to him; I just keep my words brief.

It’s possibly connected to the areas I’m nosing around in due to JADE but irrespective of how brilliant or how dim the person is, there are two things I never fail to hear when in conversation for longer than six minutes with anyone like Fred. They are “when I got out of the Penitentiary, I…” and “you smoke?” I remain undecided if the earlier is reflective of a) the amount of Black men who have genuinely been in prison, or b) the number of them who merely like to say they’ve been incarcerated, truly or not. The other one, the question, is always, always always, bait for marijuana use.

I respond to Fred’s gratuitous implication of his time in the joint with the perfunctory “what for?” and “how long?” and say “nope, don’t smoke” when he queries me on the joint of the other variety. I’ve got plenty enough goin’ on in my head; the last thing my brain needs is to be shrouded under illicit opaque smog. In addition, weed stinks. Literally. I loathe the smell of it. Yuck, ick, gag, blech.

Fred and I hang out and chat. We hit a park, and a convenience store. Over the duration of time my new acquaintance and I are together, I spot Mouse’s minivan, Rasmussen’s sedan, and Truck’s sportscar, traversing the streets periodically.

“You’re watching them detectives.” My dark-skinned companion is suddenly intensely fixated on me.

Ohho! I knew it. Fred is one smart chocolate-cookie. I smile naïf-like at him. “How do you know they’re detectives?”

Fred pauses a little too extensively before deciding upon “they just look like it.”

“Huh-uh.” I shake my head side-to-side and repeat “how do you know they’re detectives?”

“Everybody know deyz dee-tectives.” Fred stares at me then blurts out “I gots t’go.”

It’s the first instance Fred the well-phonic has gone ghetto-speak on me. I try asking him a couple of mild questions about JADE. Now I can normally get a brother to open up but Fred is having none of it. This is the same guy who in the last twenty minutes told me about his criminal history, his stash of reefer, and his momma. An example of tardy paranoia if ever there was one, it’s.

Understand I’ve spoken to a hella lotta people about the Task Force. From coke-fiends to cops, reporters to rogues, not a single one of them has ever shut down on me like Fred is doing. I don’t know what to make of it. Is he one of their CIs or something? That would be funny.

Of course I can’t have Fred all spooked out on me. I give him some superficial bunk to reassure him I’m indifferent to the TFOs. I further explain how I’m probably not on their list of favorite people. Fred, I can tell, is torn between believing me and not wanting to risk, gosh, Lord knows what bad outcome he’s picturing. Sensing it’s the best way to handle the situation, I minimize his consternation by shrugging in deference of his announced departure, chirrup “if you gotta go, you gotta go,” and walk away from him.

I amble to the next block where my vehicle is parked and as I’m getting in I hear Fred shouting in the distance to me. I loop my car around to him, roll down the window. “Thought you had to go.” He agrees and states where he wants to go is with me. Not what I am expecting to learn, or do. I find a slick way to nix that notion of his and motion a good-bye with my hand. He's bright; it’s a shame he didn’t want to discuss the Task Force.

As if one unplanned interplay wasn’t surprising enough, sixty seconds after pulling away from Fred I’m deliberately being trailed by JADE Detective Truck. But maybe I should wait for a rainy day to bore you with that sequel.