Kimmie C loved what she did.
A glance at me rolling up in the cruiser and she’d strike a pose straight out of Scarface: Deep Pacino scowl sinking the beauty mark on her cheek. Chest shoved out behind crossed arms.
Standing tall on her corner, towering over the gym-heads and ex-linebackers in her crew, Kimmie played a warrior princess of the Desire Projects.
“Fuck you want, five-O?”
You never heard such a pretty voice doing ugly so well.
“What you’re carrying in your pockets,” I’d call to them all. “Hit the ground, hands spread.”
I’d come at her like a storm as her pushers scattered back to their shotgun houses. She’d keep fronting a bit, maybe toss a “Motherfucking Jurgis, why you always riding us?” my way.
Maybe toss up her nine-finger Ward sign. Maybe just the middle finger. Threw cayenne pepper at me once.
Then she’d bolt.
Kimmie knew I hate running.
We’d chase past the sour-gray warehouses by the Canal, though the cluttered alleys and the chain link, until our heartbeats outran our steps.
Then I’d grab her parka’s fur collar. Or I’d bull rush her into moldy cardboard boxes. Or she’d just stop sprinting, double forward and laugh.
But always she’d start her Oscar acceptance speech.
“I want to thank my pill-head mother, my missing father, my little brother Bruno who’s going to be an archaeologist one day,” Kimmie recited, hands clasped, eyes on high.
Most of the time, I’ll admit, I laughed a bit as I pulled out my notepad.
“I never expected to get best performance in the role of an informant,” she’d tell the other rats in the alley, blinking back imaginary tears.
Kimmie C loved being a snitch.
In that Spring of ’07, she was the best I ever knew.
“You never take me anyplace nice,” Kimmie said. She wrinkled her nose at the reeking towers of crab crates and fishing tackle we’d hidden by for our meet.
“I’ll expense the next one. Let’s get back to talking about Ace’s heroin drops, Kimmie.”
We met worse places: Pork plant in Florida District. The rusted refinery just north of Claiborne. Flooded houses steeped with groundwater and ghosts.
And we met at better: RV lots, shipping yards, the toy factory.
Desire only gets so much better, though.
“We should go to Gallatoire’s.” Kimmie clasped my hand with the pen in it. “Write that down. They dress up there. Frills and all. We’ll act like real ladies.”
“My bustle-wearing days are behind me, Kimmie,” I said. “And I don’t think either of us pass as real ladies.”
“Speak for yourself, Detective.” She toasted me with an imaginary tea cup, pinky up and everything, then spilled the latest on the Aces.
Kimmie first came to me after the Aces tore Luke Bender into dog meat.
I looked up from my surveillance outside the Mini-Mart and there’s this slip of a girl with supermodel poise. Her hair’s a perfect wing and her makeup a mess.
“I want out of this war,” she told me. “You going to be my ticket?”
I regretted lying to her as soon as I said yes.
I regretted it for the same reason I said it. I wanted to keep her safe.
Not for the information. Not just for that.
“Bruno got an A on his history test,” she ended our meet one time. Only time I saw Kimmie bounce like a kindergartener.
“Just watch your own ass,” I’d always tell her.
I spent my time with her trying to sketch a war. The Aces’ gangs and the Funk crew were racking big numbers in dead bodies and dope.
“Bruno stole my shoes until I took him to the Audubon Museum,” Kimmie finished another time, rolling her eyes above a smile.
She was an expert on the Aces’ heroin racket. She could hint where bodies were buried. She knew who was holding the latest Afghani AK-47s.
“Bruno told me the world’s ending in 2012.”
“Just watch your own ass.”
She ratted on everybody. The Funk, the crooked cops, those wet-head butchers in the Old Crows.
“Nobody’s going to find me out,” Kimmie’d smile. “And Aces don’t kill women.”
I’d shrug. She’d stroll offstage. Back to her bedroom covered in Destiny’s Child, Aretha and Irma posters instead of windows.
But I’d always catch her kissing the cross on her necklace. Lowering her head a moment. Looking back up at the Interstate 10 out of town.
We found the head a week after we did the torso.
Top Aces had run their mouths about what kind of hacksaw they’d used. Nothing our Homicide could make stick. Nothing about where the head was.
It showed up by the toy factory we met at.
Shotgun target practice didn’t leave much.
I broke into Kimmie’s house that night.
The posters were all torn down. Her microphone and sound set were boxed.
Her makeup was a mess again.
“I’m sorry about your brother.”
“Fuck you, five-O,” Kimmie said. I believed it for the first time.
“Know who did it?”
“Going to tell me?”
She shook her head.
Kimmie turned her back to me. She opened her desk drawer. A Glock sat there.
“No,” she said. “But you feel free to leave.”
I slipped back out.
Neither of us went anywhere.