Mustapha sat down in the chair and opened the folder. “This is a nice picture of you, Christopher. That’s kind of a big deal, being on stage with Big Daddy Jay. All the other aspiring rappers at Tri-Cities are going to be jealous. Someone as young as you, getting to warm up for that Shawty G guy? Man, you done made your bones.”
Christopher sat low in his chair, legs splayed, arms folded, trying to look hard. “I earned that.”
“You know, you did. But I was trying to be all clever, you know, make your bones. See, I could have a future as a rapper.”
“Well, you’ve got flow,” said Diana from where she stood by the window.
“And we’ve got bones. Whose bones they are, we think is that they belong to Thirty Ought. Right height and build, but we don’t have dental records, because he never really went to the dentist. Except the kind what makes gold teeth, and they don’t really keep the sort of records we need. The kind of records you want, Christopher. And I’m just going to take a wild guess here and say that Big Daddy not only offered you a spot on stage the other day with Shawty G, in return for using your grandmother’s car to help them move Thirty Ought’s body from out there in Midtown to the garden of the house next door, but he also dangled some kind of record deal in front of you if you’d keep your mouth shut.” Mustapha folded his arms, though he remained sitting up.
“I ain’t sayin’ nothing,” said Christopher, but he couldn’t meet Mustapha’s gaze for long.
“Christopher is a boy with a future,” said his grandmother from beside him.
“In jail,” said Mustapha.
Christopher shrugged. “Don’t matter. I’ll get out. And the whole time in, I’ll be rhyming.”
“And Big Daddy will be there for you, setting up your career? That’s what he told you, right? He and that Shawty G kid told you they needed a ride up to Midtown, and if you kept shut, he’d jump-start you. Even let you get up on stage Saturday afternoon and do your thing. Which, we saw the video.”
Diana said, “Stay in school.”
“Now, Detective, give the boy a chance. He’s young. He’s got stars in his eyes. So many that he can’t see the truth.”
A long silence. Then the grandmother said, “What have you done, boy?”
Mustapha said, “Not that much, really. He drove those clowns up to Midtown, so Big Daddy could dig up the body, and then he helped rebury it. In the garden next door. Did y’all know the New Pirate Mafia corporation owns that whole row of homes? Once the Beltline is finished, they’re going to make out like bandits, flipping those houses. Chris here is eighteen, so he’ll do time, but not much, even if he doesn’t talk. There goes college.”
“Don’t need it,” said Christopher.
Diana pulled up a chair and sat down. “We get it, Chris: you’re doing what makes sense to you, with the information you have. Big Daddy probably told you the body you moved was some gangbanger who did the New Pirate Mafia wrong. He just needed help: you help him, he puts you on stage when you get out. Just like Shawty G.”
“But you don’t have all the information,” said Mustapha. “And we’re trying to help you—believe it or not, we really are. Not because we’re nice people and we want to save a young man from getting bamboozled into throwing his life away. We’re not those kind of cops. It’s because we really want to nail that murderous prick Big Daddy.”
Diana said, “Right now, you think it’s in your best interest to protect him. But snitching is really in your best interest. And we can prove it. You think you’re getting a shot at the big time if you keep shot. But you already are big-time. You see, the guy we just dug up was Thirty Ought. Old bullet wounds prove it.”
“Gold teeth, too.”
“Yep. So now, you have to ask yourself, why would Big Daddy know where his partner in crime was buried? Yeah, that does make you wonder, doesn’t it? But Big Daddy’s still alive, even if he killed his husband,”
“His husband?” gasped the grandmother. “Lord.”
Mustapha said, “And he can help you, and Thirty Ought can’t.”
Diana said, “At least, that’s what you think. See, Thirty Ought had a will. Missing and buried in Midtown, Big Daddy is the sole proprietor of New Pirate Mafia; declared dead, Thirty Ought’s share goes to your own dad.”
“Which means you, since your dad’s gone,” said Mustapha. “You think you’re getting a shot at being a bit player in the New New Pirate Mafia. But you’re half of it, son. It’s already yours.”
Diana said, “And if you help us put Big Daddy away, it’s all yours. You own that Shawty G kid. All the records. All your grandfather’s electro-funk stuff, which by the way I’ve been listening to all day and is one hundred percent awesome. You can cut your own records, or you can sit around and count your money. You see, Big Daddy can’t profit from his crime: you help us put him away for moving the body, we can get him for murder. It’s all yours.”
Another long silence. Then Christopher said, “And if I don’t snitch, it’s still half mine.”
“That’s right. But you’ll be in jail; and you probably think you can do three or four years. And you might could, if you were by yourself. But you need to ask yourself: with Big Daddy out there, how long are you going to stay alive in jail?”
The grandmother cleared her throat. “Before Christopher says anything, I’m going to call my minister. We need to get us a lawyer, and you’ll need to show us all the papers.”
Mustapha said, “That is no problem, ma’am. The lawyer will tell you it’s all true. Chris, you need to listen to your grandmother. She’s a way better role model than ol’ Big Daddy.”
It’s never about rhymes; it’s always about money. Christopher owns half of Big Daddy, and here he is committing small-time crimes in order to get a tiny percentage of that. The “stop snitching” culture is loathsome, though there’s a sense in which it makes sense in the context of ghettos under siege. But that ethic only goes so far.