The 6 story, pre-war building had been in Dmitri’s family for decades. His great grandmother was a day worker for a prominent Jewish Lithuanian family, the Minkowski’s, in the 20’s and 30’s and by 1960 she would inherit the buiding from the family’s patriarch. At the time of his death, unbeknownst to the rest of his people, he had left the entire building in his will to Viktoriya Volkov. She had already been given cushy five-bedroom apartment on the top floor; Mr. Minkowski knocked down the walls to three adjacent units turning it into a master suite for a young Viktoriya and her growing brood. In those days a young woman with children out of wedlock was a social leper. Being that all of Viktoriya’s children were fathered by Minkowski it was even more taboo. Luckily his wife was none the wiser and she passed away without so much as an inkling of any of her husband’s unfaithful ways. Unfortunately, her children grew suspicious as the years went on. However, Minkowski was a lawyer first and a family man second. His will was ironclad; Viktoriya would inherit the building as well as a sizeable stake in his firms profits until her death.
Viktoriya had 3 children with Minkowski; Ibrahim, Sara and Harvey. They took her surname and had no idea who their birth father actually was. Minkowski might have provided for Viktoriya but she had other plans for her own personal gains. In the fall of 1955 she fell in love and privately wed a WW2 veteran named Dmitri Chomsky. Chomsky was honorably discharged from the army but faced heavy discrimination when he returned to the states. He spent his time at the racetracks and eventually began running numbers. In 3 years he had amassed a small fortune but as an unmarried man there were certain circles he wasn’t privy to. Viktoriya and her pre-made family made for the perfect cover. They said their vows at City Hall and had a small reception with the children and a few of Dmitri’s buddies from the track. Despite their shady beginnings, Viktoriya and Dmitri made a good life for themselves and their children.
Dmitri remembered spending summers with his grandfather Ibrahim, visiting his great-grandmother, affectionately called Bubbe, and learning a little Russian from her. She was a small, delicately featured woman who wore flowy caftans and turbans around the house. He especially loved that she would find clever ways to slip him money by sending him to the store for her favorite things. Much to his fathers chagrin, it would be Bubbe who gave Dmitri his first cigarette at 13 and it was why he continued to smoke the brand that was so hard to come by. Every week Dmitri would ride the trains from Flushing to Brighton Beach to spend a day or two with his favorite girl. He had his own room there and often when he fought with his father, he would retreat to the warmth of his great-grandmother’s home. Dmitri and Bubbe were inseparable until her death. It was no surprise to him or any of his cousins when he was named the sole heir of the building.
"We’re on our way. You want anything from outside?" Dmitri’s phone buzzed from the incoming text.
"Ayo, Bu, you want something from the store?"
"Nah, I’m good fam. Oh wait. We got any Red Stripes left?"
"Bu, you know better than to ask me that. If we aint got nothin in here, we got beer."
"No thanks sweetheart, I’m good." He hit send and put his phone back in his pocket.
After ringing the bell Liz was impressed by the modern video intercom system. She smiled brightly into the camera as the door buzzed and unlocked then marveled at the vaulted ceilings and marble floor tiles in the buildings main hall. It was a classic old building. Paneled mirrors lined the lobby walls making the space look bigger than it actually was. Staircases flanked each side of the hall and a beautiful, ornate chandelier hung bright and high. The floors were spotless, the air smelled of pine, the windows were crystal clear. She even noticed a fresh coat of paint on the walls.
"Very nice. Well maintained." she murmured "this sells itself."
She was all smiles as Dmitri opened the door. He introduced her to Buddha who was still in the throes of an incomplete Call of Duty mission. Bu made a grunt that Liz took as a hello.
"Don’t mind Bu." Dmitri started "He’s part caveman."
Bu growled but did not take his eyes off the screen “Watch your mouth, fam!” He was backed into a corner before taking a fatal shot and losing the mission. Dejectedly, he hit pause and took register of Liz’s arrival. At 6’8” he was a behemoth of a man. He pushed his long locs off his face and his eyes were now fixated on the beauty that was Elizabeth Sanchez. He grinned before extending his hand to Liz.
"Damn. You fine as hell. What’s your name, beautiful?"
"Don’t answer that." Dmitri interjected "Bu, focus. Where’s the food? Get that together before you try to bag my new employee."
"Employee, huh?" Liz smiled "Well, let me tell you how gorgeous this location is. That lobby is breathtaking."
"The lobby was just redone. I could show you some of the units. Where’s your girl?"
"She had to stop at the store. I gave her the address, she should be here soon."
"Ight, cool. Bu will let her in." Dmitri grabbed his keys "B, I’ll be right back. Imma show Liz some of the apartments right quick."
Dmitri had cleaned up the apartment and had even called a caterer for the occasion. Actually, his main man and bodyguard, Buddha, had picked the food for the night and as Dmitri had pointed out, it was late. Bu called the restaurant.
"Wha’apm star? It’s Buddha. Mi orda suttin from two nights ago. Yes, two nights. Full dinner for 6. Wey it dey? Brighton Beach. Special orda." The buzzer rang.
Chase swiped her card again to check her balance for the fourth time. There was no way she was overdrawn but she was. The cab ride from Crown Heights to Brighton Beach had thrown her balance off by 3 dollars and her account was in the red. It had been a week since she received the denial letter from the department of labor. She quit, she wasn’t fired or laid off, so she was assed out. The rent was a month past due and now she and Liz were stranded in Brighton Beach. She sent Liz a text.
Liz’s phone buzzed and she instantly felt panicked but didn’t let it show on her face. She had spent her last on getting her nails done and buying a little food for the house. She had a whole $5 in her pocket and was itching to seal the deal with Dmitri. She played it off like she was looking for her camera app before asking if it was okay to take pictures of the empty apartment’s bay windows and hardwood parquet floors.
"Do you know what you could get for this studio?" She inquired excitedly.
"Nah but I bet you do." Dmitri retorted.
She could tell he wasn’t taking this as serious as she was but she didn’t mind. If there was something Liz knew how to do; it was making a believer out of a skeptic.
"Oh watch me. This building will be filled by the new year."
"Word? That’s less than 4 months away. Lemme find out you know how to move weight like that" Dmitri joked.
"Oh I move units, honey." Liz snapped back "I always move my units. Quickly."
Dmitri’s phone buzzed again. “Come on, I’ll show you the rest after dinner.”
Chase and the food had arrived. Buddha was in the dining room setting up and speaking hushed patois with the caterer. Chase stood and introduced herself to Dmitri after kissing Liz on the cheek. Now it was Dmitri’s turn to be rendered speechless. Chase’s thick, coily hair was in a high bun and her clear chocolate complexion was makeup free. She wore gold elephant shaped studs in her ears and a cute hooded sweatshirt with slim fitted jogging pants. Her kicks were a pair of her favorites: grey and royal blue Bo Jacksons. Coincidentally, she and Dmitri had the same sneakers on. They both looked down and smiled shyly.
She and Liz didn’t even look like they traveled to the same place in the same ride. Liz was real estate chic; a navy blue pencil dress that hit right below the knee, leopard printed pointed toe flats that matched the skinny belt around her waist. Her hair was a slate gray caesar that took 5 tries, 4 dyes and 3 bleachings to achieve. The rhinestone encrusted nails were her signature look and it never looked cheap or over the top. Dmitri didn’t know how lucky he was. These two were definitely different. Liz got him hype about making money and Chase made him wanna spend it as soon as he got it.
The caterer was busy setting up the sternos while Buddha inspected the food. When the figure in the chef coat turned around both Liz and Chase yelped.
"Yessie?!" Chase shrieked "What are you doing here?" Liz gave Yessie a tight hug.
Dmitri paused. “Wait. Yall know each other?”
"Yeah this is my best friend." Chase introduced the two. Yessie smiled politely at Dmitri before going back to setting up. Chase sidled up next to her.
"Yo we stranded out here. Did you drive?" Chase whispered.
Yessie was placing the pans in the cages. “Nah, I took a cab. Amir might pick me up.”
"Fuck!" Chase was stressed. She hated being out of the house without any ends. "Well, you got some bud, at least?"
"Barely. I got a clip in my purse."
"What yall whispering about over there?" Dmitri called from the living room.
"Nothing. I just wish I had some bud right now. I meant to cop before we left." Chase answered.
"Why you aint say something?" Dmitri called for Bu. "B! Bring the kit."
The kit was a silver plated serving tray with several glass jars full of exotics. A wooden jewelry box contained several dutches and a bag of fresh fronto leaf for rolling.
"These days I always like to smoke before I eat." He tossed the bag of fronto to Bu. "My appetite been off for a minute. Real talk, since Bubbe died I aint been right."
"Hold up." Liz’s mind was racing and she wasn’t one to hold her tongue. "You got at least $500 worth of bud on this tray."
"$700 actually. That Blue Dream is fresh from Cali."
"Blue Dream!? Are you forreal. That’s hard to come by."
"Oh so you’re a connoisseur now?" Dmitri rolled up and watched Liz think for a second.
"Are you selling this?" Liz asked.
"Sell weed? Nah, this is just my personal. I sell other things." D took a few pulls before passing it to Chase.
"So you mean to tell me you sitting on some good shit and you not even selling it?" Liz had hit the jackpot. "How about this? I’m tryna make some short and some long term ends if you down."
"Well we don’t have access to strains like this on our side of town. Let’s make a deal: we move a little bud for you and you hook us up with your connect."
"Oh I’m just gonna give you my connect, huh? Just like that? Dmitri smirked. "You hear this one, Bu? She bold as hell. That’s your girl." He laughed.
Liz was dead serious. “Nah, straight cheese. You don’t know what you got in the room. We all could eat very nicely off this. And fast.”
Chase’s eyes widened. Liz was a trip but she had a point. If anyone needed a quick break it was her. She was running out of ways to duck her landlord’s demands for the rent. The marshal was liable to show up any day now. She turned to Dmitri to gauge his reaction.
"Well if I get to see this girl again then yeah. I might consider it." He smiled at Chase who playfully rolled her eyes.
"Look. I am so serious right now. You have 3 women with connections. We could make you some of the easiest money and the best part is you won’t have to worry about us getting knocked." Liz crossed her leg and leaned forward as she took a pull. "How many D-boys can say that? None. You know why? Cause they aint us."
Her bravado was off the charts but Dmitri knew she was right. He currently had men posted in several parts of Crown Heights and Bed Stuy; the probability of losing weight because of one or two men holding all the packs was to high.
Dmitri turned to the dining room. “You in on this too, ma?” He asked Yessie.
Before she could speak Liz answered for her. “Yup. She’s a master pastry chef as well. We could create some edibles that are out of this world.”
"Liz, can we speak to you for a second?" Yessie’s face was pale with fright.
Chase and Yessie stood in the kitchen staring at Liz.
"What? Look I’m trying to look out for all of us." She turned to Chase "my nigga, you don’t even have cab fare to get home."
"Exactly! How the hell are we gonna afford this? Plus, I don’t know shit about selling drugs." Chase shot back.
"No but you know how to buy and you know you’re tired of the same old shit around the way." Liz answered. She turned to Yessie "Let me hold something until this takes off."
"Hold something? Are you crazy? I’m saving." Yessie craned her neck outside of the doorway before returning her gaze to Liz. "Besides, that dread out there knows my mom. If she gets wind of this that’s my ass!"
"She won’t. Trust me. Just hold me down with $500." Liz was relentless "I know you’re good for it Yessie. Plus it’ll only be a week."
"A week? You must be out of your rabid ass mind. Chase just said she don’t know shit about selling drugs. Plus my my mom will find out. To top it off you are dead broke. I can’t with you right now." Yessie went to leave. Liz grabbed her arm.
"Yessie. Please. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t know it would work."
"You down with this Chase? Say something." Yessie pleaded with her.
Chase wrung her hands together, her acrylic nails click-clacking softly. “Well….It doesn’t sound like a bad idea. I’m bout to be evicted. I gotta make moves.”
Yessie fell back. “Fine. I’ll do it. But as soon as I get my money back I’m out. I can’t be caught up with this.”
Liz kissed both of Yessie’s cheeks with excitement before stepping back into the living room.
"So what’s the verdict, ladies?" Dmitri smiled "Yall down?"
The trio looked at each other before nodding.
"Yup, it’s a deal." Liz rubbed her belly "But can we eat? I’m starving."
Buddha laughed “A woman after my own heart.” He pulled a chair out at the dining room table. “Come. Sit. I wanna look at you while I tear this food up.”
Viktoryia’s portrait watched as the crew sat down to break bread. The air was electric and full of hopeful vibes. It was the start of a new season for everyone. Dmitri winked at Bubbe’s picture. Maybe it was the high but for a second he could have swore she winked back.