The stolen merchandise was in the kitchen; the guns were on the couch. The whores were in one room and Danny was in another, cutting up thousands of dollars worth of cocaine.
Danny had rifles. He had Uzis. He had semi automatics. He had a fucking rocket launcher in there at one point. He was a pimp, and then some. In the '90s, he was so deep into so much organized crime shit that even if it weren't for Summer's clairvoyant tremors, she'd have known death had targeted the love of her life like a fucking laser pointer, and was humping toward a bull's eye.
You're a pimp, you've got a No. 1 girl. For Danny, that was Summer. They were doing business out of the whorehouse they operated on W. 110th and Lorain, slinging women and drugs and artillery and tricycles. No joke. When a man and his pigtailed daughter would show up to look at a bike, Danny would stash the drugs and tell the whores to wait outside the kitchen, Anne Frank style.
The money was out of control.
They lived a few blocks over, on Fortune Ave. Danny was Asian, and got a bang out of the idea that his street evoked the eternally optimistic tidings of fortune cookies. He and Summer enjoyed an open sexual relationship — she had a sugar daddy in Solon unburdening himself of more than $100,000 per annum for her services — and took a prolonged tour of Every. Last. Drug. Known. To. Man. Summer's big thing was crack.
That's how she met Danny, out at the Royal Inn on the east side. One bleary night — and the memories from this point are pretty much all-the-way obscured by chemical cobwebs — Summer's friend asked if she wanted to do a threesome.
"He'll give us dope," the friend promised.
Summer loved dope, but wasn't convinced about the threesome until she saw Danny. He strutted in wearing sunglasses, body tapered and cut like a quarry, an Asian in the mold of 2Pac. The motherfucker was gorgeous. He lifted his shades, brow furrowed as he looked at Summer.
"What are you doing with these people?" He demanded, the implication being she didn't belong.
Summer's response was the only one there was: "Drugs."
Though she was married at the time, Summer and Danny became involved. Intimately and professionally. She'd wed her husband at 16, already with an idea that he was a last resort. He was in prison when Summer met Danny, and after he got out, they kept him at bay with regular drug deliveries.
They started an escort service. It had a catchy name. It was well regarded in the circles that pay regard to escort services. It advertised in the illustrious back 40 of this publication.
Danny was ambitious. He was college educated, whip smart. On Cleveland's west side, he put the Organized in Organized Crime, centralizing his various operations and enlisting friends as under bosses and muscle. Though he distributed drugs, he didn't, as a rule, take them himself. While his cohorts got high, he read. Summer called him a poet, a man who in private moments was known to speak in metaphor. He had a rap album in the works.
But in September, 1997, he went missing. On the last day he was seen, he rented a U-Haul and spent most of the afternoon and evening moving equipment into the new stereo and electronics shop he was opening with a business partner on Lorain. The night before, he was with Summer, plotting a brighter future for themselves under the red heat lamp of a Days' Inn bathroom. Summer will remember that final night — the passion, the heat, the hope — for the rest of her life.
Seven years after Danny disappeared, his skull was found in Westlake. With a bullet in it.***
This isn't a true-crime story about Danny's death, though the homicide remains unsolved for reasons Summer suspects are related to his race and his profession. "The innocent victim isn't always so innocent," a Westlake detective told Scene years ago, "but what crime did [Danny] commit that would be equal to what happened to him?"
None, presumably. And Summer wanted that known. She called Scene, in fact, at first just to talk about Danny and his murder. How she felt the police had given up. How she felt she had been improperly portrayed in the lone account of Danny's death in Scene back in 2006. But ultimately, she wanted to tell her story. She wanted people to know that she had a story, that all drug addicts and prostitutes do, and that we shouldn't forget that, even as we try to treat them as victims.
When I arrived at Summer's apartment last month, her face and head seemed somehow kinetically supercharged. She was chawing on gum very far back in her mouth. Her hair color, in terms of wattage, was equivalent to certain industrial bulbs. Her skin was tanning-salon tan. Her eye makeup was golden, glittery and liberally applied. Her nails were immaculately (and freshly?) polished. Her body was what people think of when they hear the word buxom. All in all, she had the former heavy drug addict's neural twerk and former escort's impulse for self-preservation as to appear synthetic, a fembot on the fritz. Having endured more than one tonic-clonic seizure, which has obliterated one eye's peripheral vision, co-opted crucial memories — she couldn't remember the name of the grade school she attended — and periodically sabotaged her ability to spell, her stories were many-tributaried streams of consciousness.
But boy did she have some stories.
Her apartment, an upper level in a Lakewood duplex, was clean and fragrant. Incense was involved in a serious, multivalent way. When I walked in tentatively, bag over my shoulder, Summer asked if I wanted candy, of which there was plenty, then sat me down at a central table and started talking...***