Chapter 3

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Ten Years Later

Barlow sucked in a deep breath of fresh, crisp air, held it in his lungs for a few seconds, and slowly exhaled.

"What the hell are you doing, Jackson," his boss, Irv Washington asked, "practicing Yoga or something?" Irv placed his hands on his hips. The big man with his dark chocolate skin and shaved head made an imposing figure, but Barlow knew he had a heart of gold.

In the background, a pair of carpenters hammered wall studs into place, the rat-a-tat of their two hammers pounded nails in near perfect syncopation. "I'm just enjoying the smell of fresh cut lumber."

"You're aware we're behind schedule, right? It's November and we need to get eight more of these new townhouses under roof before the snow flies."

Barlow nodded. "I hear you, boss, but I can't lay shingles until Calvin and Tommy finish the plywood sheeting over the roof trusses."

"What? You mean they're behind again too?" Irv took a step back and peered to the rooftop, holding a hand over his brow to shield his eyes from the sun. "Hey, you deadbeats, get a move on. You're costing me money."

The two men glanced down, waved, and began working faster.

Irv cursed and said, "Damn rookies."

"Don't sweat it, boss, I'll climb up there and give them a hand."

"You shouldn't have to. It's their job, not yours."

As Barlow grabbed the rungs of the ladder to begin his climb, Irv asked, "You didn't forget about our meeting tonight, right?"

Barlow always acted put out but secretly enjoyed the periodic dinner meetings with his boss to discuss progress on their various construction projects. "If you insist."

"I insist."

"Then you're buying."

Barlow agreed to meet Irv Washington at The Eight Ball, a downtown Columbus, Ohio sports bar located less than a mile from his apartment

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Barlow agreed to meet Irv Washington at The Eight Ball, a downtown Columbus, Ohio sports bar located less than a mile from his apartment. The place served great tavern food, and during the rare occasion when he had one too many, he had the option of walking home.

After entering the establishment, Barlow's eyes adjusted to the dark, smoky atmosphere and found his boss sitting at a table viewing a large screen television. The man was a die hard college football fan.

Irv paid rapt attention to the broadcast and flinched when Barlow approached and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Hey, boss. What are you watching?"

"Rebroadcast of the past weekend Buckeyes game against Penn State."

Barlow hadn't seen the game but recalled the outcome. "They trounced the Nittany Lions and at Beaver Stadium too."

Irv's broad smile lit up his face. "Yeah, man. It was glorious."

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