Quan is determined to make this drop fast. While cleaning out the closet, Mama opened one of Dwight’s boxes and found packets of letters from Daddy to Quan. Daddy wrote over a hundred letters over the course of four years—and Dwight hid them all. Quan needs to complete this drop so he can go home, resume reading the letters, and respond to Daddy. Picking up the money goes as planned, so Quan takes the pouch to Martel’s. Martel is throwing himself a birthday party; he was pulled over in Alabama last month and is now under house arrest.
Discovering that Daddy actually has been writing all these years gives Quan hope. Not everyone has given up on him—he just didn’t know that he still had Daddy’s support. And because Quan has this newfound avenue of support through Daddy, doing the work for Black Jihad feels more like a chore than a way to feel like he belongs. This shows again that Quan is dedicated to his family and desperately wants to please his father. If he can reconnect with Daddy, there might be hope for the future.
Martel has had a few drinks, so he’s chatty. He seems annoyed that Quan is in a hurry, but just then Brad races in. Brad says that the cops rolled by; this means they’ll come back and charge them with something random. Quan tries to control his breathing. Since Dwight’s death, Quan has been having “spells” where it’s hard to breathe and he feels convinced that bad things are going to happen. Martel confirms that people are leaving and then tells Brad to sit outside with Trey, DeMarcus, and Quan. Quan rushes after Brad. By the time Quan gets to the car, he feels like he has a headache, heartburn, cramps, and diarrhea. Something bad is going to happen.
Quan’s reaction to hearing about the cops is significant. His anxiety spikes, and he even experiences physical symptoms of it, like pain and breathing trouble. All of this looks like he could be panicking, which shows that coming into contact with the police is extremely stressful for Quan. This is perhaps unsurprising, given his first brush with the police when Daddy was arrested.
Trey pops the hatch of Martel’s Range Rover and sits in it. He instructs Brad to stand on the left, Quan to take the right, and DeMarcus to stand next to Trey. Quan remembers DeMarcus getting expelled in middle school for anger issues, but now he knows why: DeMarcus watched a cop murder his dad during a traffic stop. DeMarcus’s presence means that something bad is going to happen—he never leaves home without his pistol. Quan’s ankle itches. That’s where he keeps his pistol.
DeMarcus’s story is a reference to Philando Castile, who was, like DeMarcus’s dad, shot during a traffic stop in 2016. His partner and her daughter were in the car and witnessed his murder. This trauma has affected DeMarcus by making him violent—and now, as an older teen, DeMarcus seems more than willing to seek out violence or revenge whenever he sees the opportunity.
The cop car turns the corner and Brad, apparently having lost a bet, gives Trey money. The cruiser pulls across the driveway and stops, blocking oncoming traffic. Two officers get out and Quan’s consciousness seems to detach from his body. He feels like he’s watching a movie as the officers approach, their hands near their guns. They received a noise complaint. When Brad makes a joke about white neighbors being upset about not getting an invite, Officer Castillo grips his holstered gun. Quan runs to tell Martel that the cops are here. Martel comes onto the porch and Quan returns to the Range Rover, though he doesn’t know why and doesn’t remember walking there.
The fact that Quan experiences this event as though he’s watching a movie illustrates just how traumatic this interaction with the cops is for him. He’s barely even there; instead, he’s trapped in his head. The aside that Quan doesn’t remember walking back to the Range Rover suggests that his memories of what happens this evening might be inaccurate. Because of his traumatic past experiences with police, his brain flags this event as frightening—even though nothing has really happened yet.
Officer Tison asks Martel to take his hands out of his pockets and Martel asks what the cops want. When Tison asks for a word, Martel grabs his pant leg. Castillo moves into a shooting stance and points his gun at Martel. Martel pulls his pant leg up to reveal his ankle monitor and explains he can’t leave the porch. He asks that Castillo lower his gun before approaching. Tison tells Castillo to put the gun down, but Castillo refuses.
Martel seems to enjoy worrying the cops by making a show of pulling up his pant leg, but it’s important to note that Martel has no real power here. He’s Black, unarmed, and facing two armed white authority figures, so the scales aren’t tipped in his favor.
Quan can’t breathe and his ankle itches. Castillo is pointing his gun at the only man who’s ever been around to support and protect Quan. He tugs at his pant leg as Tison tells Castillo to lower his gun. Someone moves by the Range Rover and Castillo whips around. There are three gunshots and Quan blinks. His ears are ringing, his head swims, and his temple hurts. The lights on the cruiser are on, somehow. Someone grabs Quan and says they have to go. Quan notices Castillo’s body, facedown on the ground. He then notices there’s a gun in his hand. He drops it and follows whoever’s pulling him along.
The hazy way that Quan describes his memories of this evening suggests that readers should be skeptical of what happened. Importantly, there’s nothing that says outright that Quan pulled the trigger—or indeed, who did. However, it’s still worth considering why Quan pulls his gun and if he may have fired it. As Quan sees it, the cops could’ve taken out the only person who’s been there to support him. This means that Quan feels immense loyalty toward Martel, so it may seem worth it to sacrifice his own future to protect Martel.