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"My name?" she asked, then hesitated. "Tiffany."
"I'm talking to Tiffany," I said to Michelle.
"I don't know a Tiffany," Michelle replied.
"Yeah, she doesn't know you, either."
"Well don't tell her who you're talking to," Michelle said. "Say a different name. Say you're talking to, uh, Allison."
"Um, Tiffany, I was supposed to meet Michelle at this party."
"It looks like she's calling the police," the chubby girl repeated.
Tiffany narrows her eyes. "Give me your cell phone," she insisted. "I want to talk to Michelle."
Unnerved by this request, I turned around and walked across MLK. "Tiffany" and the chubby girl followed me. There seemed to be a third person with them, but it was hard to tell in the darkness. I still had Michelle on the other line.
Tiffany bellowed, "Hey, hey, let me talk to Michelle!"
"Uh, Michelle, why are these girls following me?" I asked. "I think maybe they want my cell phone."
"What did she say?" the chubby girl asked her friend. "Did she say 'Why are these girls following me?'"
Within two minutes, Tiffany had caught up to me and blocked me from crossing the street. "Hey, let me talk to Michelle," she snarled.
Then my fight-or-flight instincts kicked in. The cell phone had to go.
"Fine," I said. "You wanna speak to Michelle? Here, speak to Michelle."
Just as I thrust the phone toward her, a police car raced by with sirens blaring, soon followed by two more. They were headed south on MLK.
"Police!" the girls screamed. Without taking my phone, they swiftly fled, which allowed me to run to my car. I grabbed my keys, jumped in, and pulled out into a busy street without signaling. I was terrified.
Three days later, I learned that Berkeley police responded to a call for service at MLK and Derby, right next to Lee's Market, at 12:16 a.m. that morning. As Lieutenant Hester reported in an e-mail the following week, "A resident heard a loud argument, then a single gunshot. It seemed to come from the upper level duplex next to Lee's Market. Another caller reported hearing three shots. Officers associated the loud shots with the party, and began dispersing it at 12:24."
Michelle didn't believe the gunshot report when I mentioned it a few days later.
Seven Days - January 19, 2:58 PM
Seven Days - January 19, 10:45 AM
Seven Days - January 19, 10:34 AM
Seven Days - January 18, 9:41 AM
Seven Days - January 17, 10:52 PM