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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Story

Don't know if I've posted this before or not. Anyway, I'm taking this story off the shelf, dusting it, and working to complete it before year end. Loose Id has expressed some interest, so hopefully I can get it published. Plotting it as I write. Am interested in feedback so feel free to comment on these chapters.


He'd been made. All of his senses told him so, including the hairs standing on his flesh. Still he had a job to do. As Dele walked into the bar, he spotted Rez sitting at the back table. The gang leader's eyes casually lifted from the Bowie knife in his hand as they locked in on Dele. Clare, who had been leaning over the table yapping away to a mute Rez, also turned her gaze on Dele and smiled widely. She often smiled like that when some poor creature was about to be clipped. Just the other day, Rez deliberately ran his bike into a baby deer foraging near a clearing, several feet wide of the main road artery. The small body hurtled into the air before smashing into the pavement, its head cracked open, its eyes staring into nothingness. Rez yelped in victory as he pumped his left fist into the air leading the raucous crew behind him. Death was an occasion of celebration for the Demons.

Dele had ignored the roiling bile in his stomach as he averted his eyes from the deer carnage. But now Rez's murderous stare was aimed at him and he couldn't help but remember the wet slime of brain and blood left on the road. Whether a helpless deer or a man, they were both fair game. The rest of the gang sat at tables clustered together in the small bar, their leather or jean clad limbs riding rickety chairs and tables, Budweisers lifted, weed smoking up the place. A kilo stash of blow sat in front of Roach ready to be inhaled. Just a taste of the full inventory. A chorus of smirks and smiles greeted him as Lynyrd Skynyrd's "On the Hunt," blared from the jukebox.

This afternoon as they had trailed their bikes through the mountains, Dele had picked up on some bad vibes that had made his knuckles twitch. The vibes were even stronger here. Still he strolled in as though it were any other afternoon at Jed's Bar & Grill, the Demons' usual turf. Jed was behind the bar, ignoring the scene watching the overhead set whose volume was turned down. The grizzled bar owner knew it was healthier for him not to notice too much.

Dele straddled one of the empty stools and Jed pulled out a beer for him, no charge. Dele opened the cold, sweaty bottle and took a swig, feeling the pairs of eyes drilling into his back.


The summons came from the back, as expected. He sat for a few seconds before he heeded the call. Keeping Rez waiting had its own consequences.

He headed to Rez's table, pulled up an extra chair and sat down. Clare's smeared lipstick bled onto a couple of upper teeth, giving her a vampirish grin. The grin and eyes were gleeful, sure of Dele's fate. But then she had reason to dislike Dele ever since he'd thrown off her drunken advances. That had been nearly four months ago, when he first joined The Demons.

Or rather, when he'd first gone undercover to link The Demons to a West Coast drug trafficking ring that ran from California to Washington State. He was also investigating the several bodies found buried in the Mojave Desert. He'd racked up enough evidence for the trafficking, but not a stitch on the murders of several rival gang members.

Still, the DEA had been about to pull him in. Obviously not soon enough. Shit.

The Glock in his belt had a full cartridge. But there was no way he could possibly take everyone down. That would take a small miracle. No, make that a damn big miracle with the heavens opening up and Jesus himself descending to whop some ass alongside him.

Otherwise, he was a dead man. He read that much in Rez's eyes. The guitar twang coming through the nearby jukebox rang out the epitaph of a man going down. He didn't like Lynyrd Skynyrd, never had ever since his father used to blast it from the stereo in their two by four shanty. That was a long time ago, before Eric aka Dele had escaped his Georgia prison at seventeen.

"Dele, Dele," Rez shook his head. "Now, man, I can get with the idea of taking sides, you know. In this world, you're either hot or cold, but you got to make a choice."

"Don't know what you're talking about, man." Dele took another swig, his mind on his Glock. He may go down, but he was taking a few of these assholes with him. And at least they'd go down for murder this time.

"I'm talking about loyalty or more specific, disloyalty…to the family."

"And how've I been disloyal…to the family?"

Dele's hand gripped his bottle in a stranglehold that he wanted to put around Rez's neck. The cold glass chilled through his fingers.

Rez's face had been indifferent up until this point. Now anger blazed from his eyes, the irises black as coal. Dele had never seen anyone with jet black eyes until he met the gang leader.

"Don't fuck with me, man! Don't you fuck with me! I got ten bags missing, and Roach says he saw you in the supply house. I wasn't never good with math, but I sure as hell can put two and two together. You're copping my bags and doing some side trading. You rob from me, you rob from all of us."

Goddamn. He hadn't been made after all, but he was sure to die if he didn't convince Rez that he wasn't the thief here. And he didn't have to be good at math either to figure out who was setting him up.

He didn't turn around but his words were directed to Roach sitting near the front, probably already started on his treat.

"So Roach, when exactly did I take the merchandise?"

"Man, you know it was you! I saw you!" Roach yelled back, his words already slurring.

"If anyone took those bags, it definitely wasn't me. After all, I'm not the one with the nasal habit."

The chair scraped back and Dele heard the sound of boots headed in his direction. Then Roach was standing behind him. A click. A knife.

Dele's next motion was quick and smooth from years of police training. One moment Roach had the knife to Dele's throat. It shook, as did Roach's hand. Too much snuff, not enough grit. Dele snatched the knife, at the same time his elbow plowed into the fleshy part of Roach's stomach. Roach doubled over with the sudden pain, and the roles were reversed as Dele held the knife against the man's neck.

"Now, we're going to tell Rez the truth about what happened to the drugs, man, aren't we?"

Roach's high had given him momentary courage, but that was quickly remedied by the feel of the blade. He might fear what Rez would do to him, but he couldn't be sure he wasn't going to die at Dele's hands either.

"Look, maybe I was wrong. I thought it was you, man. Maybe it was someone who looked like you…"

"So, which is it?" This from Rez. "Were you lying to me, Roach?" He stood up, abruptly pushing his chair to the ground as he stepped toward the two men frozen in a death clinch. Rez still had his Bowie knife in his hand, but didn't move to help Roach. If anything, he was holding himself back from taking a slice himself.

"Man, you'd better not be stealing from me. It's one thing if new blood here is sneaking, but you been with me from the beginning."

"Rez, I swear to you, it wasn't me. And if it wasn't Dele, then I don't know who."

Dele thought now was the time to speak his peace, or he might never get a chance before either a knife or bullet settled the matter.

"Rez, just admit you can't be sure who stole that stash. You're going to have blood on your hand, you want to make sure you killed the right one. I know I didn't do it. Roach said he didn't and for all that he's a worthless piece of shit, he could be telling the truth. It could be any one of us --- or more likely someone who happened on the stash. With those odds, you wanna think real hard about putting someone six feet under."

Rez raised his knife slowly, placed it at Dele's throat, just a touch at the artery. One slit, and the wall and surrounding furniture would get a new coat of red.

"Be cool, Rez. You want the truth, you're not going to get it killing me."

Rez lowered his knife. Dele lowered Roach's knife. The three men stood at an impasse.

"I tell you what new blood. You get me proof you didn't do this. Which means you bring me the body of the one who did. I don't care who it is. Just get me my $50,000 stash. I'm giving you 'til the end of the week. That way, we'll be squared."

Roach rubbed his neck, his finger coming away with a spot of blood. The knife had knicked when Rez pushed his own knife along Dele's throat.

The jukebox was blasting another song. Three Dog Night's "Mama Told Me Not to Come." Jed was staring at the television as though the last fifteen minutes never happened. Even if one of them had been lying dead, blood staining the floor, Jed would have looked away. Then later, after the crew had piled out, the owner would have put in an anonymous call to the cops to say a body had mysteriously appeared on the bar's floor, no witnesses.

At least there was no body today. Instead when the crew filed out, they left a collection of empty bottles on the tables as well as numerous cigarette butts, blunts and potato chip bags on the floor. The small bar smelled of liquor, sweat and funk.

After the door slammed shut on a hot Los Angeles night, Jed finally turned off the television and went into the storage room.

"Fucking punks," he said beneath his breath as he came back with a broom to sweep away the garbage.


Nailah cut her eyes at the young bloods checking her out. They had to be no more than fourteen or fifteen, and had the nerve to be browsing her like she was some shorty from the 'hood. She transmitted her message with a glare as though to say: "Who the hell you think you're looking at?" The young boys noted the antagonism and one of them shouted, "Bitch, you should be happy somebody's looking at your old ass!"

Nailah clicked her teeth as she continued past them. A chorus of raucous laughter followed in her wake. She knew she shouldn't let it get to her, but the comment stung. She was thirty-three, hardly old but far past the age when she should have to put up with this shit.

She crossed Manchester Boulevard, where the whiff of barbeque piqued her nose. Ruby's BBQ was a staple of the neighborhood, one that Nailah had firmly placed on her "no good" list last month. Those ribs were simply "no good" for her hips or behind, but they were calling to her now, the spicy smell bringing to mind the memory of tearing into succulent meat basted in a sweet, piquant sauce that had no comparison. She quickened her pace, determined to get her suit from the cleaners before they closed. As she passed Lavelle's Braids, the door opened and a newly coiffed customer stepped out with a little girl in tow. The woman's hair was coiled-locked around a gorgeous, pixie face and Nailah self-consciously touched one of her own sisterlocks. She was due for a tightening soon, but she still looked decent enough to get through her interview tomorrow.

The thought of the interview fluttered the butterflies in her stomach even more. She couldn't help the nerves, even though she had over ten years of financial investment experience. She was stepping back, taking a load off by just going for a financial consultant job, a step down from the direct investment banker position she had worked her way up to from a teller position a decade ago. She had worked her ass off, pursuing two degrees at night. And her reward for all the hard work had been her entry into a snake pit where being a woman marked you as prey while being a black woman made you such an anomaly they didn't even bother to swallow you, just spat you out. Despite that, she'd outperformed many of her male co-workers, bringing in clients, maintaining portfolios, and more importantly, generating revenue. Which only garnered more resentment. Now she just wanted a break, a breather. She wanted to know how it felt to live again. Know what it was like to get up to go to a job she enjoyed and come home at a reasonable hour. For the past ten years her office had become home, while her condo was someplace she made pit stops for a change of clothes. Expensive clothes like the Chanel suit she was picking up to wear to the interview. It was her power suit and hopefully, her good luck suit, as well.

Just as she neared the cleaners at the end of the block, a group of roaring motorcycles rounded the bend. The thunderous decibel levels were earsplitting. She glanced around as a line of about ten to twelve bikes swung into the parking lot of an abandoned building across the street. The three-storied eyesore had been boarded up for a year, but signs outside announced a change of ownership and the coming of a suite of business offices. But decay in any form attracted rats of all kinds. She turned her back as she entered the cleaners.

Beatrice, or Bea as she preferred to be called, was handling a couple of customers, but she still acknowledged Nailah with a nod. After a few minutes, the customers were out of the shop and Nailah walked up to the counter.

"How's it going?" Bea asked with a distracted smile as she placed two tickets into the register drawer then closed it. Two short red curls clung to her sweating forehead. Her meaty bare arms also had sweat beads dotting them. But then, the shop felt about ten degrees warmer than outside where the temperature hovered near ninety.

Nailah pulled her ticket from her purse. "I'm hanging in there. Trying to keep cool, mostly."

Bea took the ticket. "Hold on, got it right here." She turned the carousel of cleaning ready to be picked up, pulled out a plastic-wrapped jacket and skirt combo in a warm sage and handed the cleaning to Nailah.

"I absolutely love this suit, but I guess I tell you that every time you bring it in."

"Yes you do, but I never get tired of hearing it. I'm hoping it'll bring me some luck with my interview tomorrow."

"Really? Well, I'm sure you've got that job all wrapped up with a bow, but I'm crossing my fingers for you anyway."

As Nailah took out her money, a throttle churned, rumbling through the small space.

"Damn bikers," Bea muttered, taking Nailah's twenty bill and counting out change from the register.

Nailah turned to glance out the plate window. The bikers were definitely a sight, something out of a movie. A movie featuring stock, one-dimensional characters that assumed all motorcycle riders should look like long-haired, bearded thugs. The bikers across the street all had leather jackets with some emblem she couldn't make out. And of course, the stereotype wouldn't be complete without a couple of skanks hanging off the back of a couple of the bikes, donned in leather shorts too tight to breathe in.

One of the bikers was talking with a couple of black men, or rather arguing. The animosity seemed to be on both sides.

"I've called the cops again and again, but by the time they get here, the hoodlums are long gone."

Nailah turned back to Bea who was also staring, or rather glaring, out the window.

"They do their business out there in the open because they know no one can touch them. It's sickening the way these criminals are taking over. This used to be a nice place."

"Since when do bikers hang out in Inglewood, anyway? Especially along Crenshaw?" Nailah asked.

"Honey, they don't let a little thing like demographics stop them. Wherever there's dirty money to be had, here come the bikers, the Russians, the Colombians, the Jamaicans…it's a global affair. Especially, when you're talking about drugs. There's more diversity in the drug trade than you'll find in corporate America."

"Ain't that the truth," Nailah said softly as she put away her change.

She smiled her goodbye and turned to the door. But before she opened it, Bea warned, "Be careful out there. You never know what these fools are gonna do. Last week, some idiot capped off a few rounds. Thankfully, no one got hurt."

Nailah nodded as she opened the door, determining that she would definitely be careful. Or rather, walk as fast as she could. Considering she lived just a few blocks east, the thought of open drug dealing was a little too close for comfort. Maybe she ought to consider moving. That depended on how well things went tomorrow.

Quitting her job had been a bold move, but she needed time to re-prioritize. Still her savings would only take her so far. Besides, she missed working, missed interacting with people, some of whom actually acknowledged that she'd gotten where she was by sheer grit and brain power.

She was nearing Ruby's, again regretting her self-imposed moratorium on all that was good, sweet and spicy. She paused at the door, wondering if maybe it would be all right to celebrate her possible new job with a box of rib tips, then re-considered. She might jinx the deal she had with God that she would try to do better so that better things would come her way.

She paused at the crosswalk, waiting for the light to change when the roaring bikes started down the street.

As the bikes passed, Nailah caught a closer view of the bodies, most of which seemed unwashed, unkempt. One bulky rider, in the seconds he passed, took time to shoot her a lustful sneer. The garish bottle blond clinging to his waist noticed the look and shot her own daggers over her shoulder.

Closing up ranks was a rider who appeared different from the rest. Maybe because he looked as though he had seen a bar of soap in recent months. And he was clean shaven while the others sported beards of varying lengths. Even in the blur the cyclists became as their bikes raced away, she was left with an impression of humanity among the depraved. Strange how she'd sized up a man just in seconds.

The bikes were long gone when the light finally changed for her to cross. And she had no more time to think on it as she made her way home.


Sharon Cullars Coffee Talk at 7/19/2011 10:38:00 AM Permanent Link     | | Home


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