So as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve got a self-published book out on Amazon right now, A Promising and Attractive Young Black Woman. There are three stories in it; the first one (“Sexism”, about a confused single dad) is short enough that you can read it all in the preview and still get a good sense of the second (“Anna Lee”, about a woman and her killer in surreality). However, there’s no look in at the main event! I thought I would whet your appetites a little bit with an except from that novella.
To set this up, DeMarcus Shorts is a reporter who’s come down to the small Virginia town of Ikesboro investigating a murder for a story. A black woman had been found dead in a white family’s backyard and the town seems ready to sweep it under the rug. His liaison in the town is an officer named Samantha Corson who helps him navigate the small town attitudes. The situation has steadily gotten more violent in Ikesboro as hidden tensions rise. Here we have DeMarcus at the aftermath of a shooting, trying to piece things together.
A hard stop at a crooked corner reminded DeMarcus why he wasn’t fond of these badly laid out rural towns. He checked his GPS position on his phone. Frankly, he was lucky he had it. Samantha’s directions were probably pretty useful to someone who knew the area. He had no idea what Tom’s Station or Pennyworth Shop Road were supposed to be. It was worse now in the dead of night, barely any shot of checking out the signs. He glanced both ways down the road, then shifted his red rental sedan onto the one lane.
Ikesboro’s twisted streets got more confusing the more he got away from the town center in any direction. He’d considered switching the GPS off and calling Samantha for the third time when he saw the flashing blues. A pair of police cars had descended upon a bungalow, one in a row of the same. He parked on the next street, near where he’d seen a third police car. Samantha greeted him when he got out and offered him a cup of coffee. She sipped gratefully at her own. That didn’t stop her from keeping pace as they made it to the scene.
“Yeah, fuck you!” An old white man in a ragged shirt standing right outside the house stood screaming in the officers’ direction. Getting closer, DeMarcus saw that the cop cars were actually across the street surrounding a beat-up black car. Two of the officers were struggling, losing control of a black man for a moment so he could lunge out partway across the hood of their car before they pulled him back. DeMarcus squinted as if that would brighten the darkness. He had to get a better look.
“That’s right, buddy, go on down to jail with all your nappy-headed friends!” the old man crowed.
“Hey, hey, get the hell out of here,” a squat older cop barked, marching at DeMarcus. “How many times we told you people to stop gawking and start walking?”
“Come on, Charlie, he’s with me,” Samantha said. Charlie scrutinized the pair, then shifted aside and waved them on.
“What happened here?” DeMarcus asked.
“We gonna get you, motherfucker!” the kid shouted at the old man. And to the cops: “Get the fuck offa me!”
“Take a look,” Charlie said.
With the benefit of the siren-lights and the headlights, DeMarcus saw something quite similar to what had happened at the Marshall house. Dozens of needle-holes through the front siding. The large window had been shattered so that only a razor border survived. The old man had a dark, soaked tourniquet tied around his left arm.
“Three yos apparently came down here and started calling out for somebody about twenty minutes ago,” Charlie said. “Nobody answered so they just lit the place up. Weren’t expecting us to show so quick, I guess. The other two got away but li’l trigger here was gunning for the resident.”
A little crunch under DeMarcus’s heel told him to lift his foot up. A glance down showed him the first of the many shell casings littered in the area. He looked up. The two enforcers had managed to shove the shooter into the back of the car. DeMarcus was sure he recognized him now: the short guy from the jail. He nudged Samantha with his elbow.
“What?” She matched his whisper.
“You wanna keep them looking away? Gonna see if I can pick up some of these shells.”
Samantha surveyed her fellow officers currently busy taunting their suspect and trying to calm down the old man. She looked back at DeMarcus and snickered.
DeMarcus watched her join her comrades, waiting until she started talking to Charlie before dipping into a squat. He used the light on his phone to scour the ground. Trying to keep alert, to make sure no one questioned him, he looked over as many shells as he could. If he saw some difference he pocketed it. It was tough for him to tell, he was no expert, but he got six of them anyway. If there was anything to be got from them, he’d have it.
“You’re lucky I called you,” Samantha said. He looked up and stood up, straightening his shirt and assuming nonchalance.
“Yeah, guess I am.” Seeing that the police had secured the scene, and figuring they weren’t going to let him interview the old man, DeMarcus decided to take Samantha’s hints and head back down the sidewalk with her.
“Shoulda been asleep. Decided to read a little.”
“I’ll take whatever break I can get. Thanks.”
“It’s no problem.”
“Hey, can you give me a lift to the police station? Want to see if I can talk to this kid.”
“Oh, you are a little shit, aren’t you?”
“What? Come on.”
“You can follow me to the station. After that, I’m going to bed.”
DeMarcus waited for her to pull away from the curve and swing into the lane before doing the same himself. They made it to the first major intersection when flashing lights and sirens made them stop. Two other police cars whipped past them and charged up the road, disappearing ahead of Samantha’s speed-limit pursuit. It didn’t matter. She made her way easily through the illogical network and DeMarcus quit relying on instincts or any powers of observation other than his eyes on Samantha’s tail. In the end, they’d been beaten to the station by a few minutes at best. DeMarcus parked and got out of his car, having to hustle to catch up with Samantha before she reached the door.
Five officers were on duty tonight. The four from the scene were at their desks so that the great lobby felt like an overgrown classroom. The last was crooked over a file cabinet, rifling out some documents. It was he that Samantha approached. After a little wrangling on her part, he produced the dossier he’d been looking for and gave it to Samantha who gave it to DeMarcus. The kid that was even now stewing in the cell had quite the history for a boy of 17.
For now, DeMarcus had Samantha hold on to the file. With permission, they went back to the cells to stand face to face with the AK shooter in his purple Phoenix Suns jersey. The kid chuckled, shook his head, and leaned forward against the bars.
“What’s happening? Uh, LaMarco, right?”
“DeMarcus. DeMarcus Shorts. And you are… Cedric Scarborough?”
“Scarbo,” the kid corrected.
“Sure. Scarbo. Got into some shit, huh?”
“Don’t know what you’re talking about. This is just Thursday night in the I.K.”
“What was going on up at that guy’s house?”
“Not a damn thing. Minding my own business. These cops just fucking bored, I guess.”
“With an AK-47?”
“What?” Scarbo’s grin spread wider. “I’m 17, nigga, how I’ma get a AK?”
DeMarcus smirked as well. The kid could hit softballs for sure. Clearly, he wasn’t going to respond to anything more. DeMarcus glanced over at Samantha who snorted.
“I coulda told you that you wouldn’t get shit out of this kid,” she said. “Wouldn’t be surprised if he and his friends just shot up whatever house they felt like.”
“Yeah, but they were calling the guy out,” DeMarcus said. “What was his name?”
“Popeye.” The answer came from Officer Casey. Casey snarled as he walked past DeMarcus. His fury was directed at Scarbo who remained defiant with the bars separating them. “I don’t know his real name, cause unlike Mr. Scarborough here, I’ve never had to bring him into the station.”
“Yeah, I wonder why that is,” Scarbo said. “Seems like y’all got a black only policy in this cell and a no whites policy in the other.”
“Wrong, bucko,” Officer Casey said. “It’s cause Popeye is an upstanding member of this community while you are a walking human piece of garbage.”
“Man, fuck you,” Scarbo said. He pushed away from the bars. “Upstanding citizen my ass. Motherfucker liquoring up his people before they swing down to Lotown with motherfucking bats, fucking put Hightower in the hospital, and you wanna… man, fuck you.” Scarbo, disgusted, slunk back to the corner and sat on the bench.
“What’s he talking about?” DeMarcus asked.
“We did get a few reports of people with bats rolling through Lotown last night,” Officer Casey said. “Happens a lot. People are always fighting down there. We told the callers to stay indoors, call us if any gunshots were heard or anything caught fire.”
“What about Hightower, whoever that is?”
“Gotta ask the hospital for that.”
DeMarcus nodded. He approached the bars and peered in at Scarbo who was now tightened in on himself, trying to be as far from everyone else as he could.
“I’ll find out what’s going on,” DeMarcus told him.
“Fuck you,” Scarbo said.
DeMarcus knocked his fist against a bar. He wanted to say something else but there wasn’t anything. How fast would Scarbo be sitting back in this jail cell, if he ever got back out of prison? Even if there was some resolution to be had, it wouldn’t help him.
Samantha made a show of yawning as they left the kid behind. DeMarcus stayed behind a bit to ask Officer Casey a few questions. Really, he only had one on his mind, but he worked towards it circuitously. How will the AK be secured? How does someone like Scarbo get a hold of one? And onto the penetrating power, the cases, and who did the bullet forensics for Ikesboro.
Officially, Casey said, they were supposed to send all that stuff up to county. If they needed a quick evaluation, though, they went to Mr. Marshall.
Hope you enjoyed that look in! And if you did, consider buying the book from Amazon, either in Kindle version or in paperback! Thanks!