One Death at a Time

 

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Chapter 1

Brice cut his first class at Cody High School. He broke a rule in his eleventh grade year.  Shawn, Yasmine and Alan would back off teasing him about being the teacher's pet. The incident had him smirked in his dream thinking about all those years back. Mrs. Morgan wronged him by handing him a perfect attendance award in front of the class and taking his picture labeling it, Best Student Ever. Didn't teachers stop giving those awards in elementary. He realized he needed to force himself to wake up. This day he desired to lock away in his memories. He tried to turn his body to roll out of bed but it stiffen. He drifted deeper into sleep and that day was real again.

The Cody security guard, who came down on a kid for being in the hall without a pass, noticed him. Brice pushed his bottom against one of the double doors, separating the Cody and Everett Buildings. He planned to sneak himself into the Everett, ditching the guard. The doors had divided the Cody three-story high building that had more security guards from the Everett two-story one with a guard on each floor. Cody's surroundings exterior windows provided sunshine. Its beige and white walls offered additional brightness with sunshine reflecting off the glossy walls. Everett had the dull green walls with chipping painted and dim lights giving gloom. The school looked on the verge of closing.

The buildings represented his neighborhood so well. Everett had no plays in the auditorium and the classrooms' equipment was relics with film projectors and chalkboards. Cody had computers with eight kids to each one and school plays like Grease which never reflected his urban life. He wanted a highly paid tech job at a computer company. However, this was what his high school offered, skipping a day wouldn't hurt him much.

The Everett symbolized the neighbors like the Bautista family. Brice's neighbors were mixture of those surviving the layoffs from the auto companies, his father included and criminals. These crime lords setup a drug business in abandoned houses that his former neighbors left for communities with jobs. Chipping away the calm and the peace of his neighborhood, they committed carjacking, theft, drug selling and more.

After backing up, he bolted through the door only to see the guard of Everett reading a newspaper to look at him. "I'm in a hurry to get to class, my counselor held me up."

"Do you have a pass?" the light weight guard said.

Brice pulled a KFC receipt from the night before, waving in the air and took up running a flight of stairs. The guard followed him and halted when a voice came over the walkie-talkie describing him.

The Everett guard explained, "The kid had a pass to return to class."

He had it made, taking a day off. His mother and father wouldn't find out. He avoided skipping at the McDonalds on Joy Road where the gangs claimed the turf or even the library up the street where a librarian would question him. He continued down the hallway, peeking in the classrooms. Yasmine Shawn's girlfriend recited her Spanish to Senor Gramp, the guy was a million years old. She held her hand up, signaling him to wait for her. He ducked from the window. Two minutes later, Yasmine appeared, hugging him in the hallway.

"You're here to back up Shawn," Yasmine said. "Just be strong. Arcadio wanted to have Tattle Tale colors on you today or he would kill Shawn."

"No he's not," Brice said, rubbing her arms. "Arcadio gave me a passed. Shawn told me."

"He's lying." Yasmine shrugged breaking from Brice hold. "He threatened Arcadio to back off from you. Why did you use Shawn to fight your battle?"

Yasmine was acting all high mighty and as a loving girlfriend. Last night at KFC, she cried in Brice's arms explaining how Shawn wasn't good enough for her and how he could learn from him. This relationship's crap between Shawn and her had been stupid. She complicated Shawn and his friendship that had his friend wanting to be him. Brice had allowance, parents, meals, and hip hop style clothes. He saw Shawn life better for he had the survival skills to fight off gangs and kept himself from dying on the streets.

Yasmine opened the classroom's door, giving Brice a stare that shivered his bones. He jumped from her slamming the door. Leaving the door, he trudged to the end of the hallway punching lockers. He headed for his first hour to sneak into it. When will he be able to please his friends? Making it around the corner, four boys ran towards him, knocking him off his feet. Rapid gunfire and screaming had him scrambling to get up.

Running back to the Spanish classroom, he watched Shawn and Yasmine embracing. Then Shawn pulled on Yasmine's arm zigzagging her down the hallway. He scurried behind them. Fearing he would bring attention to them, he didn't call out.

Brice grabbed Yasmine's blouse to slow her down. "You're getting her out of here, Shawn?"

Shawn held Yasmine at the top of the staircase. "Go to Brice's house. I'll meet you there." Turning to search the stairs for Arcadio, he step down on the first one. He heard nothing and continued to proceed.

"Keep away from Arcadio," Yasmine said. "I can't love a man that's dead."

Balling his fist, Brice knew she played him. This wasn't the place or the time to confront her. She wasn't worth it, to fight Shawn over her. He would fall apart, losing Yasmine. But still, she couldn't treat his boy like that.

"Take her out of here," Shawn said.

Things had been all messed up gunmen in the building. Brice thought. Schools were supposed to be off- limits. He moved to the dark part of the stair case, hiding. Wiping sweat from his head, he tried to stop himself from breathing rapid.

"He looks like he's about to pass out," Yasmine said touching his forehead.

"I will." Brice had taken Yasmine to the center of the hallway. "What's the best way to go?' Taking a step back, he watched Arcadio rushed toward him. His body tightened when Arcadio body slammed him. Lando, Arcadio brother appeared from behind him.

"I want to beat some ass," Lando said stooping to place his gun on the floor.

Lando punched Yasmine's face; she fell backward. Her blood spurt when Lando's hits kept coming. Blocking two of his punches, Yasmine kicked him. He moved away from her over to Brice, slamming him with punches before Arcadio pulled him off. Brice grabbed for Yasmine then he noticed Shawn trying to scoot toward Lando's gun.

Arcadio turned in the direction Brice looked. He slapped Shawn's face then picked up the gun. Why didn't he fight him back? Arcadio stomped his chest and arms.

"Crawled over here, Brice," Arcadio said raising his gun in Brice's directions. Brice turned over on his hands and knees shuffling toward him. Firing his weapon at Shawn hand, he danced the cabbage moves with his Adidas and matching gym shoes. Shawn's scream filled the hall.

The scene reflected a war picture with a clown stuck in the middle. Brice's pants had soaked with his urine. Twitching from the wetness, he wanted to get out of there. He didn't desire to die. Arcadio controlled whether he would live today, a human. His mother told him God had that authority. His body shook and he closed his eyes, he no longer trusted his mother's reasoning.

"This is your brother that you protect," Arcadio said, spitting on Shawn. "I don't listen to you. Brice is a Tattle Tale member."

"Obey, boys." Lando shouted.

Arcadio lifted Brice up and threw him on top of Shawn. "Now you're blood brothers." 

Shawn's screams turned to murmurs. Brice pushed himself from him.

Yasmine yelled, "Help."

Brice reached for Shawn. The memory ended with him on his bedroom floor. He had curled up like a ball wiping his tears, chanting not scare. He drifted off to sleep. Morning brought him a stiff neck and goosebumps. He dressed and drove down his street, stopping in front of Arcadio's house.

Relaxed on the porch, Arcadio leaned back in his dinette chair. He gave shout outs to Tattle Tell members trampling across his dirt yard. Brice rolled his window down, glaring at Arcadio. The person who destroy him stood up and let out a Santa Claus laugh with his silk red shirt and pants. Arcadio's white alligator shoes snapped Brice's out his trance.

 

Brice sped his Chrysler Shadow through the swirling October winds, which accumulated brown leaves and debris. He had promised himself no more tardiness. But the railroad crossing gates were down, he had wasted time taunting Arcadio and didn't avoid the morning trains. He couldn’t bypass the train tracks, they crossed over Joy Road and West Chicago. Both main streets led to his job.

He surveyed the area. No students. He lowered his window and heard no clanking, just the horn blaring. Then he swerved around the first gate as needles jabbed in his belly.

"Don't do it," a voice said from a vehicle behind his car.

Brice turned to a dim light and humming noise. Damn the train. Jerking his chest, he pressed the accelerator to the floor. He scraped his driver's door on the second gate. He risked his life over dumb stuff.

By the time he neared Cody High School, two students ran out of the Everett Building's steel backdoor, each carrying a white bag. Selling guns or drugs. He'd stop it from coming in or out. Brice slammed his foot on the accelerator again, skidding his tires on the grass. He would chase the kids with guns all by himself, perform a citizen arrest and confiscate the gun. He had to save another kid from being murdered on the street. He left his car, pursuing them.

The kids cut through the bushes. Brice breathed through his mouth, giving himself more energy. No time to warm up. He edged closer as the two reached Stein Playground. The trailing student fell, sliding on squishy grass. Brice tackled him. He attended his ninth grade Algebra class, a quiet kid he couldn't remember his name.

“Pop.”

Brice covered the student’s head.

“You snitch, you’re dead,” the kid with the high top haircut said. Brice looked up. The shooter aimed the gun, flashing him a keep-your-mouth-shut look. He buried his head in the grass.

“Pop.”

Brice jumped up when the shooter stopped firing. The shooter fronted him with his gun poking out his side pocket. This demonstrated to him that fools with guns ran the turf. The shooter disappeared in between the houses on Faust Ave.

“Who was that?” Brice asked, coughing each word.

“It’s Vapor,” the ninth grader said.

Brice yanked the student to his feet then snatched the bag from him. “What’s in here?”

“It’s my lunch.”

“It better be.” Brice unrolled the back. “This gun is automatic suspension.”

“Mr. Frankel, don’t hassle me,” he said.

"Is Vapor a gun dealer?" Brice asked. His silence meant yes. "Is he a student or somebody who breezes in when he needs to unload his guns?"

"I'm not going to be a dead snitch."

"What do you plan to do with this gun?"

 “Use it for protection.”

“What are you protecting yourself from?” Brice asked.

“People who kill kids,” he said. “Mr. Frankel, can I go now?”

“Go back to the door you came out of,” Brice said. “Attend all your classes.”

“Mr. Frankel. I paid good money for that.”

 

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Frelisa Walker

I'm rewriting the last chapter of the first draft. It's taking more time. Plan to have another chapter up by the end of the week. Thanks for reading. :)

Frelisa Walker

Chapter 21 just added. I'm glad it's up.
:)

Frelisa Walker

Chapter 20 has been added. :)

Frelisa Walker

I plan to never hand write another novel. I don't like typing and that has caused a terrible delay. I have should have realized I would have to type it up. Some of the chapters I am tying have 2013 dates. I have to type One Death at a Time last chapters up this week.

Frelisa Walker

I have reach the climax of One Death at a Time with the murder of Shawn Ingram. The storyline about Principal Jason has a pre climax with the discovery of the book. However, Qadira and Dwayne's plotline may need additional work. Wilma and her daughter will be wrapped up with Qadira's plot. First, I need to finish typing up Chapters 11-17 before the weekend is over.Chapters 1-10 I double in the rewrite. The seven chapters to be worked on may also double.

Chapter 2

Brice unzipped his brown leather jacket to cool off and moistened his lips with his tongue. Shoving the bag in his coat pocket, he doubled back to his car and coasted it into a parking space between a Cadillac and Volvo. Why come to work at all? He hadn’t made a difference, his kids still carried guns and brought into the schools. The worst problem was Bautista family controlled the amount guns in the school. He entered the backdoor. Students formed a line in the vestibule along its beige concrete wall. The kids needed to stash their weapons because of the surprise weapon sweep.

The entrance to the auditorium and the main building had two detectors on each. The auditorium held a few groups of students talking and clowning around.

“Brice, my man,” Shawn said, clasping Brice’s hand.

“Shawn, what’s going on?” Brice asked.

“They did tell you there’s going to be a surprise weapon sweep today, right?” Shawn whispered in his ear.

“The kids are losing their learning time," Brice said marching around the wooden framed metal detector. Shawn followed him.

“Wait up, Brice. Let me check these kids in and then we can talk about the dates for the basketball pickup games.”

Brice glanced over to the other security guard and raised his shoulders taking in the smell of her exotic perfume. He leaned toward Shawn. "That's some head-piece the woman guard wears, looks like a tumbleweed." They snickered.

“Don’t go past the yellow line,” she shouted at Qadira for approaching the detector. "Until you’re told.”

Why was she going half-crazy on Qadira? Brice thought, taking in the guard’s beautiful smooth skin and her high cheekbones. Not too bad-looking but that dreadful hair.

Qadira wore her hair full of curls and a face without a trace of makeup. She dressed like she attended a Catholic school with her blouse buttoned to the top and no hair shave off the side like Salt N Pepa. Might have been her stubbornness or her wanting to be unique, she wouldn't follow the new fashion.  She was a nerd who carried a Samsonite suitcase, where she kept her books and clarinet. His students had given up teasing her, realizing she wasn't going to change.

“Qadira, you know to obey the rules,” Brice said. Then he put his hands up, motioning for her to move back. She bumped into a girl well along in her pregnancy.

“Come here girl.” Red gestured to the pregnant girl. “Looks like you about due any second.”

Brice didn’t know whether Red was being sarcastic or not. He stroked the top of his bald head standing over her and the student. Red waved her metal detecting wand like a magician around Overdue. While she did her tricks, Shawn dug through Overdue’s purse and took out some personal items.

“Don’t take all that out,” Brice said, holding Shawn’s hand. Shawn loved abusing his power as a security since lost power on the streets. Arcadio damaged his hand from the shot that couldn't be saved.

Shawn slapped his stump against Brice’s hand breaking his grip. “I don’t think you need this maxi pad.” Shawn said, dangling it.

“Stop that and apologize,” Red said, smirking.

“Hey, I was just playing,” Shawn said. “Sorry.”

“This is what the students are talking about Mr. F,” Overdue said, waiting for Shawn to finish throwing her stuff back in her purse. “These guards don’t respect us.”

“We keep this,” Shawn said holding a fingernail file in front of Brice’s face.

Brice rolled his eyes. How did finding that justify his actions? Overdue flipped the bird at Shawn as she grabbed her purse.

“Serves you right, Shawn,” Brice said.

Shawn swung around and stared at Qadira. “Since you can’t follow directions, go to the end of the line.”

“There are no directions,” Qadira said, throwing her suitcase to the floor.

“What kind of work ethic is this?” Brice asked, maneuvering to stand between the guards and Qadira.

“Don’t try to undermine my authority,” Shawn said.

"You better be glad I don't have a gun," Qadira said. "I would shoot your ass." The students jeered. Brice flexed his arm muscles when Qadira flew out the back door. The students in line shuffled back.

“Mr. Frankel, will I have to escort you to the office?” Red asked, tapping her wand against her curvy thigh.

“No, he’s coming with me,” said a man dressed more like a hustler than a principal. Principal Jason adorned himself with a silk vest and tie. A gold chain wrapped around the tie with a peace symbol attached about halfway down the tie.

Jason believed his years of experience meant he had a better understanding of how to run a school, showing up to work and hiding in his office didn't impress Brice. What Jason did know was how to cheat, like giving failing students the answers to tests and how to steal better than any other crook in the hierarchy of the Detroit Public Schools, whether it was money or equipment.

Brice followed Jason into the hallway where poster boards advertised the junior class dance. He draped his jacket over his shoulder. His lips quivered as they headed to the double doors, screaming in his mind stopped him from continuing.

"What's wrong with you?" Principal Jason looked him over.

"Nothing." He couldn't be weak in front of Jason; he wasn't a friend to trust.

“Brice, you had that on yesterday.”

“It’s just the same color, shirt today, sweater yesterday,” Brice said.

“Isn’t that a pinkish color?” Principal Jason asked, leaning back on one leg.

“No, it’s mauve, in the purple family,” Brice said. This outdated afro wearing imbecile tried to talk about what he wore. “Why did you want to see me?”

“I need you to help at the Cody’s door. We’re having a full weapons sweep.” Principal Jason said. “Classes will be delayed a couple of hours.”

“Then I can’t give my quiz,” Brice said, raising his voice.

Principal Jason turned around, “It’s okay, Brice; do it tomorrow.”

 “When will I have my new calculators?” Brice asked. This was a good time to ask for supplies. Annoying Jason’s ass made the day better.

“What?” Principal Jason asked.

“I need them,” Brice placed his jacket under his arm. “I requested them a month ago.”

“We don’t have the money now,” Principal Jason pointed at Brice's chest.

“Why don’t you donate the calculators?” Brice asked. “You clearly have enough money driving a Maserati and wearing new suits every day.” More than likely they had been purchased with stolen school funds.

“You’re young and stupid. Learn how the system works and then you will get more out of it.”

“You mean how to take care of yourself,” Brice said. Jason talked about thievery like he strived for it.

“Do what I ask, or I’m going to write you up.”

He thinks he has him on a leash, Brice thought. Pulls it every time he wants something.

“Be up there, Brice.”

 

Brice took his post at Cody’s door. Students were allowed in five to seven at a time to not rush through the wooden metal detectors. The detectors were added at this door and tables alongside the wall with trays mark for different types of guns. The officer who worked the metal detector mimicked a robot as his arms and legs shifted. Qadira was up next, she made it around the building.

“Good morning, Qadira, again,” Brice said, slapping his hands together.

“Hi, Mr. Frankel,” Qadira said.

“Are you here to help?” the officer said, placing Qadira’s suitcase onto the table. “Nobody likes to work with me, because I’m thorough on these weapon sweeps because kids like these hoard drugs and guns in big items like this.”

“I’m here until relief comes for me,” Brice said, wrestling the bag from his coat pocket. He tossed the bag on top of the Samsonite. “I did a weapons sweep of the bushes.”

The officer ripped the bag open, retrieving a gun. “We’ll find plenty more before the sweep is over.” He tagged the guns and placed it in a tray marked small handguns. Then he opened Qadira’s suitcase, tossing her textbooks on the table. He checked every part of her clarinet.

“Are we taking the quiz?” Qadira reached over to place her books back in her luggage. Brice aided her.

“I’ll tell you when you get to class.” Brice paused. “Why don’t you go to study hall?”

“You’ve got to check them all,” the officer continued, putting the next student's book bag on the table.

Are we treating the students like potential felons so we can prepare them for jail?  Brice wondered.

 

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Chapter 3

Brice returned to his classroom. He corrected students' assignments and quizzes. Dropping in the center desk, he realized how hard he worked as a teacher. Algebra books and a box of protractors which were stacked along the windowsill with two toilet paper rolls. Was he teaching the kids enough? He rested his head on the desk.

Principal Jason announced first and second class periods would be twenty minutes each.

Brice pushed himself up from the desk and then he moseyed to his classroom door. Students came down the hallway. The hall lights were mounted side by side on the ceiling. One side of the lights flickered.

Teachers', who had propped their doors open were absent from their posts. Brice noticed the paint chipping from the walls and Tattle Tale gangs sign on lockers. The building needed remodeling to rid it of the gangs' graffiti and what Arcadio did to Shawn.

“Let’s hurry up, we've got a shortened class,” Brice clapped his hands together. Maybe he could teach a lesson on word problems. He paced to the center of the hallway.

“Mr. Frankel,” a student said, jumping up smacking the light fixtures. “There’s no quiz today?”

“Don’t tear the light down!” Brice said. “Come here, I’m brown chocolate and sweet.” He called the student by the words on his t-shirt. Mario loved learning and the young ladies adored him tutoring them.

“I knocked it back on, Mr. Frankel,” he said, tugging his t-shirt.

“Where did you get a t-shirt with a phrase like that?” Brice asked.

“My ladies bought it.”

“No quiz,” Brice said. “You have another day to study.”

“Yes, I knew it.”

More students came around the corner, snacking on Better Made chips and dill pickles. They maneuvered around the back of Brice, leaving a vinegar scent. The odor killed the air, leaving him gagging.

"Finish that food up or throw it away," Brice said. “Wait, which class are you going to, Mario?” Brice laid his hand on his shoulder. The kid may use this as a chance to skip. He had a solid A.

“Art,” Mario said, trotting across the hall while the bell rang.

“Mario, are you coming to fifth hour?”

“Yes, I am, Mr. Frankel.”

Brice closed his door, Qadira’s palm banged on it.

“Why are you late?” Brice asked.

“The weapon's sweep,” Qadira said.

“That’s no excuse.”

“What color are your eyes, Mr. Frankel?”

"Don't try to play me; you're tardy," Brice said, swinging the door open. "Get in."

Qadira hurried in, sliding in her seat. “Are we taking a quiz today?”

“If you kids spent more time studying, you wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not we are having a quiz or test,” Brice said. “You’d know the material and want to be tested five days a week.”

“You’re smoking something, Mr. Beaver,” the towering student in the back row said. The students burst with laughter.

“What did you say, Dwayne?” Brice asked, folding his arms. Then he sucked his two front teeth. His fingers trembled as he tasted the dryness of his mouth. He positioned his hands behind his back.

“I’m too busy studying how to survive, Mr. F,” Dwayne said, laying his brush on top of his notebook.

Brice looked over the class staring up at him and strolled toward the back desk.

“Studying not to be the next crime victim is a joke,” Brice said, standing over Dwayne’s desk. “There’s always going to be crime, what you need to do is avoid it. Keep out of trouble and trouble won’t find you.”

The class quieted down. Dwayne attempted to leave after he gathered his brush and notebook. Brice guided him by the arm back to his desk.

“Let me go!” Dwayne yanked his shoulder away, dropping the brush and notebook. He plopped into his desk, gripping his hands on the corners. Dwayne’s eyes flooded with tears. The students turned away.  “Everybody knows what happened to my brother and me.”

Brice placed his hand on the bulletin board for support.

“My brother was horsing around about to step up on our porch when two losers came out of nowhere, one stabbing a knife in his side and one jamming a gun to my eye.”

Brice bent down and rubbed Dwayne’s shoulder.

“They wanted my eight ball jacket and British Knights. The one who had my brother kept moving the knife up and down as my brother murmured.” Dwayne said, clearing his throat as he wiped the tears from his mouth. “‘Don’t shoot my brother.’”

Brice reached for the toilet paper roll a student handed him.

“Then Ty dropped to the ground and they ran. The joke to me was my brother fought for his life four days before dying to come back to what?” Dwayne said.

“Your brother wanted--” Brice waited for Dwayne to look up-- “to make it back to you.”

“I knew he loved me,” Dwayne said, swallowing hard.

“Thanks, Cecil, for the roll,” Brice said, standing up. “I don’t know what to do for you kids. The crime and violence should’ve been cleaned up before all of you were born. I failed and the rest of the neighborhood adults failed to keep you kids safe.” Brice grabbed his chalk and scribbled two math problems on the board.

Cecil shouted, “What page explains how to work the problems?”

Brice knew he couldn’t block this story from his mind, just like the ones from his past.

Brice's emotions were on highs and lows by the end of the day. His shoulders sunk inward as he circled his paycheck dates and potential days for games on his calendar. Stumbling from his chair, he made it to the blackboards and erased them with both hands. He worked his way across, moving the erasers to the beat of "I Can't Get Next To You".

“Mr. F.,” Dwayne said.

“I didn’t hear you come in,” Brice said, placing the erasers on the ledge. “I get into my routine.”

“I’m sorry about this morning,” Dwayne said.

“Your brother was killed, Dwayne. You have the right to cry. Don’t apologize for that.”

Dwayne looked away into the hallway. “I’ve got to go. Thanks for not throwing me out.”

“Why don’t you come to my center and play some games?” Brice asked, brushing chalk dust from his hand.

“I know about the games, Shawn who catches the bus with us, gave me a flyer,” Dwayne flashed the sheet shaped like a basketball to Brice. “I’ll come and show you how good I am.”

Brice smiled as Dwayne ran out the classroom. He looked out his classroom window, students headed up Faust Avenue to the bus stop. He spotted Khalilah, who skipped his first hour, hanging around a colonial style house with kids not much older than fifteen or sixteen. He could drive up the way to convince her and the skippers to come to class tomorrow. Grabbing his jacket, he headed for the teacher's parking lot.

Brice cruised up Faust Avenue driving slower than the speed limit. Qadira had joined Khalilah. He parked his car then he approached the girls. In this neighborhood, every child faced street life’s temptation. Khalilah chose the street life, and she didn’t want to go alone. He tried keeping her from the other students.

“Qadira, what are you doing here?” Brice asked.

“Qadira wants to be PP’s girl,” a skinny kid yelled over Brice on the porch. Three others drank Everfresh fruit punch and smoked cigars near the front door. Vapor, one of the three, stood in the middle.

“Khalilah wanted to know if we had any homework from today.” Qadira said, dropping her suitcase on the concrete sidewalk.

“Qadira, go straight home,” Brice said, focusing on the four guys on the porch.

“Go home, little girl, listen to your play daddy.” PP said. Then he tore off his tee-shirt and threw it at Qadira.

Brice caught the shirt before it hit Qadira then he sailed the shirt across Khalilah, where it hit Vapor's bottle knocking the drink from his hand.

“Your ass is dead, Mr. F,” PP said, scurrying off the porch. “Tattle Tale doesn’t take that from nobody.”

“Tattle Tale gang won't disrespect a young woman but if they do Mr. F gonna say or do something,” Brice said. That sounded lame. He knew he had to stop acting tough and be it. “Why aren’t any of you in school?”

“PP doesn’t go to school,” Khalilah said, hugging up to a black Trans Am park in the gang's driveway. “He’s suspended out the system.”

Brice rubbed his hands, circling around PP. Then he stepped up on the porch and he positioned himself behind the other members of the Tattle Tale gang. He peeked over his shoulder into the house and saw cartoons running on a floor model television. “How are you four supporting yourselves? Are you working?” PP marched inside the house and stood glaring out the screen door.

“I’ve got a job!” Vapor said, fanning money.  “Making more than you.”

Brice said, “Jail or a body bag, that’s the pension you’re looking at!”

“You messed up my ride, Mr. F,” Khalilah said, stomping away to catch up with Qadira who was further down the sidewalk. “I’ll be at school tomorrow.”

Brice didn’t expect her to show up. Feeling like a defeated boxer, he jumped off the porch and he headed to his car. He got into his Chrysler Shadow, letting the engine run. Khalilah doesn't get it. It's not an easy way to better her community. He turned in his seat when Vapor and another member along with PP ran out of the door. PP dressed himself in a Chicago Bull jersey and matching shorts. Vapor took the driver’s seat. PP was in the back seat. The driver zoomed up the street.

 

Brice crept along behind them looking for more skippers. What could he eat for dinner? No more Whoppers. He couldn’t catch the students this morning. He glanced up to the corner and Tattle Tale’s Trans Am hung a right. He raced up the street and caught sight of PP getting out of the car to run across the street.

Brice pulled over to the side. “What’s he up to? Vapor had stopped a block ahead of the bus stop, which had been packed with students. But then PP raised his arm, pointing to Mario.

Railroad crossing lights flashed. Vapor charged the Trans Am after Mario. Crossing guards went down. Mario took off. Brice shifted to D, keeping his foot on the brake. The passenger pointed a handgun out the window.

"Pop, pop."

The noise sent the kids scattering. Mario smacked the concrete. 

"Pop."

Brice tried ramming the car but Vapor made a U-turn. He didn’t give chase; the screams stopped him. He jumped out and ran to the curb. He edged his way through the crowd to where Qadira held Mario’s head up with her arm. She used her other hand to apply pressure to his wound.

“Move out of the way,” Shawn shouted. Mario’s hand lost its gripped on Qadira’s arm. His body laid still. Brice reached down to pick him up but Shawn pushed him back.

“I’m taking him to the hospital,” Brice said, pushing Shawn away. “He can’t die in the street like he doesn’t belong to anybody, like he’s nothing.”

“He’s dead, Brice,” Shawn said.

Why did PP kill him? Brice thought, reaching down to lift Qadira. Brice glanced over at Mario’s body then he folded the boy's arms across his chest and closed his eyes.

“You need a gun,” Khalilah said, rubbing Qadira’s back. “Then you could shoot back.”

“Nobody’s killing anybody or buying a gun,” Brice said, twisting around in Khalilah's direction. The cops need to arrest the person supplying the guns and drugs so kids can live safe.

Brice took Qadira’s coat off her suitcase, wrapping it over her shoulders. She forced her blood stained hands through the coat’s sleeves.

“You don’t have to worry. These drug dealers eventually kill each other off,” said an officer rolling a toothpick around her lips. Her gun belt sagging around her thin waist and dark circles surrounding her eyes gave a worn out look.

Officer Newberry also known as Worthless, Brice thought. In other words these dealers killed each other off and a new set will come. Newberry called it job security.

“Who saw the shooter?” Officer Newberry asked.

Brice took Qadira to his car. It didn't make sense to Officer Newberry he escorted Qadira away from her. Yet, Brice lived here and knew no cop had protected a witness 24/7. The killer had ways of finding and murdering Qadira tonight before he was arrested for Mario's death.

“The no snitch rule is in effect.” Newberry said, spitting out her toothpick. “Hey you, is she a witness?”

Brice seated Qadira in his car, and then he closed the door. He had done the same by never identifying Arcadio as Shawn's shooter. “Are you talking to me?”

“Yes.” Officer Newberry strutted away from the body.

He couldn’t risk Qadira giving Newberry any information; she’d likely leak it to the dealers. He blocked Officer Newberry's view into the passenger’s window.

“Go on back to the Dunkin Donuts,” Shawn said. “We’ll handle the shooter ourselves.”

“Let’s go home, everybody,” Brice said. He dispersed the kids before Officer Newberry went hard ass on Shawn or his students. “Come by the community center if you need to talk to somebody or talk to your counselor in the morning.”

After the students left the area, Brice consoled Qadira until the wagon came for Mario’s body. His mind was consumed with the thought: Destroy the dealers to save his kids’ lives.

 

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