A Storm Came Up

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Overview

They grew up together, on the same street separated by a half-dozen homes, yet they lived a world apart. Braxton Freeman dreamed of a good college education, blonde, blue-eyed girls and a safe, secure future. Moses Burks just wanted to go somewhere else fast, to a place where he would no longer be judged by skin color. In the summer of 1963 in a small, East Alabama town, Brax Freeman and Moses Burks find themselves caught in a vicious crossfire - between George Wallace, the KKK, state troopers and memories of a ...
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Overview

They grew up together, on the same street separated by a half-dozen homes, yet they lived a world apart. Braxton Freeman dreamed of a good college education, blonde, blue-eyed girls and a safe, secure future. Moses Burks just wanted to go somewhere else fast, to a place where he would no longer be judged by skin color. In the summer of 1963 in a small, East Alabama town, Brax Freeman and Moses Burks find themselves caught in a vicious crossfire - between George Wallace, the KKK, state troopers and memories of a grizzly murder they witnessed as youths. Neither Brax, Moses nor the town of Takasaw would ever be the same.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781463413972
  • Publisher: AuthorHouse
  • Publication date: 7/26/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 554,193
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Read an Excerpt

A Storm Came Up


By Doug Segrest

AuthorHouse

Copyright © 2011 Doug Segrest
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4634-1397-2


Chapter One

Outside Takasaw, Alabama / September 1958

DEAD LEAVES CRACKLED as the three boys hurried along the haphazard trail, a hoped-for shortcut home, before the dying sunlight filtering through the canopy of trees disappeared for good.

"Shee-it," said the oldest boy, coming to a stop. He spit a thick loogie on a clump of bushes while straddling the seat of his bike. "This is his problem," he said, eyeing the smallest of the younger boys. "Why can't you get a bike that's worth a shit? It's not my fault we got lost in the woods."

"There's nothing wrong with Moses' bike," said the third boy calmly. "He can't help a tire gone flat. Besides, it was your idea to take the shortcut."

Actually, Braxton knew Moses' bike was a reprieve from a junk heap. Andy, the complainer, was the eldest of the three and a tag-along at that. The two 12-year-olds, Brax and Moses, had been biking down Main Street when they'd come across Andy. It was Andy's suggestion to ride out on the Shorter Highway, a decision that was about to get them all into hot water.

Brax and Moses had strict orders to be home for supper, which meant seven. Brax's Timex showed a couple of minutes until then and the sun was setting. Realizing it was late, they followed the shortcut Andy had recommended through the maze of woods. They were lost, Moses' tire had gone flat and they were facing serious trouble at home.

Without another word, Andy stepped off the bike and began pushing it ahead. The other two followed silently, trying to keep up with his longer strides.

Fifteen minutes later, darkness made it hard to see more than a few feet ahead. The pace slowed. Andy had been certain they'd eventually run back into Main Street, no more than a mile or so from downtown.

Yet the thick, piney Alabama woods seemed endless. Now the shadows were gone altogether.

Brax's legs burned and his back ached from pushing the bike over rough terrain. His anxiety increased as he checked his watch more frequently. He looked at Andy, who was sweating profusely. Moses showed no sign of wear, but his eyes darted nervously.

"Here. Over here. C'mon," said Andy. He left the trail, cutting through waist-high weeds. He pointed toward his left, where two faint lights cut through the maze. "Some car lights, see? Maybe a clearing. C'mon," Andy said, and the boys trailed.

A hundred yards down the lights pierced through the trees. Brax felt a sense of relief. They could be in Montgomery for all he cared, but as long as they were near a road – or a house with a phone – the ordeal would end. He liked the idea of a phone. If they were going to get into trouble, they might as well get a ride home.

"I knew ..."

Andy's words were cut short by a thump! And a groan.

"Uhhhhh," came the raspy voice, which gave way to a sickening sound. Someone was simultaneously gasping for air and spitting up.

"God damned, nigger!" yelled another voice.

The boys froze. Brax could only see Andy's silhouette a few feet ahead, but he saw the image as the older youth delicately lowered his bike to the ground, shush-ing with an index finger. He waved the two boys to do the same.

Brax lowered his bike nervously and turned to Moses, who hadn't moved at all. He pulled Moses' bike away, leaned it against a tree and grabbed Moses by the hand. With a finger to his lips, he beckoned him to follow silently.

The steps came slowly. The underbrush crackled as they moved, but the noise was easily drowned by the ruckus going on a short distance away.

Andy found the edge of the woods first. Brax and Moses joined him, kneeling to peer through the foliage. Head beams from a single car in the middle of a pasture illuminated three men. Two were standing. One was struggling to get to his knees. His head was brushing the ground as his hands tightly clutched his stomach.

"Ughh, ohhhhh," spit the hunched figure as a foot kicked him in the forehead. His body jerked on the ground spasmodically once, twice, and then went still. The moaning ceased.

"Think he's dead?"

"Hell no. Not yet. Just playin' possum."

"I thought we were gonna scare him. Rough him up. You're gonna kill him!"

"Shut up, dumb ass. Let me think."

In the beam of the headlights, one figure began walking in a fast semi-circle. The other peered down to get a closer glimpse at the wounded figure, blocking the light as he leered. When the accomplice arose, the beaten man's condition became more obvious.

He was black, like Moses, but darker. His hair was matted and darkened with what had to be blood. A cheek was swollen the size of a grapefruit half and shiny. A white T-shirt, soiled with dirt, had spots of maroon trailing toward the waist from the top.

"Keith? Keith?" asked the one who'd checked on the colored man. "What do we do now?"

"Shut up," said the other. He'd stopped his pacing. Slowly, he reached behind his back, pulling out an angular shape with his right hand. A long knife blade flashed in the beam of light.

"Keith!?!"

"Shut up!" The man with the knife bent over the bleeding colored man. He punched him savagely in the face with the butt of the knife, but the colored man didn't react. He lay motionless.

The attacker placed the knife to the man's throat. Still nothing.

Suddenly, the colored man's eyes opened wildly. He grasped for the knife, rolling over as he made the attempt. The man atop thrust a knee into the belly and pulled the knife away – slicing tendons in the palm of the colored man's hand. He then plunged the knife into the man's chest again and again.

And again.

Andy had Brax by the arm, making sure he didn't move and give the hiding place away. Brax's free hand clutched the hand of Moses even tighter.

"Keith!" screamed the other man, who stood a few feet away, not knowing what to do.

Keith pulled the knife out of the colored man's chest one last time and nonchalantly wiped the excess on the T-shirt of the dead man.

"Keith? Keith?! Jesus Christ, Keith!" The other man was shaking. "You killed him!"

Keith ignored him. He looked over the dead body, the way a hunter would kneel over a dead buck. He brought the knife down again, and began sawing at the dead man's head.

"Jesus, Keith. Jesus! What are you doing?"

Keith said nothing. He sawed another two strokes, and then pulled something away, lifting the bounty to the light for the other man to see clearly his bounty.

The dead man's ear.

"Let's get out of here," Keith said, running toward the car. "We got proof."

He stopped momentarily, scanned the surroundings. Damned if he didn't stare directly at the line of brush covering the boys. Brax sucked in his breath so hard he thought he'd die. He could feel Moses tugging at his leg, urging him to get away.

Satisfied no one was around to witness the crime; Keith hopped in the car, racing the engine ferociously. He backed up, spinning wheels in hard earth to face a distant dirt road. That was enough to prompt his accomplice to run toward the passenger's side and hop in.

Minutes later, even with the car long gone, the youngsters remained paralyzed by fear. Brax realized his own numbness fading when he noticed his jeans were sticky. The humidity had soaked his shirt through, but the dampness in his pants? Rubbing absent-mindedly, Brax got a whiff of evidence. He'd peed in his Levi's.

Minutes passed before Andy peered out of the foliage and took a step into the clearing, pushing his bike.

"I'm getting out of here," he said as he pushed his bike out of the woods and toward the dirt road.

"Andy!" Brax said. "Wait for us."

Andy pivoted and paused. "I ain't waiting for him," he said, glaring at Moses. "We just saw one nigger killed. I ain't getting caught with another one. What if they come back lookin' for seconds?"

Andy leaped onto his bike. Pedaling over the uneven pasture toward the dirt road, he disappeared into the darkness.

"Brax?" Moses said in a whisper. "What are we gonna do?"

"We're going to find a house, a fillin' station – whatever we can. And we'll call for help."

"No, Brax, no." Moses said, pulling his hand away from Brax's. "I'll stay here. I'll stay till morning."

"No you won't." Braxton unwrapped the light jacket tied around his waist and gave it to Moses. "Put my jacket on."

Moses slid it on while Brax took off his baseball cap and placed it on Moses' head. A size too big, it sank to the top of Moses' ears, pushing them out awkwardly.

"Leave your bike here. We'll come back for it later," Brax said, pushing his Schwinn into the clearing. "Stay behind me. When we get to the dirt road, we'll ride double. Just keep the jacket zipped up and your hat as low as it'll go."

Moses nodded, following.

The dirt road was uneven, full of shallow potholes and covered with stray rocks. It would have been hard enough riding the bike alone, but with Moses sitting on the handlebars in front, Brax' legs were painfully straining to keep the bike moving and upright.

It became more difficult as the skies opened, with one of those out-of-nowhere late summer rains. They had nowhere to go for cover and needed to find a way home, so they continued even as the rain pelted away.

They were long out of sight of the clearing, around two bends and up and down a hill when they saw a farmhouse to the left with a mailbox marking the beginning of a driveway.

Brax brought the bike to a stop then stumbled to get it steady before he and Moses tumbled.

Moses pulled the cap down again, leaving his ears sticking out sideways. Brax dropped the bike on the edge of the road.

"You stay here. I'm gonna see if they'll let me use the phone," Brax said.

Moses nodded, and slumped down against the mailbox post, hiding his face.

Brax had taken only a few steps when Moses called him, the voice still barely more than a whisper.

"What is it?"

"What are you goin' to tell those people, Brax?" Moses asked.

"That my bike broke down and I need to call my Daddy," Brax said.

"You ain't goin' to say nuthin' about what happened, are you?"

"Not to them, no."

Moses remained quiet. Brax walked the rest of the way, tracing a grassless path that led to the front porch. He knocked loudly a couple of times. A porch light came on. An old man in overalls answered the pounding, listened to Braxton's request and opened the screen door, allowing him in.

Moses remained doubled over, peering at the house. He heard a car in the distance, and lay flat so no one would spot him. But the car never came down the road.

A few minutes later, the front door opened. Brax was waving at the old man.

"No, sir," Moses could hear him saying. "I'll be fine. He said he'd be here in ten, fifteen minutes, tops."

Brax rejoined Moses. Neither said a word. The Indian summer afternoon and unexpected rain left them both shivering, and the temperature was falling fast. Brax didn't know if he was shaking out of fear or due to the cold. The clammy Levi's made it even more uncomfortable. He wished now he'd kept the jacket Moses was wearing.

A car came up over the next hill. Brax quickly realized it wasn't his dad's Ford. Instead, a pickup lumbered toward them. He picked up the bike and straddled it as if he had a purpose, signaling Moses to lie flat. Moses did so, and rolled a few feet away toward the house into thicker grass.

The pickup roared by, spitting mud, pebbles and remnants of a puddle.

Moses didn't move. But he broke the silence.

"Who are you goin' to tell, Brax?"

Brax could see a halo of lights in the distance. Maybe, it was his father.

"Daddy," Brax said. "I'll tell him. He'll know what to do."

There was an uncharacteristic sternness in Moses voice as he replied. "Don't tell him, Brax. Don't tell anyone. Ever. You gotta promise me that."

This time, it was a car. Maybe the Ford.

"Moses, we've got to tell somebody. We saw a murder."

Moses voice faded again. "We saw a colored man murdered, Brax. A nigger."

A Nigger ... Moses was using the word Brax wasn't even allowed to use. The inference was clear: A nigger killed by two white men in some pasture in McMahon County. Who would do anything about it?

"OK, Moses, OK," Brax said. "I won't tell nobody."

"Promise me, Brax. Promise me. They won't do nothing to you but they'll come after me."

It was Harold Freeman's Ford. Brax waved him down, and the car pulled up beside the mailbox. Expecting an instant lecture or a cussing, Brax got neither. His dad emerged from the driver's side with a big grin.

"Thank goodness, son. We were worried about you," he said, embracing his son. "Where's Moses? Adele said he was with you."

Moses stood up behind the mailbox. "Here, Mr. Freeman."

"Good, good. Let's get your bikes in the trunk and let's get home before it rains again."

Brax wheeled his bike to the back of the car and lifted it into the trunk. His father helped him push it to the front, leaving enough room for another bike. Then the adult looked for Moses, but the youngster had already slid into the backseat.

"Where's Moses' bike?"

"It broke down," Brax said. "We had to leave it. That's why we're so late."

"Let's go get it, then."

Brax froze. We can't go back. But ... maybe Daddy could do something about it.

Moses had rolled down the window. "I left it with somebody to fix, Mr. Freeman," Moses said. "I'll get it in a couple days."

Brax's father nodded, then escorted his son to the front of the car. Brax slid in first, still battling with the decision to tell or not. His father pulled in behind the steering wheel. The car came to life with the radio blaring a melancholy Hank Williams song.

"How in the world did you get stuck out here like this?" Mr. Freeman asked.

"A storm came up," Braxton Freeman replied.

Chapter Two

July 1963

SQUINTING TO FOCUS while using the back of his hand to block out the sun, Braxton Freeman zeroed in on the Coca-Cola thermometer hanging on the wall to the men's locker room.

Ninety-eight degrees.

Brax had had enough of the never-ending, steamy heat. He stood in the lifeguard chair and stretched toward the sun, ironing out the wrinkles in his swim trunks before taking a cooling dive into the Takasaw Country Club pool.

"B-Bear, we've got a problem!" yelled Kyle Anderson, who stood below Brax on the lip of the pool. "Two bobcats at nine o'clock."

Nine o'clock? Needing better directions than Kyle's military heading, Freeman glanced toward his friend to follow his gaze across the pool. Entering through the gate leading into the shallow end was a golden-skinned girl with blonde hair held in a ponytail.

The legs were toned. The bobcats were incredible. The blonde was threatening to bust out of the top of her red-and-white, one-piece bathing suit.

"Good God almighty," Freeman muttered as he tried not to leer too obviously. "Who is it, Kyle? I've never seen her before."

"Gotta be Miz Seaver's niece. Look!" He pointed to the girl, who clutched the hand of one of the Seaver twins as Mrs. Seaver dragged the other child a pace behind.

"Can't be. Katie Sullivan? Geez, did she ever grow up."

Katie Sullivan lived in Birmingham, where her dad practiced law. But she spent most of her summers in Takasaw with her aunt and uncle. Daily stops at the club were routine in the past, but she hadn't been around this year.

That was another Katie Sullivan – at least she had never looked like this. A year younger than Brax, she'd been, well, a kid just the year before – flat-chested with a non-descript baby face.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A Storm Came Up by Doug Segrest Copyright © 2011 by Doug Segrest. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 29, 2011

    A great read. Highly recommended

    This book caught me by surprise. I know of the author because he's a big time newspaper sportswriter. But I stumbled across the novel and ordered it out of curiosity. He hits the tone of a tumultuous era from the first page and never leaves you hanging. I'm normally a deliberate reader, but I couldn't put this book down. Segrest needs to give up his day job. This is his future.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 17, 2012

    I loved this book! Segrest has captured the complicated emotion

    I loved this book! Segrest has captured the complicated emotions of the 60s without patronizing the reader with all the stereotypes. A gem of a book. Give it a read - you'll enjoy it.

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  • Posted April 22, 2012

    This is a powerful, well-written book. It hit me in the gut at t

    This is a powerful, well-written book. It hit me in the gut at the start and I couldn't put it down until the end. As a young black man, this story opened my eyes to injustices that happened before me and the kindness and strength that got us here today.

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