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AGAINST THE GATES OF HELL
By MYLOW A. YOUNG
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2011 Mylow A. Young
All right reserved.
Chapter One"JUNIOR, COVER ME!" Jerry shouts as bullets fly over their heads. "I'm goin' behind that Dumpster over there and get into the doorway; I'll flush him out to you!" he said as they converged on the rear of the old Foremost Milk Dairy that had been vacant for several years. The building had been condemned for years but the city never got around to demolishing it. There were still a few abandoned milk trucks in the truck yard behind ten feet of cyclone fencing that many used for prostitution or to make drug deals. The cops used to be called there frequently, but due to the lack of manpower, they just stopped going. Herby and Jerry had pulled into one of the adjacent alleyways near one of the loading docks.
"You crazy? We don't know if he's in there himself or what!" his partner, Herby, replied.
"That's all right; I don't care if it's ten of 'em, they ain't got nothin' for this," Jerry responded, brandishing an Uzi.
"Where'd you get that thing? You know that ain't regulation!"
"They got 'em. How are we supposed to fight back?"
"Man," Herby said, "let's call for backup, handle this thing right so we can go home!"
"Just cover me!" Jerry screams. He hands Herby the Uzi then takes off for the Dumpster. A hail of bullets spray as Herby fires the weapon. Bllliiiiiitttt!!! Bllliiiiiitttt!!! Bliit!!! You could hear nothing but the sound of hollow bullet casings as they bounced off the wet asphalt.
"Jerry!" Herby yells through the silence. "Jerry?!"
Bllliiiiiitttt! Herby ducked down low as someone returned fire from inside the building. He made his way behind an abandoned car to try and get a fix on the shooter, and then jumped up to give chase as he heard footsteps running in the distance. At the end of the alleyway he turned onto the street to find nothing, no one. And then ...
Pow, pow, ping! Herby heard more shots as they rang out.
Herby ran back to the dairy to find Jerry. He looked behind the Dumpster, then over to the back entrance. Stepping through the doorway, he almost stumbled as he looked down to see the lifeless body of his partner, his friend, dead on the dark, wet dairy floor.
"Jeerrryyy!!!" Herby wakes violently in a cold, drenching sweat.
"Honey, what's wrong?" Rene asked. "Is it that dream again?"
"That nightmare," Herby replied out of breath.
"Have you talked to the pastor about it yet? You said you would."
"I don't want to talk about it, Rene," Herby fired back.
"At least talk to Joe-Boy. You haven't talked about it since it happened."
"I said I don't want to talk about it!"
Herby was beginning to snap at Rene a lot lately. He knew he was wrong. After all, she was only trying to find comfort for her hurting husband. She hurt for him just watching him go through it, waking in agony as often as he did. It had been over a year since Jerry was killed and he's still suffering. She felt helpless as the nightmares were becoming more and more frequent. He wasn't irritated with her. She knew that, but why the sudden mood changes?
"I'm sorry baby. I don't know what's goin' on," Herby confessed. "I'm just so on edge lately. Still tryin' to deal with things, baby, you know," he reasoned. "What time is it?"
"About three a.m. Think you can get back to sleep? It'll be time for church in just a few hours."
"I don't know, Sugar; I'm all wound up now."
"Maybe you need to go pray."
"Maybe you're right. I have to find my way through this. Lord, I've got to find my way through."
* * *
The alarm clock rang louder than usual this cold October morning. Rene woke up to find Herby asleep, still on his knees at the sofa, his favorite place to pray.
"Junior? Junior, wake up, honey. Have you been on your knees all morning?"
"I had the strangest experience. I was prayin', askin' God to deliver me from these nightmares. And Kerby came to mind," Herby said, almost resentfully. "I was beggin' God for somethin', anything, and Kerby kept poppin' up in my head. It was really startin' to irritate me. The strange thing is I felt like maybe I was supposed to pray for him."
"That's not so strange; you know you and Kerby are close. At least you were till he was kicked off the force. He's your twin, for goodness' sake."
"Twin or no twin, he brought all that on himself," Herby snapped back. "How do you call yourself a cop while you're out there smokin' crack like some kinda' junkie? How do you even call yourself a Christian?"
"Junior, Jerry was his friend too, remember?" Rene replied.
"Yeah, I remember. I also remember havin' to knock on Jerry's door at two o'clock in the mornin' to tell Nichelle that her husband wasn't comin' home anymore. I remember seein' his kids cryin' for the father they were gonna' have to grow up without. I should a' never let him go in there by himself." he said, interrupted by the emotion of a flashback. "I remember wakin' up a few minutes ago in a cold sweat ..." he continued. "... from a nightmare that continues to haunt me. Do you remember? But did I go off on some drunken tangent when Jerry died? Huh?! Did I stick a crack pipe in my mouth Rene? Did I?!"
"But he still blames himself for that child, Junior. He killed that little boy," Rene added.
"Well," Herby responded, "A man's got to be able to deal with life as it is."
"Wow," Rene said. "I love you, but if you had really dealt with Jerry's death, maybe you wouldn't be havin' these nightmares."
"Baby, I love you, but if you had really dealt with Jerry's death, maybe you wouldn't be having these nightmares." Conviction covered Herby like a fur coat in July. Rene hit the nail on the head. He hated it when she was right, which was most of the time. He knew she was this time too, but could he accept the fact that he also needed help? Yeah, Kerby had a drug problem, but like any addiction, it was only the symptom, not the source. There was a source to Herby's struggle too but could he ever find it? Could he come to grips with it? Would he?
"Honey, Kerby messed up big but he is your brother and you've got to love him, baby. You have to forgive him. Why do you think that the Lord laid him on your heart? It's as if you're holding some kind of resentment toward him or something. Is there unforgiveness in your heart toward him? Do you think that's what the Lord wants you to see?"
"Look, I forgive my brother. Anyway ..."
"Do you?" Rene interrupted. "You either catch a serious attitude or you change the subject at any mention of his name. Anything that has to do with him and suddenly you become critical or you've got something else to do."
"Am I supposed to forget how he ruined his career, his life? That he shamed himself and his whole family? If my parents were alive today, this would've killed them."
"Honey, I don't condone his lifestyle but there's no shame in being human. Some of us struggle with different things but we all struggle. His problems have more serious consequences but it's a human struggle. You're struggling with something right now&mdas;your pride."
Rene began to push the wrong buttons, or maybe the right ones. She believed in telling her husband the truth, and she did it in a way that Herby could deal with, even if it took him a little bit. He did struggle with his pride. He would fight Rene it would seem, and he had a stubborn, emotional exterior, but he would always listen to what she had to say ... eventually.
"I struggle with a man not bein' a man," Herby said, trying to control himself.
"Is it your reputation that's on the line? Do you feel that he shamed you?" Rene asked.
"Yeah, he shamed me. I'm ashamed. Let me explain somethin' to you; I'm a cop. My job is to serve this community with honor and integrity, to keep drugs from pollutin' our streets, killin' our kids. You know that! It was Kerby's job too. It was a job that cost Jerry his life. Yeah, he shamed me. Kerby crossed the line! He's on the other side now, in league with the enemy. He's a crack-head, Rene, runnin' the streets all day and all hours of the night, hangin' with drug dealers slingin' that garbage in front of little kids ... these kids are gonna be our future! And what about our kids? He's a bad example for them, Rene! He's a traitor to his own community. He's made himself part of the problem and I'm havin' a hard time dealin' with that. Yes! I am shamed!"
"You said that maybe the Lord wanted you to pray for Kerby. Is it because you haven't been?"
Prayer. Rene hit a different nail this time, and the Holy Spirit gripped Herby's heart just as tightly. He knew that praying was the only thing that he could do to help his brother. He really did love Kerby and like Rene said, they were tight, but Kerby let him down. He had removed himself from his life, leaving him alone. Herby couldn't handle that. They did everything together ... they were alike in so many ways. They had the same six-foot-two-inch lean muscular frame and cocoa bean complexion ... the deep-set brown eyes fringed by heavy brows that could slant in an instant of anger and just as quickly lift in a moment of laughter. Kerby was the reason Herby joined the force in the first place. But now Herby's pride was becoming a factor. He eventually surrendered to that pride and left the room to go outside, slamming the door behind him.
"Kerby," Herby cried, as tears too heavy to hold begin to roll down his face. He missed his brother tremendously but would never let Rene know. It was probably the only secret he kept from her. Yeah right, Herby thought, knowing that she already knew. She could read him like a book. Rene was a good wife, and beautiful too. She could bring joy into a room just smiling, her dimpled cheeks accompanying the sparkle in her light brown eyes. But, as small as she was— five two—she was never afraid to check you ... in love. Rene had the grace to let him be who he was without trying to make him who she thought he should be. That was the Lord's job. She knew he missed his brother dearly.
Herby wept uncontrollably as he sat in the swing on the front porch of their row house. Usually Rene would sit out there with him but not now. She knew this was one of those times to just let him be, let him think some things through. She knew God was dealing with his heart and she didn't want to interfere.
He began to rock slowly back and forth as the tears began to dry, reflecting on the old times "around the way" as he often did. Pemberton Street was a relatively quiet street in a Philadelphia neighborhood not far from where they all grew up. The sun will be up soon, he realized as he thought about Kerby, himself and "MoMo," a childhood friend, "runnin' ball" down at Sherwood Recreation Center—the "Wood" as it was affectionately called, where they all used to hang out. If it wasn't basketball on the concrete court, it was football on the grass field on the other side of the fence. There used to be some pretty good games there. Some good ball players too, some going on to play pro ball.
Kerby was really good but Mo-Mo was the best, a playground legend! Tall, husky but athletic build, rugged good looks and charisma—he could charm the ladies. He should've gone pro like the others—Gene Banks, Lewis Lloyd, and Michael Brooks to name a few. Mo-Mo took them all to school. He could've played any sport and got paid to do it. What happened? Herby thought. Mo, you didn't have the life that we did but ... Herby never could understand why Mo-Mo preferred the streets, remembering how his own parents kept them on the straight and narrow. Herby missed his parents, his father in particular. His dad was his friend, his mentor. It seemed more that they were brothers than father and son. They were close; and Herby respected his father. He listened to him. That was rare in the inner city. It was rarer that a boy even had a father let alone one he could talk to.
"Pastor Wilson," most people called him, was a God-fearing man in the truest sense. He knew the Lord in a most intimate way. Herby and Kerby used to tease him about being one of Jesus' disciples, asking him what it was like to walk with Jesus. But they knew he had such wisdom and knowledge that they were in awe of him.
Kerby loved his dad too but he was a mama's boy and a bit spoiled. It seemed she kept more of an eye on him, but she didn't play favorites. Kerby and his mom had music in common, while Herby followed his father around, tinkering with electronics and talking sports. Rose Wilson was an accomplished pianist. She played the piano and organ at Living Waters Fellowship of Faith where Herbert Sr. pastored for many years. The Wilsons were a pretty well-rounded family and it was truly a tragedy when Pastor and Mrs. Wilson were killed, hit head-on by a twelve-year-old boy joyriding with his friends in a stolen car. Herby and Kerby had just graduated high school when it happened. They both had been through some tough times together.
Why couldn't Kerby hold on when things got hard? Herby thought. He's been through worse. Why'd he start hangin' out with Mo-Mo again after all this time? Herby would blame Mo-Mo from time to time but he knew Kerby was responsible. Kerby made the choices he did and would have to live with them. The same old thoughts began to invade Herby's mind again. The lies Satan would tell him were no different than before. If I'd been this or done that, things would be different. Every now and then he would listen to those lies.
He had heard about being "in Christ" but he hadn't yet learned what it really meant. He knew he had anger too, so much anger. When it would surface it was then that he knew it was time to pray. Like right now. But he needed to find his wife and ask for her forgiveness.
"Lord, suddenly I'm so full of anger," he prayed. "You know I'm not an angry man but I've grown so bitter. Please forgive me. Rene's right, I have ought against my brother. I have resentment toward him and I'm not sure why, but I love my brother, Lord. I love him so much. You know I do. What's happenin' to me, Father? Lord, I don't know what to do. Show me what to do! Please, help me!"
Chapter Two"PHEWWW, NOW THAT THAT was a blast!" Mo-Mo said, exhaling from a hit of crack cocaine.
"That's the one I've been tryin' to get all night," Kerby said back.
"You got any more ends?" Mo-Mo asked, trying to seduce Kerby into buying more of his poison.
"Nah man, not on me. I was hopin' you would front me a twenty."
"Negro please!" Mo-Mo said. "I can't keep carryin' you like dis, you cuttin' into my profit, man. How you gonna pay me back? Security guards don't get paid dat much."
"Profit? You're smokin' your profit. And my 'security guard' job is straight so don't worry."
"Yeah, don't worry," Mo-Mo said sarcastically.
"Look, you're gonna get yours, man. You act like you're doin' me a favor."
"I am doin' you a favor, son. You got any dope in your pipe?" Mo-Mo asked. "Ah-ight den." Mo-Mo liked the feeling of power he had when he thought someone needed him or what he had. He had been battling Kerby for a little while now for control of their relationship and at the moment Mo-Mo was winning.
"I've got cash at the crib," Kerby quickly blurted back.
"I'll front you one," Mo-Mo told Kerby. "But you gotta split it wit' me."
"Bet," Kerby said in agreement. "Just make it a fat one."
Kerby and Mo-Mo used to be on opposite sides of the law for so long, but now? Kerby never did approve of Mo-Mo's gangster lifestyle but he always remained his friend. They only started hanging out again after Jerry was killed over a year ago in a drug bust. That's when Kerby wanted to know what all the fuss was about crack cocaine. Why would people lie, cheat, and steal to get it? People kill for it; they take their own lives because of it. Entire families are destroyed—fathers, brothers, sons—in jail or dead because of crack cocaine. Mothers are left widowed or they sell their bodies to get it.
Excerpted from AGAINST THE GATES OF HELL by MYLOW A. YOUNG Copyright © 2011 by Mylow A. Young. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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