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Little James Lamar Kennedy lay, wide awake, on top of his wafer-thin twin mattress, wearing his dingy long johns that doubled as pajamas. He was still. The stench of smoke, old dirt, and roaches filled his home, but James was oblivious. He had long since tuned out the occasional sirens, the raised voices, and the stray dogs barking, fixtures in his surroundings.
On this night he was single-minded. He held his breath and could feel his little heart pounding against his bony chest. He was a thinking little boy. And tonight he was contemplating death. Not his own. Those nightmares about falling into a bottomless pit, or being chased by some unidentifiable, scary figure had long since subsided. James's reality was so much more horrifying.
Every night for the past few months a man had come into his room and done to him the unthinkable. He hurt James, the scrawny nine-year-old with bright eyes and a determined spirit. But the pain wasn't located in a place James could identify. It wasn't so much physical, in his stomach or in his head, or even in his joints. This pain was deeper, much deeper. And it made him feel bad all the time.
James hurt deep inside his soul -- not that he could even imagine what a soul was at his age. But what he knew was that the pain made him nauseous and he wanted it to stop. When nighttime came, James would lie still, eyes open, waiting, all of his muscles tensed, his stomach in a complete knot. He waited for his reality bogeyman to come. He waited for the man his mother told him to call Uncle Benny.
On the few nights Uncle Benny didn't come, James still couldn't sleep because he never knew if he would come. There wasn't a set time for Uncle Benny to come into little James's room, climb on top of him, and press James's small face, almost to the point of suffocation, into his old foam pillow. He would come when he felt like coming. And before, during, and after, James wanted to die.
On this night, however, James wanted to kill.
"If you say anything, boy, I will kill you, your mother, and everybody else up in this bitch!" Uncle Benny would whisper, his breath putrid, before leaving James's room.
But James did tell. He told the only person he could trust.
And together they hatched a plan. Andre Bonner, three years older than James, was twelve but already six feet tall and muscular. He wasn't just big for his age, he could be brutal -- a characteristic he'd developed in order to survive. There was no daddy or big brother around to protect Andre, or Bones, as he would be called. He learned early on that he would have to protect himself and was known on the streets as a fighter. In school, he was a bully. But for little James, he was a savior.
Bones and James told everyone they were cousins. The two had distinctly different personalities -- James was more outgoing and charming, and was always joking, his way of trying to get classmates to look past his funky, dirty clothes, and bugged-out mother. Bones was serious and quiet, not giving a damn about what others thought.
Their mothers were best friends, or, more accurately, running buddies. Tawana, Bones's mother, and Deidre, James's mother, did everything together. Everything. When James's father had been stabbed to death outside a Central Ward, Newark, New Jersey, pool hall when James was just five, the two women got apartments right next to each other in the New Hope Projects. And the two "sisters" began smoking crack together.
While their mothers walked the streets looking for ways to get their next fix, Bones looked after James. He was his babysitter and only friend. When James had any problems, like being teased at school for his unkempt appearance, he would threaten, "I'm going to get my cousin Bones to come here and kick your ass!" And Bones would come. He would always come.
Bones wasn't there on the nights Uncle Benny visited. He was in his own run- down apartment, dealing with his own demons as his mother was getting high. Bones was there for James on this night, though, hiding quietly on the floor, beside James's bed. He couldn't be seen from the door. He had promised little James that he would take care of his visitor. Bones had a brick, wrapped in a pillowcase, by his side.
The gaunt man sneaked into James's room, careful to lock the door behind him. Every muscle in James's little body tightened.
"Boy, you know what you're supposed to do," the man whispered through clenched teeth. "Turn over and pull those pants down!"
As the man swiftly worked to undo the zipper of his own pants and climb on top of James, Bones sprang into action. He swung his brick-filled pillowcase like a slingshot and the load landed in the back of Benny's head. The frail-looking man, although caught off guard, didn't go down. He started swinging his arms, his hands balled up in fists, in search of a target. Bones brought the heavy sack back to deliver another blow. The man struck Bones across the face with a punch, sending him reeling back into the bedroom wall.
James jumped on Benny's back, trying to dig out his eyes. This bought Bones enough time to recover. He took the brick out of the pillowcase and ran full force, brick in hand, and smashed it into the man's nose. He heard the horrifying sound of bones and cartilage being crushed. Benny buckled to his knees, covering his bleeding face with his hands. Bones then reached for a belt discarded on the floor, and wrapped it around the man's throat.
"Come on lil man, help me pull!" Bones called out to James, who stood frozen in the background of darkness.
With both feet lodged in the man's back, Bones pulled on the end of the belt with all his might. He tugged the belt with a strength he didn't know he had. He pulled as if his own life depended on it. He felt adrenaline course through his veins as the man's life slowly faded. The man was struggling and gurgling as the blood from his nose bubbled into the back of his throat.
Bones and James and the man were on the floor, tangled and heaving for seconds that seemed to tick away as slowly as hours. Finally the man's body went limp. Bones and James were sweating and out of breath.
"Is he, is he...dead?" James said, managing to break the silence.
"I think so," Bones said. "We have to get him out of here and clean up this mess."
In an ordinary home, with an ordinary mother, the ruckus alone would have caused someone to investigate. But this was not an ordinary home. It had yellowed walls, once project-issue white. The kitchen had little food, but still teemed with roaches so bold that neither light nor movement caused them to scatter. They openly walked around searching for crumbs or whatever else they could eat, just like the people who lived here. The bathroom hadn't been cleaned in months, the toilet filthier than a Porta Potti at a sporting event. This was a home inhabited by adults who no longer cared about much -- except getting high. This was a crack den.
James's mother, Deidre, tired of going to the streets for her fixes, decided to open her home to her junkie buddies. She provided them with a hidden, safe place to get high. The price of admission? Crack. They got to smoke for as long as they wanted provided that they took care of the hostess. There were occasional fights once the crack ran out, fights primarily over who would go out and do whatever they had to do to bring more back. Deidre would try to keep the fights to a low simmer because she didn't want to bring the heat down on her situation. If Bones and James didn't clean up this mess, Deidre would have more heat than she could imagine.
The two boys struggled to drag Benny's crackhead body out of James's first-floor bedroom window. Quick-thinking Bones had stolen a couple of heavy-duty, extra-large garbage bags from the janitor's closet at his school.
"Let's get him in this bag," Bones said. "It'll be easier to drag him and we won't have to worry about leaving a trail of blood. We have enough to clean up after we get rid of him."
Benny didn't weigh much alive, but the dead weight was real. They managed to drag him out of the window and then into the back alley near the Dumpster. This was Newark, which despite its movement toward change with its downtown arena, baseball stadium, and acclaimed performing-arts center, was still, well, Newark. People were killed here just about every other day. This alleyway was dark, but they could see the shadows of trash bags overflowing the Dumpster. They were smelly and sticky and some weren't properly tied, but Bones and Juice had to move a few out of the middle of the large container to make enough space for Benny's body bag. They then piled the bags, dripping with all kinds of filth, on top of him.
"This will be our little secret," Bones said, brushing his hands together, trying to get the visible filth off. They were still sticky from the garbage bags and the blood.
The two climbed back in through the window. Bones took James's sheet and ripped it into rags. He went to the kitchen and found an old pot that hadn't been used in years, filled it with hot water, and came back and cleaned the room, ringing out the blood-filled rags and replacing the water five times. Everyone in the apartment was too busy to notice a thing.
"You can't tell anyone or else we'll both be in a lot of trouble, okay?" Bones said again, once they'd left the apartment, in search of a place to put the last pieces of evidence, making sure little James knew the ramifications of what they had just done.
"Okay," James said as they put the last of the bloody rags in the garbage can down the block. "Bones..."
"Yeah, lil man, what's up?" asked Bones, looking around to make sure nobody saw them.
"I'm going to be rich one day, and when I am, I'm going to take care of you."
Bones laughed. He had not laughed in such a long time that he surprised himself.
"I'm serious!" said James, insulted.
"I know you are, lil man, I know you are," Bones responded.
"So how do you plan on becoming rich, because I don't know how much longer I can live like this."
"I don't know," James replied. "I just know that I will be. You'll see!"
Bones shook his head as the two boys walked back to their building. James entered his apartment while watching Bones close the door to his, next door. James's living room was dark except for the flicker of lighters that sparked through the room as if it was its own galaxy. There were heavy red curtains on the windows to protect this haven from possible outside prying eyes in the adjacent buildings. James carefully navigated the room to avoid bumping into anybody who might have been sitting on the floor.
"I saw Uncle Benny go into your room, but ain't seen him come out."
James walked faster as he recognized his mother's voice. Feeling her eyes follow him to his bedroom, he put his hand on the knob, then turned to see his mother sitting on a wobbly stool in the place where the couch had been. During one doping night she'd been offered ten dollars for it and had taken it.
"Benny owe me some money," said Deidre, mostly out of it.
The woman, who looked fifteen years older than she should have, had dry ashy lips and thick, unpermed hair that was standing up around her head as if she were some sort of wild Medusa.
James paid her no attention. She never had the energy to really pursue anything and he knew that if he just ignored her, she would go away. He went back into his room. He and Bones had done a good job of cleaning up. James, who even at this young age was a bit of a perfectionist, moved his little items, which had been knocked out of place during the struggle, back into their accustomed spots. When everything was back where it belonged, he lay on top of his sheetless bed.
It was the best night's sleep little James Lamar Kennedy had had in a while.
Copyright © 2008 by JL King
Posted January 31, 2009
This is a very good story. I enjoyed reading it and I could not put it down. Is there a down side? Yes. The book just stopped. If there is a part two, do not read part one until you have part two in your hands. In what should have been the climax to the story was the end. I think. A very good book, but not a complete story. It was too good of a story to leave it as it was. But none the less, I enjoyed this story.
2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 21, 2008
¿Love on a two-Way Street¿ unveils the plans of James Lamar 'Juice' Kennedy, a music mogul, who has a ruthless drive for sex, money, and power. When he meets sensuous, angel-voiced Brianna, he's determined to sign her to his label and get her luscious legs wrapped around him. With her silky skin and provocative curves, he finds her as fiery in the bedroom as she is on the charts. But Juice likes to have his cake and eat it too, and a hard-bodied man is one other dessert he can't resist. Juice has a plan to bring together six more of the most wealthy, powerful, and influential men in politics, entertainment, and media who share his seductive secret. If they band together, all of their wildest dreams -- and fantasies -- will come true. If they betray the brotherhood, the consequences are deadly.
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 6, 2013
Posted March 28, 2013
How do you begin to read and engulf yourself in to this book...i sure enough did and just as i was at what i assume was the ending...the book just stops...its suppose to be a book of 288pages, yet it stops at page 183!!! Waste of money...never again!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 20, 2011
Posted April 10, 2010
No text was provided for this review.