Read an Excerpt
The Reason Why
It was the summer of 1988. Jazzy Jay’s was the premiere hot spot in the city on Saturday night. The converted storefront with a massive bar and a thumping surround-sound stereo system was the club of choice for all Columbus, Ohio ballers and cluck-cluck heads who were after the ballers’ money. Dope boys and gold diggers alike dressed their best when stepping up in Jazzy’s and made sure that their whips were fresh to impress. But for all Jazzy’s promises, its shortcomings were the 2 a.m. closing time and that it didn’t serve food. For this reason, the Waffle House was the place to head after the club.
The Waffle House was often packed to capacity, and this breezy night it was no different. The washed, waxed, and chromed-out rides filling the parking lot looked like a car show. Jimmy Blazers rolled through bumping EPMD; IROCs burnt rubber up and down the street, racing and showing off their acceleration. BMW 325s were here and there, along with several 5.0 Mustangs and chromed-out Cutlass Supremes and Regals, while Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Run DMC, and LL Cool J provided the soundtrack for the night—that was, until the police showed up and mobbed the place.
Some folks fled, others stayed. This was typical. The police knew that the Waffle House was where everyone hung out after Jazzy’s closed. They also knew that people raced . . . and they weren’t going to stop. We were just young people having fun and we were going to continue. Depending on the po-po’s mood, they’d run up on us like Rambo just to see folks scatter like roaches.
“Look at those fucking idiots in the street drag racing!” Chino said, protesting to Fabian when he saw the swarm of officers. Leaning up against his Jeep Cherokee, Chino shook his head in disgust.
The officers climbed out of their police cars and started herding the crowd back against the Waffle House’s side wall. Some of the officers began searching the gathered crowd. “Damn, I’m strapped, yo!” Chino whispered into Fabian’s ear.
“Shit, get rid of it, kid!”
“Peep game!” Fabian nodded to his right. “They ain’t searching the boppers!”
“Well shit, I need to slip my jammy to a chicken head,” Chino said.
“Do that and kiss it good-bye, man,” Fabian told him. “Damn, that was my favorite pistol of yours, too. You should have sold it to me when I asked you to. You’d let some chick hold it, risk not getting it back, but you couldn’t sell it to me. Dude, that’s fucked up.”
“You trippin’ rap,” Chino told him. “I got my Ruger P-89, not the Beretta but I’ll sell this bitch to you right here, right now.” Chino looked at Fabian seriously. He didn’t care about his piece. He just wanted it off him.
Fabian laughed. “Nigga, you crazy. That’s yo’ case. Enjoy it.”
“Bullshit!” Chino told him defiantly. He maneuvered away from Fabian and into the crowd. He squeezed his way through until he found what he was looking for—a female with a large purse. He slipped his weapon inside the slit on the side.
“What are you doing?” Pam asked, turning in his direction.
Pam Xavier was fresh to the city. She had grown up in Detroit’s famed LeDroit Park area, the daughter of upper-middle-class parents who gave her the best. Private school, lessons in piano, French and Spanish, the best of everything. She was sixteen and already a graduate from Catholic school. Pam was an all-American girl who was away from the watchful eyes of her parents, living it up in a place she knew little about. She was totally brand-new.
“Yo, check it, lil mama,” Chino told her. “They checking the hard heads, not the chicken heads, so you can just close up your purse and hold on to that for daddy.”
“First of all,” Pam said, craning her neck, “I’m not your little mama, you’re not my daddy, I’m not a chicken head, and I’m not holding shit for you.” Pam looked inside her purse and her eyes became large when she saw what he had placed in there. “Hell naw!” she screeched in an angry tone. “Definitely not this!”
Chino held up his hands. “Okay, say it a little louder. I don’t think the po-po heard you. Damn, give a brother a case, why don’t you.”
“This is your case,” Pam told him. “You shouldn’t be carrying a gun anyway. It’s guys like you that mess things up for everyone else.”
“Hey, we can debate the merits of being judged by twelve or carried by six another time,” Chino said with a smile, trying to defuse Pam’s anger, “but for right now, a brother really ain’t trying to go to jail. Can you be a soldier and help out a general?”
Pam turned away and smiled. He had a way with words that made her laugh. She turned back toward him. “A general? You mean a private, don’t you?”
“No, lil mama, I’m a straight up commander in chief. If stars and bars indicate rank, you can just call me General Milky Way, ’cause I got enough stars to be my own galaxy, and enough bars to open my own candy factory.”
“Guys over there. Ladies to the side!” An officer yelled, pulling Chino away, separating him from Pam. He winked and blew a kiss her way.
“Hey, how will I find you?” Pam shouted.
“Don’t worry, I’ll find you!” Chino shouted back.
He was cute, Pam thought. Cuter than cute. Pearly whites that looked like he just stepped out of a dental factory. Low-cut, curly hair, smooth peanut butter skin, hazel eyes that look like crushed brown and green crystals. And he had the gift of gab. He probably had a saying for everything. If he didn’t find her, she certainly would have to find him.
“Did you get rid of it?” Fabian asked, gathered with the group of young men the police had snatched up.
Chino nodded. “Nice little red bone. See the one over there with the red Coca-Cola shirt?”
“Where?” Fabian asked, stretching his neck and using his six-foot-three height to look over the crowd.
“The one with the mushroom hairstyle,” Chino told him.
“Cute,” Fabian nodded his approval. “One question, though.”
“What if she turns you in?”
“Then that’s her shit,” Chino declared.
“And if she tries to press the issue?” Fabian asked.
Chino shrugged. “Then you know how we do it. She does some shady shit like that, then she’ll be dealt with.”