Authors: Deatri King Bey
Genesis Press, Inc.
An imprint of Genesis Press, Inc.
Genesis Press, Inc.
P.O. Box 101
Columbus, MS 39703
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, not known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying, and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without written permission of the publisher, Genesis Press, Inc. For information write Genesis Press, Inc., P.O. Box 101, Columbus, MS 39703.
All characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author and all incidents are pure invention.
Copyright© 2006 Deatri King-Bey
Manufactured in the United States of America
Visit us at www.genesis-press.com or call at 1-888-Indigo-1-4-0
For my hubby, Collier King-Bey, or as the family and I call him, “The King.”
Without your support, this book would have never come into being.This one’s for you.
In Loving Memory of Catherine Shaw
February 10, 1916 – November 03, 2005
You’ll always be my heart, Grandma
God for the gifts he has given me and for surrounding me with supportive family and friends.
My hubby, Collier, for always being in my corner and saying, “Dee, if you want to write, write.” Then, he removed obstacles so that I could do so.
My babies: Daetriel, Shanna, and Daiaunne, for allowing me to miss a few matches of Mario Tennis and Mario Cart.
My nephew Joshua Lang for brightening my day with his dimpled smile.
My mother, Mary Hodges, and my sister Tanja Hodges, for reading everything I’ve written (Trust me, folks, some of it really STUNK) and giving loving advice on how to improve.
My spiritual twin, Angelique Justin, for believing in me.
My critique group: Turgenia Knight, Pam Olumoya, Javan Shepard, and Mitchell Thomas… Whose turn is it to submit? SMILE.
My critique partner, Freddy Traynor, author of
Bless the Thugs and the Lil’ Chil’rens
, for teaching me the importance of research.
My newfound friend Evelyn Palfrey, author of
Three Perfect Men
, for her willingness to reach back.
My editor, Lois Spangler, for forcing me to overcome my fear of the flashback.
Last, but not least, I thank my writing coach, Cheryl Ferguson. She took me under her wing and nurtured my growth as a writer in ways I cannot begin to articulate.
Miami, June 15
“This is not up for discussion, Rosa. You’re not moving to Chicago.” Ernesto stalked across her bedroom to the window. They’d moved to Miami when she was twelve to protect her from Harriet’s drunken fits and distance himself from David.
“The Senior Vice President of Marketing position was vacated a few months ago. I’ve held it for you to fill after your graduation.” He checked his Rolex. “In two hours, you graduate and take your rightful place as one of my Senior Vice Presidents. Someday Bolívar International will be yours.”
Rosa twirled the tresses beside her ear between her fingers.
He crossed his arms over his chest. “Whatever you’re calculating, forget it.”
She released the hair. “Let’s talk about this like the two rational adults we are.” She motioned toward her beanbag chairs. “Please take a seat.”
“I thought I told you to get rid of those things.”
“That would be my fuzzy, pink dice chairs.”
“This room is in need of serious redecorating,” he grumbled as he situated his large frame onto the chair across from Rosa. “Order new furniture before you leave for Italy, so it will be here when you return.”
“When I return, it will be to Chicago, not Miami,” she stated calmly. “And thank you, but I won’t be accepting the Vice President position at this time.”
His expression matched hers, stoic. “Are you saying you need a longer vacation, maybe a year off? You’ve worked hard, you deserve it. I’ll keep the temporary replacement until you’re ready.”
“No. I’m saying I’m moving to Chicago when I return from Italy and starting a computer networking firm with the hundred thousand dollar trust Mom gave me.”
“I’ll expand Bolívar International to include a computer networking unit. You’ll be its Vice President.”
“That won’t work, Daddy. I’d still be working for you. Just as I have since I was nine. I want to be on my own. I want to build and run my own company. That’s also why I’m not using the trust you’ve set up for me. I want to build my company from the ground up.”
Ernesto had never been as proud of Rosa as he was at this moment. He could remember, many years ago, when he’d purchased the technology firm that grew into Bolívar International. At the time, he’d wanted to be free of David to prove to himself that he could be a success on his own. “I admire that you wish to do this on your own, but run your company here. Not Chicago. You can’t save Harriet.”
Just as I can’t save David.
He couldn’t pinpoint the exact time it happened, but he no longer envied David’s fire. He didn’t want David’s type of power, which was rooted in the fear of others. Ernesto craved the power that was rooted in respect: the respect he received for being an industry leader, the respect he received for improving the community, and most importantly, the respect he received from his daughter for being her hero.
Rosa looked away. He leaned forward and weaved his hands through her long, bushy, black hair. “Your mother has to save herself.”
She rested her caramel cheek on his shoulder. “I know I can’t make her stop drinking. But I miss her. Perhaps I can encourage her to seek help. I have to try. Please don’t stop me.”
Weighed down by family burdens, he knew he couldn’t cut ties with David—just as Rosa couldn’t cut ties with Harriet. “All right, I didn’t get this far without knowing how to negotiate. You may go to Chicago and babysit your mother, but I expect you to stay up on Bolívar International business. And you will continue attending the strategy and status meetings. I want you ready when it’s time for me to turn over the reins.”
“Yes, sir.” She backed away with a salute.
He chuckled with his own salute to her. “Go get ready for your graduation, soldier.”
* * *
Later that night, David staggered across the hotel room, slurring, “I’m so proud of Rosa.
Rosa.” He stumbled over nothing and fell onto the bed. “Damn, Ernesto, we did it. We’re gonna pull this shit off.”
Ernesto continued watching David from the chaise lounge in the corner. Though Rosa was going against his wishes, he was proud of her. “You need to sleep it off if you want to have a real discussion about Rosa, Paige, and the DEA.”
“My ass ain’t drunk. What the hell’s goin’ on? You been actin’ funny all night.” He rolled onto his back. “Rosa’s gonna be the head of the largest fuckin’ drug syndicate ever! They won’t know what hit ’em.”
Ernesto hopped up from the chaise lounge. “What are you talking about? When did we ever agree to something like that?”
“What the fuck?” David stood with his arms out to his sides. “So you sayin’ you don’t remember the original deal?” Accent thickening, he harrumphed. “And I’m the one who’s drunk? Don’t let your white ass get this shit twisted, amigo. Not now. Not after we’ve come this far. Now when does Rosa return?”
Ernesto reined in his anger. Rosa was his to protect, and he had no intention of relinquishing control. “Four, maybe five months.”
“Shit! My girl will finally be at her rightful place, by my side. You hear me, Ernesto? Rosa is my baby! When she returns, she’ll be all mine!”
“She’s mine!” Ernesto glared down on David. “No blurring of power! I decide what we do with Rosa!”
The two stood toe-to-toe staring at each other. Ernesto had never noticed just how short David really was. Ernesto was as tall for a man as David was short. Looking back, Ernesto realized David’s presence had made him seem bigger than life. Ernesto internally chuckled at himself for all of the years he’d chosen to stand in this little man’s shadow.
David drew in several deep breaths, calming himself. In Spanish, he said, “This is a time to celebrate our daughter. We have time to discuss Rosa’s future when she returns from Europe. Grab a seat.” He motioned to the chaise lounge, then sat on the bed.
Guard up at an all-time high, Ernesto took his seat. This was one fight David wouldn’t win. He’d protect Rosa at all costs.
“We need to talk about the DEA,” David continued in Spanish. “I’ve made sure those bastards won’t bother you again. I know you want out, but I need your ass to continue laundering for me. I don’t trust anyone else with my money. And that fucking Barry Paige.” David nodded his head “I’m thinking about having his ass whacked.”
Unsure how to handle this new change-of-subject tactic of David’s, Ernesto half-listened while figuring out what to do to protect Rosa.
* * *
“Damn, damn, damn!” Ernesto stormed into his study with Harriet close behind. He regretted allowing her to stay with them for the few days she’d be in Miami for Rosa’s graduation. He wouldn’t have agreed, but having Harriet close meant so much to Rosa.
“You’re just angry because Rosa’s decided to move to Chicago to be with me,” Harriet taunted. “There was no way you could keep her away from me. You’re losing control over her, and you can’t stand it.”
“I never kept Rosa from you. Your drinking did. Now leave me alone, so I can think.”
She pursed her lips. “I saw David at the graduation ceremony. He’s getting closer and closer to telling Rosa the truth every day. Wait until she finds out her precious daddy is nothing but a lackey for a drug dealer.”
“Shut the hell up! David isn’t telling Rosa shit.” He thumped his chest. “I’m her father, that’s the only truth she’ll ever know.”
Harriet’s drunken laugh filled the room. “Not if David has anything to say about it, lackey.”
Six years later
Florida, June 1
A corrections officer escorted David from his prison cell along the hallway into a small office just outside of the death-row unit. “You’ve only got five minutes,” the guard said as he unshackled David’s hands from behind his back.
David massaged his wrists. He didn’t know who Ernesta Wells was, how she organized this call, or why, and he didn’t care. He’d do anything for a temporary reprieve from his twenty-three-hour, seven-day-a-week cage. Legs bound in chains, he shuffled across the office straight to the phone sitting on the messy desk. He unfolded the little slip of paper the guard had given him earlier and placed his call.
“What do you want?” he barked into the line.
“Is that you, David?” came a hushed female voice he couldn’t quite place. Whoever she was, she must have had plenty of money to be able to set up this call. He’d always taken good care of his women. Since his time was drawing near, maybe one of them had called for old time’s sake.
“Yeah. I’m busy. What the hell do you want?” He watched the corrections officer pace about the room, acting as if he weren’t listening to the conversation.
“I have something important to tell you that I won’t say over the phone. I’m being put on someone else’s guest list, but I have made arrangements to see you.”
The more she spoke, the more certain he was that he knew the voice. “Damn, after they hear this call, you actually believe they gonna let me see you?”
“I’m not stupid! I paid a hell of a lot of money to ensure we aren’t recorded. The only reason I’m calling is to make sure I have the ins I’ve been promised. Now that we’ve spoken, I see this was money well spent. I’ll see you in a few days.” She disconnected the line.
* * *
Chicago, June 1
Rosa stepped off the elevator and walked down the corridor to her mother’s condo. She checked her watch—8:47. Harriet didn’t usually wake until noon, but Rosa had a lot to do before Ernesto arrived in town. She’d told her mother she’d be by before nine. Harriet was so forgetful; Rosa hoped that she remembered.
She ran her hands over her short-cropped hair, straightened her gold crinkle skirt and rang the doorbell. To her surprise, Harriet opened the door immediately, with a big smile on her face and her arms opened wide.
“Happy birthday, Rosa!” Harriet hugged Rosa, then ushered her in and shut the door.
“Good morning, Mom.” Rosa was glad Harriet had remembered she’d be arriving early, but looking into her mother’s hazel, bloodshot eyes, hurt Rosa’s heart. Another reason she’d wanted to visit Harriet early was so she’d see her before Harriet got drunk.
“This waking up at the crack of dawn business is highly overrated. I’ve made coffee.” She held out her mug. “You want a cup?”
Over the years, the dash of Kahlúa and brandy Harriet put in her coffee had changed to a dash of coffee in her Kahlú
a and brandy. Disappointed Harriet couldn’t stay sober for this special day, Rosa declined.
“Well, you have me up. Let’s make the best of it and go shopping. My treat. It’s your birthday!”
“Thanks, Mom, but I have a lot of work to do. Maybe another time. Why do you have it so dark in here?” Rosa went from window to window, opening the curtains. “You have a prime unit on the corner, lots of windows, yet you choose to live in a cave.” She stood with her hands on her hips. “Now, that’s much better.”
The light poured in through the bay windows, bringing the place to life. Rosa had decorated her mother’s home in soft shades of baby blue and pastel green. The three-bedroom condo had more than enough room for Harriet.
“Are Ernesto and his whore in town yet?”
Rosa approached her mother, then sank onto the plush suede sectional, readying herself for her mother’s tirade about how no good men were, especially her father. True to form, fifteen minutes later Harriet had connected every problem she had in her life to Ernesto.
“…How can you stand by him after all he’s done to me?” Harriet stared into her Kahlúa brandy concoction. “He’s turned you against me.”
“No one’s turned me against you. I love you. I just wish we could talk about anything besides how much you hate Daddy.”
Harriet pointed an accusing finger at Rosa. “There you go taking his side again. He took everything from me and humiliates me at every turn, yet you continue singing his praises…”
Rosa glanced around at the works of art, the handcrafted furniture, the oriental rugs, and the designer fixtures. Unsure of how to keep things from becoming worse but knowing things couldn’t remain the same, she massaged her temples.
“…When you were a child, you couldn’t understand what was going on between Ernesto and me. You’re grown now. There’s no excuse for you taking his side. He cheated on me with that whore, threw me out of my home in the middle of the night, and stole my child from me.”
Harriet’s words worked like an air pump. Each word filled Rosa with anguish, resentment, and pain. Maximum capacity reached, Rosa felt as if she’d explode.
“I don’t have to defend his actions,” she said with a calmness she didn’t feel as she unbuttoned the second to top button on her blouse.
“They can’t be defended. That bastard—”
“Don’t say another word!”
Shock replaced the anger on Harriet’s face.
Rosa tilted her head to the side and scrunched up her face. “Who paid for this condo and everything in it?
. You say you’re sick. Let me tell you what I’m sick of. I’m sick of the lies. You’ve repeated them so much you actually believe them. You were the one cheating on Daddy, not the other way around. You are the one who left us, not the other way around. You are the one who continually pushes me away, not Daddy.”
“He’s filled your head with lies about me. He’s twisted the story and has you believing I’m the monster when it’s him. He wouldn’t even let you visit me after you moved to Miami.”
“Daddy has never spoken a negative word about you to me. He thinks you need help. It’s you who’s always putting him in the negative light. You always have.”
“He told you I was cheating, and I left you! Lies, lies, lies!” She slammed her coffee mug onto the end table next to the overstuffed chair she was sitting in. “I found out about his affair with Anna, and he forced me out of your life.”
Back straight, hands folded neatly across her lap, Rosa’s silent rage worked as a shield. “The first time I saw you cheating on Daddy, I was around four. It was you and that guy who used to do the lawn.”
Harriet drew her shaky hands to her face. “Oh my God,” she gasped as she rocked back and forth, sobbing.
“I didn’t understand what I was seeing.” Rosa shook her head. “I remember the day you left us. You told me that Daddy didn’t love me.” She narrowed her gaze on her mother’s tear-soaked face. “How can you tell a six-year old something like that? You’d been divorced at least a year before Daddy started dating Anna.”
Still rocking, Harriet stammered, “H-he forced me to l-leave. I wouldn’t leave you.” She choked on her tears. “I didn’t leave you. He made me.”
“Do you take any responsibility for the things that happen in your life? This is partially my fault. I’ve held in my feelings because I’ve always wanted to protect you. But, I’m doing more harm than good. I don’t want to resent you or avoid your calls. I want to love you. But, you won’t get better until you start facing reality and dealing with your past.”
“The only thing wrong with me is Ernesto! He ruined my life. He divorced me, threw me out, then turned you against me.”
“Daddy told me that he initiated the divorce, but he would never tell me why. Looking back with my thirty-year-old eyes, I finally understand why he did. Have you ever considered he was tired of putting up with your mess?”
Harriet took on a distant look, as if she were experiencing déjà vu. Focusing over Rosa’s shoulder, she said, “He forced me out and turned you against me.”
“I don’t need Daddy to tell me anything. I remember the final straw. I remember breaking my arm. I remember you left me at the hospital.”
“Ernesto made me leave you.”
“He was scared and angry and probably told you to leave. I don’t have any children, but I feel pretty confident saying that nothing and no one could have made me leave my baby at that hospital.” She wiped her stinging eyes. “Do you know or even care how much that hurt me, Mom?” She inhaled deeply, fighting to regain her cool veneer.
Harriet continued rocking back and forth. “I was upset. He was so angry. I couldn’t stay. I was scared.”
“Scared of what? Daddy never hurt you. Now that I think about it, that was the first and last time I’d ever seen him raise his voice at you. But, let’s say you were so afraid of this man who had never laid a hand on you. When we got home, where were you? Were you worried about me?”
“I was worried sick about you.”
“So worried that when we came into your room, you were sound asleep. Did Daddy make you go to bed also? Again, I don’t have any children, but there’s no way I would have gone to sleep until I saw my baby was home safe and sound.”
“He’s twisted everything.”
“Give it up, Mom. The next day you picked me up from school trying to turn me against Daddy. I was only six!” Tears moistening her face, she pointed at Harriet. “Then that night, you left me.” She pointed at herself.
“No, he forced me out!” Harriet shouted, picking at the pastel upholstery with her nails.
“Reality check. When we came to visit you, you said you weren’t ready to see me. I heard you through the door.”
“I was hurt. I didn’t want you seeing me like that.”
“I needed you. I thought you’d left because I wanted Daddy to stay. I blamed myself. How could you turn your crying child away?”
“It… It wasn’t your fault. It was Ernesto.”
“Stop this!” Harriet snapped to attention. “While you were busy feeling sorry for yourself, Daddy had a child to raise. He sent me to counseling to help me understand that I shouldn’t blame myself for your choices in life. And while we’re at it, he didn’t keep me from visiting you when we moved to Miami. I chose to stop because I had better things to do with my teen-age years than play nursemaid to my drunken mother.”
Realizing she was now speaking from pain, Rosa stopped herself. “I’m sorry,” she said as she hugged her mother. Harriet’s tears soaked through Rosa’s blouse. “I don’t want to fight. I know you aren’t perfect. I never expected you to be. Please, Mom, try the Alcoholics Anonymous group I told you about. I’ll go with you.”
Harriet snatched a tissue out of the box that sat on the end table, then dabbed under her eyes. “I can’t.”
Rosa could see her mother physically withdraw into her shell of denial.
“Let’s stop all of this foolishness,” Harriet said. “It’s your birthday. Having you was the happiest day of my life.” She fingered the short curls that framed Rosa’s face. “You look so much like your father and act like your aunt Angela.”
Rosa knew Harriet was drunk now. “I love you, Mom.”
* * *
DEA agent Samson Quartermaine dragged his large, dark hands over his face, smoothing down his goatee. “We only have ten days before the execution. There has to be a way to make him talk. Everyone has a price.” He slammed his notebook closed, then tossed it toward the coffee table. The notebook skidded across the table and fell to the floor.
n plans on taking his secrets with him to the grave,” agent Alton Miles said as he swung his golf club at the imaginary tee. A Miami thunderstorm had made them miss tee-time, and, as usual, they ended up talking shop. “That’s one price we can’t beat. If we could only convince the FBI to put him into witness protection.”
“He’s always been able to hide his money trail. How? Who? He’ll never roll over on his silent partner. If he went into witness protection, he’d take up where he left off. The Feds can’t allow that. We need his sentence commuted to life without the possibility of parole.” Samson watched his partner pace around the living room of the small apartment, swinging his golf club.
“I know he’ll never give up his partner,” Alton said. “What I don’t understand is why he’d rather die than turn over the Sierra syndicate. They were his competition.”
David Martín had been sentenced to death for murdering a DEA informant and his gang. The informant had infiltrated the Sierra organization and copied account records, pipeline routes, business connections, and other information the DEA needed to bring the syndicate down.
Alton carried a straight-backed chair from the dinette area into the living room. “Who is Martín protecting and why? And what’s the purpose in giving us free rein if they won’t let us truly have free rein? Do they want us to break these syndicates or not? Hell! This is my career riding on this case. We have to bring Sierra down.”
Samson understood Alton’s frustration. Their team was given the “freedom” to bypass much of the strict structure and red tape of government agencies, but what good had it done them? “You know there’s no such thing as total freedom. I agree with the chief on this call. Offering witness protection to the head of the largest drug syndicate is out of the question. Sorry to sound politically correct, but we need to think outside the box.”
He trained his warm brown eyes on Alton’s cold blue ones. They’d been best friends since preschool, yet were as different as a monsoon and a drought. “What if he doesn’t have a silent partner? What if he didn’t obtain the information?”
Alton waved him off. “Martín never said he didn’t have the information.”
“Would we have believed him if he had? Would we believe him if he said he was the only leader? What if he doesn’t have a bargaining chip?”
“So you think he’s been dickin’ us around this whole time?”
“I don’t know. I’m throwing every possibility out there. After he was taken out of commission, his organization hiccupped, then continued with business as usual. His silent partner must have run things for a while. Otherwise, there would have been a struggle for power. Yeah, he definitely has a silent partner.” He ran his hands over his cleanly shaven head, and then leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. “Lately something else has been needling me. Why didn’t the witness to the murders have a fatal accident before the trial? No one had ever lived to testify against David Martín. The man testified, then died in a car accident an hour later.”