love you, Cassie," she insisted. "An' he played his heart out ta-night.
You oughta go home an' call him."
2001 by Christopher Chambers
Just as second thoughts began to congeal in Cassandra's brain, a young
man wearing a
hooded Phat Farm anorak around his neck like a cape emerged halfway from
the Rodeo's passenger window. He was James "Jimmy" Torry. He whistled
his impatience to the girls; he didn't want to be parked there any longer
than he had to. From one end of the block, down to Alabama Avenue, sat
a column of idling cars packed with bodies squirming to Ginuwine's sex
ballads. But what rattled Jimmy was an authentic "hoopdy"--a rusted old
Buick Regal customized with red fluorescent lights lining the chassis.
At the wheel was a young man wearing a red bandanna. He was a scout for
the Suitland Bloods: the real home team.
Obscured by a bus shelter, another car waited. A station wagon. Its driver
didn't study the girls with the glower of a rival gangbanger. No, he stared
in openmouthed hunger.
Cassandra had her own pangs to feed. Inside the Rodeo were nineteen-year-old
men, with cash. Not boys. Soldiers in the Branch Avenue Crew, who had
entered the Bloods' backyard. But they also had the almighty dap: respect,
worth, prestige. Tonight meant escape from empty days and listless evenings
spent inside a public housing complex ironically named the Marcus Garvey
Village. Despite two years on the honor roll, college was as much of a
mirage to Cassandra as the glowing monuments across the Anacostia River.
"Ain't nuthin' bad happen on a car-hop," Cassandra declared to Tamika,
but then her voice softened. "Not since Yvette disappeared." But the voice
sharpened once more. "I'm wid these boys whether you come or not, Mikki.
You my girl or what?"
Tamika scanned her boots pensively, her mind recalling her father's admonitions,
the scholarship test . . . Yvette's face the last time she saw her. Yet
those voices and images all dissolved with that one little question: "You
my girl or what?" Cassandra was Tamika's only "popular" friend. It was
she who had cajoled Tamika into being a cheerleader. Okay, so maybe these
brothers didn't look all that shady. A quick bite at Friday's, a couple
of quarters' worth of Donkey Kong, and then home to bed, right? Besides,
Cassandra needed looking after--her mouth had gotten her into trouble
ever since the two girls were in elementary school together. So Tamika
was game. After all, she and Cassandra were teenagers. Confident in their
Cassandra giggled. "Yeah--you my girl!"
Visibly annoyed by his compatriots' obsession with high school pussy,
the Rodeo's driver, Dante "Bam" Walters, punched his thigh to the beat
of the angry poetry blasting from his speakers. Jimmy persuaded Bam to
unlock the doors anyway. Cassandra jumped in the front, straight onto
Jimmy's lap. Tamika peered into the vehicle's rear compartment. The map
light's glint revealed empty bottles of St. Ides Special Brew; the silver-gray
upholstery was stained and dotted with food crumbs. Tamika slid in, frowning.
The young man in the backseat, D'Angelo "Pooh" Atwell, raised his wraparound
Oakleys to gawk at Tamika's bare thighs and the rise of her breasts under
Once Tamika pulled the rear door shut, something metal rapped the driver's
window. A woman in a blue uniform greeted Bam's innocent grin. Officer
Sheila Burnett of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department's Seventh
District branded the Rodeo's male occupants with her flashlight beam.
"Y'all don't go to this school. . . . Y'all don't need to be with sixteen-year-old
girls. And this car is illegally parked."
"Aw, hold up," Bam protested as he brandished his license and registration.
"This ain't no 'car.' This here a twenty-eight-thousand-dollah sport utility
vehicle, and it's all mine. They wid us voluntarily, an' there ain't no
brew or reefer in here."
Burnett sighed, then showed her notepad to Bam and Jimmy. She'd written
down the Rodeo's license plate number. "See that? If anything happens
to these girls . . ." She backed away from the SUV.
Tamika whispered a new round of reservations into Cassandra's ear while
Pooh's eyes probed her body. Cassandra told her to stop being a punk,
even though Cassandra herself felt an acidic twinge in her stomach and
heard the tiny voice in her head saying maybe she should get the hell
out of the Rodeo. Cassandra blinked, wondering why she wasn't heeding
that voice. Too late. The Rodeo peeled out onto Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E.
A set of headlights followed discreetly.
Pooh produced three squat cigars--"blunts"--from the pocket of his boxy
leather jacket. To prove she was no little girl, Cassandra intercepted
a blunt and took a drag. The fortified marijuana and cheap tobacco triggered
an explosion of coughs.
Jimmy laughed and said, "Slow yo'roll. We goin' bust soma this pretty
soon." Jimmy dangled a little brown vanilla extract bottle in front of
her. "We makes much cheese offa this shit. Even them punk-ass Bloods wanna
deal with our supply!"
Cassandra rubbed her smoke-stung eyes; she knew damn well that stuff was
"love boat." Liquid PCP. Common sense finally seized her. "Y'all crazy?
Y'all can just drop me an' my fren' off right down at th'bus stop, then."
Jimmy wasn't smiling anymore. "Bitch, don't play . . ."
"Niggah whatchew call me?"
Tamika sprung forward. "Whatchewall doin'? Cassie?"
Pooh spied Tamika's tight white panties as she leaned up. He thrust his
arm under her skirt. Tamika screamed and wheeled around to slap him, but
Pooh clamped a viselike grip on her waist. Then came the sharp sound of
Tamika's tunic ripping under Pooh's paws.
Cassandra lunged for the emergency brake lever and gave it a good yank.
The Rodeo spun off the road, kicking up a spray of gravel. When the vehicle
finally skidded to a stop, Bam slammed his forearms on the steering wheel
and shouted at Pooh and Jimmy: "Fuck y'all two dumb muvfuckas! I tole
you we didn't have time for this shit! That cop got my plate number!"
Tamika thrashed in Pooh's arms, shrieking, "An' she gonna arrest yo' punk
Pooh and Jimmy dumped Tamika and Cassandra onto the road's shoulder; then
Bam eased out of the SUV and approached the girls very slowly. Cassandra
raved obscenities at him; he only smirked. He knew both girls were petrified.
"Those ignorant muvfuckas wanted to sex you two mooks into the Branch
Avenue Crew. But I don't permit no fish smell in my damn ride." He pulled
two ten-dollar bills from the pocket of his sagging khakis and tossed
them at Cassandra's feet. "Get a taxicab an' take yo'asses home."
"Hey, fuck you, Bam!" Cassandra shouted as the Rodeo's taillights disappeared.
The girls were just over the D.C. line into Maryland, marooned in the
dark. And it was starting to drizzle.
Tamika sobbed. Cassandra thought aloud: "We could walk back up Pennsylvania
to the Wilson Cemetery--they gotta have a pay phone--an' I'll call my
uncle ta pick us up."
Tamika howled. "Huh? You just don't wanna give up on no twenty dollars
is all! Aw . . . let's jus' go!"
The girls marched along the road's shoulder to the Wilson Cemetery's well-lighted
gatehouse and took refuge under its red tile awning. Headlights suddenly
pierced the curtain of rain; the car crossed over to the girls' side of
the street, halting in front of the gatehouse. It was a station wagon.
Old. Dented. Boxy on the rear, rounded on the front.
Slowly, the power window on the driver's side lowered. The girls jumped
back. A finger of light from the gatehouse floodlights tickled the wagon's
interior. Squinting, both girls could see that the man behind the wheel
was wearing an olive brown duster and a black leather beret.
A deep voice asked, "What on earth are you all doing out here?"
That voice brought first a gasp, then a smile from Cassandra. She began
to sway coquettishly in the downpour. Puzzled at her friend's behavior,
and still a little scared, Tamika edged closer to the window. The driver
leaned out; his face was now brightened by the floodlights' beams. My
Lord, it's him, Tamika gushed inwardly. It was really him! Strange to
see somebody like him in that old rusty wagon . . . but hey, God was now
raining down wonderful luck, and Tamika wasn't going to question it.
Cassandra was giggling and wriggling in that tight--and wet--uniform.
Wasting no time, Tamika begged for a ride. Forget flirting--she was cold!
Yet the driver politely asked her if both girls would be more comfortable
if he just called their parents on his cell phone. Before Tamika could
answer, Cassandra wedged herself in front of her friend, prattling, "Don'
pay her no mind. She jus' scareda th' nightime is all." As Tamika frowned,
Cassandra said, "I think we need something to warm us up before we get
took home, don't you?"
Chuckling, the driver unlocked the doors. Cassandra climbed into the front
seat; Tamika tucked herself into the back. The driver then gunned the
wagon onto the road. He started lecturing the girls on the dangers of
car-hopping, but Tamika noticed that the advice sounded scripted, even
forced. "I could be some lunatic, for all you know," he concluded.
"But you ain't," Cassandra cooed. "I seent you e'reywhere. . . ."
The man looked puzzled, like he'd lost his place in the script. But he
soon recovered, grinned, and hit the power door lock. The slender knobs
disappeared deep inside their fittings.
Cassandra fiddled with the radio. The man gently moved her hand away from
the controls and punched the scan button until he found the joyous popping
of "Go-Go" music. Get yo' one leg upPut yo' bootie on th' floor. . . .
This plastic-bucket-percussion groove was the real sound of D.C. street
corners alien to tourists, congressmen, and diplomats. Cassandra squealed
in delight. Tamika kept time with her head. Then she felt the engine knock.
"Alternator trouble," the driver said with a nonchalant yawn. Tamika scrunched
up her nose. Shouldn't he have turned onto Alabama Avenue?
A traffic light in the trough between two steep hills suddenly flashed
from amber to red, and it caught the driver by surprise--just as he strained
to reach under his seat for something. The car jerked to a dead stop,
and a black pistol slid right out from where the man had groped.
"Ohmahgawd!" Cassandra gasped. "You strapped?"
Smiling, he scooped up the weapon. "Air pistol. Only shoots paint balls."
"Paint balls?" Cassandra huffed. "You ain't gonna stop nobody from jackin'
yo' ride wid no paint balls!"
The driver said he used the pistol for games out in the woods. Cassandra
shivered when he said that, because his eyes suddenly went cold and seemingly
bottomless. Every time she'd seen these eyes before, they were as warm
and gooey as her grandmama's cobbler. She decided not to look at him for
The light turned green and the wagon shortly broke the crest of the second
hill. The monuments and Capitol dome glistened in a rainy panorama. Cassandra
turned and smiled at Tamika, for at this moment those fairy-tale temples
didn't seem like a mirage. Then the wagon descended into the moist darkness.
Reprinted with permission.
for the Devil : An Angela Bivens Thriller, by Christopher Chambers.
© September 11, 2001
Agent Angela Bivens has just won a race and sex discrimination lawsuit
against the Bureau. All she ever wanted to be was a field agent. Be careful
what you wish for. Her cynical superiors throw her a bone: helping a befuddled
D.C. Police Department investigate the brutal kid-napping and murder of
two teenage girls, as well as the macabre, ritualized execution of rival
drug dealers. The cops say its all gang-related. Angela is about
to discover the unspeakable horror that is the truth. Though the stress
of the case saps Angelas spirit, fate pushes her into a love affair
with every womans dream the handsome and mercurial P. T. "Trey"
Williams. A "black JFK, Jr." Lawyer, lobbyist, scion of an elite
family in the Nations Capitol. Connected from the Hill to the White
House. But Trey has a secret. His twin brother Ganneymede a former
Navy SEAL, now a hopeless heroin addict nicknamed "Pluto" because
hes "cold, black and far out" like the planetmight
be an accomplice in the very crimes Angelas sworn to solve.