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  • Chocolate City Justice

    Coming 2013.

    In the third in the Crescent City Mystery Series, New Orleans prosecutor Ryan Murphy finds herself in deep, if not hot, water--literally--when she fails to evacuate for hurricane Katrina.

    Stuck in the flood with an NOPD detective and two cats, Ryan finds herself running from gang members, rogue police officers, and the wrath of the storm, all the while trying to solve the mystery of who is paying the Ninth Ward Warriors to terrorize the city.  

    Here is an excerpt:

         The boom-boom of the bass from the tricked-out orange Hummer creeping through the New Orleans Ninth Ward should have served as a warning. The Hummer was jacked up from the tires, with spinning rims and a gold chain vanity frame around the license plate that said just as much about its owner as the music selection did. If a song whose only lyrics repeated kill the po-po two hundred times could be considered music.

        The abandoned lot on the corner was set up with a portable turkey deep fryer, a boiling pot of crawfish on a hot plate, and a fold-out card table displaying a hat-box size pink and white birthday cake with a black Disney princess figure on top.

         The boom-boom grew louder as the Hummer neared the intersection.  

         The children jumping in the purple castle-shaped spacewalk on the corner continued to laugh and scream, paying no attention to the Hummer as the vehicle turned the corner at Alabo.

         The adults, at least, should have noticed and been on alert. But the forty somewhat people hanging out, peeling crawfish, and drinking liquor out of green bottles and silver cans obviously thought they were safe during the day.

         Gang members were like vampires–even the Ninth Ward Warriors couldn’t kill in the daylight.

         A black woman who could have been anywhere from 20 to 40 waved.  “Come see here, Tanisha. Come show your teeths before we do your cake.”

         A girl of six with a head full of braids was instantly at the woman’s side, smiling wide, exposing four missing front teeth. A split second later, a smaller version of Tanisha edged her way next to the woman and tugged on her arm with an even bigger smile than her sister’s.

         “No, see me, Auntie. See me.”

         The orange Hummer stopped.

         “Yeah, I see you, Kamera.  Now get out the way so Tanisha can get to her birthday cake.”
    Kamera took one step away from her aunt.

         A flash of light inside the Hummer with a simultaneous loud pop didn’t seem to register. At first, anyway.

         Kamera’s tiny body was the first one down, crumpling to the ground like a rag doll.

         Another flash of light and a second pop.

         Tanisha landed on top of her sister, a pool of blood forming beneath her.

         Dead silence.  But only for a moment.

         The crowd went down, face first, screaming and yelling as chaos replaced calm.

         The Hummer crawled a few feet down Florida Avenue, adjacent to the lot, and a series of shots burst from the illegally tinted window, cracked just enough for the black gun barrel to peek out.

         A wheelchair toppled over and the white-haired, dark-skinned occupant hit the ground and rolled out like a frosted raisin, convulsing on the ground as he lay dying.

         More scattered shots from the window of the SUV, and a white female in a short-sleeved cardigan and long Indian print skirt tried to run, but took three shots to the back.  Her husband froze next to her, staring until her body eventually fell.  He drew a gun from the back of his waistband and ran toward the Hummer, firing nonstop at the vehicle as he did.

         A shriek from inside the Hummer competed with the unrelenting boom-boom and kill the po-po, the song much louder as the crowd silenced, as if it collectively believed that by remaining still and quiet, the bullets might not find them.

         The Hummer stopped again.  The back door opened and a bleeding body, still clutching a black Tech Nine semi-automatic machine gun, pitched forward from the SUV into the gutter.  The back door slammed shut and the Hummer screeched away.

         The husband ran up to the bleeding Ninth Ward Warrior and fired the last shot directly into the young man’s body.

         The image on the screen froze, the birthday cake untouched in the background, the princess still smiling.

          Assistant District Attorney Ryan Murphy wasn’t sure how she was supposed to feel.  She had viewed the DVD at least twenty times since the case against Travis Johnson had been assigned to her a week ago.  It was a horrific crime video, the worst she had ever seen in her more than four years as an assistant.

         But it was also prosecutor gold. 
     

    Holli Castillo
    me@hollicastillo.com