First of all I'd like to thank
The Lord Jesus Christ!
All of my blessings have come through him, and I have to give him the glory! Thank you for such a wonderful gift and the great inspirations, Lord! In the name of your son, the Lord Jesus Christ, my profound thanks to you, Holy Father and to the spirit of the Holy Ghost; truly I am humbled by your presence in my life. Thank you for giving your Son.
For my husband, James Rhodes, even though I am a writer I cannot find the words to express my love, appreciation, and joy at your unswerving, undying belief in my talents. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your faith and support. You have paid the price for me to shine.
James Rhodes Jr. and Jamie Lynne Rhodes, you are my sunshine. Thank you both for your sacrifices. Much love to you, my babies.
Next, I'd like to thank the Booksellers who work harder and give more than people know to bring important and needed stories to the readers. I don't have enough words to express my gratitude. You are to be commended. Many of you have contributed so much. Thank you for all your support of EXPIRED as well as for helping me to bring this story to the forefront. May the Lord in his infinite wisdon bless you.
Most grateful thanks to the sales reps, distributors, and wholesalers as well for all of your support and hard work.
Many thanks and blessings to my agent Robert G. (Bob) Diforio of D4EO Literary Agency who from the day he entered my writing arena has been by my side helping me to build my career steadfastly. You're a gem, Bob! I've always said that!
Many thanks and blessings to my editor, Karen R. Thomas, who believed in the vision I structured on paper, who nurtured that vision, and who put her own years of hard work and experience behind my writing to back it.
May the Lord bless you for that, Karen!
Thanks to the entire Kensington Publishing family for your excellence in the publishing of EXPIRED. There are many unsung heroes behind the scenes and I thank each and every one of you from the bottom of my heart. Laurie Parkin, thank you for your support. I'd also like to personally thank Kensington Publishing for creating vast opportunities for African-American writers. Walter Zacharius and Steven Zacharius be blessed.
Dr. Kenneth Terry of The Gospel Magazine Inc., thank you for your support of my writing, for providing an arena for my work, and most of all for believing in the spirit of it. May the Lord Bless you abundantly!
There are many of you who are in my mind, heart, and soul. Jesus knows who you are. Thank you for giving.
And last, but not least, I'd like to thank Rozzie Lee Jackson, my mother. Although you've passed on and are not here with us anymore, your gift of poetic writing, your love, your sacrifices are living on. I wish you were here to see this. Much love to you Roz in the Spirit. May you rest in peace in the arms of the Lord Jesus Christ!
To all who know me I remain
STANDING IN THE SPIRIT.
May the Lord Bless You All!
he was what she was, and to that end she would be. “Go! Go from this place. Nothing good can come of this for you,” said Anita, the bourgeois psychic phenomenon of Harlem's teeming streets.
Anita stood on the sweltering sidewalk brimming with people. It was one of the hottest summers Harlem had ever seen. It was so hot, the sidewalk was buckling.
However, the heat and the world around her faded away as she stared at Tracie Burlingame, who had stopped at her table for a reading from her crystal ball.
Anita had not even touched her, but the instant Tracie stopped in front of her table, she had transformed into a spiritual quilting right before Anita's very eyes.
Tracie Burlingame was a patchwork quilt, a live patchwork quilt. Just like the ones Grandma used to make to throw on the bed, from every piece of material that ever existed in the family. Except in this case what Anita was looking at was an exact replica of a quilt in the spirit. Some of the patches were black, while others were hollowed out.
Anita had never seen anything like it in her seventy-plus years of peering through the layers of human beings. She had inherited the ability as a child, from a long line of Louisiana seeresses.
Never had she seen what she was looking at on Tracie Burlingame. Somewhere in the recesses of her memory an ancient religious myth was knocking around, but she couldn't recall it in detail. Anita did not like the black electrical current that swept through her body at the thought.
The hollowed-out patches of the quilt were raucous with activity, almost like a multitude of human hearts, many of them beating as one.
Then there were voices. The hollowed-out patches contained voices that spoke on their own. There were multitudes of them. In unison they screamed, loud, almost deafening. Anita was sure everyone on 125
Street could hear them screeching.
In reality no one heard them but her. “RELEASE US!” they begged, agonized. “RELEASE US!”
The black patches were seekers. They had the characteristics of humans in search of something. They were being hunted. They were also a symbol of death.
Anita peered into one of the black patches, trying to determine its origin. A sharp, lizardlike tongue whipped out, swallowing a host of people with one lap.
It was like watching the
A symphony of screeching, crying agony rang out in one collective voice. Then there was silence. Anita jumped away from Tracie Burlingame, gasping. She made the sign of the cross; then she blessed herself.
Had she possessed holy water, she would have thrown it on Tracie Burlingame, the whole lot of it. What this woman contained in her spirit was unnatural. It was downright ungodly.
“There will be hell to pay,” she muttered, not realizing that she had spoken the words aloud.
Anita Lily Mae Young backed away from Tracie Burlingame. “Don't come back, you hear, girl?” she spat. Her jaw was swollen with a wad of tobacco. She promptly swallowed it.
She pointed her finger in Tracie's face to make her point clear. “Don't you be coming back here to me, girl. I mean it.”
She glowered at Tracie through beady eyes, which glowed with a strange light. Then the petite, turban-headed, brightly dressed woman turned away, abandoning her table on the street.
Anita sprinted through the crowded street. She muttered words Tracie didn't understand.
The words Anita had spoken earlier were the ones that echoed in the chambers of Tracie's mind. “Don't you be coming back here to me, girl. I mean it.”
What had Anita thought she'd seen? She'd been a fixture on Harlem's streets for twenty-five years, peddling her psychic predictions. Never had she been known to act this queer. Besides, no one ever really took her seriously.
Stupid old bag,
Tracie thought to herself as she fumed at the audacity of the woman pointing her finger in her face.
She looked at the crystal ball, which, strangely enough, was emanating a black stream of light. It should have been reflecting the colors of the rainbow on this sunny day.
She ignored it, turning her attention to the cards that Anita had left behind on the table.
Through no will of her own, unable to stop herself, she flipped one over. It was the ace of spades. The card beckoned to her. It throbbed with life.
Tracie shivered, although the heat was oppressive. The humidity was as thick as a blanket. She blinked and looked down at the card again.
There it lay placidly on the table. Tracie knew that the ace of spades represented death. She was not by nature a superstitious person. This was ludicrous.
It was ridiculous, she told herself. She was just paranoid. That stupid old woman must have spooked her. Maybe she wanted to get more money out of her by getting her to stop by again. But she'd told her not to come back.
Tracie laughed at the absurdity of the situation. Standing on a crowded Harlem street, she suddenly felt very alone.
“What a bunch of nonsense,” she uttered.
Gathering her wits about her, she finally left the table. She tossed her hair back, held her head up high, and strolled down the street, donning her black Fendi sunglasses. Those who had witnessed the fiasco watched her strangely.
Tracie Burlingame was a mythical, ancient, haunting patchwork quilt. She passed along Harlem's crowded sidewalk with the past, the present, the future, and multiples of black patches cast and gathered together in her being. But only those with the vision could see it.
The dim streetlights cast shadowy, blurry streaks of light in the small room of the decaying Harlem building. The air was tight, humid, sweltering. It smelled like old mildew mingled with the smell of fecesâhuman feces.
A strangled, gurgling sound caused the small child to cover its ears. The sight and smell of death layered itself over the room, a thick coating of it.
The beaten, withered man in the corner coughed. He looked at the child he could not help. He beheld the child for a last time as the light of life drained from his eyes. All over a horse and a dollar bill.
The men who had been sent to administer the beating laughed. They were small-time street hoodlums. The dying man was a notorious gambler who had ducked out on one debt too many.
Grayson Mounds, who controlled all the gambling activities in this part of Harlem, had ordered the hit after discovering he was not to be paid once again.
When he spoke, it was done. So Joe had played his last horse. They kicked him a last time for good measure. Briefly they considered the child. Then they discarded any idea of dealing with the child themselves.
They left the room. There was no threatâthe child was too young to tell anybody a thing.
The whimpering child crawled over to the leftover carnage of the human being on the floor and put out a small hand to touch Joe's face.
Instantly the small hand was covered in a red, slippery substance. That was when it happened. It was a tiny, rushed explosion of a microcosm separating, splitting off into different beingsâan open vessel for the domination of spirits.
The child could no longer emotionally inhabit this space where it had witnessed a man being beaten to death, tortured, and torn apart. No. It would leave this place for safer ground. Take flight and journey into a different realm.
It was a realm the average human being would never cross. Along the way it would satisfy its hunger and lust for the red, slippery substance.
Three days later, when the child and the remains of the man were found, the child sat happily slurping from a bottle of soured milk.
The child was a true orphan now, because its mother had died sometime ago from poverty and a broken heart. It was just as well, because this child's existence would not be predicated on human emotions.
The scene the child had just experienced would mold and create its future. It was the last nail in a coffin that would cripple as well as rule what would become a shell of a human being on the outside, and nothing but pure black malevolence salivating on the inside. In the absence of spirit there would be only darkness.
Tracie Burlingame. Her eyes were like a chameleon. They could change from a clear brown to shades of green and sometimes gray, depending on her mood, in the flash of a second. Occasionally they looked like pools of midnight black.
Tracie Burlingame was not your ordinary around-the-way woman. Nope. She walked to the beat of a different drummer. He played a rhythm that only she could hear, and she never missed a beat.
Tracie Burlingame was born and bred in Harlem. She was thirty-eight years old, sometimes going on the age of two and sometimes going on ninety. It all depended on which way the wind was blowing at the time.
On this day it was blowing due east as an agile, sensual, arrogantly proud Tracie ran alongside the traffic with a weight in each hand. On her right side the water stretched beneath the parkway. Her hair was windblown. She had a controlled, determined look on her face.
A few days ago she had visited and toyed with the old psychic up on 125
Street, but she refused to let that witch Anita crawl underneath her skin with her dour predictions. She should never have stopped there anyway. She had been raised in Christianity, though she was not a regular practitioner.
Heck, she wasn't an attendee in any sense of the word these days. But she knew better than to sample and frolic with the devil's wares.
However, she had been bored. She thought it would be a kick to toy with the old woman and play her games. Now she wished she hadn't. Still, she wasn't going to let it get to her.
Nor would she let the fact that she had drawn the ace of spades on her own bother her. It was just a card. Her life was a happy one with her boys. Well, maybe with the exception of Rashod. He had spread his doom. But still, she was happy, and she intended to keep it that way.
The devil be damned.
Tracie halted, breathing deeply. She warmed up with her calisthenics. She stretched and pulled with the agility of a colt. She ran again when she was done with the brutal mechanics of her workout regime. Her workout was enough to knock out a horse.
She paced herself through makeshift hurdles, over rocks, tree stumps, and overturned garbage cans. Anything Tracie could hurl herself over was fair game.
Then she ran, full speed ahead, eyes focused, adrenalin pumping. The muscles in her legs worked like a mountain climber's.
Her feet dashed through the streets of Harlem as though she had a victory to reclaim. Sweat glistened on her tight, lean body. The more she could feel the heat of it gliding down her body, the more she pumped.
Finally, satisfied with her effort, she slowed her pace to a gallop, then to a walk. Tracie spotted the ice-cream truck. A smile lit up her face. Yeah, frozen refreshment.
“Hey, Anthony. How ya doing?” Tracie said. Anthony could always be counted on to be in the right spot at the right time.
“I'm fine, Ms. Burlingame.” Anthony beamed at the sound of her voice. Little did she know, he made it his business to be in the right spot whenever she worked out. He had her schedule down like a timer on a turkey. The man was infatuated.
“Give me a frozen yogurt. Strawberry.”
Anthony shook his head in disdain. “Now, why you gonna play a brother out like that? You know I know your flavor.”
Tracie smiled. While she waited, she took off her backpack and tossed the weights inside. Anthony handed her the frozen yogurt. She put the dollar in his hand. “Thanks, Anthony.”
She left, slurping happily. She gave Anthony a dazzling thousand-watt smile as her well-coordinated body swished away. She was honed to perfection.
Anthony watched appreciatively as she walked away. She was what he considered one classy lady. She had a style that you didn't come across every day. She walked as if she knew a secret that no one else was privy to. Black grace, that's what she was. Simply, black grace. Anthony watched Tracie until the next customer arrived. She disappeared around the corner.