“Okay, Lieutenant,” one of the detectives said.
As Lynch took John's arm, the preacher whispered, “Thank you for letting me handle that.”
“It's okay, Reverend,” Lynch said quietly. “Are you ready to handle this, too?”
John nodded as he walked to the elevators with the four detectives. They rode down to the first floor, moved into the parking lot, and got into the unmarked police cars for the last ride Reverend Anderson would know as a free man.
As he bent to get into the back of the car, he thought of the day that he got saved, the way that he'd crawled out of the pew after the sermon, preached from John 3:16, had touched him like nothing ever had. He thought of the tears he'd shed on that dayâ
the first time he'd ever cried in publicâand the freedom that those tears represented.
He was free from the things he'd done; free from the prison of his guilt, free from the shame of his past, free from the legacy of his father. But he didn't know how to handle his freedom.
Perhaps now, with his guilt out in the open, he could finally be truly free. There was just one more thing that he had to do, he thought as Detective Hubert slowed down and Lynch dialed the number.
Reverend Anderson watched helplessly, hoping that the call would go unanswered. When it didn't, he was heartbroken, because he knew that what he'd suspected was true.
Lynch turned to him and nodded.
Reverend Anderson got out of the car, trotting across the street to the stretch of sidewalk in front of his church.
The woman dropped the cell phone she was carrying and turned just as he approached her from the rear. Her beautifully made-up face was practically glowing with hatred.
Her hair fell just past her shoulders in long, sweeping curls. Her tight knit dress dipped low at her breasts and rode high against her thighs. Her curvaceous body was on display for all to see, and all John could do was stand there, aghast, and stare at this woman he didn't know.
“Surprised, John?” his wife said.
“You what?” she snapped as the detectives jumped from their car and leveled their weapons.
“Where'd you get the phone, Sarah?” John asked.
“From Keisha. She left it lying around one day and I just picked it up. I used it to track down Ben Carter's son. I even used it to call Frank Nichols.”
Sarah saw that the detectives were aiming at her, and she pulled a gun from her purse. John moved toward her, and she pointed it at his head.
She saw him looking at her in disbelief, and she laughed.
“This is what you wanted, right?” she asked him with a madness playing in her eyes. “You wanted a woman who looked like this. A woman who would do all the things you wanted her to do, whenever you wanted her to do them.”
“Mrs. Anderson, drop the gun,” Lynch said as he approached her slowly from the street.
“No, you drop the gun!” she said maniacally.
The neighbors began to gather along the street, watching with open mouths as the preacher's wife held a gun at his head.
“John, I knew,” she said, shaking her head. “Every time you went downtown to meet her, I knew.”
“But it's over, Sarah,” John said earnestly.
“It's not over 'til I say it's over!” she screamed.
Lynch walked onto the sidewalk to try to get a clear shot while Hubert circled around the other way. Sarah saw them and moved around her husband until his body shielded hers.
“Even Keisha taught me things about Nola,” Sarah said with a chuckle. “Keisha and I would have our little lunches, and she'd just chat all about this lady at work named Ms. Nola. Ms. Nola thought she was talented, and Ms. Nola was so pretty. That's the only thing she ever talked to me about was Nola.
“I told Ishmael my name was Nola. I told him how you killed his father, and it hurt him so bad that I slept with him to make the pain go away. Then I told him I would be all his if he would just make you stop abusing me.”
Sarah laughed derisively. “I figured I could get Ishmael to kill you and say Nola made him do it. But it didn't work out that way.”
Sarah raised the gun.
“Drop it, Sarah,” Lynch said in a warning tone.
“I guess I have to do it myself,” she said, ignoring the detectives.
She cocked the hammer on the pistol and started to squeeze the trigger.
A single shot rang out, and Sarah fell to the ground in front of the church.
Seconds later, Mother Wallace and the others who'd talked with Sarah earlier came stumbling out the church on unsteady legs. With their hands over their mouths and their eyes stretched wide, they watched her blood soak into the sidewalk.
As Sarah's eyes stared vacantly toward heaven, John knelt over her and brushed her hair away from her face. He kissed her lips and whispered in her ear.
“I'm sorry, Sarah,” he said, looking into her dead eyes through tears. “I'm so sorry for what I did to you.”
The neighbors walked silently to the spot where Sarah had fallen. The church folks did the same. And in that moment, the two worlds came together to encircle John as he looked up to heaven and yelled out the only prayer he had left.
“Forgive me!” he shouted over and over as tears streaked down his cheeks. “Forgive me!”
seemed longer in the humid island air of Negril, Jamaica. The effect of this for most was an abiding sense of bliss.
But for Keisha, staring out the glass doors of the bungalow they'd reserved and into the lush greenery of the garden, the stillness was torture.
She couldn't stop thinking ofâJamal, the only man she'd ever loved. She was to have shared the rest of her life with him here, in the island paradise she'd always dreamed about.
But now she didn't know if he was alive or dead. She didn't know if she was, either. All she knew was that she was filled with regret.
After reading the news on the Internet of her mother's death and her father's impending imprisonment, she regretted that she'd never said good-bye to them because she thought that she'd have another chance.
She regretted taking the money and leaving Jamal in the hands of the police. She regretted that she'd never had the chance to tell him how much he'd changed her with his kiss. She regretted that when it counted the most, she'd refused to stay and fight, in spite of her promise to do otherwise.
Keisha sat down on the king-sized bed and inhaled the scent of the room. It was damp, and salty, and sweet, like the mist of the ocean, or the taste of her tears.
She'd cried enough of them to make an ocean of her own, and still the pain was there, like a wound that wouldn't stop bleeding.
She took a bath, and as she tried and failed to soak the hurt away, she thought of all she'd been through with Jamal: the summer nights as children, the feud between their fathers, the plan to leave the country, the gunshots, and the running.
She'd survived all of that, she thought, only to die of a broken heart.
Keisha got out of the tub and dried herself, then dressed quickly and walked outside to walk barefoot along the white sands of the beach.
She stopped when she was directly in front of the setting sun, and watched its red and orange burn blue against the clouds.
“Why, Jamal?” she asked as she watched the beautiful Jamaican sunset pour over her like so much warm water. “Why did you make me think you would always be with me?” She sobbed softly as the sun dropped into the sea.
“Because I will,” a voice said, seemingly from somewhere deep inside her.
She turned around, and out of the gathering shadows, she picked out the shape of his eyes, eyes she would never forget, staring at her from a few feet away.
Keisha ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. She
kissed his face and held his hands and touched him everywhere, just to make sure that he was real.
“Jamal,” Keisha said, kissing his fingers one by one. “It can't be you.”
He kissed her back, tasting her salty tears.
“What happened?” she asked, searching his eyes. “How did you get away from them?”
“That wasn't me they grabbed, Keisha. That was some dude who snuck a gun into the terminal. When I saw 'em grab him, I just went the other way. Then I got the next flight down.”
She kissed him before he could say another word. And when she'd had her fill of his lips, she stood back and looked into his eyes.
“So now what?” she asked seductively.
“You tell me.”
Keisha turned to go back to their bungalow, and her smile shone through the rapidly falling darkness.
“You rollin' with me or not?” she said, holding out her hand.
He looked into the sunset. Then he turned his gaze on Keisha. He gave his hand to her. And in that moment, he gave her his heart, as well.
“Ride or die,” Jamal whispered.
They were the same two words she'd whispered to him beforeâwords he'd never fully understood until that moment. As he stood there on the beach, looking into Keisha's eyes, he pledged his loyalty and his life to her. He was going to ride with her until the end of their journey, or he was going to die trying.
First, I must thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who snatched me from the deadly streets portrayed within these pages. I am forever grateful for His grace. But all that I do as a writer would be irrelevant without my readers. One in particular comes to mind: Gloria Patricia Bennett, who passed suddenly, was an enthusiastic reader whose effusive praise, pointed questions, and humorous commentary made the solitary hours spent writing well worth the sacrifice. I met Gloria through Barbara Woods, a member of one of the hundreds of book clubs that have invited me into their homes to discuss my work. My sincerest thanks to Gloria and to all of you for making my stories part of your lives. To my editor, Monique Patterson, thanks for being the best at what you do. To Victoria Sanders, thanks for giving me my start. To my agent, Manie Barron, thanks for embracing the vision. To my lovely wife, LaVeta, thanks for seeing me for what I could be.
I love you. To my daughters, Adrianne and Eve, thanks for being hope for the future. To my brother, Brian Jones, thanks for being the picture of perseverance. To my father, Solomon E. Jones Sr.; my grandmother, Lula Richards; my aunt, Juanita Bryant; my uncle, Gerald Richards; and my cousin, Melanie Bryant; thanks. for loving me as I love you. To my in-laws, Jose and Eva Andino, thank you for being steadfast examples of the Christian walk. Thanks to Sue and Harold Jacobs, Ben Jacobs, and all Sue's children and grandchildren, for your friendship. Thanks to W. Wilson Goode Jr. and the members of the Philadelphia City Council. Working with you has been a true learning experience. Thanks to Darwin Beauvais, quite simply the best lawyer I've ever seen. You made what could have been a stressful time a lot easier to handle. To the leadership and members of the Calvary Baptist Church of Philadelphia, thank you for your support and spiritual guidance. And again, thanks to you, my readers. You are the mirror that reflects the truth in each story that I tell.
Also by Solomon Jones
RIDE OR DIE
. Copyright Â© 2004 by Sola Productions. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.
Design by Phil Mazzone
First eBook Edition : June 2012
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Jones, Solomon, 1967â
Ride or die / Solomon Jones.
ISBN 0-312-30616-4 (hc)
ISBN 0-312-33989-5 (pbk)
1. North Philadelphia (Philadelphia, Pa.)âFiction. 2. African American teenagersâFiction. 3. Conflict of generationsâFiction. 4. Children of clergyâFiction. 5. Police murdersâFiction. 6. Drug trafficâFiction. I. Title.
First St. Martin's Minotaur Paperback Edition: November 2005