African American Crime Fiction

Brock pulled up to the hospital, wondering if he needed to admit himself to the ER. A puddle of blood had trickled onto his lap from the wound on his hand. The floor beneath his feet squished and crackled. Sweat, blood, and glass had accumulated on the mat from the blown windows and injuries sustained from his second-story-jump.

 He dialed Shuggs. “I’m out front.”

When Shuggs opened the car door, he froze and stared at the splintered glass. “I thought I had it bad,” he said, brushing off his seat and getting into the car. “What in the hell happened to you today?”

“You’ve seen me look worse.” Brock pulled away from the curb. He headed to the hotel, giving his friend a sideways glance. “You look like crap yourself. “What happened and where’ve you been for the last few hours?”

 “Bro, it’s complicated.” Shuggs stretched his neck muscles. “First, tell me why you look like hell warmed over.”

“You missed the special agents assigned to interview us. They showed up at the hotel right after I dropped you off.”

Shuggs opened his cell phone and checked the screen. “Okay, so those must’ve been the calls I missed. I thought they were supposed to do that tomorrow at Dr. Harper’s office.”

“You know how they like to operate. Show up when you least expect it,” Brock said. “Anyway, they were looking for you and ended up speaking with me in my room. Problem is, my room had been ransacked.”

“They take anything?”

“Nothing was missing. But, whoever broke in ripped my face out of that photograph I take with me everywhere.”

“That’s strange,” Shuggs said. “Probably trying to send you a message.”

“Yeah, that’s exactly what I think.” Brock frowned. “The special agents who met with me assigned security detail with an escort to another location. After they left, I went to your room and found a bloody handprint on your door and no one inside.”

“Bro, I’m sorry. I was so upset about a personal situation that I punched a hole in the bathroom wall and busted up my hand.” Shuggs held up his bandaged hand. “Grabbed an Uber to the ER to get some stitches.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Brock asked. “I could’ve driven you.”

“I was embarrassed. Didn’t know how to tell you what a mess of things I’d made,” Shuggs said. “But go ahead and finish telling me what happened to you.”

“I was about to leave with whom I thought was my security escort. “ Brock breathed deeply. “Then, I get a call from a special agent warning me that an imposter came to pick me up and to fend him off until back up arrived.”

“No freaking way.”

Brock wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. “I stall the guy and to escape through the window just as he broke down the door and started firing at me.”

Shuggs looked around at the inside of the vehicle. “He sure did a number on the car. Seemed like a close call.” 

“They told his name is Snake,” Brock said. “He’s got to be long gone by now. Besides, they sent people from the agency. You’ll need to be moved too. But for now, I’ve got to meet with the special agents again. They’re waiting for me to fill them in about Snake.”

“I’ll pack up and return their calls,” Shuggs said. “See what they want me to do.”

 “What’s going on with you?” Brock rubbed his throbbing temples. “What personal situation has you punching holes in walls?”

Shuggs closed his eyes for a moment. “Bro, I’ve been living a nightmare.”

Brock turned to Shuggs. “Are you okay, man?”

“No. I’m not okay.”

“What’s up?”

He rolled his shoulders back. “I’m being blackmailed,” Shuggs said.

“Blackmailed? By who?”

Shuggs stuffed a piece of nicotine gum into his mouth. “My ex.” 

“Which one?”

“The last one.”

“So, your ex-wife, Cindy, the twins’ mother, is blackmailing you.”

Shuggs nodded. “She’s using stuff she knows to bribe me,” he said and sighed. “Threatened to take away my visitation rights. Turn my girls against me.”

“How would she be able to do that?”

“Cindy knows things.”

“Like what?” Brock asked. 

“Personal things.”

“I’m listening.”

Shuggs avoided Brock’s steady gaze and cradled his head. “Cindy knows I’ve been running my own intel on Patti—”

“Patricia Pang?”

Shuggs nodded.

“Okay, let’s figure this out.” Brock ran a hand across his jaw, his mind racing. “You could take the stance that you were a concerned friend,” he said. “Tell her you had suspicions and wanted to check out a few hunches. Maybe say you were working with OSINT (Open Source Intelligence). Nothing wrong with that.”

Shuggs shook his head. “It ain’t that simple, bro. When I went out of town, I allowed her to go to my house to pick up the twins’ ski equipment. She snooped around, found my recordings, pictures. You name it. Knows I used agency equipment to collect data on an American citizen without clearance. That’s a clear violation. You know that.”

Brock took a few moments to process what he’d heard. This meant Cindy was aware of the threat Patti posed. She knew of Patti’s possible involvement with Black extremists. But what would she do with that info? She and Patti were still good friends. The hair on the back of his neck prickled. “Have you told anyone?”

“No. You know me, bro. I ain’t afraid of much.” He hung his head. “But not only could Cindy sink my career to keep hers afloat,” Shuggs said. “She’ll take my kids away. Make them hate me. I can’t let that happen. Those girls are my everything.”

Brock swallowed. He knew from bitter experience that even good people did the unthinkable when they were hurting. Shuggs and Cindy had been through a lot in their marriage, but he never knew her to be the blackmailing type. The timing for this couldn’t have been worse. After all, they were on the verge of being promoted to being special agents. Thank God I rigged the outcome. “What does she want? Money?”

Shuggs slowly shook his head.

“Then what?”

“She wants the story.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Cindy’s struggled as a reporter especially now that she’s aging out. Younger aspiring reporters are lining up, ready to take her job. She’d hoped to make anchor by now.” Shuggs ran a hand over his sweaty scalp.

Brock’s eyes widened as he began to understand where Shuggs was going. “So, she wants to use the story to propel her career?”

“Yes. She’s such a selfish bi—”

“You said no, right?” Brock’s pulse quickened thinking of how this leak would affect them. “Please tell me you said no.”

“I told her I wouldn’t do that,” Shuggs said, his voice filled with rage. “I begged her to drop it.”


“You have to understand I was desperate, bro. I…I…asked someone to try to talk sense to her.”

Gripping the steering wheel, Brock turned into the hotel’s lot, which was now crawling with police. “What do you mean?”

“I hired a “black” agent to reason with her.”

“When you say “black,” do you mean illegal or the agent’s color?”

“The guy happens to be African-American,” Shuggs said. “But I meant illegal. Someone off the grid the agency keeps on reserve when they don’t want any loose ends.”

Brock shook his head. “We both know those type of “black” agents kill, they don’t talk.”

“That’s what I paid him to do,” Shuggs said. “Just talk.”

Brock parked at the farther point from the hotel but kept the engine idling. “You paid an illegal agent to talk to your ex-wife?”

“I had no other choice.” He looked at his hands. “I was painted into a corner.”

“Where’s Cindy now?”

“I don’t know.”

“My God,” Brock grimaced. “He didn’t kill her, did he?”

“You know how those guys are.” Shuggs stared off into space. “I’m praying to God that she’s just frightened.”

“Whatever this guy did to her, made her upset enough to disappear,” Brock said.

“The girls haven’t been able to find her. She hasn’t been to work in two days.”

“You’re going to have to tell Dr. Harper.”

“Can’t do that. Not yet.” Shuggs threw his hands up. “I’m praying Cindy comes home. That way I can reason with her. Maybe, I’ll ask her to take me back, make things work. If that doesn’t pan out, I’ll offer her the house, money, anything to put this behind us.” He unbuckled his seatbelt and opened the door, his face ashen.

“What’s your next move?” Brock asked, knowing Cindy was good as dead as far as he was concerned. The money he’d paid Snake was money well spent. Nothing’s getting between me and that promotion. I’ll pin the murder on Shuggs. It’ll be believable by the time I’m done with the details.

“I must find Cindy,” Shuggs said. “And then, I have to convince her to kill the story.”

October 06, 2020 04:55

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