Dirty South Drug Wars

BOOK: Dirty South Drug Wars
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Dirty South Drug Wars

By Jae Hood

Copyright © 2016 by Jae Hood

All rights reserved

 

Disclaimer:
This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with others, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This book is a work of fiction. All references to ancient or historical events, persons living or dead, locations, and places are used in a fictional manner. Any other names, characters, incidents, and places are derived from the author’s own imagination. Similarities to persons living or dead, places, or events are entirely coincidental.

 

The author acknowledges the trademark status and trademark owners of any wordmarks mentioned in this work of fiction.

 

 

Edited and formatted by Rachel Lawrence.

Cover design by Pink Ink Designs.

Dedication

To the girl who inspired Ruby.

May you rest in peace among the stars, Artemis.

Chapter 1

My family said the man in the long, shiny wooden box was my father, but I didn’t believe them.

My father had warm and ruddy skin, earned by working on his old pickup truck in the driveway. Days of being out under the hot Mississippi sun left his skin tanned with small cracks and wrinkles on the surface.

The man was pale and cold, his hands placed one over the other. He wore a gray suit the color of charcoal, so the man couldn’t be my father. My father never wore a suit, not even to church. And he especially wouldn’t wear the light pink tie that was tucked so neatly below the man’s starched, white collar.

The Montgomery family murdered my father, according to Uncle Amos. They took him down with a single bullet to the head. The man in the box had heavy eyebrows and thick sideburns like my daddy, but no bullet hole.

Wouldn’t there be a bullet hole?

Uncle Amos walked with me, hand in hand, while he spoke to Uncle Matt. The name “Montgomery” came up over and over as they whispered to one another. I’d heard that name my entire life, all twelve years of it.

Uncle Amos escorted me away from the box and eased himself down onto the pew behind me. I sat next to my mama and sister Lucy on the first pew of the funeral home. My little sister sat in our mama’s lap, a solemn expression on her round face. Lucy was eleven and very pretty with shiny auburn hair that flowed down her back in large waves. She had dainty features and big, periwinkle-blue eyes that normally shone blissful and twinkling.

But not that day.

They were solemn and fixed high above our heads. I followed her gaze and saw a moth resting on the ceiling of the room, its dark wings standing out against the faded white ceiling. Lucy’s gaze held, never wavering as she stared at the insect, lost in her own world, a world few of us understood.

Lucy did that from time to time, traveled somewhere in her own head, unaware of the things happening around her. Our daddy called Lucy special. Our mama called her crazy, but she was still my mama’s favorite child. I was too serious, too quiet. Mama didn’t understand me or my love of the galaxy, of science and poetry, or my love of reading anything I got my hands on.

No, I was my daddy’s child, his pensive little hunting and fishing buddy.

Family, friends, and curious townsfolk crowded the room. Flower arrangements signed with the names of judges and lawyers lined the space, sent by crooks my daddy claimed as his friends. Daddy called them “the Southern elite” or “the good ole boys,” and he loved surrounding himself with them.

The room quieted as a handsome man and little boy entered. They both wore crisp matching suits, their similarities striking. The man looked to be in his forties, with raven hair and brown eyes. The boy, no older than me, with a thick mop of shiny black hair, the color of a starless night, stood by his side scanning the crowd. He seemed undisturbed by all the people gawking at them.

Then his gaze settled on mine.

The shade of his eyes would forever be embossed in my mind. They reminded me of the fun things in life, like root beer floats and chocolate-covered anything. They were the color of the warm mud on my bare feet during the summer while catching tiny slithering snakes from the low-lying sloughs below my grandparents’ house.

Deep, dark, endless, and warm, his lingering stare captivated and unnerved me. I shifted on the pew, and the boy broke his trance-like hold over me. He followed the tall man down the center aisle. He clutched a bouquet of white flowers in his hands, his slender fingers wrapped around the deep green stems. With crisp white petals flushed yellow at the base, they were the most beautiful flowers I’d ever seen, far more beautiful than the flowers covering the man in the box.

Someone shifted beside me and I turned around in the pew, breaking free from my rude staring. Uncle Amos stiffened in his seat, his face a mask of bitterness before he covered it with an expression of indifference. He rested uncomfortably while the raven-haired man and the boy approached the casket.

The boy cast one last glance my way before he and the man met their destination. The man leaned down and whispered something in the boy’s ear; the boy nodded.

My grandmother sat on the front pew near me, but she stood, unsteady on her feet, at the sight of the man and child. She shuffled from the main area of the congregation, and one of my aunts assisted her. My aunt glared over her shoulder at the two unfamiliar visitors. Uncle Saul shook the man’s hand, a gesture I found odd considering the growing scowl on Uncle Amos’ face. It seemed as if all of my family members shared the same matching scowl while the noble-looking man smiled somberly at them.

Mama’s sobs faded away, dissolving into quiet sniffles. She scooped Lucy up like a baby, mumbled something about checking on Nana, and rushed out of the room. Lucy’s clear blue eyes abandoned the moth on the ceiling to meet mine over my mother’s shoulder as she was carried away.

Uncle Amos stood and joined me on the pew. He nodded in the direction of the raven-haired man. “You see that man, Ruby Red?”

“Yes, sir.”

“That’s Graham Montgomery.” He lowered his voice and bestowed a brief, friendly nod to a passerby. “That little boy is his nephew, Tanner. Graham and the little boy’s father, Tanner Sr., were brothers.”

I nodded my understanding, my young mind mapping out the relationship of the two males standing nearby.

“Tanner’s father died not too long ago, and Graham raises the boy now as his own. Graham Montgomery is king now that your daddy is gone,” my uncle said, his voice intense.

People quietly referred to my daddy as a king, but I never understood what they meant. We lived in a pretty decent house compared to others in our poverty-stricken state of Mississippi, but it wasn’t a castle. The two-story cabin and private lake where Lucy and I grew up were created by my father and grandfather’s hands. Made of rough-cut lumber, it certainly wasn’t a castle, and our father didn’t wear a crown. He only wore faded caps with chewing tobacco logos splashed across the front.

“Why does his uncle raise him? Where’s his mama?”

“She passed away when he was still a baby. Lung cancer, they say.”

Sadness for the boy flooded my heart and soul, casting aside all thoughts of kings, crowns, and red, furry robes. Even at the age of twelve, the relationship between Mama and me was strained, but I still couldn’t imagine growing up without her in my life.

“What happened to his daddy? How’d he die?”

“Murdered, just like your father. Shot in the head, the poor bastard. He never stood a chance.”

Uncle Amos’ voice faded away as Tanner and his uncle approached. Amos stood, shoving his hands into the pockets of his slacks, shunning Graham’s outstretched hand. Graham chuckled and placed his hands in his pockets as well, unperturbed by the brush-off. My other uncles abandoned their post near the casket, joining Uncle Amos.

My chest tightened when Tanner reached out, offering me the breathtaking flowers. Hesitantly, I took them, awed by their simple beauty. Pure and white, held together by a long, matching white ribbon, their smell mesmerized me. I closed my eyes, pressed the petals to my nose, and drew the scent into my lungs, savoring it.

“Death and innocence. How appropriate for you to present them to the child who just lost her father.” Uncle Amos’ voice was thick with sarcasm.

“Is that what they symbolize?” Graham sounded surprised at the meaning behind the flowers. My family glared at him from all directions, undeterred by the innocence in his voice. “I honestly didn’t realize that was their symbolization. I simply asked my nephew to pick out some pretty flowers for a pretty girl.” Both of his hands remained deep in his neatly pressed suit pants pockets. He rocked on his heels and shot me a smug wink that made my skin crawl.

Uncle Amos ignored his niceties, his face reddening with each second that staggered by. “We’re even now, Montgomery. We’ve both lost a brother because of this feud. Let’s end this dispute between our families once and for all. Let it end here, in this room, forever.”

“Ah, but I’m not entirely convinced the right brother is being buried today,” Graham said, his voice no longer friendly. His smiling face grew cold as he leaned back on his heels. “I’ll never be sure who killed my brother, not until every last Monroe is dead.”

The threatening undertone of the words he ground out made me shiver. I clutched the flowers between my fingers, hiding my face from the boy standing by his uncle’s side.

“But I agree we should make some negotiations, go over the rules, and settle some boundaries. The moment the funeral is over, you and I will talk.”

Graham reached out and touched his nephew’s shoulder then nodded his head in my direction, giving Tanner a pointed look.

“Sorry for your loss.”

Soft and quiet, Tanner’s voice was nothing like the firm, confident tone of his uncle. The simple syllables sent my heart racing inside my chest. I imagined the group of men could see it fluttering under my dress. I brought the bouquet closer to my heart in an attempt to hide the quivering behind the delicate flowers.

Graham smiled down at him and they turned, strolling down the center aisle of the chapel.

Uncle Amos sat back down. With one last glance, I turned to my uncle, catching his dark eyes narrowing on mine. Morbid curiosity got the best of me.

“So, who murdered his father?” I asked, anxious to get back to the conversation we hadn’t finished.

Uncle Amos stared at me for a long moment before speaking. “Can you keep a secret, baby girl?”

“Of course.” I scoffed and rolled my eyes at him.

He chuckled quietly, a cold, bitter sound. “You’re right, Rue. You’ll keep my secret, because you’re a Monroe. Are you sure you want to know though? It’s a heavy burden to carry, Ruby Red, knowing the truth when no one else does.”

“Yes, just tell me who killed him,” I whispered.

Uncle Amos leaned forward, making my ears burn in anticipation before he said two words, two words I’d remember for the rest of my life.

“I did.”

*

The quiet building erupted in hushed murmurs and sneers once the chapel doors closed behind the Montgomerys, but I was shocked silent, a newfound fear of my uncle taking root in my heart.

When Lucy and Mama returned, Lucy crawled out of Mama’s lap and nestled herself beside me, resting her head against my shoulder. She clutched her tiny, cold hand around mine, and I hugged her, placing a reassuring arm across her shoulders as silent tears flowed down her cheeks.

The lid of the casket was closed, and the man cut out of our sight forever.

“Daddy’s dead,” she whispered.

“That’s not our father, Lucy,” I told her, my face void of tears. “He looks nothing like Daddy. That’s not him. Our father is big and strong. Our father’s gonna live forever.”

My words did nothing to comfort my sister. She began gasping for air, and her little body trembled under my arm.

“Wake up, Rue!” The strength and harshness of her words betrayed her fragile face. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand, her breath shuddering. “That’s our daddy! He’s dead, Rue! He’s dead! And it’s the Montgomerys’ fault. I hate them! I hate the Montgomerys!”

My face grew hot as my cheeks flamed up, but not from the embarrassment of the hushed whispers and nosey stares around us.

Oh God … what if that was my daddy in that box?

My eyes darted around the room in search of my father, but he was nowhere to be found. With my heart clenching inside my chest, tears finally arrived. Wetness flooded my cheeks, and I began to scream.

“Daddy!”

The white lilies slipped from my fingers. They made a crunching sound below my black Mary Janes as I lurched from the pew and scrambled down the aisle. I bumped into the knees of surprised relatives and they hissed their protests, their hands pulling at my black, pleated dress, but I shoved them away. I flung myself forward and grabbed the gold handle near the edge of the heavy lid, struggling to lift it and see my daddy.

Lucy appeared by my side, and the two of us grappled with the casket. The soft glow of the chandeliers made the gold handles shine, but our fingerprints smeared across the gleaming surface.

Uncle Matt grasped me around the waist, whispering into my ear. I kicked and clawed at him, ignoring his words. My little sister continued to struggle with the lid, her small voice calling out for our daddy. Uncle Amos scooped her up with ease and took her away from the casket as well.

The room continued to fill with sobs and gasps. The balding minister cleared his throat at the podium while Lucy and I screamed and fought against our uncles, who forced us from the sanctuary. The minister’s prayer request was shut out by the closing of the sanctuary doors.

Our uncles took us outside the building, kindly pleading with us to calm down. After the bribing didn’t work, they threatened us to be silent, pay attention, and stop making a scene. We’d embarrassed our mother, they told us, but Lucy and I didn’t care. Even though she was a year younger than me, we had twin hearts and I
knew
she didn’t care.

By the time we calmed down, the service let out. My mother shot me a glare as she took my sister’s hand. I picked up the broken flowers she threw at my feet, unwinding the long white ribbon from the stems and shoving it into a tiny pocket hidden among the pleats in my dress. Fresh tears welled in my eyes. I dropped the ruined flowers to the ground and we piled into the car.

BOOK: Dirty South Drug Wars
8.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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