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Everything is Everything

Book 2

Pepper Pace

Praise for Everything is Everything Book 2!

I've waited seems like forever for the conclusion of Scotty and Vanessa's story. And I was definitely not disappointed. Great job Pepper Pace.

-SWright: Real Readers Real Words (3RW) Online Book Club

This is truly a book filled with so many emotions it left me with tears in my eyes at the end, especially the end.

-M. Hallahan “Grint Girl”

Vanessa and Scotty's story is one of true love that went through different stages, trials, and ultimately a wonderful ending.


Author’s Note

First of all, let me thank you for purchasing this digital book and for your decision to support the efforts of independent authors. By purchasing this digital book from me instead of getting it from those that pirate other’s works, you prove that you care about the efforts of indie authors who strive to bring you their stories.

I want to thank my Beta Readers L.E and E.X. Smith for their enthusiasm and encouragement to continue the story of Scotty and Vanessa. I want to thank Team Pepper Pace and those that have sent me messages, made reviews and shared information about my writing. Special thanks go out to my number one Beta reader L.E. for her constant pokes with a stick to keep the story going.

Now let’s talk about HEAs. You’ve probably heard the term—it means happily ever after. I received several comments and letters showing fear for the future of the characters in this story. Relax. Despite the ups and downs that many of my characters go through, I am a strict believer of HEAs. A long time ago I vowed to always include HEAs and that goes doubly true for Everything is Everything.

I do want to remind you that despite the category of a Pepper Pace story, it will always contain interracial love and mature themes. This Urban Lit story contains more graphic depictions than many of my other stories as it is centered on an illegal drug trade and the difficulties of living in an economically depressed area. That is the basis of Urban Literature Fiction. There is still romance and sometimes comedic situations, but the focus of Urban Fiction is street life and its numerous illegal ‘hustles’. What I’m saying is to please keep that in mind when you chose this series. This is not your run of the mill romance.

Everything is Everything Book 2 contains drug use, mature language including racial slurs, descriptions of child neglect, HIV and AIDS and finally graphic depictions of sex. This book is the second book in a 2-Book series and while it is a complete story alone, it does continue from Everything is Everything Book 1 and would be best read in order.

©Pepper Pace Publications

Copyright © 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 Everything is Everything book 2. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever, except for short excerpts appearing in book reviews. For reprint or excerpt permission inquiries, please contact the author by e-mail at: pepperpace.author@yahoo.com or http://pepperpacefeedback.blogspot.com

Everything is Everything book 2 is a work of fiction. Characters – including their names, places and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are otherwise used fictitiously. Any similarity from this book to events occurring in real life – including locations, or persons living or dead is wholly coincidental. The use of musical titles and the naming of musical artists is not an infringement of copyright per sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work.

Part I

What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.

—John Ruskin



Scotty Tremont concentrated on the reddened flesh of his wrist where the handcuffs had bitten into his skin. He knew that he should be working on his game face and showing that he wasn’t one to fuck with. But the truth of the matter is that he hoped someone would try. He hoped that someone would look at him and just see a white guy with longish, blondish hair and eyes that were a light shade of grey-blue. He hoped someone would make the mistake of trying to flex because Scotty knew this is how jail worked. And then he could smash his fist into someone’s face and hear the satisfying crunch of bone giving away beneath his blows. Right now he wanted nothing more than to punch and scream and … He blinked and focused on his wrists. Best to think about his exit strategy.

This was the second week of his arrest. He’d been in juvenile detention for a week in a half until being transferred to the Justice Center Friday. Now it was Monday. He hated jail more than he hated anything. The food made you sick, there was no place to lie down and you always had to be on guard. At least in Juvie he was immediately assigned his bed and duties. But in jail all you did was wait.

This was not his first stint in lock up. At the age of seventeen Scotty Tremont knew the ins and outs of the Ohio criminal justice system. Mostly it was in the form of Juvenile detention, weekend stays in jail, and once he had sat cooling his heels for a month at a boy’s farm until they had run out of space and released him in order to accommodate more hardened criminals.

Jail didn’t scare him, what scared him was leaving his brothers and sisters. Now that he was the oldest responsible Tremont he had to make sure Miss Gloria had money to take care of everyone and that Phonso had protection from the bullies and predators of the ghetto. His little brother was fifteen but walked around as if he was twice that.

In some ways the ghetto offered Alphonso Tremont more protection than it did Scotty. Being half black Alphonso at least looked like most of the people that the brothers interacted with.

But Scotty knew that the drug game was one made up of opportunities and splitting up the Tremont brothers was a perfect opportunity for someone to step in and take over.

Anger washed over him again at the stupid mistake that had landed him in jail. It had happened at a house party. The party had gotten too wild and the cops were called. But instead of just busting it up they all got searched. Phonso

had been holding meth, which would bump the charges from a misdemeanor to a felony.

Stupid little punk! Phonso was far too ambitious. They were only supposed to be holding marijuana and so Scotty had made his brother give him all the drugs and he had caught the possession with intent to distribute charge.

It carried a mandatory three and a half year sentence.

The city of Cincinnati’s Justice center had offered him a way out. If he entered a juvenile divergence program and followed it through to the end then he could have his record expunged of all drug crimes—past and present. In order to make this happen he would have to do something called ‘Scared Straight.’

Scared Straight is where the city tried to show young offenders the harsh realities of the criminal justice system by taking them to prison and literally scaring them straight. The young offenders would be shown the side of prison that one didn’t get to see on television or the movies--non-censored and in your face.

Scotty had readily agreed. But then he had found out where he was going; Lebanon. It was the hardest prison in the state of Ohio. But that wasn’t the issue. The issue is that Lebanon County Prison is also where his father was.

“Yo, white boy,” Scotty’s eyes moved upward and locked onto those of a young black guy who was standing over him. “That’s my seat.” The young man’s eyes darted around to see who was watching, who he was impressing.

Most wouldn’t look at Scotty Tremont and see that he was no different than many of them. They wouldn’t immediately know that he’d had to fight harder than most because not only was he the product of the ghetto, the product of a pimp father and a prostitute mother—but he’d had to constantly prove that his white skin didn’t make him soft. Scotty had a strong survivor’s mentality—a fact which surpassed the color of ones skin.

“Get up nigger! Don’t make me have to tell you twice!” The young man said. He was bigger than Scotty and he flexed arms that were swollen by more fat than muscle.

The other men in the holding cell watched with interest. A few knew that the black man was messing with the wrong white guy and egged it on anyways in the hopes of witnessing some free entertainment.

Scotty’s eyes gleamed a half second before he rose off the old bench worn smooth by countless asses. The young thug suddenly looked unsure but puffed out his chest since he and the white boy were now the center of attention.

Scotty wasn’t interested in arguing, he just snaked out his fist where it smashed into the man’s face.

Taken by surprise, his head jerked back. Less than a second later his body followed and he hit the floor splayed out—and knocked out.

Scotty blinked in disappointment. He had barely tapped into his need to break something. But it went against his grain to hit someone while they were down so he just stood there a moment hoping the thug would at least wake up so that he could put him to sleep again.

The sound of hooping and hollering brought Scotty out of his anger and he distinctly heard several men yelling for him to walk away. An older black man that had to be pushing forty suddenly grabbed Scotty by the arm and dragged him away. Scotty focused his attention on the new guy, debating with himself whether he wanted a new focus for his burning aggression.

“Guards’ coming, young blood. You don’t need to catch another case over some dumb shit!”

After a pause Scotty nodded. “Thank you.”

A moment later two guards entered the holding cell and looked at the young man who was still lying on the floor out cold.

“What the hell happened here?” A guard asked gruffly.

The noise quieted and Scotty waited silently. But no one said a word. Eventually they dragged the semi-conscious man out of the holding cell. He did not return.

It wasn’t until right before lunch that the bus finally arrived to take the boys eligible for the Scared Straight program to the Lebanon Correctional Facility. That meant no food for him. Not that Scotty was looking forward to another lunch consisting of suspicious looking bologna on white bread, a thin slice of cheese, a packet of mustard, and the carton of imitation orange juice.

He was hungry but that wasn’t anything new. He hunkered down in his seat filled with strategically placed springs that threatened to puncture his balls. He half-heartedly listened to the other boys try to outdo each other with their list of crimes.

There were eight other boys. Of them was a thirteen year old who had punched his teacher in the face. He had cool points until it was discovered that his teacher was a woman. Scotty and another boy were the eldest and both were there for drug offenses. The two eyed each other suspiciously until they discovered that they worked in two totally different locations.

Of the nine youths on their way to the Scared Straight program none seemed interested in being reformed.

Four had never been to juvie nor had they ever seen the inside of a correctional institution. Scotty thought they were the loudest shit-talkers that he had ever heard. The others had been in and out of juvie for mainly drug related offenses. While less boisterous Scotty could easily tell the difference between those that meant to give everyone around them a hard time and those that wanted to just get through the program.

After the bus arrived the boys were herded into a processing area. Mr. Kunly was the correction’s officer in charge of them for the day. He was a tall thick man with a face that seemed to be frozen into a perpetual scowl. His buzz cut and cold brown eyes only amplified the fact that he either hated his job or hated the kids.

He began by calling them harsh names; asshole, hey you dummy, etc. They were then made to put on orange jumpsuits and for the smaller kids they were made to roll up the legs and arms until they resembled circus clowns.

The boys did a lot of grumbling and complaining under their voices until Mr. Kunly got into their faces Drill Sargent style.

Scotty and the other boy his age stayed quiet. When Kunly or any of the other guards got into their faces neither made sarcastic come-backs. They kept their eyes averted and made simple responses when asked a question.

The thirteen-year old teacher-attacker, though was a different story. He and a few others did nothing but act out, assured of the fact that they were untouchable because of their age.

“I ain’t scared,” the boy stated with a self-assured smirk. “I’m going home tonight and these fools will still be here.”

Kunly turned and his eyes locked onto the boy and Scotty saw a subtle shift in the man’s expression and demeanor.

“Is that what you think, little man?” Kunly asked.

The boy’s chin lifted in defiance.

“That’s what I know!”

Kunly smiled and it was dark and mean. Scotty frowned knowing that this day was not going to fair well for the little man.

After a brief orientation where ‘little man’ kept making comments under his breath and getting yelled at, and some of the others were egging it on, Kunly announced that orientation was over and led them out of the room. He had a smile on his face and when Scotty looked around he noticed that all of their guards did as well. Scotty put himself on alert that something was coming.

Sure enough, as soon as they entered the next room and the door was closed several men grabbed them. Some of the boys were roughly lifted and passed from one prisoner to another, while some of the bigger youth were just slammed roughly against the cement walls.

At the rough treatment, Scotty went into defense mode. He had been pushed face first against the cement wall, his arms pinned by several larger men. Someone clamped his hand around the back of Scotty’s neck, holding him firmly in place against the wall.

“Stay down Scotty.”

Scotty’s head pivoted at the familiar voice. His heart began to thud in a mix of regret and excitement.

It was the voice of his father, Juan Carlos Tremont.

“You have to get a pat down. Don’t worry, it’s just some bullshit.” Juan Carlos made sure his son would stay put against the wall before making the motions of patting him down.

The guards were standing by the door watching with amusement, as some of the prisoners got a bit aggressive with the kids. Little man was yelling that they were breaking his arm and the prisoner patting him down immediately pressed the boy’s face roughly against the cement wall. The man wasn’t very big; in fact he was fairly short in stature. His brown dome was shaved and he wore a slight goatee. His expression is what made a relatively small man look dangerous. He pressed his lips against the struggling boy’s ear and began to speak in low tones. When Little Man cried out in pain the man didn’t let up on the pressure but pressed his face even harder against the wall. The man barked out a short order and Little Man cried out tearfully, ‘Yes, sir!’

When the pat down was complete more than one boy had tears in their eyes. They were all made to line up shoulder to shoulder while the prisoners stood back glaring at them, pacing like caged animals and anxious to do something bad…

Scotty’s eyes fell on to his father. He hadn’t seen the man in years. He’d been a little kid the last time Juan Carlos had been a free man. Scotty didn’t think he looked much different although his prison issued jeans and t-shirt was far from the fashionable pimp that he’d been ten years ago.

His father was of average height and weight and yet his presence seemed big. Perhaps it was his eyes that seemed to pierce straight through you. His eyes were brown—nearly black, fathomless orbs beneath a straight brow that lead down to a straight nose. He wore a heavy mustache, which was streaked in grey. His brown skin and thick curly hair proclaimed his Hispanic origins. Even in his early forties and incarcerated for more years than not, it was plain to see why he had no trouble finding women to pimp out. Juan Carlos was handsome.

Kunly stepped forward, still smirking. “Okay ladies, lets begin with a little introduction into Prison Life 101.”

Kunly’s eyes met that of Little Man who stood quietly sniffling back angry tears.

“You don’t run this house. You will never run this house because this is my house.” Kunly gestured to the stalking men. “You’re going to have to go up against all of them just to get a chance—and these aren’t even the worse of them. These are the best of them. We aren’t allowed to have you around the worst of them because they fuck little boys like you. Or they take you for everything you got and pimp you out. That’s if you’re lucky. Because worse case scenario you just end up another dead nigger, another dead honky, another dead spic.”

One boy bristled at being referred to as a nigger and a white inmate got in his face.

“You’ll be my nigger. I can already see that. I got about fifteen more years in here and when I get through with you I’ll pass you along to the rest of the brotherhood. That’s right boy. I’m a white supremacist and there are plenty more where I come from.”

The young boy stood bravely but fear and frustration had caused tears to course down his cheeks. As soon as the tears appeared five inmates jumped into his face yelling at him to shut-up and to stop acting like a little bitch. One of the guards finally broke it up but the kid was visibly shaking and crying by that point. It was very easy to forget that the State of Ohio wouldn’t allow the children to be raped and beaten up on their watch.

The inmates took turns questioning the kids about their crimes, getting into their faces and pushing them around. But no one said one word to Scotty who just watched his father stand-by quietly without getting involved in the show of scaring the kids.

After that they went on a tour of the lunchroom, which was crowded with men who cat-called them when they walked into the room. They were given food to eat while the inmates from the previous room made sure they knew how to sit and eat.

Scotty got his tray of food while his father escorted him silently. After they were seated Scotty stared down at the food. There was a grey piece of meat with grey sauce on it, meatloaf? There were also soggy mixed vegetables, translucent mashed potatoes and two slices of white bread.

His stomach turned.

“Don’t eat that,” Juan Carlos spoke while the other kids complained at how bad it smelled and tasted.

“You don’t eat?” Scotty spoke for the first time.

“Only the derelicts eat this. The rest of us get commissary. Besides they made up a special batch of food for the chumps,” Juan Carlos gestured at the other kids with his thumb. “This is garbage.”

Scotty didn’t respond.

“We’ll have time to talk after lunch.” Scotty met his father’s eyes. Juan Carlos was not his biological father but he was married to his mother and he was also the only man to ever step into that role.

“Talk about what?” Scotty stated plainly. He hadn’t been around in years and Scotty figured that if they wanted to play catch up they could have done it before now.

Juan Carlos didn’t seem bothered by the coldness in Scotty’s voice. “We need to talk.”

Thankfully for the other kids, the meal only lasted fifteen minutes and they were escorted to the showers where they were told that if they needed to relieve themselves they could do so now even though everything was open for everyone to see you do your business.

Next came time for them to be locked into the cells with the individual prisoners.

Little Man protested feebly when he saw that they would be locked in a small cell without a guard present. Two prisoners who were evidently bunk mates waited for Little Man. Once the cell door closed behind him they made him give them his gym shoes.

Scotty followed his father up one tier to where more cells lined the circumference of the room. The prison wasn’t like what he was used to seeing on television. They were in a large room with two levels and a common area on the main floor.

The majority of the inmates were congregating here although as he passed cells he could see that some were in their cells lying in bunks and reading.

It seemed relaxed for prison. The common area had tables that were bolted to the floor and small stools that served as the seats. There were two telephones that he could see, a television set, which had such bad reception that he could barely tell what was playing. And last there was a room that looked over it all, and that is where the two guards watched everything.

Scotty followed his father into a cell. He looked around, surprised at how small it was. But it was clean. There were two bunks, a sink a toilet and a ledge that served as a desk. Lining one wall were two sets of shelves and they were crammed with the men’s belonging; everything from books, papers, magazines, toilet paper and cooking spices.

“Have a seat.” Juan Carlos gestured to a bunk. “That’s where I sleep, so it’s okay.”

Scotty was close to telling him no but decided to just go with it. He plopped down on the hard bunk realizing that there was no box springs beneath the mattress, just a metal slab which didn’t yield beneath his weight.

His father squatted and pulled a large plastic bin from beneath the bed.

“You’re looking good Scotty.” Juan Carlos stated while lifting the lid. Scotty saw that the trunk was filled with food. His father retrieved a packet of ramen noodles and a can of generic spaghetti sauce.

Juan Carlos looked at him when Scotty didn’t reply. “I guess you’re thinking that there isn’t much for us to say, right?”

Scotty’s stomach grumbled. “No. I’m wondering how you’re going to cook that.”

Juan Carlos smiled and rose to his feet. He placed the items on the desk and Scotty saw that there was a little hot plate nestled in the corner.

“I have discovered twenty-seven uses for noodle soup.”

Juan retrieved a dented tin pot from one of the shelves and dumped the contents of the noodle packet and sauce in all at once. “You should see what I can do with some hamburger meat. When you think about it, there are all kinds of canned foods that can be repurposed.” He chuckled. “There’s canned meat, fish, sauces and soup. I can even make tacos as good as the ones we had at home.” He met Scotty’s eyes. “Remember those tacos I use to make? You kids could never get enough of them.”

Scotty didn’t respond. He remembered the tacos. He also remembered when the man would get locked up again and there was nothing to eat.

Juan Carlos stood over the hotplate stirring the hard noodles and congealed sauce with a metal tablespoon.

“Are you coming here to stay a while?” He finally asked.

Scotty, whose eyes had been drawn to the pot of food, met his father’s eyes in confusion.

“I’m just doing this program so that I can hit the streets as soon as possible.”

“Ah, so you are planning on coming here permanently.”

Scotty’s brow gathered in annoyance that this man who knew so little about him and who obviously couldn’t pimp without getting locked up would think that he couldn’t hustle. Yes, they were both in prison but the difference was that Scotty was only a visitor and didn’t intend to stay in this life long enough to become a permanent resident.

“Nah. It’s not going to be like that for me-“

“How are your brothers and sisters, your mom?” Juan Carlos interrupted.

Scotty drew in a deep breath. His eyes took in the room. There were pictures but none were of him, his brothers and sisters or his Mom. They all must have belonged to the other bunkmate—who evidently gave a shit about his family.

“The same,” he said feeling no desire to give the man more than that. He didn’t deserve more than that.

“How did you know that I was coming?”

Juan Carlos watched Scotty. “We have the same last name. They asked me and I told them you were my kid. I got some clout so here we are. For the record when you do come here, you’ll have clout too.”

Scotty was too confused to be angry that Juan Carlos refused to believe that he wouldn’t end up in the penitentiary.

“Well son, I’ve been here and I’ve made a reputation for myself. A better rep here than I have out on the streets.” Juan Carlos paused to break open the packet of noodle mix season. He sprinkled it on the sauce, which was now beginning to bubble.

“There are a lot of good hustles here. Believe it or not cigarettes is about as big as drugs. I don’t mess with the dope. The gangs lock that up. Selling commissary is good money; food and smokes is about all the State of Ohio will allow us.”

Juan Carlos withdrew another bin from beneath the bed and Scotty stood to give him room. When the lid was lifted he saw that it was filled with cases of cigarettes. The older man broke open a box and then one of the packets. He shook out two cigarettes and offered one to Scotty.

Scotty accepted it and a moment after his father passed him a portable lighter he gratefully inhaled a lungful of smoke. He hadn’t had a cigarette in days. The small cell began to fill with the smell of tobacco and spaghetti, which was surprisingly pleasant.

“So I’m saying that when you get here-“

“Dad, I’m not going to end up here,” Scotty bit out. “I have a plan. This is not going to be my life, not hustling, not prison. I’m out of it as soon as I can. I’m not greedy. I don’t need to be rich. I just need to make sure that my family is taken care of.”

“Most men feel the same way. A good amount of them end up in a prison cell just like mine.”

Scotty scowled.

Juan had turned back to the hot plate and began serving up big forkfuls of steaming sauce-covered noodles onto two paper plates.

He picked up the plates and handed one to Scotty. “Sit and eat.” The two men sat on the edge of the bed and Scotty forked the food into his mouth. He gave Juan a look of surprise that the concoction was actually pretty good.

“Do you like it?” The man asked.

Scotty nodded and ate quickly, not knowing if a guard would show up and make him leave before he had a chance to fill his belly.

“Slow down son. We got time. Do you want a Coca Cola?”

Scotty nodded, though he didn’t slow down. He didn’t trust his father’s assertions. Scotty rarely trusted what anyone said. Words were just the lip service people gave in order to have something to say. People talked too much even when they knew they couldn’t back up their words. It was a game to some, but not to Scotty. His word was his bond.

Juan Carlos hadn’t ever made any promises, though. He just stayed long enough to make everyone think that things would get better.

Within a minute Scotty had the food finished, his cigarette butt squashed in the last bit of red sauce on the plate and he was nursing the Coca Cola.

It had been the best meal that he’d had in weeks.

Juan Carlos passed his half finished plate of food to Scotty who declined. Juan Carlos placed the plate on the desk and studied the boy proudly.

“You look good Scotty. You took care of yourself. I wasn’t always sure how it would turn out for you; being white and living in the projects. We could have moved to Covington Kentucky where there were more whites but once Tracy started having black kids it didn’t really matter.”

Scotty studied his father not sensing any animosity in his words. He knew that Juan Carlos accepted all of Tracy Tremont’s children as his own regardless of whether or not he was the biological father. He’d explained to them that family had nothing to do with blood. He was a Hispanic man married to a white woman with three black kids, four white kids and one Hispanic kid. And he didn’t even treat the one kid that was biologically his own any different than any of the others.

This was maybe the only valuable thing that Juan Carlos had ever taught them; and why Scotty couldn’t completely hate the man. Juan Carlos had pimped out his mother as if she was his possession, as if he owned her. And by association he felt as if he owned them all. Scotty had come to understand that it made Juan Carlos feel powerful to be the source of their creation.

Scotty figured that Juan Carlos loved them all the way a master loved his slaves. The way that crazy preacher Jim Jones loved his disciples. Their love was tainted, though. You can’t love something that you haven’t taken the time to get to know and understand.

Scotty was suddenly tired. He’d had enough of this trip down memory lane. But figured that his father wanted something and until they got to the point this was just going to get long and drawn out. But Scotty didn’t think the man deserved to get the nice easy version of the facts. He intended to keep it real.

“What do you want to talk about?” Scotty finally asked coldly. “Mom? She’s not hooking these days. She’s got full blown AIDS and is living in a residential treatment facility for recovering addicts.”

Juan’s eyes flinched and then he looked away.

“She seems happier though. But she misses us. The court took us away. Me, Phonso and Beady visit her sometimes but she can only have supervised visits with the others—and that doesn’t happen so…”

Juan Carlos looked at his son, “You kids got separated …”

Scotty was surprised to see that Juan Carlos seemed saddened by that.

“You never met Tyrone. He’s four now. Mom hooked up with Beady’s father and had Tyrone. Well Beady and Tyrone’s grandmother is Miss Gloria and she took in those two. She was willing to take in Ginger, Erica and EJ as long as I was able to bring in money on the side to help out.”

Juan Carlos looked down with a frown. “What about Alphonso?”

“He and I got a place together in Garden Hill Top.”

“How did you manage that?” Juan Carlos asked.

“We just got some guy we hang out with to put his name on the lease.” No one bothered them—well other than the numerous girls that Alphonso brought around. He might be fifteen but he whored around like he was twice that. It surprised Scotty that his brother didn’t have children … although the two were very much in consensus that there was no need to bring any more children into the world.

Scotty reached for another cigarette; his brow was creased with anxiety. “Do you remember Leelah James?”

Juan Carlos paused in lighting his own cigarette. “Leelah,” he said softly. “She never let me come back. When I messed up with her there was no going back.”

“Leelah’s dead,” Scotty said bluntly.

The cigarette fell from Juan Carlos’ hands. He stared at his son ignoring the smoldering cigarette that lay on the concrete floor between his feet.

“How?” He eventually asked and this time his voice sounded brittle like the polar ice caps.

“Raped and murdered … while she was tricking.”

Juan Carlos rose to his feet. He walked to the cell door and clung to the bars, his back to his son.

“Who did it?” he whispered.

“It’s still unsolved.”

Juan Carlos looked over his shoulder towards Scotty. “How long ago?”

“About two years.”

“And what about Vanessa?” Juan Carlos asked after a long pause.

Scotty considered lying and saying that he didn’t know. He thought about the lack of pictures of them and how Juan Carlos hadn’t been around. How the only thing that the man had to gloat and be proud about was a legacy of pain for bringing two young women into that life; one murdered in the street, the other HIV positive and strung out. And then what about the children with a father that couldn’t protect them, and how about him dropping out of school last year so that he could work his hustle full time.

Scotty was happy to knock the smile off Juan Carlos’ lips. Because skipping down memory lane wouldn’t be any fun for him.

“Vanessa lives with her grandma. I think she, at least, is going to be alright.”

Juan Carlos looked shaken when he turned back to Scotty.

“Is this Miss Gloria good people?”

“Yes.” Scotty said simply.

Juan Carlos sat down on the bunk with his head buried in his hands tiredly. “You should go talk to your brother now. He wants to see you before you leave. He’s in the high security wing so you’ll have to talk to him behind glass.”

Scotty’s head began to swim.

“T-Tino?” he stuttered.

Juan Carlos looked up at him with dead eyes. “Yes. He has some things that he wants to get off his chest, Scotty. Something to do with the hammer you used on his face.”

Scotty shook his head, his mouth going dry.

“Tino’s … here?”

Juan stood. “Come on, I’ll take you to him.”

Scotty flinched. “No. No, I’m not—no.”

“Scotty. Tino’s still your brother. He’s your family-“

“Fuck that!” Scotty backed away from his father until the back of his legs hit the toilet.

Two years ago Scotty, at the age of fifteen and tired of being his older brother’s punching bag had picked up a hammer and had beaten his brother with it.

His beatings at the hands of his older brother had been bad enough, but then he discovered that he’d been sending their younger brother out to sell drugs. Tino had successfully destroyed Scotty’s chances of fitting in at the prestigious high school that his high-test scores had allowed him to attend by forcing him to sell drugs there.

Soon he was just seen as another stoner and when he’d eventually dropped out, no one thought it was a loss.

Tino had forced him to sell drugs at the school and when Scotty had refused Tino had beaten him. Scotty still wore the evidence of that beating on his face in the form of a scar beneath his left eye that hadn’t been stitched.

That had only solidified the hate but what had taken it over the edge is what he’d done to Vanessa. He should not have done that to Vanessa White, so innocent and far removed from the dirt of the ghetto. She would not have known that despite the fact that Tino was also her half-brother that he was a viper just waiting to strike.

Scotty’s posture straightened but his cold grey-blue eyes locked onto his father’s.

“Tino and I have nothing to discuss. When I laid down the law that night I told him not to ever come back—that if I saw him I’d kill him.” Scotty had actually thought that his brother’s absence was due to his belief that Scotty would in fact carry out the threat. Now he saw that it was more than likely the fact that the older brother was in prison.

“You hit him with a hammer—”

Juan began.

“He beat me for years, and broke Phonso’s wrist! Oh and by the way, the night I used the hammer on him—it was after he tried fucking his own sister!”

Juan Carlos’ brow drew together quickly.

“He didn’t tell you that shit, did he? How after her mother died Vanessa was taken to live with her grandmother. But she came back to visit me and instead got Tino. I got home in time to see her crying and running away. Luckily she got away. Beady wasn’t so lucky.”

Juan Carlos’ face was pale. “I didn’t know—“

“Of course you didn’t. How could you? You are here while I’m the one fixing all the broken pieces!”

Juan Carlos shook his head. “Scotty-”

“We’re done here. Tino’s no brother of mine. Let him know that if I see him, I’ll finish the job.”

He moved past his father and out the cell. Their conversation had been loud and he had the attention of several men but no one said anything to him as he rushed down to the lower tier where he rejoined the Scared Straight program.

When Scotty left the divergence program his prior criminal record was expunged. He left the Justice Center like a newborn baby with no history of his many prior misconducts.

When he inhaled, the air tasted sweet even though he was right smack dab in the middle of downtown Cincinnati.

A car filled with his friends was waiting for him at the curb and they shouted enthusiastically at him. Scotty smiled but there was one small part of him that wondered what it would be like to start his life anew. Right now, no more hustling. He had his GED and he could go to college and follow his dream to teach.

But it wasn’t time. Soon, though, when he was sure that his brothers and sisters wouldn’t end up right back in the ghetto. He thought about Vanessa White, happy that she had made her way out of the projects completely. He prayed that she would make it.

Miss Gloria gave him a huge hug when he entered the small house.

“Scotty, baby.”

“Hi Miss Gloria,” he said while holding her frail body against his. He didn’t release her first. He always waited for her to move away before he dropped his hands. He wouldn’t admit it to anyone but Scotty enjoyed the human contact.

She brushed her hands against the stubble on his cheeks. “They don’t give you razors in that place?”

His brothers and sisters rushed into the room and jumped on him. Even little Ty tried to climb into the foray. He hefted his little brother up onto his shoulders. He was four years old but a big sturdy four. Miss Gloria fed him better than their mother ever had and now the little boy with caramel colored skin, hazel eyes and a curly ‘fro was guaranteed to be a star football player if he ever decided to play sports.

Phonso closed the front door after them and gave Miss Gloria a hug before he slapped Scotty on the back and led him into the house.

“Grandma made a lot of food for you,” Ginger smiled up at him. Scotty lightly pinched her nose even though at the age of ten she should be done with such things. Unfortunately Ginger would always be much younger than her chronological years. She was a pretty redhead with freckles and green eyes. Whoever her biological father was, he had to be straight from Ireland. She was also autistic and though her abilities had been greatly enhanced by the special school she attended, she would always be developmentally behind other children her age.

“Go wash up so I can feed you.” Miss Gloria directed. “Y’all kids get down off’n him and let your brother get cleaned up.”

She sounded gruff but there was a merry twinkle in her eyes. Scotty leaned in and kissed her cheek once again.

“Yes ma’am.”

The house smelled amazing, like Thanksgiving Day. Scotty was starving and wondered if he would always feel like there was an empty hollow in the pit of his stomach waiting to be filled.

His brother EJ made to follow him but Miss Gloria stopped him and told him to take out the garbage.

“Yes ma’am,” the twelve year old said sullenly but did as he was instructed. He would be as tall as Scotty’s 6’3” inches but would probably stay wiry thin. The boy’s fraternal twin Erica was also tall and lanky though not quite as tall and not quite as lanky as EJ. She hugged Scotty happily before skipping off back to help set the table.

Once everyone else had retreated to complete their chores Beady punched him lightly in the arm with a big smile spread across her pretty face.

“Ow,” he exclaimed while rubbing the fake injury to his arm.

“Welcome home, ‘bro.” She stated, following him up the stairs as if he was her hero.

“You act as if you’re happy to see me,” Scotty stated while hiding a smile. They headed down the hall together.

“You ain’t so bad … especially when you’re not around.”

He tugged her short hair gently and she swatted his hand away playfully.

There had been a time when the sight of him would nearly enrage her. It was back when she would try to attend the house parties that her other friends always bragged about.

She could never make it to the best ones because Scotty would always be there glaring at her. Sometimes he’d be the only white guy in a sea of black and Hispanic faces. He’d watch her suspiciously, silently demanding that she split. She’d glare right back at him. He was only a year older than her and she would be damned if he would tell her what to do!

Then Scotty would continue dancing with whatever chick he was with at the time, but his eyes would never leave her. He’d sell his dope while glaring at her and despite how much she wanted to be able to ignore him it was hard to do.

And if a guy asked to dance with her Scotty would actually start a fight with the dude! Scotty wouldn’t let her drink, if he saw her try he’d knock the drink out of her hand and try to haul her out of the house. If she kicked him in the shin he’d let her loose but would just smirk at her.

She knew what that look meant—if she stayed he wouldn’t let her have any fun, wouldn’t let her talk to a dude or dance or anything. So in a huff she’d just leave. It got to the point that if she walked into a house party and saw Scotty she’d just turn right around and leave.

One day when Scotty was locked up she finally made it into one of the better parties. Phonso was there but he was too busy having fun to care about what she was doing. Besides, she was pretty sure that she could beat Phonso in a fair fight-she was older and bigger than him.

At sixteen Beatrice Tremont was that type of fine that everyone else wanted to be. Although part black and part white she wasn’t light skinned but a medium brown complexion. She kept her golden brown hair cut short like Anita Baker’s and she didn’t need the fake contacts that so many others wore to make her eyes hazel.

Someone had once told her that she was built like a brick-shithouse (though she didn’t see how that was any type of compliment), and she knew that she could pass for much older even if she wasn’t all that tall.

Boys liked her and she liked boys. Boys Beady knew how to handle. But not men …

She shuddered at the thought of a man touching her, but sex was something that called to her—even if she didn’t let a boy put it in her.

Sometimes she just needed to let him extinguish her desires before she dismissed him and his needs. Sometimes she would give in but it was rare for her to allow boy’s penis on or in her.

One day while Scotty was locked up she had finally made it into a decent house party.

The music was blasting down the street and although it was BYOB there was plenty of beer. She and her girls were dressed fly and they looked better than the older broads who were trying to get the attention of the coolest guys.

The crowd was older than her, which was cool since she looked older but she didn’t really know any of the people. They weren’t the same crowd she knew from when she used to live in the projects.

Phonso was there doing the hottest dances and selling mass weed. She avoided him on the off chance that he wanted to emulate Scotty. Beady began to enjoy the party, the beer, the music as well as the boys that noticed her.

But before long some guy started dancing up against her. Not only was he old enough to be her daddy, he was loud and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Even when she walked off the dance floor he followed her and cornered her, still talking smack. She finally had to tell him that she was sixteen and still he wouldn’t get it into his over-indulged mind that she had no interest in him.

Beady had been terrified. She liked to control the boys she dealt with and being a girl used to the streets she handled herself well. But this was a grown man and he wouldn’t leave her alone—not until Phonso popped out of nowhere and began slicing the man with his switchblade. Phonso kept cutting the fool until he scurried out of the house with blood streaming from several wounds.

Beady finally understood that she might be one tough bitch, but she couldn’t handle every situation.

Scotty paused outside of the bathroom door and Beady gave him a crooked smile.

“Thanks,” she said simply.

The smile fell from his face instantly. “What happened?”


“What. Happened?” His nostrils were flaring.

She shook her head and gave him an amused look. “Are you some type of mind reader? Nothing happened. But now I understand why you stay on my ass so much. But it’s all good, ‘bro.”

“Beady,” he warned but she headed back down the hall and down the stairs calling over her shoulder.

“Hurry up so we can eat! Grandma’s been cooking all day!” And then she disappeared.

Scotty closed the bathroom door, now more sure than ever that he was not going anywhere.

Miss Gloria cooked as if she was still living in Alabama and dinner consisted of ham, southern cheese grits, collard greens, hot water cornbread, red-eye gravy, crowder peas, sweet potato casserole and roast chicken thighs. Instead of one simple desert the older woman made everyone’s favorite so there was a lemon icebox cake, a peach cobbler and because Scotty had turned eighteen while in prison—a birthday cake.

Miss Gloria didn’t like family to thank her for making dinner. For her, the way to show your appreciation was to fill your plate over and over again with food.

And Scotty did just that.

After dinner he checked that the bills were paid and saw that the bank account was as low as it had ever been. Miss Gloria was a thrifty woman, shopped at Findlay Market and bought the kids clothes from Sears, but Ginger’s school cost three thousand dollars a semester and that wasn’t covered by any of the vouchers offered by the county. Also, the house was a big old rambling three- story home and every bit of the space was necessary in order to accommodate them all. The property taxes took a hefty chunk of money and had to be paid twice a year without even factoring in the rent, which Scotty had sank the last of his funds to pay up for half a year before being locked up.

Vouchers and WIC just wasn’t enough.

His head ached when he closed the ledger. Later he would talk to Phonso about how much money he had.

He joined his brothers and sisters in the family room, happy at least that they wouldn’t have to worry about these things.

After Magnum P.I. went off everybody went off to bed. Miss Gloria had already fallen asleep in her reclining chair and Phonso had left to take care of some business.

Scotty leaned forward closer to his sister who was curled comfortably at the end of the sectional.

“I saw J.C. when I was in Lebanon.” Scotty said. She rarely referred to him as ‘Dad’ since she knew who her biological father was.

Her hazel eyes moved from the large television set to rest on her brother. “Oh my God, that’s messed up,” she grimaced. “Like some movie of the week where the long lost father and son find each other in jail.”

“I agree with the messed up part, but the long lost—not so much.” They always knew where to find the man if necessary.

“How’d he look?” She asked curiously.

“Good, actually. He asked about all of you. I told him about Mom.”

Beady sighed. “I’ll go with you next time you visit her. I haven’t seen her in a few months.”

Scotty nodded. He never looked forward to visiting Tracy but felt that he should keep in touch. She had been a terrible mother but she had stuck around and that counted for something.

He swallowed knowing that he was about to bring up an unpleasant topic. He didn’t like bringing up Tino considering what their brother had done to Beady, but Scotty figured that she had a right to know.

“J.C told me that Tino’s in Lebanon too.”

Beady sat up and stared at Scotty. “He’s in prison …” Her mouth parted and her brow gathered. “Do you know how long he’s been there?”

He shook his head watching her. “I have no idea.”

“Damn. I always wondered why he just disappeared,” she said quietly. “Do you think he’s been locked up all this time?”

Scotty looked away. She still didn’t know about the hammer incident.

“I don’t know.”

Only Phonso, EJ and Erica knew … and whomever else Tino told because Scotty had never brought up the incident again. But he would have thought that one of the others would have mentioned it to her.

The three of them had helped him clean up the aftermath—and not just the broken pieces of furniture but the blood that had splattered against everything.

Scotty hadn’t succeeded in killing his brother—but not for a lack of trying. He had then dragged the nearly unconscious young man out the front door and admonished him to never return. He should have picked up a hammer or a knife or a gun long before then and killed the bastard. It would have ended so much of the ensuing heartache.

He remembered back when they had first discovered that Beady had been sexually abused. He had wanted to go after the bastard that had done it but Tino had convinced him not to worry about it, had told him that she was better off living with her grandmother. Now he knew why. He hadn’t seen Beady again for several months and by then he knew that at least that part was true.

But in Vanessa’s case it had been different. He had seen the look on her face after their brother had touched her. Scotty tried not to remember her terrified expression when he saw her running from his apartment.

By then he knew that he loved her … but she wouldn’t even allow him to comfort her. She ran from him too. When he’d gone into the apartment he saw Phonso’s angry tear streaked face and he told Scotty what Tino had done, how he’d kissed his own sister, how he had put his hands on her. And all the while Tino just sat there looking smug and Scotty had picked up the hammer …

“Did you see him?” Beady asked anxiously.

His attention snapped back to her. “No,” Scotty replied simply.

Beady sighed. “I guess he had his reasons. But … I thought he cared more. I hated him for a while for disappearing on us like that.”

“He was an asshole-“

Beady shook her head. “Not really. He just didn’t know any other way to be.” She was quiet for a while and Scotty was uncomfortable enough that he had nothing to say either.

She drew in a deep breath as if coming to a difficult decision. “Back when that shit went down with the … molestation …” she glanced at her grandmother checking that she was still asleep in her armchair.

Scotty cocked his head and listened with a silent nod. They had never discussed what had happened when she was thirteen. Child protective services had removed her and sent her to live with her grandmother permanently when they had discovered that she had been sexually abused.

Scotty had wanted to kill the muther fucker that had touched his sister—little did he know that it was his own brother.

“He came to see me,” Beady continued.

Scotty shook his head and then ran his hands through his long blond hair. It fell right back into his face, his jaw clenched angrily.

“Beady I wish you would have told me-“

“No. I couldn’t. I couldn’t tell him either. He begged me to tell him. He even cried and he punched the door. But he didn’t get mad at me, he just kept telling me that he was sorry and asking for a name.”

The blood seemed to flow from Scotty’s face.

“What-?” he whispered.

Beatrice sighed. “I shouldn’t have brought it up. It’s just that Tino seemed like he cared and then he just disappeared right after-“

Scotty shuddered. He moved to the edge of the couch and rose to his feet. Beady looked at him curiously.

“Tino didn’t touch you?” He asked just above a whisper.

She gave him a surprised look. “Tino? No! Are you crazy?” She shook her head at him. “Did you think--?”

He walked toward her and knelt until he was inches from her face. Her eyes grew wide at the anger she felt wafting from him.


She didn’t speak.

“I damn near killed Tino because … I thought it was him. Beatrice, who raped you?”

Her eyes grew so wide that she looked like a cartoon character. Her mouth parted and then a breath of air fell from her lips that sounded like whisper of wind, “My Dad.”

Scotty froze and then looked over his shoulder at the sleeping woman that had given birth to Beady’s father.

She was still asleep and Scotty’s head slowly returned to the sight of his sister who had begun shivering uncontrollably.

“Mr. Johnny?” Scotty confirmed.

Beady’s throat worked until she swallowed. She nodded quickly.

Scotty drew in a deep breath and placed his hands on his sister’s shoulders until she stopped trembling.

“Does Miss Gloria know?”

“It happened at Mama’s house, not when I was with grandma. But yes,” she finally said. “I told grandma. I couldn’t tell Mom. She wouldn’t have cared, might have still allowed him to come around,” she stated bitterly. “I don’t know but I sure as hell didn’t want to take a chance of finding out. I told grandma that I wanted to live with her and I told her why. He … wasn’t allowed over here once grandma found out. She told him that she was going to cut off his dick and then call the police on him if he ever came around here again. But now he’s dead and I’m cool with that.”

Scotty sat down next to his sister and stared out into space. His mother’s on-again-off-again boyfriend, the man that had fathered two of her children had unexpectedly died of AIDS almost two years ago. In the wake of his diagnosis his mother had gotten tested and had learned that she was HIV positive--along with a number of other women that also lived in the projects. Mr. Johnny had dipped his wick into a lot of different women and had left a number of them infected.

He turned his head to look at her. “Have you been tested Beady?” His heart felt like it would stop beating in his chest and that he might stop existing.

“Every six months,” she replied. “I’m still clean.”

He hugged her unable to stop the tears from stinging his eyes.

“I’m so sorry,” he tried to say but couldn’t because the tears nearly choked him. When they finally spilled from his eyes and down his cheeks they felt hot like molten lava.

“Scotty, I’m okay,” she cried too but it was she that comforted him.

“How can you be?” he wept.

“I’ve had time to digest this. I’ve had time to think about it and to put it away in a place where it can’t hurt me. Mr. Johnny was never a father to me. Juan Carlos was more of a father. You and Tino took care of me more than my father ever did. I hated him even before he ever touched me.”

Scotty pulled back and wiped his face with his hands. He stood up with a nod and then walked out the front door.

He walked to the bus stop even though he could have called any number of guys to drive by and pick him up. But he needed the night air to clear his head and he needed to get a grip on his emotions. Right now he felt as raw as an exposed nerve. The tears had stopped flowing, had dried up but the haunted ache in his soul would probably never mend.

Scotty vowed that none of his siblings would return to the projects—it would be over his dead body.

The next day Scotty drove to Lebanon Correctional Institution to pay a visit to his brother only to learn that he had been released two weeks before.

Chapter One

September 21, 1982