Welcome! Thank you for reading Chapters 1-3.
Note: Please be aware that this preview contains strong language and gang violence.
FOUR – Lam’s Grocery
Dahn Lam stood outside his grocery store, moving an extended squeegee attached to a hose across the store’s sign, Lam’s Grocery, Est. 1976. His trademark whistle hung loosely around his scrawny neck. He looked like a high school coach without the muscles.
“I think it’s clean now,” Jess said, looking up.
“Jess! You early.” Dahn retracted the squeegee and turned off the water to the hose.
“Why do you clean that every week?” Jess asked, still looking up. “Does it really get that dirty?”
“This is my family now.” Dahn motioned to the store front. “Important to take care of family. Plus, looks good, eh?”
Jess nodded. The sign sparkled.
“Good advertising, good business, eh?”
“Yeah.” Jess disappeared inside the store, reappearing moments later with her apron. “Danny, have you thought about my idea of pushing the fruit and vegetables out onto the sidewalk?”
Dahn tapped his temple. “Still thinking.”
“You’d pull in more business,” Jess said, smiling.
“Easier to steal.”
“Who’d steal from you? Everybody loves you, Danny.”
Dahn picked up his whistle and gave it a quick blow, emitting a shrill chirp. “Time to start work.”
For Jess, working at Lam’s Grocery was a blessing and a curse. She didn’t mind the work, but all the money she earned went towards buying groceries and paying rent. The job was necessary for Lucia’s survival. Jess dreamed about opening up a bank account to save for college, but there was never anything left over.
Inside the store, the air was always cool and sweet. The smells of all the fruit and vegetables mixed to produce a unique essence Jess had grown to love.
Jess began every shift with a quick walkabout to check out the day’s produce. “Danny, these green peppers look like they’ll be toast soon. Maybe put them on sale?”
Dahn walked over to take a look. “Good call.” He pulled a Sharpie from his apron and adjusted the price. “How about a dollar off per pound?”
“When do we get more peppers?”
“End of week.”
Jess scrunched her brows in thought. “I’d make it a dollar fifty.”
Dahn balked at Jess’s suggestion.
“You don’t want to have to throw any away,” Jess said. “Peppers are expensive.”
Dahn nodded. “Okay. Dollar fifty.” He stroked out the price with the Sharpie, then tapped Jess’s head gently with his index finger. “You have head for business. Extra for you today.”
“Thanks, Danny.” If Jess wasn’t able to save for college, being able to exercise her business acumen gave Jess some of the job satisfaction she craved. Being rewarded for it made it all the better.
Jess looked at the Mickey Mouse clock over the cash register. It read five thirty. It was one of those days that felt like it would never end.
As Dahn dealt with customers, he could see Jess’s enthusiasm drain as time went on.
Her shift finally over, Jess moved through the aisles of dry goods and produce, gathering the week’s groceries. She had found another way to pay herself first by bringing home fresh fruit and vegetables. Nova and Lucia stuck to processed foods like Rice-a-roni and Kraft Dinner. That kind of food turned Jess’s stomach, but it kept the rest of her family off her back. It was their loss.
Jess leaned close to smell the Pink Lady apples, placing a few in her cart. Dahn’s produce was as fresh as if she had picked it herself.
Jess pushed her grocery cart to the till. Dahn began packing her groceries into paper bags, punching the items into his old cash register as he went. Dahn could see the exhaustion behind Jess’s eyes but knew enough about her family situation not to mention it.
Dahn paused at the bag of Cheetos. “You eat this?”
“My sister does.”
Dahn nodded and punched in the price. “Take care of family.”
“Something like that,” Jess said.
After placing the last item in her two bags, Dahn stepped out from behind the counter and trotted out to the fresh produce. He returned with a couple of peaches and tomatoes.
“Fresh today. Good for you.” Dahn placed the fruit in the remaining space in the paper bags. “No charge.”
“Thanks.” Jess grabbed the two bags of groceries with both arms. The bags were heavier today and she was not looking forward to the walk home. Jess backed her way through the reinforced front door and began her journey west down West 54th.
Dahn poked his head out of the door. He grabbed his whistle and gave it a blow. The shrill sound shattered the few thoughts left in Jess’s head. “Tomorrow, big delivery. Work early.”
Jess nodded but didn’t bother to turn around. “Yup,” she said and continued walking. She wasn’t sure if Dahn had heard her and she didn’t care either. She was beat.
It was only a few blocks to her house from Lam’s Grocery, but by the time she past Century Liquor, her arms burned with fatigue. The sweet fragrance of peaches rose past her nose as she walked, and a small, almost imperceptible smile crossed her lips. Jess imagined how the peaches would taste, how the sweet juice would drip from her chin. The image gave her renewed energy and Jess quickened her pace.
FIVE – She’s Off the Hook
The difference between Lam’s Grocery and Pho’s Mini-mart was fresh versus factory-made. There wasn’t a fruit or vegetable to be seen that wasn’t dried, processed or preserved. Tam Kwan, the owner of Pho’s, unpacked a box of Pringles. He noticed that the best before date was three years past.
From within the store, Tam could see a group of Dynamite Kings hanging outside. His eyes narrowed with contempt as his gaze shifted from the boys to a sign above the door that read No Loitering.
“Fuck you, Rooster.” Tam shrugged and continued to stock the shelves with stale Pringles, label out.
Rooster kicked open the door, as if he had heard Tam from outside. “Yo, Chinaman! Get us some forties.”
“Not China!” Tam was proud of his Vietnamese heritage.
Rooster raised his shirt tail, revealing a gold Beretta. “What’d you say… Chinaman?”
Tam stared at the gun tucked in Rooster’s pants, reflecting the buzzing fluorescent lights in gold glints. Memories of being dragged to the back of the store by Rooster and his thugs, and having that gun shoved down his throat, came flooding back.
“Move your fuckin’ ass!” Rooster kicked the door.
Tam blinked and snapped back to reality, fresh fear on his face and no idea what Rooster wanted, his task all but forgotten.
“What are you deaf?” The Dynamite Kings’s distinctive tattoo of a stick of dynamite with three red drops above it rippled and danced on Rooster’s neck as he talked. “The forties!”
Tam nodded. He scurried to the back of the store to look for the cheapest beer he could find.
“Make it quick!” Rooster turned to his crew. “Fuckin’ Chinaman.”
A middle-aged black woman exited Pho’s with her groceries and faced a gauntlet of insults from the boys.
“Hey, bitch, show us your tits!” a voice called out from the center of the group.
“Come take a ride on this!” A boy named Shaggy pushed to the front of the gang, pulled out a Saran-wrapped and partially eaten hoagie tucked in his belt, and held it over his crotch. “You know you want it!”
“I got a barrel you can suck,” Crook said.
Rooster scanned the woman’s body as she hurried away. “The bitch got an ass that just won’t quit.”
Tam opened the front door to the store, carrying a bag of bottles. “Leave customers alone. Without them I go out of business and you got no more store.”
Rooster’s mood flipped like a switch. He turned and approached Tam. “We gonna do whatever the fuck we want to.” Rooster landed a solid fist to Tam’s gut, doubling him over and almost knocking the bag out of his hand. “Got it?”
Tam nodded, struggling to breathe.
Rooster pulled Tam up by his collar. “Gimme those.” Rooster grabbed the beer and pushed him toward the front door of the store.
Tam disappeared into the store, clutching his gut.
“The next time he disses us, I say we waste his sorry ass.” Crook extended one arm at the door to the store and mimed aiming a gun with his hand and index finger.
“Who asked you?” Rooster’s eyes narrowed on Crook. “Shut the fuck up.”
Rooster examined the contents of the bag. “Next time, one for all of us!” Rooster passed out a couple of forty-ounce bottles of beer, keeping one for himself. He cracked the seal and took a swig.
“Hold up, Bro.” Brick pointed at Nova charging toward them from across the street.
Rooster took another pull from his beer.
“Damn, she’s fine,” Pee Wee, the youngest member of the gang, said.
“Say that again and I’ll pull your fuckin’ card.” Rooster glared at the boy. “No one disses Nova, understand?”
Pee Wee nodded and backed down.
Rooster returned his gaze to Nova. “Look what we have here. Super Nova.”
“Spare me your bullshit, Rooster.” Nova dug into the front pocket of her tight jeans and pulled out a 9mm hollow point bullet. “What the fuck is this?”
“Cool it, bitch.” Rooster took a step back. “It’s a nine mil hollow point. So?”
“So someone tried to take me out with it this morning.” Nova shifted her gaze through the gang, one by one. “Driving a caddy with a MAC-10”.
Stay cool. Crook shot a quick glance at Brick. They both realized at the same instant that the bullet was from the botched drive-by.
Rooster stepped forward, almost nose to nose with Nova. “You gonna back that shit up with some proof?”
All Nova had was the bullet and the busted MAC-10. She hadn’t seen anyone in the Cadillac this morning due its the tinted windows. “I’m gonna find out who did this, and when I do, you better watch your ass.”
“You think the Kings wanna bust a cap in your ass? In a Queen?” Rooster matched Nova’s accusatory stare until she backed down. “You do something I don’t know about?” Rooster scanned Nova’s body, head to toe and back, grinning all the while. “We don’t kill our own without good reason. You know that.”
Nova returned her gaze to the rest of the gang and looked for anything to help her case. One after another, each member of the Dynamite Kings offered an emotionless face. When Nova reached Crook, his eyes wavered. Not a lot, but enough to notice. She shifted her focus down. “What’s up with your neck?”
Crook raised a hand instinctively to the bloody mark on his neck where Nova’s bullet had grazed him earlier that morning.
“He cut himself shaving, ain’t that right?” Rooster laughed at his joke, shoving Crook on the shoulder. Crook managed a laugh and the rest of the Dynamite Kings joined in.
Nova ignored the laughter and kept her eyes on Crook. He tried his best to avoid Nova’s stare, but she knew in her gut that Crook was involved in the drive-by somehow. She just couldn’t prove it.
“I protect my fuckin’ crew. Remember that.” Rooster looked at the rest of the Dynamite Kings surrounding him, then back at Nova. “If I find out who tried to take you out, they’re fuckin’ dead.” Rooster extended his fist. “We down?”
“Yeah.” Reluctant, Nova bumped and shook hands with Rooster.
“Just like old times.” He broke a wide smile at Nova, revealing a mouthful of golden teeth. Rooster’s eyes roamed Nova’s body again, pausing a little too long on her breasts and crotch.
Old times meant to be forgotten, you fuckin’ perv. A shiver of revulsion shot through Nova’s body.
A block away, on the opposite side of West 54th, Jess headed toward them, her arms full of groceries. Rooster spotted her in an instant. “That your sister?”
Nova looked back over her shoulder, then back at Rooster. “Keep your tongue in your mouth.”
“Damn, she’s off the hook,” Rooster said.
“He likes them young chicas cherry,” Crook said.
“Damn straight!” Rooster bumped fists with Crook, laughing. “She ain’t no little girl no more.” The rest of the Dynamite Kings joined in, yelling cat calls at Jess across the street.
“Hands off, you pervs. I mean it.” Nova ran across West 54th to catch up with Jess.
Rooster kept his eyes on Jess, watching her fourteen-year-old behind move under her jeans. He licked his lips. I’m gonna get me some of that.
What am I reading? What am I writing?
SIX – The First Step
Jess and Nova walked at a brisk pace down 4th. Their joint journey had been silent so far, except for the soft sound of their sneakers striking the warm sidewalk.
Nova glanced at Jess, watching her concentrate to keep her eyes forward. Looking at them together, their resemblance was as strong as their beauty.
Jess looked up at the Mexican palms that lined her street, sending a cold shiver traveling up her spine. To her, the iconic plant reminded her of clawed hands waiting for the right moment to reach down and grab her and rip her apart, and the trunks looked like jail bars. The leaves provided no relief from the summer heat and left a huge mess when they fell to the ground, dead, dried up, and brown.
Jess’s arms ached from carrying the groceries. “Did you find out who shot at you?” She thought talking might distract her from the pain.
“Maybe, but I don’t have proof.” Nova kept her gaze straight ahead.
“I bet it was Rooster.” Jess’s eyes narrowed. “He’s an asshole.”
“It wasn’t Rooster. He doesn’t operate like that.” Even though Nova talked, she was also lost in thought, still trying to piece together the day’s events. “If Rooster wanted you dead, he’d just walk up to you and cap your ass.”
Jess pictured it. The morning could have played out so much differently. Instead of talking with Nova, Jess could have been picking bits of her sister off the front walkway. The thought pricked the hairs up on the back of her neck.
“What about Vendetta?” Jess asked.
“Maybe,” Nova said. “We got history and she’s a candy-ass.” Voted most likely to shoot her sister in the back.
“Can you take one of these?” Jess motioned at the grocery bags in her arms. “It feels like my arms are gonna fall off.”
“We’re almost home.” Nova quickened her stride, leaving Jess behind struggling with the groceries.
“Hey, wait up!” Her plea ignored, Jess stopped to sit on the curb. Her arms enjoyed the rest. I should form my own gang, Jess thought. Then everyone couldn’t ignore me anymore.
By the time Jess arrived home, Nova was planted on the couch watching TV with two other Dynamite Queens, Codina and Tiny. Codina was a wiry sixteen-year-old Latina, with a braided pony tail that almost reached the floor.
Tiny, sixteen as well, and black, lived up to her name. Compared to Nova and Codina, Tiny was a foot shorter, but her lack of stature was balanced by an ability to spin a butterfly knife with deadly accuracy. She could even do it with her eyes closed.
Lucia lay passed out in a corner of the dirty floor beside the kitchen table. An empty “smiley-face” bag, rubber tubing and a spent needle lay beside her.
Jess set the two bags of groceries on the kitchen table and knelt down beside Lucia. Jess raised Lucia’s limp wrist and felt a slow steady pulse.
Jess picked up the smiley-face bag. “I thought you weren’t gonna give her this shit anymore?” The trademark smiley-face sticker appeared on all heroin sold by the Dynamite Queens. It was their brand, Nova had told Jess back when the Queens began dealing.
“If she’s buying, I’m selling,” Codina said, keeping her eyes on the television.
“Supply ‘n’ demand, an’ all that shit,” Tiny added between click-clack twirls of her butterfly knife.
“I know. I’m not stupid.” Jess moved the groceries from the table to the kitchen counter and began unpacking.
“You hungry? I’m hungry.” Nova bounced off the couch and made a bee-line to the kitchen where Jess was unpacking. Codina and Tiny followed, all three ransacking the groceries.
“Hey! That’s supposed to last the week.” Jess moved toward the bags of groceries but Codina blocked her path.
“Back off, bitch. I’ve got a date with that bag of Cheetos.” Codina sneered at Jess as she grabbed the bag of snacks with ultimate cool cat Chester the Cheetah staring back.
“Tomatoes? And fruit? What the fuck is this shit?” Nova grabbed a tomato and threw it into the kitchen sink, splitting its skin.
“What are you doing? That was good,” said Jess.
Tiny waved her knife at her.
“Why are you buying expensive shit like this?” Nova threw a peach into the sink. “We can’t afford this.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Jess shoved Codina aside and rescued the peach from the sink. “Danny gave me extra today.”
“Oh, what else is your Chink sugar daddy givin’ you?” Tiny said, between click-clacks of her knife. “Slippin’ you his little rice dick?”
“Shut up.” Jess pushed past the three girls and wrapped her arms around the remaining groceries like she was protecting a child. “Buy your own food.”
Codina pulled her pony tail around in front of her and held it tight between her fists, an instant choke rope. Tiny, always the follower, flipped her knife blade out, pointing it at Jess. Nova watched from the sidelines, impressed by Jess’s courage.
“I’m gonna kick your fuckin’ ass,” said Codina through gritted teeth.
“Supply and demand. If you’re buying, I’m selling.” Jess smirked, knowing she was getting under Codina’s skin.
“Quit being a baby,” Nova said.
Jess grabbed a box of Rice-a-roni from one of her protected bags. “You want this? I want to be a Dynamite Queen.”
“You?” Codina erupted with laughter and dropped her ponytail. Tiny joined in.
“Whatever money you make, I could double it,” Jess said with confidence.
“You’re so full of shit.” Codina scoffed, dismissing Jess’s potential.
“Give me the food,” Nova said.
“No. I want in. I want to be a Queen.” Jess stood her ground, defiant. She felt good, powerful, if only for a moment. Thoughts of almost dying on the front lawn were far from her mind.
“Give me the food and we’ll talk.”
“Promise?” Jess tried to read her sister, knowing full well that Nova was an expert liar.
“We’re talking, right?” Nova extended her arms.
Jess considered her gesture and released the groceries.
Codina ripped into the bag of Cheetos. “Dumb bitch.”
“You don’t belong in a gang,” Nova said.
“This is bullshit, working, going to school and buying shit for you and your friends… and Mama.” Jess locked a fiery gaze with Nova. “Besides, it’s my decision.”
“Got to admit, the girl knows what she wants.” Tiny reached towards the bag of Cheetos in Codina’s hands.
“Get your own!” Codina pulled the bag away from Tiny and continued to stuff her face with the dayglow orange snacks.
“Just ‘cause you want to don’t mean we gotta take you.” Nova returned Jess’s gaze. “We steal. We deal. When we gotta, we kill.”
“Sometimes, just for fun,” Codina said between mouthfuls of baked nuclear cheese.
“Everyone pulls their own weight,” Nova said, the seriousness of her words apparent. “Once you’re in, you’re in for life.”
“The only way out is to die,” Codina said.
“Or have a kid.” Tiny grimaced. “I ain’t never having a kid. That shit’s ugly.”
“Who’d wanna fuck you, anyway?” Codina pushed Tiny on the shoulder, leaving orange finger marks behind.
“Lots of guys wanna do me,” Tiny said, brushing off the orange Cheeto crumbs on her shirt. “Deshawn Bishop would do me. He’s fine.”
Codina laughed. “Deshawn fucks anything with a hole.”
“Who gives a shit.” Nova pushed Codina and Tiny. “Shut the fuck up for a second.” Nova turned to face Jess. “You sure this is what you want?”
“Yes,” Jess said, without hesitation. In her head, she was playing all the scenarios at once: selling drugs, ripping people off, and killing. And it was great. In her head, everything was easy.
New Release! Vermin 2.0
Rats. They brought the Black Death. They’re fiercely intelligent. They eat anything.
Now there’s a new breed of rat in the sewers of New York City…a version 2.0…and they’re hungry for blood.
Ex-con Sam Shaw has problems. Bradley, his estranged son of fifteen years, has moved in for the summer and Sam has no clue how to be a dad. Plus, the building he maintains has become infested with super smart rats that crave living flesh. But Sam’s problems don’t stop there. He also has a debilitating fear of rats. With the help of a crew of rodent experts, Sam and Bradley must battle the infestation before they, and the building’s tenants, are eaten alive.
Vermin 2.0… Can they be stopped?
SEVEN – Distractions
Samantha Walsh sat in history class, feigning interest. Most classes bored her. She often replayed memories from when she first met Jess to pass the time. Billy Horton’s comeuppance in Grade 2 was one of her favorites.
She stood behind a tree, watching the playground at 55th Street Elementary. Jess joined her, breathing hard.
“Didya get it?” Samantha asked, excitement twinkling in her eyes.
Jess held up a small, yellow bucket with a creepy clown painted on the side. “Yup. Look!” The bucket was filled with a brown, muddy mess.
“Why is it all wet?”
Jess shrugged. “I added water. I didn’t want the worms to die.”
The two girls looked at each other and began to giggle.
“This is the last time Billy Horton hogs the sandbox,” Samantha said between snickers.
“When should we do it?”
Samantha looked at Jess, surprised. “Now, of course!”
“Yes, of course!” Jess said, and they both began to giggle again.
“Shh. We got to be quiet.”
“Yeah, okay.” Jess scrunched up her brow. “How should we do it?”
“We’ll just sneak up on him and dump it on his head,” Samantha said. “Ready?”
Jess nodded as they both set off on the most important mission of their young lives.
Billy was alone, as usual, making roads in the sandbox for his Matchbox cars. He carried his cars everywhere he went in a branded Matchbox suitcase laying nearby.
The two girls approached Billy from behind, holding back their giddiness. Samantha stopped and looked at Jess. She smiled and nodded. They both grabbed a side of the bucket, raised it up and inverted it over Billy’s head. Because the dirt was so wet, it flowed out, rather than forming a mountain, but their aim was true.
Dark, muddy earth ran down Billy’s face and ears, most of it following the curve of his back and into his pants and underwear. Samantha and Jess dropped the bucket and ran.
Before the girls were halfway back to their tree to observe the damage, Billy erupted in a scream unlike anything they had ever heard before. It stopped them in their tracks. They looked back to see Billy in a full blown tantrum.
“Our job here is done.” Samantha took Jess’s hand and shook it, smirking.
“Pleasure doin’ business with ya,” Jess said, smiling back.
And that was that. Samantha and Jess were best friends forever.
The period bell rang, snapping Samantha back to her history class, one of her many classes without Jess. It had become more difficult to do everything together once they got to Centra Vida High School. Different classes limited their time together, plus their interests had begun to diverge. Samantha got into photography in Grade 7, and two years later a digital SLR camera hung off her shoulder like it was a part of her body.
The school had two levels and was made for a photographer’s eye, with lots of interesting angles and colors. Each wing of the school featured a different hue: blue for Math and Science, yellow for English, green for Economics, red for Drama and the Arts, purple for Physical Education and brown for History and the library. The lockers were painted alternating colors, white and the hue of the wing in which they resided.
Samantha was a regular contributor to the school newspaper, the Centra Vida Voice, and had even sold a few photos to the Los Angeles Times. Centra Vida was home to over one thousand students, most of them Black and Hispanic. Being a blonde white minority helped her visibility.
Jess focused on business and economics. Samantha had suggested they pool their talents after graduating and open a photography business.
“You could run the business side of things and I’d take photos,” Samantha remembered saying. “It’d be rad.” At the time, Jess had seemed into the idea.
Students spilled out into the hallway. Samantha raised her camera to her eye and scanned the sea of students through her camera lens. Jess’s next class was Business Studies and Samantha knew Jess would have to pass her locker to get there.
Jess’s face slid into view. “There you are,” Samantha said to herself as she framed a candid portrait of Jess. Click-click. “Hey, wanna hang after school?”
Jess, lost in thought, walked by Samantha without responding.
“Jess?” Samantha raised the camera to her eye again. Instead of taking pictures, she followed Jess down the hall with her zoom lens until Jess was out of sight. What’s up with her? Samantha thought.
♦ ♦ ♦
Being a teacher at Centra Vida was difficult, without adding minority status to the mix. Even though students in Nari Tanaka’s Business Studies class chose to be there, most of the faces staring back at her every day were blank. Student apathy ran high, making it difficult to maintain her passion for teaching. Nari, a Japanese American in her mid thirties, had given ten years of her working life to Centra Vida but she wasn’t about to give up hope yet.
Nari wrote Marketing on the chalkboard in neat, measured letters. “So how is marketing important in business?”
The class stared back in silence.
“Come on guys and gals. We’ve been talking about this for an hour. Hailey?”
Hailey shrugged indifference.
“I dunno, Miss T,” Caleb said.
“Okay.” Nari erased Marketing from the chalkboard and replaced it with Go Viral. “How about that?”
Nari spotted Jess, busy at the back of the class, head down, writing notes. “Jess? What do you think?”
Today, business class wasn’t even on Jess’s radar. Instead, images of becoming a Dynamite Queen consumed her. Everything else took a back seat in her mind. Nari voice droned on, wah wah wah, wah wah, like an adult in a Peanuts cartoon.
What role would I play in the gang? Jess thought. What kind of missions would I go on? Would I have to kill someone? Would I have the guts to kill someone?
Jess filled her notebook with doodles instead of notes. Images of money, guns shooting rival gangs, knives, and speech balloons yelling “DIE, BITCH!” filled the page, all falling beneath a banner in big, block letters: “DYNAMITE QUEENS RULE!” The side of her right palm was stained blue with smudged ink.
I can’t believe I’m gonna be a Dynamite Queen! A sly smile crossed Jess’s face.
“Jess?” Nari raised her voice enough to punch through Jess’s daydreams. Titters sounded from the rest of the class.
Jess raised her head, her smile gone and aware of the class’s eyes on her. “Yeah, Miss T?”
“What does Go Viral mean to you?” Nari crossed her arms, annoyed but waiting for brilliance.
“Uh…” Jess stared back, blank like all the rest of her classmates.
Nari searched the class for another student. “Makayla, how about you?”
“Isn’t that when you like something on Facebook, then your friends like it because you liked it, and it becomes a… thing.” Makayla said.
“Yes!” Nari gave Makayla a thumbs up. “Now replace the word like with buy and you’re getting close,” Nari said. “Who buys apps for their phone?”
Every hand in the class went up, except for Jess’s. Her head was down again, focusing on her doodling.
“Why?” Nari asked.
“Because they’re cool,” a voice from the back said.
Nari gave a thumbs up. “What else?” Nari looked around the class.
Another enthusiastic thumbs up. “And?” Silence again. “You heard about the app somewhere. You read about it. Your friend told you about it. That’s marketing.”
The bell rang. Students grabbed their books and filed out of the classroom like they were on autopilot, Jess included.
When a student showed real interest, it could turn a class around and make learning fun again. Jess was one of those students. Most days, Jess led discussions and asked questions, but today she was in her own world. Nari missed the interaction.
“Jess?” Nari waved her over to her desk. “Are you feeling okay? You looked a little distracted today.”
“Nah. I’m good,” Jess said, tucking a page with doodles all over it back into her binder.
“What did you think of class today?”
Jess scrambled for an answer, her mind drawing a blank. All that swirled through her head were images of the Dynamite Queens kicking ass.
“Marketing and its role in business?” Nari said, knowing full well Jess had no clue what she was talking about.
“I got to go, Miss T,” Jess said and rushed out into the hallway, now congested with students heading to other classes.
Nari followed Jess out into the hallway. “Will I see you at business club today?”
Jess turned to face Nari, walking backward. “Can’t. I got to work.”
Nari watched Jess turn and continue walking down the hallway, then lost sight of her in a swarm of students. Her next class began to trickle in and she greeted them as they walked by to find their seats.
Nari spotted a piece of paper on the floor near the desk Jess had been sitting at. She picked it up and unfolded it, revealing doodles of money, drug paraphernalia, and little smiley-faces. What’s going on in that head of yours, Jess Garza? Nari folded the paper and slipped it into her pocket.
You’ve been reading Tied, A Street Gang Novel
Two sisters: They each want a way out. They each have a plan…
Rejected by her older sister’s gang, Jess joins a rival gang and fights for her life on the streets of South Los Angeles.
If you like strong female characters, gang culture, and gritty street life, then you’ll love the story of teen-aged sisters Jess and Nova. Both are headstrong, and after one explosive argument, Jess takes her future into her own hands and joins a rival gang. This decision leads her down a path of irreparable consequences.
Set in the rough neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, violence erupts as two gangs, two sisters, fight head to head. But who will survive the night?
You’ve read this far. Perhaps you’re willing to go a bit further?
“Tied: A Street Gang Novel” is available at Kobo, Apple, Amazon, Google, and Barnes & Noble.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this preview of Tied, A Street Gang Novel