I wanted to post the first chapter of my action novel, Falling Up. I wrote this book because I was having trouble coming to terms with many things I had seen and experienced in Africa. If you read my short story, African Jail, you'll have a better understanding of what I mean. You see, for me writing seems to be a need to reprocess an event after it has sifted down through the subconscious, and then give birth to it, if you will, on paper. And that is what I did with this novel.
I'm a newly published novelist building a following by giving the work away. I hope you will read the entire work, and if you like it, purchase my coming book, WHERE THE GECKOS LAUGH, which is a collection of short stories of my time living in an abandoned house on the Caribbean. Thank you. KRH
The large cities in Germany are as culturally and ethnically diverse as those in America. If you believe Germany to be a country of blue eyes and blonde hair, get over it. That fantasy exists only in tourist brochures.
Jesse loved the rain. Even the cold rain here in Cologne reminded him of tropical showers, of running shirtless along a Caribbean beach with warm drops touching his skin. When he smelled that cool, fresh scent of a coming rain, he stopped jumping rope and looked through the old industrial window, waiting for the first drops. His chest heaved and sweat dripped from his nose onto the warped floorboards. A beam of sunlight touched his face as raindrops danced across a hundred little panes. As the drops played on the glass he wanted to touch them, to feel them, and pressed his hand against the cold glass.
From the street below he heard brewery workers dropping kegs of beer onto a thick leather pillow. And when Jesse raised his gaze to the ornate stonework of the building across the street, to the distorted gargoyles perched under the eves, as though waiting to leap upon passersby, he thought of his own monsters: the men hunting him.
They could be right outside with backs pressed against the wall, weapons poised, waiting to burst through the door. As always Jesse tried to push the fear away with exercise. Faster and faster he jumped, the rope singing as it sliced through the air around him. But no matter how fast he skipped, he couldn't escape the horrible images of what would happen if captured.
When the door burst open the jump rope flew out of his hand and he ran a few steps, the pain and anger brought up with the memories burning his face and wanting to erupt through his fists. But then he saw who it was and relaxed.
"You alone?" Bartholomew said with a Jamaican accent, rushing inside with a bundle of bamboo under his arm. He stood like a prize fighter with wide shoulders and trim waist and a smile that made everyone like him, the perfect smile for a ladies’ man. The colored beads in his dreadlocks clicked together as he turned right and left.
"Yeah, I’m alone."
"Okay, okay. Now listen here," he said, dumping the bundle on the couch. "Mahn, I have something to show you."
Jesse moved away from the widow and crossed the apartment. "Did you look at that car I told you about?"
But Bartholomew turned from the question and opened the door, waving into the hallway. "Come, come, come," he said, stepping back as a beautiful young woman led a group of African children into the room.
Jesse thought she might be Greek or Egyptian. As he nodded hello he pulled Bartholomew toward the corner kitchen of white pressboard cabinets. Again he felt a burning sensation in his face and leaned close, anger in his voice. "You bring strangers here? Are you stupid? Our records are here. What the hell is wrong with you?"
"Listen, mahn—" Bartholomew knocked his hands away and stepped back. "Those children were smuggled here for the sex trade. They need help. This is not selling our crashed cars. This is serious. Besides, you been running around with those street kids all week. I thought you had the great escape plan for the papers."
"The police won’t get them if the plan goes well." He wanted to strike Bartholomew, but instead whispered: "You gave me your word you’d finish our car deal." Then he lowered his head and walked toward the window, feeling disappointed and alone, wondering if the gargoyles on the building across the street were watching him.
The old floor boards groaned as Jesse walked, stepping on thick dark lines that marked where walls had once stood. "Maybe it's time for me to leave. I’m sick of Germany anyway … cold feet, months without the sun. I could go to Mexico and soak up the sun like a lizard. Yeah, I’ll build a palapa with a palm leaf roof, and stretch out in a hammock—just leave the rat race behind." He stared across the room where the projector of his mind was playing a movie about Mexico.
Bartholomew walked over. "We can still sell the cars. I just have to help these kids too. You understand, don’t ya?"
At the window Jesse placed his hands on the sill as though to jump up, then glanced to the street below. On the sidewalk he saw a Turkish kid with curly hair trying to juggle a couple of apples. Fear jolted him upright as if he had seen a car about to run him over. "Bart, it’s the signal! One of the street kids is juggling. Something’s about to hit the fan. Shit. We got trouble!" He ran across the room.
"What trouble?" Bartholomew leaned over and put his arms around the children, then rushed to the door and peeked through the spy hole.
"It's Rashnew, down on the sidewalk. There’s police on the street. They must think you’re dealing hash again. From the rack beside the door Jesse lifted his jacket, fumbled with the buttons, then cursed and gave up when his fingers wouldn’t respond. "Come on!"
A faint knock sounded through the apartment.
Jesse pressed his shoulder against the door and whispered, "Rashnew?"
"Yeah. Open up."
He opened the door a crack.
"There's a cop watching your building. He's dressed like a bum, but it's a cop." Rashnew shuffled his feet and looked right and left. His fingers raced over the buttons of his wrinkled, plaid shirt. Every few seconds the teenager jerked his hand up and flicked a strand of curly hair from his eyes.
"Are you sure he's a cop?"
"Jesse!" A loud noise, like someone moving a sofa in another apartment, reverberated along the corridor and the adolescent jumped like a cat startled into full alert, poised to attack or flee. "He's a cop. When I was six I could spot one in a crowd. You have to believe me."
"Okay. Make the call and get your friends in place, just the way we practiced. Here's fifty Euros."
"Fifty? You think we’ll risk jail for fifty lousy Euros?"
"All right. Here! Remember the signal." He shoved several notes into Rashnew’s shirt pocket, closed the door and turned the dead bolt with a shaking hand.
"Bart! Someone's watching the building. I have to get the records out of here." He raced across the room to the desk and shoved a stack of papers inside, then pulled an ice pick from the wall. The calendar it supported dropped to the floor.
"Oh no! What about the children? We got big trouble, brudder." Bartholomew ran from the door to the window, gripped the sill and stared at the street below.
"Erase the bulletin board. Burn the answering machine. Follow the plan. Go!" Jesse swung the pack over a shoulder, pulled his collar tight around his neck and flipped the dead bolt.
"I’m trying to tell you something!" Bartholomew fired a volley of punches into the air.
"Oh shit! Bart, why are you wearing that jacket?" Jesse turned from the door and closed it. His mouth hung open and the pack fell to the floor.
"I be talkin’ big here. I have children to protect. And you’re asking about my jacket?"
"You have three jackets: Your strutting ladies’ man tuxedo you cut the tails off with my scissors, your Texas blazer, and that one, your bad-ass dealing jacket." Jesse marched across the room and snapped an open hand chop to Bartholomew’s throat that stopped just short. His hand and face contorted and painful sounds emanated from his throat as he fought for self restraint, anger and sorrow screaming inside him for violence. "How could you?" he whispered, lowering his gaze.
"I been trying to tell you." Bartholomew shook his hands in the air.
"Listen," shouted the woman, unlocking the door. "I have to take these children away from here. Call me later."
Jesse couldn’t think about her or the children. Right now his life depended on getting the records away from the police and staying free. "Why didn’t you tell me? The police could crash through the door any second."
"We had a deal! We sell some cars. Maybe we don’t pay tax, but it’s not dope."
"This is hash, ganja mahn. It makes you laugh and happy. No one dies from the ganja, brudder. Besides, it’s not yours."
"Tell that to the police when they break down our door." Jesse lowered his head, feeling sad and tired.
"Look, the money from the hash is for those children. That’s the only thing that could make me sell again."
"They touched my heart, brudder." Bartholomew patted his chest with a forceful blow. "I know this is a good thing."
"What about our business? The money from the cars keeps me alive! People are hunting me. If I don’t get out of Germany soon they’re going to crack my skull like a melon." He moaned and rubbed his face as if waking up. "Damn, how could you put me in this spot? You know I don’t touch that stuff."
He ripped open Bartholomew’s jacket. Buttons fell to the floor and rolled about as he pulled a block of hashish from the inside pocket. "Either I get this out of here or I go to prison. Don’t ever put me in this position again, you understand?"
He put the hash into the pack, shoved it against Bartholomew’s abdomen and ran to the door. "Wait for the signal. Tomorrow we’ll talk, if we’re not in jail."