Partial excerpt of Chapter 1 from the amazing new novel The Streets Have No King, by JaQuavis Coleman
CHAPTER ONE Back in the Day
“Okay, listen to me close. Okay, baby?” Frenchie said as she closed the top of her silk robe. She looked down at her young son, who looked up at her, confused about what she was asking him to do. She walked over to him and knelt down so she was looking him in the eyes. She grabbed his right hand and flipped it, palm up. She placed a neatly folded fifty-dollar bill in his hand.
“I want you to take this down to Nephew’s house and . . .” Frenchie dropped her head in shame. She took a deep breath and continued, “Give him this. He is going to put something in your hand for me. Okay?” Tears began to form in her eyes. She was ashamed of what she was sending her naive little boy to do.
“Okay, Mama,” Basil said. His young mind couldn’t wrap itself around that he had to go cop drugs for his crack-addicted mother. She owed so many dealers on the block, she couldn’t show her face anymore. She had managed to run up a tab with any dope boy willing to give her credit. To avoid a beating or maybe something worse, she had to send Basil to the wolves. Frenchie couldn’t risk going out and being caught by one of her dealers.
“When he puts Mama’s package in your hand, you best not open your hand until you get home. Got that?” she said, pointing her finger directly into his face.
“Yeah, I got it, Ma,” Basil said as a wave of fear overcame him. He was too naive to understand that his mother had just done the hardest thing that she’d ever had to do in her life. She chosen her desire to smoke crack over the well-being of her only child. Basil didn’t notice the tears in her eyes. He only noticed her stern voice and the finger that was being pointed in his face. He knew when Frenchie did that, she meant business.
Moments later Basil walked through the projects on the south side of Flint, making his way through the concrete jungle. The hot summer evening made the air moist, and the streetlights were just flicking on as day settled into dusk. He heard the vulgar conversation of the winos who stood under the streetlights, and the chatter of the working girls who hid in the crannies of the darkness, waiting for oncoming cars to approach.
“What you doing out here, li’l nigga?” he heard a hooker yell out, but he ignored her and kept pushing, heading toward Nephew’s unit at the back of the projects. The boom of the sound systems blasting out of jeeps and the horns blowing were chaotic around Basil. The deeper he went into the projects, the darker it got. The streetlights had been shot out, and it seemed as if the street noises were growing dimmer and dimmer. His heart was beating so fast that it felt like two baboons were trying to escape his chest cavity. The fear began to creep in slowly. Basil held his head high and continued to make his way. He saw men standing in the shadows, waiting for a play to make a sell. Basil approached Nephew’s building, and the flickering light from a lamppost provided the only illumination. A bum was sitting on a chair by the door, singing an old gospel tune with a half-full bottle of malt liquor in his hand. Somehow, the song sent chills through Basil’s body as the broken harmony serenaded the air.
“Wade in the water . . . wade in the water now, children,” the old man crooned as his too-big clothes hung off of him and the smell of liquor reeked from his body. Basil cringed, flinching as he brushed past him. He finally made his way into the unit, and the smell of urine and filth invaded his nostrils. He quickly headed to the rear, where Nephew resided. He stared at the two doors before him, both being Nephew’s spot. Nephew had somehow gotten a wall knocked down, turning two midsize apartments into one large suite. Nephew was the head man in the projects and well respected. He was a hustler in every sense of the word. He sold weight but he also broke his weight down and sold rock for rock. No money was too little for him and he was loved by everyone because of his humility. Nephew really was a man of the people and that’s why he didn’t feel threatened by living in the middle of his trap.
Basil knocked on the door and he could hear someone approaching from the other side. Seconds later the scrape of deadbolts being unlocked sounded. The door slowly opened and Basil looked at the man that the streets called Nephew. He’d taken on the name because of his position as a young hustler; all of the OGs called him their nephew, and the name just stuck. He was light brown with a good grade of hair. He stood about five-ten and was of medium build. The smell of marijuana and the smooth sounds of Sade hit all of Basil’s senses at once. He looked up at Nephew and was mesmerized, as he always was by him. Nephew was the coolest guy in Basil’s book. Nephew looked down at Basil and had a look of disappointment on his face when he realized that Frenchie had once again sent her son to cop on her behalf. Nephew quickly shook off the notion of guilt and smiled with his pearly white teeth.
“My li’l guy.” He reached down and gave Basil a pound. “Come on,” he said as he looked around and then stepped to the side to let Basil in.
As soon as Basil walked in he noticed the red carpet on the floor. Nephew must have just had it installed because it looked and smelled new. Basil looked around in amazement. He’d never actually stepped inside of Nephew’s apartment. Basil always stayed at the front door while interacting with him, but now he was walking into Nephew’s world. Basil looked over at the couch and noticed two women tangled wildly together, both passed out. Their huge sets of breasts were on full display. One girl was completely naked and the other girl had on a dress that was pulled down to her waist. Basil’s eyes then shot to a table where a huge mound of powder was also on full display. Basil didn’t know what it was, but he would soon find out.
“What’s up, li’l man? Frenchie sent you around here again?” Nephew asked as he walked past Basil.
“Yeah,” Basil said, almost in a whisper.
Nephew made his way over to a small golden Buddha statue. He reached down and took the head off, which opened up like a candy jar. That’s where he kept his crack cocaine. He always felt bad when he served little Basil, knowing that it was wrong, but his hunger for money always prevailed. He looked over to Basil, and that’s when Basil opened his hand and exposed the fiftydollar bill. Nephew pulled out two grams and wrapped them in a plastic sandwich bag and tied a knot, all in one swift motion. He then walked over to Basil and took the fifty dollars and placed the rock in his palm. Basil never looked down, just as his mother requested, and he gripped the bag tightly, knowing that Frenchie would kill him if he lost her package. Basil turned to walk out of the door and Nephew called after him.
“Yeah,” Basil said timidly as he turned around.
“You’ll understand when you get older. Cash rules everything,” Nephew said, feeling guilty and understanding that he had to explain his greed to the youngster. Basil nodded his head as if he understood, but his adolescent mind couldn’t grasp the ideology. Basil disappeared into the dark hallway and made his way back home to deliver crack to his mother.
Frenchie impatiently peeked through the blinds, trying to see if Basil was coming. Her looks were still intact and her light, bright complexion seemed as if it were kissed by the sun. She wore a silk robe and rollers were in her hair as she counted the moments until she got her blast. Frenchie was a single mother and tried her best to provide for her son, but her habit repeatedly kept her from being a good mother. What started as a social hobby had slowly turned into a full-blown crack addiction. Crack cocaine was a new drug, and most people felt it was the “new thing” and didn’t know it would single-handedly ruin an entire generation. She kept thinking about sending her son to cop for her and the sadness piled on heavily. The remorse only made her crave the drug more. She needed something to mask the guilt and pain. She saw Basil approaching her unit and she began to rub her hands together frantically, anticipating the blast of crack she was about to inhale. As soon as Basil walked through the door, Frenchie rushed to him and it seemed as if she were high already. The pure anticipation of smoking had her high.
“Okay, baby. Give Mama her package,” Frenchie said as she reached into her robe’s pocket and began to feel for her glass shooter, a pipe that she used to smoke her drugs. Basil slowly opened his hand, and for the first time he looked down and saw what it held. The beige rock that sat in his hand would change his life forever. Frenchie quickly snatched the baggie and closed it in her hand quickly, as if trying to hide it from Basil’s eyes. However, the damage was already done.
Frenchie hurried to the bathroom to board a first-class flight to cloud nine . . . leaving Basil standing there, wondering what he had just helped her do.
Copyright © 2017 by JaQuavis Coleman and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Griffin.
Blurb/More about the book:
JaQuavis Coleman, one of Ebony magazine’s most influential African-Americans in the county, the masculine half of the successful New York Times bestselling writing duo Ashley & JaQuavis and co-author of The Cartelseries, returns to the page with his newest work: THE STREETS HAVE NO KING (St. Martin’s Griffin, April 25, 2017, Paperback). Known for both his wit and rawness, Coleman expertly shows the harsh realities of life on the streets. This gripping new novel is based on actual events that will have readers reeling long after the story ends.
After 7 years in prison, multi-millionaire drug mogul Kane Garrett is back on the streets. But instead of diving back into the drug game, he’s teaching a college class, infusing business principles with the signature ruthless edge he developed in the streets. When a student—and heavy heroin dealer—named Basil catches Kane’s eye, Kane takes him on as a protégé and together, they build the biggest, smartest drug trafficking business the state has ever seen.
But when Basil meets Moriah, Kane’s only daughter, lines get crossed and their dominant business union becomes a deadly rivalry. Welcome to a world where the kings meet their end and no one stays at the top for long. The crown always lies heavy on he who commands the streets—and Kane and Basil will fight to claim their rule, before power is toppled again.