Without further ado, here is the prologue to my novel North Shore / South Shore. I’m about halfway through creating the final manuscript. I know I’ve been complaining about the editing on Facebook…pretty much every day. So, here’s what I’ve been working on. The Prologue is the only time I use an omniscient narrator. The rest of the novel is told by four different people.
A Son’s Victory
It’s 9:30 a.m. which means it’s time for your local news. Denis Baptiste, Jr. was arrested while exiting his Westside apartment today.
The words sliced through the quiet Kylie had enjoyed during her drive to school. The voice from the radio continued. Prosecutors are confident that this time they will succeed in their efforts to bring justice to the head of the Baptiste family, something they couldn’t do when Denis Baptiste, Sr. was alive. We have this comment from the District Attorney, “We took a very powerful, very dangerous man off the streets of New York City today. I hope this sends a message to anyone involved in organized crime. The charges will stick this time. The Baptiste family can count on it.” Counsel for the Baptiste family had no comment as of yet. And now with our weather, Bobby Jensen. Bobby. Thanks, Jim. Well, it is definitely getting colder. Winter is com—
Kylie pulled into a parking spot in Christ the Savior University’s student lot and turned off the radio. She took a deep breath and told herself (unconvincingly) that everything would be fine. She thought of calling the lawyers, but then she figured she would call her Aunt Erica first. Or maybe she would just wait until someone called her.
She yanked off her new calfskin gloves and threw them on the passenger seat. Then she let her head drop back onto the unforgiving cushion of the headrest. Kylie turned her head gently and let her eyes fall on the gloves sitting in a small lifeless pile. One of her Uncle’s friends had given them to her, a man who went by the name “Diablo.” Kylie had met him this past summer and since then they dated on and off. As she looked at the pair of gloves beside here, Kylie wondered what part he would play in this mess.
She turned her head back to center and took another deep breath. The last time her uncle was arrested she was a kid—and at that time, she didn’t understand the gravity of the situation. Kylie didn’t care too much about it either. She was told that the family wouldn’t be going to Aunt Erica’s and Uncle Denis’s for the annual Labor Day barbeque. No explanation followed. She whined a bit about not seeing her cousin Colette, but her mother offered no reason as to why there was no party.
Kylie loved playing with Colette. And on Labor Day, the entire family played in a Mille Bournes tournament. The card game was one of the few elements of French culture that peppered her family life. And that’s not saying much. Even still, Kylie bragged to her friends at school about the card game. The other kids looked puzzled when she barely knew how to play Uno. “Don’t you have this at home?” they asked.
“Sure, we do.” Kylie answered—always sure of herself (even when she wasn’t sure of herself). “But we don’t play that. We play,” she paused before saying the name with the best French accent she could muster, hoping to sound just like her grandmother, “Mille Bournes…It’s a French game.”
As she stared blanky at the car parked opposite hers, Kylie smiled recalling the many fun times she had with Colette. She smirked a little thinking about how Colette never played by the rules. In a game of Parcheesi, Kylie’s cousin wanted to use the small pieces to play “nail salon” instead. Kylie’s older brother Collin would find them downstairs with red, blue, yellow, and green plastic game pieces stuck to the ends of their fingers.
But the slight levity those memories conjured quickly turned to concern for Colette. How was she dealing with the news? After all, her father was arrested and not Kylie’s.
Then she thought once more about Uncle Denis’s first arrest. Kylie wondered what Colette was told when her father was taken from his home in handcuffs. She had one distinct memory of that time. She could picture it vividly in her mind. The night before her first day in the third grade, Kylie came downstairs and saw her mother and Aunt Erica fighting, yelling at each other. Her father saw that she was standing at the bottom of the staircase, “Go to your room and put the television on. I’ll be up in a minute.” It was a few hours before he came up. When he did, Kylie’s father told her that nothing was wrong. “Mommy and Aunt Erica are just talking about…grown-up stuff. That’s all.” She believed him like she always had. Before Kylie knew it, third grade was finished, summer came, and the family was going to her Uncle’s house. All was well again. But the Baptistes rarely spoke of it to their children.
Kylie felt that same helplessness now that she felt at the bottom of the stairs that night. The sense that something was dreadfully wrong and there was no way to fix it. Except this time, Patrick Baines wasn’t there to assure her everything was fine. And this time, she was old enough to know that if he was there, he’d be lying.
Kylie looked down and she was glad she still had on her seatbelt. Even though she’d been parked for at least ten minutes, the belt across her lap and chest made her feel less dizzy. Kylie put her hand up to the driver’s side window. The glass was cold from the November air and it felt good on the bare skin of her palm. Then the loud ring of her cell phone scared her. She didn’t even look at the caller I.D.
“Hello?” Her voice cracked and she took a big swallow to compensate.
“It’s Brice, Kylie.” Her cousin said curtly.
“Brice?” Her voice rose an octave from the shock. Kylie wondered why he was calling. She was expecting her mother, or her aunt or Colette or even her cousin Blaise. This wouldn’t be good.
“Yes, Kylie. It’s Brice. Have you heard yet?” His strong voice was unpleasantly businesslike.
“Of course, I’ve heard. But I’m sure you were the first to know.” Kylie was already on the defensive. Brice was only calling to gloat.
He continued smugly, “Good. They took my father to the 20th precinct on West 82nd Street. He’ll be held there until the hearing tomorrow. We are going to move very fast on this. We have all the information we need for a quick trial.”
This was a proud day for Brice Baptiste. Kylie knew he meant to purge this city of its vices—even if it meant taking down his own father. He was clearly buoyant from his father’s arrest. He was self-satisfied and relishing his decision to call his father’s favorite niece.
“We? What does that mean Brice?” Kylie shook her head and nervously loosened her scarf. The morning was getting worse by the minute.
“Of course, I mean ‘my office.’ I’m not getting involved in this case. It’s a conflict of interest. The judge would never stand for it. And the D.A. is not risking anything. We’re getting our conviction this time.”
“Is that all?” Kylie’s jaw tightened as she realized that the D.A. actually might have a good chance with Brice masterminding the whole case. Brice had all his father’s cleverness, all his father’s ruthlessness, and none of his father’s loyalty.
“Don’t act like you’re surprised he was arrested. The man is a murderer, Kylie.” Brice spit the words out at her, full of resentment.
“Brice, the man is your father.”
“You don’t choose your father.” He snapped.
“It’s too bad you can’t choose your children either.” Kylie returned. Despite Brice being such an awful prick, she never thought he would be involved in building a case against his own family. She assumed he would make some comment to the press explaining how difficult his position was—probably trying to get the people on the prosecution’s side. She imagined his insufferably pedantic voice as he said how patriotic he was, how invested in the judicial system he was, how much he cared for the city.
“Listen, Kylie, this is big boy stuff. A little college girl like you wouldn’t really understand my situation right now, so let’s not fight. I never had anything against you. We’re family.”
“Oh, I’d love to understand your situation.” she returned sarcastically. “I’d love to know what would possess someone to destroy his own family. Congrats on being the world’s biggest asshole!”
He switched to a strong whisper. “Settle down. Like I said, I’m not involved with this case.”
“Whatever. Why did you call?” Kylie rolled her eyes and gripped the steering wheel with both hands until her knuckles turned white.
“Hey, I am doing you a favor by calling you like this. I’m calling from my office and everything. Do you know how much trouble I could get into? I’m trying to help my cousin before she makes any stupid decisions.”
“I’m not sure I want any of your favors.”
“Fine, I’ll get to the point. I have other things to do today anyway. I’m calling to tell you to cooperate with us. I can get you and Blaise out of this. If you don’t, well, let’s just say, it won’t be good. Like I said, we have plenty of information.” His voice sounded like he took pleasure in telling her this, a sadistic threatening pleasure.
“Are you saying you’re going to have me and Blaise arrested?” Kylie sat up in the driver’s seat. Her anger diluted by fear now.
“No one is saying anything.” He was always good at being vague. She always thought he spoke like that because he was too cowardly to take a real position on anything.
“No, Assistant District Attorney Brice Baptiste, you seem to be telling me that I am going to get arrested for shit I had nothing to do with!” As she yelled, Kylie felt the blood fill the fair skin of her neck and face, “I didn’t do anything wrong! And neither has Uncle Denis. Maybe he’s made some mistakes in the past but today—today, you’re the one who made the mistake!” Kylie didn’t even understand herself by that point. She was totally consumed by the weird mixture of hatred and anxiety. If the D.A.’s office had found Mark, maybe Brice was on to something.
“Listen, you little brat, you can’t threaten me. I’m the one who’s taking names today.”
“I’m not threatening you Brice. Facts aren’t threats.” Kylie’s mind had left the conversation though. Now all she could think about was her ex-boyfriend Mark. Where was he? Did the D.A. have him? What would he say about her, about her whole family?
“Ya know, I thought I was being nice. But now I see that you are an ungrateful little bitch. A brat, just like Blaise. I’ll just say this. My father is going to drop this time. We have what we need to convict him. And the D.A. is going for life. You and my brother—you’re both just sport. So, just make sure you cooperate with everything we say and maybe… maybe you can come out of this unscathed.”
“Where’d all this information you’re talking about come from?” Kylie’s voice was shaky, anticipating the name “Mark Esposito” in Brice’s answer.
“Obviously, I’m not at liberty to discuss that with one of the most important people under investigation. At least not without your lawyer present, Kylie. Or shall I say, ‘Styles’?”
Hearing her nickname hit a nerve. Kylie knew that although he’d never admit it to her, Brice always resented that she had some control in the family business, that she was one of his father’s most trusted employees.
“Fuck you, Brice. You know where I am. You know where I’ll be tomorrow and the next day. Just bring whatever you have on me. And I’ll deal with it.”
“That’s a potty mouth you got there, cousin. This will be a true test for you, Kylie. I sincerely hope you make it through.”
“Fuck you, Brice.”
“You said that already, my dear.” He was snickering.
“I guess it just feels good to tell you to go fuck yourself.” She hung up her phone and threw it down on the passenger seat. It bounced and landed somewhere on the floor.
Kylie slammed her hands on her steering wheel and yelled, “Shit!” Tears came to her eyes and fogged up her sunglasses. She dropped her head on the wheel and began to let herself cry, but once she surrendered herself to the tears, they wouldn’t come. She breathed deeply for a minute, trying to shake Brice’s words. She undid her scarf, turned the car back on and turned the air conditioning on. She didn’t care how cold it was outside right now. Kylie let the cool blast run over her neck and face as if it would wash away the redness in her cheeks.
After a few more big sighs, she felt a little better.