Contemporary women’s fiction/romance author Chicki Brown has been featured twice in USAToday. She was the 2014 B.R.A.B. (Building Relationships Around Books) Inspirational Fiction Author and also the 2011 SORMAG (Shades of Romance Magazine) Author of the Year. Chicki was also a contributing author to the Gumbo for the Soul: Men of Honor (Special Cancer Awareness Edition).
A transplanted New Jersey native who lives in Atlanta, Georgia, Brown still misses the Jersey shore, the pizza and the hot dogs.
Nia Forrester, Beverly Jenkins, Iris Bolling, Lisa Kleypas, and J.R. Ward are among her favorite authors.
Dr. Jesse Stafford, successful surgeon, husband and father of three lives in an exclusive enclave in Atlanta. He volunteers his time at a neighborhood free clinic in one of the roughest parts of Atlanta where his wife, Cydney's family still lives. When an unarmed thirteen-year-old boy is shot and killed by the police in this neighborhood, Jesse finds himself in an ethical dilemma and at odds with some family members. His involvement puts everything he’s achieved on the line.
Jesse Stafford sat on a hard plastic bench in a communal holding cell in the Atlanta City Detention Center waiting for his brother to bail him out. He’d been arrested for participating in what began as a peaceful demonstration in the neighborhood where his wife, Cydney had grown up and where he volunteered at the medical clinic.
For the past three hours, he and the other demonstrators went through the painfully slow booking process and waited to make their phone calls. He hated calling Vic at close to midnight, but he had no choice. Vic would be able to put up the money for his bail, and unlike Nick and Charles, he didn’t have sleeping toddlers who might be disturbed by the phone ringing late at night. Thankfully, doctors were used to being interrupted in the middle of the night. His older brother said he would be there as soon as he got dressed. Jesse asked him to call Cydney and let her know what happened and that he was okay. Of all the things to happen to him just days before the entire family got together for the July Fourth holiday at his parents’ house. He shook his head and uttered a pitiful laugh.
Tonight had been the largest demonstration since Darren Givens, an unarmed thirteen-year-old boy, had been shot by police on Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway back in June. Ironically, the street named for a famed civil rights attorney who’d lived near the area was better known by its former name, Bankhead Highway. The Bankhead area continued to be one of the poorest areas of Atlanta. Even with some recent improvements to the vicinity, it still left a lot to be desired.
For weeks after the shooting, the infamous street teemed with chanting, sign-carrying activists. Television trucks, their satellite dishes reaching into the chilly air like sunflowers, were a constant presence. Anger flared among residents sending young people into the streets. Hollowell Parkway had burned for two nights. Once the police and National Guard restored order, demonstrators from all over the country representing the Black Lives Matter movement came to show their support for the boy’s family. Eventually, their presence vanished, and the media turned their attention to more recent events. Until today, when the verdict was announced that the officers involved in the shooting had been exonerated. Now the heavy armored police vehicles and officers armed with high-powered rifles had returned to maintain the large numbers of demonstrators in the streets.
Jesse still didn’t know what had sparked the clash between some of the protesters and the police. Following hours of peaceful demonstrations, shouting and shoving erupted among the crowd. The next thing he knew, someone slapped handcuffs on his wrists and herded him into a police transport vehicle along with two dozen others.
“Stafford!” a loud voice pulled him out of his thoughts. “Jesse Stafford!”
He stood, excused himself through the crowded holding cell and moved toward the voice. “Right here.”
“Your bail’s been made. Follow me.” The uniformed officer hit a button on the wall and the door opened automatically. He didn’t take his hand off the weapon at his hip and never looked directly at Jesse, as though he were a non-entity. The door closed and Jesse followed him down the long hallway to an outer area he hadn’t seen when they were brought in.
Vic was leaning against the wall with his hands shoved in his pockets. His heavy brows rose when he saw Jesse walking toward him behind the officer.
“You’re free to go,” the officer said and immediately moved on to some other business.
“Hey,” Vic said, giving him a wary look.
“Hey. Thanks for doing this, man.”
“Disturbing the peace, huh?” A hint of a smile crossed Vic’s face.
“That’s what it says?”
Vic handed him the papers he’d just signed. Jesse scanned them quickly and blew out a rush of air. “I guess it could be worse.”
“Oh, Daddy’s going to have a field day with this. What were you doing out there?”
“I’m a regular presence in the neighborhood. I have an obligation to show my support. It’s important to let the residents of the area know I don’t consider myself an outsider.”
“But you are an outsider. You live in a million-dollar house ten miles from there.”
He ignored Vic’s comment. “Trey and that kid they killed are the same age,” he said, speaking of Vic’s oldest son. His brother’s shoulders slumped. “I’d treated him twice for asthma at the clinic; I can’t imagine someone snuffing out his life. The pain his family must be going through is unimaginable.”
Besides working in the clinic, some of the parents knew him from the times he’d spoken to classes during Career Day at a couple of the local middle schools. Each year he made it a point to be a part of the event to show the children, who never saw doctors, lawyers or other professionals living among them, they could accomplish anything with good habits and hard work. They never ceased to ask thought-provoking, often comical questions of him and the other speakers, and the day always turned out to be fun for the kids and him.
Jesse followed Vic out of the building to the parking lot. As soon as Vic pulled out onto the street, Jesse said, “Thanks again for doing this for me. I’ll transfer the money into your account first thing in the morning.”
“No sweat, man. Whenever you get the chance; I won’t go broke before then.”
* * * * * *
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