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LEAP OF FAITH CHAPTER 1

Written by Chris Ryan

Sheila Mae Gene approached one of the corner tables on the balcony of her legendary Harlem nightclub, The Ruby-Gene. The boss, owner and emotional architect of this oasis, Sheila Mae was in warm, welcoming control, most of the time.

            But not now.

            Not as she approached him.

            Sheila Mae was not one for intimidation, not even by this powerhouse of a man, nor his globally formidable reputation. Not until today.

            He sat draped in shadow at the corner table, a barely contained storm aching to burst forth, more dangerous than she had ever seen him.

            This was a bad time in Harlem. Four men had been beaten on the street, two hospitalized, two pummeled to death. Worse, three women were dead.

            The deaths of the women were pushing him to the edge. The most recent murder occurred this afternoon, right outside The Ruby-Gene.  Popular waitress Michelle Walker had been found, face down in the alley out back.  A single bullet had torn through her spine.

            The brooding man had personally recommended Michelle for a job here, to help her finance her dream: a college degree in science, an extremely rare goal for a black woman in 1935. But Michelle Walker was a rare person, one of promise, strength, determination.

            At least ... she had been. Until today.

            Michelle was the reason he sat there now, waiting for reports from scouts around the city. A few had called in already. One quoted a witness, as saying those doing the beating were white men in black clothes. One survivor kept mumbling something about the letter "U." Another woman knocked down as the attackers fled remembered a man with "tattoos on his fist." He added these to mental notes he’d made based on his observations of the alleyway crime scene.

            He knew he was not a detective, never had been.  But that didn’t matter to just about anyone else in the community. They were looking to him for answers, for resolution, for safe haven.  Still, how could he track suspects described mainly as white folk? That limited the field of play to just about most of New York City.

            But Sheila Mae believed she was about to shrink that list of possibilities ... to one person.

            "Arron, someone’s out there," Sheila Mae could see his eyes blaze from the darkness. "In the alley, where Michelle was..."

            Before Sheila Mae could finish, Arron Day, the soldier-for-hire known as Blackjack, was across the empty dance floor, passed the abandoned bandstand, and through the fire exit doors.
#          #          #
            "‘Harlem’s no place for the likes of you this time’a’night Cahill Ferguson,’ she says. Murder do’na wait for God’s blessed morning, me love."

            He often spoke to himself, and tonight was no different. He moved carefully, a Blackthorn walking stick in one hand, an oversized flashlight sweeping the alley, his sharp blue eyes scanning every inch of concrete again and again, searching for something, anything--

            --Then the monster burst through screeching metal doors, pouncing upon him without a word. Long ago, he had been sideswiped by a rushing squad car. This hurt more.

            Cahill swung the flashlight down with everything he had. He’d brain the attacker if he had to. Cahill Ferguson knew he was no good to anybody if he found himself suddenly dead. So swung he did. Once. Twice. Thr--

            --The beastie caught the torch, crushing its light out with his bare hand. Without effort, it picked him up. His back crunched against the alley wall.  Sharp pain shot through his shoulders and spine.  Air fled his lungs.

            Consciousness dimming, Cahill lashed out with his Blackthorn, crashing its thick handle down on top of his attacker’s head. 

Nothing.

            "Get control of yerself, Arron Day! Ye not beating an enemy here, boyo!" Cahill called out as loud as his aching lungs would let him.

            It worked. Slowly, the monstrous arms lowered his shaking body back to earth.

Tremendous hands released him, reluctantly. Furious eyes narrowed to cold scrutiny. The beastly sneer receded to an elaborate frown that hovered over the considerably shorter, extensively more bruised victim.

            "Even though you’re ... an old man," Arron Day hissed, "you have just five seconds to convince me you shouldn’t be a suspect in these attacks."

            "Sorry to ...  disappoint ye," Cahill Ferguson said in a dry raspy voice. "But ... it’ll take twice that time ... just to catch me breath." The old man’s blue eyes shone into the face of death. "But fear not there, friend, I ain’t yer man. I’m workingthe same side O’the Street on this one, Arron Day. Or should I call ye  ... Blackjack?"

            Blackjack was not sure what he was looking at here in this alley, but it didn’t fit.  He knew this little man was way out of place but he wasn’t sure why, or how.

            First, he was clearly in his sixties. What was an apparent retiree, this white man, doing here, in a Harlem alleyway, at this hour of night?  A thick head of wavy bright white hair highlighted a ruddy pink face undeniably created to smile. Blue eyes so crystal clear they arrested your attention sparkled up at Arron with an informed mirth that gave him pause. What does this guy know?

            "How do you know my name?"

            Cahill Ferguson tipped his head to one side and smiled whimsically. "Don’a ye remember a diamond ring yer father wore when you were but a wee lad?" The smaller man lifted his jaw, offering up a distinctly shaped scar to the left of his chin. "Ol’ Mad Dog Day thought he saw a patrolman looking a bit too long at his wife. One punch nearly broke my jaw. Took all I had to prevent responding officers from shooting him right there on 125th Street."

            Cahill picked up the remnants of his battered flashlight and shrugged as the pieces fell from his fingertips.  "A colored man striking a white man, and a police officer to boot, was a dangerous deed twenty-some-odd years ago."

            "Still is," Arron replied coldly.  He studied the little man before him.  "My father was not in the habit of being mistaken."

            "And he weren’t that day neither! Yer mother was the second most beautiful woman I’ve ever been fortunate enough to lay eyes upon."

            "Second?" Arron couldn’t help smirking.
            "Right after the dear departed Margaret Agnes Ferguson, a’course. Twas yer mother who resolved the situation, inviting me to dinner to make up for the misunderstanding. All that beauty, and a quick, sharp mind to boot."

            Cahill rubbed his bruised shoulder, gingerly.  "Ahhh, I use to be a tougher bird than this," he mused.  "Anyways, I came to dinner, and sat between your father and you in your high chair, gobbling up sweet peas like they were going out of style. Do’ya still fancy them, Arron Day?"

            "So, you knew my father --"

            "Twas that dinner, and his help on a case I was baffled by back then, that got me my detective’s shield."

            "My father helped you on a case?" Arron said in amazement.

            "That he did," Cahill replied cheerfully.  "It involved cocaine smuggling, a young and pretty British socialite, and a nasty bit of work with a straight razor.  But that’s a story for another time, me lad."

            "None of this explains your presence in this alleyway."

            "Don’cha see yet? I’ve come for you, Arron Day. I’m here to ask you to honor my memory of your father by lending your help in stopping the killings. It’s not just Harlem been attacked, my friend. Someone hates all of us minorities."

            Arron Day stared hard at Cahill Ferguson for a long tense moment. He’d never heard a white man describe himself or his people that way.  And God help Cahill Ferguson if he was lying.  But ... God help those behind all this if he wasn’t.

            "Come inside," Arron said slowly.  "We need to talk."
END OF PART ONE.

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