"I got shotgun," Emory screeches into the crisp of darkness. Subtle scents of cologne clouds follow Emory, Toran, and Clyde towards the car. The three guys enter Clyde's black Chrysler 300 sitting on aftermarket wheels. "Turn that Jeezy mixtape on. That was dope."
Clyde starts the engine. The interior lights glow with a red hue. The stereo awakens. Emory and Toran are focus on the ensuing meeting. Music escapes into the San Diego streets as the high-end audio system boasts. As soon as the car pulls out into traffic, Emory turns the music up causing the subwoofer to rattle the trunk and license plate.
Toran, relaxing in the backseat, glances at Clyde through the trembling rearview mirror. His lips pucker and turn towards his ear, ridiculing Emory's behavior. They both shake their heads in disapproval, smirking as if to signal they expect his consistent high-strung animation. The music drowns out other sounds. The only thing that Toran can hear is the 808 kick drums and the occasional "Yeaaaaaah," from Jeezy through the speakers. The vibrating car seat massages and tickles his back. The leather upholstery swallows him as his guard is lowered. His eyes close and he meditates on the upcoming meeting, forgetting about the two other occupants in the front seat.
Clyde turns the music back down and says, "Emory, please calm yo' ass down. All that jumping and bouncing is making us dizzy!" He laughs and turns the music slightly back up.
"Why are you always hating on me? You're always so serious. Live a little!" His body hangs halfway out of the window as he dances and snaps his fingers.
"I will live when we get this deal done." Clyde's eyes focus forward. The pressure of his pending child support hearing prioritizes his every action these days.
The song fades. A police cruiser and the Chrysler arrive at an intersection at the same time. Clyde notices and turns the music down further. The light turns green. They enter the intersection. Emory, not paying attention, readjusts the volume making the trunk rattle. The officers in the cruiser notice.
“Man, I hope that cop doesn't get behind me," says Clyde. He watches through the rearview mirror as the cop turns left and gets behind his car. "Everybody act normal."
Clyde becomes the perfect driver. His hands are at the ten and two positions like he was taught in Driver's Education. Everyone watches the cops conscientiously through the corners of their eyes. He puts his right blinker on and merges. The cruiser dances with them through traffic. The tension in the car rises with each traffic light they pass. The low-speed chase bullies them. Only Clyde knows what may be found in the trunk. This is a driving test he cannot afford to fail.
The cruiser follows the Chrysler for five terrifying minutes. Everyone in the car pretends not to notice the pursuit. Clyde sets the turn signal and makes a right. The red and blue lights of the police cruiser raid the car. Clyde stops the car as close to the sidewalk as possible.
"Ahhh man. I knew he was going to pull me over. Everybody remain cool. I will handle it."
One police officer approaches the driver side window and requests, "License and registration."
Clyde fumbles his wallet and registration. "No problem, officer. Please tell me why we were pulled over," he says.
"I will tell you in a minute," the officer condescends and takes the license back to the cruiser.
"Man, forget all this! You are making us late with this BS," shouts Emory. "You only pulled us over because we are Black!"
The officer who approached the passenger side asks, "Who was talking to you? Let me see your license."
"Man, I'm not showing you anything! I'm not driving."
"We can make this difficult or we can make this easy," the officer proclaims. He then mutters something into his walkie-talkie and walks back to the cruiser.
Over the loud speaker they hear, "put your hands where we can see them."
Toran cuts his rant short and asks, "Now what did you get us into, Emory?" His stare reprimands the rebel. "If the battle isn't a part of the war your mission is related to, then don't fight it."
"Man, forget them! They are messing up my night with this nonsense."
"Come on, homie. We got to pick our battles wisely. We got to go get this money. Are you willing to sacrifice our mission for being right?" Toran questions.
"Hell yeah, I am willing to sacrifice any mission for being right. Their badges don't scare me. I know my rights!"
"Is it about your rights right now? We are almost to our destination."
"Put your hands up! I am not going to repeat it again," the overzealous cop commands from the cruiser.
Clyde and Toran put their hands up in the air for the cops to see. Emory reluctantly does so as well, dropping his mobile phone in between the car seat and the door.
"Get out of the vehicle with your hands up."
Clyde and Toran exit the car on the driver's side like two geriatric patients.
"Interlock your fingers behind your head and slowly walk backwards to my voice."
They comply and Emory sighs as if he is bored, inching towards the passenger door. His phone vibrates and flashes. He can see it's their business contact that is waiting for them at the mixer. He instinctively reaches for the phone setting off a chain of events that will change their lives forever.
The first shot hits Emory in his calf muscle and shatters his bone against the car door. He attempts to run but falls a few feet from the car. The subsequent shots pop like kernels in the microwave. Both cops empty their clips. All three men lie on the ground. Only Emory remains breathing. The man on the other end of the phone hears everything. Emory shrieks, "I don't want to die!"
Emory clutches to his consciousness. His movements slow down. The faint sirens search for him through the fog. The light from the stars whiten the night's sky. The bullets don't hurt anymore. The hot leads singe his pain receptors. Blood pulsates on the gravel with each attempt of his slowing heart. He knows he is dying and it’s okay for now. His destiny is forgotten.
Before he succumbs to the afterlife he asks himself, "Did those cops shoot us? They did shoot us. They shot my homies! I can't lie here dying! Get up, Emory!" He doesn't listen to himself. His body refuses the request. "What happened?"
His inner light joins the stars, growing brighter. Voices he hasn't heard since childhood call his name. "Is this it?" he wonders. His rebellious nature ignores death's demands. The light fades. The sticky thick puddle of blood cools underneath him. He feels temperature on his left side only. Still, he refuses to submit to life's opposition.
The cops flip him over. "Put your hands behind your back!"
With a knee on his spine and a shin on the back of his head, Emory remembers he is alive. Death is his choice. His pineal gland recovers his spirit molecule. He coughs and burps a blood bubble. He glances underneath the Chrysler at his two business partners. Toran, the last person that ever cared about him, stares back indefinitely in his own pair of handcuffs. His eyes aren't engaged. They are no longer windows to his soul-a portal left open. His spirit abandons his human experience.
The paramedics arrive and evacuate them to the hospital. Only Emory can hear their voices telling him to stay awake. His chest plate fractures with each pump for survival. His face is numb to the resuscitation; his chest rises and falls with each amusing attempt.
"Clear!" The final attempt of restarting his heartbeat succeeds. His tourniquet begins to hurt. Reality returns.
He moans and inquires, "Toran! Clyde! Where are you guys? Where are they?"
"Calm down, sir. Tell us your name."
"Emory," he struggles. "Emory Johnson."