What’s the first sign that lets you know you’re dealing with a sociopath?
Corporate Thugs is riddled with clues. Set in the new reigning hub of African-American drama – suburban Atlanta – it’s the scandalous saga of the ambitious and untamed Gerald Alexander that chronicles his descent into the dismal world of irrationality. From high school to college and throughout the pros – his story will have you watching your back ever so closely.
Gerald had only two dreams, to play professional football in the NFL and to make the cover of Sports Illustrated. When the former became a reality it was short-lived due to a serious injury. And just like that, all the fame, fortune, parties, and women… gone. On the contrary, his best friend since childhood, Marcus Stone, was on top of the world – a successful business, a beautiful wife, and a fat bank account…he seemed to have it all.
Being a supportive friend, Marcus offers Gerald a job hoping Gerald would have a positive impact on his company. But when jealousy and murder come between them, which one will fall? Could Gerald be so callous that he’d set his best friend up? Is Marcus even capable of unleashing his own wrath?
They solved the riddle. Can you?
Copyright © 2015 by Bridgett Renay
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Slink never hesitated to take advantage of an opportunity to exasperate someone’s day… usually for no valid reason. His grown ass crept his way across Marcus’ front porch chuckling like a mischievous little boy. He literally rubbed his hands together excited to be the first to witness and expose a young man’s degradation. “YOU ARE STRAIGHT BUSTED! Didn’t yo momma teach you about playin’ in the mud?” he laughed as he allowed the glass storm door to slam behind him while stepping into Marcus’ living room.
He’d spotted Fallon Davis leaving Marcus’ house from all the way down the street. Fat Fallon was just as easy to spot from a distance as she was about giving up the ass. She had to weigh at least two-fiddy so Slink couldn’t let it go without clowning Marcus.
“What are you talking about?” Marcus also laughed as he fell back onto the couch, stretched his arms out on its back, and slammed his bare feet on the marble coffee table like he was some kind of czar.
Slink slouched down in one of the stylish wingback chairs by the window. “Oh, I see. So you’re saying I didn’t just see Fat Fallon wiggling her ass out of here less than a minute ago? Don’t even try it. You know you hit that, didn’t you?”
Marcus was book-smart and tried to mislead Slink into not recognizing what he’d just witnessed with his own eyes – and since walking through the front door, his own nose, “I’m telling you man, it’s not even like that. She just stopped by to holler at me about our class finals – a history project we got teamed up on.” It proved fruitless. His portrayal of innocence was no match for Slink.
“Man please! I could smell her worn out kitty before I even got out my car. Stop trying to front.”
Marcus took a playful whiff but couldn’t avoid actually smelling the stench one would expect would be left behind after having spent time with a girl like Fat Fallon. He grinned and lowered his head a little because he knew he was caught. He didn’t want to appear too embarrassed so he played it like it was no big deal, “So what! Man, she practically threw it in my face. And I guarantee she’s gonna do all the research for our project. So…no harm, no foul.”
Slink knew there was a joke in there somewhere when “Fat Fallon” and “foul” are a part of the same sentence, but he wasn’t clever enough to think that fast on his feet so he tried another angle at antagonizing Marcus, “Well, well, well! You mean to tell me that The Professor ain’t in the mood to impress whitey? What, you going soft…or in your case…hard?”
The comment irritated Marcus. He took his studies seriously and didn’t appreciate being criticized by someone of Slink’s ilk, “Shut up, man. I just got a lot of work to do if I’m gonna bust a twenty-four hundred on the S-A-Ts. What you know about that?” he said with confidence as he purposely held his chin up high.
“I don’t know shit about S-A-Ts, but I know if you keep fooling around with Fat Fallon you gonna bust more than your scores,” Slink said off-the-cuff proving that he was actually capable of thinking fast on his feet.
“I’m not even trippin’.” Marcus got uncharacteristically vulgar, “I just wrapped my anaconda in a Hefty bag and went for a dip, that’s all.”
Slink still warned him, “Whatever man. That bitch got some serious issues. You better be careful.”
Gerald was coming home from his job at the Burger Hut and noticed Slink’s car parked in front of Marcus’ house so he made a b-line over. He wondered to himself why Slink was kickin’ it at Marcus’ house. It was Gerald who had introduced Slink to Marcus. Gerald always thought Slink sorta belonged to him. He felt good about himself when an older, more complex dude like Slink allowed Gerald to be one of his sidekicks. Slink even had his own apartment. Marcus was supposed to envy that and not indulge himself in it. Marcus was already the light-skinned, handsome and intelligent ladies’ man. He could at least let Gerald be the athletic thug – the Michael Vick of the crew.
Gerald walked into Marcus’ house without knocking as if he was expecting to catch them in the act of doing something – something sinister – like bonding together as friends. “Yo man, what up?”
Gerald was actually talking to Slink, but Marcus answered, “Just kickin it.” Then Marcus taunted Gerald, “What’s up man…coming in my house smelling like taco grease.” He then glimpsed over at Slink to get some kinda approval for his little joke.
Slink laughed so hard he had to double over and was barely able to belt out, “He smells better than that sinkhole you just got out of a few minutes ago.”
Slink knew exactly what he was doing playing Marcus and Gerald against each other like that, but they were too naive to recognize when they were being exploited, especially by someone like Slink. He was a master of trickery – one of the shadiest cons this side of the Mississippi. And not just in his peer group – black, white, rich, poor, young, old, straight, or gay – nobody was more determined to wreak sheer havoc than Slink.
Born Troy Lewis, Slink was fated to live a life that revolved around crime. He was conceived in the back room of a strip club and born in prison. His mother was convicted on federal drug charges and by the time she gave birth to Slink in a women’s prison, his father, or who his mother believed to be his father, was convicted and serving time on larceny charges.
Slink spent the first seven years of his life caught up in the anarchy of the foster care system until his maternal great-grandmother, Nana Kay, took him in. Nana Kay was a sweet enough old lady. She was in her late sixties and unfortunately had just about every illness listed in the New England Journal of Medicine. Slink had been committing crimes practically before his testicles had a chance to drop so there was little she could do to control his madness.
He never stood a chance. While Nana Kay was in and out of hospitals, he was in and out of trouble. Despite it all, Slink had learned to survive by being tranquil, mystical, and clever. Add that to his cunning stride and his slender physique and you’d be describing a Slinky – Slink for short. He used every talent he had to manipulate those that were unfortunate enough to cross his path.
Slink had arrived in Atlanta via Jackson, Mississippi. As usual, he found himself right in the middle of some serious bullshit in Jackson. Two men were found dead in the back alley of a pool hall just hours after being seen arguing with Slink. Slink got word that the police were asking around about him so he decided he needed to get out of town. He wasn’t a stranger to transporting dope across state lines and when he found out about a huge drug run to Atlanta he made his move.
Not only did the drug lords know Slink by reputation, they also knew he was desperate to get out of town for a while so they offered him twenty-five thousand dollars to transfer a shitload of their product to Atlanta. They also knew that as crazy as he was, he wasn’t suicidal enough to try to run off with it.
Slink knew where to draw the line and who to draw the line with – depending on what was at stake of course. He also knew he was being played short because a run like that could easily go for fifty thousand at the least, but the last thing he needed was a run-in with one of Jackson’s finest so he took the deal.
When Slink got to Atlanta and delivered the dope he was twenty-five thousand dollars richer and had about five pounds of dope of his own. That was all he needed to start up his own dope-slinging operation. On his drive from Jackson to Atlanta he stopped at a campground near Tuscaloosa, Alabama, pitched a tent, and carefully removed a few ounces from each of the bricks he was transporting. Slink always got what he felt was his in the end. Fuck honor among thieves.
He didn’t even sweat driving an SUV full of dope across two state lines because Slink was nobody’s dummy. He understood America. He didn’t walk around with his pants hanging down to his knees. No way was Slink getting locked up trying to keep up with thug fashion. He always dressed like a perfect little gentlemen. His pants and shirts were professionally pressed. He wore sneakers only while wearing athletic gear. Slink even wore a tie every now and then. He was the portrait of a man on his way to visit his sweet, elderly momma for a Sunday dinner.
It was in the middle of Marcus and Gerald’s junior year of high school when Slink moved into an apartment a few miles from the Burger Hut. He didn’t know anything about healthy eating so he immediately began to frequent the restaurant. He came in one day while Gerald was behind the grill flipping burgers. When Slink walked up to place his order he recognized Gerald from the sports section of the neighborhood newspaper and was impressed. His low-key, semi-thuggish behavior intrigued Gerald as well so they talked often.
Slink enjoyed turning young brothers out so he played the role of one of those non-threatening thugs – the kind that may steal, but would never kill. Gerald was fooled by Slink’s big puppy-dog eyes and his slender frame. All of the malnutrition he suffered growing up gave Slink the appearance of a nineteen-year-old. Gerald didn’t know Slink was twenty-six-years-old and straight-up demented.
The two became quick friends, therefore, Marcus soon became a friend. The more Slink realized how bright Gerald and Marcus’ future looked, the more he tried to gain their confidence. Slink didn’t like seeing brothers sincerely happy and legitimately successful. He felt it was his duty to put an end to all that. If his soul couldn’t be emancipated, neither could anyone else’s.
Slink knew Gerald would be curious about the sinkhole comment he made about Fat Fallon so he didn’t waste any time manipulating the conversation. “Yeah man, your boy was in here taking his turn with Fat Fallon. Got this place smelling like The Kitty Pool over on Metropolitan.” Slink got up to go use the bathroom, but could sense his words would create tension between the two teens regardless of how juvenile the subject-matter was.
Marcus was the more mature of the two and when he glanced over at Gerald he braced himself for another one of Gerald’s “episodes”. Gerald didn’t disappoint. He gave Marcus a disapproving look while waiting to hear the bathroom door shut then harshly whispers, “Man you know your moms gonna slip into convulsions if she came home and sees Slink kickin’ it in her living room like he owns the damn place! And Fat Fallon! I know I didn’t hear that right! What were you thinking?!” Gerald melodramatically asked.
But he really just wanted it the way it always was up until then – him, Slink, and Marcus kickin’ it at his house, not there at Marcus’. He was petty that way. And not because he was an only child and was spoiled. Gerald just believed the world owed him – no questions asked. Besides, it was always better at Gerald’s house. His mother never paid attention to who her son hung out with. As long as he did his thing on the football field, she seemingly didn’t have enough time to care about whatever else her golden goose was up to.
When Slink came out the bathroom Marcus had put his shoes on and was spraying air freshener all over the place, “Hey man, were gettin’ ready to go across the street and hang out at Gerald’s – you coming?”
Slink could’ve easily manipulated the plan and stole control of the scene, but on this occasion he was happy to oblige to keep things cool. He didn’t want to play his real hand until he had his plan all figured out. Over the last few months Slink had purposely transformed Gerald into his bitch while Gerald thought Slink genuinely admired him for his athletic notoriety – as if Slink was another one of his sappy fans. Gerald had in his head that once he went pro, Slink would become his bitch.
He couldn’t have been more disillusioned.
Lena Stone got in at around five o’clock just about every weeknight. She had to or else Marcus would’ve stuck some processed chicken fingers in the microwave. Or even worse, got his boy Gerald to bring him a basket full of grease the Burger Hut referred to as its dinner special. Lena didn’t like the thought of her son eating all that nasty stuff. She tried to make herself available every single night to prepare him a home-cooked meal. And just in case Gerald came through around dinner time, which was every other night outside of football season, she always made enough for three.
Marcus was all Lena had after she lost her husband and Marcus’ father, David, in a freak accident. He was only seven when his daddy died on I-20. It was in the middle of one of those unexpected storms that hit Atlanta often during the summer months. The lightening would light the sky like fireworks and thunder would pound its way to and through your eardrums. One minute the sun was out and you’d feel a light sprinkle. Then in a split second dark clouds would gang up on the city and release its wrath.
David was a supervisor for the Department of Transportation. He was on-sight when a concrete barrier separating oncoming traffic from the worksite became a temporary grave. A rare mudslide caused trees to uproot and race a heap of mud to the highway surface. David, along with three other crew members, didn’t have any time to react. All four were swept away as their mangled bodies dipped in and out of mud while getting caught between the humungous tree trunks and the concrete barrier. David was the only casualty. He was twenty-nine.
If it weren’t for Marcus, Lena probably wouldn’t have had the strength to move on. David was the love of her life. Though her heart was hacked into tiny little fragments after his passing, she had indeed kept the promise they made to each other to always put family first. She took the settlement she received from the Department of Transportation along with an insurance policy she and David took out when Marcus was born and used them to build a new life for herself and her son.
Lena began by putting money aside for Marcus’ college education. She then went back to school and got a degree of her own. Lena majored in education, graduated magna cum laude, and was soon working for the Georgia Department of Education. By the time Marcus was in high school, Lena was a manager over the Education Program Specialist employees. She bought a house in one of the best school districts in suburban Atlanta and they lived a comfortable, yet routine life always making Marcus’ education a top priority.
But it wasn’t easy being widowed at such a young age. Especially having a little boy to raise. And Lena always made it perfectly clear that she was widowed – not a single mother in what has become the standard for far too many Black women. Lena had a strong Christian upbringing. She didn’t like being linked in the same category as someone who’d thought she was so in love with a brother that she’d have his bastard child without the benefit of matrimony.
Lena also endured the many sacrifices single mothers with young children needed to make. Choices such as who was allowed into her home, her bed, and her heart. She wasn’t about to parade a bunch of prospectives in front of her impressionable son like her heart was some sort of American Idol audition hall.
Fortunate for her, abstaining from serious relationships was a piece of cake – almost instinctive. She was a virgin when she met David and he was a bit of a nerd with very little sexual experience himself. They were a perfect fit. Unlike most married couples, they never explored each other’s bodies to the heights of their sexual peeks – it was always straight missionary-style. When David died, she had no memories of unadulterated lust and as such had no yearning for it.
For the longest, it was just her and Marcus and it was all good. Marcus relished the times they spent together. Trips to the zoo, library, museums…they shared a very special bond.
And Lena’s devotion to educating her son paid off. She had Marcus talking about Ivy League schools back in elementary. As a matter of fact, the only time Marcus ever got into trouble was when he once teased his fifth grade teacher because she graduated from a state college. But it was her own fault for telling her students she graduated from what she referred to as the prestigious Kennesaw State University. Lena felt guilty for having to punish her son for recognizing the difference between mediocre and supreme.
He was often called a momma’s boy, but he didn’t care. He knew nobody loved him like his momma – to hell with all the haters.
Marcus, Gerald and Slink were still watching rap videos in Gerald’s room. Marcus looked out the window and saw his momma’s car in their driveway. He knew it wouldn’t be long before dinner was ready, but before heading home he stayed to watch a few more videos with the fellas. He had no choice. The station was airing a two-hour tribute to Biggie and Tupac. You’d have to drag Marcus and Gerald away from that at gun point.
But after a while, Marcus went home. He went in through the kitchen door. He and Lena went into their nightly round of twenty questions. “Why were so many windows open when I got home? Did you clean your bathroom like I told you to? Let me see your homework, is it all done? You didn’t spoil your appetite with a bunch of junk food did you?” And as usual, “How’s my handsome boy doing? Did you have a good day son?”
Marcus washed his hands in the kitchen sink and snatched two sheets off the paper towel dispenser to dry them. He then used his right hand to smooth Lena’s graying hair back off of her forehead and leaned in to kiss her there. He answered every question without skipping a beat as he sat down at the dinner table while Lena served him dinner – smothered pork chops and creamy mashed potatoes. She then prepared her plate and sat across from him.
“So which one of them little girls are you taking to the junior prom?” Lena asked with sincere enthusiasm as she elegantly unfolded the cloth napkin and gently placed it in her lap.
Marcus cleared his throat because he knew his answer wasn’t what Lena wanted to hear, “Kesha Thomas.”
“Kesha Thomas! You’re not talking about that little girl who thought Nelson Mandela was a reggae legend?”
“Momma, it’s just a dance. We ain’t gettin’ married.”
Lena put her fork down on the plate, assertively folded her hands and leaned into the table looking him straight in the eyes, “What did I just hear my son say to me?”
Marcus, playfully imitating his momma, leaned into the table and slowly annunciates in a British accent, “I said it is just a dance. We are not going to be married.”
Though she’d usually nut up when Marcus spoke poor English, Lena was slightly amused and grins, “That’s better.” The two continued to enjoy their meal.
Marcus was handsome, smart, and funny, but he was the kind of young man who didn’t have a pretentious bone his body. He was exactly the same with whoever and whatever. Slink was the only person who managed to alter his personality whenever he was around even though when they first met his instincts told him Slink wasn’t to be trusted. But then Slink started to get closer to Gerald. Marcus didn’t want to be left out so he pretty much went with the program.
Marcus and Gerald had too much of a history. Also, they both had only one more year before their paths would part. It was impossible to predict whether their friendship would withstand their individual goals so it was fitting they share the most significant year up until then, their senior year of high school, together.
The two had known each other since the sixth grade. Marcus moved on the block first and Gerald came along about a year later. Marcus was glad because not only was Gerald an only child like him, but Gerald’s mom wasn’t as strict as Lena. When they played at Gerald’s house just about anything went. Lena didn’t stand for that foolishness. She didn’t like little fingerprints all over her walls or a bunch of dirt tracked into her tastefully decorated home.
Nonetheless, Marcus and Gerald were pretty tight. It seemed like their friendship would last forever. Like that of Vietnam buddies who shared the same trials and tribulations throughout the friendship regardless of the separate dreams that no doubt would challenge their loyalty to one another.
It was the beginning of their junior year of high school when the relationship began to change. They grew a bit distant. It wasn’t because of any specific incident. It was just they were becoming two talented men with two very different roads they each had no choice but to travel alone.
Since Marcus was a preteen he loved reading Lena’s Jet Magazine every week. He paid special attention to the black businessmen they would feature. Earl Graves this, Bob Johnson that. Marcus couldn’t get enough of it.
He dreamed one day he would be featured in a business magazine sporting a tailor-made suit posing in his huge office that overlooked the Atlanta skyline. And of course it would be filled with furniture recommended by only the finest interior designers. He pictured having his personal chef serve him dinner while he sat in the breeze on the balcony of his mansion hidden in the rich acreage of Buckhead.
Marcus planned on making serious bank. But first, he wanted to experience Wall Street and learn how the real players exploited the American dream. As such, his university of choice was Columbia University in New York City, New York. Marcus couldn’t wait. Not a day went by when he didn’t keep his eye on the prize.