PRINT ISBN-10: 0-9980767-7-5
PRINT ISBN-13: 978-0-9980767-7-5
EBOOK ISBN-10: 0-9977379-3-X
EBOOK ISBN-13: 978-0-9977379-3-6
Voodoo Dawgz by Jess Mowry: all rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work by any means except short excerpts for use in reviews. The Kindle edition, to date, is the only legally authorized ebook or web-accessible edition of this work. If you find this book being offered anywhere else, either as a download or to be read online, it is there without the author's permission and in violation of copyright law.
Evil always lingers in a land where men have enslaved other men. Such evil is found by Kodi Carver, a fourteen-year-old African-American boy from Cleveland, Ohio who spends his summers in the Old French Quarter of New Orleans. There, with the help of Raney Douglas, his alligator-wrestling, bayou cousin, he assists his magical Aunt Simone with Voodoo ceremonies for tourists in the courtyard of his aunt's haunted house. By day, Kodi and Raney roam the steamy streets of the Quarter, where other kids sell Voodoo charms and vampire teeth, or dance and sweat for money. By night, Kodi and Raney become Voodoo-boys in loincloths and bones.
The audience thinks it's all showtime, though much of the magic is on the real. Kodi himself is his aunt's apprentice, though he often doesn't do his homework or carefully study his Voodoo lessons, which sometimes gets him in trouble. He once called up a zombie with very nasty results!
On the earthly level, Kodi's father believes that his son is safer in New Orleans than the violent neighborhoods of Cleveland. Ironically, Kodi is almost gunned-down on his aunt's doorstep by an eight-year-old banger named Newton, who was sent out to kill to prove himself worthy of membership in a gang called The Skeleton Crew. Kodi and Raney capture the little hitman and eventually discover that the real power behind the Skeleton Crew is the hateful ghost of a slave-trader whose bones lie in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
In order to save the gang members from self-destruction, death -- or worse -- and free them from their long-dead master, Kodi and his own gang of Voodoo Dawgz, including a young street dancer, a girl who sells ice-cream, and a pale, mysterious Vampire-boy, must fight the ghost on his own turf... the storm-lashed midnight graveyard.
Copyright © 2010 - 2016 Jess Mowry
The little kid sneezed when he pulled the trigger.
That was his only big mistake because everything else was a perfect setup for putting Kodi underground.
But, Kodi had noticed four other boys hanging out across the street, their backs to a wall in the blazing sun. That wasn’t normal in New Orleans, and Kodi’s brain had buzzed a warning that something was wrong with that picture. The oldest boy looked about fourteen, while the youngest was maybe twelve. There hadn’t been much to catch Kodi’s eye; they looked like most of the many street kids who cruised the French Quarter night and day selling vampire teeth or Voodoo dolls, magic charms -- or often their own -- or tap-dancing for tourists. All wore only jeans and sneaks, their shirtless bodies gleaming with sweat like polished African idols. But, Ursulines Avenue wasn’t a place where things like that were usually sold, and kids with nothing else to do mostly hung out in front of bars or little corner markets. These dudes weren't toting dancing shoes, but all wore black bandannas. Kodi’s mind was lazy from a monster Cajun lunch, but had come alert as he'd entered the alley, stepping from sunlight into shadow, though his eyes still hadn't adjusted and he hadn't spotted the kid.
But then the little boy sneezed.
Kodi dodged instinctively. The gun’s muzzle-blast could have wakened the dead in the narrow confines of the alley, spitting yellow-orange flame in the dimness. Kodi slammed into his cousin Raney, who walked a pace behind him, but the bullet ripped through Kodi’s arm instead of drilling his heart.
The other boys dashed away up the street, awkward in their ass-baring saggers and leaving the little hit-man alone, though Kodi still couldn't see him clearly, except he was also shirtless in jeans. The courtyard gate was locked behind him -- iron barred with spikes on top -- and the alley was only four feet wide, so Kodi and Raney were blocking escape. The big gun's kick had surprised the kid, especially since he'd held the piece in that showtime sideways gangstuh grip he'd probably seen in movies and which almost guaranteed a miss at anything more than ten feet away. Kodi focused on his face, which looked more confused than anything else since Kodi hadn't bit the dust. Then the kid stared at Raney, who definitely wasn’t the kind of dude you got to target twice.
Raney didn't know much about gang-banger games, but he must have known he couldn't run or the kid would get a free shot at his back. To Kodi that was obvious: he charged the wide-eyed little boy before he could yank the trigger again. Raney followed close behind, roaring like an alligator.
This overloaded the little boy’s brain... people usually ran away from small black kids with big nasty guns. He dropped the steel and spun around, trying to make a bust for the gate. That wouldn't have done him any good -- even if he'd cleared the spikes he would have been trapped in the courtyard -- and though he grabbed the gate's top bar he couldn't seem to pull himself up despite his frantic struggles. His baggy jeans tumbled around his ankles, comically baring his cocoa-brown butt since he wasn't wearing shorts. Kodi grabbed his shoulder, yanked him down and spun him around.
The kid was maybe eight-years-old, with a chubby chest and baby-fat arms but an awesomely enormous belly that hung midway to his knees... which explained why he hadn't been able to climb. He had to lean backward to balance its bulk, which wobbled like an earthquake in Jell-O, and though he tried to punch Kodi's face, his belly swung like a pendulum, pulling him sideways and making him miss. He was slick as a seal with smelly sweat, and Kodi lost his grip, but Raney grabbed him around the neck and slammed him against the rough brick wall.
Like Kodi, Raney was only thirteen but made of solid muscle. His chest jutted out like a pair of bricks, his biceps bulged like paving stones, and his belly was armored by ripples of bronze. He wasn't any taller than Kodi, but fighting him would have been a mistake for anything but a bulldozer. Even the little kid wasn't that stupid and went as limp as laundry. He suddenly burst into buckets of tears as Kodi snatched the smoking gun, an ancient army .45, and jammed it to his forehead in a grip that wouldn’t miss.
"The hell is this shit?" Kodi yelled.
"Yeah!" bawled Raney, clutching the kid by his throat. The boy's face was shadowed by a wild bush of hair partly tamed by a black bandanna -- the same as the other boys had worn -- which probably explained the shit.
Raney glanced at Kodi. "You all right, cousin?"
Kodi was a chubby boy of the rolly-poly persuasion, sooty black with bobby breasts, their nipples inverted like soft little smiles, and a belly far overlapping his jeans like a cheerfully lolling puppy tongue, its navel a funnel-shaped cave into night… though it couldn't compare to the little kid’s, which looked like a semi-separate appendage. Kodi’s face was pear-shaped and chipmunk-cheeked, with a small second chin, a wide snubby nose, and obsidian anime eyes beneath a bushy cap of curls. He checked his arm: it was leaking blood but didn't hurt much and seemed to be working okay. The bullet had missed his biceps muscle, cutting clean through its padding of fat. "I guess so," he puffed, shaking sweat from his hair.
The little kid could barely breathe. His black-coffee eyes rolled back in his head as Raney’s fingers throttled his throat. He managed to make a death-rattle sound.
"Easy, cousin," said Kodi. "We don't wanna put him in a coffin.” He shifted the gun between the kid's eyes. "Yet, anyway."
"Please!" rasped the kid, fighting for air. "Don't hurt me, man!"
"Hurt you!” roared Raney. "You try an' kill my cousin, you dirty little weasel!"
"I had to!" gurgled the kid.
"The hell you sayin’?" Kodi demanded, jamming the gun muzzle tighter.
"Hold up, cousin," said Raney, turning his head to scan around. "We can't stay here an' figure this out. Somebody might of heard the shot an' maybe called the cops."
Kodi nodded, trying to think. On a sultry day in early June this part of the Quarter was silent as death. There was only the hum of air-conditioners in upper floor windows along the street. His arm was beginning to pulse with pain, and blood was still leaking out.
Raney, like Kodi, wore jeans and sneaks, and nothing else but skin. His face, like his body, seemed forged of bronze, with a solid square jaw and high cheekbones, yet he seldom wore a hard expression. He scanned the shadowy alley again, which led to the little courtyard. The liquid music of trickling water echoed between the ancient brick walls. Then he faced the sunlit street. "Y'all think his friends be comin' back?"
"Probably not," said Kodi. "If they'd been packin', we’d both be ghosts."
Raney snorted. "I hate this city-ass shit, man! Guns an’ gangs an’ thugger crap!” He considered the gasping kid, then turned to Kodi again. “So, what we gonna do with him? Feed him to my 'gator?"
"No!" cried the kid.
"Shut up!" bawled Kodi, surprised by a sudden flame of rage despite the fact this kid had shot him. He was starting to feel sort of dizzy. He glanced down at the cobblestones but there wasn’t a lot of blood. Maybe it was the smothering heat, especially here in the alley, which felt like an oven tomb. He wiped more sweat from his eyes.
"Aunt Simone won't be back till dark. Guess we better take him inside." He met the kid's eyes along the gun barrel. "You fuck with me an' it’s dirt-nap time! You hearin' me, you... damn little nigger?"
"Yeah," gasped the kid, trying to nod, which wasn't the easiest thing to do with Raney wringing his neck.
Kodi gave the gun to Raney, then dug a big brass key from a pocket to unlock the rusty wrought-iron gate, pushing it open on hinges that creaked like horror movie sound-effects. His jeans rode way below his hips beneath his lolling belly, and he yanked them up an inch or two while stepping aside for Raney.
Raney gave the kid a shove, and Kodi added a kick to his butt. "Get movin', shithead!"
The kid, his jeans still around his ankles, and leaning way back to balance himself, seemed to be following his belly, which wobbled and wallowed upon his bare thighs as he duck-footed over the paving stones in a waddling, bent-kneed, sway-backed gait, his arms hanging down behind him.
Like many French Quarter houses, the one belonging to Kodi's aunt was a gauntly narrow two stories tall. It showed its shuttered backside to the street, while its real front faced the quiet courtyard, a forest of ferns and steamy foliage. A mossy fountain was brimming with lilies of the funeral variety, and a fat bronze cherub with a vase on his shoulder eternally filled it with water. There was a wooden table and chairs, and a fire pit circled by blackened bricks where Voodoo rites were held.
The gate clanked shut behind Raney's back with a death-row kind of sound. Kodi yanked open a rusty screen door and shoved the kid into a dark little foyer below a steep narrow staircase. The ancient house smelled musty and damp, of rotten old wood and crumbling brick. The little kid was sobbing again, and the black bandanna slipped over one eye. He started to pull up his jeans, but Kodi grabbed his hair. "Leave 'em down so you can't try an' kick us."
"How I get up them stairs?" the kid sniffled.
Kodi gave him another shove. "Crawl, shithead! Like a coffin worm! You just might need the practice!”
END OF EXCERPT