Unfair Discrimination — a legal thriller by Mark Shaiken

The next book in my 3J legal thriller series is Unfair Discrimination and will be out shortly. In it, we learn more about the heroin, Josephina Jillian Jones — 3J to her friends.

The storyline goes like this: A committee of creditors hires 3J, one of whom is the leader of a White Nationalist organization on the government’s domestic terrorist list. When the member realizes he will not get paid back everything he is owed, he blames 3J, a black attorney, and opposing counsel, a Jewish attorney. How far will the hater go to get paid back and what steps will he take to do so in the name of White Nationalism?

Watch the book trailer: https://youtu.be/TK0yh8f3eAE

And, here is an excerpt from the book, a flashback to 3J’s teenage years in New Orleans. Enjoy.

A thirteen-year-old girl and her father sat on the front porch of his small, one-story, clapboard house he rented in the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans. Originally from the Lower Ninth Ward, her father had moved to Tremé when her parents divorced. Since the divorce, the girl and her sister split time between the Lower Ninth and Tremé. The house was blocks from the Louis Armstrong Park and sat on land originally part of a plantation serviced by New Orleans slaves and later developed into the oldest Black neighborhood in New Orleans and perhaps in America.

After the divorce, her mother and father took divergent paths as they tried to carve out new lives as single adults splitting the tasks of raising two kids. Her mother turned to the church for guidance and comfort. Her father turned away. Life lessons the girl received from her parents often conflicted because of their differing points of view.

The girl was lanky, although she was not uncomfortable in her own skin like other teenagers. She was attractive but quickly moving from attractive to striking: hazel eyes, clear skin, high cheekbones. She had an athletic build that she put to good use running track and playing soccer as a high school freshman. She was also intelligent and willing to study. She stayed out of trouble, as much as a teenager could in New Orleans, and she was quiet and thoughtful when she spoke.

Her father looked tired. Very tired. He started his shift at the factory at four in the morning and volunteered for extra hours when workers called in sick. He’d worked twelve hours that day in the heat and humidity of the New Orleans late spring. Later in the afternoon, a series of thunderstorms rolled through the city. But rather than cooling it down, the rain just provided more moisture — fuel for the humidity that was the Deep South’s calling card. If the girl and her father didn’t move too fast or too much, they could feel the heat leaving the city as the day moved to night.

Her father was proud of her and hoped she might ride the education and athletics train out of New Orleans. “Don’t get mad, get smart,” he’d said on many occasions, encouraging her to go to college somewhere other than in New Orleans.

Next door, someone played a saxophone, and the sound of a trumpet drifted toward them from across the street and down the block. Kids practicing, most likely, learning New Orleans style jazz born from military marches, voodoo rhythm, and drums. It was rhythm and delta blues married up with gospel hymns, offering the listener its distinctive improvisation, syncopation, altered scale notes, interaction between the musicians, and that feeling — the musical version of a traditional dish of New Orleans gumbo.

Kids were learning an instrument to honor their rich history, and for the truly gifted, it might be a chance to chase the music dream. Another way out. Neither the girl nor her father played, but they listened and appreciated. He made sure the girl got a healthy dose of jazz. He wanted to make sure she took that feeling with her no matter how far she traveled from the Crescent City — and from him.

Sitting on the left side of the top step, he sipped slowly from a Dixie Beer longneck while she sat opposite him drinking a sweet tea. Sweat ran down both his bottle and her glass.

She looked over to her father and smiled. “Hard day, Papa?”

“Aren’t they all?” He paused for a moment. “Well, not too hard. You’re here, and I’m here with you. That’s all that matters to me right now.”

There was a comfortable silence between them for a time.

“What’s your sister up to?” he finally asked.

“Stayed late to practice her part in the school play.”

“Have you heard her practice her lines?”

“Yep.”

“She good?”

“Yep.”

“And Momma? How’s Momma doing these days?”

“She’s good. She works, she prays, she helps out at the church, she cooks, she cleans, she loves us. And then she does it all over again.” She paused and then asked, “You like it here, Papa?”

“Well, Sha, it ain’t no Faubourg, but it’ll do.”

After a few moments, he turned the conversation away from himself and asked, “How was school today?”

“Not real great.” It had been a hard day at school for the girl because of taunting and bullying. Teenagers could be cruel, and that behavior existed long before the internet and social media.

“So what made today such a not real great day at school?”

“I guess it wasn’t that bad. But I was on the track after school running for the coach, and some of the boys came by to watch the girls’ track team . . . and I guess mostly me. They were hooting and hollering, and it was embarrassing. I expected the coach to do something or say something. Y’know. shoo ’em away. But all he did was blow the whistle around his neck and yell at me to get my head back in the game. He must’ve thought I was flirting. But I wasn’t, Papa. I wanted the boys to go away, not stay and ogle.”

“I see,” her father said softly nodding his head in understanding of the problem. He knew why a group of teenage boys would hoot and holler when they saw his daughter in athletic shorts. “So you wanted the coach to take care of the problem for you, eh?”

“Well . . . yes. He’s the coach.”

He smiled. “Jo, let me tell you a little story, just between you and me. Your momma wouldn’t approve of this at all, but she’s heard me tell it before, and now I’m gonna tell you.”

Jo was what her father called her, short for Josephina. Josephina Jillian Jones. Quite a mouthful of a name. She once asked her momma how her parents ever came up with the name, and her momma told her that they liked the name Jillian. Josephina was the name of a favorite aunt on her father’s side of the family. Jones was her Papa’s name. “And voilà, as they say in France and here in New Orleans, your name appeared like magic,” her momma explained.

Only her papa called her Jo. A few years earlier, she had told her sister that she was looking for a nickname. Her sister came up with 3J. She liked that nickname almost as much as Jo.

Out there, she was 3J. On her papa’s Tremé porch, she was Jo.

As her father began to explain his story, Jo listened carefully. She liked her father’s parables. They usually gave her something to think about and remember. Something to carry with her through life. She hoped she’d never forget what he told her.

“You know the Bible story in the book of Genesis where God created heaven and earth in six days and then rested on the seventh?”

“Yes, Papa.”

“God created heaven and earth, and light, and then near the end of that week of work, you remember that God created man in his image?”

“Yes, Papa.”

“Well, Jo, that ain’t how it went down at all.”

Jo raised her eyebrows but said nothing.

“Least, that’s not how I think it went down. I can’t speak to the science of the creation of heaven and earth and light and the universe, but I can tell you that the Genesis story is missing something.”

“What’s that, Papa?”

“Well, where God came from.”

“Momma says that God didn’t come from anywhere. God is just God.”

“Yeah, the minister says that in Bible class. I’ve certainly heard Momma say it too. I respect that view. I truly do. But it’s not my view.”

“And what do you think, Papa?”

“I think that man created God in man’s image. It helped people cope with the things that people should never have to cope with. It helped people explain the things they can never explain. It gave them comfort when they couldn’t find comfort.”

He paused while Jo absorbed what he said.

“Me? I think we’re all on our own. We need to take care of ourselves and our families. We need to solve our own problems. We need to forge our own path.”

Jo listened quietly as her father finished and took another sip of his Dixie Beer.

“I think the folks who created God in their own image figured out real quick that they may have overstepped. So they came up with the slogan ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ But I don’t think that worked. It was too little, too late. People still leaned on God too much to solve all their problems. Only God didn’t.”

“So you think I need to take care of those boys myself and not expect the coach to do anything?”

“I’m just saying, Jo, if it’s a problem — if it’s your problem — then it’s yours to own and solve. Whether that’s fair or not. Whether you caused the problem or not. It’s yours. If you need help to solve it, you get guidance from your family. God ain’t gonna help and Coach shouldn’t have to help.”

Jo thought about the lesson silently. Silence was a good thing. With Jo, it meant she was thinking and processing. One of the things her father loved about Jo was her willingness to listen and absorb the lessons life had to offer. He smiled to himself.

“Okay, Papa. F’true. I understand.”

“Great,” her father said as he patted Jo on the knee and stood up. “Now, come on in and let’s eat some dinner. I made some groceries today. Got us some of my famous red beans and rice on the stove, about ready to plate. Grandma’s old recipe. The best.”

“And French bread?”

“Leidenheimer’s, Jo.”

Jo smiled broadly. “I’ll set the table for us, Papa.”

“Thanks, Sha. Throw Harry Connick, Jr.’s and Dr. John’s 20 disc on the CD player, will ya’? We can hear a little of the boys singing some standards while we eat and talk if that’s okay.”

It was always okay.

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Mark is the Denver author of the 3J legal thriller series. He is working on the fourth in the series entitled “Cram Down.” http://markshaikenauthor.com

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Mark Shaiken

Mark is the Denver author of the 3J legal thriller series. He is working on the fourth in the series entitled “Cram Down.” http://markshaikenauthor.com