Young Men Die 

Detective Richardson stood in the front lobby of We Get You There cab company. The secretary, Mrs. Hanson, had offered him a chair, however, he preferred to stand rather than sit on the dirty seats. There was a large blackboard against the right wall with names of six cab drivers and their cab numbers. It appeared that only four of the drivers had checked in today. On the large brown oak desk was a picture of Mrs. Hanson and three children, two boys and a girl. Nice looking kids. Richardson flipped through his notebook, underlining a few notes with his pencil. His investigation of Booker T. had brought him to this place.

Booker T. was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Went to private schools, honor roll, basketball star, and ladies’ man. Graduated top ten of his high school class. Against his mother’s wishes, he joined the Army and ended up in Vietnam. Found out quickly that he was just another “darkie” in the Army to both the white and Black officers. Nobody cared about his mother being a prominent judge in hick town Columbus, Ohio. 

He was bunked up with young men from around the country. Some of them drafted and didn’t want to be there fighting the white man’s war against and for people who didn’t want them there either. Some of the soldiers, like him, volunteered to fight and serve their country. Thinking it would give them some type of high status when they returned to their normal secondhand citizen life. Wearing a uniform, with stars and stripes forever in medals pinned to their chests.

When signing up for the mission the recruitment officers never seemed to remember to tell them about the many soldiers who returned after their term was done, missing limbs, mentally ill or in a pine box covered with the American flag. Since they were young and strong, there was no fear of any harm to their bodies, let alone death. They thought the young live forever. They thought wrong.

Booker T. saw his best Army buddy, Forest, killed by a sniper's bullet. Forest was only eighteen years old. Booker T. was twenty and found out a valuable lesson. Young men die and don’t live forever. Booker T. came home from Vietnam a changed man. Addicted to smack. The white horse.

The judge let him live in her basement, which was really an efficient apartment, with several rules. One of which he was to only enter and leave the house through his own private entrance. After all, the judge might be entertaining, and how would it look if her son, who now wanted to be called “Smooth,” the name Forest gave him because he was a “smooth operator,” came in high during one of her many fancy cocktail hours with her political friends.

The judge had also cut Smooth off financially, saying she wasn’t going to support his drug addiction. Smooth had attempted to get clean three times but never made it past the first couple of weeks. He would either leave the treatment center voluntarily or be kicked out for having one of his many women bring him drugs during an unapproved visit.

Smooth felt he had no choice but to make his own money, his own way. Smooth wasn’t the type to try to pimp girls out on the street like so many of the so-called superfly brothers who wanted to be like Iceberg Slim. They had prostitutes walking the streets on East Main Street and Livingston Ave. They hung out at the McDonalds on East Main Street that was a block on two from at least three neighborhood churches. They would be lined up on different blocks all the way to High Street. After dark a decent Black woman couldn’t be on those streets at night for fear the cops would question them or their reputation might be ruined in the community.

No, Smooth was too smooth for that, so he pimped out girls another way. They boosted clothes and items for him, and he gave them fifty percent of the sales. He had six boosters and three of them were high school seniors. Smooth provided a place for them to store their goods, and he used the money to bail them out if needed from jail. They were to never steal more than four hundred dollars’ worth of merchandise so that they wouldn’t get felony charges. There had been one high schooler that didn’t follow the rules well. He blamed himself for that because if he hadn’t gotten bitten by the pretty young thing, he would have nipped that in the bud. But he made the mistake of having sex with her.

Then he found out that she was only fifteen years old, and the crap hit the fan when her mother found out. The judge, his mother, had to pay out some undercover money to get him out of that trouble. Since then, Smooth only looked at women over twenty-one, and stayed away from the high schoolers except for the boosting. Things were going pretty well and Smooth was able to meet his drug and personal needs with the money from that enterprise because he didn’t have to pay any rent or utility bills. His payment to his mother was to “just stay out of the court system, please.”

Smooth didn’t drive to drop off items to his customers. He felt it was safer to just catch a cab or ride from someone to the drop spot and have them drop him off. That way, it would be hard for anyone to set him up since they wouldn’t be able to follow him in his car, or see his car parked somewhere and try to jump him and take his stash and money. And he didn’t want to be identified by his car, which was a black and silver 1970 dodge charger. A gift from his mother who gave it to him when she thought he was going to go to college after graduation. 

He looked good in his ride, and the ladies thought so too. Smooth dressed well, was fine to look at, and drove a nice car. Thing was that most of the people on the street didn’t know that he was Judge Washington’s son. His mother kept him out of the limelight as a child. The private school he attended had many students whose parents were as important as his mother, so he didn’t stand out, except for the fact that he was one of the ten Black students that attended.

On the streets, he was just another brother. He liked it that way. After Vietnam, he didn’t think so highly of his status as a rich boy and didn’t respect the legal system or what it stood for, he had seen too many of his Black brothers and sisters treated with physical and verbal abuse from the pigs that roamed the near east side of town. His own mother had convicted some of his buddies from the hood for minor crimes, like stealing a car, or having a ten-cent bag of weed on them, getting ten to twenty years, at the age of twenty-one and younger. Anything to keep the Black man enslaved in America. His mother was part of that racist system. Smooth loved his mother. He just didn’t want to be like his mother.