Summer of 1993 in Atlanta
The banging on the front door startled me as Janice Brown stood up to look out the window of her mama’s bedroom.
“I know you in there Janice! Open the fucking door!”
She could hear the rage coming from Frank as she looked back at her young daughter who sat on the edge of the bed, dark brown eyes and thick head of hair sprawled about. Sammy looked every bit like her teenage mother and thankfully, nothing like her irate father.
“YOU FINNA MAKE ME RUN UP IN HERE! I TOLD YOU NOT TO FUCK WITH ME!” Frank screamed. “I TOLD YOU! I WARNED YOU!”
“Mommy?” Sammy whimpered. Janice quickly put her hand over Samantha’s mouth before gathering her up in her arms and rushing to the closet stuffed with shoes, dresses and pants suits her mother wore for church every Sunday.
“Don’t open this door, don’t make a sound, don’t open your eyes until I say it's okay, you hear me?” Janice warned as her daughter nodded. She could see the tears budding in the lower part of her eyes as Janice closed the door shut. “Not a word Sammy.”
“Mmmkay,” her daughter quipped.
Just then, the sound of glass breaking from the back kitchen caused Janice to run out of the bedroom and directly into the massive chest of Lucas Godfrey. High yellow pale skin with dark brown hair. Brown eyes that were shot to shit and a grip on her arm that made her holler out in protest.
This was her baby’s father's brother. Frank and Lucas Godfrey. The most notorious, most violent men known to this neighborhood, maybe even the country and somehow, she found herself caught in love with one of them. They were the pretty boys every girl in school wanted to be with, and every nigga wanted to collect money with. No matter where they went, you knew they meant business, and they meant trouble.
Frank stormed through the busted back door, knocking plates and glasses down on the floor as Lucas shoved Janice to the floor. He stood over her while she kicked and screamed, keeping the hallway blocked because she knew what Frank was after. Their daughter. The painful evidence that he slept with Janice who was a few years too young for him. One look towards the bedroom in a desperate attempt to make sure her daughter didn’t come out, and he knew. He stepped over her as she began to kick and scream at Lucas. She clawed her away across the carpet, screaming for Frank to leave their daughter alone just as the bedroom door cracked open. There stood the little toddler peeking through the door with tears as Frank clicked the safety off his gun.
Everything happened in a split second from the sound of someone screaming her name from outside, asking if I needed help to, Lucas shouting out to his brother. Janice managed to get up and charge Frank who aimed the gun towards their daughter as her body jerked forward. Hot pain from the burner pierced through her chest and out of her back as the very last thing she saw was her daughter’s eyes. She had her small hands covering her ears, horrified as she looked up at her father with the gun aimed directly at her mother.
The carpet beneath Janice’s face slowly began to fade as their footsteps brushed past her, almost knocking into her body in panic before they ran out the back door of the house.
Long story less long, the two brothers were never charged. Neighbors in the area kept hush, fearing the same fate, even the one that knocked on the door who suddenly scrammed at the sound of a gunshot. Police weren’t called until the mother, Cynthia Brown showed up with her only child laying in a pool of her own blood, forever staining the carpet.
The daughter was the only witness to her mother’s death and she remembered nothing. She didn’t remember the man who aimed the gun at her mother nor that he was her father.
The Grandmother of course knew. Cynthia made it known that she knew it was Frank Godfrey that killed her daughter but the more she talked, the more she put her only granddaughter in danger until a second attempt was made on the child’s life. Enough fear was put into Cynthia to make her decide it was time to get up out the hoods of Southwest Atlanta, and into the suburbs of Alpharetta. Trust no one, not even the sorry ass police that did nothing. There was never any evidence of the Godfrey brothers ever being in the house, not that police searched anyway. More than likely, they were on payroll with the Godfreys.
Trust no one and watch everybody, Samantha Brown,” Cynthia would say to her granddaughter.
It was an unspoken rule to never speak of Janice again and when asked how she died, the daughter was told and believed it to be a fatal car accident. Who would want to remember something so heinous?
With the past forgotten, Frank Godfrey went on to have two other daughters and became one of the most well known business men in the entertainment and music industry. The record label Mood Music Mafia was the biggest label in the south and Godfrey brothers became one of the wealthiest men in the country. They were considered Atlanta’s royalty. It was easy with murder swept underneath the streets and corners of the hoods. Your only witness having no memory, and an endless amount of money and bribery to feed the greedy police.
As far as that said daughter that was tucked away in the closet with a blocked memory, she grew up to be something serious. More like dope as hell…
This is the story of how I, Samantha Brown, first born to Frank Joseph Godfrey, and the only witness to my mother’s murder, eventually became the daughter of Atlanta. Unknowingly taking the city over by storm, and turning it completely upside down.
It all started when I accidentally found out who my father was. It happened on a night where one of the biggest parties was going down, and just by chance, I met my youngest sister, Lyric Godfrey.
Chapter 1. Alice in Wonderland.
“Are you sure this is going to work Taina?” I whispered from the side. Tugging at my off the shoulder red dress and heels, I gripped a clump of my thick afro to push up to get myself together. I was forced not to wear my glasses but lost my only set of contacts so every step I take felt like a challenge for the blind and helpless.
“It works like a charm, every time,” Taina said with a pop of her gum. Now Taina Morales was built for this.
She and I, been best friends since high school, and although she wasn’t much to look at back then, with her newly reconstructed body, jet black Mayan roots hair, her spanish flare and thick pouty lips, she knew she could get her foot into any door with a simple look and a papi.
“I’m telling yall, they won’t let me in because I’m a man, simple as that,” Nori said as he closed the car door behind him. He stood towering over the small Nissan, adjusting his dress shirt and flexing his wrist with the watch as I nodded in approval. Nori Hillston was an ex college pro athlete, top of his class, epitome of a fine black, well kept man. The trimmed beard that hugged his face, perfect brown complexion, sitting between dark and light and a row of pretty teeth that made women smile. He was just incredibility gay as well, but he knew how to switch when needed. Most men knew not to step to him because of his size but as soon as he opened his mouth, it was a fluff and sweetness which was the best part of his personality.
“You look fine. They’ll let you in if you’re with a couple of girls, just watch,” Taina assured us as we stood on the edge of the busy street. Downtown Atlanta was buzzing tonight with the music from the club just across the way, we could see the row of fancy cars, flashes from the camera and crowds standing around for one of the biggest parties of the summer, and the summer was just beginning!
“I’m just too old to be sneaking into some damn club, but this is what you wanted. Your birthday,” I sighed. All priorities just went out the window. I was on the verge of losing my job and could barely pay my bills on time to keep my studio apartment. Last thing I wanted to do was to sneak into a club full of Atlanta’s supposed finest.
“We won’t be sneaking in, just watch and follow me,” she said. Taina gripped her long hair and pulled it down her chest as she began to cross the intersection. I tipped in my heels, following behind her, trying not to wince at the pain.
God, I hated heels even at my big age of 29 but here I am, clicking across the busy street in a too tight dress, sucking in my stomach so it didn’t stick out further than my backside.
“Mamacita in the front!” someone yelled. “You know you working that dress, baby! You beautiful, Queen!” The headlights began to flash for Taina who secretly thrived off black attention despite not being black as she waved and swayed her hips even further.
“I’m telling you guys, I can feel it tonight. We're going to have a life changing night,” she said. “That was our sign!”
“Yeah, I bet it was,” I murmured, looking back at Nori with a roll of my eyes. He covered his mouth in hushed laughter as we crossed over to the sidewalk and made our way down to the packed parking lot.
“My friend said she made it in just before the big security came out so we may still have a chance,” Taina said. She hurried down the hilly parking as Nori immediately took my hand to help me down until we were surrounded by the influencers of our time. Girls who had hair glued to their scalp, not a single baby hair out of place to suspect Hermes bags of all size shapes and colors. Bodysuits, jewelry, heels and even the men had phones in their face as they showed off their diamond pieces and grills. Taina was already turning heads as she surveyed the crowd, looking down at everyone like this was her party but I could see the line that wrapped around the brick building. I could see the hopefuls and men standing against the wall anxiously waiting.
“Chile, what happened to laying in the bed, watching Netflix with a bottle and some wings?” Nori whispered as I quietly shoved him in the arm with a laugh.
“This is her birthday, let her choose how she wants to spend it. Either way, I’m getting drunk as planned.”
“Ya feel me?” he said as we tickled our fingers together in agreement.
“Everybody move out the way! Move out the fucking way!”
I never understood the black hip hop fame in Atlanta until that night when I watched one of the biggest rap stars step out of the car. Young Royal had dreads halfway down his back with silver and gold rings on each finger. A large chain in the shape of a crown and was covering his face with double styrofoam cups in his hand. He reached back to take the hand of a pretty light skinned girl with hazel eyes, wearing next to nothing. She had jet black hair slicked back with swirls for edges, processed lips and body, she smiled as the cameras were immediately stuck in her face for exposure.
She was Krystal Godfrey. I remember Taina putting me on to her page recently and following her rich lifestyle. She’s been born privileged from the start, her and her sister, Lyric. To see the couple walking, I even found myself pulling out my phone to record.
“I can’t believe I’m actually falling for this!” I laughed over the loud crowd as everyone clamored to get a good shot of the celebrities. It was almost to the point where I was being shoved and my phone almost slipped out of my hand until Nori held on to my arm for balance.
The entire musical family was known and it was apparent when their father, Frank Godfrey stepped out with his people, cool as can be and aging like fine wine. He had his shades on, fresh cut with dark curls low to his scalp. He could easily pass for a brother to his own daughters. He took the hand of his long time wife Nina Godfrey, mother of their two daughters. Identical to her daughters in every way from the complexion, the light brown eyes, to the sculpted bodies and face. He, and the rest of his pushed past the crowds with everyone fighting to get a glimpse at the music royals. Only one missing was the youngest, Lyric Godfrey.
“Yall make sure yall go download that album and stream it tonight! Mood Music Mafia for Life! Issa a movie out’chea!” Frank yelled out before being ushered into the building.
“We gotta go in, now!” Taina yelled. “Now! Come on before they close the door!”
The sudden crowd began to squeeze at the entrance of the door as Taina made her way to the front with her hand gripping my arm to keep me close. Nori was able to push his way through with no problem but just as we felt the heat of the packed club blowing back at us from weed, to alcohol, we were blocked by bodies all fighting at once to get in to the point where it was becoming aggressive.
“I’m too old for this!” I screamed, elbowing someone who had a grip of my dress while I felt another press down on my foot. Taina managed to slip through, almost dragging me through the doorway until a big bodied man stood in front of us, blocking the entrance with his chest alone.
“Aye! Everybody get the fuck back! We’re already filled to capacity! If you ain’t in here, you just ain’t in here!” he yelled before looking down at me and my arm connected to Taina. “I said move!”
“You don’t have to yell! I’m right here!” I bucked, standing toe to toe with him. I couldn’t see how he looked behind the shades, but the grizzly beard and stench of alcohol on his breath combined with the typical Macys fragrance was more than enough for me to curl my nose.
“My friend is already inside! She’s literally trying to pull me inside with her! She was invited!”
“I don’t give a fuc–––”
“She’s right there!” I argued, hoping to cause a big enough scene to just to be let in.
“I said I don’t care! MOVE!”
“What you’re not gonna do is disrespect me!” I snapped. “You’re nothing but some wanna be bodyguard, lemme guess? Just got out of prison? You were just on the streets? Somebody gave you this job? Hmmm?” I pestered, peering my eyes at him. “Your sole purpose in life is to protect another man, look at you!” I spat angrily as I looked him up and down, “how sad! How sad and lonely you must be to wake up and your life is centered around another grown ass man!”
I felt Taina’s hand let me go as I looked over his shoulder in panic, screaming out for her.
“Taina?! Are you serious!? Are you for real?!”
“Aye, yall come on, we need a few more girls in here,” the guard suddenly said as he stepped aside. I started to walk through when his arm side swiped me against the wall and pinned me back. Even Nori was allowed in as I watched the entire line of women enter the club until I was left standing alone in the parking lot by myself with cars and stragglers asking for change. As soon as I heard the crowd scream, I knew it was a concert going on with someone on the stage but the petty guard continued his stance as he crossed his arms over his chest and stared me down.
“That’s why your lips are blistering,” I snapped. “Chapped and cracked as fuck. Who you been sucking off, huh? Huh?”
He didn’t budge. The dark shades hid his eyes so I couldn’t read him for filth like in the movies but I had time. He started chewing on his gum, chomping down in front of me like a woman with an attitude as I groaned with a stomp of my heel.
“Damn it! Why won’t you let me in? It’s not safe for me to be out here by myself,” I suddenly pleaded.
He continued to chew on his gum as I backed up and looked up at the building, wondering if there were any windows.
“You won’t ever be allowed inside as long as I’m here,” he said through his chewing, “so forget about it.”
“And nobody asked you,” I retorted only to realize I just asked this man why he wouldn’t let me in. Nice one Sam. Even the look on his face through the shades knew that my retort was stupid. “Shouldn’t you be shining shoes? Bootlicker?”
“Nah, I’m too busy checking for birds at the door,” he clapped back as my mouth dropped.
“Birds?! Excuse me?!”
“Cah-cawh,” he let out with a dry tone before laughing. I ran up on him, thinking I could push my way through by shoving him but he just used his arm to side wipe me again against the wall, this time with my back hitting the corner of the door with a thud. “FOR THE LAST TIME, I SAID NO! Don’t get hurt fucking with me baby girl.”
“I’m not your baby girl, I’m a grown ass woman–––”
“That makes it even worse,” he huffed as he shifted his weight, letting me go as he stared me down again in the shades, “take yo ass home.”
My phone suddenly went off as I dug into my clutch to glance at the screen. Nori was telling me he was going to find a backdoor to let me through and to hold off. I smiled before shoving the phone back in my purse and began to pace in front of officer petty.
“I got all night,” he said.
“Me too,” I challenged with a shrug.
“Birds don’t sleep huh?”
“Not when bitch ass men are wide awake, they don’t,” I countered back as he laughed. “Your boss don’t need you?”
“I am the boss.”
“And you,” I cackled. “Believe that? Whew, the confidence. Shining another man’s shoes and calling yourself a boss. I mean, I guess,” I popped with a playful tone as I continued to pace back and forth in front of him. I knew he was watching my every move, I could just feel his eyes dragging from side to side while he worked on his gum.
“I tell you what,” he suggested, southern accent suddenly peaked through his words, “I can get you inside for an apology and something else.”
I stopped pacing as I stared at him, waiting for a further explanation.
“I can get you up close with Mood Mafia label, all the label heads, the rappers, the singers...everyone you can think of is inside and under my watch...I grew up with Frank Godfrey. He’s like a father figure to me. Whatever I say I want to happen, he’ll make it happen. He can make it happen. I can get you in with our section if you do something for me. This is how girls get put on. You got a talent? You can sing or dance? You model?”
“I work at Macys,” I replied dryly. “That’s my talent.”
“So you ain’t about shit, even better. You can make twice as much if you sign to the label, just do a lil something for me and I can get you in.”
“Aye, J?!” someone called out as he turned his head to look inside the club, “Frank needs you, now. They’re about to do a walk through.”
“J?” I questioned as he glanced at his phone for the time.
“Last chance before I close this door,” he said with a smile, “you can apologize to me in the back of my car or at the nearest hotel and the world is yours. I’m your way in for a better life. I’ll make it a night you won’t ever forget if you fuck with me.”
I smiled. Something in his statement told me he probably wasn’t lying but I didn’t care. I walked right up to him, looking directly into his eyes through the shades, seeing the marble balls staring right back at me.
“The bar must be set in hell if you think? I’m gonna stoop that low to sleep with you. I have standards, okay? I don’t care if you shit gold and piss winning lottery tickets, I’m not sleeping with the help just to get drunk for a night.”
He shrugged coolly.
“Aight, well take you and your standards the fuck on home then. Better luck next time,” he let out before the red and gold embroidered door slammed shut in my face.
The police sirens going off in the distance reminded me of just how alone I was outside as I pulled out my phone to see if Nori texted back, and so far nothing.
“Ughhh!” I groaned, looking up at the night sky. A single plane flew over with the blinking red and blue lights flashing on the wings. “Grandma, if you’re up there watching me make a fool of myself instead of getting my life together, you could throw me a lifeline or two…”
I continued to stare up as I slowly turned on my heels with my back facing the night life of the club. Closing my eyes, I tried to imagine what my grandmother would say. Only family I had left before she passed. She was all about spirits and connecting with your loved ones and ancestors.
You need to connect with your mother, Samantha Brown...She’s up there watching your every move and keeping a prayer over your head.
“If that’s the case, why am I literally the most unlucky woman in Atlanta,” I complained, opening one eye to peek at the sky, wishing my grandmother was here. “I’m on the verge of losing my job. I’m on the verge of losing my apartment. You had nobody but your daughter and she died, leaving just me and you...now you’re gone and I…” wiping a stray tear, “I don’t know what to do anymore… I just need a damn sign that something is about to–––”
I heard the music to the club suddenly burst into the air with the door slamming shut as I looked back seeing the same guard standing there with two bottles in his hand.
“You talk to yourself now?” he retorted, walking past me as I glared at him, “so you’re a crazy bird.”
“I hear Massa calling you to come back to the field!” I hollered after him. “Jackass.” I snatched my phone out of my clutch to look at the dry screen.
I ignored the big bodied jerk walking past me after coming back from one of the many black trucks parked as he let out a ball of spit too close for comfort near my heels.
“I heard it might rain,” he added over his shoulder, “you should sit up against the door and wait until your friends get out.”
I could hear him laughing all the way back into the club before the door closed behind him.
The moisture in the air was obvious. I could smell the rain sitting heavy in the clouds as I looked up again, hearing my grandmother’s words.
Ya mama is always watching. You may not know who she is or remember, but you will always be her daughter the way she will always be mine. Talk to her, Samantha.
“Talk to her Samantha,” I mocked in a nasty tone before closing my eyes, “Janice...Brown? Mom?”
I nearly choked on the foreign word, feeling animosity towards her altogether for leaving me at such a young age, but I inhaled deeply and tried to relax my spirit as Cynthia would say.
“I just need one night to get myself together...one night to get away from my worries in life...Some type of sign...if you’re up there hanging with Jesus, tell him I need some good luck in my life...Something has to change...Send me a sign that you’re even up there watching over me...All I ask…”
The faded ambulance in the background was enough for me to sigh as I looked down at my phone for the last time. It was time to hang it up and go home. I dug around for my keys in my clutch, ready to text the two people I thought were my friends, that I was leaving after some jerk wad of a night shift security guard wouldn’t let me in.
“That’s it,” I settled. Prayer my ass. I was ready to take these heels off and finish a bottle of wine sitting on my counter. I started walking towards the main street where cars were driving by until one black Infiniti came to a stop right in front of the curb. I thought nothing of it and kept moving until the car suddenly jerked forward and I heard a scream.
“What the hell…” I muttered. The Infiniti remained parked as I slowly walked towards the main street, ready to mind my business and walk around until I heard the scream again. The car seemed to be shifting from side to side on the tires until the back door suddenly flew open and a girl spilled out of the back seat in tears with her bottom half exposed.
“Oh my God!” I panicked, rushing in my heels towards the car. Not even thinking clearly, just knew I had to react.
“Somebody please!” the girl cried as I watched a dark hand grab the girl by the hair. I gripped the door all the way back and shoved my hands against the hooded man’s face while the girl crawled out of the car.
“Go! Go! JUST DRIVE BRO! DRIVE BEFORE HER DADDY COME OUT!”
“My bags! I want my bags!” the girl screamed, trying to reach back into the car. The stench of weed and alcohol was enough to make my nose curl as the car attempted to speed off with us still hanging on the side of it.
“BRO JUST GO!” someone yelled again as the girl dragged her bag out of the back seat while I slapped and mushed the face of the attacker before the car sped off with the door slamming shut. I watched the Infiniti rush into oncoming traffic with horns blowing before it swerved around the corner.
“He’s going to circle the block,” she said quickly, attempting to get up as I looked down at the ground. I thought my eyes were deceiving me when I realized who the raw makeup free young face was.
It was her. Lyric Godfrey was on the ground with a cut lip and bruised eye as she tried to stuff all her belongings in the bag before getting up. She was light skin like the rest of the family with curly black hair halfway down her back, but I could see the lace scalp and the tiny squares in the parting, the broken nails that looked more like chewed claws and when she turned to look up at me, her hazel contacts were parting slightly to the side before she blinked.
“Do you have a car?” she quickly asked.
She shot up with her Louis bag hugged close to her chest as she looked around.
“I can’t let anybody know I’m here. As far as they know, I’m at home staying out of the way,” she said. “We need a car. We need to get off the streets because he will circle back and shoot just to get my daddy’s attention.”
“I uh…” looking down at the keys in my hand, “I have a car–––”
She started to storm across the sidewalk to make it towards the crosswalk before looking back at me.
“Let’s go! We don’t have time to stand around!”