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Deadly Discrimination: Chapter 15

IN THE September 4 ISSUE

FROM THE Lorie Lewis Ham,
andTerrific Tales
SECTIONS

by Lorie Lewis Ham
Lorie has been singing gospel music and writing since childhood. Her first song and poem were published when she was 13 and she has gone on to publish many articles, short stories and poems throughout the years as well as write for a local newspaper. Lorie continues to sing and her mystery novels are set here in the San Joaquin Valley, with five of the six featuring gospel singer Alexandra Walters.
Deadly Discrimination was originally published as a novel. The story takes place around a fictional version of the Reedley Fiesta and is being serialized here at Kings River Life Magazine in weekly installments. Be sure to start with Chapter 1!
CHAPTER 15
book cover of Deadly DiscriminationThe last football game I had been to was in high school, more years ago than I cared to think about. It was the Saints game where my dad bought me the cap. As a teenager, I played baseball and later discovered ice hockey—which was now my personal favorite. But this particular football game was yet another Kingsbury tradition just as important to the town as the Fiesta. Kensington and Kingsbury high schools weren’t in the same leagues, so they never played each other in the regular games. This was a special game they played every year on the weekend of the parade.
Stephen parked his car several blocks down the road from Kensington because parking was hard to find. As we strolled to the field, I kept my eyes and ears open. Townspeople of all ages were present, bundled up in sweaters and carrying little ice chests and seat cushions. I took a deep breath, but didn’t smell any hint of cloves.
KKNG was present for the day’s festivities, broadcasting the game on the air. This reminded me not to forget to visit Jim after the game.
We pushed our way through the crowd and found two empty spots toward the top of the bleachers. The football field stretched before us, and I glanced at my watch. It was nearly eight p.m. and time for the game to start. Kensington players were decked out in bright red and white, and Kingsbury players wore green and black.
There was no doubt that Josh Matthews was the star quarterback for Kensington. You could tell by how he carried himself while off the field that he knew it too. Kensington had a significant lead by halftime. The fans seemed split down the middle and we found ourselves in the middle of the Kensington side, which suited our purposes well.
“I’m going to get something to drink,” I said as I stood up. “Want anything?”
“Yeah get me a cherry 7-Up. I think I’m going to go stay hi to the Kingsbury coach. Maybe I’ll learn something.”
“I didn’t realize you knew him.”
Stephen stood up. “He goes to Alex’s church, and we’ve met a couple of times.”
This stopped my descent down the now half-empty bleachers, as people had swarmed down to the concession stands. “You went to Alex’s church?”
Stephen blushed. “Just a couple of times. What of it? Doesn’t mean I’m converting or anything.” With this pronouncement, he strode off. I smiled. This was a good sign; perhaps my day would end on a better note than it had started.
I headed for one of the concession stands and took my place at the end of a line that stretched almost to the parking lot. Kensington had money. There were five concession stands around the field, and they weren’t cheap little buildings either.
“In front of me was a young girl I thought I recognized from the youth center. “Carrie, is that you?”
She spun around, nearly hitting me in the face with her long brown ponytail. A grin spread across her freckled young face. “Pastor Mike! I didn’t know you liked football.”
“It sounded like it was something I couldn’t miss. Seems to be quite a rivalry. Where do you go to school?”
Carrie frowned, squeezing her brown eyes together. An answer wasn’t even necessary. “I go to Kingsbury.” She pouted. “If Kensington didn’t go out recruiting we’d be doing a lot better. The power of money, unfortunately.” She looked down at the holes in her jeans. I wasn’t sure whether the holes spoke of poverty or style anymore.
“Do you know Glenda Harmon? I was hoping to see her here.”
The smiled returned. “Yeah, she’s great. See her all the time at the Happy Mouth and I have a couple classes with her, but I don’t know if she’s here. She’s not much into sports, especially football. And she absolutely hates Kensington.” It was her turn at the stand, so our conversation ended.
When it was my turn, I noticed another familiar face from the youth center standing behind the counter. “Jessie, looks like sales are going great.”
Jessie’s eyes were red, from either weariness or crying. She tried to smile but failed. Her red hair was pulled back from her face and she wore a Kensington uniform that was stained from condiments and butter. “It’s going great. The money we make tonight goes for scholarships like mine, so you’re helping a good cause.”
I had heard that some of the less fortunate kids were able to attend through scholarships, but hadn’t realized Jessie was one. Going to Kensington was a very prestigious thing among certain people in the community. Many people said if you wanted to succeed in life, you had to attend this high school.
“Give me a box of popcorn a Pepsi, and a cherry 7-Up, please.” While I waited, I decided to see if she knew anything. “Do you know Glenda Harmon? I hear she used to attend Kensington.”
Jessie’s plain face scrunched up in a frown. “I didn’t really know her, but I have heard about her. Why do you ask, Pastor Mike?”
“I was a little curious as to why she would leave such a great school,” I forced myself to say.
The girl leaned forward and I felt a bit bad that I was encouraging gossip, but eased my conscience a bit by the knowledge it might save a life. “I heard she got into some sort of trouble. Had something to do with Josh Matthews.” At the mention of the Matthews boy her face turned red, making her head perfectly color coordinated. Apparently, he was spreading his charm around.
She handed me my items. “Thanks, Jessie. Best of luck here at Kensington. I hear you want to be a doctor.”
At this, the girl’s eyes finally sparkled. “Oh, yes! And if I can do well here, it will help me get into a good college. Pray for me, Pastor—I really want this.”
I reached out with my free hand and squeezed hers. “I will. And if there’s anything else you need please let me know.”
She squeezed back. “I’m okay, Pastor, just been a really long week of late nights studying and doing extra stuff like this. Honest.” Finally, she managed a real smile and I hoped that truly was all that was bothering her.
When I made it back to our seats, Stephen was already there. “Learn anything good?” I asked as I handed him his soda.
“We knew the rivalry between the two schools was vicious, but it’s more brutal than we thought. Coach Aleman can’t stand Matthews, father or son. Said the last couple of years he’s had a number of run-ins with both of them over incidents in the game. Josh doesn’t play fair. Aleman didn’t know Toews, so he’s no help there. But he does know Glenda, and I noticed when he spoke of how tragic it had been about her, he looked right at Josh and glared.”
Stephen took a sip of his soda and waited for my report. “One of the girls from the youth center said that she had heard Glenda’s troubled had involved Josh. That was all she knew, but my guess is that he was the father of her baby. I find it hard to believe she’d ever like someone like him,” I said, as I took a handful of popcorn from the box and then offered it to Stephen.
He to the offered snack. “Maybe she was a bit more shallow before all of this happened. Tragedy can change a person.” A darkness crossed his gray eyes, and I was certain he was thinking about his brother.
“True.”
After swallowing some popcorn, he spoke again. “I think young Mr. Matthews needs to be added to our suspect list. He not only has a motive to kill Toews, and the character for it, but the best motive yet to frame Eddie.”
At the sound of cheers, we returned our attention back to the game as Josh Matthews made yet another touchdown. I wondered how many of these people knew what kind of young man they were cheering for, and if most of them would even care.

Originally published by PublishAmerica, © Lorie Ham 2003

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds.

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