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Sneak Peek at Black Hearts White Minds A Carl Gordon Legal Thriller by Mitch Margo

21 Dec

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Sneak Peek at Black Hearts White Minds
A Carl Gordon Legal Thriller

CHAPTER 2

Oleatha Geary stared out her front picture window waiting for 3 o’clock. That’s when three generations of her family gathered for Sunday supper at her modest home. Attendance was mandatory. At 54, the family matriarch maintained much of the elegance she had as a young woman. Carrying an extra 20 pounds with flair, she had a fondness for flower patterned dresses, most of them made by her own hands on the Singer. Oleatha adjusted her shortly cropped, chemically relaxed hair and beamed at her three children and five grandchildren coming through the front door.

Her first born, Micah, was a tough, muscular auto mechanic and part-owner of a Sunoco service station. Much taller than the other Gearys, Micah had calloused hands, earned dismantling and reassembling car engines. His neatly trimmed mustache, sprinkled with grey, covered his entire upper lip, nearly hiding a one-inch scar at the corner of his mouth, which he refused to discuss.

Lenore Geary, Oleatha’s second child, was 33 years old and beautiful as art. She had Oleatha’s curvy outlines, high cheeks, hazel eyes and buttery cinnamon skin. She had earned a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Education from Ohio State University. Convincing her parents to let her go North to attend Ohio State over a full scholarship to Spellman took unrivaled logic and steadfast perseverance, strong points for the young woman who was so much like her mother they could hardly stand each other. Lenore had a teaching job lined up in Ohio, and Stockville firmly embedded in her rearview mirror, when her father suffered a massive stroke two weeks after her college graduation. Within days of the funeral, Oleatha contracted tuberculosis. Lenore moved back home temporarily to cook, clean and nurse Oleatha back to good health.

“You know she did this on purpose,” Lenore said to her brothers at the time.

“People don’t will themselves into tuberculosis,” said Micah.

“I thought you knew Mama,” said her other brother, Thomas, agreeing with Lenore.

Lenore became a substitute teacher at George Washington Carver High School while she tended to her mother. In less than a year Oleatha recovered while Lenore was teaching social studies and humanities full-time. She was the most popular teacher in school with both students and faculty.

The youngest son, Thomas, grew to appreciate the formality of being called Thomas rather than Tom. Where Micah was big and powerful, Thomas, age 31, was lean, quick and compact. He earned a scholarship to Hampton Institute in Virginia where he majored in political science and returned from Hampton with informed and confident opinions, the charming optimism of his father and a wife named Evie. Thomas was the assistant executive director of the United Negro College Fund, and he started the Stockville chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

“Did you hear there’s a U.S. Attorney in town?” said Thomas, pulling up the rear.

“I suppose he’s going to round up all the white folk and give them a good hand-slapping?” said Micah.

“Not all whites are racists,” said Lenore. “I think some of them who you call racist just don’t know anything but Jim Crow. They act the way their parents——”

“So it’s okay to treat me like shit because your daddy did?” interrupted Micah.

Oleatha glared at him. “Don’t use that language in my home. Things are better now than they’ve ever been,” she said.

“That’s not what I mean, Micah. It’s in their blood. They don’t know any other way,” said Lenore.

“Last time I checked their blood was red, just like mine. They need to see a little bit of theirs running in the streets.”

“Violence won’t get us anywhere,” chimed in Thomas. “Only when you’ve got white boys by the balls will their black hearts and white minds follow,” said Micah.

“Oh hush up, Micah,” said Oleatha. It worried her how much rage Micah carried around.

“Let’s have a peaceful sit-in,” said Micah, mimicking Gandhi with his hands cupped together and his head  bowed. “Let’s all just sit down in the mayor’s office. We’ll  bring a picnic and magically segregation will disappear and everyone will love thy neighbor.”

“It’s not magic. It’s non-violent,” said Thomas.

“Little man, you need to read brother Malcolm. Just like you, he says we should listen to great white Americans. Like George Washington. There was nothing non-violent about him. Thirteen crappy little colonies took it to the British Empire,” said Micah.

“And you need to listen to Dr. King. Violence just creates more violence,” said Thomas, shaking his head.

Micah rolled his eyes. “Ah yes, your hero. The ‘I have a dreamer.’ We have 22 million Afro-Americans. If we don’t hang together, then we will certainly hang separately.”

“You two stop it now,” said Oleatha, handing Thomas  the oven mitts. “Thomas. Take the vegetables off the stove and turn off the burner. Micah, fill the water glasses.” With less command and more sweetness, she pointed at her daughters-in-law, Evie and Roslyn, to fetch the three pies off the front porch.

“And Lenore, honey, sharpen the knife for the pot roast.” “Mama, the knife is still sharp from when I sharpened it last Sunday,” said Lenore.

“Here’s the sharpening steel,” said  Oleatha,  one  hand on her hip, the other pushing the instrument right through Lenore’s comfort zone. Lenore took it, turning away so her mother wouldn’t  see her pursed lips and narrowed eyes. As she ran the knife gently over the round sharpener, pretending to hone its already switch-blade sharpness, Oleatha, wiping her hands on her yellow embroidered apron, spoke again.

“Old Mrs. Paterson asked me about you this morning at church.”

“What about me?” asked Lenore, who hadn’t been to church since last whenever.

“Just if you’re seeing anyone.” “What did you tell her?”

“I told her you were taking gentlemen callers.” “Mama, you didn’t.”

“Yes, I did.”

“It’s my business.”

“Edwin Paterson is a good man with 50 acres. He’s been walking in high cotton since Napoleon was in knee pants,” said Oleatha.

“That’s one acre per year. The man’s 50 years old,” said Lenore.

“Forty-eight. And honey, 33 ain’t no spring chicken,” said Oleatha, looking from one of her children to the next.

“Make nice, Mama,” said Thomas.

“I don’t know how many more good years God has left for me,” said Oleatha. “I guess I’ll just have to concentrate  all my love and affection on the beautiful grandchildren I do have, not one of them by my only daughter, who—”

“That’s a good idea,” said Lenore, setting the knife on the oval chrome and glass kitchen table and figuring this fight was a draw.

“So Mama, when’s dinner?” interrupted Thomas, a diversionary tactic from the dining room.

“In a little bit,” said his mother, bending down to check the oven and stirring the pot of simmering okra, tomatoes and corn.

“I’ve  always  wondered,  Mama,”   said  Micah.  “What’s  a little bit? Is it five minutes? Is it an hour?” Micah bit the bottom edge of his mustache to keep from smirking.

“I think it’s twice as long as directly,” chimed in Thomas. “Like when Mama says, ‘I’ll be there directly.’ Thomas glanced at Micah, who flashed his eyebrows and smiled.

“Are you boys making fun of me?” asked Oleatha.

“No Mama. But check back in a little bit,” said Micah, as he ducked behind his younger brother, feigning fear of his mother. Thomas laughed.

“And hey Mama, when you say you’re going to see someone by and by, is that more or less time than directly and a little bit?” he asked, winking at Lenore.

Lenore just shook her head, filled her cheeks with air, and continued folding the white cotton napkins next to  each dinner plate. Her brothers were always able to poke fun at Mama and make her smile, but when Lenore tried it, it invariably led to hurt feelings and tears, followed by apologies, usually from Lenore. So instead of taking part in the Geary family banter, Lenore rearranged the square satin pillows on the velvet living room couch. Next she wound  the mahogany clock which sat on the fireplace mantle and straightened the shade on the floor lamp beside the radio. It was her way to maintain invisibility.

Just then Harry burst into the kitchen, inadvertently slamming the backdoor into the polished pine countertop.

“Grandma. I’m hungry. When’s dinner?” “Directly,” said his father.

“In a little bit,” chimed in his Aunt Lenore. “By and by,” said his Uncle Micah.

The most loquacious and precocious of the grandchildren, Harry stood staring, looking perplexed.

“Talking to Grandma now,” Harry announced. “What are we having?”

“Pot roast,” said Oleatha.

“I don’t like pot roast. What else we got?” asked Harry. Oleatha put her arm around Harry’s shoulder, squatted a bit and looked him sweetly eye-to-eye.

“Honey,” she said. “You know at your Grandma’s home you always have a choice.” Harry smiled in agreement.

“You can take it or leave it,” she said. Then as she not-so-gently pushed Harry back out the kitchen door, she said, “We’ll call y’all in for dinner in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.”

Oleatha turned to her children, who were together standing shoulder-to-shoulder between the pocket doors separating the dining room from the parlor. They had been holding back chuckles, knowing from experience the answer Harry was going to get, before he got it. Oleatha eyed the three of them like a sergeant doing  dress  inspection  of  her most favored troops, and said, “Don’t y’all be standing around useless as teats on a bull moose.”

Oleatha was tired by 6 o’clock, sitting at her kitchen table eyeing the stack of clean dishes  yet  to  be  loaded  into  the  cupboard  for  next  Sunday.  The  second  and third generations of Gearys had left her home and the loneliness of early widowhood returned. Oleatha stared at the varicose veins on the backs of her hands and at the shriveling on her fingertips which took  longer and longer to disappear after washing the dishes. She reached across the table to the last wedge of lemon meringue pie and slid the plate to within fork’s reach, when the phone rang. One of the grandchildren must have forgotten a notebook or baseball glove, she thought. Oleatha picked up the receiver and spoke.

“Hello.”

“May I speak with Oleatha Geary, please,” said the female voice on the other end of the telephone call.

“Speaking,” said Oleatha.

“Are you the wife of Lester Geary?” asked the voice. “Widow.”

“Excuse me, yes, I’m sorry,” said the voice. “Your husband used to work at the Tatum Foundry?”

“Night shift manager.”

“Please hold for Attorney Barry Beckley.”

Oleatha removed her clip-on earring and held the receiver to her ear. She had never received a call from an attorney before and it was Sunday night. She got nervous that maybe something bad had happened to one of her children or grandchildren. She closed her eyes and prayed while she waited. Then she thought it might be news on the death of her great Aunt Velma in Albany. She waited some more. Her breathing became labored and she concentrated on pushing air in and out of her lungs. She considered hanging up when a male voice came on the line.

“Mrs. Geary?”

“Yes.”

“My name is Barry Beckley of Beckley & Callahan. Ma’am, I am the executor of the estate of Theodore Tatum.”

“God rest his soul,” said Oleatha.

“Yes, Mr. Tatum passed last Thursday.”

“I read it in the Times-Gazette. Who are you again?” asked Oleatha.

“I’m the executor. I’m in charge of his financial affairs now that he’s gone,” said Mr. Beckley.

“Lester didn’t owe Mr. Tatum any money, did he?” asked Oleatha.

“Nothing like that,” he said, a small chuckle in his raspy voice. “But Mr. Tatum’s will instructs me to contact all his beneficiaries and invite them to the reading of his will.”

“Beneficiary?”

“Yes. Mr. Tatum left you something.” “Me?”

“It relates to your late husband, but since he’s deceased, yes, you get the bequest.”

“Bequest?”

“Like a gift. Sorry, I’ll make it plain,” said Beckley.

“What kind of gift?” asked Oleatha, as she nervously broke off a piece of the pie’s crust and placed it into her mouth.

“I’m not at liberty to say. The reading of the will is at our office, 201 E. Washington Street, Wednesday at 3 p.m.”

“Are you serious?” “Yes, ma’am.”

“Can I bring my son or daughter?”

“Absolutely.”

“This ain’t no trick is it?” asked Oleatha.

“No ma’am. If your son or daughter has a question, have them call me. Attorney Barry Beckley, Stockville 325-8987.”

“One moment, let me write that down,” said Oleatha, her hand shaking and her voice cracking just a bit. “Thank you, sir.”

“See you Wednesday then?” said Mr. Beckley.

“I guess so,” said Oleatha, still suspicious.

Oleatha pressed down the button on the top of her table phone long enough to get a new dial tone when she released it. She dialed Thomas’s phone number at home.

 

( Continued… )

© 2018 All rights reserved.  Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Mitch Margo.  Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author’s written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.

Visit https://mitchmargo.com to explore your options to purchase the book. Black Hearts White Minds is available in print, Kindle ebook and audio book. Published by Mission Possible Press. Distributed from Ingram and Baker & Taylor. 


 

About the Author

Listen to Mitch read from Black Hearts White Minds: http://www.audioacrobat.com/note/CPlHwp5k

A former reporter for The Detroit News and Los Angeles Herald Examiner and a syndicated columnist for 14 years, Mitch Margo is a native New Yorker and St. Louis trial lawyer. He’s witnessed the clash of cultures which are woven into his first novel, Black Hearts White Minds. Much of the story is drawn from his personal experiences, interviews, and hundreds of hours of research. He credits his eclectic law practice for a new storyline every few days.

One of Mitch’s defining moments came when a Herald Examiner editor assigned him to drive to San Fernando Valley so the paper could be the first to report a brushfire, should one start. Aware that San Fernando Valley spans 260 square miles, he interpreted the request as one to start a brushfire, so he drove to the Lakers game instead and applied to law school the next morning.

As general counsel to the Missouri Valley Conference, and a former youth coach, Mitch has an insider’s view of basketball that enables him to write about it authentically. He’s also a member of the Washington University Sports Hall of Fame, at one time holding the school record in just about every baseball statistic. He’s proud of his days as a student/ athlete, but hasn’t lost sight of the fact that you can’t get too much farther from Cooperstown and still be in a hall of fame. For more information about the book and upcoming events go to MitchMargo.com

 

Become a Social Media Ambassador for EDC Creations Media Group and author Mitch Margo, details: http://conta.cc/2p16y79

Let’s spread the word about this book!  Listed below are 6 ways that you can help support the launch of Black Hearts White Minds, A Carl Gordon Legal Thriller by Mitch Margo.

 

 



Praise for Black Hearts White Minds & Mitch Margo

 

“The early sixties are often thought of as a time of lost innocence. Margo reminds us that the era was anything but innocent in the American south. His novel rings with authenticity and his characters’ struggles in the fictional town of Stockville, Alabama foretell the problems we still face today. Stockville is not really so far from Ferguson.”

– Bill McClellan, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 

“As I read Black Hearts White Minds, I was reminded by turns of Harper Lee, Willie Morris, and John Grisham. Like Grisham, Mitch Margo is an attorney; like Morris, he’s a former journalist, and like Lee, his writing is evocative with a moral center straight and true. With our new president publicly insulting Civil Rights icon John Lewis and the new administration looking to reverse 50 years of progress, this Civil Rights era page-turner is a must read.”

– Richard H. Weiss, Former Daily Features Editor, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

 

Black Hearts White Minds dives deep into the Civil Rights movement in the American South at a crucial time: 1964. But Mitch Margo sets his first novel in one Alabama town, allowing him to explore the era on a distinctly human scale through ordinary people and  not so ordinary events. The result is a book that feels personal, rather than monumental. Margo, a seasoned  lawyer  who  makes the law and lawyering an important but not overriding element of his story, has a knack for dramatic structure and a sharp eye for contrasting, engaging personalities. And his plot twists manage to be simultaneously startling and entirely credible, no mean feat.”

–Eric Mink, Writer, The Huffington Post

 

“While a work of fiction, Black Hearts White Minds transports readers to a time and place in American history, 1964 small-town Alabama, when the Civil Rights movement was slowly gaining traction, and segregationists, including the Ku Klux Klan, would stop at nothing to trounce the efforts of blacks and whites fighting for justice. Margo has crafted a narrative that is equal parts engrossing, heartbreaking and hopeful, populated with richly drawn, compelling characters, and an overarching essence that captures the enduring nature of the human spirit, no matter the obstacles.”

–Ellen Futterman, Editor, St. Louis Jewish Light

 

Visit https://mitchmargo.com to explore your options to purchase the book. Black Hearts White Minds is available in print, Kindle ebook and audio book. Published by Mission Possible Press. Distributed from Ingram and Baker & Taylor. 

 

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