Dark Alley to Power
Carolina Callings Book 3
by Travis Casey
Yvette Tyson is making a run for the governor’s office. Her goal is clear. Win.
She has the backing of her boyfriend, Cory Logan. He is kind, gentle, and determined— and offers the kind of support an unmarried black woman needs to get into office. Their relationship has grown over the past year, and she had been seen arm-in-arm with him in public numerous times. She is proud to show him off, and him, her—so there is no color issue—or is that exactly what it is?
Does Cory need a black governor to get a sports center named after him?
Does Yvette need a white boyfriend to win that demographic to get elected?
All bets are off as convicts, ex-husbands, mistresses, unscrupulous family members, secret club affiliations, and manipulating the media are all part of the ammunition at a candidate’s disposal.
All parties are willing to take a
DARK ALLEY TO POWER
“Can we coast yet?” Yvette asked as she bit into her heavily buttered piece of sourdough toast. The flavors melted in her mouth like the sweet taste of victory.
Cory shook his head. “Three more weeks until our journey is complete. This journey, I should say. Then the real work starts.”
Yvette reached across the kitchen table and clutched Cory’s hand. “But you do think we can do it, right?” She pretended to have a microphone in her hand and adopted a media-reporting tone. “Governor Tyson, who took over from a dead Democrat to get elected, moves into 800 Richland Street with her white boyfriend to live in sin in the governor’s mansion. What a great way to make history,” she capped.
Cory moved away from the breakfast table and skirted around the edge, pulling Yvette’s chair to face him. He knelt on one knee in front of Yvette. “Then marry me.”
“What!” Her heart suffered a sudden surge in beats per minute. It wasn’t from fighting an insatiable urge to cry out ‘Yes!’ at the top of her lungs, but more of a ‘Where the hell did that come from?’ rush of uncertainty. It took several moments before her racing heart slowed down to accompany her racing mind. Yvette casually looked at her ring finger, vacant of any jewelry. Then she held her hand toward the sky, still focused on her empty finger. “This is sooo romantic. How could I say no?” Her gaze turned angry. “No! A thousand times no. I will sell my soul for two points in the polls, but I will not marry for politics. I want a husband who will care for me above all else and not someone who will put the South Carolina flag, or a sports center, before me.”
Cory grabbed the bottle of water on the table and pulled off the sealing ring from the bottom of the cap. He held up the blue plastic ring. “Yvette, this is not political bullshit. I want to marry you, not the governor. I love you. Win, lose, or draw, will you marry me?”
She eyed the plastic ring. “And that’s supposed to turn a girl’s head?”
“No.” He put his hand over his heart. “This is. My undying love for you. My heart that beats every day just to see you.”
“Cut the bullshit, Casper.”
Cory shut up, looking befuddled.
She closed her eyes and let the thoughts flow freely through her head. She did love Cory—he was kind, gentle, and loving—while still holding that Alpha mindset that would protect her through any physical adversity. They had been in a serious relationship for over a year, and she had been seen arm-in-arm with him in public numerous times. She was proud to show him off, and him, her—so there was no color issue—or was that exactly what it was? Did he need a black governor to get his sports center named after his white ass? Did she need a white boyfriend to get her black ass elected? She shook her head, telling herself, “No.” She wanted to believe love was blind, but why did it have to come with a white stick?
The Mayor's Race
Carolina Callings Book 2
Cory Logan retired from boxing after winning millions of dollars, but he never won a world title. When he dies, all he'll have is a headstone that no one will visit. To live in infamy, he wants a sports facility named after him. The only thing that stands in his way is the mayor of Hilton Head, who insists it be named after an African American.
Yvette Tyson is frustrated since she divorced her cheating husband. She struggles with her new life, embarrassed by her past and unable to gain the respect she once had. Does she really have to spend the rest of her life working the graveyard shift at the supermarket?
When Cory runs into Yvette, their past lives converge. It soon becomes clear that Yvette winning the mayor's office would benefit both of them.
Yvette sat in the booth, spinning a napkin on the table with her fingers. She should have never agreed to meet him. Yes, Cory had helped her out financially after Isaiah got sent away. But that's exactly what it was—the past. If there was one thing Yvette hated it was the past.
She did have it all, once upon a time: A loving husband, or so she thought, respect as an activist for the African American community, and no money worries. Now she worked at the Piggly fucking Wiggly after being turned down for every job she had applied for. Was it her color? More than likely it was her past. Until she could get a job worthy of her talents she wanted to keep a low profile and had hoped the graveyard shift at the supermarket would preserve her minimum wage anonymity. What respectable person would do their shopping in the middle of the night?
Then she got unwanted recognition when she was named Piggly Wiggly Pioneer for the month of May for crying out loud. Now her picture was posted on the wall for all to see her in that stupid uniform with a pig carrying out a sack of groceries plastered on her uniform. Talk about a fall from grace. Once an iron maiden, and now she was selling bacon at a twenty-four hour supermarket. Good Godfrey.
She hoped by July her stupid "Pig Woman" title would be forgotten. Maybe she should have put the pioneer thing on her résumé, and then Bill 'Butthead' Montgomery would have hired her. But she wouldn't have wanted to work with that type of person anyway. She needed respect and dignity. So why the hell was she waiting for Cory Logan? He was her past. She needed to move on.
She slid toward the edge of the booth to make a hasty exit when Cory walked in. His broad shoulders reminded her that he'd made his money in a barbaric manner. In fact, he'd made millions of dollars beating the crap out of other people. Mostly black people. He'd said it himself. Boxers tend to be black, and as a white man, he was a minority in the sport. Another confirmation of her stupidity for agreeing to meet him. But she owed him civility if nothing else. She glided back into her seat.
He slid into the booth opposite her. "May I say how radiant you look, Mrs. Hightower?"
"Cut the crap, Logan." She tugged at her work blouse. "I've just worked an eight-hour shift and I'm sitting here in a pigging polyester jumpsuit. And unsurprisingly, I've reverted to my maiden name. It's Miss Tyson now."
"Riiight … I should have guessed. Sorry. I'll stick to Yvette. Cool?"
His understanding planted dimples in her cheeks as she smiled. "Cool. So what's up Mr. Millionaire?"
"Not much new."
The waitress came around and filled up their coffee mugs.
She brightened her tone. "I recently applied for a job with the city council. The position was in marketing and I could've used my skills to raise funds for a sanitation project they have going, but … well, I didn't get it."
"That's too bad. I could use an ally in City Hall."
"Why? What do you have going on?"
"At the moment, nothing. The mayor is blocking a facility I want to build. Contrary to popular belief, the mayor's a dick."
Yvette laughed. "Oh, I believe you. His city manager is an idiot as well. He suggested I take up playing golf with Mayor Dick if I want any kind of job with the city."
Cory smiled. "Do you play golf?"
"Ha. Not hardly. Isaiah took me to play mini-golf once. There was a six-shot limit per hole. We played eighteen holes, and I scored a one-hundred-and-eight. That's eighteen times six, in case you're slow with math."
They shared a laugh.
"So you have to get a job the old-fashioned way, eh?" Cory submitted. "Use your brain and charm."
"I did that."
"So why didn't you get the job?"
"Do you think calling a group of people 'you people' is racist?"
Cory pressed himself back in the seat. "Are you serious? They called you 'you people?' Of course it's racist. That's outrageous. You should sue them."
"No, actually … I called them 'you people.'"
"Oh." His clumsy attempt to conceal his grin failed.
"I simply called a bunch of incompetent male politicians 'you people.' Not because they were white, they just happen to be white. I was merely calling attention to the fact that they're inept."
"As I recall, you classed me as 'you people' once."
She cocked her head to one side. "Did I? You might be white and incompetent, but you're not a politician." She smirked. "Not yet, anyway." She rested her arms on the table. "Aren't retired athletes supposed to go into public service to validate themselves as human beings?"
"What? Like Butch Kimber? No—thank—you."
Yvette's face lit up. "Yes! Do it, Cory. Why don't you run for mayor? Then you can get me a job with the council. You're rich, you're white, and you're a Hilton Head native — a famous one at that — even if for losing."
He smacked his palm on the table. "Goddammit! Am I the only person on the planet who ever lost at something? Is that really how I'm going to be remembered?"
Yvette shuddered back in her chair. "Sorry, I didn't know it was a sore spot."
"Of course it's a sore spot. Do you think that's what I want on my headstone? 'Cory Logan. Professional boxer. Win/Loss record 27-6—but two of those losses were for the world title.' I need a legacy!"
Yvette gave him a sympathetic glint of hopefulness. "You're young. If you don't want to be mayor, there are other avenues you could pursue to secure your legacy. Pump out a couple of kids. You still have time."
There was fire in Cory's eyes reminiscent of his fighting days as he stared her down. He reached across the table and took Yvette's hands in his. "That's not gonna happen. Besides, I like my life how it is. I'm thirty-six years old and not looking for change. I'm wealthy but I don't have anyone to leave my money to, so I want to build a sports arena for youngsters: The Cory Logan Sports Training Facility. That should be my legacy—except Butch Kimber insists my arena should be named after a modern-day Martin Luther Fucking King!" He slammed his fist on the table.
Yvette jumped back. Did he just blaspheme Dr. King? Maybe, but he was a friend, of sorts. Rather than a lecture, he needed compassion. She donned her comfort hat.
She patted his hand. "Don't worry, I don't think a garbage truck logo designer would have made any inroads on the streets of influence where the mayor is concerned anyway. But if I was on the council, I'd let you have your arena—even if you do name it after a white guy." She snickered to remove any potential sarcasm—or racism.
Cory engaged Yvette's big round brown eyes. "You know, Yvette, if you really want to get revenge on the council for shortchanging you on that interview, you should run for mayor."
"What?" she screeched. "I don't want to be mayor. I mean, I don't know anything about being a mayor. I couldn't possibly be mayor."
"Of course you could."
"No, I couldn't. Don't you have to know about budgets? And quotas? And—"
"You'd have administrators for that stuff. Think of the issues you could address. The wrongs you could right from the inside. You could investigate police brutality, or address equal employment issues, or women's rights. If you don't like something, you could change it."
"Now you're being ridiculous."
"No, I'm being serious. You could do a lot to help the black community of Hilton Head—"
"Ha! All ten of us."
"Okay, think about your female constituents. You could help them."
Yvette's eyes darted around the coffee shop. She didn't want to look at him, but she couldn't deny that the idea was appealing.
She wondered what she would do after Isaiah got locked up. She needed a purpose to live, but selling groceries and cheap vodka at the Piggly fucking Wiggly wasn't satisfying her thirst for importance. She could get her self-respect back. She could add dignity to her résumé. She could … never win …. What a stupid idea.
He slid forward. He looked anxious to say something, then retreated, sliding back in the booth. "You know, I think Mayor Kimber doubts his ability to get my sports center passed by the council. He doesn't have the power of persuasion like you do."
Yvette cocked her head. "How's that?"
"It's easy to name something after a hero: George Washington. Thomas Jefferson. Martin Luther King … Me? I'm just an ordinary guy who made a good living out of a sport I enjoyed. Just like golfers or tennis players who never won a major. Did you know the golfer Rickie Fowler has won over forty million dollars but has never won a major?"
"Is he black?"
"Then don't name the sports facility after him."
"What I'm saying," Cory continued, "is there are a lot of great athletes out there worthy of recognition who don't have the highest accolade attainable, but people like Butch Kimber are too arrogant to recognize the also-rans unless they're a minority. Then he feels he owes them something because they're not good enough to earn it on their own merit."
"He said that?"
"As good as. He wants to give African Americans a free ride because his uncle was a slave owner. He's treating blacks as second-class citizens."
"Eww," she growled. "If I was mayor—"
"If you were mayor …" Cory interrupted, "no one could question your judgment or integrity."
"Yeah, but you have to have a lot of money to run for mayor."
"Not as much as you may think, and we both know you're a terrific fundraiser. Besides, I'll help fund your campaign."
"Boy." She shook her head. "Those years in the ring really rattled your brain. Why me?"
"You're more than a Piggly Wiggly employee. You're better than that. Mayor Tyson. How does that sound?"
"I don't know …"
"You'd also get to fire people." Cory grinned.
"I am not a petty person, Logan. I wouldn't take a job solely to fire some bigoted old man."
Cory shrugged. "Fair enough. Fire him and name my building the Cory Logan Sports Training Facility. There's two reasons. Now it's not so petty, is it?"
"Are you using me just so you can get your sports center?"
"I wouldn't say 'using' or 'just.' I trust your judgment. I think you'd be a great mayor, and if you decided that a sports center would benefit the youngsters of the island, and that the person who funded the project deserves to have his name on it, so be it. But that would be your call. I'm thinking more about your legacy."
"Cute. The childless black divorcee needs to cement her existence on this planet by becoming a political pawn for your gymnasium." Yvette was very good with her eyes and gave him a stare that made him noticeably uncomfortable.
Cory shifted in his seat. "Forget about me. You could be the first black mayor of Hilton Head … I think."
"Are you sure about that?"
"I haven't fact-checked it, but off the top of my head I don't remember any black mayors of the island."
Yvette leaned in, whispering. "I hate to tell you this, but half the council thinks I'm a racist, and it's already going around town. It's hard enough being a black woman, but a black racist? I've got no chance of winning."
Cory shook his head. "No, I can see it. Yvette Tyson, the first African American to reign over South Carolina's jewel city. You would have influence on any issue you cared to address. You'd be respected, in your own right—not as a wife."
"But why would people vote for me? I mean …" Yvette had trouble digesting that she could be a woman of power. She had always supported her husband but was never the focal point herself. She had been a great first lady and a behind-the-scenes force to be reckoned with, but she had never taken center stage. Could she do it? "I don't know, Cory …"
He reached over and clutched her hand. "I'll be there for you every step of the way. I'll back you one-hundred percent, and hold your hand when you need it."
She jerked her hand away. "Do you really think I could get elected?"
"I know you could. I'll be your campaign manager."
"But I'm not—"
He cut her off, pushing himself closer. "Okay, try this. The actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, was a method actor. When he played the part of Abraham Lincoln, he pretended to be Honest Abe on and off the screen the entire time while he filmed the movie. You can be a method mayor. Start acting as if, from this day forward, and by the time you're elected you'll already be in that mindset." He backed off, giving her space. "And if you don't like how it feels, you don't have to see it through. Simple as that."
They sat quietly as Yvette did some soul-searching. She'd never even dreamt anything like that could ever happen. She thought about running for the school board once, but her husband wouldn't let her, insisting she wasn't smart enough. But now she had someone who believed in her. She could be the boss of an entire community. A woman of respect and power. A Michele Obama running a town. She could shape the future of the island, making it an even better place to live and work. And she could fire that butthead Bill Montgomery.
"Yes, I'm in!" she shouted.
Cory reached over and took her hand. "You're gonna do it!"
She looked at his hand clutching hers. "We wouldn't really have to hold hands in public or anything, would we?"
Cory's heart warmed. "Only if your numbers slip in the polls."
No Halo Required Carolina Callings Book 1
Isaiah Hightower has everything a forty-nine-year-old man could want: respect as a high school principal; admiration as a leader in the black community; and a wife who would do anything for him.
Despite his shining public image, Isaiah's life is plagued with indiscretions. When these threaten to unravel his world, he silences the threat by any means necessary.
When his wife, Yvette, witnesses her husband's greatest sin, her life is about to change forever. But it doesn't have to. One lie will protect her lifestyle and save her husband's reputation.
Yvette enjoyed the ride to church. What she relished even more than the passing green scenery were the sly glances Isaiah threw her way "checking her out." He had complimented her over breakfast on how nice she looked in her brown and white dress. The brown was the same color as her skin making it look as if she simply wore white strips covering her modesty. The look excited her—and obviously Isaiah too. A million bucks, he compared her to. She was pleased she could still wear horizontal stripes without looking fat. Not all women could do that at forty-one. She was anxious to get to the church and tell Gloria Huntington she still had what it took to get her husband to acknowledge her as desirable. And while in church she'd pray that the good Reverend would keep his sermon short—assure the righteous of their passage to heaven, damn the sinners to hell, and get the heck out of there so she could get back home and screw the principal's brains out.
They pulled into the parking lot where Isaiah parked in one of the six spaces reserved for deacons. Yvette waited for Isaiah as he walked around and opened the door for her. He didn't do it all the time, but church was one place where he always opened the door for her—Sundays and special occasions—that was their arrangement.
Yvette got out of the car, gave Isaiah a smile and a pat on the cheek, and then headed for the church. She bounded up the stairs to the white wooden chapel in three-inch heels in search of her friend, leaving Isaiah behind to shake hands with other parishioners.
Gloria Huntington stood at the entrance of the Hilton Head Evangelical Free Church waving a Japanese paper fan in true Southern Belle style—with short, rapid strokes—each stroke barely covering a two-inch span from start to finish. Despite her fanning vigor, the South Carolina humidity threatened to penetrate her makeup base. That would be unacceptable. God and Maybelline would have a lot to answer for if her superior good looks melted on the steps of the house of the Lord.
They first met when Gloria was fighting to clear her husband's name of murder charges, crimes she insisted he didn't commit. Isaiah donned his shining armor and raised the profile of the case. He loved bringing national attention to injustices against people of color. Yvette and Gloria became friends and both were delighted when the Hightower's moved to Hilton Head, making it an even closer friendship.
Following Gloria's lead, the two women air-kissed, leaving Gloria's makeup intact. Yvette admired her spirit to use such a rich red lipstick to compliment her light-brown skin. Large red and gold earrings dangled prominently over her shoulders ensuring she would be seen as a woman of daring—and style.
"Darling," Gloria purred. "How delightful to see you. I must say, you look adorable."
Yvette stood back, opening her arms and smiling—showing white teeth worthy of a TV commercial. "He noticed," she boasted.
"Darling," Gloria eyed her up and down, "Stevie Wonder would notice you in that."
Yvette slid her hands over her hips. "I do work hard to make him proud."
"And you succeed. The man appreciates his wife. How wonderful is that?"
Even through her dark skin, Yvette blushed. "You're too kind."
"Not kind, observant. After all, you married a significant cog in the education of our children, a champion of the African American community, and a deacon of this very church. You have every reason to be proud of him. And isn't he up for the Citizen of the South?"
"Yes, I nominated him for the COTS award and had the Chief of Police in Savannah second it. Isaiah is the most wonderful man I've ever known—and so driven."
"Yes, and, girl, I bet he's driven you to some places most of us can't even imagine."
Yvette play-smacked Gloria on the arm. "Stop it. You're so naughty." She stepped closer and whispered. "And yes he has. He's driven me to some places even God doesn't know about."
The women giggled.
Yvette straightened her posture. "But when the lights are on, I'm honored to hold the title as Mrs. Isaiah Hightower."
"Of course you are."
Isaiah stepped between the women. "Good morning, Gloria." He attempted to deliver an affectionate peck to her cheek but she pulled back, protecting her makeup. She puckered her lips and simply kissed the air in front of her.
"Isaiah," she greeted him. "Slain any dragons lately?"
"I can't say that I've disposed of any mythical creatures recently, no."
Yvette draped her arm over her husband's shoulder. "But what he has done …"
He held a victorious beam. "Well, only if you consider the Hilton Head Town Council a dragon."
"I've persuaded them to close the Bare Trap on Madison Street."
Gloria smiled. "I can understand with a wife as beautiful as yours you have no need for strip clubs, but why would you invest your valuable time in such an insignificant crusade?"
"Insignificant? It's hardly that. We need to protect the children."
It was barely noticeable through her packed foundation, but Gloria's face creased. "Isaiah, why are you worried about strip clubs? As immoral as those places may be, they have checks in place to ensure they are kept as a visual orgy for adults; whereas all the children of today's world have to do is jump on the pornographic gateway known as the internet and they can see all the nudity they want—and heaven knows what other kinds of debauchery."
Isaiah shook his head. "It's too near the high school. Young girls see the strippers arriving at work in Corvettes and Mercedes and will give up their education to make money the easy and uneducated way. No, God has spoken to me. He asked me to shut down this particular playground of sin, and I answered. The council has accepted my arguments and the Bare Trap was closed down two days ago." He thrust both arms in the air. "Halleluiah!"
"And that's your dragon?"
Isaiah dipped his head. "No halo required."
"And they did it on that argument? Your students may become strippers one day?"
"I may have mentioned that a sophomore student was already a dancer there."
"What? At sixteen? Was she?"
Isaiah shrugged. "It's possible—one day … maybe."
Yvette stepped forward. "And statistically, the ratio of minority dancers to white ones was grossly out of proportion. The place is not only immoral; it discriminates against people of color."
Gloria looked at her friend. "And you researched this, did you?"
Yvette nodded. "As you mentioned, Isaiah is a busy man. I help where I can when discrimination is involved. Out of twenty-three performers at the Bare Trap, twenty-one were white, one African-American, and one Native American—I believe she dresses up as a squaw."
"I see." Gloria continued flapping her fan. "And you want to see more people of color taking their clothes off?"
Yvette frowned. "No, you're missing the point—"
Isaiah patted her hand. "Not to worry, darling. Those Jezebels won't be taking their clothes off for the underclasses of Hilton Head anymore."
"Thanks to you," Yvette congratulated him, then turned to Gloria. "He's one of God's angels."
"No halo required," Gloria echoed.
Yvette looped her arm through Isaiah's. "Let's go give God the thanks He deserves and get the heck out of here. My pom-poms want shaking."
They entered the church—Isaiah's favorite place on earth.
Travis was brought up in Midwest America before embarking on a nine year Navy career that allowed him to travel the world and learn about life. He has ping-ponged across oceans moving from mainland United States to Hawaii, to Scotland, to Seattle, to England, to Minnesota, back to England, and back to Minnesota where he currently resides ... for now
He writes easy-reading, light-hearted fiction and true stories about his own experiences that even the best fiction writer couldn't make up. Relax by the beach or curl up on the couch on a rainy day while Travis takes you on fun-filled adventures that let you forget about life for a while and have a laugh.
I started this series long before the George Floyd tragedy and the racial tension those events sparked. However, when I moved back to America from the UK in 2014, I was amazed at how often the news showed events of people of color being shot by police. Invariably, the news summary followed with 'He didn't do it.' I wondered to myself, 'What if he did do it?' The concept is not new, but Jekyll and Hyde have been replaced with Jesse Jackson and O.J.
In my past work, I generally let the characters run wild and take the story wherever they wanted to go with it. In No Halo Required, I kept a tighter rein on the project and dictated the plot. It wasn't always easy, but I managed to get the result I wanted with help from two professional editors, eight beta readers, and three sensitivity readers (yes, that's a real thing.)
One of those beta readers stated that she loved the story and loved Noir fiction. Broadly speaking, Noir works are tales about people, including or especially protagonists, who are seriously flawed and morally questionable. The tone is generally about characters whose greed, lust, jealousy, and alienation lead them into a downward spiral as their plans and schemes inevitably go awry. The maneuverings of their relentless lust will cause them to lie, steal, cheat, and even kill as they become more and more entangled in a web from which they cannot possibly disentangle themselves.
Yep, that sounds about right.
Although challenging, I enjoyed writing No Halo Required so much that I went onto write a sequel, The Mayor’s Race. Again, this is straight out of the 2020s where politicians use color as an advantage as opposed to an equality. I wrote this as satire as Cory convinces Yvette to run for mayor solely based on her color. A few months later, President Biden announced that his only criteria for appointing a Supreme Court Justice was that she was a black woman. Hmm … I wonder if he had a copy of The Mayor’s Race in the oval office and thought it might be a good idea.
As an author, Yvette is a lot of fun to write. She’s unpredictable and doesn’t always follow a logical path and she keeps me guessing. I like the dynamics between her and Cory as she resents him making his fortune by beating up black people—albeit in the boxing ring. And Cory likes her for her fiery side. She keeps him on his toes as much as she does everyone else.
I could have stopped the series after The Mayor's Race, but I missed writing Isaiah (and I promised Yvette I’d give her a shot at running for governor at the end of TMR.). But as controversial as Isaiah is, he still had more to bring to the pages, so I brought him back for more intrigue in Dark Alley to Power. I did considerable research on prison life and slang on this one, but a lot of it has been thrown out because my beta readers didn’t understand it or thought it was overkill. I hope none of us ever have to do our research on this topic the hard way.
I've mixed this one up in the writing style by shifting between Yvette and Cory in one chapter then moving to Isaiah and his trials and tribulations in prison in the next. It works well in building the suspense.
If you enjoy the story, please tell your friends and leave a review. It’s always appreciated!
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