All day, the sky had been threatening rain, though it had only just begun to fall. "Every time it rains, somebody dies, huh," Pumpkin said .
She and Falicia were riding south on I-85, Falicia behind the wheel. Strange words, Falicia thought. Moments ago, the girls had been hanging out at their friend Ray's apartment, with Ray and his buddy Doc. Now they were driving away from a crime scene.
"Girl, what in the world just happened?" Falicia asked. She was the one who pulled the trigger.
"I don't know," Pumpkin answered. She had Ray and Doc's money in her hand. She was counting it .
The girls stopped at a gas station. Falicia stuffed a duffel bag in the trash. It held everything they remembered touching at Ray's: a glass, a Coke can and a photo book they'd been flipping through .
When they got back to the motel where Falicia had been staying, Mike was waiting. He handed Falicia a blunt.
"Mama," he called her, a pet name, "you wiped everything down, right?"
He was saying some other stuff, but she wasn't listening. Not at first. She was totally out of it .
He told her he was going out to score more weed. She did remember that. He said he'd be hitting the "track," a stretch of dope and prostitution trade on Metropolitan Avenue. He'd also see about getting another room for the night, somewhere they could lay low.
But he was taking awhile.
Falicia called his cell. There were girls screaming in the background. Mike had bad news. The money she and Pumpkin had given him, Ray and Doc's money - the money she pulled the trigger for - was gone. Mike had been robbed .
"My God," Falicia said. "This cannot be happening."
He came back to the motel with no dope and no money. He kept repeating to Falicia that she couldn't go to sleep until she got it back. All the work she'd done would be for nothing unless she found someone else to rob. She says he told her she had to hit another lick. She told him she would .
But to herself she said, no way. She wasn't about to pull the trigger again. She was thinking she'd just trick off with somebody, get some money from a john and then steal the rest. Hitting three men? That's just too much to deal with in one night .
Malls hold bad memories for Cariletta "Smokey" Knox.
Her sister, Marion, was murdered by her boyfriend in the summer of 1991. Smokey was 19 when Marion died, and she'd grown into Marion's almost exact likeness: slender, Kate Moss build; long, shiny-straight hair; an affinity for designer jeans and tinted shades. A few years back, she unnerved Marion's boyfriend when they ran into each other at the mall. He'd served six years for voluntary manslaughter and had just gotten out . Man, how he stared. Smokey must have looked like a ghost.
On Aug. 15, 2002, Smokey was leaving Lenox Square with her boyfriend, Sam Flowers, when her friend "G." called. Smokey had stopped at the mall to pick up a shirt to wear that night. It was her friend Denise's birthday. A bunch of them - including Smokey's brother Ray, who was dating Denise - were going out in Buckhead.
It was dark out as Smokey and Sam made their way through the parking lot. G. was freaking out. "I was on the phone with Doc," he told Smokey, "and I heard about five or six gunshots." G. said he'd stayed on the line a good 10 minutes after the gunfire and heard what sounded like someone gasping. He'd also made out girls' voices saying, "Get the money. Get the money" .
Smokey hung up and called her other sister, Sherita, describing to her what G. had said. Smokey had a hard time grasping what Sherita said next: Doc had been with Ray, at Ray's apartment. Sherita was sure of it. Ray had called her a little over an hour ago, around 8 p.m., and told her Doc was there with him .
No, Smokey thought. It's not possible. Not Ray.
You've got to go over there, Sherita urged her. On the way, Smokey tried calling Doc's phone first. No answer. She tried Ray. Same thing. But she brushed off any worry. Ray must have stepped out or something.