Stand Your Ground: A Novel
by Victoria Christopher Murray
by Victoria Christopher Murray
From the #1 Essence bestselling and award-winning author Victoria Christopher Murray comes Stand Your Ground, a new novel about two women who are faced with the same tragedy.
A black teenage boy is dead. A white man shot him. Was he standing his ground or was it murder?
Janice Johnson is living every black mother’s nightmare. Her seventeen-year-old son was murdered and the shooter has not been arrested. Can the D.A. and the police be trusted to investigate and do the right thing? Should Janice take advantage of the public outcry and join her husband alongside the angry protestors who are out for revenge?
Meredith Spencer is married to the man accused of the killing and she sees her husband and the situation with far more clarity than anyone realizes. What she knows could blow the case wide open, but what will that mean for her life and that of her son? Will she have the courage to come forward in time so that justice can be done?
Book Review for Stand Your Ground
“Murray has written a tension-packed novel around the hot-buzz national topic of an unarmed black youth shot by a white male, an act then subjected to the Stand Your Ground rule as a legal defense tactic. . . . Murray’s writing admirably shows the often overlooked human emotions following racial violence. . . . The pulled-from-the headlines storyline will captivate readers." (Library Journal - Starred Review)
Chapter Except: Stand Your Ground
The doorbell rang and a hard knock followed.
Tyrone and I frowned. It was a little after nine, and Marquis and his friends knew they couldn’t hang out on school nights.
Just a couple of seconds passed before the visitor knocked.
“Who can that be?” I asked, pushing myself up.
Tyrone held up his hand. “You stay here. I’ll get it.”
Before my husband could make it to the top of the staircase, I wrapped myself inside my robe and stepped into the hallway. Marquis’s bedroom door was closed, which was the only reason why I was sure he hadn’t bounced down the stairs to get to the door before his father.
By the time I made my way to the top of the stairs, Tyrone was at the bottom and opening the door.
The door was open wide enough for me to see the two policemen, one black, one white, standing shoulder to shoulder, like soldiers.
“Yes,” my husband said, his voice two octaves deeper, the way it always dropped when he stood in front of men wearing uniforms.
“May we come in?” the black one asked.
Those words made me descend the stairs even though I wasn’t properly dressed for company. Not that policemen showing up could ever be called welcomed visitors.
“What’s this about?” my husband asked.
The policemen stepped inside, though Tyrone hadn’t extended an invitation. Both men glanced at me as I stood on the second stair, gripping the lapels of my bathrobe and trying to come up with a single reason why two officers would be in our home.
“Ma’am.” It seemed the black officer had been assigned to do all the talking.
“What’s this about?” Tyrone asked again.
They stood at attention, as if this were a formal visitation. “Would you mind if we went in there?” The black officer nodded toward our living room.
If the officer had been speaking to me, I would’ve said yes because it seemed like the polite thing to do.
But Tyrone said, “That’s not necessary,” because my husband had been raised on the hard streets of Philly, where a policeman, no matter his color, was never an invited guest.
The officers exchanged glances before the black one said, “Marquis Johnson, is that your son?”
Tyrone’s eyes narrowed while mine widened.
“What’s this about?” That felt like the fiftieth time my husband asked that question.
“There’s been a shooting . . .”
“Oh, my God,” I gasped. “Did something happen to one of our son’s friends?”
The officers looked at each other again before the black one continued, “It’s your son, Marquis. He’s been shot.”
“What?” Tyrone and I said together.
“That’s impossible,” Tyrone said. “Marquis is in his room.” He yelled out, “Marquis, come down here.”
Not even a second passed before I dashed up the stairs, moving like I hadn’t in years. Not that I had any doubt. Of course Marquis was in his bedroom. He’d come home while Tyrone and I . . . had been spending personal time together. I mean, Marquis hadn’t come into our bedroom when he came home, but he never did when we had the door closed.
Tonight, he’d been home by eight, nine at the latest. I was sure of that.
I never entered Marquis's room without knocking. But tonight, I busted in. And then I stood there . . . in the dark. I stood there staring at the blackness, though there was enough light for me to see that Marquis wasn’t sitting at his desk, he wasn’t lying on his bed.
“Marquis,” I called out anyway, then rushed to the bathroom. “Marquis!” Just like with his bedroom, I busted into the bathroom and stared at the empty space.
Then, I felt my heart pounding, though I’m sure the assault on my chest began the moment the policeman had told that lie that my son had been shot.
“Marquis,” I shouted as I searched our guest bedroom.
I returned to his bedroom and swung open the door to his closet before I crouched down and searched under his bed. “Marquis,” I screamed, wondering why my son was playing this game of hide-and-seek, something we hadn’t done since he was four.
I rushed back into the hallway and bumped right into Tyrone. “He’s not up here,” I said to my husband as he grasped my arms. “He’s downstairs; did you check the kitchen or the family room?"
I looked up into Tyrone’s eyes, which were glassy with tears.
“What?” I frowned. “You don’t believe those policemen?”
He nodded and I shook my head.
“They’re not lying,” Tyrone said softly. “They showed me a picture.”
Now I whipped my head from side to side because I didn’t want to hear anything else. I couldn’t believe that Tyrone would accept the word of men in blue. Wasn’t he the one who said the police couldn't be trusted?
If he wasn’t going to look for our son, I was. “Marquis!” I screamed.
Now a single tear dripped from Tyrone's eye. “Janice, listen to me.”
I tried to remember the last time my husband cried. And I couldn’t think of a single time.
“Janice.” He repeated my name.
“Marquis is gone.”
“He was shot over on Avon Street.”
“Why would you believe them,” I cried. “Why don’t you believe me?”
My husband looked at me as if I was talking foolishness. And I looked at him and begged for him to tell me that he was wrong. Or for him to wake me from this nightmare. Either would work for me.
But Tyrone did neither of those things. He just stared into my eyes. And as I stared into his, I saw the truth.
Not many words that Tyrone had shared had made it to the understanding part of my brain. But four words did: Marquis. Gone. Shot. Dead.
“Marquis is gone?” I whispered.
“Someone shot my son?”
He nodded again.
“And now he’s dead?”
This time, Tyrone just pulled me close, so close that I could feel the hammering of his heart. But though I always wanted to be held by my husband, I didn’t want him to hold me now. Because if what Tyrone had said was true, then I didn’t want to be in my husband’s arms.
If what he said was true, then all I wanted was to be dead, too.
( Continued... )
© 2015 All rights reserved. Book excerpt reprinted by permission of the author, Victoria Christopher Murray. Do not reproduce, copy or use without the author's written permission. This excerpt is used for promotional purposes only.
Purchase Books by Victoria Christopher Murray
Contemporary Women Fiction >African American > Christian Fiction
Meet the Author
Victoria Christopher Murray always knew she would become an author, even as she was taking an unlikely path to that destination. A native of Queens, Victoria first left New York to attend Hampton University where she majored in Communication Disorders. After graduating, Victoria attended New York University where she received her MBA.
Victoria spent ten years in Corporate America before she tested her entrepreneurial spirit. She opened a Financial Services Agency for Aegon, USA where she managed the number one division for nine consecutive years. However, Victoria never lost the dream to write and when the “bug” hit her again in 1997, she answered the call.
Victoria originally self published her first novel, Temptation and in 2000, Time Warner published that novel. Temptation made numerous best sellers list and remained on the Essence bestsellers list for nine consecutive months. In 2001, Victoria received her first NAACP Image Award nomination for Temptation.
Since Temptation, Victoria has written over twenty other adult novels, including: JOY, Grown Folks Business, The Ex Files, The Deal, the Dance and the Devil, Never Say Never and the popular Jasmine Cox Larson Bush series.
Victoria has received numerous awards including the Golden Pen Award for Best Inspirational Fiction and the Phyllis Wheatley Trailblazer Award for being a pioneer in African American Fiction. Since 2007, Victoria has won seven African American Literary Awards for best novel, best Christian fiction and Author of the Year – Female. Her 2014 NAACP Image Award nomination for Never Say Never was her third Image Award nomination.
Several of Victoria's novels have been optioned to become movies, including The Deal, the Dance and the Devil and the Ex Files series. With over one million books in print, Victoria is one of the country’s top African American contemporary authors.
Victoria splits her time between Los Angeles and Washington D.C. In Los Angeles, she attends Bible Enrichment Fellowship International Church under the spiritual tutelage of Dr. Beverly “BAM” Crawford. She is also a very proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Stand Your Ground available nationwide and online June 30, 2015!
Connect with Victoria Christopher Murray