Ultimate CoverAnd please enter the Goodreads giveaways!

It’s here, everyone: the full-length sequel to Forever Twelve. This omnibus houses volumes 5-8 in the series. Hold on while I find an excerpt from that will be spoiler-free… OK. Keep in mind that this is copyrighted material. Thanks! 🙂

Aunt Berry staggers out of her bedroom as I’m drying my bowl with a hand towel. “Hey, kiddo. How are you feeling today?”

“I feel great,” I enthuse. “Can you give me a lift over to Corey’s?”

“Yeah, sure. Just give me a while to get my day started, OK?” Aunt Berry is not a morning person, but while she’s still waking up each morning, she becomes more mild-mannered than usual. Her slow, methodical, laidback nature is soothing in its sameness.

“Sure thing, Aunt Berry!” To show my appreciation, I flip on the television to Aunt Berry’s favorite daytime show, Judge Judy.

The parties are announced as they enter the courtroom. From what I gather, the plaintiff is a police officer who is suing the defendant, a driver whom the plaintiff pulled over.

Judge Judy explains to us that Officer Bauer is suing Marco Delgado for getting him in trouble by filing an allegedly false complaint. Marco Delgado is countersuing, claiming that the complaint he filed was true, not false, and that he was discriminated against by Officer Bauer during what should have been a routine traffic stop.

I hug a sofa pillow and pay attention. Aunt Berry might be a while.

“I’d like to start with you, Mr. Delgado.” Judge Judy sets the scene by asking him how long ago this happened, where it occurred, and what time of day it was. “Now tell me what happened when he got out of his squad car. What did he say to you, and what did you say to him?”

Mr. Delgado, a heavyset middle-aged man, faces Judge Judy and describes his ordeal. “He knocked on my car window, and so I rolled it down. I said, ‘Good day, officer. Is there a problem?’ and he said he didn’t like the look of my Hispanic skin. He said that if he had his way, I’d be deported. Then he turned to my wife, who was seated next to me, and told her that she should be deported too, put on the next boat back to Cuba. Your Honor, we aren’t Cubans. We’re—”

Judge Judy raps her gavel. “Don’t tell me what you are or aren’t. So then he told you and your wife that you should be deported. What happened next?” Judge Judy scowls as she awaits his answer.

“Your honor, my wife is a sensitive woman.” Mr. Delgado indicates the fortyish woman seated behind him. Her face is distraught by the sad memory. Judge Judy motions for her to stand by her husband. He continues. “She burst into tears. At that point, the plaintiff told her to quit crying like a little tiny dark-skinned Hispanic baby and that he was going to give us a huge traffic ticket for being lazy Mexicans.” The onlookers in the courtroom give a collective gasp of horror.

“Order! Order!” Judge Judy bangs her gavel repeatedly and acknowledges Mrs. Delgado. “Do you have anything to add about what happened?”

Mrs. Delgado shakes her head, close to tears, so Judge Judy sends her back to her chair.

The show goes to commercial and I press the mute button on the remote. “Aunt Berry, why would that police officer say those things? I thought they weren’t supposed to talk to people that way.”

Aunt Berry is busy yanking on some white anklets. “It’s a bad world out there, honey buns.” Aunt Berry is short at around five feet two, and her fingers are short and stubby in a way that I find oddly comforting and familiar, just like the laugh lines that etch her face and the brown bob of hair that frames it. She points over me to the floor, and I bend to retrieve her nondescript sneakers, which are two sizes smaller than all of my shoes.

The show resumes and I put the volume back on.

Judge Judy asks Officer Bauer a bunch of boring questions about the event, which he answers with curt sentences. She’ll never get him to admit he’s a racist, I think darkly. Look at him! He’s as cool as a cucumber.

“Officer Bauer, I understand that you have an audio recording that you’d like to play for the court?” The camera pans in on one of those old-fashioned tape decks, resting on the table in front of Officer Bauer.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Officer Bauer states.

I nudge Aunt Berry. “His goose is cooked. Officer Bauer can’t lie his way out of this.”

Aunt Berry nods in a noncommittal way, but I can tell she’s interested. Meanwhile, Officer Bauer presses the play button.

Step, step, step, step. Tap. Tap. “Excuse me, sir. Do you mind rolling down your window?… Thank you. My name is Officer Bauer. Do you know why I pulled you over this afternoon?”

The next voice is Mr. Delgado’s. “Yeah. You pulled me over because you’re a <beep> <beeeeeeeeeep> <beeeeep.> You think you can just go around <beep><beep> anyone you want, you white <beep.>”

“No, sir. You’re incorrect. I pulled you over because you were driving fifty-five in a thirty-five mile-per-hour zone, and you almost ran over a woman in the crosswalk. I’m going to need to see your license and registration.”

“You <beep> <beep> <beep.> I’ll tell you where you can put my <beep> <beep> and registration, señor.”

“Please try to remain calm, sir. Ma’am, are you OK?”

“Sí, sí, por favor. Mi esposo está muy loco en la cabeza. Marco es un idiota. Por favor, ayúdame. ¡Ayúdame!”

“I understand, ma’am. I’ll do what I can to help.”

Judge Judy waves at the plaintiff to turn the tape off. The audience at the courthouse laughs off some of their nervous tension.

The judge gives Mr. Delgado such a scathing look that I shiver out of sympathy for him. I hate getting in trouble, so I wouldn’t want to be him right now. “Well? I’m waiting, Mr. Delgado. Did you hear any racism on that tape? I didn’t hear any racism on that tape. Officer Bauer didn’t say one word that was inappropriate. Where in that conversation did he threaten to have you deported?”

“He didn’t say it with words, your honor. He said it with his shifty eyes.” Mr. Delgado points to his own eyes with a jerky movement.

“Ha! Ha!” Judge Judy jerks her head left and right like a wise, alert owl. “No. No.” Clearly, she is having none of it. She asks Officer Bauer if there is a charity he supports, and after he names one, Judge Judy asks him to donate half of her award to help the firemen’s charity. “Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of three thousand dollars.” BANG.

Boy, does Judge Judy know how to wield her gavel.

“Time to go, kiddo.”

I’m lost in thought all the way to Corey’s house.

This book is available on Amazon for both Kindle and paperback, although the paperback is still loading. The kinks should be smoothes out within a day or so. I’m having cover issues, so I’ll post the cover soon.