Learning to hit a lick 

Falicia Blakely was a 16-year-old dancer when she met a pimp 11 years her senior. Within two years, she'd be a prostitute facing the death penalty for three murders.

This is the first in a two-part series. For the second part, click here.


AUGUST 15, 2002

Falicia stretched out on the floor of the apartment and, finally feeling ready for anything, pulled from her purse a .32-caliber Sauer & Son pistol [1]. Nobody seemed to care. Doc was on the phone. Ray and Pumpkin were playing solitaire on Ray's laptop. In front of the four of them, the sliding glass door framed a sky about to reach out and swallow the sun, to take the edge off the heavy August heat. Since the afternoon, when they began partying, the cover of clouds had lifted, loosening the morning fog and mist so that only broken fragments remained. And still no rain. It hadn't rained in weeks [2].

They'd kept it to tequila and weed for the most part, some ecstasy and blow for later. Falicia had shown up at Ray's hours ago, under the pretense of bringing him ecstasy pills [3]. But as always, it was expected she hang out when she delivered the drugs. With Ray she didn't mind. They'd been doing business for more than a year. She liked him. Unlike most men she knew, Ray had helped her out of more than one bad scene, had picked her up when she was in trouble, had listened to her rant when she was scared or pissed off. He was a welcome change [4].

She herself was easy to do business with. All long legs and slow curves, eyes like a sphinx and skin like bitter Godiva. She was only 18 - not that she let on - and full of fast talk, a little ghetto at times, but tinged with just enough girlish sass to disarm.

But not today. Something was different about her today.

When she and Pumpkin showed up at Ray's, around 2 p.m., he'd examined the goods and offered them a drink. Naw, Falicia said. I need some lunch first. He said he'd take her and Pumpkin by Chick-Fil-A. He had to stop at the bank, anyway.

That's when Mike first called.

"What you doing?" Mike asked her. "Is everything all right?"

"Fine," Falicia told him.

"Go on and stay there until you get about $500 from him. Where y'all at?"

"We're at SunTrust."

"Mmmm. What you all getting out of the bank? You know how Ray is. So you counting on what, five? A 'G'? Fifteen?"

"I'll call you back on that" [5].

After Ray and the girls went back to his apartment, it didn't take long for him to figure something was up.

"What's wrong with you?" he asked Falicia. "You need some 1800?"

She accepted, and downed the tequila with salt and a lemon. She had another. Her demeanor didn't change.

Mike called again. Falicia told him she'd just overheard Ray talking on the phone to some guy, Doc, who was on his way over. To Falicia, that meant the whole thing was off. To Mike, it made no difference. "Oh, that's better then!" he told her. "You get all that money, and then get up out of there" [6].

When Doc, a big guy with his hair in twists and a lumbering 265-pound frame, showed up, he and Ray went into the kitchen to pour drinks and season steaks for the grill. After dinner, once the sun went down, Ray was supposed to head to the clubs in Buckhead. It was his girlfriend's birthday. The girls, Falicia and Pumpkin, had other plans.

Falicia took a third shot of tequila, then a fourth. The four of them retired to the living room. A good hour passed before Mike's next call.

"Do you love me?" he asked. "I don't think you love me. Because if you loved me, you would have done it. We could have been gone by now, Mama. We can be gone by the time the sun goes down if you just do it and come on. Why you don't got no love for the game? What's wrong with you? You don't want me no more?"

"No, Mike. It's not like that."

Falicia stretched out behind the couch, on the floor by the stereo. She nudged up the volume. She wanted to distract the rest of them, to mask whatever conversation she and Mike would have next. She took out her pistol and started fiddling with it, messing with the clip, taking it out, putting it back in. "What the hell you over there doing with that gun, girl?" Doc turned around from his seat on the couch to face her. "Put that gun up."

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