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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.

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"There ain't no bullets in here," she said - a sweet, incredulous voice. "The clip's right here."

Doc waved her off. He turned back around to make a call. He was talking to a guy called "G" [7].

Falicia's own phone rang.

"Listen here," Mike told her. "Get yourself together, pull that trigger, wipe everything down and come on. 'Cause you're just making it harder than what it got to be. Y'all got something going on that I don't know about? Well, if I make it over there, I'm going to kill all y'all. All y'all. It's a done deal. Because you don't love me like you say you do. You just wasting my time."

He hung up.

Doc was still talking to G. Ray and Pumpkin were playing on the computer, sitting in front of Doc facing the glass doors. All their backs were to Falicia. She called Mike. She watched her little Sprint phone, how when it rang, the face lit up green, and when someone answered, the seconds started ticking. Mike picked up. Falicia told him to listen. She set the phone on the back of the sofa, behind Doc. She watched as the seconds ticked and ticked.

She lifted the pistol to the back of Doc's head. He must have heard something; he spun around. "Oh, no," he said. He started to stand. Before he had a chance, Falicia fired a round into his right temple, crumpling him back into the sofa [8]. His cell phone fell from his hand; the caller was still on the line.

She kept shooting, five, maybe six, rounds, toward Ray [9]. Pumpkin hit the floor. Ray jumped up and stumbled across the room. He made it to the patio door, where he laid his hand on the glass. Outside, the sky was darkening [10]. The door was locked.

Ray turned back, reached for the loveseat and grabbed a pillow, clenching it to his chest. He dropped to his knees [11].

Falicia walked toward him, slowly.

"Stop screaming, Ray," she said. "Shut up."

He locked eyes with her. His pupils started darting back and forth.

"Ray?" she asked. His eyes stopped moving.

"I'm sorry" [12].

When he collapsed, a trickle of foam spilled from his mouth [13].

Falicia turned to Pumpkin. "Get the money," she said, motioning to Doc, who was bleeding from his head. Falicia handled Ray, pulling the bills from his pocket. She realized her phone was still sitting on the back of the couch. She picked it up.

"That's my baby," Mike told her. "You all right?"

"Yeah."

"Do me a favor before you leave. Just wipe everything down, and just get up out of there. Calm down."

The girls hastily filled a duffel bag with everything they remembered touching. A glass. A Coke can. A photo book they'd been flipping through [14]. By the time they made it outside, the sun had disappeared. The wall of clouds had reassembled, cutting short what was left of twilight. They climbed into the truck. Falicia drove. In the short ride up Buford Highway, to Clairmont Road and over to I-85, the swelling sky began to squeeze out rain [15].

"Every time it rains somebody dies, huh," Pumpkin said.

"Girl, what in the world just happened?"

"I don't know."

Pumpkin had the men's money in her hand. She was counting it [16].

FEBRUARY 3, 2004

The table in the DeKalb County Jail's isolation room is dirty, a soiled food tray its ignoble centerpiece. Falicia Blakely shuffles in, florescent orange jail scrubs hanging loosely from willowy limbs. Glancing at the table, she pokes her head back out the door. "Phyllis," she calls to an orderly. "Can you wipe this down?"

The room is walled in by glass, with views of an empty gymnasium on one side, the guards' control booth on the other. Falicia lives on the far side of the booth, in one of 16 cells that make up what's called a "pod." There are six pods, for a total of 96 cells, circling every control booth. And there are 20 such booths inside the jail's four septagonal towers, where 3,800 inmates stay. Falicia's pod sits on the fourth floor of the northeast tower, a region reserved for women. She is unique among them in that she's the only female resident of the jail against whom the DeKalb district attorney has ever sought the death penalty.

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