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PANACHE REPORT ORIGINAL

This story is a work of fiction, a product of the author's imagination, any similarities to actual characters or events is purely coincidental.

INTRODUCTION:

The ATL is the black Hollywood of the South. LaFace Records and So So Def were launched in Atlanta along with Upscale magazine. The whole country danced to the sounds of TLC, Usher, Outkast, Ludacris, Lil Jon and Toni Braxton. Hammering Hank Aaron, Whitney Houston and Evander Holyfield live in Atlanta.  Michael Vick reigns supreme on the gridiron and the Braves win the divisional title each year.  The dirty south is on fire.  Welcome to Hotlanta!

GOLDDIGGAS:

The DJ had da club jumping with his mix of hip-hop and house.  Two childhood friends and professional dancers, Cookie and Tamika were dancing rings around their dance partners, they glided across the floor as they mixed professional dance with hip-hop.

They had everyone's attention.   From the balcony, a local drug dealer named Hank watched them closely, he told his boys, damn they fine and them girls can dance, whenever I see them out, they shut down the club. One looks likes Janet and the other looks like Beyonce, you can tell when they in da club, look around, all the females got hate on their faces.  Which one should I jock? Rico spoke up, forget about them, Joker is Cookie's cousin, he got juice and he is very protective of them, why you think thugs keeping their distance tonight.

Hank muttered, you right man, good looking out. Hank looked towards the door, well I be goddamned, look who just walked in, I been looking for Deke's ass all week, he been talking shit and crossed out our tag, trying to take over our territory, let's make a example of that pretty nigga.  Hank and his crew got up, they went downstairs and discreetly followed Deke to the back of the club, they rushed him, Rico began stabbing him, screams broke out, people rushed passed, Hank and his crew bounced. Cookie and Tamika saw Deke on the floor, Tamika told Cookie, call 911 on your cell, I will go get some towels and apply them to his wounds.

After Cookie made the call, she held Deke's hand and offered him words of encouragement, hang in there, you are going to be fine. When the paramedics arrived, they found Tamika applying pressure to the wounds, the towels were soaked in blood, after putting Deke on the stretcher, the paramedics told her, you may have saved his life, Deke was barely conscious, he managed a weak thank-you. Tamika went to the ladies room to clean up, Cookie asked, do you still have a appetite?  Tamika nodded, Cookie looked at her watch, it's 3 a.m., if we hurry, we can make it to Gladys Knight & Ron Winans Chicken & Waffles before they close at 4 a.m. Over breakfast, Tamika said, I usually don't get involved but I could not leave his fine ass in a pool of blood, I hope he survives, Cookie said, me too.

Tamika asked, did you recognize him? Cookie said, yeah, his name is Deke, he's a semi-baller from the hood, all the girls are crushing on him. Deke was hospitalized for two months but he survived, he was released from the hospital and was expected to make a full recovery. Two weeks later, Hank and Rico were found murdered.  With them out of the way, Deke hooked up with Cookie's cousin Joker, they took over the drug market.  He never forgot the kindess of Tamika and Cookie.  They became his girls and he lavished them with gifts and money, he also offered them protection.

Tamika and Cookie were two dancers who performed in a local production of "Ain't Misbehavin." They both quit their jobs when Deke put them on a unofficial salary. Deke was often seen in his Convertible CLK in the company of Tamika and Cookie, they dined at the finest restaurants and they shopped at Lennox Square.  When they went out, the girls made him turn off his pager and cell.

When they weren't glossing all over town, they would hangout at Tamika's or Cookie's parents homes, both their mothers adored Deke. On Mothers Day, he gifted them with gift certificates to Neiman-Marcus.  They also went to Breaklanta, the Bronner brothers Hair show and they flew out of town to attend Freaknik, they were known on the party circuit, everywhere they went, girls tried to jock Deke until Tamika and Cookie stared them down.  Thugs were too scared to approach Cookie and Tamika in Deke's presence.

The girls accompanied Deke to the Braves and Falcons games.  Tamika started dating an associate of Deke's named Jason, he was fine but something lacked in their sex life, Tamika went to the website www.stripformyman.com and ordered the video she had heard so much about (Strip For My Man ). Virtually overnight, their sex life became explosive.  Cookie dated a rival of Deke's, named Sean. He became physically abusive, after one severe beating, he invited his friends over and said, 'bruises show up real good on her', they all laughed.'

She confided in Tamika about her situation, Tamika told Deke.  Sean was found dead the following day. Deke's birthday was coming up, the girls wanted to surprise him. They went to Lennox Square and bought him a collection of Sean John.  They went over to his house in Druid Hills and rang the doorbell, no answer, they heard noises in the pool area, they went around back and found Deke having sex with a thug named Kevin in the Jacuzzi. The girls dropped their shopping bags, no words came out of Deke's mouth, the girls tried to leave, he pulled a gun on them and told them to go into the house, he told Kevin to get out.  What can I say, you busted me getting my fag on.  I can understand your shock, hell, I would be surprised if I caught you two dyking.

Cookie interrupted, that ain't gonna happen, we ain't no lickety tricks. The girls sat down on the couch, Deke tried to explain, he was somewhat relieved, he had someone to talk to about his homosexuality.  He told the girls, I'm a gay thug, I'm not attracted to women, I could never be a DL thug because I can't even get hard with women, now Kevin is a different story, he lives with his woman and she is pregnant with their second child, I keep telling him to come clean but he won't listen.   Kevin and I have casual sex, I been hitting it for about two months, he likes it penitentiary style. 

There is a DL thug chat room online, more than half of the men hooking up in that room are married or have a girlfriends. It is a secret network of DL brothas across this country.  One of my dawgs in New Orleans went on this downlow/gay website (Ebonymale.com) and placed a ad, this nigga kept sending him emails, he ignored him until the nigga sent a picture of his dick, he sent him a plane ticket to New Orleans, they still fooling around and both of them are married with kids.

Our network is all over the world, we stay up on the DL happenings through a chat room, we also know who is fucking who in entertainment circles, a group of pretty thugs be bragging about how they let entertainers and athletes fuck them, they gossip worse than women.  Last night, they were talking about a DL escort agency on the East Coast; most of the clients are downlow rappers.  Hell, I have no problem getting dick, I am a curly haired light-skinned Negro with green eyes and a big dick and nice abs, and I'm turning down thugs left and right.  They ain't gonna out me, because they have just as much to lose as me. In our world, pussy is out, ass is in.

Cookie spoke first, Deke, your sexuality doesn't make me dislike you, I still feel the same way about you, I'm just shocked about you and Kevin, I never would have guessed.  I will keep your secret under one condition, you have to promise me that you are practicing safe sex; he assured her that he was.  Tamika agreed with Cookie, it will be our secret but don't you ever pull a gun on us again, he apologized, they hugged.  Tamika said, one more thing, how can a woman tell if her man is on the DL? Deke replied, if her man starts asking for anal sex or wants her to fuck him with a dildo, if her man is an ex-con, if he starts hanging out with his boys more than her, if the physical and emotional abuse escalate, he is acting out his dislike for women and if he talks about one guy in particular and that same guy keeps coming over to the crib and keeps calling him, if she out with her man and he keeps staring at other men or if she gets a feces infection in her uterus.

Cookie asked one last question, are you using us as fronts?  Deke said no, but both of you do wonders for my image and you keep the girls away and you getting compensated for it.  Also, thugs won't approach you because they assume that both of you are with me, since I won't be having sex with either of you, I encourage both of you to have sex discreetly with men you are attracted to, keep it on the downlow, don't mess up my image.  Let's go celebrate my birthday!

Deke put his jewelry on, he loved white gold, he decided to ice down, watch, rings, studs, chains and a bracelet.  They went to Justin's in a limo, afterwards, they went to the Taboo nightclub. NBA star Nathanial Hearstan made a grand entrance accompanied by a pretty woman; they headed for the VIP area. Deke said, ya'll look better than her, why aren't you two dating ballers?  Deke continued, you two are the finest black women in Atlanta and both of you are so classy and graceful, both of you walk with a dancer's carriage, if I was straight, I would have to commit bigamy and marry you both, they all laughed.  What's stopping you from going after professional athletes, but if you gonna do it, do it right.   I don't want to see ya'll hanging over rails at basketball games giving players your digits during halftime, that shit is tacky, do it right.

Deke asked his girls, why don't ya'll go out on the dance floor and show them how it's done, put on a show.  Tamika and Cookie grabbed two guys near the dance floor, they proceeded to do 12 o'clock kicks, spins, turns, jumps and hip-hop, people were clapping. Deke was giving them a standing ovation, shouting, hell yeah.  As they left the dance floor, they passed a table full of girls, they overheard the girls say, them bitches must be insecure, sharing a man and shit, both girls laughed, Cookie mumbled, if only they knew.

When they got back to the table, Deke said, I never asked, how did you two learn to dance like that?  Cookie said, we have known each other since childhood, as kids we watched Debbie Allen and Gene Anthony Ray on Fame, and one summer, my mom took us to New York and we got to see Judith Jameson and Gregory Hines on Broadway and we saw the Alvin Ailey dance troupe and the Dance Theater of Harlem perform, we were hooked, we even watch old movies on AMC featuring Katherine Dunham, Bojangles and the Nicholas Brothers, we also read literature on Pearl Primus.  Technically speaking, Mya is the best dancer in hip-hop, that girl got skills, I could talk about dance all night long, let me shut-up.

Deke pulled out a camera and asked someone nearby to take three photos of him and his girls.  After the pictures were taken, Deke put his photo away and handed the girls their photos. He told them, cherish this photo, we in our prime, running thangs in the ATL. They waited curb side for the limo to pull up, a thug named Knight approached Cookie, hey baby, before he could say anything else, Deke lunged at him and began pistol whipping him, you stay the fuck away from her or I will kill you!  The girls pulled Deke off him, took him aside and asked, baby what's wrong?  You getting straight on us, Deke replied, naw, I fucked that nigga four nights ago, I don't won't no DL niggas near either of you.

They ended the party back at Deke's house, Deke popped open a bottle of Dom. The girls spent the night, Cookie took the downstairs room and Tamika took the upstairs room. The next day, Deke had two BMW roadsters delivered to each girl with a note attached, " accept my apologies for pulling out the strap."  They were ecstatic, Cookie immediately set her dial to WFOX, Tamika set her dial to V-103, she couldn't miss the Porsche Foxx show.  They celebrated at Club 708.

Deke showed up, carrying bottles of Cristal. The following night, the girls accompanied Deke and Joker to a Hawks game; Joker had four VIP passes to a NBA after party.  They arrived at the party, the other women in attendance got upset that the players began paying attention to Cookie and Tamika. NBA players Geron Blake and Gentry Oliver approached Cookie and Tamika.  As soon as Cookie got back to her apartment, she turned on her computer and researched the online biographies and salaries of Blake and Oliver; she passed Oliver's information on to Tamika.

At first, the girls were overwhelmed with the gifts, travel and money. Both girls received expensive jewelry from each player.  Within the next six months, both girls were dumped, the players had moved on to other girls, they were devastated, those fucking bastards. We gotta be better prepared.  Cookie got Joker to get her two tickets to the All-Star game, two airline tickets and two invites to a private after party.   Both girls were approached by a drunk blonde who was looking to diversify her stable of golddiggers.

Her crew would meet athletes in a bar, lure them back to a hotel room, give them a drug that rendered them unconscious, undress the athlete and take incriminating photos of him naked, with a woman or a man.  They would send copies of the photo to him and demand a six figure sum or else the photos would be distributed to the tabloids.   We sure could use two beautiful black girls, Cookie and Tamika declined her offer and moved on.  The party was jumping, Cookie met a NBA player named Dexter. Dexter was an off-season minister, he led the prayer session before each game.  They traded numbers and promised to stay in touch.  Tamika left the party with the All-Star MVP. Cookie had work to do, she returned home and studied the bible.

Dexter was impressed with Cookie's knowledge of the bible. Cookie also told him that she was a virgin, she was saving herself for the right man, Dexter beamed. Dexter surprised Cookie at her apartment.  They proceeded to have sex, Cookie was no virgin, she was an aggressive freak, it turned Dexter off, he wanted a conservative woman.   As he put on his clothes, he called her a liar and a sinner. Cookie said, listen up holy roller, I was gonna trade up on your ass anyway, get the fuck out of my house!  He left the apartment in a huff and slammed the door, she never heard from him again. Meanwhile, Tamika complained to Cookie, her date was not an All-Star MVP in bed, he was more like the the rookie of the year, horrible.  She never heard from him again.

They decided to go to Hank Aaron's Krispy Kreme for coffee and donuts, they had to discuss strategy.  How could they get a commitment out of these athletes? Cookie was surprised to get a call from Chester Newhouse, a NFL running back; he got her number from Geron Blake.  He wanted Cookie to come to Sunday's game, Cookie asked if she could bring a female friend, he said sure, two tickets would be left at will call. They arrived at the game, afterwards they waited for the players by the tunnel, Newhouse came over and introduced himself to Cookie, he recognized her from a photo that Blake had shown him.  When other players were approaching, Newhouse made a point to hug Cookie tightly.  He invited a teammate to join them.

They arrived at a restaurant, Cookie peeped Chester, he paid more attention to his teammate than her, they kept giving each other sexy looks on the sly, her gaydar went off. She asked Tamika to accompany her to the ladies room. Tamika had peeped it too.  They wanted to use the girls as fronts to cover up their homosexuality.  Fronting for Deke was enough, they hadn't planned on making a career out of it.  The girls left out the back door.

Chester called Cookie, he was agitated, Cookie told him that they weren't interested and hung-up.  Cookie called Deke, they laughed about it, Deke told her, you should have set a brotha up, NFL players got cut bodies, on second thought, gay athletes like to be the 'top' and I ain't giving up my top spot for no one. 

Tragedy struck, Cookie's cousin Joker was killed by a rival drug dealer.  The trio went to the funeral.

The next day, Deke called a meeting. The girls arrived at his house, lunch was catered.  Deke informed them, I have thought about this long and hard, I have decided to get out of the drug game. I'm sick of this shit, too stressful, you either die like Joker or end up in jail. I'm going to start attending church, not too late for me to try and change my life around.  We can still hangout, the money will not be coming in like it use to, unfortunately, I have to cut your allowances off, I'm sorry but I have to change my lifestyle, please understand. The girls told him, they understood. Tamika and Cookie left his house numb. They had got accustomed to the lavish lifestyle and they didn't want to give it up, neither wanted to go back to a 9-5.  Time to step up their game, they had to make these athletes marry them. Cookie had a plan.

Over the next year, Deke didn't return their calls, when they went by his house, he had moved with no forwarding address, they eventually lost touch. Cookie and Tamika had their hair done at a high end hair salon, Cookie bought some Jimmy Choo shoes and Tamika bought some Manolos.  They got facials and got their nails done, they went to the Versace boutique and selected outfits.  They arrived at a party given by a sports agent, Cookie made conversation with a all-pro quarterback named Darnell and Tamika was occupied with a major league shortshop.  Cookie left the party with Darnell, she went to his hotel room, they had sex, afterwards he fell asleep, Cookie creeped in the bathroom, retrieved a condom from her purse and proceeded to prick tiny holes in the condom.  She returned to bed and started stroking Darnell, she slipped the condom on his penis and they began to have sex again.

Cookie never heard from Darnell again, she was devastated.  One evening, she felt like going out, she couldn't locate Tamika, she went to a bar by herself. She ran into an old school buddy named George, he joined her at the bar.  After a few drinks, Cookie became talkative, George told her that it was his birthday, Cookie sang him Happy Birthday, after a few drinks, George began to look better and better.  George tried to order more drinks but his credit card declined.  He informed Cookie that he was a sanitation worker and he took care of his mother.  Cookie was not impressed. Cookie stood up to leave and stumbled, George caught her, he walked her to her car.  He asked if he could follow her home to make sure she arrived safely, she agreed.  She arrived at her place, she went to George's car to thank him, she thought, what the hell and invited him up.

They ended up in bed, Cookie woke up with a hangover, George was gone but he left a note, I will call you later, Cookie couldn't remember a thing, she hoped she hadn't slept with him, that fool is crazy, if he thinks I want his broke ass. George called, Cookie hung-up in his face, he never called again.

A month later, Cookie began to feel sick and nauseous, she made a doctors appointment. It was confirmed, she was pregnant, she was ecstatic, she called Tamika and said, I am pregnant, I'm getting ready to get paid, I know it's Darnell's baby.  Tamika congratulated her and reminded her, the going rate for athletes paying child support is between $10,000-$30,000 per month, Cookie let out a shout. Tamika told her that she was also feeling sick and nauseous, wouldn't it be a riot if we were both pregnant.

The next day, Cookie and Tamika had lunch, they looked across the room and saw Kevin, the DL thug they caught Deke with.  Kevin was having lunch with his woman.  He became nervous when he saw Tamika and Cookie, when his girlfriend went to the ladies room, he approached their table.  He asked them, how ya'll doin? I heard your boy is in the hospital, Cookie asked, what boy?  He said Deke, ya'll didn't know? Tamika asked, what is he in the hospital for? Kevin shrugged, I don't know.  He gave them the name of the hospital, they finished their lunch and went straight to the hospital.  They arrived at the nearest hospital and asked for Deke Henderson, both their hearts sunk when they were led to the AIDS ward.

Deke was lying in bed, his cheeks were sunken and his weight loss was evident, he was in the last stages of full-blown AIDS.  They asked him, how could you keep this from us, what the hell were you thinking?  He ignored their question and said, we had a wonderful ride didn't we? They all started crying and hugging.  Deke asked them to stop crying as he wiped his tears, he held both of their hands, it's something I need to tell both of you. I was wrong to tell ya'll to go after ballers, I should have said, earn your own independence, empower yourselves, that way, no one can ever take it away from you, it's not too late, that's the best advice I can give you.

Deke took a deep breath, on a sadder note, my folks and siblings won't even come see me, they always been in denial about my sexuality. Cookie said, fuck that, we your family and we will be here for you everyday, Deke smiled and squeezed them tighter.  Tamika and Cookie visited him everyday, they read to him and watched TV with him, they also brought him books by his favorite author, E. Lynn Harris and his all-time favorite, "The Coldest Winter Ever" by Sister Souljah.  Deke was ecstatic about Cookie's pregnancy, he was going to be the best Uncle a kid could have, he planned to spoil the kid rotten and hinted that Cookie name the child after him, if it's a boy. Tamika told Cookie, I took a home pregnancy test, I'm not pregnant, probably just stress.  Cookie said, since you at the hospital everyday, get a check-up, it couldn't hurt.  Tamika had a physical, the doctor assured her, it is probably stress related nerves.

Imagine her shock when her blood tests came back positive for HIV. Tamika and Cookie thought, how the hell could that happen, we been fucking athletes for the past few years and they always wear condoms.  Tamika broke down in her arms.  The health department contacted every man, including athletes, that Tamika had slept with, they all tested negative.  Everyone was baffled.

Cookie and Tamika brainstormed, it finally hit Cookie, oh shit, Tamika said, what?  I think I know how you got it, Tamika said how? Remember when you came to Deke's rescue after he got stabbed in that nightclub? You were pressing those towels on his wounds, it was a lot of blood, blood got all over your hands, you came into the bathroom to wash it off, the blood may have transmitted through a cut on your hand or gotten under your nails, somehow it got into your system, Tamika said, Oh my God! With Deke's permission, they took samples of his blood and compared it to Tamika's blood; they had the same strain of AIDS.  Tamika went into his hospital room, she stood there, shaking and crying, Deke finally looked at her, baby, I didn't mean it, you know I didn't mean it, you know I love you and Cookie.  Tamika gathered her composure and said, by saving your life, I am losing my life. Deke replied, Tamika, please forgive me, those were his last words before he lost consciousness and died.

Tamika found it in her heart to forgive Deke, she accompanied Cookie to the funeral. His death was the talk of the ATL. People began acting differently towards Tamika and Cookie, assuming they both had AIDS. Tamika was in a state of depression, she hardly ventured outdoors, her lifestyle changed drastically.  She survived on money she had socked away, she also pawned her jewelry and she sold her BMW . Cookie visited her, they would sit up and reminisce about the good times and watch movies.   Darnell had just led his team to the championship game, Cookie took the opportunity to inform him that she was pregnant with his child, he demanded a DNA test. Cookie gave birth to a bouncing baby boy, she named him Darnell, Jr. A DNA test was administered, it wasn't Darnell's baby, Cookie was crushed, several men she had been intimate with took DNA tests, it was George's baby, Cookie was devastated, broke ass George.

George was ecstatic about the birth of his son, Cookie tried to collect child support but George got laid off. Cookie had gained 60 additional pounds due to her pregnancy, she didn't look the same.  Meanwhile, Tamika was not responding well to the AIDS treatments, they were making her sick, the side effects made her hair fall out, she had shingles, she went blind in one eye and her menstruation would last 6 weeks. Cookie visited her in the hospital, she barely recognized her old friend, Tamika was just a shell of herself, she was wheezing bad and having coughing fits.   Tamika would die six months later due to AIDS complications, she was surrounded by family, Cookie was inconsolable.

Cookie drained her bank account, she also sold her BMW.  Being a single mother was a full-time job, she had to move out of her apartment, she could no longer afford it.  She moved into the projects, few people recognized her because of her weight and her short hair, her hair had fallen out because she could not afford to keep it up.  George still hadn't found a job, he tried to be helpful, he spent as much time as he could with Darnell and he brought over groceries when he could afford it.

The baby kept Cookie up all night, she became bitter and irritable.   She began drinking, trying to ease the pain. For extra money, she decided to take a part-time job at a liquor store, George's sister watched Darnell while Cookie worked.  One day, a guy she went to high school with, and his friend came into the store, Craig recognized her, my God, what happened to you?  You 'use' to be Cookie.   He told his buddy, she use to be one of the finest girls in the ATL, now she tore up from the floor up, they busted out laughing, as they were leaving, she heard Craig say, her nigga died from AIDS, she probably got it to.  Cookie had a hurt look on her face as she went in the back.  When she got off, it was pouring down rain, she opened her umbrella and ran to the bus stop, she looked in her purse for bus fare and came across a photo.

She pulled out the photo, it was the picture of her, Tamika and Deke, on his birthday, Cookie started sobbing uncontrollably. She didn't notice the bus when it came and left. All of the sudden, she remembered Deke's words "earn your independence, empower yourself." At that moment, Cookie made a decision to change her life.  She picked up Darnell, when she returned home, George was waiting for her, she told him that she planned to go back to school, George encouraged her and told her that he had good news and bad news. Bad news first, his favorite aunt died and left him her home, four bedrooms, a big yard, in a nice neighorhood, I want you and Darnell to move in with me.  Good news, I was offered a job today. Cookie replied, George, I am sorry to hear about your aunt's death, as for me and Darnell moving in, that's a nice offer but I can't lead you on, I like you and have grown to love you as a person but I don't know if I could ever fall in love with you.

George replied, I'm not asking you to fall in love with me, just let me take care of you and our son in a decent environment, if you move in, you don't have to worry about rent, with my new job, we can afford to put Darnell in daycare while you go to school, less worries.   Say yes.  Cookie said, ok, you win, he picked her up and spun her around. They moved the following week.

EPILOGUE:

Cookie went to a community college and transferred to a State University where she got a degree in social services.  She works at a center that teaches inner-city girls about independence and empowerment, in talking to the girls, she uses her life story as an example. She is fulfilled and happy.

Cookie eventually fell in love with George, they would marry and George eventually got a promotion. They are out of debt and Cookie is expecting a baby girl.

Darnell, Jr. is a happy and well adjusted child, he is eagerly awaiting the birth of his sister, he can't wait to be a big brother.

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