City of Secrets: Chapter 1

Amberlee Diaz couldn’t find her damn keys. 


She moved opened boxes, scattered unopened boxes, and checked under the couch, in her purse.

No keys.

Panic started to rise up, she wrestled it down. She couldn’t be late today. Not today. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and thought back to last night when she’d come home from picking up Chinese food. She had her purse in one hand, and two plastic bags of food in the other. Her door lock took a key or her fingerprint to open, she used her finger, came in, and sat everything on the counter. 

 No keys.

Her eyes snapped open. Grabbing her shoulder bag and cell phone, she raced outside, slamming the door behind her. When she snatched open the door to her burnt orange Jeep Wrangler, she sighed. Her keys were sitting right in the middle console. Amberlee slid in and started the Jeep. The clock on the dash read, 8:22 and she felt her body relax a little more.

Today was her first day as a Criminal Analyst for the Seneca Police Department and she didn’t want to be late. Which she had a tendency to do. It wasn’t her fault that her perception of time wasn’t like normal people. Her five minutes were everyone else’s fifteen minutes. 

She smiled as she pulled out of her driveway and down her street. She’d purchased a three-bedroom condo located in the Upper Boroughs of Seneca City. The area was inhabited mostly by single professional millennials and couples just starting families.

Her phone rang through her Jeep’s Bluetooth, she saw it was her sister Devin

“Hey sis, what’s up?” Amber answered.

“Nothing, heading into work, wanted to check in on you; see how my long-lost baby sis was doing. You know, since I never get to see you.” Devin added sarcastically.

“Devin, we talk damn near every day,” Amber laughed

“Not the same.” She whined.

Though she was close with both sisters, Devin gave her the most shit about not coming home. Her oldest sister Evarose was eleven months older than Devin. Amberlynn was only thirteen months younger than Devin. As children, people often thought they were triplets.

“So, what’s on your agenda for the day, working on any big stories?” Choosing to ignore Devin’s comment about not coming home.

“I wish, I do have some leads I need to follow up, not sure if they will lead anywhere, ” Devin answered.

Her sister Devin was an award-winning investigative journalist and also the face of Seneca News Network. The leading news station in Seneca. She was kind of a celebrity in Seneca City and not because she was a Diaz. The first-day Amberlynn returned, she driven through downtown Seneca and couldn’t help but smile when she’d seen Devin’s picture larger than life in a digital advertisement that sat on the side of the skyscraper that house SNN.

When Devin first went into journalism, people dismissed her because of her background, and her high-maintenance appearance. But she proved them all wrong and quickly rose up through the ranks, not because she was a Diaz, but because she had a nose for news and was tenacious when working on a story.

“Speaking of jobs, are you stilling looking for a new one or are you still on your soul-searching journey?”

“No, I found one, as a matter of fact, I start today,” Amber responded, trying to keep the smile out of her voice.

“Really? What did you finally decide on? Are you going to practice law?

“What if I told you, you’re talking to the new Criminal Analyst for SPD,

Devin fell silent.

“Bitch don’t play with me. Don’t fucking play with me,” laughing into the phone. “Please tell me yo ass is playing and you are not back in Sen City.”

“Yes, I am …..In Seneca,” Amber laughed.

“Bitttchhhhh.” her sister screamed “Do Mama and Daddy know?”

“No, I have told anyone yet,” Amber confessed. When she made the decision to move back home, she didn’t share it with anyone besides her best friend Kennedy. She wanted to surprise them. They’d been begging to move back since she and Jason split.

“Daddy is going to lose his fucking mind, you know that right.”

“I’m looking forward to it,” Amber admitted smiling. They had always been daddy’s girl but had grown even closer to their dad in their teen years. 

“What till I tell Eva this shit, ” Amberlee could hear her sister exiting her vehicle, “Look I got to go, but I’m going to hit you up later, Love ya,” Devin said.

“Love you too Dev,” Amber replied and hung up.

Amber hadn’t lived in Seneca since she was twenty-one, yet it still felt like home in a way that Savannah, Georgia never did. But she rarely visited, with Jason being back in the city, she’d wanted to avoid him. After graduating from law school in Savannah, she moved to Virginia, using her internship as a reason not to come home often.

But everyone knew the truth. Knew who she’d been hiding from. Amber was done hiding. Done running and it felt good.

She exited the area known as the Uppers and drove into the Mids. She’d grown up in a gated community called Essex, located in the Uppers. Where she’d gone to school and socialized with the same group of people.

That tight group of friends included Jacobi Stanley, his older brother J.R., Liana Morton, Stefon Hicks, her two sisters Eva, and Devin, and Amber’s best Kennedy and her brother Jason. Although Kennedy and Jason didn’t live in the neighborhood, she and her brother Jason were a part of the crew too.

Seneca City, Ohio was unlike any other city in America. A cast-off of Black folks thrown off their own land, forced to relocate and find a new home. It was an urban affluent city; a bustling and prosperous metropolis that exudes opulence, luxury, and modernity. Seneca City was characterized by its towering skyscrapers, sleek and modern architecture, and well-manicured public spaces.

When you navigate through the city streets, you are greeted by a vibrant and diverse cultural landscape. Upscale boutiques, high-end restaurants, and trendy cafes line the streets, catering to the city’s affluent residents and visitors.

Seneca City was known for its impressive skyline, which features some of the tallest and most iconic buildings in the world. Glass facades and reflective surfaces shimmer in the sun, while futuristic designs and avant-garde shapes add to the city’s modern aesthetic. This is where black architects came to show their asses off.

Public spaces in the city are meticulously maintained and designed to provide a serene and welcoming oasis in the midst of the urban hustle and bustle. Parks and gardens dot the landscape, offering peaceful retreats where visitors can relax, exercise, and enjoy the natural beauty of the city.

In addition to its impressive architecture and public spaces, an urban affluent city was characterized by its bustling and diverse population. People from all walks of life can be found in the city, creating a vibrant and cosmopolitan atmosphere that is both exciting and inspiring.

Very few knew that before Central Park was built, a community lived in that part of that area in New York, a place named Seneca Village. Where Black people had created a cocooned community of their own.

Then one day, the elite white folks of New York decided they were missing a public park and figured Seneca Village was the only place the park go possibly be placed.. Under the guise of eminent domain, they forced the Black landowners to sell their homes, at a price less than their actual value of course, and used the land to build what is today known as Central Park.

Five of those black men took the money they received and headed out west looking for someone willing to sell them land for a new place to build.

They made it all the way to Ohio before they found William Hart, a white Mennonite, who was willing to sell them land right along the coast of Lake Erie. They brought a hundred acres and built a few home homes and farms. Created a small town that included a bank, general store, boutique, school, post office, jail, and library. They grew wheat and corn. Raised cattle, horses, and other farm animals.

They sent word, by mail, of their new town and the people came. The bank gave credit to buy more land and build more farms. They created patrols, ensuring the safety of the residents.

One day a stagecoach full of guns, running through the Ohio Valley was robbed. No one knew who robbed the coach or how the weapons ended up in Seneca City, and no one asked questions. The weapons came in handy, as violence was often used to secure Seneca from white invasion.

When Lincoln became president in 1861, rumblings of war and freeing slaves began. The men of Seneca City fought in the war. Those who stayed behind protected the remaining residents. Slaves who ran off during the war often found their way to Seneca City.

When the war ended, even more, Black people found their way north to Seneca. They made sure they stayed armed, ran patrols, and trained the citizen to defend their town as it grew. They were enrolled in school and given shelter and work. Seneca thrived.

They learned to keep their money in their community and control their politics and the educational system. Just as the Jewish, Asian, and Arabic communities did. Seneca continued to grow and grow.

While the rest of the country argue and fought about the non-existence of critical race theory in classrooms, banning black authors, and re-writing history. The students in Seneca City School District, regardless of whether they attended public or private schools, learned true history. No sugar coating or whitewashing facts. If they learned about Martin Luther King, they learned about the activist and the man. Yes, he fought for civil rights and yes he was also unfaithful to his wife, something the F.B.I tried to use against him. If they learned about the founding fathers, they explored their success as well as their faults. They never learned about Rosa Parks, without learning about Claudette Colvin. They are taught, that black history did not start with the landing of slaves but extends over the Atlantic, to a time when Great African Kings and Queens ruled Africa. 

No there was no place in the world like Seneca City and she was glad to be back in the middle of it. Plus now that Amber was back in Seneca City, her parents could get off her back about not seeing her often. 


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