EXCERPT: The Gangster


Another one of Timmy Johnson’s teeth flew out as Mike McShane slammed his swollen fist into his jaw for the sixth time. Mike’s friends, Chucky Davis and Derek Halloway, were tearing the back-wheel off Timmy’s bicycle. The handle-bar frame was already bent, and the chain removed by Derek and used as a whip across Timmy’s flesh. Chucky had removed the seat a few minutes earlier, taking the pole and cracking it against their victim’s knees and shins. Mike may have only been thirteen-years-old, and easy to get along with, but he was a boy of violent anger and savage revenge. His number-one source of income was selling cigarettes for Wayne Wolf, older brother of his long-time friend, Adam Wolf; and, when someone tried to steal his merchandise, he made sure they would pay a price so severe that no one else in Hillview, Kentucky would be foolish enough to follow in the footsteps of poor Timmy Johnson.

Mike had to admit that Timmy’s move was slick. He had come from around the small shopping center where Mike did a lot of business, right up to the dumpster where Mike hid the bag of smokes and money, and snatched it up and took off. It could have worked, but too bad for Timmy that Chucky was the fastest white boy in north-central Kentucky. It wasn’t even twenty-seconds before Chucky caught him and pulled him to the ground.

Mike stopped punching and looked down at Timmy. Blood oozed from his mouth and nose; his left eye was shut and two teeth now protruded through his upper lip. He stood up and stomped hard on the boy’s stomach, expelling an agonized yelp from his mouth.

“That’s what happens when you try to steal from me, bitch,” he said.

The continuous twang of the bike’s metal smashing against the concrete caused him to turn around. Both wheels were now off and had flat tires. With the bike chain still gripped tightly in his hand, Derek stepped forward and whipped it down as hard as he could across Timmy’s face, opening a deep, four-inch gash that erupted blood instantly.

Chucky picked up one of the bike wheels and threw it on Timmy’s prone body. The boy cried out, again, and then rolled into a ball.

“What do you want to do with him?” Chucky asked.

Mike lifted the other bike wheel in his right hand and started clobbering Timmy with it, bringing it up high each time, and slamming it down hard. Timmy wailed and started coughing. By the time Mike was done, Timmy had thrown-up all over the pavement around him.

Mike tossed the wheel away. “See if he has any money.”

The lynching had occurred behind a place called Hunter’s Market, where Mike usually sold the cigarettes. Dragging Timmy back there had been easy enough for the three boys. Mike was already close to six-foot and weighed a husky one-eighty. He had shoulder-length black hair and blue eyes.

Chucky Davis was two years older than him, shorter and lighter, but still stocky and strong. He kept his head shaved almost to nothing, with just a thin layer of black hair on top. He had a long scar on the back of his head and a slightly bent nose; two attributes he had received after begin jumped by some football players a few years ago.

Derek Halloway was just about to turn thirteen and he was small, but he was crazy. His hair was a wild mess and he had large teeth and big ears and was always ready for a fight. The three of them had been running together for a couple of years and were always getting into stuff.

It was mid-March of 1994; Mike’s county was on Spring Break and that meant Mike and his pals were out causing trouble, trying to be the baddest kids on the block. Mike always wanted to be a gangster. He had been into the whole gang culture after hearing NWA for the first time and watching Colors and Boys n the Hood. But, he came from a suburbia known as Hillview, Kentucky, located just south of the Louisville line, that was quiet and nearly crimeless. Until he had hooked up with Chucky and Derek, nothing much ever happened. But, they were known to get into fights around the neighborhoods. The police always had their eye on Mike because of his cigarette operation.

Most of the time, he could be seen standing outside the store with his big black Bulls jacket on (where he stored his smokes), despite the weather, hidden in the shade behind one of the brick pillars, leaning against the wall with a cool casualness that was so nonchalant that it was obvious he was up to something. That was the sign that he was open. He kept his stash of cigarettes and money in a bag under a dumpster around the corner, just in case the cops rolled in. If they found anything on him, they would take it. Chucky had gotten slapped around once and had his effects stolen: cigarettes, lighter, rolling papers. They said they were confiscating his contraband, but they were just jacking his shit. Mike took measures to ensure that didn’t happen to him.

Chucky went through Timmy’s pockets and found ten bucks and a cigarette pack with a couple of joints in it. “This is all he got.”

“Fuck it,” said Mike. “It’ll do.”

Derek pulled out his butterfly knife, flipped it open and said, “I say we cut him up.”

Mike put his hand on Derek’s wrist to stop him. “Nah, man. There ain’t no need for that. He done learned.”

Chucky and Derek were kind of wild. Mike was, too, but he was also the peacekeeper among them. They both respected his smarts and usually followed his lead. He knew there’d already be enough static because of the beat down they handed to Timmy. If he was cut up, too, then the heat would rise. If Hillview would have been a crazier place, he might have let Derek do it. But, the place was too soft. Something like that would blow up.

Derek withdrew and pocketed his blade. He then spit on Timmy and said, “You’re lucky, motherfucker.”

The three of them walked back around the building, picked up the bag that Timmy had taken and dropped when he was assaulted, and stopped at the dumpster where it had been stored. It faced the side wall of the building by a street that connected two of the city’s main streets: Hillview Boulevard and Blue Lick Road. It was broad daylight and Mike had no doubts someone had seen a little bit of what happened.

“I got to close up today, guys,” he said.

Chucky and Derek nodded, looking around. Mike knelt and pulled another bag from under the dumpster. After checking its content, he placed it inside the other bag and tied it up.

“You headin’ over to Wayne’s?” Chucky asked.

“Yeah. I got to drop this shit off.”

“I think I’ll head back home,” he said.

Chucky and Wayne didn’t really get along. Wayne was older and didn’t care for Chucky’s cocky attitude. Chucky was only fifteen and Wayne was seventeen, more filled out, and had a reputation for fighting, so he avoided crossing paths with him if he could.


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