Levon Bush was just nineteen-years-old, but he had been a gangbanger for most of his life. He started running with his older brother’s crew when he was nine, selling marijuana and crack on various street corners. When Levon was fourteen, his brother went to prison for trafficking; he wasn’t getting out for another seven years. This left Levon to take over. When he did, he cut into the action of some local pimps nearby and started a short war. Levon, with the help of another crew, won the feud and took over the pimping action. There were only a couple of other players on the stroll a few miles from Scottsdale and they all kept a peace. But, Levon always expected things to bubble over sooner or later.
Most nights, he could be seen walking the streets with his crew. He wasn’t very tall, but he was thick. His skin was dark brown and he kept his head shaved. If the weather was warm, he never wore a shirt. It was the end of March, so he was mostly seen shirtless and with long blue-jean shorts on. He didn’t run a real dangerous crew, not like some downtown, but they had their rackets and people mostly stayed away from them. There was one other set in Scottsdale who stayed mostly on the other side of the complex and took their outside business to the side of the city closest to their end. But, there were times when their paths crossed. Tonight was one of those nights.
He and a few of his friends stood outside of building eight where the new couple had just moved in. They didn’t look like they had much, but no one around there ever did. He thought Ellie was cute and Greg looked like a punk. But, there was nothing worth taking, except maybe Ellie. But, they lived next door to that nosy old Ms. Peabody who liked to talk with the manager, a lot. Even if Levon had a plan, he probably wouldn’t be able to execute it. That woman was like the neighborhood watch, always sitting on her porch, looking out of her windows, snooping. He really didn’t like the way she looked at him when he came by. He tried to mean-mug her back, but she never looked away.
“So, what you think, Levon?” asked one of his pals.
“Man, they ain’t got nothing.”
“That bitch ain’t bad, though,” he said about Ellie.”
“Yeah, but that damn bitch next door to them always lookin’ out and shit. I bet she got her ear to the wall all the time and shit.”
“Somebody got to deal with her.”
“Maybe somebody will,” Levon said.
The thought of getting rid of Ms. Peabody had crossed his mind, but he didn’t entertain it too much. As much as she got under his skin, she was still just a lonely, middle-aged woman. She would have to really cross a line to make him do anything to her.
“You going to the bridges tonight, L?”
The Bridges was where the stroll was. It was an area of the street where two separate overpasses ran by some abandoned warehouses. No one but cops and people looking for hookers ever really went there. Pushers and junkies would occupy the worn-out motel up the block where the prostitutes often took their johns. Levon didn’t go down there unless there was business or a problem to deal with. His boys went down there, a lot; and, he really didn’t like it. Police didn’t bust a lot of people down there, but if they saw some bangers from other neighborhoods they pounced. They were looking to bust pimps and anyone down there not looking for sex was a suspect. It was just a matter of time before someone got busted and started finking.
“Nah, man; and ya’ll motherfuckers been goin’ down there too much already. Ya’ll need to stay away from there unless I say so.”
Nobody said anything back. No one among the crew ever wanted to backtalk Levon. They knew better. He made sure of it.
Levon heard voices down the street and looked that way. There were silhouettes shuffling towards them. From he and his gang were standing, they couldn’t be seen. They were in the grass at the furthest edge of the lot, away from the streetlights. He hadn’t told any of his people to meet him there, so he kept his eye on things.
It was five members of the rival gang on the other side of the complex. When they passed under the streetlight, Levon said, “What the hell they doin’ here? Come on, boys.”
They walked out into the lot to intercept the intruders. The five rivals stopped. One guy named Grubbs stepped to the front and said, “Come on, Levon. We don’t want no trouble. We’re just passing through.” He was tall and skinny, dressed in black.
“Too bad, man. You know you don’t come over here. I don’t come shuffling on your side. Now, get on.”