Rainy days are always bad news for street pushers. If buyers can’t find them there aren’t many ways to make a day’s living. With an opaque reflection staring back at him, Ray sips on a cup of Costa Rican coffee while gazing out at the empty street, bleak and grey. He’s already suited up, Glock in waistband, with plans to visit a local bar Danny says is a hangout for a crew he’s got an in with; both of them see the overcast as a good opportunity to network. Danny opens the door and appears from his bedroom, joins Ray by the window and pulls out a pipe from the desk beside them. He offers it to Ray first, who puts down the coffee cup and takes a puff of the greenish-brown remainders from the night before.


“Mornin’. Hope you slept good man, we got no time to waste. It’s my only day off this week and I wanna introduce you to Reyna,” Danny says, watching his friend tune in while working the carburetor. “She runs a crew that protects the bar I was tellin’ you about, told me she’d be there today. I think she’s your way into the world here. And get this, Ray: she used to run security for a full on grow op in Peru.”

“South America’s the big leagues…” Ray ponders curiously, “Why’d she leave?”

Danny hesitates for a split second and responds, “Chicago is home.”

Ray laughs, “Murder fuckin’ central of all places? You’re holding something back…”

Danny sighs. They both know Ray’s senses are correct but he was hoping he wouldn’t have to explain. He decides to rip the bandaid off fast, Ray would pry until he got a real answer anyway.

“She may have helped kill the guy running it.”

Ray’s head perks up with a condescending look. It’s rare for him to question Danny’s judgement, but before he can openly express doubt he gets a reasonable answer.

“Look, don’t fuckin’ speak about this. You ever hear for yourself you gotta act surprised… the boss and second in command didn’t get along. She helped the underboss.”

Ray passes the pipe to Danny, who lights it and rapidly flicks the carb to push the last of the weed further.

“That’s supposed to convince me?” Ray’s pretentious attitude earns him an icy stare.

“Fine. But like I said, act surprised… the boss raped second in command’s wife… multiple times. Reyna found out, offered to help and they took him down. He was fuckin’ scum, Ray, the entire cartel went against him. Like I said, she came back here cause it’s home… apparently still gets a cut ‘cause of who she helped. He’s boss dog now.”

Ray immediately regrets his distrust. He nods with raised eyebrows and widened eyes.

“Oh… fuck…”

“Yeah… forget it, listen: her crew’s about fifteen strong. I’ve met most of ‘em… standup people. She knows about you already, our high school days. She told me her story so I told her mine. Naturally you came up.” Danny says, returning the pipe to the drawer.

“Fair enough… we headin’ out now?” Ray asks to receive a nod and first checks to make sure he locked the safe. The brothers turn out the lights, lock the door behind them and make their way to Vince’s.

Reyna sits alone with a tall whiskey ginger at a table that doesn’t garner much attention, thumbing through the local news on her phone. Once inside, Danny leads the way to her table and smiles. Reyna gives a backwards nod and grins with genuine happiness Ray isn’t expecting.

“Danny, so good to see you! Sit with me?” Reyna asks with a warmth that makes it hard for Ray to believe she’s a street duke who murdered a drug lord. “Could use the company today…”

The brothers sit down opposite from Reyna, and Ray extends a hand: “Ray.”

Reyna grasps it and gapes into his sunglasses as if she sees through, studying the details of his soul. He meets the gaze and keeps a thin smile on his face, though her stare is carving a pit in his stomach.

“Good to meet you Ray, why haven’t I seen you before?”

Ray shrugs.

“Honestly? I’d rather stay home an’ smoke this guy’s weed,” Ray smiles and the three share an ice-breaking chuckle. Reyna calls the bartender for a round of drinks, who obviously wrote off other people waiting even before the brothers sat down. Ray notices how the staff treats her, he’s aware that she must have a degree of immunity around here. Although he hasn’t taken a sip of alcohol since he’s been off the smack, he decides to test his restraint. He feels nervous for some reason, like he may be opening a portal for the inner addict. He shakes the thoughts away, reassuring himself that he’s in control, and needs to be in front of such a valuable connection. Addiction rings, he treats it like an inconsiderate customer while he’s grumpily hosting at a busy restaurant. He realizes he’s in his own thoughts, completely overlooking the conversation. Maybe a few drinks would do him good.

“So, Rey. I mean… Rey-na, not you Ray… gonna take some gettin’ used to,” Danny chuckles and gets to the point: “How’s business?”

The two of them both smile. Reyna is the first to break, a twitch contorts her grin into a frown as she responds: “Business ain’t boomin’. It is what it is.”

“I feel it… Vince still comin’ through on the shipments?” Danny asks.

Reyna pushes her mouth to one side, leans in to say something important but holds off as the drinks arrive at the table. The bartender puts down three whiskey gingers and leaves quickly. Ray notices the barman’s eyes linger on Reyna, notices his own do the same. She’s a very beautiful woman, confident and warm, an obvious story to tell, and physically attractive as well: thick lips, short dark hair, almond-shaped eyes and a healthy figure. Reyna thanks the bartender for the drinks and leans back in, her breasts push against the edge of the table. Ray feels lucky to have sunglasses on, decides to remove them after a silent agreement with himself to keep eye contact or look elsewhere. He doesn’t know Reyna enough to know she wouldn’t care, he wants to keep his mind focused anyway.

“Vince is dead.” Reyna drops it like a bomb. Danny nearly spits out his drink, a gulp which leaves the glass half full. He stares with widened eyes, slowly regaining composure and holding his hands up for more information. He’s still slightly scowling, and Ray gets the impression he’s genuinely surprised and upset. Ray is a bit thrown off considering he’s never heard Danny mention the name, but his wrinkled brow and steady eyes translate deep concern.

“Wrong place, wrong time… said he didn’t need us this run, chose a bad spot to meet with our contact… god, I should’ve never let him go. Apparently a group of thugs saw the deal happen and stepped in. They killed Vince and almost got our buyer… he’s making a recovery at the hospital up North,” Reyna was referring to a private clinic the crew used for any treatment needed off the record. “Twelve fucking stab wounds, Danny… twelve. They took the drugs, took the money and ran off…”

Ray never heard Vince’s name until today but Danny did meet him on multiple occasions. Vince was, in fact, how Danny got linked with Reyna to begin with. He hasn’t spoken much about the Chicago drug scene out of respect for Ray’s sobriety but he quickly finessed his way into it after moving from Cleveland to get a foothold and side cash when needed.

“That’s that?” Danny is lost, and although Reyna understands he’s attempting to process everything she’s a little upset with the question.

“No… that’s not fucking that, Daniel. But what am I supposed to do? I mean… I shouldn’t even be talkin’ about this in front of him,” she says, meaning Ray.

“That’s… fucking awful. I’m sorry…” Danny lets himself ruminate for a moment before nodding to Ray and adding, “He’s fine, by the way… if you can tell me you can tell him…”

Looking for an opportunity to keep away silence, he continues, “You actually kinda know him already… remember my friend from high school I told you about?” Danny speaks out to defend Ray, and they both watch as the gears turn in Reyna’s head. In her defense, drunk memories aren’t the easiest to recover. She wrinkles her brow and just as she’s about to give up, it clicks.

“Ahh, so you’re the face behind the stories…” she says, almost as if truly acknowledging him for the first time. Ray shrugs and looks at Danny for reassurance.

“He's the one,” Danny says, hoping the transition isn’t too awkward. Ray gets a flush of tension in his stomach, discomforted by the situation.

“Don’t be modest, Ray, I already told the stories,” Danny says. Somehow the comment manages to make them all chuckle.

“Well… Ray…” Reyna says slowly, deliberately, “I have a question for you. An offer, a deal, however you wanna see it.” Reyna says hopefully.


“I… are you involved in the underground still?” Reyna has the same penetrating expression, as if some sort of voodoo is already convincing Ray he’ll say yes. Unintentionally Reyna has that quality about her, she’s very hard to say no to. While at one point it was exhausting she’s learned to embrace it.

“Well… not here. I’m kinda just finding my footing, you know? Whaddya thinkin’?” He asks somewhat hesitantly.

Reyna’s lips twitch on one side.

“I hear you can take a punch.”

Ray places his scarred-up bear paws on the table in front of them. “Can dish 'em, too.”

Reyna sees the scabs on his knuckles and widens her eyes for a brief second, releasing a half exhale, half chuckle.

“Fuckin’ jesus, Ray,” Danny chimes in.

Reyna forces a prim smile, “Not necessary for what I have in mind… but I could use your help,” her smile shrivels, “I want someone who ain’t known around here… everybody knows everybody at this level. You get what I’m sayin’?” Reyna clearly sees Ray as the missing piece of the puzzle for revenge. He’s totally underground with virtually no connections, he’s apparently trustworthy, and if all the stories she heard were true he can definitely take a hit.

“Help you how, exactly?” Ray asks.

Reyna pauses for a moment to find the right words, seemingly fleeting.

“I went with some of my people to get answers when we got the news. Talked to everyone, fuckin’ everyone we could get a word with: shopkeepers, junkies, pushers, people walkin’ home from work - anyone and everyone. At first we was trying to find the killers ourselves… stupid, maybe. But we did learn a theme… a crew’s been muggin’ people around these neighborhoods. They match the description of Vince’s killers,” Reyna spoke quietly but firmly, “Standup criminals like us doin’ it professionally… we don’t prey on the weak. We don’t turn our neighborhoods against us. We fix ‘em up, invest in ‘em. If the leaders of this country turn our own against us, we stop it, give people reasons to be on our side. Reasons to keep their mouths shut when we get nasty with the people who fuck them over. They know we got their back if they got ours. This new crew… they got no morals, no fuckin’ spine. No thoughts on longevity, sold on believing they’re not makin’ it out alive anyway. I spoke to more people, heard more and more say they’re gettin’ robbed around these neighborhoods… a lotta similar methods and profiles. Violent, degenerate shit. I think we know them but if it’s who I think it is… they definitely know me,” she pauses for a moment and gives Ray descriptions of four people as she recalls them.

Ray nods slowly, trying to piece together his place in the plan.

“So… you want me to lure out a crew of sociopaths for you to wipe off the streets of Chicago? I’m… I dunno. They might not even have the dru-"

“Fuck, Ray, this ain’t about gettin’ shit back - it’s about my home, people being able to trust me, makin’ it so our own people don’t turn against us just because we’re underground,” Reyna has to stop herself from getting more upset, “These fuckin’ fools are gonna rob the same neighborhoods, the same people one too many times be left with no choice but to call the cops unless we do somethin’ about it ourselves. This ain’t about money or drugs. For fuck’s sake, Ray, this is about making sure we don’t have to apply at Walmart next month,” Reyna holds off and sighs deeply. “But you’re right about one thing: I need bait. Someone they don’t know… I’d ask Danny but he’s already told me you’re the only boss he’ll quit the hospital for.”

Ray remains silent, analyzing the risk verses the reward, which hasn’t even been clearly laid out yet. But if Danny is willing to gamble on it, he is too. At the moment Reyna doesn’t consider how she’ll make the job worth it, she’s only concerned with playing the game one move at a time. She knows she’ll owe Ray big time if he’s willing to put his life at risk.

“I need to know the plan.”

Ray, Danny and Reyna sit in the living room of her apartment. The window is open and Reyna leans against the wall next to it, blowing smoke from her cigarette out into the crispy air sweeping over the city. A few hours of daylight still cling to the skyline, giving the group an hour to kill before they set the plan in motion and strike. Based on the intel, Reyna believes the crew is foolish enough to wander around the same neighborhoods for easy targets. Ray will walk around the crew’s domain looking, essentially, vulnerable and wealthy. He stares at his reflection, the jeans and bright polo scream “rob me.” Reyna gives him a few hundred dollars in tens and fives to put in his wallet and stuffs it in his back pocket. The thicker the bulge, the more appealing he is to muggers.

“It’s too obvious…” Ray says unsurely.

“That’s what they need - they’re fucking desparate, Ray - that’s why they did what they did to Vince. They don’t waste effort on people who dress like bums,” she nods at the heap of Ray’s clothes on the table and Danny laughs. Ray smiles, he’s a little surprised at how calming her sense of humor feels before leading a convoy to confrontation. Her peace of mind is transferable, as if the allies in the room are absorbing the same feeling, outweighing the tension. He admires her, clearly sees her appeal as a leader and once again appreciating Danny’s sense of judgement.

The three humans remain mostly silent for the next sixty minutes. They hear a few gunshots go off as time passes, typical and terrifying Southside Chicago. Danny makes a joke about the way someone gallops across the street, but other than a slight snicker Ray is silent. Reyna is on and off a burner with different members of the crew with a soft-spoken voice. Again Ray thinks about the drug lord, having a bit of a hard time believing one personality can stretch so far to opposite ends of the spectrum.

“Okay Ray, you about ready?” Reyna keeps her gaze on the city outside while asking.

“What’s the plan, exactly? Where will you be?” Ray feels uncomfortable not knowing the neighborhood, but Reyna has things figured out.

“Stop worrying. Alan and Julius are two of my best - they’ll be with me, we’ll be tailing about a block behind you…” she disappears into her room for a moment and returns with two silenced pistols, both of which she hands to Danny. “Keep ‘em. You won’t need ‘em as long as I’m around but, ya know, we won’t always be in the same room.” Reyna gives Danny an elating hug, then does the same for Ray. She opens the desk drawer and pulls out three sets of thin gloves and ski masks. “I doubt we’ll need the masks… but keep the gloves on. Ray, you’ll need to leave any weapons with Danny for now… and try not to swing, okay? Let ‘em punk you, let ‘em take the wallet . Before my people strike I want to make sure it’s them, we’ll move in after we confirm. You’re an innocent bystander… a victim, okay? No throwin' hands unless you need to defend your life, and remember, you don’t know us,” Reyna pauses to let Ray nod and continues, “I’m droppin’ Danny off at his place before we head to the neighborhood together. He’ll pick you up two blocks North by the shitty Sushi place, which, by the way never try. And you won’t meet ‘em this time but Sarah and Jimbo will make sure you get in Danny’s car safely. From there ya’ll gotta make it home on your own. You feel alright about this?”

Ray shrugs.


He only realizes how tense he was after Reyna’s smile makes the muscles in his cheeks sink back to a resting position.

Ray walks down the street numbly, eyes glued to his phone, a few other pairs on him. Behind Ray, the vanguard trailed about two blocks, hitting a stop light just as he was halted by a man with a braided ponytail and eight o’clock shadow. An unlit, hand-rolled cigarette hung from his lips as he held up a hand to halt the approaching Raymond Brown. The human stop sign matched the description of one of the thugs to a t. Two more men who Ray sensed but hadn’t turned around to see were approaching with heavy footsteps. Ray looked up and didn’t need to remind himself to feel concerned, although none of the people about to mug him guessed it was for their safety and not his. A voice rings out from behind him.

“Wallet. Now.”

The man in front of Ray contorts his already twisted face into a fiercer expression and pulls out a jagged knife, one that he didn’t bother cleaning from the last victim it ripped apart. Ray actually cringes and thinks ‘that blood used to be in someone’s veins’. Everything inside him is telling him to grab at the knife or swing with all his might. He fights the urge, puts on a defeated gimmick. He hopes it’s convincing, raising both of his hands and saying out loud “Please… back pocket.”

One of the men behind him grabs the wallet then throws a forceful punch to the back of Ray’s skull. A disturbing crack follows, possibly the sound of breaking bones. Ray can’t really tell from who, he’s hit hard enough to contemplate this from the pavement. He feels a flash of pain, then a swift barrage of kicks to the ribs. Ray knows not to resist, it would only make things worse for him; he’s only happy he hasn’t been stabbed yet. The muggers check to make sure nothing else is on him, realize the wallet is the only valuable item on his person and begin to take off.

The screeching of tires and hurrying of footsteps indicate that these men did indeed match the descriptions of the people who murdered Vince. It’s a bewildering, nearly psychedelic experience as he ponders over the thought that the closest he might ever get to Vince is seeing his blood on the killer’s knife. Ray gets up and sluggishly proceeds North to the sushi place for his departure back home. He doesn’t see them but Sarah and Jim watch over him from the roof across the street. The only trace he gets of their existence is the slightest trail of cigarette smoke as a gust sweeps the scent below.


As Donny’s hooded figure sets the car in motion through the nearly-deserted street, Reyna, Alan and Julius slide on their ski masks and peer menacingly through the slits. As adrenaline begins to pump from the glands on their kidneys, Reyna rolls down a window just before the car halts abruptly in front of the thugs. With a sense of victory quickly sapped, the three bewildered men stop in their tracks for a few seconds that warp into a thousand years. Wide eyes and backs against a brick wall, two of them were immediately filled with 9mm rounds to the head. Blood shades the bricks behind them and glows purple under the flickering street light. It’s so thick you can almost see the malnutrition caused by decades of fast food. Julius was already out from the passenger’s seat with a baseball bat and wastes no time flogging the last man standing, who was holding his hands up as if the rival crew were police officers. He collapsed on impact, and Alan got outside to help throw the unconscious body in the trunk. They leave the two corpses for the city to deal with and drive to a crew warehouse with the unconscious man sprawled on the floor under their feet. Alan had dug his hand around to make sure the man was unarmed and removed the jagged knife, a key tied by a string worn as a necklace, and Ray’s wallet. There’s nothing else on his person, not even a phone. While on the way to the warehouse, Alan pulls out Ray’s license from the wallet and holds it up to get a better look, but not before Reyna snatches it and croaks through a chortle, “What an awful picture!”

The warehouse they arrive at is multi-purpose. There are two garages: one, an organized mess of radio and car parts and the other being a separate room only big enough for a single car. Sarah, who previously made sure Ray got to Danny safely, is an expert in repairing and maintaining Cadillacs and runs this place as a specialty tune-up service with her brother. She also knows enough to work on Toyotas and Hondas but lacks the same mastery. It’s a win/win by being a great front for the money she makes working for Reyna, and also by being a great excuse to make alterations on crew cars used in public jobs. Donny will leave his car in the shop for a new color and license plate, at least until a police report is released and they see for sure they’re in the clear. Up until that point even Reyna will have to try harder to relax and keep her usual cool.

They take the unconscious man from the back seat and bring him downstairs into the soundproof basement. The large, metal door is shut behind them and each of the three locks are secured. Julius and Alan take the task of chaining the crew boss to the chair after laying down a large tarp on the floor underneath, Reyna walks closer with a bucket of water. Once everything is in order she throws a few small splashes on him. Nothing. She walks up and shakes him gently, “Hey… hey!”

Movement. He opens his eyes, slowly begins to piece reality back together.

“It’s almost hard for me to believe you’d do something so stupid…” Reyna practically snarls. Even now she isn’t completely aggressive; only a hint of hostility flavors her usual tone. The man instinctively wiggles around to no avail. “You won’t rip apart metal chains.”

He squirms even more now, as if the friction will somehow slip his swelling wrists out of their snake-like grasp. At this point everybody else in the room inserts ear plugs, an act that send a cold chill down his back that would cool the Antarctic Ocean.

“You’re going to die, so just understand that and calm down. If you cooperate I’ll let you decide how. If not, it’s up to them,” Reyna nods to Alan and Julius. They both served in the marines and show it in their weathered expressions, which they allow to become sadistic as the thug steals a quick glance. They’ve taken many lives and both find nothing like the adrenaline rush of confrontation. Money is only a byproduct of what fuels these particular veterans. Though they aren’t thrilled by executions they don’t mind the taste of revenge, nor the idea of saving a few future victims. Reyna cuts the silence: “Do you remember me?”

Finally the thug realizes he’s wasting energy and stops moving - voluntarily at least. A visceral tremble rattles him, he remains silent as he eyes Julius play with the same blade that took Vince’s life. Reyna knows his silence is compliance. She’s seen him when he felt in control and right now the look in his eyes is childlike in comparison.

“How many of you are left?”

He takes another peak at Alan, who is still staring at him, and then down to the knife Julius is holding with deathly grip; the teeth on the knife become fangs. Alan and Julius are convinced that this man needs to be erased, and whether this is right or not, the internal justifications are beyond reversing. In a completely isolated room with the willingness of a human on their last strand of hope, the man spills everything Reyna wants to know and more. He believes it may even grant him life.

“Six… but… look, we still got your coke…”

Reyna scowls. She doesn’t have the patience to explain he isn’t here because he stole drugs. The man coughs nervously and continues, not sure what he said that’s making her visibly more tense.

“We’re gettin’ rid of it in one go… buyer’s comin’ to my apartment we use for deals in Calumet Heights. The whole crew should be there…”

“What number?” Reyna demands.

“112b and c, one of those two-in-one joints…”

Reyna holds up the key that Alan took from the guy’s neck. “This the key, or is this to your house?”

“Same place.”

“Anyone else livin’ with you?”


“Any other keys to the apartment floatin’ around?”

The man shakes his head.

“That’s a no?”

“Well… one, taped to the underside of the doormat,” the man says. Reyna almost laughs out loud. She imagines someone wanting to break in, lifting up the doormat to find a key and losing hope after not seeing it on the floor, a glance away from getting inside.

“That can’t actually… okay… when’s the deal goin’ down?” Reyna continues to suppress a buried thirst for revenge, knowing the more she learns the easier the rest of the job will be. The man will die as soon as she gets what she needs.

“Saturday. Six pm is when my crew gets there… buyer comes at eight.”

Reyna nods and walks closer to the victim. She looks him up and down, searching for any sign of a lie.

“How’s this deal happening if you ain’t there?” Reyna senses the truth but wants to prod and make sure.

“In my world when a OG die, somebody’s hungry enough to take the spot - ain’t time to lay low. Your guy had a lotta coke on ‘im. If the crew does it right it gets ‘em outta Southside for good.”

Reyna shakes her head and feels pity for a brief moment.

“And here you are making sure that don’t happen… whaddya think, Julius? He tellin’ the truth?”

Julius senses honesty and nods, Reyna nods in return. A horrified look crosses the thug’s face as he senses a shift in their energy and guesses at the next step. He played his cards too early and saved none. He screams loud enough to hurt his own ears, but the room only allows the vibrations to rebound off the thick walls and ring back to him. Not even Sarah can hear him upstairs. As the bellows of desperation bounce around the room, Alan pulls out his handgun and lets a single shot ring. The bullet soars at twenty-five hundred feet per second, traveling a total of about thirty yards. It splits on impact, fragments fly through bone and brain making more of a human firework show than an exit wound. Reyna looks away too late and gags at the fleshy explosion, acknowledging its strange and awful magnificence and the humbling of it all. While most of him ended up on the tarp, small chunks of brain and skull made it to the concrete floor and wall behind him. Reyna puts a hand over her mouth and dry heaves, vividly replaying the scene with her head turned.

“That was… rough to watch…” she mumbles with a growing, burdensome exhaustion. “Please… clean this one up for me…”

In a great crew every member is an atom in a cell, an organ in a body. Each member is scouted to fill an essential role and not one extra person takes up space. If any cog believes they are superior, even those who organize and lead, mistakes are bound to be made. Too much muscle can lead to a lack of specialists; too many specialists typically hang signs on their foreheads that read ‘extort us.’ If a boss has too many guards on them they can easily draw unwanted attention and ironically wear an even bigger target. These street thugs were showing signs of deterioration before they got started as a real crew. They lacked a leader with a mind for long-term goals, someone who guides with good habits. This is a necessary piece to crawl from the muck of the mire to the ivy leagues.

It’s five-thirty pm and three of Reyna’s vandals had camped out in the apartment room the night before. She’s known these three individuals since she orchestrated their high school graduations. Public school bred a more brutal version of Reyna, and while Fitz, Drake and Joanna are still slightly volatile they’ve calmed down immensely over the years. Each of her friends needed to do better on their finals than they were capable of (or able to put energy into) in order to get their diplomas. Since they all had the same teacher in different periods it made the most sense to cheat there. The teacher’s assistant was a shrill know-it-all and even annoyed the teacher, Mr. Jacobs, who rarely made it through a lecture without Billy Cooke chiming in with an easier method of doing things. So, before they took their finals the gang held down Billy while Reyna put a knife to his groin until he promised to change their grades; Fitz needed an A-, Drake only needed a C+, and Joanna a B. Reyna didn’t need to cheat herself, she felt bad for her friends and wasn’t fond of Billy. She left an imprint on his stomach without breaking skin and threatened to cut his balls off if he ever spoke a word about it. The gang got their diplomas.

Not many people with these inner workings tend to stick around public school if they fail to graduate with their class. Detention, suspension, Saturday school - much of the staff saw them slipping into the school to prison pipeline. Truth is, when they’re interested in what they’re doing they’re each bright in their own way. For example they make the perfect enforcers, indebted to Reyna and awed by her ability to come up with a necessary plan. Out of high school they flawlessly extorted underground gambling rackets for a brief period. Little did they know they could have milked that cow for a long time after they stopped. Reyna was smart enough to only target white collar rackets with no gang-ties or violent affiliations, but she was extra cautious with only a four-person group and didn’t want to strike the same place twice. The halt, however, led Reyna to a new and more helpful style of organized crime. They became more interested in making small profits through robbing muggers and investing in run-down neighborhoods. Reyna eventually caught a little flack for essentially trying to gentrify poor neighborhoods and ended up putting her spoils toward hiring good people in bad circumstances. If for no other reason she did it because it made her feel righteous, she could lay down at night without trouble sleeping. She believes in her morals and also her words: ‘anything but Walmart,’ although it’s rumored within a closed circle that she made enough to retire on after working in Peru.

Fitz is not only a ferocious enforcer, but a well-spoken arms dealer whose basement can pass as an armory. His passion supplies Reyna and the crew with whatever weapons they need, as long as they bring them back or pay a small fee. For this job the three are each equipped with a silenced SMG-11, along with Vicky.

Reyna’s plans often involve distraction and bait, and this time the worm is a slippery woman named Victoria Shepherd. Vicky is somewhat of a tactical genius, translating what she learns in chess to what’s often an inner-city battlefield. Reyna sometimes runs plans by her to figure out ways to minimize the bloodshed, and occasionally to take part in it. She and Reyna are notorious for intense, drunken games that occasionally become marathons in Vince’s bar. Reyna has an intuitive understanding of learning opposition - their tendencies and relationships between thought processes and actions. This, however, only goes so far against someone who teaches chess and coaches master players for a living, who understands and studies openings and that there are unwritten stages of the game based on development. The clash of styles and pools of knowledge lead to often hilarious and always friendly battles of wit. While Vicky is usually victorious, Reyna has won a handful of games and one of those was how they met and bonded. Reyna played a pawn to h3 as her first move and Vicky brought her knight out to get a lead in development. Overconfidently, she ended up losing her queen nine moves later and resigning. To this day she blames it on the alcohol. Sometimes developing an early attack leads to an easy win, others it can be a fatal mistake.

Vicky is on her phone in the hallway. A trench coat conceals the weapon underneath along with her slim curves, fishnets tile her amber legs and crawl into a pair of slip-ons. She’s speaking casually to Joanne on the other line as the thugs can be heard walking up the stairs. Boastful tones leap up the stairwell and announce their arrival, followed shortly by the faint scent of burning weed. They plan to leave the thugs options: they are either intrigued by Vicky and make a move on her with backs to the apartment, or they walk into the apartment as planned and get caught in the fishing pole. Only basic players get caught defenseless in such a simple trap.

Vicky relaxes and slowly continues around the corner and out of sight as she sees them move toward the door, passing around a blunt and stopping at the doormat.

“Yeah, inside,” Vicky says to Joanne, her voice trailing inaudibly to the group. She quickly makes a move back toward room 112b, sees one of the men putting down the doormat, pressing a key into the lock and swinging open the door like he’s getting back from vacation. The thugs move inside the apartment and Vicky quickly and silently rushes in behind them before the door closes, immediately wielding the SMG at their backs. Fitz and Joanna are sitting on the couch with guns pointed at the five thugs who stand frozen between the doorway and the living room. Drake is in the kitchen, one hand sliding an orange wedge in his dry mouth to reveal an orange smile, the other aiming the silenced SMG at the group. The herd now had the confidence of injured antelope in front of a pride of lions. The man nearest to the door, blunt hanging from cracked lips and a briefcase held in a ragged hand, backs up as if he can slip away without being noticed. The whole herd was in shock and still hadn’t noticed Vicky slip in behind them. He backs right into the barrel of her silencer, and she forcefully pushes him forward to give a few feet of space between the thugs and any of Reyna’s crew. Silence erupts, consumes the entire room. The true aspirations of the apartment owner are displayed in the foam around the walls and few pieces of music equipment laying around, including a keyboard, microphone and interface sitting next to a humming desktop. Somehow the hum slowly becomes a ringing howl in the ears of five terrified human beings, but the soundproofing makes it hard for anyone outside to hear what goes on inside.

“First person who makes a sound we don’t ask for is fuckin’ dead,” Joanna speaks with soft power, velvet wrapped around the handle of a diamond-edge axe. She rises from the couch like vapor while each captive hopes she’ll dissipate. Caustic jealousy and hopelessness shrinks them, they begin to see what real power looks like.

“Don’t fucking move. Are any of you armed?”

Two of the thugs nod with hesitation, and Drake walks closer to them and calmly ensures, “Walk to me. Slow, fucking slow down.”

The few paces become a treacherous journey. The thugs begin to fully take in everything, notice Reyna’s crew all wearing gloves and dark waterproof jackets. The fact that they’re against professionals begins to knock harder, the fate is realized as their position is made useless. They’ve been herded like cattle. As Drake digs for the weapons his three comrades keep an extra vigilant eye on the group, noticing every breath and twitch, ready to kill. Drake takes two handguns and sets them on the counter without fully turning around, keeping an eye on the situation in case they make any stupid decisions. Even if there’s room for error he pretends there is none.

“Briefcase: slide it over.”

The thug nearest to Vicky has no choice. He places it neatly by his feet as if the contents inside are alive and gently kicks it over to Drake’s feet, who pushes it aside with a boot and keeps his eyes on the group.

One of the pistols has a silencer attached. Drake holsters the SMG in his jacket and wields the pistol for phase two, which is just shy of a massacre. He checks the clip and counts eleven rounds including one in the chamber. Using the pistol and leaving it behind will make for an easy cover up. Most crimes like these in South Chicago are summed up as gang violence.

“Sit down. Now,” Drake orders and is obeyed. Just as the last rear touches the carpeted floor he embraces his wickedness and squeezes the trigger, again and again.

Even the rest of Reyna’s crew feels their stomachs turn as the sitting ducks take a couple rounds each. From the barrel of the silencer, lead rips through flesh and human chunks plaster the floor and wall, some splatters even make it to the ceiling. Two bullets to the chest killed three of them instantly, the next thug took three and gasped for air to drown in his own blood. Drake forces emotion away for as long as he can, although he has enough humanity to put another bullet in his head to prevent more suffering. The last man in the circle of corpses sobs and whimpers quietly. Somehow his voice won’t work, he wants to scream but the harder he tries, the further away he has to reach. Drake walks over to him and lets the last bullet fly. It digs deep into his hip and lodges itself between bones, severing the Ilioinguinal nerve on its way through. Tumultuous pain erupts through the length of the lining, his helpless whimper elasticizes into oblong squeaks that may have been howls if only he could find the power to muster his vocal chords. Drake aims the gun at one of the corpses and squeezes the trigger a few more times to make sure he counted correctly. Hollow clicks register that he’s safe, he tosses the empty weapon to the thug, who crawls toward the door. Vicky had taken a few steps away before the massacre to avoid being splattered, moves a few steps closer and steps on his back.

“You had a choice,” she hisses. With all his might he tries to mutter something in his defense. To be fair, he ran out of options long ago. Even if he could find the words and the strength to say them, lecturing his captors would only make things worse. He stopped moving, stopped struggling, lays in a heap of his former friends and shakes intensely.

“Wash up. Let’s get the fuck outta here. Five out of six will do.”

The group quickly washes off a splotch of blood here and there, Drake vomits in the toilet next to Vicky while she pulls a chunk of flesh off her shoulder and hurls in the sink. She throws it in the toilet and vomits again, and the familiar burden of exhaustion pummels the entire group. They’re sure not to miss a drop, leave any blood on them or traces of themselves in the apartment. Fitz is still in the room keeping an eye on the last living member of the group. Tears run down the man’s cheeks as his clicks the trigger over and over while aiming at Fitz. The group rotates and Joanna flushes a hair follicle down the toilet that may have been Drake’s. They come back in the room, and the man is still clicking the trigger at all of them. For all they can tell he’s stuck in neurosis. The man, for whatever reason, aims again at Fitz and keeps clicking. Fitz tries to smile but is too horrified, haunted by the scene, and will be for months after the day ends. He would want to kill him too. He’s not so sure this slaughter was necessary but convinces himself it’s the right message to send. Whoever was going to buy these drugs will think twice about who they work with once they see the scene. Reyna’s crew is back in the main room, takes one last look at each other for blood and flesh, pick up the pistol with rounds and the briefcase and walk out the door after throwing on their hoods. There could be nothing in the briefcase and it wouldn’t matter to Reyna, but she didn’t want the buyers to have it either. The group slides out of the room with covered faces, avoiding corridors with head-on cameras and making it down to ground level without being stopped. They walk to their car and drive to a safe house, prepared to hideout for the next couple weeks if necessary. Fitz can’t shake the thought of the man looking him in the eyes and squeezing the trigger, over and over.

Ray is gently shaken out of a cryptic dream, forgotten almost immediately as his eyes dart around the familiar room at Danny’s. He’s breathing heavily, slowly calming down as he wipes the crust from tired eyes. Danny sits on the bed beside him, crosses his arms and mutters, “Coffee’s on the stove if you want. Reyna said to call.”

“Now?” Ray asks.

“She had someone drop off a burner… waitin’ to ditch hers until you talk. I gotta head to work,” Danny hands the cheap phone over to Ray along with a scrap of paper.

Danny rises to leave the room and Ray quickly dials the neatly printed number. The phone rings four times, enough for him to be skeptical, but he hears Reyna’s voice on the other end.

“I don’t have a lot of time so listen carefully…” she pauses enough for Ray to hoarsely forge a “Sure.”

“You ever need our help I’m sure you’ll find us. I wanted to help you get back on your feet so check the briefcase to your right. If you need a hand with anything, let us know.”

Puzzled, Ray looks around the room and notices a briefcase that wasn’t there the night before. “Wha-”

“People I can trust are valuable to me… I’m guessing the same goes for you. We’ll be in touch.”

The call ends and Ray holds the phone to his ear for a second before slowly lowering his hand and turning off the phone. He snaps it on the desk and throws the pieces in the trash beside him, rising to meet Danny in the kitchen. He stops at the briefcase and pops it open for a peak inside, smiles, and closes it back up.


- Your enjoyment / feedback
- Reyna as a (super duper valuable) contact
- Access to use her crew when needed
- [x2] Silenced 9mm from Reyna
- Money and Coke from the briefcase - whatever you think this piece is worth

Thank you.

Statistics: Posted by Raymond Brown — March 8th, 2017, 1:31 am

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