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‘F*** that muthafucka!’ Black said to himself, glancing over his shoulder as he quickly opened the door to his mother’s apartment. Tucked under his arm was a package. It was 1:00 a.m., in the morning and knowing that his mother might still be awake. He tiptoed past the spotless living room, through the carpeted hallway, entered his bedroom, and tossed three brown paper bags filled with money onto his bed. He then reached for the black leather bag on top of his dresser next to a picture of his mother and younger sister. As he unzipped the bag, he emptied the contents of the package and began to count the crumpled hundred dollar bills.

He walked to his closet, reached in, pushed aside several boxes of Reebok, Timberland, Lugz boots, and sneakers, and reached for the one which was hidden in the back. Inside the old Nike sneaker box were two ounces of pure Colombian cocaine. An exited rush of adrenalin shot right to his brain as he sat on his bed admiring his small fortune, ten thousand dollars in cash along with Colombia’s finest snow. He felt this was the start he needed to establish himself in the drug game. ‘This is it! Now I’ll be able to take care of Jasmine, Yvette, my mother and my sister,’ he said to himself.

He and Yvette were the parents of Jasmine and despite their off and on relationship, he made every effort to try and provide for both of them. He and Yvette were high school sweethearts, and after her pregnancy their relationship soured. In spite of it all, they had a warm and close friendship. He felt it was not only his obligation as a father to take care of his daughter, but he also felt it was the manly thing to do because his own father was never there for him.

Although his stash paled in comparison to what most drug dealers usually started out with, he figured he was still well on his way to achieving his American Dream. He had every intention of doubling his money in order to make his first deal. This was how the young brothers from the “hood” survived. The two brothers who came to mind were his close friends, Divine and Trigga. They were new jacks in the game; however, they were making a name for themselves. And he figured why not double his money with people whom he was familiar with. Not only did he admire the drug dealers and gangsters on his block; he knew he had to become familiar with them in order to establish his own connections and not get killed in the process.

Black stood six-one, handsome, with a muscular physique and dark complexion. In his presence, most people feel a certain aura of confidence exuding from him, but they sometimes missed the deadly glint that would flash in his dark brown eyes if they or someone pissed him off. Despite dropping out of high school, his intelligence level far exceeded most college graduates. For a moment, a chill of uneasiness came over him as he wondered about his partners, Speedy and Riff. Earlier that night, they had paid a visit to the Polo Grounds houses, a housing project at West 155th Street and 8th Avenue. They had been watching Half Pint, a.k.a. Half, the leader of the Get Paid Crew for quite some time.

Half, who got his name because he was short in stature, was always sensitive about his height. Half and Black were never friends, despite knowing each other since middle school. Their dislike for each other was well known. The Get Paid Crew, one of three rival groups fighting for control of the drug trade in the projects, had established itself, and Black was aware of it. He knew that Half Pint and the Get Paid Crew were formidable opponents, but the element of surprise was what he hoped for. And when the time came he struck like a poisonous snake with deadly force. He was precise and cautious, in order to avoid any mistakes.

Half Pint had just picked up thirty grand from several of his workers. As he stepped off the elevator, Black, Speedy and Riff confronted him. Staring in the nozzle of their weapons, Half Pint was still acting tough.
“What the f*** ya’ll niggas want?” he asked, barely able to control his shaking hands as they circled him. “Waddup with this s***, Black?”
“What the f*** you mean waddup?” Black asked leaning to get a closer look at his intended victim.
“I thought we were cool?”
“Cool? We want the cake n****, that’s waddup!”
Half Pint’s dark brown eyes flashed with anger.
“It’s like that Black?”
“Yeah, it’s like that!”
“Yo, Speedy,” Half Pint called. “That’s how you and your man livin’?”
“Shut the f*** up n**** and run the money, before I clap your ass up,” Black roared pulling the hammer back on his weapon before Speedy could respond.
“A’ight,” he said holding the bags out in the open. “Take the s***. It’s cool, yo.”

As Half Pint parted his lips to speak, Speedy and Riff hooked off on him. They began stomping him. He fell onto his side on the elevator floor, his face darkened with pain, his eyes widened with horror as his gaze darted back and forth across their faces. They took the money, and dragged him into the fifteenth floor stairwell and left him. Speedy, scrambling down the stairs ahead of Black, glanced over his shoulder and said, “Why didn’t you smoke that muthfucka?”
“I know. I should have, right? F*** it; let’s get the f*** outta here!” Black grimaced, scaling the stairs like an Olympic champion.

The trio bolted out the back door exit, ran up 155th Street and disappeared into the cool summer night. Several members from the Get Paid Crew were hanging out inside the lobby of the building and sitting in the courtyard, with their boss, Half Pint, bleeding a few floors away. They didn’t notice a thing. With his mind reeling back and forth and a small hope that his boys didn’t do anything stupid, like mention their good fortune to anyone, Black faintly heard the knock on his bedroom door. His mind was on his uncle, Joe-Joe, whose help he needed to get rid of the drugs. Joe-Joe, who was down on his luck, and a low budget street hustler, still had a few links with several big time hustlers.
“What is it, ma?” he asked.
“Open the door boy!”

As she entered the room, he made a mad dash to hide the drugs and money under his bed. He hated his mom snooping, and the questions she would ask whenever he came home late. Seeing the look on her face, he tried to explain himself. She did not believe him, and became persistent, when she saw a gun lying on the dresser.
“Oh, ma, it’s for my protection,” Black said as he picked the gun up, and put it in his closet. His mother had a worried look on her face. Her eyes were watery. She asked in a concerned and sad voice, “Protection from what, son? The only people I know who carry guns are police officers and you’re not one. Son, you have to stop living your life this way. I cannot take it anymore. Your father left me with you and your sister and things have been hard. I wish you would get your act together.”

He sat on the edge of the bed, listening. His shoulders were slumped and his hands clasped as she spoke. He loved his mother dearly, and seeing that she was close to tears, he promised he would get a job and do the right thing. Black hated seeing his mother upset. And knowing he was the cause of her anguish, he vowed to himself that he would do things differently as the summer of 2002 took shape. No longer was he going to sit idly by, like many of the street corner drug dealers making pocket change. He was going to get in the game and get paid, while making a name for himself. After his mother left the room, he called his uncle.
“Yo, Joe.”
“Yeah, blood, why you calling so late?” he asked sounding irritated.
“I’ve got some work. You think you could move it for me?”
“That’s no problem blood, I can get rid of it for you,” he answered, realizing he could make a few dollars.
“I’m dead ass Joe, if you can’t f*** with it just let me know.”
“What I said? Didn’t I say that I can move it?”
“So how is your mother?”
“She’s a’ight. She just left the room.”
“She’s giving you a hard time, huh?”
“You know how she gets sometimes.”
“Don’t sweat it, man.”
“I know.”
“Oh, okay, tell you what.”
“I’ll pick it up tomorrow, okay, blood.”
“Thanks Joe, later.
Black walked to the bathroom. He heard the clanging of pots and pans. Taking a peek, he saw his mother sitting at the kitchen table, lost in her thoughts, as a pot of water was boiling on the stove.
“What you doing, ma?”
“I’m making some tea, want some?”
“Nah. You know I don’t drink that stuff,” Black said entering the bathroom.
“Make sure you put the seat down,” she hollered.
“I will ma,” he said hoping she would hurry up and go to bed.

Jennifer Reynolds, a second generation Harlemite, was forty-five and of a slight stature. She stood about five-four with a light complexion and big, innocent brown eyes. A hard-working nurse’s aide at Harlem Hospital, she was hardly ever home. She worked a lot of overtime in order to provide for Black and his sister. After their father, William Reynolds, walked out on the family after years of drinking, his mother never legally separated or got a divorce. Their financial situation prevented either of them to seek a divorce.

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