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Joey has only a few dollars, and he knows no one except the friendly police detective, Dick Billings, who investigates the crime; and a social worker, Marilyn ...
Joey has only a few dollars, and he knows no one except the friendly police detective, Dick Billings, who investigates the crime; and a social worker, Marilyn Comtose, who is charged with taking care of Joey until he can be turned over to a relative. Billings tries to find the boy's uncle, Sylvester Winthrop, whom he hopes will take charge of Joey; however, the uncle has problems of his own and is not in a position to give the boy a home.
Unbeknownst to Joey, his survival becomes even more unsure due to another, much more sinister, player in the game. He is El Diablo, the head of a Northeast drug operation headquartered in New York City, and he has his own reasons for eliminating Joey. This shadowy criminal will stop at nothing to successfully carry out his nefarious scheme.
A private detective from Florida, named Sarafino, is recruited by Billings to track down the boy's uncle and, he becomes entangled with El Diablo's chief lieutenant, Maurice Sanchez, while attempting to help Joey's uncle to solve his problems.
Joey is befriended by a street walker, Louise 'Weezy' Jennings, who feels sorry for him, and takes him under her wing, promising to try to get him back to his home in Upstate New York. Joey also meets another teenage boy, Alex Henderson, who becomes Joey's best friend, and also vows to protect and take care of Joey, no matter what. This unwittingly places both friends in the same danger that Joey faces.
Will Joey get to go home? If so, will it provide the safety he expects from those who wish to end his life? Will his Uncle be able to solve his own problems and provide a home for the boy?
The action takes place in New York City, the Florida Keys, and Joey's hometown, Owego, NY, as danger is found around each corner, and Joey breathlessly wonders if he will ever be able to stop Runnin' Scared.