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THE LEAK (Chapter I)
Tech had never been a heavy drinker, but that night he was trying to go over the top. Jah would've been twenty-three that day. It had been a little over two years since he'd been killed, but the wound on Tech heart was still fresh.
Jah had been a beast when he was on the streets. He was one of the youngest and without question one of the wildest dogs on or off the chain. His entire bloodline reeked of tragedy, with his brother committing suicide over a chick and the dark path Jah walked. He was a murderer, thief, drug dealer and the best friend a young punk from the slums could ever ask for. To those who didn't know him, Jah was a monster to be feared or caged, but he was really just a kid trying to find his way.
The dark cloud that had followed Jah all his life finally seemed to be rolling back a bit when love walked into his life in the form of one of Harlem's most notorious sack-chasers. Yoshi was a chick who was all about her business and if you couldn't handle it she wouldn't waste her time on you, but there was something about Jah's misfit soul that melted Yoshi's cold heart and fit them together like pieces of a puzzle. The bond Yoshi and Jah had formed made people in the hood start to believe in true love again. But as with most good things it had to come to an end. In an attempt to defend Yoshi's honor, Jah was gunned down like a dog in the street because of a beef that was only his by association. In the end, Yoshi was left a shell of her former self and Tech was left to make his own way in the game, and so he did by picking up the mantel where Jah had dropped it.
Tech sat perched on a bar stool in the Lennox Lounge, throwing back shots of 1738 like it was going out of style. It had been Jah's drink of choice just before he died. Tech was never sure exactly who turned him on to it, but he swore by it. Most of the cats in Harlem knew Tech and what he was about and as a result they gave him a wide berth, but not everyone exercised such caution. Two such cats were Bump and Eddy, who were sitting in the back of the lounge, plotting. They were two piss ants who weren't worth their salt, but they were determined to be recognized as heavy weights. When they saw Tech stagger from the bar they saw it as an opportunity.
Tech was so twisted that he never even saw the two haters following him up the block. He fumbled in his pocket for a light for the blunt that dangled from his mouth when he heard the familiar click. "Damn," was all he could say because he knew he had been caught slipping.
"You know what it is, so turn around real slow," Bump ordered.
"Be easy," Tech turned slowly, "y'all can have this little bit of jewelry. Just take it easy with those hammers." He kept his hands in the air and his eyes on his assailants. The fact that they weren't wearing masks would've normally been unnerving, but Tech could tell that the robbers weren't killers. He knew their faces, but not their names. It didn't matter. Harlem was too small for him not to bump into them again, and when he did it was gonna end ugly.
"Ain't no fun when the rabbit got the gun, huh?" Bump taunted him.
"Come up off ya shit," Eddy barked. He tried to look hard, but Tech could smell the fear rolling off him.
Tech began emptying his pockets onto the curb, but kept his eyes on Bump. He might not have known his name, but he knew his face and would make it his business to see it again on different terms.
"Fuck you looking at?" Bump pointed the gun at Tech's face.
"Man, stop talking to this nigga and let's get outta here." Eddy picked the contents of Tech's pockets off the ground. He knew they were making a mistake by running up on Tech, and initially wanted no parts of it, but Bump wouldn't be swayed, so he had to ride with his homeboy.
"I know you ain't eyeballing me." Bump cocked the hammer. Outwardly he was trying to act hard, but inside he was scared to death and it was his own fear that made him increasingly angrier, as he studied the smug expression on Tech's face. Without warning Bump slammed the gun into the side of Tech's head. "Don't be muthafucking looking at me!"
Spots danced before Tech's eyes, but he didn't lose consciousness. When he tried to get back on his feet Bump kicked him back down.
"Did I tell you to get up, pussy?" Bump taunted him.
"Man, we got the shit. Let's just go." Eddy danced in place.
"Yeah, why don't you take your friend's advice?" Tech said in a cool voice. It took all of his restraint not to rush the gunmen and show them what time it really was.
Just the sound of Tech's voice made Bump flinch, which sent him over the edge. "You trying to tell me what to do like I'm some pussy?"
Tech ignored him.
"Nigga, you hear me talking?" Bump pressed.
"Let's go," Eddy said futilely.
"Nah, imma do this nigga," Bump declared, surprising the hell out of Eddy.
"Man, I didn't sign on for no murder," Eddy told him.
"Shut the fuck up and stop crying!" Bump shouted. He turned his crazed eyes back to Tech. "Yeah, I'm gonna bust ya head for every cat you ever blasted on in the hood, bitch nigga!" Just as Bump added pressure to the trigger, a bottle shattered against his head. The gun went off, shattering the car window just over Tech's head. Bump tried to right himself, but was met by a blur of motion.
A frail little boy dressed in a dirty hoodie rushed Bump, fists striking him like flashes of lightning. When Bump tried to turn the gun on the little boy he sank his teeth into the shooter's forearm holding on for dear life. Eddy tried helping his partner, but Tech tripped him up. The little boy shook his head violently, trying to tear clean through Bump's arm. The boy fought the good fight, but Bump outweighed him by almost a hundred pounds. He slammed the little boy viciously into the wall, dazing him. Bump's arm was on fire and he couldn't feel his fingers, but they were still able to find the trigger of his pistol.
Most children, and even grown men, would've been terrified staring at their own demise, but not the wild haired boy. With Bump's blood staining his lips and chin, he stared up defiantly at his enemy. "Go ahead nigga," he spat. "Set me free. I ain't long for this world no how." His eyes held a seriousness that said he was clearly ready to die.
Before Bump could grant the boy's death wish, his head exploded in a mass of crimson.
The little boy stared at Bump's body curiously as his life drained into the gutter just off the curb. A few feet away his partner lay in a heap. His neck was twisted almost completely around, and his eyes stared lifelessly into space. Standing in the center of the carnage, still holding Eddy's smoking gun, was Tech. The little boy's was a look of curiosity, Tech's was one of disappointment. Not only disappointment from allowing himself to get caught up there, but he also wished he could've inflicted more punishment before Eddy and Bump died.
When the little boy picked himself up off the ground and stepped out into the light, Tech was finally able to get a good look at him. His long hair was a nice texture, but it was matted and dirty, much like his clothes. From his sunken eyes to his drawn in cheeks you could tell it had been a while since he'd had a good meal. The more Tech stared at him he realized that he knew the boy. He was the little brother of a kid name Justice whom Tech knew by association through the Harlem underworld. The last he'd heard, Justice caught life on a murder.
"Yo, you Jus little brother, right?" Tech asked. The little boy nodded. "What's ya name again?"
The little boy pondered the question before answering. "These days they call me Animal." He wiped his mouth with the back of his sleeve, "Though I can't imagine why," he said sarcastically.
Tech looked over at Bump's body and remembered how the boy had attacked him. "A'ight Animal, I'm Tech. Son, I know you seen me around ya brother, but you don't know me like that, so why the hell would you rush to save me like that knowing you could've got blasted?"
Animal shamefully lowered his head when he spoke. "I didn't get at dude to save you; I've been planning on killing these mutha fuckas for three weeks."
Tech was confused. "Why?"
Animal just stared at Tech quizzically before answering, "Because they kept fucking with me. Bum ass nigga this, dirty muthafucka that."
"So you wanted them dead because they snapped on you?"
"Not just because they were snapping on me, because they needed killing. Fam, to most of y'all this concrete jungle is a playground, but to me its home. When you live in the jungle you have to live by its rules; the strong get to make it to tomorrow while the weak become food. I can't be nobody's food, man; you don't know what that shit is like." Animal turned away so that Tech wouldn't see him on the verge of tears.
Tech's mind momentarily took him back to a place he had long tried to forget. "Yes, I do," he said solemnly. In Animal he saw what Jah must've seen in him all those years ago and even if his mouth had yet to say it he already knew what had to be done. "Don't worry about it, my nigga." He draped his arm around Animal's frail shoulders. "You ain't never gonna have to worry about being nobody's food again."
THE LEAK Copyright © 2011 by K’wan.