Young Americans

by Dwight Geddes

MAY 13, 1988

The pager went off at 7:05 am, loud and insistent, penetrating the layers of sleep surrounding Scottie Denham. It kept going for what seemed about fifteen minutes but was really more like fifteen seconds. Scottie slowly raised his head and opened one eye to check who the fuck was paging him so early in the morning. The backlit numbers came into focus slowly. 843-4663-33. Not familiar, but he recognized the two digit code at the end. 33; his man Spoonie. What was HIS problem now?

Still with only one eye open, Scottie reached for his cordless phone and punched in the numbers. After two rings it was picked up and the excited voice of Spoonie, as annoying a sound as the pager itself, spoke to him.

“Scottie? Yo, Scottie?”

“Yeah, man , what the fuck you want? Do you know what time it is, nigga?”

“Yeah, yeah man, but yo, this shit is important.”

“Well, what the fuck is it?” snapped Scottie. The early morning wakeup call was not amusing him in the least.

“You know Dre right? The kid that dealing down by Jamaica and Springfield?” Scottie sensed that this story was not going to be a good one. Of course he knew Dre; Spoonie knew that. They used to go to junior high together. They hadn’t spoken since that nigga busted his ass for talking shit on the basketball court one day. Yeah, he knew that nigga too well.

“Yeah, I know that fool, Whassup?”

“Yo, dat nigga got capped last night, man.”

Scottie was wide awake now.

“Word? Who shot him?”

“Five-O, man. He got caught by an undercover and tried to blast his way out. Check it man, he popped one but they shot that nigga full of holes.”


“Word! He caught two in the face, kid! Auntie Jean is down at the precinct bawlin, man.”

Scottie could picture the whole scene. Dre was a hard rock brother, no fear in his ass. Five-O grabbed him on his corner, shit! He ain’t going out like that! Two in the face; Damn! And that was Auntie Jean’s only son. She must be pretty messed up now. He didn’t get along with Dre, but he liked Auntie Jean. Everyone knew Auntie Jean; she had owned the bodega on the corner of 112th and Springfield for years.

“Shit.” was all he could mutter, and he pictured Spoonie nodding on the other end.

“Yup. Dat nigga punched out. You know what dat means, right ?”

Oh yeah, Scottie knew exactly what that meant. Dre, himself and Spoonie all worked for Big Willie Clayborn. Big Willie was the man in this part of Queens. He controlled all the drugs moving in and out of the area, running from Jamaica Avenue and 188th up to Springfield and Murdock Ave, near the border to Nassau county. In the pecking order of Big Willie’s kingdom, someone stood to move up the ladder.

“When you gonna roll to the spot?” asked Scottie.

“Like, uhmm, like about eleven man.”

“Aiight, I’m a go check my cousins on one-o-seventh, I’ll meet you there.”

Spoonie laughed, “ Yeah right! You gonna peep that little honey Tanisha, right? Talking bout you gonna see your cousin. You wanna kick it to their neighbor....”

But Spoonie was now talking to a dead line, because Scottie had already hung up and gone back to sleep.

The next beep came at 9:20am.

Beeepp! Beeepp! Beeepp! Scottie was awake now. He had only slept for an hour, but he was still lounging in his room. A tape was blasting on his stereo, the sounds of Guy shaking the house like a tremor. Scottie didn’t hear it at first, but a couple of minutes later, during a lull in the music he heard the reminder beep.

843-2677. Don’t know that number either.

He reached for the cordless phone by his bed and punched in the number. The voice on the other end caught him by surprise, and he felt a knot in his stomach. It was the kind of voice that you could never mistake. It was deep and coarse, and the speaker was definitely someone who gave a lot of orders.

“Who dis?”

“Uhmm, its ah, Scottie. You paged me?”

A pause, then the voice continued in a softer tone. Well actually, as soft a tone as it could muster.

“Yeah, Scottie, its Big. I wanna see you, nigga.”

“Alright, man. That’s cool. When?”

“When? I paged you now nigga! Get over to my man Chauncey’s crib. He’s at 118-25 Nashville. Alright, nigga?”

“Yeah, aiight, man.”

Scottie hung up the phone, reached over to his tape player and took Guy out. As he sat thinking, he reached for another tape and stuck it in the box. The sounds of the new West Coast brothers, NWA came blasting out of the twin speakers. “...... straight outta compton! crazy mother fucker named ice cube! from the gang called niggas wid attitude!..”

He walked out of the room and down the short hallway to the bathroom. His parents hadn’t even budged from all the racket coming out of his room. The running battle they had had with him over how loud his music was had been settled with a compromise: Not before 9:00 am. Not that it would really bother them anyway. His father was a Corrections Officer at Rikers Island, working overnight. His mother, an LPN at Kings County Hospital, also worked the graveyard shift, and when they both got in at the break of dawn, they could sleep through anything. But as his father always lectured ‘It’s the principle.’

Scottie went into the bathroom, closed the door behind him and undressed to shower. As he always did when he went to the bathroom, he postured a little before the mirror, checking for any changes. Not much! He was always a skinny kid growing up. Big head, goofy ears and long limbs. As he got into his teenage years, he began to fill out a little, but at six feet one and a buck-fifty he had little chance of ever being cock-diesel. That’s aiight though, he thought with a smirk, The girlies will be on my tip when I start clocking them G’s. Truth be told, Scottie Denham really had no problem getting some girlies now. But this was South East Queens, and it was 1988. If you ain’t pushing a fat ride, slingin dope and breaking off much dollars, you ain’t shit.

He did his routine thirty push-ups on the bathroom floor, then went into the shower. By the time he got dressed it was 10:00 am. As he bounded down the steps he spotted his younger sister sitting in the den watching Teenage Mutant some shit or the other. She looked up from her show, a spoonful of cereal and milk halted halfway up to her mouth. She saw who it was and the spoon disappeared, to be followed by a repeating of the process.

“Do you watch television twenty-four seven, girl? Every time I see you, you watching some shit.”

Ten year old Kenya Denham’s head spun around again, and her face contorted into a frown. She was a cute little thing, mocha complexioned with a beautiful smile and a little turned up nose. Looking like that little girl from the Cosby Show.

“Shut up, stupid!” She yelled at him, and in the same breath, “Where you goin’?”

“Mind yours, little girl. Tell moms i’ll be back soon, aiight?”

She smiled and took another mouthful of cereal.

“Okay, big head.” she mumbled

“And don’t talk with your mouth full!” he yelled as he headed out the front door. His Jetta was parked at the curb, and as he hopped in and pulled away he reflected again on his already eventful morning. Damn, Big Willie want to see him! Right after Dre gets popped! He hoped that meant some good news for him. Scottie had been slingin rock and weed for Big Willie for about nine months now, doing shit work and making small change, but he wanted more. He knew Big Willie was making mad loot, but Scottie knew he himself could organize shit and make even more money.

But later for that. Right now he was scheming on getting a bigger slice from Willie. Yeah, this shit was definitely for him. He knew that when he got into it. Not too many people knew what he was doing, but those that did wondered what a little bourgeois nigga like him was doing in the drug game. His parents were making decent money, he got okay grades, shit, he could get into college if he wanted. But for what? To make at thirty what he could make now at seventeen? Sheeeiitt!! The whole point of this school shit is to make a little loot. He and Spoonie had this conversation all the time, and although Spoonie wasn’t the smartest brother in the world he would always say they should hustle for a couple of years, set shit up and go legit with a little business or sumthin’. Cold chilling like a couple of big timers!

He turned up 117th avenue and again onto Nashville. He didn’t need to see the house number to know which one was Chauncey’s. It was the one with a Benz 190 in the driveway and a BMW 750 parked at the curb. The Benz belonged to Chauncey, and he BMW 750 he knew was Big Willie’s. He parked across from the 750, and walked through the open gate up the three steps leading to the front door. When he rang the doorbell a short kid with dreadlocks came to the door. Before Scottie could say a word, the kid jerked his head to the side and said “Go round de side door to de basement.” The kid slammed the door in Scottie’s face without waiting for a response.

Scottie walked around the side of the house to the basement door. As he went down the staircase he smelled the sweet, cloying scent of marijuana. When he got to the bottom of the steps, he was greeted by what could be called the ghetto equivalent of the joint chiefs of staff meeting. Chauncey, whose relatives owned the house, was there. He sat on a long white leather sofa, loungin’ next to his girl Kim. She was a stone cold bitch. Word round town was that she ran the dollars and shit for her man. She was wearing a tight green pair of poom-poom shorts and a matching skimpy top, rolling one of the fattest blunts Scottie had ever seen. To her right was Garfield Brown. Garfield, or Django, as he was known, he was Big Willie’s enforcer. Django got his name from some dude in an old western. He was a big, beefy man, black as asphalt, and serious as a heart attack. He always spoke slowly and seemed methodical and quiet. Scottie knew better however. He had seen Django get buck wild on some dumb ass who had tried to skim money off Big Willie. He carried a big silver handgun and loved to pistol whip niggas who were stupid enough to cross him or his boss. In the far corner puffing on his own blunt was the Man himself, Big Willie Clayborn.

Yo, they didn’t call him Big Willie for nuthin. The brother was about five eleven and an easy two sixty, but moved like someone a hundred pounds lighter. He was light skinned, with freckles, and a face that looked like he had been sucking lemons since birth. Big Willie was a local kid, born and raised off Francis Lewis Boulevard and like everyone else in the hood, had gone to Andrew Jackson High School. He played JV and varsity football at nose-tackle. He was good enough to make 1st team All-City and get a free ride to the University of Miami. He didn’t last long there. Two years after leaving for Miami, Big Willie Clayborn was back on the streets of South-East Queens, with a wad of money, a brand new corvette and a new game. In less than a year he went from small time street dealing to drug kingpin. His future in the crack game looked real bright. Scottie planned to grab a hold of his coat-tails and ride em as far as he could go. Big Willie blew a huge cloud of smoke in Scottie’s direction, and his permanently pursed lips moved ever so slightly as he addressed Scottie.

“Whaddup, kid?”

“Coolin’, man. Whazzup, Django. Hey, Chauncey, Kim.”

They nodded in acknowledgment of his greeting. Willie motioned for him to sit on the only empty seat near the bar. From somewhere in the house Scottie smelt the overpowering scent of curried chicken. He immediately heard his stomach growling. He felt tickled by the humor in that. Here he was, sitting in a basement with one of the biggest drug dealers in Queens, and he’s scheming on some food. Big Willie noticed the smile on his face and his brow knitted.

“What you laughin at, man?”

The smile vanished, and not for the first time that day that voice made Scottie nervous.

“Naw, naw, nuthin, man. I was just thinking about that food upstairs, y’know. Shit smells real good.”

Scottie had forgotten one thing about Willie; he was the most paranoid motherfucker you could ever meet. He trusted no one except Django.

“So wha chu been doin?”

This question came from Chauncey as Kim passed the rolled and lit blunt to him.

“Nuthin, man. Same old same old. Hustlin on my little turf, y’know? What’s up, something going down?”

Chauncey didn’t answer. Instead he looked at Wille and took a toke. There was a long pause before Willie spoke, as everyone watched him take another pull on the weed.

“Y’know I took care of you before, right Scottie? Nah mean? I don’t fuck wit people who showed love for me.” He paused again, took another long draw on the blunt and exhaled. “Now, some shit went down yesterday and dat nigga Dre got capped by Five-O. That some unfortunate shit right there, but my immediate problem is I need someone to handle his shit pronto. Nah mean?”

Scottie just nodded. He didn’t dare say a word and fuck this up. Big Willie took another long puff. Damn that nigga can smoke!

“Anyway, let me get right to the motherfucking point. I wanna test you out in that role, see if you can pull some shit in, keep dat shit goin over there. Aiight?”

All eyes in the room turned to him. Scottie felt high, almost delirious. Him, Scottie Denham, a right hand man to Big Willie. He thought about a lot of things before an answer passed his lips. He thought about growing up in East New York, the shitty, rat-infested apartment, run down schools, and dead-end lifestyles that flourished there. He thought about moving to Queens at twelve, to a neighborhood where most people’s parents had jobs, not welfare checks. Where there were private homes, not low-income public housing. He thought about all of this, about trying to bag a date last year on his sixteenth birthday and getting dissed because he didn’t have a car. All of this flashed before his eyes, and then he responded.

“Yeah, man. I’m down.”

Big Willie nodded. Chauncey reached over and shook his hand, grinning like a CEO who had just pulled the top graduate student into the company. And Kim gave him a warm smile. Scottie envisioned plenty of smiles from plenty of hoes like Kim when he started making dough. Yeah, buddy! The only one not smiling was Big Willie. Actually Willie and Django, but Django never smiled. Willie’s face was serious.

“Aiight, then. You taking over Dre’s turf. It’s right next to yours. That nigga was bringing in three G’s a week. Between his turf and yours, I expect five G’s. You keep one and a half for yourself and anything over 5 g’s gets split 75-25. Aiight?”

Scottie was giddy with excitement. Fifteen hundred dollars a week! Fuck school! He couldn’t wait to tell Spoonie. He and dat nigga gonna be rollin!

September 3, 1989; 5:45pm.

Beeepp!! Beeepp!! Beeepp!!

The sound of the pager could be barely heard amidst the blaring of the twelve speaker system in the BMW 525i. Scottie was lounging to the side in the driver’s seat, listening to KISS FM as they blasted a fierce mix of current and old-school jams. He picked it up on the fifth beep and saw it was his mother. He reached for the car phone as Spoonie, seated in the passenger’s seat turned the volume down.


“Yeah mom.”

“Scottie, where are you?”

“Uhmm, i’m on the Parkway. I just left Jones Beach. Why, what’s up?”

“Your father and I need to talk to you. We were supposed to talk last week but he had to do a double shift. Are you coming by tonight?”

He heard the slightly worried tone in her voice and he felt a pang of guilt.

“Nah, mom. I got some business in the studio tonight. How about tomorrow?”

There was a pause, then a sigh before she answered.

“Okay, but please, tomorrow.”

“Alright, mom. I’ll see you then.”

He placed the phone back on the receiver and shook his head. Spoonie, finished off an Old English 40oz and looked at him.

“What’s wrong, man?”

Scottie frowned, switching lanes smoothly in the powerful car as he spoke.

“Yo, my folks be sweating me, man. I told em, y’know, that I was doing music, y’know? Producing, and shit like that, cause, y’know, my pops ain’t stupid. I got all this money and shit, he wants to know what’s up. I think those nosy ass church people told him they saw me wid Chauncey so now he stressing me.”

Spoonie nodded, and they drove in silence for a while.

“Yo, Scottie, you know how I know you livin large? You don’t never worry about Five-O. You just gotta worry about your pops catching on.” Spoonie shook his head in feigned amazement. “Ain’t that some shit.”

Scottie laughed, but it was indeed the truth. In a little over a year, Scottie Denham had blown up on the drug scene. He had convinced Big Wille to let him use a couple of local kids as couriers, and he set shit up like Pizza Hut. People called a pager number, placed an order, and boo-yah! Drugs at your door! His system was running smooth. He even printed business cards, and he was now pulling in ten grand a week. Big Willie was breaking him off four, and the split for anything over ten G’s was now 50-50. Scottie was living large.

He had his fat new BMW, a condo in Valley Stream and now carried a 9 double M for any fool trying to test. Scottie Denham, capo. Superstar in this game.

He exited the parkway at 225th Street to drop off Spoonie. He was already running late for his meeting with Big Willie, but he figured he had time to drop his boy off first. He never took Spoonie on his trips to meet Willie. Spoonie was making money too, had his shit correct, but on a smaller scale than Scottie. Scottie didn’t want him too close to Willie though, after all this was his right hand, like family. If he and Big Willie didn’t hit it off, well....Plus he don’t need some shit poppin off like Willie and Spoonie trying to make a deal and cut him out or some stupid shit like that.

Like he always heard, ain’t no honor amongst thieves. He was two blocks from Spoonie’s house waiting at the light on the Conduit. Spoonie had lapsed into silence, which was welcomed but rare for him. Scottie heard the jam coming up on the radio and reached over to turn it up. He turned to Spoonie as the ill baseline of “White Lines” came through the system.

“Yo this is some serious old school shit….”

A motorcycle with two people on it pulled up on the dirver’s side of the BMW. The passenger on the cycle pulled a pistol and fired six rounds into the BMW.

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! BLAM! One hit Scottie in his left shoulder blade, grazing him before lodging into the walnut dashboard. Another bullet went through the palm of his right hand as he reflexively put it up to protect himself. He heard an aaagghh! from Spoonie and knew he had also been hit. Scottie floored the gas pedal and the car shot through the intersection like a runaway train. Luckily for him the light had already changed to green, and as his car careened wildly down the street, he crouched low looking around wildly.

The shooters were gone, he couldn’t tell which direction they had gone. There was blood all over him and his arm and hand hurt like hell. He glanced over and saw that Spoonie was hit. Spoonie was hunched over in the passenger’s seat, moaning softly.

“Yo! Yo Spoonie! you hit bad man?”

No response save the groans. Scottie veered into a wide left turn up 144th, his mind racing.

What the fuck am I gonna do now? Shit! The car had bulletholes and blood all over, he was bleeding from his hand and his left shoulder felt like he had been hit by Mike Tyson. He made another turn and pulled over on a residential side street. Moving quickly, he opened the glove compartment and removed the two ziploc bags of weed. He then reached under the seat and pulled out his 9mm. Taking all of this he jumped out of the car and raced over to a garbage can left at the end of the driveway by some diligent homeowner. Everything was stuffed in the garbage can, and he made a mental note of the house number so he could double back for them later. He then ran back to the car, pulled open the passenger’s door and hauled out his friend. He could hear police sirens not too far away.

“Yo, Spoonie! Yo Spoonie! Snap out of it, kid!”

Spoonie had a dazed look on his face, like he was going into shock. Scottie slapped him on the face. A few times. Harder each time.

“Yo, don’t break up on me now, motherfucker. Listen, can you get yourself home okay?”

Spoonie looked around and nodded slowly. He now looked more pissed off than anything else.

“Motherfuckers shot me, man!”

“It’s cool, man, we still in the game. Payback’s a mother, you know that. Listen, get home. I’m gonna get back up to the Conduit so shit looks legit with the cops and shit, aiight? I don’t need them looking for us, too. Go home till shit cools off, aiight?”

Spoonie nodded again and Scottie jumped in his car. As he got back to the scene of the shooting there was a small crowd gathered. Drama! Cops, passers-by and wannabe witnesses. As Scottie pulled up across the intersection, someone nudged a cop and pointed at him. He walked over to the scene, and all heads turned towards him. He had blood all over his NY Mets jersey, acting like he’s cool. Before he knew what the fuck was up, Scottie was frisked, handcuffed and placed in the back of a blue and white heading to the precinct.

September 3, 1989; 9:00pm

“Scottie, tell us what went down earlier. It’ll make all of this a lot easier.”

Scottie stared into the face of the short, stocky, black detective who sat across the table facing him. They had taken him to get bandaged up and then this motherfucker and his partner came and hauled him back for questioning. The shorter guy had on a white shirt with a cheap looking blue tie. He had huge, hairy forearms, thinning salt and pepper hair and he reeked of stale coffee. He leaned in Scottie’s face, trying to stare him down. Scottie wasn’t having it though, he just smirked and stared straight ahead. From the corner of his eye, Scottie saw the second cop standing in a far corner silently observing them.

“We know about you, Scottie. We’ve been keeping an eye on you for a while now, youngblood. We heard you took over Andre Haskins turf and that you’re moving up the ladder. Another South Queens success story ain’t you?”

Scottie laughed inwardly, but otherwise remained silent. He wasn’t gonna let this nigga fuck with his head. His shoulder throbbed, and his hand hurt like hell. But he had just one thought in mind. Chill. Get the fuck outta this place, hit the streets and find out who did this shit. Who would have the balls to fuck with him, With Big Willie’s main capo? Cause dat’s what dat was, fucking with him meant fucking with Big Willie.

He turned to the second cop, a tall skinny white guy in his forties who had slicked back hair and was opening a fresh pack of Marlboros.

“Can I get one of those?”

Short and stocky followed his gaze and the white cop pulled out one, lit it and threw the box over with a lighter. Scottie lit up. He knew they couldn’t hold him. It was his car that had been shot at, he had been hit, and his car and everything was clean. He blew out a cloud of smoke and slid the cigarettes back to the cop. Just let me go, motherfuckers. Just let me go.

“You hear me, Scott? HELLO! You listening to me?”

Scottie realized that the black cop was talking to him.

“Do you even realize who set you up, you little fuck?”

Scottie frowned.

“Naw, man. Ain’t that your job, Dick Tracy?”

The cop smiled, and he looked like a predatory bird. Scottie was focusing on anything but what these fools were saying, but the next words made his blood run cold.

“Your boss ordered this hit on you, kid. Y’know that, right? He set your ass up sweet, didn’t he?”

He stared at the cop for awhile. There was no hiding the shock and confusion on his face. The tall one was still staring dead at him, and Scottie met his eyes briefly before looking away. He stubbed out his cigarette. His mind told him not to respond, but the words burst out of his lips before he could stop it.

“Yeah, right.”

Too late. Short and stocky jumped on them.


Short and stocky, whose name, Detective Cane, came back to him now, was in Scottie’s ear in a flash. Baiting him. Scottie knew if he had a gun he would have shot the cop. He had never shot anyone before, but if he had a chance he would have capped this cop. He leaned back in his chair, staring into one of those reflective, one-way mirror things on the wall in front of him. He figured there were probably some more punk ass cops back there watching. The voice in his head kept telling him, Just chill. Chill the fuck out until can verify this shit. Chill.

The lone door in the room opened, and all three heads turned simultaneously. A nice looking dark skinned sister with a low-cut afro and a gold badge dangling from a chain around her neck walked in. She motioned for both cops to leave. The white cop obviously resented this pulling of rank, and it showed on his face. Sister didn’t give a fuck. The black cop just glared at Scottie and walked out. When they were alone in the room the she came over to the edge of the table and sat down on his left. Scottie checked her out, head to toe, but gave no reaction to her presence. She was checking him out also but he couldn’t read anything in her stare. She held a thin manila folder in her right hand, and she used it to tap her knee as she stared at him. He rolled his eyes and went back to staring ahead of him. After a long silence he finally spoke.

“I’m Lieutenant Cheeseborough, Scott. How’s your hand?”

“It’s alright.”

She nodded and pursed her lips briefly. She seemed to be mentally debating something.

“You don’t know who I am do you?”

He returned his eyes to her face and shook his head.


She was still looking at him.

“Alright. You do know Etta Collins. I believe you call her Auntie Etta.” She had his full attention now, but he was more annoyed than anything else.

“What the fuck does Auntie Etta have to do with this? Look, when can I get out of here? Y’all have no reason to keep me here,....”

She slammed the file down and was on him in a second. Scottie was caught off guard as she picked him up from the chair and slammed him into the wall. She was strong, and as she held him pinned to the wall she thrust her face to within inches of his face.

“Listen you miserable piece of shit, I just pulled some strings to save your ass from getting a beat down. Personally I think you deserve one just on principle alone. Your Auntie Etta is my mother. I’m your father’s first cousin and that’s the only thing saving your narrow black ass from getting the shit kicked out of you by the cops here and those motherfuckers in the holding pen. Now show some fucking gratitude, you fucking little asswipe!”

She released her grip and angrily gestured for him to sit back down. Silently he complied, his eyes locked on hers. He was truly pissed now, but he knew this bitch was no joke. He remembered her now. He had only met her once, at a cousin’s wedding a few of years ago, but he remembered pops telling him about her. He closed his eyes and buried his head in his hands. Shit was going just too fast. He sat like this for a long while, then finally he heard himself speaking in a voice on the verge of cracking.

“Can I go now, please? I mean…, I don’t know, I was the one shot here, why am I being treated- ” his voice trailed off as he saw her harsh stare.

“Go ahead, Scottie, finish it! What’s the matter? You can lead the life, but you can’t even call it what it is? Treated like a criminal? Do I really have to answer that? You are a fucking criminal! Look at you, do you really expect anyone to believe how you make your money? How you have a BMW with no job? That you don’t know who shot at you and why? Nigger, please! What’s your excuse going to be, you made money playing out at parties?”

He was quiet, but his mind was racing. These mothers done did their homework! That means they probably been onto him for some time. Damn! His head was pounding, his mouth felt dry and he kept his head down as there was another long pause.

“Listen, Scottie, you’re a young kid, you made mistakes but you still have time to do the right thing. I always remember my mother talking about you and how proud your parents were of you. You went off track somewhere, but it’s not too late. My job is to bring down your boss, and make sure a gang war doesn’t break out here. Whether I like it or not, you’re blood, so I gotta deal with you on another level. Can’t you see this is a fight you can’t win, Scott? As you found out today, there is no loyalty among criminals; You’re either going to be in jail soon or dead.”

Scottie didn’t move. Finally he raised his head and looked into her eyes. Lieutenant Cheeseborough saw the scared look in his face. She also saw the veneer of bravado that he and countless other youngsters like him wore like a bulletproof vest.

“I don’t know nuthin’ about no gang, no gang-war, nuthin. Can I go now please?”

Her face flushed with anger, and she stared angrily at him. He fully expected to be thrown against the wall again, but when she moved she simply went to the door and held it open.

“Go on, get the fuck outta here. Enjoy the rest of your short life BLACK MAN.”

He got up, brushed past her on the way out and flashed her a disdainful look. The scared look was gone, and the bulletproof bravado cloaked his expression.

“Thanks a lot, SISTER.”

September 4, 1989; 1:00am

The black Maxima cruised silently down the quiet block. The car had tinted black windows, the headlights were off, and the four occupants were hooded down in full black. All carried guns. Scottie Denham sat in the front passenger seat, his homeboy English drove. In the back sat Leroy and Jeff Nice, two members of his crew.

Scottie was fucked up. It was less than six hours since his release. He had made a few calls, smoked mad woolies, and it looked like Five-O was right. Big Willie had been talking to a couple of niggas working for him and said he was a little unhappy with how Scottie was running shit like he in charge of this show. No one knew anything definite, but that alone told him enough. If it wasn’t Big Willie, someone would have said something. Scottie already knew how paranoid the fat fool could get too. He’s the only motherfucker who could scare that many people in this neighborhood into silence. He had swung by Spoonie’s place, but he wasn’t there. Spoonie’s mother gave him a cold reception, her eyes accusing him of everything he knew he was guilty of. He tried paging him to no avail. No biggie, he would handle this shit without him.

They were on Laurelton Parkway now. Scottie told English to pull over. This was Chantel’s block. Chantel was Big Willie’s main squeeze and baby mother. She was a CPA at some firm in Manhattan, and Willie usually stayed in the house he had bought for her here when he wasn’t out fucking some of his other tricks. Willie had parked his brand new Mercedes 560 SL in the driveway, and for sure Django was in the house somewhere, maybe a couple of others. Fuck it, they were going in.

“Let’s roll.”

Scottie jumped out of the car with Leroy behind him. English continued down the block with Jeff Nice. They were going to come in through the back door as soon as Scottie went in through the front. Scottie walked in the shadows afforded by the overhanging trees on the block. Most of the houses were dark, their occupants readying for, if not already in, sleep mode. Scottie was at the gate now, and he crept up silently and walked up the driveway. There was a light on upstairs, he figured that’s where they were. He was at the front door, Leroy crouched in the bushes next to the house.

Scottie put his Glock to the door handle and fired. As soon as he saw the hole in the door he pushed hard with his shoulder and was inside, while the echoes of the gunshot reverberated throughout the neighborhood. As he went in he saw someone getting up off of a sofa in the living room to his right. He aimed and fired three shots, so close to each other they almost sounded like one continuous shot. The shadowy shape contorted and fell. Leroy was right behind him and he heard voices in what he figured was the kitchen. He rushed in there, and right away recognized Django and another one of Big Willie’s guards coming towards him, guns drawn. Scott fired again, and heard the boom of Leroy’s gun behind him as he also cut loose on the men. Six bullets hit Django, blood spurted from his throat and chest as he staggered backwards and crashed into a small table. The other guy was hit in the shoulder, chest and stomach, and he pitched backwards, already dead. Scott looked around quickly, and he could hear the back door being kicked off its hinges by English and Jeff Nice. He headed up the stairs. As he got to the top of the stairs the door down the hall to his left opened, and a sobbing woman in her twenties stood there looking him. He raised his gun and aimed at her head.

“Where he at?”

She sobbed louder, and her eyes darted from side to side, as if looking for somewhere to run and hide.

“I ain’t playing with you, bitch. Where the fuck is he?”

Her eyes darted back to the bedroom as she sobbed on.

“I....I don’t....I don’t know where he is....”

He rushed towards her, pushed her to the side and entered the room. He immediately sprang backwards as two bullets shattered the wooden door. Biggie was crouched against the far wall behind the huge king sized canopy bed. As Scottie thought about his next move, he heard steps behind him. He turned to see English and Leroy coming up the stairs.

“Yo, he’s in here!” he yelled.

Leroy grabbed Chantel by her weave and threw her sobbing ass down the steps as English came over and crouched beside Scottie. He sized up the situation.

“Aiight, check dis.” English whispered “I’m gonna go round to the bathroom and see if I can get on that terrace outside, you just distract his ass, aiight?”

Scottie nodded and English went into the bathroom. He waited to the count of ten, then fired a salvo of bullets in the general direction he last saw Big Willie. He received a flurry of shots in return, and he chilled out next to the wall. He didn’t have long to wait. Within seconds he heard the sound of breaking glass, and two shots. He peeked in the room, just in time to see Big Willie pump another bullet into English as he slumped against the glass door leading to the terrace. But Big had stood up, and Scottie had a clear shot. He raised his gun and without hesitation fired two quick shots, then another two. Willie spun around completely as they struck him, his eyes wide with surprise and pain. Scottie looked at him, his gun still aiming at the dying gang boss.

“Yeah, motherfucker, that’s for me and Spoonie, bitch.”

He fired one more into his head and backed out of the room.

“I got him, let’s go!” yelled Scottie.

He ran down the steps, slipping the automatic into his waist as he ran. Leroy was at the bottom of the stairs, and Jeff Nice was at the front door. “Let’s go!”

They hadn’t even gotten to the car when shit started to fall apart. As they ran down the block that now seemed as bright as the fourth of fucking July, the first squad car pulled up. One officer jumped out, gun drawn, yelling at the three guys running towards him.


Scottie froze, fear swelling up inside his chest and mind where revenge had just been. Quickly he ducked behind a parked car. He was the furthest one from the cop, and he couldn’t tell what happened first, but in an instant there was the sound of more gunfire. Leroy screamed out and fell in the middle of the street, clutching his stomach. Jeff Nice yelled out ‘Oh shit!’ and raised his gun to fire. As he let loose a shot, he was cut down by a barrage of gunfire from the two cops. He jerked spasmodically before collapsing on the pavement near Leroy. His one bullet had found it’s mark however, and one of the police officers was writhing on the ground next to his squad car, holding his left eye. Within seconds there were three more police cars at the end of the block.

Scottie jumped up from behind the parked car and began to run in the other direction. As he ran he felt something hit him in the lower back and he stumbled, but kept on going. After two more steps he felt another thump between the shoulder blades. He collapsed on a parked car and then on his back in the street. It was then that he realized he had been shot in the back. The last thought Scottie Denham had was of how dim the stars looked in the clear night sky, and how far away they were. Then he closed his eyes.

September 11, 1989 7:45pm.

Spoonie was dressed in a black suit and black patent leather loafers when he left his house. He had just left the funeral for William Scott Denham, and he was now headed out to the liquor store to get something to help him get over the loss. He opened the driver’s door of his new Mercedes 560 and sat down.

This had been a hell of a month, and he was looking for a return to business as usual around here. He turned on the engine, smelling and loving that new car smell. His first new car. He shook his head and touched his left arm where the bullet had passed through. That stupid ass motherfucker he had paid to shoot Scottie had almost killed him, but it’s all good. Not for the first time he thought back on that night three weeks before when the two detectives had corned him and proposed a deal. The short black cop with graying hair said to him ‘You get rid of Willie and that young kid working for him, Scottie, and we’ll guarantee you protection, product and a free ride in this neighborhood.’ The white cop with him hadn’t said much, but shit, he didn’t have to. Cut dem niggas off five grand a week and he gets to control the most lucrative drug area in Queens? In exchange for killing two niggas who probably would have checked out soon anyway?

Shit, no problem, officer!

His mind drifted back to the early days rolling with Scottie as small timers. That was his boy and all, but he couldn’t go too far with him around; y’know, it was like everyone looked at Scottie as the brains and Spoonie as the sidekick. Some old Batman and Robin shit. Well they’ll all see what’s what real soon. As he put on the indicator and entered the flow of parkway traffic, darkness was beginning to envelop Queens. He glanced up through the sunroof of this car and saw a few lights in the sky. Far away there was one star dying and another coming to life. He smiled at the thought, his gold fronts sparkling in the rear view.

“That’s life kid.”


Young Americans by Dwight Geddes

© Copyright 1999. All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without the expressed written consent of the author.

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