What the f*** dude?
there I was, locked out of the house, with a backpack full of drugs and a gun in my waistband, not more than a couple of hundred feet from a house that had just been torched. I had to get out of there – fast!
I’d partied with some kids who lived in another house across the street, so I decided I’d try and duck in there. “What’s up Larry?” “Aw, nothing – just stopping by.” “Yeah, cool. Come on in.” A few minutes of meaningless conversation followed. I wasn’t really listening or paying attention; I was too busy looking out the window, waiting for plumes of smoke.
“Oh my god!” one of the girls shouted. “That house is on fire!”
They started to scramble. I pulled out my .380 and set it on the coffee table. That didn’t shock anyone, as most of these kids knew I carried a gun. But then, very calmly, I raised the stakes.
“No-one is calling anyone. And the door stays closed.” Everyone froze. I picked up the gun, rolled it around in my hand for a moment or two, then put it back in my waistband. The room fell silent. Everyone got the point.
When the cops came poking around over the next couple days, knocking on doors and asking questions, no-one said a word.
We never did get caught, although Connor would eventually do several years in prison on other charges unrelated to arson.
Every kid detained in that house held his mud, not out of any sense of pride or solidarity or friendship, but surely out of plain old fear. Some of them weren’t exactly law-abiding citizens themselves, but they understood now that Connor and I were on a whole different level. You torch a guy’s house and you send a pretty clear message.
In this case, it was: Don’t f*** with us, because we are completely out of our minds.
And all around us are guys from both groups, cheering and cursing and laughing, and betting a shit pile of cash on the outcome.
The first few times I’d feel like I was going to puke before the fight. The anticipation was always the worst.
But, like anything else, you get used to it after a while. Once the first punch was thrown, it was all adrenaline and survival.
I got pretty good with my fists. Won most of my fights, routinely beat guys into submission and pocketed a percentage of the betting pool for my efforts. Basically it was like human cock-fighting, and at first it was something I did only out of obligation or threat of bodily harm, it soon became something I did for sport; for fun. And for money.
We’re 10 minutes into checking the merchandise when a bunch of Chicano gangbangers come flying into the house. One of them, the biggest one is covered with tattoos. Including the number “805” splattered across his face. He’s brandishing a steak knife and screaming at the top of his lungs: “Where’s Stan? I gotta talk to Stan.”
Suddenly Stan is charging past me, running at the dude with the knife, ready to take the guy down without hesitation. But the guy holds up his hands in surrender and Stan stops in his tracks. “Stan… dude. You gotta help us.” The gangbanger goes on to explain his predicament. There’s a party down the street that’s gotten out of hand. Something to do with rival gangs and drugs and disrespect. I don’t even know. I don’t want to know. But Stan’s into it.
The next thing I know we’re climbing into the guy’s car.
My mind is racing, but I’m not exactly thinking clearly. I don’t know how long it’s been since I’ve slept. Two or three days… maybe more.
It occurs to me, though, in a fleeting moment of rationality and regret, that my life had taken a seriously wrong turn at some point. I was one of the best young motocross racers in the world. I pioneered the sport of freestyle motocross. I had a thriving milliondollar business with tentacles extending deep into the growing world of action sports.
I had legions of young fans, sponsors, endorsements. Family and friends. And now here I am, in the backseat of a car, with a loaded .44 Magnum in my pocket, heading to a gang fight that will surely end in a very bloody way. I don’t want to be in this situation. I don’t want any part of it. But how do I escape?
Suddenly I remember that “805” up there in the front seat is packing nothing more lethal than a steak knife.
“Hey man,” I say, as the car starts to pull away from the curb. “You guys don’t need us. You just need firepower.” “Huh?” “Yeah, check it out. Dude back there is selling guns. Go inside and grab some.”
Next thing you know, we’re all back in the house, and Stan and I are basically auctioning off the dealer’s guns without his consent. But what’s he gunna do?
A few minutes later, “805” and his friend are on their way, armed to the teeth. Part of me feels sick about it because I know what’s going to happen. But desperate times call for desperate measures. I just want out of it. And now I am. Sure enough, not 10 minutes pass before we hear gunfire crackling through the neighbourhood. Not one or two pops, but multiple gunshots.
Then silence. And, finally, the predictable bleating of sirens. I’m standing on the sidewalk as the cops close in, my heart practically jumping out of my chest. This is my world now, and I have no idea how I got here.