Big Rumble In Little Harlem


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Scene Title Big Rumble In Little Harlem
Synopsis Minding their own respective businesses, an over-dressed student and former teacher get embroiled in a violent mugging in Harlem. Good deeds and kneed nuts.
Date October 12, 2008


Harlem stretches from the East River all the way to the Hudson, miles of packed residential districts filled with refugees and vagrants, a neighborhood stricken with crime and poverty. Harlem was, and has been for generations, one of the urban hearts of New York City. Before the bomb, this borough of Manhattan was the center of the Afircan American community in New York City. Now after the destruction of Midtown and the wake of social devastation brought in by the bomb, the borough has seen better days. Much of Harlem suffers from the same plight as much of New York — Overpopulation and crime in the wake of the collapse of infrastructure in 2006. With major traffic arteries cut off, power and water only recently restored, the area was in chaos for those first few terrifying weeks after the blast.

Before the bomb, Harlem had been shaping up, cleaning up its crime rate and working towards becoming a safe place for its residents. All of that hard work was laid to waste in a single night. Many of the buildings on the southern side of the neighrhood bordering on Central Park were gutted by arson in the chaotic weeks following the bomb, and the vast majority of them haven't been torn down yet, leaving the southern edge of the neighborhood a burned out and dangerous ruin. Even if it wasn't for the fires, the looting, vandalism and crime that spiked shortly after the bomb only made things worse for the Harlem residents, followed by the electricity and water stoppage from the damage done to the city's infrastructure.

With the major highways mostly repaired, Harlem is in a process of reconstruction and revitalization. Most of the neighborhood's historic landmarks still remain, and the region surrounding 125th street continues to be the urban pulse of Harlem as a whole, and from that street it's hard to tell anything has changes. It is the center of the reconstruction movement, constantly packed with repair crews, construction workers and maintenance teams.

It took much less than six years into living in Harlem for Teodoro to learn that there ain't nothing in the night that there isn't in the day. Still, cover of daylight sees more people out on the phlegm-rosetted sidewalks, a faster flow of traffic, trucks unloading and the quiet struggle of businesses engrossed in themselves, and the more people there are out, the more people dare to emerge. At the very least, it feels safer.

Teo is helping his neighbour with her groceries. It's the least he can do; she's going to be cooking dinner while her two brothers and fifteen-year-old son camp out on the couch with him and do Halo night on the TV. Some part of him wishes she didn't insist on making her pasta sauce from so many fresh produce. It's exorbitantly expensive, and he always gets the feeling people are giving you Looks when you're carrying that much produce around, because you stupidly have no hands free, or evidently have enough to spend, or both. He's waiting outside a grocery store now, ignoring the bang and clash of nearby reconstruction works, carrying three heads of lettuce in one woven-straw satchel and an unimaginable assortment of dairy and meat lumping out the plastic bags in the other, cutting off the circulation to his fingers.

He frowns abruptly, inspired by a moment's paranoia. Turns his back to the sidewalk and starts craning his head in search of the friend who ought to be behind the window. Craning his head, he steps backward, forgetting that though pedestrian traffic is thin there is some.

If Simon's Aunt knew he was wandering around Harlem she would kill him. He's gotten in enough trouble since they came back to New York City, braving their past home's new bomb-ridden faade. First it was the Triad thug in Chinatown (at least Simon likes to think he was Triad), then the masked gunmen in Brooklyn, and now he's here, sticking out like a sore thumb. Even though he's minding his own business, his expensive clothes and Upper East Side swagger are more than enough to get him noticed. What doesn't help is the fact that he knocks into Teo, who takes his step back at the wrong time. That's what they both get for being in their own worlds.

It's an awkward collision of instincts remembered and forgotten— which kind of matches the awkward collision of young men who apparently can't navigate a sidewalk very well. Teo reacts to the uninvited contact automatically. Crooks his elbow into the approximate level of a grown man's rubs, rolls a lean shoulder outward to shove the other pedestrian away at least a few jarred inches, head snapping sideways, mouth flat and eyes neutral, and default retort ready: "Watch it," conveniently forgetting he ought to have been doing the same. An eye-blink later, something about Simon's face registers in his memory. However, the majority of his brain is occupied with being astonished by the cut of the kid's clothes and carriage of his gait. His eyebrows hike. "Are you lost, or just—?" He aborts the end of his question and glances over the top of Simon's head.

Simon is a bit short than the average man, so Teo's jab gets him in the shoulder, where it doesn't necessarily hurt as much as throw him off balance. "Hey! What the hell?" He staggers a few inches away and almost runs into a lady walking by. She scurries off, though, a reminder that some people do actually look where they are going. Teo has a familiar face that Simon tries to place, but as the man's gaze moves past him, Simon's follows and he turns his head around to see what he could be looking at.

It turns out, Teo is looking at a van. It's a pretty nondescript van. Industrial white, patterned after hard use, the ordinary sort plumbers and painters tend to use. He would know. It's the most unremarkable thing, except that it's been crawling along at a relatively slow pace, conspicuously left alone by vehicles forced to move around it as soon as soon as their drivers got a glimpse into whoever's steering the wheel. Pretty bad signs. Nothing to lose your mind about, though, at least not until Simon stops exchanging a look of Confusion with him and turns his head around to look too.

Tire-rubber burns suddenly and loud as a scream. The van cuts across the street tactlessly, sending up a cacophony of honking horns and curses in two or three different languages. And suddenly, it's like everybody else takes cue: the construction workers, loiterers, and fat ethnic mothers duck, dive, break out running even before the van doors clank open. Two men spill out from the sides, knives flashing in their hands, .45 muzzles pointed. Somewhat anticlimactically, Teo drops a tin of Campbell soup on Simon's shoe, among other rolling, brightly-labeled store items. "I don't fucking know," he says, retroactively answering the kid's query. The elbow's on Simon's shoulder again, all haste, little grace. "Run!"

Simon doesn't think that there's anything different about the painting van until it starts to speed away. Then he gets nervous, because that just doesn't with anything other than taxis. Even then it's a good idea to get out of the way. Simon jumps and curses as the can drops on his foot, and he reaches down to grab it before his shoulder gets jabbed again. It's probably going to bruise, great. "Not again!" He breaks into a run, but looks more for a place to hide because even while running he can still get shot.

Some dissociated component of Teodoro's brain admires that this young man has virtue enough to pick up Campbell soup cans even when everything's on the verge of self-evidently going batshit loco. He would make a good nun. He would probably survive longer as a nun; their clothes are, at least, unassuming. That's all well and good. Simon's going that way, then. Inspired by logic, Teodoro will be heading in the opposite direction.

At least, that's the plan for about ten feet's worth of running with his head ducked and eyes darted backward over his shoulder, until a different but equally irreverent part of his brain finally clicks onto the nearest geographic association with Simon's face. The school. Washington Irving High. Despite the fact that that doesn't— shouldn't— technically change a damn thing, there isn't a whole lot of time or thought spared toward technique anyway, when Teo almost falls over himself to turn back around and run after the boy. Lettuce heads squash underfoot; soup cans bounce off concrete with a short-lived ringing.

The men chase Simon. They're mercenary like that. And leggier than the kid, incidentally. There's a pandemonium of shouting behind the boy, and the first gunshot is a warning— fired straight up into the air. Stop, you little shithead. Up ahead of him, a mazey warren of alleyways, side streets, fences and unemptied garbage containers opens up, shaded from the daylight and smelling ripe.

Simon doesn't take a moment to turn around and recognize the guy from school. It wouldn't change a thing even if he did. Since the guys are apparently chasing *him*, he's going to run as fast as he can. POP! The shot rings through the air and brings back haunted memories of the Brooklyn Library. Is he cursed? That would be a reasonable explanation for all the chaos surrounding him. As he runs, he grips the soup can he picked up earlier. The alleyways near and he swallows hard, turning and slowing his run because of it. One of the guns is targeted and Simon lets the can fly from his hand. He doesn't wait to see if it hits the firearm, because he knows it will. Instead he focuses on running, because now he's out of makeshift weaponry.

Whether thanks to sheer surprise or physical impact, that soup can pops the Glock right out of the attacker's hand. That's punctuated by a whole lot of shouting and pointing and scrambling. The .45 clacks, bouncing, slides skittering across the concrete and onto the drain on the crooked edge of the street, and its original owner makes a plunge to recover it. Points his comrade at the fleeing boy, yelling, "Get that little fuckwad, Jay! Go! Hurry the fuck up!" Not that his friend had had any real plans to give up their quarry in favor of helping butterfingers recapture his weapon, of course. He actually barks a single, sharp laugh out, duly entertained by the hit. Jay turns his back, continues to chase the boy toward the alleyway, stubbled lips pulling broad around a rictus that could be either a smile or a snarl.

Ergo, Jay misses it entirely when his friend suddenly cops a hundred and seventy pounds of Sicilian across the back, at enough velocity to knock the air out of his lungs and burn the skin off his nose against the street concrete. Jay has other things to worry about, like catching Simon and relieving him of whatever he's carrying in his pockets. Fortunately, he's going to get help in a little bit; there's a van about to head Simon off at the other end of the slot between buildings. Not that the boy can see them: thieves or murderers converging on him like wolves. No, what the boy sees might well be a little more heartening. There's a Hell of a lot of portable clutter in here. Cans, bottles.

Simon enters the alleyway with Jay in pursuit. He's huffing and puffing because he's already had a long day before now. Trash litters the way in front of him and he nicks a trash at full speed, causing it to clatter to the floor and for Simon to stumble. As he bends forward, losing a lot of the momentum he gathered from running full out for a few seconds, he reaches for the top of the garbage can, because it's metal and likely to do some damage.

The kid turns, tosses the top like a Frisbee at the pursuing criminal, and then stumbles some more until he lands on his back in the filth and grime. The blow knocks the wind out from him and he lets out a long groan. "What — what the heeeelll — "

There is no way in God's name or by any stretch short of a miracle that that could be normal, Teo decides, peering over the top of his quarry's battered and dazed head to see a frisbeed garbage can lid bisect Jay's torso. Not that Jay, you know, is cut in half or anything, but he too winds up short on breath and deeply surprised by this turn of events. "Kid's like fucking Indiana Jones," Teo mumbles ignobly, latching on the most readily available American pop cultural reference, before a nearby groan of protest yanks his attention back to the man he'd tackled. He seizes a handful of dreadlocks, rams the man's nose once into the tarmac, barely listening to the gratifying squelch of imploding cartlidge and a burst of reflexive tears before he drags himself upright to see what Jay is doing and where Simon went.

Backward, apparently. Both of them went backward. Possibly less the Indiana Jones, then. Jay wheezes, peels his shoulder off the garbage container and raises his weapon. The Glock's shape stands out stark against the afternoon sky, pointed harrowingly at Simon's prone body, a split instant before Jay is also tackled onto his face from behind, something like a terrier's fastidious grip on his gun arm. It's a little low on finesse or novelty, but— fuck it. "Hey!" half-holler and half-cough, a faint strain of Teo's accent bucks into his voice when he calls out to the kid. "You okay?"

That's it. It's all over. Simon is dead. That's what he thinks anyways as the sun it blotted from his view by the massive shape of Jay and his weapon. He wonders how the news will be broken to his Aunt and Uncle. To his cousins. God, to Mallory! "Please, just — " he coughs and wheezes slightly, " — just let me go." That's when Jay gets tackled away by the vaguely familiar man he ran into earlier. He gets onto his elbows and peers over at him. "What? No, I'm not okay! Are you stupid!" Who would be okay after something like that?

Well that was unnecessarily offensive, and sticks a finger in a chink in Teo's poorly-fitted American trimmings, jabbing his Italian straight in the pride. His eyebrows tangle with annoyance and he snaps out his brilliant rejoinder: "Am I stupid?" Jay responds before Simon can, which is just as well. Or could go worse. Teo can identify the sound of metal grinding against concrete quickly enough that he stops Jay from doing something like shoot him in the face. The joint of the other man's elbow is squeezed into reverse, a vague effort to do something fancy involving clever anatomical compromises; a couple desperate discharges of the .45 half a foot from Teo's ear convince him that simply bludgeoning Jay's hand against something until the gun falls out of it is the better way to go.

"Get up," he yells. The second word is struckthrough by the sudden squeal of van tires up ahead, but Simon probably gets the idea. Fortunately for him, the van guy needs some time and a lot of head-craning to get an accurate assessment of the alleyway situation. He kind of thought things would be going better.

Simon doesn't mean to be mean or anything, he's just very stressed out at the moment. As the two shots ring through the alleyway, he bolts up and looks over at Teo and Jay. "Alright I'm going." But not before he runs over and gets one kick in to Jay's face. Stupid punk. Whether it connects or not, he's going to be running a moment later, because the second van probably isn't transporting puppies, but more guns. He's had enough of those things.

In a moment of weakness that the Board of Education doubtless would have had qualms with, Teo smiles at the kick in Jay's face. It's not a bad kick, judging from the whiplash snap of the man's neck and spine recoiling. Teodoro pegs the man in the side of his head with his elbow, aiming into the man's ear as if the spiral-shaped auricle was a bull's-eye, before retracting his arm and staggering upright. Freshly covered in questionable stains and grease-rimed scratches, he glances at the van, marking it briefly, before he twists on a heel and bolts after Simon. The assortment of newspaper and grime slows him down here or there, but it helps that he's traveling in a straight line.

Unfortunately, he's not the only one benefiting from that geometry. At the mouth of the alleyway, the dreadlocked man with the busted nose is waiting. Unpleasantly blinded by tears, he couldn't find his gun, but Simon's a lot bigger than one of those. Stance wide, he makes a clumsy grab at the boy as he barrels back out into the noise and light of the street.

Simon doesn't expect to see the other man at the mouth of the alley. The surprise catches him off guard and he realizes he's going to get caught. He's not a fighter. Those last two acts were reflexive and he didn't have his abilities he wouldn't have been able to pull them off. Even as all of this is going on in his head, Simon can feel the man's hands grip his shirt and pull him back. Simon slows, pivots dangerously on a pile of grease, and starts to grapple and wrestle with much stronger man with the busted face. "Help!"

The stink of mingled sweat, blood, and snot cloys Simon's nose as the man's arms clench around him, torso, then neck, bearing down on his windpipe. Dingy dreadlocks lash him across the cheek, and he glimpses it coming before he feels the prickle and burn of a knife tip flailing around, a hoarse threat articulated in his ear.

There's a humid impression of beer breath and yellow teeth, mercenary intent turned hot from the various humiliations the kid's managed to slap him in the face with over the past two or three minutes. Give me your fucking wallet and maybe I won't cut your balls off before I kill you. With his face broken in the middle, the man sounds more like: "Gimmya fuckeen' 'ollet and 'ayee I wo' cutchyer balls off 'fore I kill ya!" A snarl, guttural. The vital parts of that sentence are all there though, wonderfully.

Teo comes up behind them. Pokes the borrowed .45 up the man's butt, which stops him just about immediately. Helpfully, Teo adds, "Let the kid go or I'll put lead so far up your gummy anus, you'll grow a dick." Either because his rectum is sensitive enough to parse the feel of gunmetal through his pants or the Italian manages to impart enough sincerity in his voice, the dreadlocked loosens his grip around Simon's throat.

The knife hangs in the air a foot from the boy's face, inert, gleaming, waiting. He isn't letting go, not exactly, but it isn't much of a deductive leap for Simon to figure he should probably try and move. The thug's mingling compliance with stalling.

Simon starts to choke as the grip on his neck tightens. He stares wide-eyed at the dreadlocked mercenary and bares his teeth, as if that might frighten him or something. "I don't. Have. A fucking wallet." He gasps in a deep breath after his choppy comeback. "Assholes like you - took it from me." He breathes in again, only this time it's more difficult. Luckily, Teo comes over to save the day with gun in hand. Simon is dropped and he immediately ducks out of the way of the knife and jogs off a few feet. He doesn't run, though, because he's interested in making sure Teo gets away. It's only fair for the man who keeps tackling armed men for him.

Teo proceeds to hit the dreadlocked man in the face until he falls over. Two, three times. His face was already in pretty bad shape. Distantly, Teo knows he was supposed to have grown out of this kind of thing by the time he turned eighteen, but he reasons that goes for a lot of things he still does— including undergraduate college. He doesn't glance down, suspecting he's going to need to have his knuckles sewn back up into his hands. He glances up the sidewalk instead, blue eyes scanning quickly through fleeing skirts, flipped-up slips, the backs of civilians' heads, the whites of the eyes of the handful crouching round-eyed behind the newspaper stand. He sees who he was looking for. Exchanges an indeterminable look with her, then turns to find Simon there.

He blinks, incredulous. Asks: "Seriously?" It's difficult to tell and probably inconsequential, whether he meant the lack of the wallet or the fact the boy stayed. Teo reaches over to close discolored fingers on the boy's sleeve, pull, a switchblade jerk of his arm. This way.

Simon stares with his mouth dropped open as Teo beats the hell out of the dreadlocked man. It's scary to see how violent people can be, even when they're doing something that most would be considered "good." So, when he gets yelled at, grabbed, and pulled, it shouldn't come to a surprise that Simon pulls back and away from Teo. "Who the hell are you?" He starts to back away from him, but also back out onto the street. He's not ready to run, yet. Panting and out of breath, all the boy can think about is why this is all happening to him.

It becomes proportionally more tempting to look at one's hands and at what one's doing when you have a child staring at it stricken-faced and round-eyed, but Catholicism is all about the resisting of temptation. 0r something. Adrenaline singing praise choruses in his veins, Teo isn't completely sure his moral loci and behavioral compass arrows are located and pointing in all the normal places; he only has the distinct suspicion that examining the situation too closely will lead to woe.

They aren't out of the fire yet. "Substitute teacher," he answers straightforwardly. "French class, the Friday Jean-Claude's wife had the twins. Washington Irving, right? Fuck. Look," he makes an effort. "I know you're kind of fucked up right now, but there's polizia— " police, "— and someone circling back around—" He fizzles into curses of consternation, not because he particularly has anything against Washington Irving, but because this really isn't the time. Clicking the gun's safety on, he stuffs it into some unimaginable place and reaches to bodily lift and haul the boy into motion, over his shoulder if need be. Teodoro is about as strong as he looks. He got that from his mom.

Any attempt to grab and force Simon to do anything is certainly not going to lead anywhere good at this point. He's too shaken up, what with a gun and a knife having both been aimed at killing him in the past couple minutes. Therefore, when Teo comes after him, he's going to meet Simon's knee, which comes up quickly, aimed for Teo's dangly parts. "I don't care who are. Don't fucking touch me!"

It's good Simon isn't a fighter. That could have hurt more. It always hurts a lot, though. Irrelevantly, Teo finds himself tempted to point out to the boy that Simon had asked who he was about two minutes ago, but he understands that someone who doesn't get violently mugged or come in contact with a reasonable probability of it every day of every week is going to be having some difficulty wrapping their lobes around this situation. That's about as far as his understanding stretches, unfortunately. Knee to the nuts does that to a guy. Stooped over for a moment, he leans on the hood of the nearest car, glaring perilously down into a tangle of dandruff-speckled dreadlocks spilled across the pavement, catching his… balance, again.

His temper, also inherited from his mother, is beginning to cinder at the edges. "Okay," he says. "You know what? That's a fucking plan. You stay. I'll stay with you." Sheer obstinacy might push him to it, honestly. "We'll sit here, these two stronzo will wake up, and get shot together.

"You'll get kidnapped, or cut on, or run over with a fucking van, or all three, and I'll just work on bleeding real fast. Why does that sound like a good idea? You should know better. Even that fucking pigeon knows better!" he says, pointing at the nearest roof segment that has no pigeon. "Even those fat Negro mothers know better. Everyone knows better." He points everywhere and nowhere, at the hush and pitter-patter of the streets, half-emptied, thick with hastened breath and averted eyes. "How did you fucking graduate middle school?!"

After kneeing the man in the nuts, which he immediately recognizes as very a low thing to do, Simon starts to back away, walking faster the more he's verbally attacked by the man. That is, of course, until Teo mixes in curse words along with his insults. That causes Simon to stop and forget completely that if it weren't for Teo, he would be dead right now. He lifts a hand in the air with his middle finger pointing high at the pigeonless sky. Then he turns and starts to jog off away from the scene, using the sidewalk as his way of escape.

Even for a terrorist, Teo is awfully susceptible to his own conscience. The look on the kid's face as he gives him the one-finger salute and retreats down the street engenders a weird twist of sentiment in his gut that he's a little too disoriented to name. Detachedly, he's glad Simon's leaving now, even if bad-tempered yelling was what made him go. The man spends another handful of seconds sitting on the Saturn, making believe to himself he's just reinforcing his point, before genuine urgency forces him off the dust-flecked vehicle and back onto his feet.

He cuts across the street, amid a squeal of tires and scattered cry of pedestrians who don't want to get too close, and vanishes into the construction yard. Somewhere beyond the chainlink, he hangs a hard right, shadowing the teenager's staggered through Harlem. Men come for the fallen. By the time the police pull up in front of the grocery store, there isn't a trace of the scene left, not even an errant Glock.

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