Jack of Hearts
Jack of Hearts
It rained between seven and eight p.m. and left the city streets damp and the horrible odors gone with the rainfall. Toby, the last to arrive, walked the narrow alley, hands in his pockets, making a mental note of which Jacks were there. Satisfied, he relaxed. Earlier, Toby changed his jeans for clean ones, and exchanged his sweaty shirt for the black jacket all the Jacks owned, to make certain everyone knew them from the Comets, who wore red.
"Everybody here?" he questioned, not expecting an answer. "All right, let's go."
Several blocks away, the Comets waited, the blood red of their jackets glowing under the setting sun. Red assured them the Irish were smarter and quicker than the Italians were and they could take them. The Comets, now pumped, were eager to show the One-eyed Jacks they deserved to win.
Red stepped out of the shadows into the street light. His hair, red, and short cropped almost matched the bright red of his bomber jacket. His hazel eyes bordered on green most of the time. He stood not more than five feet tall, and at seventeen, ruled the Comets with brute force. A scar on his right check, added to the appearance of his strength and it served as a reminder to the others of his triumph over the first leader of the Comets two years back. He had no siblings, and lived in a small three-room apartment, behind the grocery his father owned. His mother died of a drug overdose, but Red knew the truth even though his father claimed she had a terminal disease. Flannery Senior was a tough Irishman who could hold his whiskey with the best of them. He never remarried, although there were a few women over the years. Red was a younger version of his dad, having the same flame colored hair, stocky body, and quick to anger.
"All here", he said.
"Let's do it," he ordered.
A faint mist began as they marched, in a group, down the darkened and empty streets. They turned into a dim alley, cutting through to a vacant lot on which had stood several condemned buildings, now gone, with only piles of rock remaining.
Red stopped. "This is it". They shuffled in behind him and waited.
With Toby leading, the One-eyed Jacks walked silently, screening both sides of the street for any hidden Comets. The Comets were a larger group, and as added insurance, Mike gathered others who had problems with the Comets, to unite as one. He stepped up beside Toby, and they continued in silence until their arrival at the meeting location. The Comets were already there and waiting, twenty-five feet away. Toby tried to find Red in the semi-darkness, but he remained hidden.
As the One Eyed Jacks approached, Red observed a larger number of One Eyed Jacks - more than he recalled, and he leaned over to Curly and whispered
"What the hell. Where did they all come from? Are these all friggin Jacks?"
"Some are from other gangs." Curly answered.
The first time Red met him, he swore in no way would he ever call him Conrad, and gave him that nickname, and it stuck.
He bordered on the thin side with stringy brown hair that curled around his neck and always looked dirty; never had a girlfriend, and thought a rumble over any girl was dumb.
"What?" Red roared.
They're not all Jacks"
"What the hell do you mean, not all Jacks?"
"Some of those guys are from other gangs. See, they don't have a Jacks shirt on."
"Well screw that," Red said. This was supposed to be Jacks and Comets only."
"We can't back out now", Curly said, "We made the challenge. It'll look bad if we back out."
"Toby Cerino planned this." He wants us to back down"