The Ghetto (Crossing Over 2)


THE GHETTO

The Ghetto was east of the river across from Velo City, and a few miles north of the Edge.  There were still some buildings left in the Ghetto, unlike the Edge, which was almost completely barren. Crumbling and burned out, the buildings of the Ghetto stood five and six stories tall.  Their windows black and gaping like silent, screaming mouths.

Luca was a rough looking man; six feet tall, dark complexioned, and if you looked close enough, handsome.  His ragged brown hair almost touched his shoulders, but his beard wasn't old enough to be full, it just outlined the strength of his jaw.  At first glance you might think he belonged to one of the gangs.  But if you saw him up close, if you talked with him, if he spoke to you, you would see light in his eyes.  You might even catch a glimpse of his brilliant smile.  Something you'd never see with one of the gangers.  

 Luca walked down the old main street keeping close to the burned out buildings of the Ghetto.  He wore faded blue jeans, worn and dusty, and a threadbare, gray T-shirt, the hems of the sleeves ragged.  On his head he wore a visor made of rough sackcloth and dark plastic that shaded his face from the bright sun.  His body moved quickly, as he made his way through the ghost of what had once been a city.

Two dark haired men appeared from an alley on the other side of the street, near where Luca walked.  They were dressed in dirty black jeans and ripped dark T-shirts, both smudged with the dry dust that covered everything in the Ghetto.  They were alike as they could be, until you looked close, then you could see that Bone had a smooth face and Tank was marked with three diagonal scars, scratched across his face.  As they looked down the dusty road, they caught sight of Luca and began to hurry toward him.

Luca heard them before he could see them.  He picked up speed and headed off toward the tallest of the crumbling buildings, running swiftly and quietly. 

He knew why the gangs were after him.  They hated the idea that he put something inside peoples’ heads other than fear.  The thought of them chasing him made him smile, since keeping ahead of them was part of the fun.  Catch me if you can, boys.

Tank and Bone tried to match Luca's speed, but he was already way ahead and they soon lost sight of him.  Luca knew the Ghetto well and scooted in and out of the crumbling buildings, targeting areas he knew could get through, and avoiding buildings and alleys that were dead ends.  Even so, once he was well ahead of them, he couldn't resist letting them catch sight of him, to continue the fun of the chase.  He even took his time and let them get close enough so they felt they had a chance.  It made Luca smile.  Come on, gangers, I'm right here.

Luca ducked between two buildings and down an alley, the tall buildings on each side of him like narrow canyon walls.  Tank and Bone ran after him, straight down the middle.  When Luca reached the brick wall at the end of the alley, he stopped, turned, crossed his arms with a smile, and leaned his back up against the wall as if it was a natural time to take a break.  The two men slowed and looked at each other, then walked cautiously toward Luca, drawing knives from their waists.

Luca waited until they got within a few feet, his smile never wavering.  Then he bent his knees into a squat and jumped straight up, catching hold of the bottom of an old iron fire escape.  He swung himself forward, and releasing his grip, kicking the two men in the center of their chests with his feet as he flew toward them.  They fell to the ground, and Luca rolled to the ground beside them, quickly getting to his feet and running out of the alley.  Tank roared in anger as he rose, pulling Bone onto his feet, and they both ran stumbling out of the alley after him.  

When they made it out to the street, Luca was nowhere to be seen.  Tank swore loudly and ran up one end of the street while Bone ran up the other, but they couldn’t see where Luca had gone.  They stood in the middle of the street, confused and angry, looking back and forth.  Tank pushed Bone away from him in anger, and kicked at the hard, dusty ground.  Above them, running across the tops of the buildings, jumping from one roof to another, Luca's speedy form disappeared into the distance.  Gangers, Luca mused as his feet skipped lightly over the roof, no imagination.