Lacking sufficient resources to pursue every criminal, to police every crime, local authorities instituted a lottery system of their own. Luscius Brand’s name came up in the hopper every now and again. The bigger the charges against him, the greater likelihood his number would hit. Luscius did not promote violence, but he recognized its necessity, given his chosen line of work. You cannot breed men to be violent. Violence is a trait a man must possess from his deepest core. Luscius surrounded himself with such men, sought use of the violent tendencies in them when necessity deemed extreme use of force inevitable. He recognized that only on rare occasions is justice truly blind. Other times, justice possesses sharply honed insights, doling out her punishment with exacting precision, wiping the offender from existence anytime the crime warrants such measures. There are times justice sees fit to punish both sides at once, the accuser suffering the same lumps as the accused, if not bigger.
Luscius had handed out his fair share of hard lumps. He held responsibility for several lives taken: some by direct oversight, the act committed on command of his word, others by his own hand. The first man whose life he took never saw it coming. He was sent to meet the devil with eyes wide open. Luscius hoped to be afforded the same mercy, a white-hot flash marking the instant his time came due.
Luscius arrived from Haiti with the one friend he had in the world—Jean-Pierre Marchand. Orphans of the same system, Luscius trusted Jean-Pierre with his life. The two were sent to stay with Luscius’s mother’s cousin in West Haven. Crack cocaine had taken hold like wildfire, and the cousin had sent word by way of relatives in Port-au-Prince soliciting sorely needed help in order to ensure a continued flow of funds back from the States. Who better to trust than family in a time of desperate need? He remembered Luscius as a calculating lad, rail-thin yet not one to be taken lightly. The work was blatantly manual, suited to the limited skills of his new recruits; their task was to break cakes of cooked cocaine into rocks, to put the rocks into vials, to bag the vials for transport down to the street.
Haitian youth grow up believing that the streets of America are paved in gold, its citizens luxuriating in palaces surrounded by riches the likes of which the eye would not believe. Luscius and Jean-Pierre arrived by train from Newark Airport to find the mother’s cousin living at the bottom of the bottom, a palace for rats and roaches, a shithole for humankind. A man entered their apartment in the wee hours of the morning, pushed the door in with a foot followed by the weight of his shoulder. He fired two shots into the window frame as the cousin went crashing through in a spray of glass and splintering wood. The last Luscius saw of his second cousin, he was running along Washington Avenue in his stocking feet, his fists pumping the air for extra locomotion.
Luscius hid himself in the sag of sofa cushions, their batting having long ago lost its resilience. Jean-Pierre lay asleep across the room, his head buried beneath a mound of blankets, cold penetrating every corner of the room through cardboard thin walls. The man laid his weapon on the sofa, dropped to one knee, and began stacking bills. He produced a knapsack from inside his waistband and then spread the bag open beside the mountain of cash.
Luscius’s hand found its way to the gun by sound alone, by memory of the low thud it made as the man let it fall in easy reach of Luscius’s head, believing he was in the room alone on the cusp of an easy payday, his play in the game to rob street dealers at the end of the night when their coffers were overflowing. Luscius delivered a single shot to the back of the man’s head. He knew by instinct not to give a man a second chance to think of killing you. You take careful aim and hope to kill him first.
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