A man shouted something in Italian, a loud POP! POP! shattered the air, and two barely audible “PFFT-PFFTs” followed, startling Angie and her friends. They turned, seeing nothing unusual, but the harshest reality of the WB environment had already rushed into their minds: someone possibly had just shot someone!
Heads from every occupied stoop on the block turned in the direction of the gunshot-like sounds. Now people expected to see what—they did not know—would come from around that corner.
No more than a handful of anxious minutes of silent wondering passed before Wei opened the front door of the Chinese laundry, stepped out wearing the same suit he wore going in, and turned and locked the door. He clutched tightly to his chest a large laundry shirt box. Unknown to anyone else, hidden inside were his leather valise and a warm gun. On Conselyea, walking in the opposite direction and on the other side of the street across from Angie’s stoop, he headed toward Union at his usual unhurried pace. His fedora hung at the same tilt, and his eyes focused only forward on his intended destination, not the people he knew were watching him.
“AT LEAST, YA KNOW WHAT A STOOP IS NOW, HUH?!” yelled Angie loudly, forcing all eyes and ears on the block to fall upon her. She had failed to capture his attention, it seemed, because Wei kept moving at his usual pace, except at the split-second after her words smote the air like lightning, he briefly had touched one forefinger to the brim of his hat, perhaps a salute of sorts. He also tautened the ends of his lips upward in as brief a smile as possible—a deliberate twitch so designed that not one person would ever be able to see it. His satisfaction at accomplishing both of his mission goals, to kill Fatso, and to make contact with Angie, was intact and broadening. Wei felt a warm glow inside his chest, over which he whispered, “Xiexie,” in gratitude to his parents as he flicked his eyes skyward for a split-second.
Feeling smug, Angie turned and looked around at her friends’ faces, white as ghosts. She felt pretty sure she had done the right thing, thinking, This is our block, too, while saying aloud, “What?!” and shrugging her shoulders.
Nobody on the block suspected that the mysterious stranger played a role in the shooting, and he was certainly not sticking around to tell anyone his business. He intended to get out of there as fast as possible, just as the first wails of police-car sirens shattered the block’s pregnant silence punctuated by whispered chatter here and there.
Before long, uniformed foot patrolmen from the 90th Precinct parted and controlled the growing crowd gathered at the corner.
Like the others, Angie did not know what exactly happened, and neither did her friends and neighbors.
Not one Stoop Girl or block neighbor noticed the single trickle of sweat that slid down the departing man’s right temple, ever so slightly marring his facial pancake makeup. Nor did they see the powder burns on his right hand which, though he had rinsed with water as best he could before leaving the sanctuary of the laundry.
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