By Thalia


Chris was looking out the window of his bedroom, lost in his thoughts. Usually, during summer, he and his friend Buck would spend the time at his grandfather's ranch, cowboying to their heart's content. But not this year. This year, his father and his partner Josiah, had taken on a grand project: providing real summer vacations to children who didn't have the luck of having a family or the means to spend vacations as children should. So, him and Buck would become Big Brothers to an impoverished little tyke, while Josiah was launching himself in one of his risk-it-all schemes and welcoming a juvenile convict into his house… on probation for eight long weeks. His returning to the juvenile detention center would depend on his behavior during the summer. Josiah had been working in special associations of such kind way before he even joined the police academy and become a detective, partnered to Lieutenant Ryan Larabee four years ago.

The Larabees had adopted Josiah from the first. His quiet demeanor had won over the heart of the recalcitrant young rebels that Chris and Buck had been back then. Having lived a hard relationship with his father, Josiah had been able to help Chris and his father through some hard times. Now, Chris was the captain of his football team, Buck was one of their best quarterbacks and both were in love, Chris with a young pretty blue-eyed brunette named Sarah and Buck with every example of the opposite sex that would catch his fancy.

The sound of his father's truck in the alley woke him up from his daydream. The men were back with their charges. He didn't really know what to make of the situation, but then, as Sarah had him realize, if they were in town this summer, that would mean more time with his girlfriend, with no curfew…

"Hey Chris!" Buck exclaimed, shoving his friend's door open and noisily stepping in, "When…"

"They're here," Chris answered before hearing one more time the question his friend had been asking every five minutes for the last hour.

"What do they look like?" Buck asked, walking to the window.

Silently, they both watched as the men stepped out of the car and opened the back door to their passengers. The first one to come out was a small child with long black curly hair, wearing well-worn jeans and a T-shirt at least two sizes too big for him. 'My God,' Chris thought, 'he can't be more than eight or nine' and the dread of the situation suddenly caught up with him.

"Shit," Buck muttered, "he's gonna want to stick with us all the time… he's gonna be worse than Ella was last summer at the ranch…"

Chris just sighed. There was nothing he could do about the situation. Then the second passenger stepped out, quietly fussing with his clothes as if they were full of dust, his short-cropped reddish-brown hair neatly arranged, not a hair out of place. The contrast between the two was amazing… and quite funny too, each representing one class of the population, the poor and the wealthy.

"My, this one's gonna be a pain in the ass too," Chris muttered. "Just look at him. I bet he won't want to dirty his clothes or something or other. Wonder how Josiah is gonna deal with him…"

"Hey, could be funny," joked Buck. "Remember how he managed to have us repair his deck, free of charge? Boy, I really wanna know how he's gonna get him!" he chuckled.

"Come on, Buck, let's get downstairs before Mom calls us…" Chris said, catching his friend's sleeve and pulling him to the door.

They were almost down the stairs when they stepped into the hall, one boy looking curiously around at the house that would be his for the summer, the other one not bothering at all. Chris caught his father's eye and the twinkle in his eyes made his eyebrows lift. Something was definitely up.

"Boys, Maggie, here are our summer guests", Ryan said to his family. "The little one here is JD Dunne. Comes all the way from Chicago and will be staying with us. I promised him we'll try to go visit Gran soon so he can see a real working ranch," the man smiled into the boy's face alighted with wonder. "And this one here is Ezra Standish. He comes from the state juvenile penitentiary and will be staying with Josiah. Boys, this here is my wife Maggie and these are my sons, Chris and Buck. Now, let's step into the living room, we have things to discuss… and yes," Ryan hastened to say, cutting the one called Ezra before he could utter a word, "Yes, Ezra, more rules to live by… or rather, to survive by if you wanna last with us and not go back to the juvy center."

Ezra blushed a little but his face remained impassive. And Chris, who was looking at him, was suddenly caught in a cold green gaze that surprised him. The boy couldn't be more than 15, which was two years younger than him and Buck, but still, the look in his eyes was… something scary. Then again, the 'boy' was from a juvy center…

After everybody was seated and holding a drink, Chris' father looked each and everyone of the four boys and addressed them in a no non-sense tone.

"Chris, Buck, while Josiah and I will be working, you two will be responsible for JD and Ezra. When we'll be working late shifts, Ez, you'll sleep with Chris and JD with Buck. No offense Buck," Ryan halted him, "but once you're asleep, even a gang war outside your window wouldn't wake you! Chris is a light sleeper and if Ezra ever had the idea of a late night stroll, Chris would hear him. JD, Chris and Buck will be responsible for you, but I'm also expecting you to obey them as if they were me. We've been living in this part of town for quite some time and they know the area pretty well. They'll tell you what places you can go and which ones you shouldn't even think about visiting… for your own good, kid. Ezra, I know you know your way around people, but be aware that this area is quite dangerous and I would really hate it if one of my boys was placed in danger because of one of your ideas. That could get you sent back to juvy before you can even say 'amen'. And don't even try that 'innocent' look with me, it won't work. I've read your file and Josiah and I have met your warden, so spare us," Ryan Larabee told the boy quietly, letting him know exactly where he stood. "As Josiah told you, you have eight weeks to convince us you can change. Mind you, we are not asking you to change and become someone else. We just want you to know there is something else outside the world you live in, something as valuable and as interesting to know. Something that could prevent you from ending up in jail the day you reach 18… Prove to us you understand and want to change and we'll put in a word for your parole officer."

Josiah then got a map out of his pocket and unfolded it on the coffee table, in front of the boys.

"This is a map of the area. This place may look like every little nice picket fences area, but that's not so. This block is called Four Corners and it's a no man's land, because we've made it so. Anybody can walk through it but gangs have to withdraw their markings, scarves and others. No war is allowed. When they want to talk, the sport hall is where they come. They all know that. Now, here in the north-easternmost corner is Little St Louis, the Black district. The home gang is called the Fists and Achilles is the leader. They are not nice people, even if they look like it. In the north-westernmost corner is the Native American district, called The Rez. No gang really but a very tight community lead by Kojay and his son Chanu. They keep mostly to themselves. In the south-westernmost corner, Purgatorio and the Mexicans. Their leader is Rafael Cordoba. They are very touchy people, very proud, sometimes too much. Still some of them there are good people. Last, in the south-easternmost corner are the white people, those that don't want to get mixed with all the others. It's called Little New York. Their gang is quite dangerous. The leader, Anderson, hasn't made time yet, only because he uses under-aged members to do his dirty work. You two," Josiah looked pointedly at Ezra and JD, "you two should be very careful if you meet any of them. Talk to Chris or Buck, but don't let them get you into trouble. All those communities are pretty closed on themselves. Four Corners is the area where you can find some of all the community members willing to live together and fight against prejudices. Which means that living here, you're supposed not to be prejudiced. If you have trouble with that, you better let us know now," he quietly finished his speech, looking the two boys over.

JD looked a bit green around the edges, but he was still looking valiantly into Josiah's eyes, letting him know he was ready to give it a try. Josiah smiled at the boy, then looked over at Ezra who shrugged.

"I have never liked having a too easy life, anyway… I will give it a try," then catching Ryan's lifted eyebrow, "and I will endeavor to keep my end of the bargain, sir," he smirked.

"Then it's settled. Boys, we have to be at the office now, but we should be back for dinner. How about you show the kids around Four Corners?"

Chris and Buck looked at each other. Their summer job as baby-sitters was hardly begun and they already dreaded it.


To Street Gang II