Cyrus kept them serious and ran their game by a science of paper bags and throwaway cell phones. Petey Pink played with spinning coins on the cracks of his corners but never played around on his girl. Bebe, Petey's baby mama at fourteen, kept her daughter, Bella, on her knee and only had eyes for Petey. Crush cocked a University of Tennessee Volunteers cap at the top of his towering head as a reminder that once, someone from elsewhere cared about New Orleans. Will Clementine whistled Dixieland through his grin like there wasn't a care in the world.
The Desire Projects were their home-locked in windowless brick and bathed in hot sirens. The corners of Desire were where they lived. The corners' angles aimed at somewhere else-edges stuck in the flank of some place better for them to bleed a living from.
They pushed drugs and pulled in survival. Cocaine won their rent. Weed let them eat better than eggs and rice. Pills came and went like movie tickets to something other than the horror film they knew.
They knew the kind of hunger that kept them awake with thoughts of licking the walls just to taste something. They knew terror of midnight knocking and windows pried silent after hours. They knew growing up was the same thing as being taken from.
They never lost each other. Until the choppers arrived.
The choppers came in a crate that smelled of dust and fry oil and high places. It was marked with an alien alphabet and it was thick with violence. A man named Vicious sold it to them with golden words and a straight razor for a smile.
"This is our ticket out," Cyrus promised as he lifted a chopper-the AK-47 assault rifle feeling like some heavy vehicle too fast for anyone to catch.
"This will make 'em all listen up good," Crush said and counted the bullets.
"This is the big time right here," Petey said, a clip locking home sounding like a lock unlatching. And Bebe put on a smile for him, stitched strong with hope. And Will whistled that the Saints would be Marching In.
Then came the silence of planning. Then there was thunder. From the eyes of the five, the choppers opened a storm that blew blood and loose cocaine across the Ninth Ward.
They broke Eagle Street into an avalanche of crack rock. They hit Florida District until the pills bounced out of the corpses. They chopped up boys' bodies and they stepped on the flake they took from them.
As they picked up the pieces, their whispers of suspicion spread with the smoke. Petey whispered that Cyrus was hiding a thicker cut of the stolen coke for himself. Crush whispered to Will that Petey was looking to play them all. Will stopped whistling and started to listen to the cracks opening among the five.
They each came to Vicious, stoop-shouldered in his jazz-club backroom, their mixed drinks as strange to their hands as magic potions. And they asked his stainless smile if their suspicions were right.
"Yes," Vicious said. To each question of violence, he answered, "Yes."
And he was right. The five made sure of it.
Cyrus was the first to be broken up by the choppers. Petey cracked him open at the Shell station on St. Claude and mixed the pieces with three of his cousins. What was left of Cyrus in his Ford Explorer was a mass of meat that the shape of a friend couldn't be found in.
They weren't friends anymore after that. They were trigger fingers and opportunity. They were cuts of flesh for the waiting choppers.
Bebe broke first. Even in bathtub of ice cubes, she sweated out the story of Petey killing Cyrus to Crush. Crush hung up on Bebe for the last time and made a call to Will.
Will's chopper left the coins from Petey's pockets spinning in the torn plum of his body. The NOPD took five hours picking the bullets from the slime, chunks and glinting change. In four hours, Bebe found Crush.
When the paramedics found Crush, he was still breathing. He'd lost blood and he'd lost use of his bowels. He'd lost most of his teeth. Will found them and made a necklace while he made a list of the places Bebe would hide.
Bebe and Will took their choppers to the streets and took apart every place that belonged to them.
Bebe's house burned with her older brother spine-shot in its bullet-ridden kitchen. Will's mother didn't have a head to kiss goodbye in her closed casket. Their choppers splintered school rooms, church socials, supermarkets, and the Upper Ninth smoked with sawdust and cordite and loss.
The Upper Ninth breathed a week of relief when Will clapped duct-tape over Bebe's sleeping mouth and woke her up in his basement.
He razed her nerves with wire and lit cigarettes. He robbed her right eye with his fingers. He cracked open her body with his and he whispered what he'd do to her daughter.
What was left of Bebe scarred over and closed ugly.
Vicious pulled her from the basement while Will was nodding on purple drank. He brought Bebe to his white-washed backroom and he sat her at a table with Crush. Crush sported a new smile made of solid gold. Vicious filled their hands with umbrella drinks and their heads with promises.
Crush asked if Vicious really cared about Crush's New Orleans. Bebe asked if they would get her daughter back.
"Yes," Vicious said. To load their clips and keep the choppers firing, he said, "Yes."
The choppers roared until no one was left to answer.
Matthew C. Funk is a social media consultant, professional marketing copywriter and writing mentor. He is the editor of the Genre section of the critically acclaimed zine, FictionDaily, and a writer for FangirlTastic and Spinetingler Magazine. M. C. Funk's work features at numerous sites online and in print with Needle Magazine, Howl, 6S and Crimefactory. He is represented by Stacia J. N. Decker of the Donald Maass Literary Agency.