Chapter 6

	Lisa sat at the desk, across from the empty chair, in Joe's
office.  She'd been waiting for about ten minutes while Joe was
giving Chris and Lucas some instructions about something... Lisa
wasn't too sure about what, but she'd find out later, thinking to
herself.  Looking about the office, at the messy papers in the
corners, the ever-growing pile of filing that needed to be done,
but never got sorted, Lisa noticed a kind of peacefulness in the
chaos.  That feeling you get from a nice warm bath, she'd decided
was the closest.  Lisa looked at the well-worn drum set Joe used
to take out his frustrations (when Lucas wasn't around to throw)
or to just get into a good jam session.  As she perused the
contents of the office, she heard Joe's voice grow louder, and
the door opened.
	"...and I want it done by three at the latest.  Okay, Chris?"
Joe was half inside the office, still wrapping things up with
Chris.  Lisa heard Chris' muffled voice reply in its usual polite
tones.  Satisfied that he'd gotten the chores settled, Joe turned
into his office and closed the door behind him.  The half slam
sent the venetian blinds covering the door window swinging back
and forth.  Lisa started to turn and get up to shake Joe's hand,
but he beat her to it.
	"Hi, Lisa, I'm Joe... your new boss," he said in kidding tones
to lighten the mood for Lisa.  He passed around her chair, shook
her hand quickly, but firmly, and sat in his big, comfy, leather
chair.  Joe settled himself in his chair before he began with his
official duties with Lisa.  Finished, he leaned back in his chair
and took a long look at the young lady.  She fits in well, he
thought to himself, I hope I'm not making a big mistake.  Lisa
just sat there, growing uncomfortable with the appraising stare. 
Joe noticed this, so to remedy the situation, he jumped right
into the issue at hand.
	"You know you've been hired, right, Lisa?"  Joe said in the
friendly, father-figure voice of his.  "I basically wanted to
meet with you to see how things are going, introduce myself, and
ask you what or if you need anything from Jane or myself." 
Finishing his opening statement, Lisa felt Joe's need for an
answer of some form or another.
	"Everyone's been really, really nice to me, Joe.  They told me I
could call you by your first name," Lisa said defensively.
	"Course you can, I'm gonna call you by yours, it's only fair,"
Joe replied, "did you want anything to drink while were in here? 
Coffee?  Soda?  Rye and Coke?"  At the somewhat shocked look on
Lisa's face, Joe laughed out loud.  It was a powerful, yet
soothing laugh that Lisa quite liked.  There was no falseness
about it; no pretension or patronization.  This is one down to
earth guy, she thought.
	"Nah, it's okay.  But thank you for the offer," Lisa answered
politely, "Can I ask you a question before we go on?"
	"Shoot," was Joe's simple reply.
	"You know about my record, and the time I spent in Juvi Hall,
right?  Why are you taking a chance on me?  Nobody else I've ever
met would," Lisa asked in blunt honesty.  She just wanted a frame
to put Joe in so she could more easily picture what he was like.
	"Yeah, I know everything.  I have a friend in the police force,
we've been buddies forever, since fifth grade, I think.  He feeds
me info on young people with troubled pasts or who just need the
kind of help I can give.  It's worked really great so far," Joe
	"So far?" Lisa stated more than asked, with growing concern.
	"Lisa, I'm not going to lie to you.  And in return I expect the
same courtesy.  It's pretty much that simple. This job may not
seem all that glamorous, but it's fun, it's challenging, and it's
great for teens and young adults to start from.  You'll start
with a good wage, Jane and I will set you up with a place to stay
for awhile until you can afford to move wherever you like.  Base
pay is at least a buck an hour above your average salary for this
type of work, and as long as you keep your nose clean... you'll
do great."  Joe finished his piece and seemed to be waiting for
some form of response from Lisa.  Unsure of what to do, Lisa
simply exclaimed,
	"Thank you for giving me a chance, Joe.  And thank Jane for
being so nice to me as well.  I never expected even a job, let
alone the treatment I've been getting here... everybody is so
nice!"  She exclaimed, a large smile on her face brightened the
room.  Joe sat back in his chair, the leather creaking with the
movement, and smiled back.
	"You're going to do a great job, Lisa.  Just relax and follow
the others' lead and you'll learn the ropes in no time at all. 
And if you got a problem or if you're in trouble, you can always
come to me... I'll do what I can," he said in fatherly tones with
a caring smile.  Lisa, feeling the lump in her throat growing
from the amount of caring this place seemed to share, croaked out
something inaudible, and then cleared her throat,
	"Thanks, Joe, I won't let you down!"  She jumped up, shook his
hand in glee and joy, and shot like a brunette rocket through the
door out Joe's office, almost slamming it shut behind her. 
Watching the blinds swing back and forth, alone in his office,
Joe sighed to himself.  I hope you do Lisa... I hope you do.

	Out back, Chris was touching up the fading paint on the mural of
Gloria Estefan.  Damn, Chris thought, that AJ is a Hell of an
artist.  Heard he was comin' down in a couple weeks.  Sounds like
a cool guy, I hope he likes me.  Chris' insecurity, born of a
misspent youth and chronic depression, was always getting the
better of him, but he'd struggled a long time to get where he is
now, and he'd be damned if he'd let anything or anyone take away
all he has gained.
	But damnation can rear its head at the most inopportune times.
	"Hey, Baby Chris," came a mocking laughter from behind him. He
recognized the voice immediately, but between his concentration
on the art before him, and his own thoughts, he hadn't heard
their approach from atop the ledge he was on.  His knuckles
whitened under the strain he was putting on the brush now (I
gotta keep control).  Slowly, deliberately, he turned around.
Seeing his worst nightmare before him was heart-pounding and
terrifying.  He could feel the adrenaline rush take him over;
feel the battle instincts; the 'fight or flight' response of the
body's nervous system.  This time, he thought, there wasn't going
to be a "flight" response as he moved to find the best vantage
point to launch an attack if necessary (God, why don't they just
leave me alone?).
	"Whatayah want, Zone?"  Chris asked in firm, calm tones, even
though his insides were being shred apart by fear, anger and
rage; ultimate rage!  The young, white skin-headed man eased back
a bit, all the time enjoying Chris' pain.  He looked at his flock
of sheep; that's all they were to him, and laughed.  Five to one
odds.  Chris wouldn't stand a chance, Zone thought,
	"Hey," Zone began, in condescending tones, mocking tones, "I
just wanted to check out the new nigger in the Empire," he
claimed calmly, drawing laughter from the four neo-nazi's behind
	"You're such an embarrassment to the human race," Chris spat out
in disgust, ready to pounce at a moment's notice (I'm gonna get
killed), "I can't believe Zak even took you in as a REAL skin in
the first place," he shot at the young nazi.
	"Zak, is a fuckin' idiot... along with the rest of you faggots
in Trueskin!"  Zone spat back, his tone indicating extreme
anger... I hit a sore spot, Chris thought to himself, good (maybe
he'll be off his guard if I make him even angrier).  Chris,
folding his arms over his chest, and hiding the fact that he'd
turned the paintbrush in his hand upside down, laughed back at
	"You're such a disgrace... you give skinheads a bad name.  If it
weren't for you, Zak, Gracy, and Skeet could walk the fuckin'
streets without people shouting at them; threatening them!" 
Chris yelled, his fear fueling the rage; his growing anger
fueling the rage, "why don't you and your little pussy-ass
friends here," he mocked as he looked at them with disdain, "go
back home, shine your boots, and keep that 'circle jerk' gang of
yours busy trying to learn to read!?!?"
	"You're gonna fuckin' die, nigger!"  Zone screamed as he
launched himself up onto the platform.  Expecting the move from
the predictable man, Zone's leap has met in full force by a
swinging, steel-toed boot... and six feet of muscle and rage
behind that.  Catching Zone in the mouth, Chris heard the
cracking of bone, the snapping of cartilage, and the wet sound of
blood hitting the ground.  Teeth covered the pavement where Zone
landed in a heap of blood and rage.  Barely conscious, Zone,
yelled, "Get him you stupid fuckers!!!"  He was spitting out
teeth (gotta get outta here, make the nigger pay later).
	As the four astounded sheep looked at their leader in shock,
they broke out of their trance to fix the "nigger" that did the
damage.  It was a most inopportune time for someone to come out
the back door... very bad timing indeed.
	"Hey, Chris you'll never guess..." Lisa started to yell
excitedly, dashing out the back door to be met by two young,
shaved-headed men who grabbed her instead of Chris when this
choice opportunity came about. Chris, busy with the other two
(one had the broken end of a paintbrush sticking out of his
thigh), only heard Lisa's yelp, then muffled screaming.
	"LEAVE HER ALONE!!!!"  Chris screamed in rage.  The
brush-thighed man fell back an instant; that was all Chris
needed.  Growing up on the streets and in gangs of many forms,
Chris knew one thing almost as much as he knew music.  That one
thing was how to fight.  Not your clean, boxing-style, melee...
but the down-and-dirty, blood-and-guts type fighting: no holds
barred, do what you gotta do.
	When the injured nazi fell back, Chris gave a sideways kick to
his already damaged thigh, bringing a scream of pain that Chris
knew they'd hear in the store (can't get them involved... too
dangerous).  The other man he was tangled up with hit Chris hard
on the side of the head, and again, and again... Chris was
beginning to fade, but he HAD to get Lisa outta there (fuck, I
gotta help her!) before the monsters did something REALLY horrid
to her.  Chris, ignored the pain and forced back the darkness
that clouded his vision from the blows.  Bringing his hand up,
straight palmed, folded only at the last finger joints, he
managed to connect where he was aiming... the man's throat! 
Hearing the smashing blow land and the man's choking, Chris
seized the advantage.  He untangled himself, grabbed the man by
the wrist, twisted the young nazi's arm the wrong way, and
pulled... hard.  He heard the loud pop, and the resounding scream
that followed, as the man's shoulder was dislocated.  Throwing
the damaged man down, off the platform.  He looked to see Lisa
wasn't without her own tricks.
	As soon as they grabbed her, Lisa's street smarts kicked in. 
That almost sixth sense that came with trying to salvage a life
on the streets.  First, after the initial panic subsided, she
noticed, the young men were strong, but weren't too bright.  They
gave her too much slack and Lisa used it to full advantage. 
Twisting one of her arms free, Lisa punched, very hard, the man's
groin.  Folding over in pain, his buddy was much more aware now
that the girl presented a threat.  He grabbed both arms and
slammed her against the wall, dazing the young woman.  He slammed
her again, and again... her head was banging hard against the
concrete wall, she too, as Chris had, fought the approaching
darkness of unconsciousness (I don't wanna die!).  Half in a daze
she could feel the man trying to rip her thin slacks off, his
hands were down the front of her panties before she finally
reacted (NEVER AGAIN!!!!).
	Lisa was amazed.  All she saw was red, and to this day, doesn't
remember what happened, but the next thing she knew, she was on
top of the man, beating him with her right fist.  Shots to the
head, face, and groin.  Blood was pouring from the man's broken
nose and bashed mouth.  She felt arms around her again and
started kicking and screaming.
	It took Chris all his strength to pull Lisa off the unconscious
man who'd attempted to violate her.  Zone had run, as Chris knew
he would (wimp, only fights when its at his advantage), and took
the others with him.  The entire melee had lasted maybe thirty
seconds, but it had seemed like hours to Chris.  Pulling Lisa
with all his might, she was screaming and flailing out in front
of him.  Luckily, her legs were only bashing his thighs, not
higher (or I'd be on the ground).
	"Lisa... LISA!!!"  Chris shouted, trying to snap his friend out
of her panicked state and frenzy.
	"You mother-fucker!!!  I'M GONNA FUCKIN' KILL YOU!!!  I'M GONNA
KILL YOU!!!" Lisa, repeated over and over, as she slowly came out
of her semi-psychotic state.  "Never again..." she sobbed as
Chris brought her slowly to the ground and rocked her back and
forth in his arms.
	"Shhhhh..." Chris voice was calm; soothing, "it's over.  You're
safe.... shhh... it's going to be alright," he said, choking over
his own welling tears as he looked at the bloodied mess around
him (why again?  Why again?).  They just held each other, softly
rocking back and forth.  By the time Mark shot through the back
door, Lisa was still sobbing, but Chris had regained his
composure.  Eyes still bright from his tears, Chris looked at
Mark, who approached with a look of horror.
	"Holy shit!  Are you guys okay?  Lisa... LISA," he crouched next
to her, his compassion for her overwhelming him.  Chris made a
	"Mark, can you take care of Lisa while I get..." Chris began,
Mark took Lisa and kept gently rocking her back and forth,
running his hands through her hair; comforting her.  They were
interrupted as Joe, Warren and Debra shot out the back door as
well.  Joe tried best to restrain his anger... but failed.
	"Is this what you were talking about before?"  He demanded of
Chris, who nodded his head sadly in compliance.  Joe moved to the
unconscious man, and with a strong kick to the stomach, yelled at
him, "Get the FUCK up, you Goddamn PUNK!!!"  Not waiting for an
answer, Joe reached down, grabbed the guy by the back of his
flight-jacket's collar and dragged the bloody mess inside. 
Chris, aching all over, tried to stand.  The adrenaline was
leaving his system; with that came the pain and the effects of
the beating dished to him.  He promptly fell back down and
would've smashed his head on the ground had Warren and Debra not
jumped towards him and caught him halfway down.
	"CHRIS!!!"  Deb yelled, her heart pounding with fear as the
semi-conscious young man spit blood out beside him.  Warren, ran
inside for some medical supplies.  "Chris, are... are you okay?" 
Seeing an angel before him (am I dead?  Is this heaven?), Chris
managed a painful smile,
	"Too many of us for them... two against five... they didn't
stand a chance," he tried to laugh, but just coughed up blood
instead.  Still smiling, he looked up at Debra, as he was about
to enter unconsciousness, and said, "You're... so... beautiful...
angelic..."  His head lolled back and Debra guided him down,
Warren dashed back with cloth, gauss, and water.  Deb took a
cloth and, wetted it and began to clean the unconscious young
man's face.
	"You're so beautiful, too," Deb said too softly for anyone to
hear.  Warren was now with Mark, who was tending to Lisa like an
overprotective mother.  Stepping back, Warren thought to
himself... I don't think Joe's gonna give THAT guy a job.

	"OUCH!!!"  came a desperate cry from the kitchen.  Corey,
smiling to herself, couldn't help but think how funny AJ was.  As
skilled an artist as he was, when it came to cooking he couldn't
even boil water correctly.  "Corey!?" came the expected, and
pleading, cry from the kitchen.  With a short giggle to herself,
Corey leapt up from the sofa, and slowly made her way to the
	"Yes, Dear?"  She mocked him as she turned the corner, still
smiling.  AJ, seeing her glowing grin, couldn't help himself from
smiling, even though he was indeed in over his head facing his
deadly foe: a pot of spaghetti sauce.
	"Come on," he tried not to laugh, "seriously, this thing hates
me!"  Still chuckling together (this happened to AJ all too
frequently), Corey stepped in, turned the burner to "low" stirred
it up, and it stopped bubbling and popping.  With a huge
"I-told-you-so" grin, Corey burst into laughter at AJ's amazed
face.  Watching his angel, he couldn't help it, he chuckled to
himself, looked at the ceiling, and shook his head.  "From now
on," he began, "you cook and I'll do EVERYTHING ELSE!!!"  He
	"Nope, sorry, Tough-Guy," she teased, tapping him in the
stomach, "we agreed to split the chores.  Besides we're going to
get you to cook something without my help if it kills us!"
	"We are?" he said in an almost whining tone.  Corey just laughed
harder.  Then an idea occurred to her.  Something Gina had
suggested her.
	"That's done, so is the pasta," she explained, looking over at
the other pot about to boil over, "let them cool, and try not to
kill yourself serving it!"  She laughed her sweet laugh and
kissed AJ's neck quickly before shooting out the kitchen for
something.  AJ, watching her graceful stride, sighed to himself,
and thanked the gods he'd found Corey.  Following her
instructions, he began the chore of serving.
	"So, Gina was excited when you told 'er we were comin' down in a
couple weeks?!" he half yelled, so Corey could hear him from
wherever she was.  AJ drained the spaghetti, with a bit of oil,
and a tad of oregano, he put it back in the pot and mixed it up.
	"She sure was," Corey yelled back, "the whole store's gonna be
glad to see us!"  AJ heard her voice get kinda muffled, then back
to normal, and he wondered what the hell she was doing.
	"I can't wait," AJ exclaimed in happy tones, "it's going to be
so great - I even drew some pictures of some of the sights, and
made a painting for Joe."  He was now in the final stages of
setting the table, the pots were on the heat pads, knives, forks,
plates, candles, cloth napkins... wait a minute, he thought, I
brought two out.  Where's the other one?
	The answer to AJ's question walked around the corner as he saw
the napkin.  It was delicately folded and tucked into a red,
velvet choker, Corey was wearing.  In fact, that's all Corey was
wearing.  AJ's heart stopped.  If he'd sighed before, he simply
stopped breathing as the beautiful woman in front of him took his
breath away completely this time.  Corey, acting as if nothing
was awry, simply walked to her seat, sat down, and began eating. 
Taking a big helping of spaghetti and sauce, she asked, "is it
still hot?"  Her bright blue eyes hinted of love and mischief.
	"It... um... it... you took... kinda long... uh..." AJ managed
to garble out, still not believing what he was seeing.
	"Oh, that's just great," Corey faked anger, hands on her slender
hips, the napkin moved with the rhythm of her supple breasts,
"it's only warm, and now," she was interrupted by a splat,
"AUGGGGH!!!  And now I've spilt it in my lap," she yelled.  The
smile in her tone and on her face was too much for AJ.
	"You've spilt your spaghetti," AJ said, realizing the game, and
MORE than willing to play.
	"Well, if I had the proper service, maybe I wouldn't have!" she
exclaimed, still in a mocking angry tone, "now you'll just have
to clean it!"
	"As you wish, Mademoiselle," AJ said as he bent down and went
under the tablecloth.
	"Hmpph!!!  Such sloppy service," was all Corey could manage
before exctacy began to stream out of her.

	Chris woke finally.  His head was spinning.  What happened? 
Can't remember. Lisa... they went for Lisa... LISA.
	"LISA!!!" Chris shot up, realizing now he was safe and it was
over, as he looked about in a panic.  Head killing him, he
noticed he had shot up from Debra's lap and looked at her in
	"She's fine Chris," Deb started (he's so caring), "she showed
that guy you can't fuck with her!"  Deb smiled, one eyebrow
raised in disbelief, "you shoulda seen what she did to that
guy... I don't think he'll be having children anytime soon, thank
God," she added, thinking of what spawn might come from a monster
like that.  Debra shifted left, to face Chris.
	"She's alright?" he asked, more reassuring himself more than a
need for the knowledge.  He was holding his head - it was
veritably pounding in pain.  Debra, grabbed his shoulder, and led
his torso towards her lap.
	"Here, let me, you've had it kinda rough today," she said with a
wry smile, as she took Chris' head and placed it in her lap,
massaging his temples, and avoiding the bruised areas.  Chris,
now enjoying the special treatment, despite the pain, asked,
	"How long have I been out?"
	"Three hours," Debra replied softly, "The cops came and dragged
that piece of shit away, the paramedics tended to Lisa and you,
saying you'd wake in a few hours probably.  And if you didn't,"
she continued, "make sure to get him to a hospital."  Debra's
fingers were more than massaging now, they were slowly tracing
around the damaged areas with care, running through his formerly
blood-matted dreadlocks.  Noticing the change, Chris looked up at
	"You've been sitting with me for three hours?" he asked in
hopeful tones.
	"Well," Deb began, her defenses up again, "someone had to.  And
since I was the first to grab you, the honor was bestowed upon
me," she smiled ironically.  She left out the part about her
ASKING to watch over him.  Chris looked at her still... there was
something he couldn't remember... something just before he passed
	"Did... did I say something before I went out?" he asked the
young woman; the object of all his fantasies.
	"You said, 'five to two odds, they didn't stand a chance'", she
recalled smiling, and purposefully leaving out his VERY last
words... and her reply.
	"Oh... okay," he said, half relieved, half disappointed... I
could've sworn I'd said something else to her.  Before he could
press on, Joe and Lucas came through the office door and took a
position at each side of the sofa he and Deb were lounging on.
	"The guy's gonna live." Joe said in mild tones which belayed his
real feelings, "How are you feeling, Chris?" he asked, his
fatherly voice portraying how much he cared about the young man. 
Chris, feeling warm at the thought of being cared for, answered,
"Woozy, but I think I'll live.  My mouth tastes like that gross
metallic flavor blood leaves, though.  Could I trouble you guys
for a soda?"  He smiled.  Lucas and Joe smiled at each other,
glad Chris was growing back into his old self.
	"I'll get you something," Lucas offered, "it's times like these
that I find Dr. Pepper to be just what one would need," the youth
gave as an aside, and went into the count-out room to the small
fridge they kept there.
	"Chris," Joe began, serious this time, "who in the hell were
those guys?  Why'd they just jump you?"  He sat on the edge of
the couch, leaning, and his forearms on his knees.
	"They're fascists," Chris began, "and they don't need a reason
to jump a 'nigger' like me," he said with disdain and hate. 
Clearing his throat, Lucas returned with a can of soda.  (just
what the Doctor ordered)  Handing it to his incapacitated friend,
the young black man continued after a big gulp, then another.
	"You see," Chris started, "not all skinheads are neo-nazis.  In
fact, the skinhead movement began waaaayy before the nazi's of
today adopted the look.  But all it takes is one rotten apple in
the bunch to spoil an image," he lamented.  Sitting up a bit (but
not losing contact with Debra), he went on, "You see, I used to
be in a sort of gang: a skinhead gang with the intentions of
bringing back the skin name as a clean-cut person with no
affiliation to neo-nazis.  If you think they were hard on me
today... you should see when neo-nazi skins tangle with REAL
skins... 'it ain't purdy'," he laughed.  Coughing as some Dr.
Pepper went down the wrong way, he again told his story,
	"The guy who jumped me, and got away, is named 'Zone'," Chris
	"Wonderful name," Debra shook her head in disgust, brushing some
'locks back from Chris' eyes, drawing looks from Lucas and Joe,
but Chris was too much into his story to notice, as was Debra.
	"Yeah," Chris chuckled, "he got it 'cause he started dropping
tabs of aid like they were candy... the guy was always fried.  I
never liked him much... even when he was in the gang with us."
	"Wait," Deb interrupted, confused, "he used to be in your
	"Yeah," Chris answered, "just for a short while though... he was
already racist, and something happened that put him over the
edge.  That's when he left 'Trueskin', that's what we called
ourselves, and joined the local militia and then the 'White
	"What event set him off?"  Lucas interjected, seeing Chris
staring off into space, into the past, Lucas already knew the
	"I stopped him from beating up a group of Vietnamese kids who
threw a can at us - they thought we were Nazis, too," he
answered, remorse for a misspent youth filled his voice.
	"When you say 'stop', what does that mean exactly?"  Joe asked,
knowing the answer as well as Lucas.
	"I threw him to the ground, and twisted his arm around to keep
him from jumping them while Zak, he's the guy who started
Trueskin, went to explain to the kids we weren't neo-nazis at
all.  Zak is a good speaker, people listen to him, learn from
him... the kids believed him and apologized, but the damage was
done.  Zone quit the Trueskins and swore he'd take us all down if
he had the chance."  Chris stopped, taking another sip, he then
began formulating his own opinion.  "I guess I was his first
'revenge'... I'm just so sorry I got Lisa involved," he said,
swallowing the lump in his throat back, hard.
	"It wasn't your fault, my friend, and you know that," Lucas
stated with finality, "She was just in the wrong place at the
wrong time; you did you're best to protect her as well."  Lucas
rubbed his friends shoulder in reassurance.  Chris smiled and
nodded, understanding in his head, but not his heart.
	"Besides," Joe said, smiling again now, "she's in complete
exctacy... Mark's taking her home with him to spend the night so
she isn't alone... and Gina's going with them."  All four of them
laughed at Joe's implication and what it meant.  For a while, at
least, it seemed the darkness had subsided.

*************************** end chapter 6 ***************************

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