After The Storm:Brandon

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Originally posted on the Development thread by Imaginos

Brandon Rollins was always a troubled youth. At an early age, he got involved in a local gang. The gang activity started as a way to belong...he never felt he did. It started small, graffiti and other vandalism. Then it spread to altercations, assault, muggings. Though there were lines Brandon wouldn't cross. He wouldn't touch or mess around with drugs. His activity increased, moving to car theft. But he always refused to mess with drugs. "That's what happened to my mother. I won't touch the shit!" he could be heard saying. The lack of loyalty didn't sit well with the gang hierarchy. So when the gang needed to make a sacrifice, it was Brandon that was given the short straw. During a routine car theft, the police came up on Brandon as he was driving off. He was pulled over, and since he was underage wasn't overly worried. But this car also had drugs stashed in it. Watered down, but enough to put him in juvenile the rest of his time in school.

Brandon ended up spending 3 years in juvie, but spent the time well. He was mentored by Darryl King, a detention office who pushed him to do something with his life. He saw potential in Brandon, and provided the encouragement, support, and family that Brandon sorely lacked growing up. He received his GED while in juvie, then wen ton to a 4 year college afterward. He was able to get grants as a special "clean up the crime" measure to cover the college. And he was bright. Brandon studied Social Work, understanding that he knew more than so many others what these youths needed.

After graduation, Brandon began working with the local churches in his spare time, working on outreach programs for the youth in his old neighborhood. He worked with Father Dennis McNamara and worked to provide an outlet for the kids susceptible to the appeal of gangs. His old gang, however, did not appreciate this. They knew he was coming back, and they warned him. But Brandon refused to back down. So they hit him where it hurt. Brandon showed up to the parish to help set up an evening basketball tournament with the youth. He knew something was wrong when he opened the door, but had no foresight of what he would find.

Brandon walked back toward the rear of the church, and noticed something odd by the confessional. A dark stain coming from the priest entrance. He rushed over, and found Father McNamara, bleeding and barely conscious. Caught up in anger, rage, frustration, helplessness, Brandon grabbed the priest's hands which were holding his rosary.

"Who did this Father Mac? Who came in here and did this to you?" He questioned, though he knew the answer deep in his heart. He had been warned. He didn't consider the extent the gang would push things.

Father McNamara was gasping, trying to say something. Brandon screamed for help, yelling for anyone who could come help. He grabbed his cell phone, trying to call 911 to get help for the priest.

Brandon Rollins was sitting on the driver's seat of a car in a parking lot outside the main building of his gang. The teen was rather proud of his new leather jacket. Black, with a demon's head pictured on the back. The jacket signified full membership in the Demons. No longer did he have to wear the armband of the gang initiate. And tonight he had his first assignment as a full gang member. He was determined to do his best. Even if the assignment was just to act as a driver on a job of another gang member. Someone called Coral.

A figure walked across the parking lot towards the car. A woman, somewhat broad shouldered and thick limbed, with slightly dark complexion. The left side of her head had been shaved bald and the hair on the right side dyed electric blue. She appeared to be a few years older than Brandon, and was dressed in loosely fitting jeans and gang jacket. But her jacket was blood red, signifying a ranking member of the gang. There were few girls among the Demons, and this was the first time that Brandon saw one wearing the red of a highly ranking member.

The woman opened the passenger side door and got in. "You're Coral?" Brandon asked.

"And you're the new guy," the woman answered, handing Brandon a slip of notepaper. "Drive to this address."

"Brandon is the name," Brandon said, looking at the address. "Brandon Rollins. So, is Coral your given name or a street name?"

"Coraline Metzieres," Coral said as an answer. "A talkative guy, are you, Brand?"

"Is that a problem?"

"Well, that depends entirely on what ends up coming out of your mouth. Small talk, hit on attempts, teeth..." Coral took a fancily engraved metal lighter from her pocket and started flipping it open and closed. "You see, some guys, after getting their jackets, start to think that, my red jacket notwithstanding, my position in the gang is under them. On a mattress. So just in case you might begin to entertain such thoughts, I am going to lay some ground rules." Leaning towards Brandon, still flicking her lighter, she continued: "You don't sweet talk me. You don't flirt with me. You don't drop innuendo. If you stare at my breasts, make sure I won't catch you doing it, because if any of that happens-" Coral lit her lighter right in front of Brandon's nose. Not quite touching, but close enough that he could feel the heat. "You get burned."

"Check," Brandon said.

Still keeping the lighter in place, Coral added: "And if you touch me, I will light up your penis like a candle. If you think I won't, ask around."

"Oh, I believe you all right," Brandon said.

"Smart guy, Brand," Coral said. Then she put her lighter away and leaned back on her seat. "Keep that in mind and we won't have any problems."

"Whoa," Brandon exhaled and started the car. "So, what is your position in the gang? If I may ask."

"Debt collector."

"We are going to go and rough up some people for money?"

"Oh, roughing up may not be necessary. I have a reputation. A reminder is usually sufficient. Still, sometimes people get stupid. Anyway, we are not going to do anything. I am going to go in and remind people of their debt. You are the driver, so you wait in the car. Now drive."



Originally posted on Development thread, page 19 post 181 by Potted Plant

A short while later, the car stopped in front of a graffiti-covered building that had apparently once been a gas station. Noticing gang tags among the graffiti, Brandon asked: "This is a gang hideout?"

"Yeah," Coral answered. "Spades. One of the smaller gangs. This is their street. As long as they pay us tribute. And that tribute is late." She opened the door and got out. "This shouldn't take long."

"Wait," Brandon said and got out as well. "Is there an entire gang in there?"

"A small one," Coral said and closed the door. "Half a dozen guys or so."

"It is still half a dozen against one," Brandon said and closed his door as well. "I am coming along."

"If your plan is to impress me, it is not working."

"I just want to see how you do it."

"Fine," Coral said and turned to head for the door of the building. "Tag along then."

The interior of the old gas station was trashy and the air was stale. On a table that had once been a part of the station's cafeteria, six young men were drinking and playing cards. On the left side of the table were two young guys who looked similar enough that they were most likely brothers, and next to them, closest to Brandon and Coral, was a third guy with a ponytail and the beginnings of a moustache. On the right side were a muscular guy with a nose ring, and a guy wearing a belted chain link vest over his shirt. On a large chair at the head of the table was the apparent gang leader, a shifty looking guy with oiled hair who did not look being even close to 18 yet.

"Look, it is the forces of hell," The leader said, to some scattered laughter from the others.

"A new leader," Coral remarked. "That explains it. Where's Rook?"

"Rook is in jail," the leader answered. "I am Danny, the new Ace of Spades."

"Well, Danny boy, your gang is late in its payments," Coral said, retrieving a flask from the pocket of her jacket. "Perhaps Rook forgot to tell you," she continued and took a swig. Brandon, standing next to her noticed that whatever she was drinking had an acrid chemical smell that was like no alcohol he knew.

"Nah, we just don't feel like paying anymore," Danny replied. "I can think of better uses for the money. I mean, what are the Demons going to do? Send me a girl?" The others laughed, slightly nervously this time. Pushing his chair back from the table and patting his thighs, Danny said: "But if it bothers you, come over and sit on my lap and we'll talk about it. If you are really nice, maybe I will pay after all."

Getting out her lighter and starting to flick it open and closed, Coral slowly walked past the table, a smile on her face. Danny had an expectant look. The rest of the gang looked tense. Reaching Danny's chair Coral leaned towards him. Lit her lighter in front of her face. And breathed fire.

For a moment, everyone in the room was stunned. Except for Danny and Coral. Danny fell over with his chair, screaming and holding his burned face while his other hand was frantically patting his hair that had caught fire. Coral pocketed her lighter, turned, grabbed the muscular guy's nose ring and ripped it off.

Everyone sprang to activity. The muscular guy fell down wailing and holding his bleeding nose. The ponytailed guy attempted to flick open a butterfly knife, but Brandon grabbed him by the wrist and the ponytail. The brothers got up and grabbed their chairs as weapons. The guy in a chain vest grabbed a bottle from the table as a weapon and raised it, but Coral flicked the other guy's nose ring at his face, and as he was momentarily distracted, she grabbed his wrist and twisted his arm into a lock. Following his friend's example, the ponytailed guy reached for another bottle with his free hand, but as he did so, Brandon, using his ponytail as leverage, smashed his face on the table a couple of times. Stunned, the ponytailed guy dropped his knife and collapsed. Before the pair of brothers could decide which one of the Demons they should attack, Coral grabbed the chain vested one's belt with her free hand, lifted him off his feet by the belt and arm - the young man screamed as his arm, still in a lock, made a crunching sound - and threw him over the table at the two guys still on their feet. All three of them fell over. The muscular guy was trying to regain his feet but Brandon moved over and punched him right on his injured nose, and he fell down again with another wail. Coral leaped on the table, then off it again, and came down feet first on both of the two brothers who were trying to get up. The sound of the impact made Brandon wince.

Then the entire gang was down. Except that Brandon noticed how Danny, facing Coral with his back to Brandon and still holding his face with one hand, was reaching for a large pistol tucked at the small of his back.

"Coral, watch out!" Brandon shouted. "He has a-"

Coral grabbed one of the chairs the brothers had been holding and threw it in the same motion. Smacked with the flying chair, Danny fell back down, and in the next instant Coral was next to him, kicking his arm with enough force to send the gun skidding along the floor. Brandon dived after the gun, picked it up and brandished it to the rest of the gang. "Just stay down and you won't get hurt! Any further."

"Now where were we," Coral said. Spotting a bottle of Jack Daniels on what was once the station's counter, she grabbed it, opened it, planted her foot on Danny's chest, and started pouring the contents of the bottle on his crotch. "Now I remember. You asked me to sit on your lap." Crouching down next to the terrified kid, she lit her lighter. "You need a lesson in what happens when you play with fire."

"Wait, what are you doing?" Danny said, rushing over to grab Coral by the wrist.

Giving a measured look at Brandon's hand on her wrist, Coral said with icy calm: "Remember what I said about touching me?"

Uncomfortably aware of the fact that Coral's arm was thick with muscle and his grip was unlikely to restrain her for even a moment, Brandon chose not to respond and instead asked: "Are you planning to burn him alive or something?"

Coral grinned evilly. "Why yes. That is exactly what I was planning."

"We were sent to get the tribute, right?" Brandon said. "Will you get it if you torch him? He is most likely the one who is sitting on the gang's money. You already taught them a lesson. Now they know to show us respect in the future. And I am sure that he will pay the tribute right now. And some extra for offending you."

"Yes! Yes!" Danny practically shrieked. "There is a floor safe. Behind the counter, under some boxes. Just push in '1235'. There is a shoe box with cash in it. The tribute money too, in an envelope. Just take the entire box!"

"Go check it out," Coral said.

With a slight sigh of relief, Brandon went to look behind the counter, soon locating the safe. Inside was some weed wrapped in plastic, a couple more guns, and a shoe box. Looking inside the box, Brandon said: "It is like he said. There is an envelope filled with cash, with more money under it. I am not sure how much."

"Take the box," Coral said, got up and put her lighter away. "We are leaving." As she and Brandon headed for the door, she stated: "If I have to come here again..." and left the threat hanging as they exited and the door slammed shut behind them.

"Okay, Brand," Coral said as they headed for the car. Then she lifted her hand, palm towards Brandon who winced. "High five!"

"What?" Brandon said.

"I am giving you permission to touch my hand. Some guys would be thrilled."

"I was just surprised," Brandon said. "I was expecting you to shove your lighter up my nose. Not give me high fives." He slapped his palm to hers.

"Well, I was thinking about it. But our good guy - bad girl act back there just went so well. You were so convincing that Danny boy practically tripped over himself diving for the first chance you offered. And handed over their gang stash."

"I was just- Well, yeah, I suppose that turned out rather well in the end."

"You handled the fight well enough too," Coral said as they reached the car. "Some people would have just frozen up in that situation."

"Thanks," Brandon said as they got in the car. "Uh, I'd say something about what you were like in the fight, but I guess you already know."

"I have been in a few fights," Coral said, opened the shoe box and checked the cash inside.

"Umm, about Danny. It was just an act back there, right? You weren't really going to burn him alive?"

Coral grinned. "He wouldn't have been the first one. I have earned my reputation somehow." She pocketed a wad of cash and threw another on Brandon's lap. "Your share."

"What? But isn't this the gang's money? The boss-"

"The boss knows very well that I have a habit of pocketing extra money," Coral interrupted. "He is fine with it as long as he gets his cut. I am not dipping into the envelope, but you and I deserve a part of the money in the box itself. Just pocket it."

"Uh, okay."

"And then drive us back. But stop by a liquor store on the way. We are going to get some good stuff for a celebration." Turning to look at Brandon, she added: "Or rather, I am going to get us some booze while you wait in the car, Mr. Underage." Father McNamara was able to get his cracking voice to utter "Forgive them...of their sins...Brandon. Do not...hold this. It is not for judge. That is the Lord's domain."

One hand holding the priest's hands and rosary, his other hand holding his cell phone with 911 answering, the storm struck. His phone died. Father McNamara breathed his last, bloody spittle rattling out of his lips against Brandon's face, and energies coalesced around Brandon changing him. His anger darkened his spirit, but the priest's forgiveness battled with it.

"Yes, Father Mac. Judgment is the Lord's. As is forgiveness. But they must have confession. All of them, must have confession."

Two hours later, the police were still going over the parish. Checking the scene, looking for witnesses. Brandon has spoken to far too many police for his taste. Always the same questions. Again and again. But Father McNamara never told him who did it. He couldn't tell the police his inner knowledge. "No, Father McNamara didn't have any enemies." How many times can you say that same damn thing?

When the questions finally finished, Brandon was allowed to leave. The police had his information, and he did have a record for trying to help the youth. Nobody noticed that he had the rosary the priest had held. The blood dried on it, and on his hands. Nobody noticed the burning inside his eyes. And nobody expected any convictions to come from this unless the perps were just plain stupid. And they often weren't.