John Doyle rolled around in his musty sleeping bag, trying desperately to find a comfortable position on the hard ground. The splatter of raindrops continued to hammer against the tiny tent. He sat up, frustrated by the noise and the fact that he couldn’t get to sleep, and rubbed his arm. The itch from the suppurating injection sites aggravated him, and the blissful effects of his last hit were fast disappearing.
“Fuck it,” he snorted and sat up. Fingers splayed, he groped in the dark until he found the tiny flashlight, turned it on, and looked for his fixings. The inside of the tent was littered with empty fast-food cartons, half-empty packages of chips, and grease-stained brown bags with crumbs from day-old donuts. He always bought day olds first thing in the morning—a dozen for a couple of bucks—and sometimes the lady at the counter threw in one of those fancy cinnamon buns covered in hard white icing.
Tossing garbage here and there he grew increasingly frustrated. He just needed enough to get him through the night and the next couple of days and then the hubbub would have died down and he could return to the streets. He had made the mistake of mugging an old woman for her purse, leaving her bleeding, bruised and half-unconscious. Usually the old ones gave it up, but this old broad put up a hell of a struggle, and it was only after he had gone through her purse that he understood why.
Usually, he would not have given the beating a second thought, but this happened to be a gang-banger’s mother, on her way home from visiting a relative in hospital, and her son was mightily pissed. Doyle knew of him by reputation. His street name was Hammer—and deservedly so. He carried a stainless-steel roofing hammer to extort payments from his slower-paying clients. Doyle had seen a fellow junkie’s mutilated hand when he had failed to make good on his debt to Hammer.
The thug might have been the scum of the earth, but he loved his mom and made sure she always had money in her purse. Unfortunately for Doyle, Hammer had given her a couple of hundred dollars earlier in the day, and Doyle had spent the money on a generous supply of crack. For Doyle to have that much money was unusual, and his dealer mentioned that fact to someone else, and that nugget of news got back to the Hammer.
Everyone knew what that meant.