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Growing up in Killy aka Philly is no joke; death, chaos, and drama are always in arm’s length in the rowdy city. Even though teenage Travis Worthy would rather serve his country in the Army and be all he can be, the allure of the game keeps calling his name. With skills of combat instilled in him by his father, he helps a friend named Damon lead his crew called, Misfits, to be one of the most vicious street battalions internationally in the crime life. Being a gangster isn’t something he wants to do, but Travis has to take care of his mom and three other siblings, so he plays his part of the hood assassin and he plays it well.  

 

Damon Price had a rough upbringing, but still managed to know the finer things in life even in his teenage years. After his notoriously known brother is murdered, he’s left fending for himself on the streets of Philly. However, that doesn’t stop his goal of reigning over the hood kingdom since he hustles hard and runs a thorough crew in his brother’s gang. Even though others think they have Damon counted as just another statistic playing an unwinnable game, they are wrong. His mind is set on ruling over the world by any means necessary.  

Although teenage Hydia Jeffries grew up in a crazy family full of addicts and alcoholics, she’s full of spirit and ambition. Her goal is to change the world through medicine, but she’s got to survive poverty first. So, to get by she and her best friend, Leeshill, commit petty crimes to earn cash. A life of crime is not what she wants, but she has a calling in the street life she can’t deny and it’s the only way she’ll survive. 

The young people together end up entangled in a life of crime and drama. Once they enter each other’s worlds, things are never the same. Travis introduces Hydia to the world of drugs making them partners in the lucrative business. Damon is not too fond of Travis and Hydia’s relationship, but he can’t deny that they make a great duet. As they get to know one another and join forces as Misfits members, feelings develop and they embark on one great love affair. Through the years they go through tragedy, joy, pain, and love. It’s an urban romance story that’s part magnetic, part crazy, but all passion. Because of its gritty language and raw emotions, it’ll keep you hanging onto every word.  

1 Person of Interest 

 

“It’s full of passion you can’t deny.”

May, Years Ago…

 

    The Manhattan Mall is buzzing with teens in the early Friday afternoon. After a trip to the Statue of Liberty, their teachers and chaperones bused them to the mall and now they roam in and out of stores playing and joking around. As he observes his surroundings, 14- year-old Travis Worthy does not give a damn about shopping and joking. He’s ready to get back on the bus and head home to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As he looks around at the various students, it seems like Philly has taken over NYC for the moment. He spots at least four different schools on the trip. Even though he should be celebrating the fact that he’s about to graduate from 8th grade, his mind is tuned out of his peers and their activities. 

Well, except for one; he noticed her at the Statue of Liberty with her two friends. Her smile and wild, thick, long, dark brown hair drew him in. Those teeth were virtually flawless, and her mane of gravity defying hair stood out among the weaves and extensions in the crowd. He can’t really call her a peer since he doesn’t know her at all, but he can tell she’s around his age even though she’s tall and shapely. 

What’s intriguing him now is her standing to the side at the food court with two adults communicating with them in American Sign Language. While his homie, Jordan, tries to talk to some unknown girls at the F.Y.E. store, he watches the chocolate toned young lady with the smile and hair. She looks around seeming to need help, so he makes his way to her. When she catches his eye contact, he mouths, Do you need help? And she nods and waves him to her. 

“Are you from New York?” she asks in an easy tone.

“No, but I know the city,” Travis says coolly. 

“Great! Can you tell me where to get the train?” He nods and explains it to her so that she can sign it to the couple. They nod and sign what he assumes is, thank you, to her before they head on their way. The pleasant stranger turns to him with that beautiful smile.  

“I owe you one,” she says as she stares up at him.  

“Where did—” he starts but is cut off.

“Girl, what the hell you doin’?” her chubby banana toned friend, Tameeka, asks loudly behind her. 

“Oh, I see what she doin’,” the other friend, a skinny special dark chocolate girl named Syrina, says slyly as she looks Travis up and down. Right now, the teen looks fresh and fly in a friend’s chain, diamond bezel watch, and crisp 76ers jersey, but it’s all phony. He wonders if she’d still be checking for him if she knew he had to borrow the tan Timberland boots because his own shoes are run over in both directions. 

“Can you come on before Ms. Robinson yell at us?” Tameeka replies as she drags his pleasant stranger off. She looks back and waves, but continues walking away. Travis decides to find his classmates and check in as well. 

“Yo, I seen you wit that chick wit the fatty,” Jordan, his chunky classmate, says to Travis once he’s close. “You get that number?” 

“I didn’t even get her name, but that’s my dessert, she just don’t know it yet,” Travis coolly responds and Jordan snickers. 

“Well, we ain’t got all day. She from here?” 

“Nah, I don’t think so.” 

“You better get at that before one of these other niggaz mess it up for you.” 

“I will.”

After another half of an hour goes by without seeing her again, he leaves the mall unattended and against the rules to roam the streets. Due to skills his retired Army Ranger father, Shepard, instilled in him, he can get around and find his way home from damn near Mars so New York City is nothing. To his luck, he spots his enchanting stranger at a bookstore on the corner through the window. She’s talking to a store clerk and as he wished, her friends are nowhere in sight. He assumes he should at least know her name while he makes his way into the place. As he nears her before he can speak, she looks up at him. 

“I smelled you before I saw you,” she says easily before looking through the African American book section. 

“Damn, you tryna say I stink?” he asks, surprised since Ross, his mentor, bought the Armani cologne for him assuring him it was a good scent.

“It’s a mixture of ass and armpits,” she says with a smile. “Psych naw, I’m playing. It’s a hypnotic smell,” she adds, making him bashful but he plays cool.  

 “Everybody up in the sneaker and clothes stores, but here you are looking at books.” 

“A good book can change your life; clothes don’t do that.” 

“You sound like a O-head, but you barely off Similac.”  

“Boy please! Even though you’re all extra tall, you still are just fresh outta training wheels too,” she states, making him snicker revealing a small gap between his two front teeth. “But I do owe you for the help. You want lunch?” 

“Since they change lives, how about a book?” he responds. 

“Fair enough. What are you into?” 

“What do you recommend?” 

“Well, lately I’ve been discovering Langston Hughes.” 

“Lemme guess, it’s all because of To Artina,” he says, and she snickers. 

“Young bull, what do you know about it?”  

“I know crazy girls love shit like that.” She giggles and shakes her head. 

“Just because I’m friends with the purple flying dog that tells me to set fires doesn’t mean I’m crazy,” she states, making him laugh. “Besides, that poem is short, but it’s full of passion you can’t deny.” 

“If you say so.”

“Well, whoever you are, since you don’t want Langston Hughes, what do you want?” 

“It’s Fury,” Travis responds, making her smirk. 

“I know your mama didn’t name you that,” she says, and he nods. 

“Well, my real name is Travis and I want something powerful,” he states, and she nods, then searches through the books. Before long, she’s pulling out Malcolm X’s autobiography. 

“Well, Travis, this book is the epitome of life changing,” she says as she holds out the book to him. 

“Okay crazy girl, I’ll take your word.” 

“Call me Hydia.” She says as she grabs an Octavia Butler novel for herself. “Come on,” she says, headed for the register with him in tow.  

“Where you from?” Travis asks when they exit the store. 

“Southwest Philly,” she answers as the sun hits the pendant on her necklace, making it gleam.

“Figures,” he says with a grin. 

“Yup, class not trash and I bet you’re from North.” 

“Yup, 9th and Jefferson all day.”   

“So sad y’all a bunch of clowns,” Hydia replies, causing him to smirk. 

“So, what is this symbol?” he asks as he picks up the pendant on her necklace. 

“It’s called the Eye of Horus. It’s for protection,” she says, and he nods.

“So, how will I tell you if the book changed my life or not?” She rolls her eyes with a side grin, but pulls a pen from her bookbag. 

“I’m gonna be honest, my phone is cut off right now so I gotta take your number,” she says as she opens her book for him to write his number on the title page. “I have to get back to my peoples, but I’ll give you a week to read it.” 

“Bet. See you around,” he says, and she looks over her shoulder with a smile before darting back towards the mall with him watching. 

***

The sun is setting when Travis finally makes it back to his rowhouse on Jefferson Street. The jewels, jersey, and boots are gone and it’s back to the basics as he nears his home. It has a raggedy maroon awning and the inside isn’t much better. Toys and clothes mix with the mice and roaches of the three- bedroom home. Travis, with handyman knowledge he learned from his father and uncles, does his best to make sure the house doesn’t completely fall apart. He fixes the plumbing, electricity, and whatever else needs fixing, but it never seems to be enough. His eight-year-old sister, Benita sits with their brothers, eleven-year-old Anthony and five-year-old Ray watching cartoons on the pirated cable he hooked up. They seem oblivious to the mess, but it’s driving Travis crazy. 

“I’m hungry T,” Ray whines out. 

“Y’all didn’t have dinner yet?” They all shake their heads “no,” which makes him clench his jaw angrily. He heads to the fridge and cabinets and, sure enough, all that is there is strawberry Pop Tarts. 

“Where’s mom?”  he asks when he steps back into the living room.

“She sleep,” Benita says. Travis huffs as he makes his way up the creaky steps. He finds his mother, Anita, in the master bedroom sprawled across the bed face down, knocked out and still holding a bottle of Belvedere vodka. He shakes his head since he knows in her mind, she thinks that trading a crack addiction for alcohol is better. Two weeks ago, he spent all his time caring for his siblings while she was on a crack binge. Shepard is the only father that’s still around. However, since losing his right leg in a military-related accident, all his money goes to booze and whores. 

Shepard offered what he could, but blatantly said, “Thems ain’t my little bastards.”

It was harsh, but from what Travis knows about his parent’s relationship, he understands. Travis didn’t want to involve the social services or cops, so he did what he had to do. He made sure they ate, went to school, and were safe. 

When money was low, he did his best to bring it back up. Most of the time Ross had his back. Ross pays the teen to play for his basketball team in the neighborhood. Travis makes that team unstoppable and even though it’s only a hundred dollars per game he plays his heart out for the man. In Travis’s mind, it’s only right; Ross is known throughout Philly as a mentor to the youth. He has a soul food restaurant and community center both named Black Liberty a few blocks away from Travis’s house. When he’s not mentoring there, he’s at his church that his brother runs in West Philly. Not to mention he started a person of color group called Realadelphia Coalition in the 1980’s which is his answer to biased country clubs. His reach is strong and can be felt throughout the whole city.  

Travis has heard stories of Ross from the 1960’s and 1970’s. After a tour in the Vietnam War, he came back home with a missing left arm and ready to change his city for the greater good. It takes money though and one thing he always knew he’d be good at was pimping since he was raised in a brothel. Deep down Travis isn’t dumb; as much as Ross helps the hood, he also keeps a steady stable of ladies bringing him cash from tricks. Still, Travis has nothing, but admiration for the man. 

However, this time Ross has helped enough; Travis must get his money up on his own tonight. He huffs and slams his mother’s room door shut then heads back downstairs to the phone. After finding the phone in the kitchen, he grabs it and dials a number and it rings three times before someone picks up. 

“Yo,” a baritone voice says on the other end. 

“Yo, you still need me for that thing tonight?” Travis asks.

“Yup, give me a hour and I’ll get you.”  

“Bet,” Travis says before they hang up and he heads towards the back door. In the ceiling just above the door, he moves the smoke detector and finds a twenty-dollar bill he hid before going back out to his brothers and sister. 

“Ey, I gotta step out in a few, y’all get these damn toys and crap up,” he demands, then goes back into the kitchen for the phone. He calls for a pizza delivery and when he returns to the living room, he finds his siblings huffing and puffing, but cleaning like he ordered. They get excited for the change up from the TV dinners and Chef Boyardee they’re used to when the pizza is delivered. Twenty minutes later, he hears a car horn beep four times in a row and that’s his cue to roll. 

 “Don’t open the door for nobody and if the phone rings and it’s not me, hang up,” Travis orders.

“When will you be back?” Anthony asks. 

“Tonight, and I’ll have some groceries. Be to bed by 10pm,” Travis orders, and his siblings nod and continue cleaning. Travis shuts and locks the doors then heads down his stoop to the gray Camry double parked in front of his house. He gets to the passenger’s side and slides in next to a 19-year-old guy with straight back cornrows in his head and the left half of his face scarred by burns. “What up Apollo?” he asks as he shakes the cocoa bean-toned young man’s hand. 

“You know, same old shit, wreaking havoc,” he responds as he pulls off. Travis smirks and nods, knowing the person he’s seen as a big brother for the last two years is always up to no good on the streets. “It sounds like you tryna get into something, too.” 

“Cheese is callin’ me,” Travis sighs out. Normally, he’s good with his money. No fancy clothes, jewels, and definitely, no drugs, but his mom’s binge sent things spiraling out of control. Now he’s forced to be in a lifestyle he doesn’t really want. His dad taught him all about hand-to-hand combat, guns, knives, and even how to use explosives. Not to mention stealth skills some grown men in the military don’t even have; that is why Damon nicknamed him Fury. He’s young, gifted, and dangerous in the wrong hands. That’s what makes the young man irreplaceable and he knows his comrade Damon can see endless possibilities for him. They met on Ross’s basketball team two years ago, but even though he’s only fifteen years old, Travis can see the schemes brewing in Damon. He practically runs his late brother’s crew behind the scenes keeping the blocks flooded in drugs.

Being a don or whatever on the streets isn’t something Travis wants in life, but he plays to his strengths to make money. That means terrorizing opposition as muscle in Damon’s crew. For now, it’s his calling and he plans to walk worthy of it until he can break free.  

“Well, it’s always a pleasure to have a real nigga that gotcha back,” Apollo says, then turns up “I Ain’t No Joke” by Rakim. Soon, they head into the Kensington section of Philly reaching a dilapidated block. People of all sorts are out and about on the warm evening; Apollo parks on the corner then they both get out and walk up the block. They get to a rowhouse four doors down from where they parked and knock on the door. A golden toned teen girl named, Thea, answers instantly rolling her eyes at the two guys. 

“You just got here and you invitin’ niggaz over?!” she yells as she turns around. “My mama ain’t gonna be gone too long!”

“Relax,” they hear from the kitchen. “They’re not staying long,” Damon finishes as he steps out into view. He’s shorter than the other two guys, but still tall enough and very fit to be intimidating. Diamonds and name brands make his dark-skin glow as he makes his way towards them. “Get upstairs real quick,” he orders Thea, and she sucks her teeth and rolls her eyes but follows his demand. Damon starts back towards the kitchen. “You been chilling for weeks now, Fury,” he says to Travis as he gives him a dap.

“I was taking care of my family, I still am. That’s why I’m here,” Travis says and Damon nods. 

“That money don’t just talk, it yells. We got issues wit a nut ass nigga so I want you and A to find that pussy and rock him tonight, no ifs, ands, or buts.” The two guys nod. “When it’s done, meet me at the spot.” They nod again then head back out just as fast as they came in. Apollo takes them to a two story, out of business CD/cassette tape store, in West Philly off Lancaster Ave named Troy’s. As usual they go through the alley to enter from behind. It’s a place where they meet up with the crew for business or pleasure. A sign above the door reads: Through These Doors Walk the Wildest People. Right now, it’s all business as they enter the building greeted by a single guard named Steez with a tech 9 in his hand. They change into all black attire then head to the basement. 

Apollo moves a false wall to the side revealing guns, knives, and all sorts of other weapons. As he grabs a .45 caliber gun from a hook on the wall, he watches Travis grab a homemade ligature, a hunting knife, collapsible baton, and brass knuckles. 

“Youngin’, why you gotta always do shit the hard way?” Apollo asks as he picks up a clip of bullets and loads it. “Just grab a banger and let’s go.”  

“There are other ways to handle a situation than bullets,” Travis says as he puts the baton in his right ankle sock. 

“I ain’t into all that karate shit like you. I done seen choppas lay out a whole block in 25 seconds; Jackie Chan can’t do that shit kicking muthafuckaz,” Apollo states, making Travis shake his head with a smirk. He grabs a .380 from the wall and puts it in his waist.

“Happy? Now let’s just get this over with,” Travis says before they head out. Once they switch cars, they ride through Philly taking in the night. Soon, they’re headed into South Philly; some people go in and out of bars and Chinese stores missing Travis and Apollo creeping by. They park by a school then put on disguises before they walk up the block away from the car. To their advantage, the rowhouse where they need to be looks dark and quiet. They sneak around to the back and slither into the house. The TV on in the living room is the only light as they make their way into the kitchen. 

Travis peeks around the corner and spots a man getting his dick sucked oblivious to the intruders. The hunting knife pierces the man’s jugular vein causing him to gag and choke on his own blood. Before the girl can scream, Apollo’s arm is around her throat pulling her from her position. Travis signals for her to remain quiet as he shows her his gun while Apollo leads her upstairs. 

“Esha, that you? Get in here and slob this knob,” they hear another male voice say as they keep climbing the stairs. Instead of Esha, the young man gets Travis at the door, before he can turn over and reach for his .9 under the pillow, Travis has the ligature around his throat strangling him from behind. The guy bucks and fights for air, but all Travis does is squeeze tighter. Soon, the guy slumps over dead; after bounding Esha with ripped up sheets and leaving her in the basement, they disappear into the night. 

It’s nearly 3am when they return to Troy’s. This time when they enter, Damon is there to meet them. Damon lets the two young men shower, change their clothes, and smoke an L. 

“With them two clown ass niggaz out the way, that real estate is ours,”  Damon states as he hands Travis a roll of twenties. “It’s always good to have you around. You know it’s gonna always be a real spot for you if you ever really wanna be down.” Travis nods as he stuffs the money in a homemade hidden compartment in his underwear. 

“I’m cool, but thanks,” Travis says. “Imma catch y’all another time.” 

“You need a ride back home?” Apollo asks, but Travis shakes his head no. 

“I’ll get a hack or something, I’m out,” he says as he starts downstairs. He gets back out into the streets and hops on the 10 trolley until the 30th street stop then he heads up and catches a cab the rest of the way home. When he gets in, the place is dark, but he can hear his mother vomiting hopefully in the bathroom. Thoughts of checking on her cross his mind, but he’s annoyed with her at the moment, so he doesn’t. He grunts and shakes his head then plops down on the couch as sleepiness catches up to him. Damn, forgot the food. He thinks as he digs for his money then pulls it out to count it; his troubles are worth more than $1,200, but that’s all he’s got. It’s more than a lot of fourteen-year-olds who live where he’s from see. As much as he hates it, a part of his heart is content. He can get groceries, toilet paper, and even some new sneakers. Just doing something he’s good at makes him more money in a few hours than his mom gets from welfare in a month. 

Still, he’d rather live normal and peaceful than be a gangster. He takes off his sneakers then heads to the basement. In a box marked Christmas Decorations, he finds an old Nike box at the bottom and puts half of the money in there for now. Afterward, he replaces the $20 he took then goes to check on his siblings, then his mom who is now asleep. Finally, he goes downstairs; there’s not really room for him upstairs so he sleeps on a couch bed in the living room. As he changes out of his clothes and into pajamas, the memory of his school trip comes to him. Once he’s done, he heads to his bookbag and pulls out the book Hydia got for him. 

He hasn’t read much of anything besides how-to manuals for whatever he needs to put together or take apart. He learned that To Artina poem from his teacher during Black history month. Hydia seemed so fine and smart that he had to woo her in some way and asking for a cheeseburger was not it. Thinking about her smile and the black sundress she was wearing makes him smile. He hopes she doesn’t play him and really calls. 

SNEAK PEEK