“Can you fight, dogg?”



            “Hit this shit,” I said. “It’s good fucking bud.”

          Loud rap music boomed from the speakers as I passed the cigar blunt rolled with marijuana to the driver in front of me. Randle was a husky guy in his early twenties. He had a brown goatee, sported a backwards hat, and was dressed in the baggy clothing of a thug. The girls told me he was a real badass who had just gotten out of prison a few weeks ago for an assault charge.

To Randle’s right sat a tall guy named Mike who was also wearing a backwards hat. His lower left leg was strapped into a black walking cast from a recent basketball injury. To my own right sat Jimmy, a tan-skinned young man with an athletic build and a shaved head. Clad in a grey wife beater and black Adidas workout pants with white stripes, he too gave off the thuggish vibe.

          Jimmy fired up a glass pipe. Small green leaves cindered as he inhaled a long drag of marijuana from the smoking device. His shaved head tilted backwards and he slowly exhaled a thick cloud of smoke before passing the pipe to me.

“Is this the kind of music you like?” he asked. “Is it pumping you up?”

           “Not really,” I said and took the pipe. “Do you have any pissed off white boy music, like Korn?”

          “Hell yeah!” Mike exclaimed. “That’s what I’m fucking saying!”

          He ejected the rap CD from the stereo and inserted Korn’s second album, quickly skipping to track eleven. The intro of the song was a psychotically eerie sound that shrilled from the speakers like the background music of a horror movie. Numetal started blasting and all of us were soon bobbing our heads, getting into our demonic zones. “Seed” was not a particularly favorite song of mine, but it’s funny how music can take on new value when significant events happen in our lives when we are listening to a song. If things went down tonight like they were supposed to go down, then “Seed” would forever become to me a powerful symphony of sadistic emotion.

          “She’s pulling off here,” Mike said as he turned down the stereo.

          The driver coolly nodded his head and followed Lisa’s white Volkswagen off the main road. It took over twenty minutes to reach our destination which meant we were miles from Tallahassee. I had no idea where we were and found no clues among the thick woods surrounding us that made the area seem desolate.

“Let’s do this,” Randle said and opened his door.

We climbed out of the vehicle and inhaled the fresh night air. It seemed peaceful out here in the Florida Wild. A half moon lit up the sky and there was a warm spring breeze fluttering the treetops. Crickets could be heard chirping to one another in the night, but their chirping was soon interrupted by the man-made sounds of keys jiggling and the trunk opening. I gathered with the thugs around the back of the car and was startled by the contents of the trunk—a metal pipe, a hammer, a bike chain, and a wooden baseball bat.

Randle grabbed the bat and said, “Take whatever you think you need.”

          I shook my head. “My fist will be enough.”

          Mike and Jimmy also declined to take weapons, but I realized now that Randle and his boys were the real deal. The fact that they had made a four hour drive from Tampa to be here should have already made that obvious, but these young men were strangers to me, so I had no prior experiences with them to judge their resolve. Any doubts I may have had about the conviction of the thugs withered away when I saw the weapons.

And yet, for a brief moment, I began to question my own resolution. It was clear to me now more than ever that the consequences of our actions could be quite severe, but an image of what brought us here flickered in my mind and the moral justice of our impending behavior overwhelmed any doubts I had about following through with the violence that surely waited before me.


*  *  *  *  *


          It was only a few hours ago that I had received a phone call from Lisa of the 404 Girls.    

“Hello?” I answered.

          “Darren…it’s me.”

          “Hey, pretty girl. What’s up?”

          “Can you come down to Stacey’s room?”

          “Right now?”

          “Yeah. It’s important.”

          There was a peculiar tone in Lisa’s voice. Something was wrong.

“Okay,” I replied. “I’ll be right down.”

          I exited my dorm room, took the side stairway to the fourth floor, and strolled through the tawdry, painted-by-students hallway to room 405. My knuckles rapped lightly on the door and it was opened by a cute girl with dark hair, olive skin, and a hot little body. She wore faded blue jeans and a tight pink t-shirt with no bra.

“Hey,” Lisa said softly. “Thanks for coming.”

          “Sure. What’s up?”

           Her face darkened and she reached for my hand like a frightened child. “Follow me,” she said.

          Lisa led me back into one of the small bedrooms. Like many female dorm rooms, the girls who lived here had done their best to soften the harsh interior of aging walls and a corroding floor with bright adornments, new carpeting, and decorative bedspreads. Walk into a guy’s dorm room and no such effort was made because we accepted the reality that dorm life was all about living in filth and squalor.

          Stacey was sitting Indian style on her bed. She was casually dressed in black sweatpants and an FSU t-shirt. Her shoulder-length blonde hair was wet from a recent shower and her freckled face had the puffy-looking eyes of a girl who had been crying.

          “What happened?” I asked with concern, sitting on the edge of the bed.

          Lisa sat down in a chair across from me. Stacey remained quiet, eyes cast downward.

          “Darren,” Lisa said gravely, “Stacey was raped.”

          Stunned, I immediately looked back and forth between the two girls. Stacey refused to look at me, as if she was ashamed by my knowledge of the cruel fate that had befallen her. The blonde had pulled her legs to her chest and was hugging them tightly.

“Who did it?” I asked Lisa.

          “We met two guys a week ago at some party. Last night we saw them again at FLOYD’S. We drank and danced together and—”

          “Did they slip something in your drinks?” I interrupted.

          “No,” Stacey replied softly, chin resting on her knees, eyes still cast downward. “It wasn’t like that.”

          “We bought our own drinks,” Lisa continued, “and when the club closed, they invited us back to their house to hang out and drink some more. They seemed like nice guys.”

Her dark eyes looked at me pleadingly, like she felt responsible for what happened and needed me to tell her that it was not her fault.

          I nodded reassuringly “Most predators act like nice guys—right before they don’t act like nice guys. So you went back to their house?”

          “Yes,” Stacey answered, her voice little more than a whisper.

          “Yeah,” Lisa repeated. “We went to his house.”

          The word “his” dripped venomously from her lips and I carefully studied the young girl to measure her composure. Lisa looked small and fragile in her chair, but she appeared calm and attentive and seemed to be handling the victimization of her friend with maturity.

          “I drove my car,” Lisa continued, “and we followed them back to Stephan’s house. It was pretty far, we had to take I-10 to get there.”

          Women and their useless details. My anger was starting to boil and my patience was running thin. I wanted to know exactly what this kid Stephan had done so I could know what to think about when I was beating the shit out of him.

“So then what happened?” I asked.

          “We hung out, drank…listened to music. It started to get late, so we went to bed. Stacey went with Stephan and I went with his roommate.”

Lisa paused, swallowing. She had reached the point in the story where she could no longer tell it. Looking at her friend with grieving eyes, she gently said, “Stacey woke me in the middle of the night.”

          My gaze returned to Stacey. The legs of the blonde were still pulled tightly against her chest, but she looked up at me for the first time, and when she spoke, her voice had found the strength of bitterness.

          “Stephan and I were hooking up, but I told him I didn’t want to go any further because of my period.” Her eyes lowered again. “And because I was a virgin.”

          The anger inside me flared up like kerosene on a fire. I knew Stacey to be a virgin, but to hear her say it in past tense like that killed me.

“We hooked up some more and passed out. When I woke up…he was on top of me…and inside of me.”

          “Fucking asshole,” Lisa hissed.

          “Darren,” Stacey said grimly, “he pulled out my tampon…and the only reason I woke up is because it hurt when he…”

          She couldn’t say it. She couldn’t say that what had woken her was the painful sensation of being raped.

          “I told him to stop,” Stacey continued. “I screamed at him to stop. I shoved him off me and put my clothes on.”

          Lisa jumped in to finish the story. “She woke me up and told me we had to leave. I asked her why, but she kept telling me we had to leave now and wouldn’t tell me why until we were in the car and on our way home.”

          Tears were trickling down Stacey’s pretty freckled face, and when she spoke again, her voice was filled with regret.

          “Darren, I saved my virginity this long and this is how I have to remember losing it? Why did this happen? How could I be so stupid?”

          I took the crying girl in my arms and held her close to my chest. I wanted her to feel safe and loved and I hoped she would not resent my masculine touch. Stacey accepted my embrace and I felt the tickling sensation of her teardrops on my neck.

          “I’m so sorry this happened to you,” I whispered, “but it’s not your fault…it’s not your fault.”

“Darren, I was waiting for someone I loved…for someone who really cared about me.”

          “You’re still a virgin, Stacey. This fucking kid hasn’t taken that from you. He was probably only inside you for a couple seconds and that doesn’t really count.”

          She nodded her head meekly. I believed it. I hoped she did too.

My gaze shifted to Lisa. “Did you take her to the hospital or the police?”

          “No. I tried to get her to go, but she wants to handle it another way.”

          “What way?” I immediately asked.

          There was a strange look in Lisa’s eyes. Anger, sure, but something more.

          “Before I called you, Stacey called some of her friends from Tampa and told them what happened. Three guys are on their way here right now. Do you want to help them take care of this asshole? We’re going back to the house tonight.”

          I now recognized the strange look in Lisa’s eyes. It was the same emotion that blazed inside me. A burning desire for revenge.

          “Yeah,” I replied without hesitation, “I definitely want to go with you.”

          “Good. We told Tadd about what happened and he said he wants to come too.”

          Tadd was a best friend of mine who lived down the hallway from the girls. The ROTC redneck was my workout partner and was an intimidating guy to look at, but I doubted he would come along. Tadd was so paranoid about getting into trouble with the police that he would often hide in the dormitory suite on the other side of my bathroom whenever he wigged out and thought FSUPD was coming to arrest us for underage drinking. Still, there was always the possibility that Tadd’s chivalrous Southern blood might have been fired up when he heard about a woman being victimized.         

When I left the girls, I headed down the hallway to Tadd’s room. My knuckles rapped on the door and it was opened by a long-nosed, blonde-haired meathead wearing red gym shorts and a black ROTC t-shirt.

“What’s up, Bryce?” Tadd said with a smile.

“We need to talk, big man.”

“Sure. Come on in.”

He led me back to the bedroom he shared with a kid named Ripper. Posters of beer, soldiers, and rock bands decorated the walls and a rebel flag hung in the corner. My eyes immediately took notice of Ripper’s guitar leaning against the bunk bed.

          “Where’s Ripper at?” I asked.

          “He went with Eddie and Mickey to the Student Union to get some food. What’s going on?”

          “Stacey and Lisa just told me what happened.”

          Tadd’s face darkened. “I feel terrible for Stacey. That shit is really messed up.”

“It’s fucked up is what it is.”

“Real fucked up,” Tadd agreed. “I don’t know how you could do that to another person.”

“We need to do something about it.”

          The big redneck turned away from me and reached inside his closet. He fidgeted with a few emblems on an army uniform before placing the hanger back on the rod. The kid was nervous and I had a pretty good idea why.

          My suspicions were confirmed when he turned back around and asked, “Are you going with them to the house?”

          “Fuck yeah,” I replied. “Aren’t you?”

          “I don’t know.”

          “Tadd, that motherfucker pulled out her tampon while she was passed out and shoved his dick inside her virgin pussy. Fuck that shit! We can’t let him get away with this!”

          The muscular redneck remained silent.


His uneasy gaze shifted to the floor to the television to anywhere else but me. “No…we can’t,” he mumbled.

          “So I’ll see you later tonight when the girls call.”

          The young man finally made eye contact and gave me an indecisive shrug. “Yeah…I don’t know, maybe.”

I knew Tadd well enough to know that maybe would have to do, so I returned to my dorm room and waited for Lisa’s phone call.

Blake and some of my boys were watching fraternity boxing matches on the campus television station. I didn’t say a word to them about Stacey. Instead, I sat quietly on the bed and pondered my instant agreement to participate in an act of violence that could have extremely dire consequences.

My rationale was simple. Stacey was a friend of mine that I cared about. She didn’t deserve this. No girl deserved this. Her rapist needed to suffer for what he had done so that he would never harm another girl ever again. Any concerns I had about the criminal implications of my impending violent behavior were offset by my anger. Pride also kicked in. I had given my word to avenge her. To back out on that promise now would make me look like a pussy.

          Lisa called a few hours later and I went down to Stacey’s room to meet the three thugs from Tampa.

          “Tadd’s not here,” Lisa told me upon my arrival. “He’s not in his room and he’s not answering his cell phone.”

          “Don’t bother,” I replied. “He’s not coming.”

          “Why not?” she asked.

          “Because vigilante justice ain’t his style.”

          Lisa nodded in understanding and then introduced me to the three thugs. Since I was a muscular guy, they seemed glad to have me there. We took the stairway to the first floor and ventured out to the parking lot. Lisa and Stacey headed to Lisa’s Volkswagen, but I followed the thugs to a red Maxima with chrome rims and tinted black windows.

          “I should probably ride with you boys,” I said. “If we’re gonna be fighting together, we might as well try to bond.”

          “Cool,” Randle said. “Get in.”

          We climbed into the thugmobile which was spotless clean and smelled strongly of marijuana and menthol tobacco. Randle cranked up the engine and we followed Lisa’s white car out of the parking lot.

“So how do you guys know Stacey?” I asked.

          “High School,” Jimmy answered. “You know she was a virgin, right?”

          “Yeah,” I replied, nostrils flaring. “I know.”

          There was an intense moment of silence as we all reflected on the magnitude of what had been stolen from the innocent girl.

          “What about you?” Jimmy asked. “Stacey says you two are friends?”

          “Yeah, she and her girls hang out with my boys.”

          “So you know her roommate Kristin?”

I nodded. “We’ve hooked up a few times.”

          “Mike used to bang her.”

          “Oh yeah?” I replied and glanced at the tall man riding shotgun. “Was she any good?”

          Mike nodded. “She’s got a sick body.”

          “Great thighs,” I agreed. “She’s dating some fucking scumbag kid now.”

          He chuckled. “I saw that girl get her ass kicked when she threw down with some other chick.”

          “Really? Kristin acts like she’s a hard ass.”

          Mike smirked. “She’s not. The other girl beat the fuck out of her.”

          “Can you fight, dogg?” Jimmy asked me.

          “I can hold my own.”

          “Tight. I can too. Mike can throw down. Even with his fucked up ankle, he’s got that long reach.” Jimmy threw a shadow box punch to demonstrate the extended reach of his tall friend. “And Randle…Randle’s the craziest nigga alive.”

          Both thugs laughed cruelly as they stared at the stone cold face of the husky driver. I assumed they were remembering whatever violent incident had landed Randle in prison.

          As we turned onto Tennessee Street, Jimmy reached into the pocket of his black workout pants and pulled out two items—a glass pipe and a small plastic baggy filled with weed.

          “Do you smoke?” he asked me with a grin.

          I smiled and opened my left hand to reveal a cigar blunt filled with marijuana.

          “Yo, he rolled a blunt!” Jimmy said with a laugh. “A fat one too!”

          The other thugs nodded in approval. I was now accepted as one of them. Smoking a blunt with thugs is like smoking a peace pipe with Indians.

          We fired up the weed and my new comrades filled me in on their devised plan of attack. It was simple. Stacey was going to ask Stephan to take a walk. Lisa would distract the roommate inside the house. The thugs and I would be hiding outside, waiting to beat the shit out of Stephan.

“Where are we gonna hide?” I asked.

“There’s a long dirt road,” Jimmy answered. “It leads from the house to the main drag. They’ll walk down the road and we’ll be hiding behind some trees in the dark.”

Randy exhaled a cloud of smoke and said, “It’s gotta go down fast. We fuck him up and then we dip the fuck out.”

“What about Lisa?” I asked “How do we get her to come outside so we can leave?”

Jimmy grinned. “When Stacey and the kid go for a walk, Lisa’s gonna wait three minutes and then tell the other kid she needs to get her cell phone from her car.”

“It’ll work,” Mike said. “This fucking kid Stephan won’t even see us coming.”

I nodded in agreement and took another hit from the pipe. But as I exhaled marijuana smoke, I silently reflected upon something I read about warfare. In all forms of battle, there is always friction—the factors you did not anticipate that can screw up your plan. The element of chance was also revealed when Randle turned down the stereo and stared at me in the rear view mirror.

          “There’s a gun in the house,” he said sternly. “A handgun. It probably doesn’t matter, but it’s something to be aware of.”

          I shrugged at the warning. “I doubt this kid will arm himself to take a walk.”

          Randle nodded and cranked up the stereo again. Rap music blasted from the speakers and I silently wondered if the girls had been forthright with the information about the gun or if the thugs had enough experience in these matters to remember to ask.

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