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The bullet had eyes by George Pelecanos

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One night, in Prince George’s County, Maryland, just over the DC line, two groups of teenage boys from neighbouring housing complexes crossed paths. The Corner Kids sold weed, robbed, stole, were jobless and had dropped out of high school. The Stoop Kids were straight, over-achievers and headed for college.

That night, the Stoop Kids had gone to Georgetown with a girl to see a movie. Upon their return on the Metro, they saw her to her house and proceeded to walk home. On the way, they passed the Corner Kids, who eyed them with malicious intent. The Stoop Kids looked soft and they looked like they had money. They could be got. The Corner Kids began to follow.

The Stoop Kids looked over their shoulders. They crossed the street, then re-crossed it, and the Corner Kids traced their steps. Knowing they were targeted, the Stoop Kids bucked and ran. One of the Corner Kids pulled a community gun from the dip of his jeans and, while running in pursuit, fired off two rounds – an impossible shot. But one of the bullets had eyes, hitting a Stoop Kid in the back of his head. The .9 mm round entered his skull and shredded his brain. He was dead before he hit the ground. The remaining Stoop Kids fled to their housing units, and the Corner Kids fled to theirs.

Someone in the neighbourhood flipped. Police arrested the Corner Kids and charged them all with homicide. The youngest of the Corner Kids, who had no priors, took the shooter rap for his friends. Charged as an adult, he drew 45 years; his friends all also got time. As for the Stoop Kids, all were traumatised, except for the victim, who held no fear in death.

There had been no robbery or reason.

The Double by George Pelecanos is out now (Orion)

(Illustration: Edward Tuckwell)

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