John was in bad trouble.
Chief and the Boys were looking for him. They were sniffing him out. And when they caught him, they would kill him.
There was no bargaining with these guys. They made no bluffs. They meant business. When they came after you, it was the real deal – they would find you, and they would make you pay.
They'd cut off his hands so he couldn't fight. They'd cut off his feet so he couldn't run. They'd cut off his balls, so he'd have nothing to live for.
Or maybe they'd done that already.
Sure – they were going to finish the job they started. And when it was all over, they'd slash his throat from ear to ear, a big bloody smile beneath his real one.
What had he done to deserve this? Why were they turning on him now? He'd worked for the Chief all his life, paid his dues, just surviving like anyone else. Trying to get ahead of the pack. Just like anyone else. He had no bone to pick with Chief.
Well, sure, there'd been times he'd looked Chief square in the eye...but that was back when John had been Chief, and this new upstart had just been a dark-haired sneak from the east side. John had beaten the bejeezus out of him, pounded him until his eye had swollen shut.
He was old now. Beaten. Chief had beaten the bejeezus out of him. He wasn't looking anyone in the eye anymore. It was a blessing if they would just leave him alone.
What did it take in this place? It was a jungle in here, a real Heart of Darkness, an awful place. What, he'd been such a big shot, and now he barely scraped out a living – picking the fruits of his labors off the floor, scratching everyone else's back with no one to scratch his own. Working the bugs out of that tangled mess while they whined and complained. No rest. No love. Nothing.
It was all screwed up – right from the beginning. They called it a "family", but John didn't see any brotherhood in this band of thieves and hoodlums. They stole from each other every chance they could, fought pointless fights, played pointless games – he'd seen some of the Boys, the way they were; he'd watched them from the corner of his eye as they strutted and posed and rubbed elbows, acting like they were going to throw down the Chief all by themselves.
But when Chief walked in like a slab of hairy concrete, they got real quiet real fast, and then it was all, "yes Chief, no Chief, of course Chief," licking ass with their big-talking tongues...John would watch them, and he'd laugh to himself, because they never could look that big ape in the eye. Chief would bare his teeth, and they'd cower and crawl around at his heels. He'd grin, and they would do tricks so he'd stay happy. He'd howl, and they would turn on whoever was closest – it didn't matter who – and just beat the poor schmuck senseless.
They did that to Buddy. Poor, gentle Buddy. Poked his scrawny nose in their business one time too many, and Chief signals, and the Boys just pound the living shit out of the poor kid. It got John so mad, he wanted to step in, to come flying in and crack a few skulls...
But he didn't.