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Tom Johnson couldn’t help but feel somewhat apprehensive. It had been nearly a year since the neighborhood gang leader had called all his lieutenants in. Such meetings were not called for perfunctory reasons. John Emerson, the leader, did not like to expose himself. He only held meetings at surprise locations with little notice and only did so to make an example of someone caught skimming or to push for an expansion of territory.

The small amount of tips Tom had kept from a couple underage prostitutes he pimped should not have caused him concern; nevertheless he was anxious. The memory of a comrade’s brain splatter on his shirt was vivid, although he never gave a thought as to why more haunting than a few competitors he had personally dispatched.

Tom was attired as usual. His jeans, as baggy as his girls’ were tight, covered the throw-away 22 semi-automatic strapped below his knee. The oversized hooded sweatshirt was a tall, which covered the part of his lower midriff his jeans didn’t and also his Browning 45.

Reaching his level in other professions by age 24 was unheard of, but this was the land of opportunity. He had started in home burglary, got out when it became too dangerous, then moved up to extorting shop owners and to narcotic distribution. As he passed a line of citizens waiting obediently outside the door at a police station to turn in their now illegal firearms, he contemplated about getting back into burglary.

From the alley Tom walked up steps to a room above the convenience store he had picked up money from last week. He was the last to arrive. They sat in an order of hierarchy based upon their contribution to the gang. Tom sat in the middle.

“What a bunch of lousy shots we have here,” John said as he tried to ease their nervousness with a joke about the media’s continued ridiculous blaming of school children murders on stray bullets.

After the laughter he turned serious, “We are entering a new era in this country and we must amend our ways to the times. Violating the new gun laws would be a step too far. I want everyone to turn their guns in now.”

Jim spoke, “Only about 30% of the time are they even able to charge someone for one of the murders in Chicago; we’ve been able to get the police to turn their heads on drug trafficking with the right payoffs. Why should we worry about some silly gun law?”

“Because they are serious this time, we don’t need the risk of violating another law. One more would surely break the camel’s back. We will only break so many laws. It is a new era, comply or else.”

Everyone wondered what the “or else” meant as they piled their guns on the table.

“Tom, I think you carry a 22 on your leg. I want to see it on the table too”

“Yes sir.”

So started the New Peaceful Era.

The new motto: To the State from which all wealth and human advancement flow,

W C (Bill) Augustine,

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