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         The silence was tense and fragile as Chess typed slowly on the keyboard, not even sure of what he was doing, anymore.  He could feel sweat breaking out on the back of his neck and his heartbeat sounded loud in his ears.  He still had not dared to look up, but he knew Razor was standing very close to him.
         Just then, behind him, a female voice called Razor’s name.
         “What?” Chess heard the guy bark.
         Chess turned to see a petite girl, about his own age, step through the doorway and walk slowly toward Razor.
         “I’m busy,” Razor growled at her.
         The girl raised her eyebrows at him and tilted her head.  “Don’t you have anything better to do than stand here threatening the only potential I. T. guy for miles around?” she asked with a smirk.
         Chess watched, open-mouthed, as Razor moved in very close to the girl.  The big guy had to be at least twice her size, it seemed.  The edge of Razor’s lip curled up, and slowly, deliberately, he raised one massive hand and encircled her neck with it.  Chess, his fingers hooked tightly around the edge of the chair seat, drew in his breath sharply and winced… but the girl just looked up calmly, with a smile.
         A long moment passed as the couple gazed at each other.  And then, suddenly, Razor emitted a sharp, mirthful sound and swung the girl up into his arms.  Chess let out the breath he had been unconsciously holding and loosened his grip on the chair.  Razor took a step in the direction of the door, and then pivoted briefly toward Chess, shouting, “Fix it by the time I get back!”
         Over Razor’s shoulder, the girl grinned at Chess and then stuck out her tongue.
         The unexpected sight forced a soft, surprised laugh from Chess, relieving his panic and clearing his mind.  Taking a deep breath, he turned back to the computers and began to work.

         Razor was gone for a long while.  Chess, having become engrossed in the workings of the ancient computers, had not even noticed the time going by.  In fact, once the virus problem had been solved, he had almost forgotten about Razor and his earlier fears.  Now focused on trying to improve the capabilities of the newest of the computers, he did not even hear Razor coming back.
         Chess looked up just as the guy stomped in through the doorway.  Instantly, all the terrors came flooding back to his mind as Razor, in a few steps, covered the distance between them.  Chess jumped up, knocking the chair over, and backed up to the wall.
         “Go ahead,” Chess stammered as the guy scowled at him.  “Try it.”
         Frowning darkly, Razor slammed the chair onto its feet again and dropped heavily onto it.  He grabbed the mouse that Chess had connected, clicked for a few seconds, and then stared at the computer screen.  Chess held his breath.
         A huge smile spread across Razor’s face then, as he leaped from the chair.  “Goldfish!” he exclaimed, slapping Chess hard on the back, “You’re my new computer guy!”
         Chess exhaled so violently that he almost missed Razor’s next words.
         “I’ll give you anything you want, man, anything!” Razor cried enthusiastically.  “Seriously!  You want one of the girls?  Well… not tonight, ‘cause they’re all going out, okay… but tomorrow…”
         Chess stared at the guy in horror, getting a slightly clearer picture of his current situation.
         “Okay, well, yeah, you just got here and all.  Maybe later…”  Razor turned back to the computers, shaking his head in excited disbelief.  “This is really amazing!  I mean…”

         Later, Chess found himself in a room, alone, with an old backpack, a toothbrush, and some other toiletries.  As the light faded from the sky, he sat on the edge of his cot and stared at his hands, wondering how, in the midst of such chaos, he could get so focused on some stupid puzzle like the computers.  How, after what he had done, he could let a minute go by without dwelling on his family.

Continued next page...

Bill O'Reilly:  The whole federal government frightens me. There isn't anything about it I like.
Jon Stewart: Really?
Bill: Yeah. I'm an anarchist. Power to the people.
Jon: Let me ask you a question: Do anarchists get paid every Friday, or every other Friday? When does the anarchist check come in?
-The Daily Show Interview with Bill O’Reilly (at 04:00) 13 November 2008

         There is another element in Gang Leader for a Day that is significant to my story: J.T., the leader of the Black Kings gang, who is a fairly charismatic personality.  By the end of the book, in fact, the author, Suddhir Venkatesh, and the gang leader appear to have become pretty close friends, although Venkatesh always seems to have a healthy fear of his subject.
         My character Razor started out, in the first incarnation of my story, as a magical sort of Dark King: powerful and bad, but still a desirable kind of character.  He was “The Goblin King” from Labyrinth or “The Darkness” from Legend.  In the later versions of the story, I wanted a character who was more realistic, but still a powerful leader who controls an army in a chaotic landscape.  J.T.’s character in Gangleader for a Day seemed to provide a good model.
         Funny enough, I had a picture of Razor in my mind for years, and I could never figure out where it came from.  I had never seen a photo of the actual gangleader, so I wondered who I was imagining.  Then one day, I went to Suddhir Venkatesh’s bio page and realized that the visage of Razor in my mind was actually the author.  I think he might (?) get a kick out of that if he knew.



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