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Bucket Hat and Dreadlocks
Warding off a Wretched Set of Groes in a Baltimore Alley: 8/22/2023
© 2023 James LaFond
APR/15/24
It was nearly 3 PM on Monday morning. The Brickmouse would be home soon. Before our after work conversation about refrigeration, rather than begin another article or site feature, a cup of coffee while musing upon the first chapter of the novel SPQR, would be a fine way to end the writing day. I now enjoy being able to stand long enough to fill the pot and heat water for coffee. For the last two months I have been downing a slurry of instant coffee mixed in room temperature water.
A knock came on the front door. A package of fresh from the farm food no doubt.
I shuffle to the door, taking a half step with the left and dragging the dead right leg up to the left heel until I reach the door. It was Preston from across the alley. He and his sister of about 14 walk their mother’s poodle up alley and street. He seems to be growing, about 5’ 5’ and 120 pounds.
“Hey, what can I do for you?”
“A man was on your truck and he run up the alley. I went around, didn’t let him see me.”
“Thanks for lookin’ out, man.”
I shut and locked the door, got my crutches and headed out back, up across the big grassy yard, around the spring house and into the alley where the small pickup truck is parked. The windows were intact and the tool box was locked.
I crutched around in the alley by the truck and Preston, across the alley concealing himself behind his mother’s shed, pointed up the alley, “That’s the man.”
Three houses up I saw a light heavyweight Groe buck who was looking at garage backs, vehicles and back fences.
Ed, three doors up, pulled into his garage and looked at us concerned. The Brickmouse Bride had joined me and was acting appropriately, observing and communicating with her husband by phone. I know many women who would have called the cops in a show of fear and weakness or have went of after the Groe in a fit of vaginal authority.
Boomer Ed didn’t get it but did talk to us later and asked if we called the cops and we explained the following in brief. Ed seemed troubled that we took care of it, but relieved as well.
This alley is a main travel route for a set of Groes based 4 blocks to the west, uphill, next to a notoriously crime-infested sprawl of low rent town homes on the City-County Line, called Dutch Village. I have narrated numerous Dutch Village adventures from 2016 and 2017. It is a case where the adjoining Baltimore County sector is worse than the immediate section of Baltimore City. But, the territory to the east, where I catch the bus, is where the turf of two other sets meat at the intersection of Harford Road and Northern Parkway. I have been on the bus with the shot caller for this set when he offloaded in the morning and took directly to the alley, the bus to his back, covering him from the rivals across Northern Parkway. [1]
The Brickmouse rolls down the alley past the Groe in his work truck, is briefed by myself and Preston who says, “He the man with the bucket hat.”
Our hero jogs after the Groe, [who is not dressed heavily enough to be armed with anything but a razor or folder] who is now clearing out at a springy walk. I am worried, hanging between the crutches, until he comes back five minutes later and relates to us:
“I just jogged until I got close, so I didn’t run up on him. I engaged him in conversation right where the alley met the street, asked what he needed in the alley and he says, ‘Look you can see I ain’ dressed fo no burglary, so no need ta call the poleese.’ [Meaning he wore no hoody!]
“I said,” pointing to my phone, “Oh, I’m not calling the police. This is a medical billing call. I was simply concerned for your welfare. You know, people look at that nice clean alley and think its safe. But it can get dangerous back there. You know, just a few months ago I fine young man, an upstanding citizen, was gunned own not three alleys over. We wouldn’t want a concerned visitor such as yourself to suffer any mishap—I mean, there are very few witnesses back there. Now you have a nice day!”
We laughed and I said, “That is some Big Ron levels of diplomacy.”
We decided that this was the perfect time for him to drive me to the bank. Securing the house we pulled out and there, at the base of the alley, was a bicycle Groe of the same age, about 19-21, patiently waiting on the side to let us pass. This guy is not bull parading, nor even surly swaggering or carelessly spit walking. This was odd. This fellow has an open button shirt and long dreads. The attire says knife to me, possibly gun. When we both try and make eye contact to thank him for his courtesy, he avoids our gaze, not by looking submissively down, but disdainfully away.
We pass him and the Brickmouse looks at me with a question in his eyes and I note he has had no adrenaline dump, [2] “The posture and expression do not match his unusually polite action and his appearance is suspiciously timed. He’s the same age; local sets are all same age groups until they expand. Buckethat is a low ranker. This guy is probably Number 2, maybe the hitter.”
“Circle around?” he asks.
“Absolutely,” and we unhook our seat belts.
We come back down the alley and run into Dreadlocks who is now peddling and not showing as much courtesy, because he does not want to stop and become the filling in a peanut butter and cracker sandwich. He does not like using the bike and is tired, suggesting he was hastily dispatched.
“This set uses the basketball court behind the high school for a rally point and their supply center and mass transit hub is Harford and Northern, closer than the shopping center at Perring Parkway and Oakliegh.”
The Brickmouse says, “He mentioned that he went to the school up the street but was too old and headed the wrong way to be getting out of school.”
I continue, “Buckethat should not have put hands on anything and should have waited to give a report to the set about easily jacked valuables. He’s probably being dressed down by his supervisor now.”
“Should we drive by the Basketball Court?”
“No, that would be a threat. Thus far both parties have acted defensively. Your parley was literally on neutral ground. If you had crossed Old Harford it might have been perceived as a threat. Escalation or retaliation are the only answers they have in their territory. This was perfect.”
“How about if my next door neighbor drives by?”
“Sure.”
The neighbor, who is a studly light heavyweight, confirmed that the court was their rally point and that Dreadlocks was a terrible bicyclist. His wife wanted him to take a picture and I said not to, that this would be a threat. We now had numerous visual impressions of the duo. Preston had been afraid of Buckethat, which told me a lot. He was careful to stay hidden. We gave him $50 and the description of Dreadlocks to be wary of.
I suggested keeping a good old fashioned square brick next to the driver’s seat in the small pick up. A brick in hand and an undeployed knife at close range, beats the knife or gun that Dreadlocks had in his waistband under that open button shirt.
This was a good off the cuff operation employing sub threatening but warding actions and words, and expanding the resolution with the calling in of our own scout in the form of the next door neighbor.
Notes
This is a subset of a larger Dutch Village association, which should not be antagonized as they are capable of ruthless nocturnal activity [I have been hunted by them twice at night] and have very good preteen scouting patrols and commit regular daylight attacks in their territory, where we shop. This is a key organization for cross County/City operations. They feud with the Oaks Crew where I used to live. In 2018 I cleaned up .45 APC brass leftover from one clash.
The grid to the Southeast of the main intersection in the city has been run by a serious crew since at least 2015, led by men who use cars. It seems Harford Road itself is something of a free-for-all.
-1. Just south across Northern Parkway is a poorly organized foot set of older teens and younger men.
-2. I think this is because he was still in work clothes and mode and jogged to the parlay.
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