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Sometimes there's a conflict between keeping family safe and taking care of business.

Sometimes it's up to someone else to show you the extent of that conflict.

Truce by J.D. Smith

Freddie checked his look one last time. And it was good.
The shirtsleeves and collar covered almost all his ink. No tie, though. He didn’t need to look that mainstream. Anybody who didn’t pick up on that could still see his jacket was the right color. He was there to represent.
In a minute he would get up on a stage in front of the park district building in neutral territory and the mayor or vice mayor or some shit would make the announcement. The city had worked out a truce, and for the next eighteen months the city would step up its job training and expand the free meal program at the rec centers.
Freddie didn’t know why the other side wanted to try out some peace, but he knew why he did. A few months ago he was at a girlfriend’s house before going out to do some dirt, and he was sitting at the kitchen table with his boy by her, Little Freddie. The Deuce looked up from his homework and said “Daddy, I want to be just like you.”
Did he now? Drop-out at fifteen, tried as an adult at seventeen, in for his first stretch the next year. Things he hadn’t even been charged with would have gotten him life. The hour-long beatdown of a snitch dug up by a dog in a forest preserve a month later and not ID’d for months after that. The disappeared crew chief who’d gotten greedy. If they ever found him, it would be one piece at a time.
The packages and bags of bills held at a parking lot or warehouse in the middle of the night in winter and the sweat that still came while he waited to make sure it wasn’t a set-up, or fought his way out if it was.
The knucks and knife suddenly felt heavy in his pockets, and the piece in his waistband dug into his skin.
Some of his guys had their own kids, and when things got slow they talked about what it might be like to walk out the door without looking around to see if anybody had come gunning.
His guys reached out to people, and they reached out to other people, and somehow things got to where they were today. All Freddie had to do was walk up, sign a sheet of paper and shake hands with Oscar. That son of a bitch. It wouldn’t be easy to do, but bigger things were at stake. At least it was a nice day out, the first time in a week it wasn’t raining.
“I still can’t believe this shit,” Joe said, setting down the binoculars. “Boss got soft as a motherfucker.”
“Believe it, dude. Our man Freddie got his,” Bobby said. “Him and his top posse don’t mind if we just run their errands and can’t move up. Shit.”
He adjusted a tripod on a rooftop table behind some big potted plants. He and Joe weren’t invisible—this wasn’t the comics—but somebody would have to be trying damn hard to find them.
“You sure you want to use that one, B? That’s a strange-looking piece.”
“Nah, I can work with this. I learned that much in Iraq.”
Bobby leaned in to work. He found Freddie in the scope and drew a bead. 
J.D. Smith has published fiction in Pulp Pusher and Thug Lit as well as in the print series of Out of the Gutter. His fourth collection of poetry should be out by the end of 2016, and his other books include an essay collection, a humor collection and, somehow, a children’s picture book. More at