At school Ben was the playground fighter. Luca had the words to extract his friend from trouble. They became as tight as small boys ever were.

Ben always wanted to build his turf. From king of the swings in first grade to selling cans of stolen cola, then, in high school, everything from essays to pills. If there was an advantage to be gained Benny had an angle. And he had Luca, loyally running interference, keeping watch, smoothing the way.

In his senior year Luca met Trish. They’d been neighbours for years but she’d avoided him. He ran with Benny Silver. But Benny was out of school by then—finding his way on their neighbourhood’s mean streets. Away from Ben, Luca wasn’t difficult to get to know. He had a hard edge but he had ambition too. He wanted to make something of himself—maybe open a deli. Trish told him she’d run the counter.

Through Luca she met Ben. Up close he had charisma that seemed like brutishness from afar.

He still spent his time looking for things to conquer. An evening came when Luca and Trish argued over something silly. Trish stormed out.

Ben followed her in his Cadillac. Pulling up three blocks later, he leaned out the window. ‘You look like you could use some company.’

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