He wanted to join. Badly. Terribly. But as he gazed at the pistol lying on the table, he wondered if it was worth it. Raising his eyes, he met Kurt's even gaze.
The muscled man tossed dyed black hair out of his eyes. “Now or never, man. Make your choice.”
Jon winced at the indifference in the leader's voice, and returned his gaze to the pistol. Maybe it wasn't worth it. Tension was mounting behind him as he heard other gang members shift around, but Kurt froze them with a glare.
“Give the boy time. It's no easy decision.”
With a snap of his head, Jon's eyes rushed back to Kurt. A boy? He was no boy. He was thirty years old and had lived in the slums of Chicago. He had experience in the dangers of life. Kurt had no right to downplay that. But he was looking at one of the most feared gang leaders in the state, and, in Jon's opinion, perhaps the entire country. Kurt could downplay whoever he wished, and his cold gaze reminded Jon of that fact as he nodded toward the pistol and held out a single bullet.
“Yes, or no?”
Letting his eyes trail over the men in the room, Jon resisted the urge to groan. What was he doing? He had worked hard to gain this initiation, and now he was thinking of throwing it away. For the past seven years he had guarded his every action and word, knowing he was being watched by Kurt's men, and now they had finally led him to their leader.
Life seemed to precious to risk, even for this. Images of his sister's prayers for him raced through his head, and her pleading eyes tormented his memory as he contemplated his next move. Karen never thought he would reach the point of leaving his life up to chance. Would the welcome by the gang, and the security they would provide, actually be worth it?
Yes. If he survived initiation.
Kurt's eyes snapped as Jon straightened his shoulders and nodded. The bullet gleamed in the light of the dull lamp, and Jon bit his lip as the gang leader shoved the metal in, clicked it shut and spun the barrel.
One bullet. One shot. He hoped he was lucky.
He had never been lucky. Dead parents. Trying to provide for his sister, Karen, and himself, as they tried to live off nearly nothing. The pastor who took them in, and changed her life, so that she told him she could no longer live the life he was used to. He lost everything he loved when she refused to go with him.
This once, he hoped luck would be on his side, but as he reached for the pistol, he wondered if he was really ready for the death that seem inevitable. What were his chances?
He wished he had told Karen he loved her before he ran off. He wondered if she would ever forgive him.
Picking up the weapon, he pondered how many had died by the initiation bullet. It no longer mattered. The only thing that mattered was these next few seconds.
Jon heard men shift away from behind him, but all sound was blocked out as he aimed the pistol at his head. He squeezed the trigger.
The pistol spared his life.
He slumped in relief at the quiet sound, and trembled so hard he could barely lay the pistol back on the table.
The gang swarmed him, slapping him kindly on the back, and the engraved switchblade was pressed into his hands. He was in.
Time alone would make him wish the pistol hadn't been so kind. The sound would soon be wished different.
“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Prov 16:20 ESV
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