“It’s gotta be one or the other so which is it?”
“Yeah which is it?”
Richie didn’t do nothin but shake.
“Tell us or we do both!”
He looked at Tom and shouted, “You wouldn’t!”
“Then make up yer mind boy or we will!”
“Now hold on,” said Joe.
Everyone froze, their shouts stifled.
Joe made his way to the center of the group.
“Give the boy his choice,” he said.
We all kept quiet though we was ready to go.
He turned to face Richie shackled to the parkin meter.
Bendin low he whispered, “Do the leg boy, you can still hold a woman with two arms.”
Richie started whimperin.
“But I didn’t do it I didn’t do it…”
Joe straightened up and turned to us.
“You’ve got five seconds, son. After that Tom’s gonna knock you out with that chair leg he’s holdin and when you wake up they’ll be callin you “hop-along lefty.”
We all laughed but Joe shut us up with a flash of his eyes.
“So choose!” he yelled.
“But I didn’t do it! I told you all I never even saw her!”
“Five!” yelled Tom.
“I didn’t do it!”
“Lyin won’t stop the clock, son.”
“I didn’t do it I didn’t do anything!”
“Please listen!”
“No no I’m innocent! I didn’t do anything!”
We all held our breath and watched Richie tremble.
“Stop!” came a woman’s scream.
Everybody turned.
“Stop this instant!”
“Get her outta here. Aint no woman allowed here!” Tom yelled.
“It’s the girl’s mother,” someone said and we all hushed.
An old, haggard woman made her way through the crowd to stand before Richie, who was soaked with tears and sweat. Pissed himself too.
She turned to us and said, in a wearied voice, “She’s alive. She come home a little while ago. She’s shook up but she aint hurt. My baby’s come home. She’s ok.”
It was like she just turned on the lights and we all sobered up.
“Lisa’s fine,” she repeated. “She’s ok, ya hear?”
Lookin around, she said it again, in case we hadn’t understood.
“My baby’s come home.”
Nobody moved.
“You can let him go now, I said my Lisa’s ok!”
Richie was watchin Joe. We was all watchin Joe, even the old lady.
He was pacin around with a sour look on his face.
“Joe,” the old woman said. “What are ya waitin for? Let the boy go, he aint done nothin.”
Joe turned.
“Aint he?”
He walked back and forth like a preacher givin a sermon or a fancy lawyer in court.
“Aint he done plenty? Aint he like all of us? Aint we all done things we wish we hadn’t? Huh? Things we’re ashamed of, lecherous things, cruel things, petty hurtful things?”
“But-” the old woman tried.
“I say,” started Joe, movin toward Richie now, pointin down at him, “I say this sonofabitch got it comin!”
“Yeah!” we all shouted.
“I say the wicked must be punished!”
“I say…”