It wasn’t much of a cap.
The hat was faded white, if that color even existed, and had a few dots of red on the back. Those who sow it wanted to pick it up and throw it away, but no one did. Something about it made them draw their hand back, as if this wasn’t something to be touched.
Miranda saw it, but only late at night, when a piercing street light gave the cap a ghost-like hue. Earlier that day, she had been washing dishes by hand; in these parts of town, owning a dishwasher was a sign of vast wealth. She didn’t have much to clean: three cups, three plates, three sets of forks and knives. There had been a fourth plate, a fourth glass, but that was longer back than she wanted to remember.
Bobby and Sean were outside, or so they claimed. She had asked them to stay in; there had been talk around the street about escalation, about how the S-10’s were about to lay a number on Parchuta. Miranda heard all this from Sean, which might have scared her even more than the news itself. About five hours had passed since they shut the door, but the clock had always ran slow. Just as she turned back from the dial, the first shot rang out, and she collapsed against the wall, not daring to look out, not daring to think about Bobby and Sean, two men she had once knows as children. But that door—that blessed door—opened wide, and both came in, unharmed and scared, like they were supposed to. That night, she pulled out those freshly washed plates and utensils, and they ate half of what was left in the fridge.
Only after the sun fell did Miranda gain the courage to look out that window. When she did, she saw that cap, impeccably white, staring back.
There was an entire crowd that saw the hat, though not none of them paid it much attention. They were all wearing hats themselves. It was hot enough to sear asphalt out there, yet no one in the group showed a hint of complaint. “Freeing the Future,” their sky-blue shirts read. Whatever that meant.
They were an odd bunch: all languages, all sizes, all views. The only thing connecting them were the streets they had grown up in, streets where gunshots and gang signs were part of the everyday routine. They had broken out of that life, somehow, and came here to explain their struggle to anyone who would listen. They had a few hours to themselves before the evening conferences began.
One of the white-capped men had a half-brother here, or so he said. They hadn’t talked in years, and he thought he might stop in and say hello. The house was just a few blocks south. He went off with a quick wave, white cap glinting in an imposing sun.
Plenty of people saw the hat on the street. Only one person knew how it got there.
Travis knew this wasn’t the time to be outside. Members of Parchuta and S-10 were already milling about, waiting for the right time to get started. A few of them nodded to him, whispering for him to get away—they didn’t want him here. This was to be strictly business; no bystanders, no complications. But Travis liked to think that there was still room on the streets for him, even if the gangs took up mot of the space.
He was turning back to his house when the man first appeared. Travis assumed that he was an S-10, and so did the members of Parchuta, who crowded around him. Then again, his tattoos looked unfamiliar. His expression looked unfamiliar. Even his hairstyle looked unfamiliar, though a white cap covered most of his scalp.
The man pulled out a wrinkled picture and showed it to the group. “Where?” he asked.
Even from a distance, Travis recognized the person in the photo.
“You’re with S-10!” someone yelled, drawing his gun. The man shook his head, saying “You’re joking, you’re joking,” but the guns stayed fixed on him. And then, from the other side of the street, an S-10 member cried out a fatal yell.
“That’s my brother!”
That was the tipping point; that was the spark. Bullets flew from both gangs in both directions; Travis dove on the ground, faking death. There was no more shouting—just gunfire, and the fatal echoes it produced.
It took longer than usual for the police to come; Travis feared that they had already given up on the area. When the sirens finally sounded, he stood up, lightheaded, and looked around.
All gang members who could still move had fled, save for one S-10. He was dragging a blue-shirted man behind him, a thin, moaning figure with a wrinkled picture sticking out of his pocket, and appeared headed for a nearby alley.
If it hadn’t been for the man’s white cap laying on the road, the street would have looked perfectly normal. The hat was faded white, if that color even existed, and had a few dots of red on the back.