Dropped into life in this way, Scorpio chances to land on the south-west fringes of Belle Glade, where his upbringing unfolds in a manner centred on his meeting resistance. Out here in the cane fields of Florida, this is a place where lucky breaks are few. As shown in both games, it also chances that his nature flowers with so transgender a beauty, that by the time he’s in his teens he has lost count of how often he’s escaped physical destruction at the hands of those around him, to match the verbal destruction they’ve wrought on him every day of his life since he could understand words.
As soon as he can slip away out of Belle Glade forever, he does so. With two brief stop-overs along the way, he hitches rides that take him eastwards further than he’s ever been, across Florida to West Palm Beach. Here, for the first time in his life, through a cluster of jagged social breakthroughs interspersed by setbacks, he meets a loose crowd of others who have escaped the same sort of isolation he has just broken out of; and in a messy rush of apprehension and euphoria, he falls in with them.
(In The Imagination Thief, he’ll remember a time when he considered escaping to New York City but decided not to—scared off by a premonition of himself working the traffic jams on the expressway ramps by the Macombs Dam Bridge in the freezing New York winter. How warm, by contrast, are these West Palm Beach nights in this fictional Florida coming-of-age that Jaymi’s sprinkling into him, never to germinate.)
So out through this city night he slips, liberated for the first time, fresh-escaped from Belle Glade—exhausted, but luminous! And on these middling city streets, he hears not the ceaseless attack he heard before, but a mixed message—faggot, queer, beautiful, rent-boy, batty-boy—with wolf-whistles, coiling admiration and indifference.
Soon enough he gravitates to a particular crowd of queens who are known for mounting low-class but well-planned and successful smash-and-grabs, targeting high-street fashion outlets in strip-malls. Alongside his light-fingered sisters, he comes to be seen in CCTV footage from numerous such stores, bursting through windows with his face carefully concealed by a black and pink bandanna, scooping armfuls of fashions from racks, and scuttling back out into get-away vehicles and off into the night, many minutes before police sirens strike up in the distance. The gang members grab some of these spoils for themselves, to ensure they can keep up with an ever more full-on nightclub and party scene; while the rest of the haul is sold off as soon as possible through a fence (whom Scorpio never meets in person, though there are rumours she works as a high-school teacher).
Back down in West Palm Beach again, a flurry of drug-fuelled club-nights at one particular venue prompts the gang to up their game, just to net the money required for their ever-wilder social life, by staging a further series of even more audacious smash-and-grabs—no longer targeting just high-street outlets but tony boutique fashion stores too. In this project they achieve outrageous success over the next few weeks, evading the police again and again, for the queens have developed skills and moves they never used to have. The whole gang is now rolling in money, all clad in designer fashions—and to cap it all, their ride is now a pimped-out Jeep with the word “Playgirl” painted large on it in glamour-girl calligraphy.
It’s all too good to last, of course. It’s only a matter of time before there’s a slip-up, through complacency or bad luck. One night the cops arrive more quickly than usual after one of the gang’s break-ins, and catch sight of the Playgirl Jeep before it has had time to roar off and away to safety. The police car gives chase, closes in on the queens and addresses them through a loudspeaker, demanding they halt the vehicle. (Hearing this from where he’s hunkered down in the back of the Jeep, Scorpio pictures his boyfriend swerving out in front of the police car on a silver motorbike, reaching casually out and discharging several rifle shots into the car’s tyres and engine, thus immobilising it and allowing the queens to escape into the night with a classic screech of tyres on warm asphalt… Alas, this doesn’t happen—mostly because, as Scorpio then remembers, he is in fact in a period “between boyfriends” at the moment.)
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