Dealing with the Devil

The Deuce-Seven Bloods spin out of control, ripping families apart--including their own.

October 1998
Antonio Martinez has settled into his new life when Patricia comes to see her father on her birthday. Snacks the doll is waiting for her. It's nice to be able to take his daughter places without having to look over his shoulder.

Antonio's been busy attending to all the details of opening his business. Taking the local board of health exam and getting his tattoo license. Making sure the shop will get through inspection. Buying supplies. Getting the word out.

News of Pancho's conviction didn't surprise him. He knew a long time ago, before "that girl's" death, that it was inevitable that his friend, his "little brother" Frankie Vigil and his blood brother would end up in prison or dead.

Going legit was too much work. They liked the easy money, the power and the fear they instilled in others because they were the Deuce-Seven. In the straight world, they would be nobodies.

After Venus Montoya's murder, with Danny on the run from Cenikor, Antonio had begged his brother to give up gangbanging...or at least lie low. "But he said he wouldn't even slow down. If anything, they speeded up. They were drunk all the time, and they'd talk crazy shit, like going out in a blaze of glory, shooting it out with the police."

Antonio's efforts led to an argument with Danny that spring. "He said I was no longer down with the homeboys," he remembers. "I said, 'How can you say that after all we've done...what I've been through?' We could still be B-dogs, but the gangbanging wasn't leadin' nowhere."

They got through the fight. After all, they were brothers, no matter what. Thick and thin.

But there was now a gap between Bang...and Boom.
On the evening of May 30, 1997, Antonio stopped by his Uncle Joe's house to see Danny, Pancho, Sammy and Frank. The four seemed intent on getting as drunk as possible, and Antonio didn't like it when they got that way, talking and acting like fools. And he didn't like the two girls who were there. They were the sort to drop names, and he didn't need the attention.

Antonio was having a difficult time accepting it, but he didn't belong in that world anymore. He had worked too hard to let his dreams be destroyed in an end he could sense was coming.

Antonio left, angry and alone.
A few hours later, a fourteen-year-old girl named Brandy DuVall was brought to the house, and the others stepped over a line from which there was no turning back.

"What they did was insane. It made no sense," Antonio says. "To tell you the truth, I think they wanted to get caught. I think they were tired. They knew they weren't going anywhere."

Maybe if he'd stayed, he could have stopped the madness. It's nice to think that he would have. But Antonio, tormented by guilt, doesn't take the easy out and leave the thought there. "Or maybe I would have made sure they didn't get caught," he has to add.

He loves his brother. He loves Pancho and Frankie. They aren't monsters to him. They were lost and made bad decisions that had inevitable consequences. He went another way.

But sometimes he still feels the need to remind himself that he will always have some of the gang member inside him.

"I'm Boom," he says. "I ain't no little motherfucker who wants to be 'like Boom.' I get up in the morning, look in the mirror and say, 'I am Boom.' And that will never change."

Next week: Danny Martinez's trial.

Visit www.westword.com to read parts one and two of "Dealing with the Devil" and related Westword stories.

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