People called them the Smokers, and Keith had heard a variety of explanations for this.

Certainly they were no slouch when it came to ganging up on others to steal anything up to and including lunch money–quite capable of “smoking” someone in a pitched battle.

And there was no doubt that cigarettes were their stock and trade, sold or bartered to others, inhaled furtively when adults were looking and openly when they weren’t.

But the real reason–Keith suspected–could be seen when they drove up. And smelled. And heard.

The Smokers tooled around in a beat-up Detroit aircraft carrier from the 70’s, driven by the only one of them old enough for a learner’s permit; as it pulled up to the curb, it belched forth an oily and odoriferous cloud the likes of which was seldom encountered outside of wartime.

“Hey Anders!” one of them called. “Ain’t it a little late to be going to school?” Nevermind that Deerton High was in the opposite direction; the remark elicted raspy chuckles from the rattletrap’s interior.

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