Immediately following the events of the previous chapter, Curtis hears Robert open the door and say, “Ah, shit!” Two or three men walk into the house, and Robert says, “Chill, chill, chill.” The men sound like they’re pushing Robert down into the basement. Loud yelling breaks out from downstairs.
In this chapter, Robert has a violent confrontation with a mysterious group of men. It’s entirely possible that these men come from a rival gang, and believe that Robert has been trying to steal their customers. (While it’s impossible to now for sure, it may be the Double II Set gang mentioned earlier.)
Terrified, Curtis prepares to run outside and yell for help. But he sees a man keeping watch, and quietly backs away from the door. Meanwhile, Robert and the other men are still yelling in the basement. Curtis knows that these men must be involved in the drug business—that’s why they pushed Robert down into the basement, where he’s been keeping his weed, without a second’s hesitation.
Curtis is understandably terrified—these men might be coming to murder Robert. The next few sections cover a period of time no greater than a minute or two, but they feel like much longer, reflecting the intense, panicked mood.
Curtis goes to the closet to pull out the gun Robert has been carrying around lately. Curtis has never fired a weapon before, but he’s prepared to use it to save his friend. He goes down to the basement and calls to Robert. His voice is shaky—clearly, he’s frightened. Suddenly, the men in the basement fire toward Curtis. Curtis tries to fire back, but the gun is jammed. Meanwhile, Curtis can hear Tavarus on the first floor—Christopher, his little boy, is in the house, too. Curtis screams for Tavarus to go back upstairs.
Curtis tries to defend his friend, but fails. However, he arguably succeeds in protecting Tavarus and Tavarus’s child Christopher—had he not cried out, they might have come downstairs and gotten themselves killed.
Curtis hears the sound of the men running out of the house. Curtis rushes outside again and shouts for help. An elderly neighbor shouts that she’s called the police. Curtis rushes back inside, to find Robert on the basement floor, bleeding profusely.
Robert is mortally wounded, the victim of brutal violence that seems a world removed from his “ivory tower” past.
Late that night, Jackie is woken up by the sound of Julius knocking on her door. Tearfully, Julius explains that something has happened to Robert. Eerily calm, Jackie nods, and then drives to Robert’s house, following Julius. The police won’t let her into the house, however—they just explain that a man has been taken to the hospital. Jackie begins to weep, quietly. By this time, Tavarus and Carl already know the truth: Robert is dead.
Jackie is struck by the news of her son’s shooting, but she also seems eerily calm, almost as if she’s been expecting something like this to happen for a long time. In a way, Jackie has been trying to keep her son from getting into the drug world for as long as he’s been alive. Yet in spite of all her efforts, Robert became a drug dealer, and paid the ultimate penalty.
By the next next day, the police have raided Robert’s house and confiscated all the drugs inside. The house that used to be full of fun and happiness is empty. Meanwhile, Curtis is arrested and kept in a holding cell. Curtis says he doesn’t know anything about the marijuana in the basement. Jackie is summoned to the morgue to identify her son’s body. She does so, and then, instead of going home, drives straight to work.
This is perhaps the most painful and poignant part of the entire book. Jackie has worked her entire life to support her son. Now that Robert is dead, she doesn’t know what to do besides go back to work.