The 9mm, according to police sources, is still the weapon of choice for Boston's gang set. But they are also strapping Tec-9s, Mac-10s, and, a very popular model of late, the Gauge, a shotgun with tremendous spray-power. They stock their arsenals, cops and kids say, but putting in orders with hoods who have connections down South, maybe a relative who can pick up a piece cheap and easy in a lax gun-law state like Georgia. Sometimes they run their own road trips South to cop guns. Baseheads, too, are fairly regular suppliers, sometimes swapping cold steel for coke, according to one gangster drug dealer.

Their weaponry is never far away. One mid-level dealer in a hardcore Roxbury crew says he and his boys stash their pieces in some basehead's first-floor housing-project apartment. For that service, they pay her enough coke to cook up a dozen jums, half to sell and half to smoke. Lookouts scattered around the project (including little kids, who earn $50 for the task, $100 if they work the whole day) let out a whoop-whoop yell at the first sign of trouble that might require a gun to resolve, like, say, a rival posse coming in ready to rumble. Once that sound goes up, the gangster stationed near the basehead's door grabs the hardware and starts passing it out.

Despite the modern technology, the old code of the street still applies. Bobby Townsend, homicide-victim number 19, reportedly learned the hard way. According to a police source, Townsend was dealing on Esmond Street, which used to be neutral vending turf. Then the Castlegate Boys decided to take over the lucrative market. According to the cop, they told Townsend the ground rules: "We do the dealing here." "Nobody tells me where to go," he reportedly replied. Says the cop, "So they smoked him right at Esmond and Blue."

Another cardinal rule of the crack lords: just say no -- at least if the drug is crack. The gangsters can do their herb, and sniff their coke, and drink their Cisco ghetto-coolers and 40-ounce bottles of Heffenreffer Private Stock. But crack -- sell it, don't smoke it. "True gang kids have no respect for a basehead whatsoever," says one Boston cop. "Kids know that crack takes you down. Nobody beats crack." And you don't want to go down. "You can't make money," says the cop. It's like the line from that NWA song, "Dopeman": "To be a dopeman you must qualify/You can't get high on your own supply."

One kid from Castlegate was probably too cracked up to catch the lyrics. The way one cop tells it, the kid was having trouble making his quotas. An internal audit found that he was smoking away too much of the gang's profits. So a fellow Castlegater did what any hard-line manager would've done. He instructed one of his boys: "Shoot that motherfucker. Just don't kill him." The guy didn't want him hurt too badly. He was his brother.

Escalating warfare

Despite an overall sluggish state economy, the gang-drug biz is booming. One law-enforcement source says Intervale can get rid of $50,000 worth of crack in two or three days, retailing it for $5 or $10 a piece. Gang dealers are scanning the market, looking for future investment possibilities. "If cigarettes is big, I'll invest my money in cigarettes," says Cee, a member of the X-Men. "That's what I'm trying to do," agrees J, a 17-year-old X-Men business partner. "All the money I make, I'm trying to invest it. I buy more product. By the time I reach 21, I'll have my own house."

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  Topics: Flashbacks , Crime, gangs, X-Men
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