"Not yet. Still a bunch of senators yelling at each other or something."
Leo grinned and shooed Don from the counter. "You burn popcorn. Let me make it."
"I do not always burn…" Don hesitated. "Fine. You do it, I'll go sit on my butt with Mikey."
Leo rolled his eyes and took over the careful stove-top preparations.
Raph couldn't stop a grin, though he wasn't particularly in the mood to smile. "You know he burns things just to get out of cooking."
"Yeah." Leo shrugged. "It works. That's why he's the smart one."
Raph sighed and drummed his fingers on the table absently.
"Did Kate tell you how things went today?"
"I haven't heard from her." Raph spoke flatly, staring at the table. "And I don't plan to."
"What? Since when?"
"Since Tyrone pleaded guilty. Since she doesn't really need us anymore."
Leo shot him a look. "That's dumb, Raph."
"Screw you, Leo."
"She'll call. You know she will."
"She won't." Raph glowered at the same spot on the table. "Why would she?"
"Because she liked you."
"Oh, fuck off."
Leo raised his hands. "Fine. Forget it. You're gonna come watch, right? April said they got some great footage."
Raph grimaced. He knew he'd go watch, of course. It was closure in some small way.
Still, he didn't need Leo being all chirpy about it. Jesus.
His glower rose to a more fitting target than the table.
Leo's smile was gone. "Can I ask you something?"
"You will either way."
"True. So…what was it about that neighborhood? You've really been going there for years? Just looking at that street? I just…why?"
Raph hesitated. He stood up, and lay his hands on the top of the chair after he pushed it in. "At first? It was the kids."
Leo turned to him, listening.
Raph shrugged. "I saw them playing by a fire hydrant someone had opened. They were loud and they cursed and they were dark-skinned, and they were different than the kids we see uptown. All the people there are different. I just…when I thought about being topside, about fitting in somewhere in the human world, I felt like I'd fit in there. Better than anywhere else. I guess…I guess that's it."
"Okay, wait. Why would you want to fit in there?" Leo raised his hands fast before Raph could yell. "Don't get angry, it's just…you have to admit life would be a lot easier in most any other part of this city."
"Maybe. But I think an easy life would bore me." Raph smiled faintly. "You know…the men around that block. People from outside call them criminals and thugs and gangsters. You know what they call themselves?"
Leo shook his head.
"Soldiers. Like they're caught in a war zone and protecting their own." He shrugged. "I could see myself there."
Leo hesitated. After a moment quietly regarding Raph, he nodded. "Okay. Maybe I can understand that after all."
"Hey! Guys! I think it's coming up!"
Raph moved to the door, Leo right on his heels.
"In other news, the end of a tragic story in East New York came today with a guilty plea and an unusual protest. April O'Neil was there. April?"
Mike and Don leaned in that little bit they always gave when April appeared on screen.
"Laura, I'm standing in front of the Kings County Courthouse, where earlier today Tyrone Gardiner pleaded guilty to ten counts of murder and one count of attempted murder. This marks the end of a long few weeks in East New York, where despite finding the bodies of several young girls, sometimes on the same street, police refused to listen to reports of a serial killer."
The TV showed a clip of Tyrone being led into the courthouse by cops. Scowling like he always was.
"Prick," Raph muttered.
"Gardiner managed to murder ten women, one of those a fourteen-month-old girl, without ever attracting the attention of Brooklyn authorities. We can only imagine how many more lives he might have taken if not for this woman."
Raph held his breath as Kate appeared, again through earlier footage. She was standing on the same steps April was now in front of, speaking into a microphone.
"Kate Fadillah was supposed to be Gardiner's eleventh victim. Instead she was able to overpower her attacker and call police, leading them to the suspect and the knife they were able to match to the bodies of the other ten victims."
The scene flashed back to the two vapid anchors behind their little news desk. "April, I understand the people of East New York held a protest at the courthouse today."
April appeared again. "That they did. Angry over so many deaths, and so many ignored calls for help, it was Kate Fadillah herself who led the protest."
They showed footage from earlier. This time they put in the sound, and Raph watched in silence as Kate spoke. Behind her was most of the neighborhood. Kids, adults. An old man in a wheelchair. On his lap, Bug.
"We're here," Kate was saying, "because we want to show the world what it's ignored. Every single person behind me lost someone in the last two months. Mothers, daughters. Sisters. Cousins, school friends. The women killed in my neighborhood meant something to every one of these people."
The camera focused on Bug. Family killed by East New York Killer, read words that appeared below him.
Kate was reading from a wrinkled piece of notebook paper, and Raph could see in her face how nervous she was. "To borrow from Muhammad Ali, the people behind me are America. We are the part you won't recognize. We might be black, and poor, and the women who were killed might have done some wrong things in their lives. But standing here we're families in mourning. We're orphans, we're parents who have buried their children. We're kids who don't understand why our friends aren't there anymore. We loved our sisters, and we buried them. Anyone out there who has ever cared for a woman should recognize us now."
The picture flashed back to the anchors behind their desk. The woman spoke with a practiced frown. "Borough President Marty Markowitz, who originally gave a statement denying reports of a serial killer in East New York, has changed his tune considerably since the arrest of Tyrone Gardiner."
She kept going, but Raph tuned her out. He sat back, and realized there was a small smile on his face.
He pushed it down. Kate looked great, sure. And she spoke well. And things all worked out in the end, as much as they could for a neighborhood that lost so many people.
But…that was closure. That was an ending. He was pretty sure there was nothing about that worth smiling about.
"Man, she was great!" Mike turned to Raph when the station switched to commercials. "Wasn't she great?"
"I liked what she said about how they were still America. 'The part you won't recognize.'" Leo smiled faintly. "Even the parts of the city that get ignored still belong."
"Even the parts that live in sewers?" Don completed with a smile.
Leo shrugged. "It's true."
"Hey, Raph, she's gonna come by sometime, right? I wanna hear all about how that Tyrone creep cried like a baby when the cops picked him up."
Raph stood up. "Forget it, Mike. Move on."
Leo answered. "Raph's being cynical."
"I'm being realistic. Even Splinter told me to remember what we are and not set myself up to get hurt." Raph turned back to face his brothers. "Just let it go."
Three faces looked back at him, dubious.
Raph sighed. "I don't--"
The phone rang.
He blinked over at it.
Leo grinned in triumph. "Ha! I knew it!"
"Raph was wrong," Mike sing-songed. "Raph was wrong."
Tromping to the phone, Raph shot Leo a smirk. "Forget about something in the kitchen?"
Leo shot to his feet. "Damn it, the popcorn!"
"Leo! You didn't burn the popcorn, did you?"
With the loudmouths suitably distracted, Raph picked up the phone mid-ring. He held his breath, and with his face safely out of the sight of his brothers, he smiled.