It’s 1972, and Alex Pappas doesn’t want any trouble. He just wants to go to college and become a writer. He’s not even interested in taking over his father’s coffee shop, much as his father wants him to do. Hoping to stay clear of trouble, as well, is James Monroe, who wants to become a mechanic like his own father. But when Alex and two friends make a beer-fueled run into Washington, D.C.’s Heathrow Heights, an isolated black neighborhood, their worlds are irrevocably ruined. A shouted racial epithet turns into a fight that leaves one boy dead, Alex maimed and James headed for prison.
Dead is Billy Cachoris, who drove the car into Heathrow Heights with Alex and another boy, Peter Whitten. One of those boys throws a cherry pie at someone and yells “Nigger!” That sets off Heathrow Heights kid Raymond Monroe, James’ younger brother, and sparks a fight between the boys in Cachoris’ car and the neighborhood boys. Egging on the Monroe brothers is a thug-in-training named Charles Barker. The fight, which costs Billy Cachoris his life, sends both Peter Whitten and an injured Alex Pappas running.
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