Robert Thorpe’s pain is real. The pain’s location isn’t.
He feels pain because his nervous system is damaged. The kind of pain changes: sometimes he has headaches, sometimes he has muscle cramps, sometimes he has sharp, stabbing pain going up and down an arm, or a leg. Today his pain is in his lower back, and it’s more severe than usual.
There’s never anything specifically wrong with the part of his body that’s suffering at any given time, but he feels the pain all the same.
Years ago the sight of a young black woman sitting alone at Elliot’s Diner might have been cause for concern. Morrisania was once considered the worst the South Bronx had to offer, and the Diner was the unofficial stomping grounds of the Red Sevens, a gang with a reputation for ruthlessness and cruelty. Back then, anyone who wasn’t a Red Seven would immediately be marked a victim if they dared set foot in the place—and a young woman would be considered particularly vulnerable, no matter who she was.
That was before Jacob Dupree bought the place. Before his niece and nephew moved in. Before the Bastions claimed Morrisania as their own.