"Bam and the works," Cecil called out as a car passed the vacant rowhouse where he sold drugs. The driver stopped, flashed six fingers to order "the works," and turned into an alley off of 1300 Wallach Pl. NW to wait for the order to be filled.
A "runner" bought Cecil two brown bags from beneath the fender of a car parked nearby. One contained hundreds of aspirin-size, pink weight-control pills called Preludin, a drug available by prescription that has been widely misused as a powerful stimulant known on the streets as "bam." "The works" is street talk for plastic insulin syringes, which the runner carried in the other bag.
"Six works coming right up," Cecil said with a smile.
Throughout the night dozens of cars paraded along Wallach Place. They came from everywhere around [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] and according to their license tags, from Michigan, Tennessee, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. To disappointed latercomers Cecil was forced to reply, "Sorry, all sold out."
"A pretty good night," the runner said. "It's the rage," Cecil replied.
But this is not the only action on Wallach Place these days. Joseph Jones, 82, who has long watched from behind his row house curtains the shadows of junkies mugging johns and buyers getting burned, noticed something startlinely different one morning:
White people, the well-to-do kind, began moving into the 100-year-old, steepled, arched and flat-topped Victorian row houses on Wallach Place.
They began to arrive last year in the neighborhood that for a long time had been portrayed by some members of Congress and other observers as occupied only by violent and outrageous "inner city" blacks. With a pioneer spirit and an arsenal of window bars, mopeds and sentry dogs, the newcomers easily won the respect and friendship of the many well-established black residents such as Jones who welcome reinforcement in the decade-old battle to retake Wallach Place.
"Bam and the works? I heard that," said Joseph Jorgens, a white engineer in his early 30s. "I thought they were swearing at my wife." Joe was raised in suburban Minneapolis. He and his wife, Eve, who is a doctor at Providence Hospital, were the first of nine whites to move into the block. They came from Dupont Circle a year ago.
"We wanted an area where people still behaved like neighbors but also an area, where we felt we could make a contribution," Eve Jorgens said. "It has been kind of rough. We had a lot to learn."
"Still do," Joe said. "But this is a terrific neighborhood. The people who live around here are beautiful. And there aren't as many dirtballs (Minnesota talk for street dudes) as compared to a year ago."
"Joe and some of the kids built a clubhouse and a basketball goal," Eve said proudly.
"Yeah, but the creeps destroyed the clubhouse," Joe said, pounding his palm with a fist. "We're working on plans for a newer, stronger one that they can't tear down," he said.
"You should see 'em," Eve said. "You give these kids a tool and they just go crazy."
Joseph Jones, a retired general contractor who built some of the homes on Wallach Place, is delighted. He points out that Joe Jorgens regularly walks his dog, a large German Shephard trained to attack.
"He's very courteous, speaks to everybody - but the dog creates an air of respect that we haven't had around here in a while," Jones said.
Louie Willis, 65, Jones' roomate, mumbled with some uncertainty, "I guess we could use more like 'em." Willis has lived on Wallach Place since 1932, when the alley now run by junkies was called Temperance Court.
"I just can't say nothing good about this street yet. Not the way they hold up the old people and knock them out," Willis said. "They say it's getting better, but it's as far away from what it was as chalk is to cheese. Night time don't catch me out here."
Jones consoled his friend. "But it's so nice out here now," he said one recent morning as the two men stood on the steps at 1334 1/2 Wallach Pl. in the cool autumn air.
"They're asleep," Willis mumbled again.
Later around midnight, when "they" were awake, Wallach Place exploded with bam and the works.
"I gotta make money, too," Cecil said without apology. "And you know how it is around here - Drug City."
According to the police, up to 1,000 unemployed and idle black men and youths regularly gather at 14th and Wallach Place and a block away at 14th and T Streets to buy drugs and sex, often with money obtained by robbing the many senior citizens who live in the area.
A steel blue Buick Electra 225 sizzled past Cecil's drug store, leaving two collegiate-looking men who wore Howard University sweat shirts standing in a cloud of dust - one with his mouth agape but unable to speak, the other staring hypnotically at some white stuff in the palm of his hand. "You can always tell somebody been looking for a taste, but end up getting burned out here on Wallach Place." Cecil said.
At 3 a.m. on July 4, Steve Cohen, a white 20-year-old apprentice meat cutter from suburban Woodbridge, Va. was being driven around Washington by a 17-year-old acquaintance who stopped at the corner of 14th and Wallach Place - where there are no traffic lights - a few yards from where Cecil's "front" is sometimes located.
Five youths approached the car and, after a few words were exchanged, one pulled out a .45 caliber pistol, stuck it through the open window and shot Cohen in the forehead. He was taken to Howard University Hospital, where he died the next day.
"It's mostly young kids - 14- to 17-year-olds selling the drugs, snatching the pocketbooks and mugging," said Dennis Wills, an undercover policeman who works in that area. "But we know that there are a lot of guns out there and that makes it more dangerous."
At midnight on Sept. 10. Maurice Lucas, 16, who lives at 1325 Wallach Pl., was pointing a pistol toward a street light in an alley behind his home when two undercover policemen spotted him and ordered him to freeze.
Police said the youth ignored the order and was shot when he pointed the gun at them. The boy turned out to be holding a BB pistol which looked like a .45 caliber pistol.
"It's a tough situation," said Deputy Police Chief Charles Rinaldi. "The thing looked so real. It makes you think about people who sell those things to the children."
Rinaldi said that the whites who move into the Wallach Place area frequently complain to the police and that patrols have been increased.
"I'd say the area was definitely on the way up again," Rinaldi said. "We've always had decent, hard-working people living on Wallach Place and now the transients seem to be tapering off."
Doris Gray, 38, who has lived on Wallach Place for 23 years, said that lately she has noticed the increased effort by police and is pleased.
"The only thing that makes me feel bad is that the whites had to move back before we got more protection," she said. "All the years that I"ve been harassed. We used to have neighbors who would fight, but they died or moved away. When I came in here there were nothing but prominent blacks-doctor, lawyers, teachers and government employes. Now all you hear about is bam and the works."
Cecil, who is 21, has been selling drugs in the neighborhood for five years. "When the white folks started moving in, I knew that was a sign," he said. "All I want to do is get out of here. All of my friends gone. The speculators bought their parents out.
While he talked, he drank beer and smoked a marijuana cigarette. "I don't mess with that other stuff (narcotics)," he said. "It tears you down. I see what it does to those junkies. But these freaked out dudes, man, they love it. Silly. They can't stay away," he said, shaking his head.
"Me? I'm just a beer'n reefer man, myself. You give me a blanket and some good herb and let me lay out on the waterfront with my lady and I'm OK. When they catch you selling those syringes, they fine you $50 for vending without a license. It's becoming too much hassle for the kid."
Cecil said he dropped out of high scholl to take over the drug business of an older man whom he watched make $900 a day. "He told me if I really hustled I could take in at least $400," Cecil said. "That was sweet, especially since every job I had paid around two, three dollars an hour-before taxes. That ain't nothing."
Florence Gilchtrist, who has lived on Wallach Place for 53 years, said that although she had not been robbed, the screams, shouts and gunshots steal precious night time quiet and locks her in a stale of fear.
"I thought that when the white people moved in things would change. But they're just as scared as us. The police come through more, yeah, but that's all they do," she said.
Joe and Eve Jorgens admit that they were scared when their home was burglarized twice during their fiarst six months on Wallach Place.
"We were feeling pretty rejected," Eve said.
"Yeah, like real down, Joe said.
But Angel, the dog, helped them overcome their fear.
"We got an anonymous note-sounded like it was from a woman." Eve recalled . "It said they hoped we wouldn't take the break-ins as a racial slur because many others had been robbed. It said we were really welcome and hoped that we would stay," she said.
"That made us feel a lot better," Joe said.
One day recently, joseph Jones was walking to the Sunny South Market, at 14th and T streets NW, heading toward the crowd of youths that he once hopelessly peered at with fear. He waved his heavy cane at Joe and Angels as he passed them on the street and tuckled his other hand into a brown bag that served as a holster for his snub-nosed .38 revolver.
"I think we're gonna get it back," he said.