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Story pick: Prelude to a tragedy

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Paul Duggan is a masterful storyteller. In the first of a two-part series in The Post, he takes readers deeply into the nine days that led up to one of the most shockingly violent episodes - the drive-by shooting March 30 that killed three and wounded six others - in a city that has been torn by violence for decades. The second part, Deadly Retaliation, is up on the web Thursday and will be published in the newspaper Friday.

Duggan does it all - evokes rich scenes that give a 'you are there' feel with telling detail, deftly sketches characters and briskly tells the story not only of what happened but why - and all with a distinctive voice, at once authoritative, street savvy and world weary.

Listen.

On the wrist of Sanquan "Bootsy" Carter, the bracelet looked like what it was: a band of cheap yellow metal, 1 5/8 inches wide, encrusted with scores of sparkly glass studs.

Just chintzy bling.

To its impetuous young owner, though, it was a dazzling bangle, and it would become a wellspring of violence and sorrow after it went missing one night while Bootsy partied in a Southeast Washington apartment.

Which is where the story begins.

It ends at South Capitol and Brandywine streets SE, just over a week later, March 30, in a burst of gunfire that jolted the city's conscience: a drive-by attack that killed three people, ages 16 to 19, and wounded six, including the only victim older than 20, shot in the head and still unconscious.

All of it off that bracelet.

The carnage took about half a minute. But a lot of lethal scheming and prior mayhem gave rise to it -- a lot of low-watt thinking and impulsive vengeance unfolding over the previous nine days in an underworld of dope-peddling and casual murder, a prelude as vicious and squalid as this 30-second finale:

Nursing week-old bullet wounds and a homicidal grudge, police said, the driver eased the silver Chrysler Town & County to a halt in front of 4022 South Capitol St., a dilapidated brick house. At least 15 young people were milling on the sidewalk and perched on the concrete steps in the early evening. Down went the windows of the minivan, and gunfire flashed, 23 shots from three guns ripping indiscriminately into the crowd, the victims shrieking as they spun and fell in heaps.

This is about why it happened.

It's the kind of writing that makes it hard to wait for the next installment.

By Brigid Schulte  | June 3, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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Next: Inside the Southeast shootings story

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