There was no anger in the monologue, no suggestion of violence. But still, the Matthewses were disappointed. Dontay knew that they were devoted Baptists and that they frowned on making racial distinctions between people.
"It didn't seem like the boy I knew talking," Mr. Matthews says. "It seemed like he believed society owed him something."
'You seen my mother?'
J. R. McPherson was home on North Collington Avenue when his old friend showed up at the rowhouse, a day after climbing off the Greyhound. The two teen-agers, who had briefly attended middle school together, shook hands and clapped each other on the back.
Then Dontay and J. R. went out on the steps to talk. J. R. loved to talk with Dontay: "Make no mistake, that boy had a brain," he says. "We was rap buddies, meaning we could talk about things."
The conversation drifted back and forth, from girls and kids from the neighborhood, to new things like prison and the Nation of Islam.
"He was talking about having learned about being a Muslim and all," remembered J. R., now a junior in high school. "But I can't say that I think it led to what they say happened later. He was saying some of the things the Muslims believe about white people, but he wasn't talking about doing violence. That wasn't Dontay. Steal a car, sure."
Then came the question that J. R. had been expecting.
"You seen my mother?"
The other teen-ager shook his head. He had seen Sharon Matthews around from time to time. As far as he knew, she was still on the street.
Three days later, Dontay was back and once again, the two teen-agers shared some words. "I know where my mother is," Dontay said abruptly. "I know she's all right."
Then he was gone, walking down Collington toward the square.
It was there, on the corners across from the Super Pride, that Dontay met up with Day Day and others from the neighborhood. It was there, at Patterson Park and Chase, that detectives believe a plan took shape.
Days later, when the youths from Collington Square were locked in separate interrogation rooms, telling detectives their tales, they would say that the scheme came from Dontay. The business with the credit cards and the fake driver's licenses -- that was something he brought back from Hagerstown, they said.
Dontay Carter, through his public defender, declined to be interviewed for this article. The charging documents say that when the crimes in which he and his three co-defendants are accused began on Feb. 7, they began with Dontay alone.
There was only one gunman who attacked the first victim in the Johns Hopkins garage that day, ordering Dr. Daniel Ford into the trunk of his car and driving away. Days later, when detectives went to the doctor and another witness with photos of their young suspects, both identified Dontay Carter.
It was Dontay alone who is charged with participating in all three abductions, just as it was his photo that was used to adulterate the driver's licenses of Dr. Ford and the second victim, Vitalis Pilius. The father of four young children, Mr. Pilius was abducted from the Harbor Park garage. He was found dead three days later in a vacant rowhouse basement.
And it was Dontay, detectives said, who walked into the Omni Inner Harbor Hotel on West Fayette Street and used the dead man's credit card, renting rooms to party with a co-defendant and two girls, running the pay-for-play movies, then fleeing as police were closing in. One suspect was caught at the hotel, two others at their homes the next morning.
On the charging documents, the motive for all of it would be robbery, clear and simple. But for anyone who got a look at the young suspects as they flashed the credit cards, there is something unsettling and incomplete in that. To those who watched these teen-agers rejoice in the spoils, it didn't seem to be about the money. It didn't even seem to be about the things the money bought.
On Feb. 7, within hours of the kidnapping of Dr. Ford, a young man police say was Dontay Carter walked into the Cycle World Honda showroom on Pulaski Highway. He dropped a Citibank Mastercard on salesman Dennis Kelley.
"Gimme two of these," the teen-ager told Mr. Kelley, gesturing at a Honda dirt bike.
"Only one in stock," the salesman informed him.
"Then how about that one?" asked the teen-ager, choosing a Yamaha without even looking it over. At a cost of $3,400, the bikes were selected, paid for, and loaded into a car trunk with the same level of deliberation that most people reserve for carrots and cabbage.
The only real hitch came when a Citibank operator, alerted by the suspicions of Mr. Kelley, asked to have the teen-ager put on the phone to answer a few questions for verification. With the salesman watching, the young man -- calm and collected throughout the visit -- convinced the operator that he was a co-signer on the card.