Thirteen-year-old Kiara Cooper and her boyfriend, Derrick "Terrell" Reed, 15, would talk on the phone each night for hours, sometimes as late as 2 a.m., and there was no reason why Tuesday would be any different.
She had seen him around dinner time, just three blocks from his house. Terrell was pacing, and he looked angry. She asked him what the problem was. He told her to mind her own business, that he couldn't tell her. He promised to call.
Cooper waited by the phone into the early morning. It didn't ring.
Yesterday at William C. March Middle School, where Cooper is an eighth-grader, she found out why. Terrell had been shot once in the abdomen about 9:30 p.m. while standing on a porch in the 2500 block of Aisquith St., the spot where she had seen him earlier. He was taken to Johns Hopkins Hospital and pronounced dead about 3 a.m.
This East Baltimore Midway neighborhood was where Reed, whose 6-foot-1 frame made him look much older than a ninth-grader, was supposed to be safe after coming to live with his grandmother. His father had been shot and killed two months before he was born, and though they didn't talk much about Terrell Sr., family said they had looked out for him to make sure he did not meet a similar fate.
"He was spoiled rotten," said family friend Brooke Blade, Kiara's mother.
"A lot of our big arguments [were because] I didn't want him to end up as he is now," said an uncle, who would only identify himself as Tony. " 'Do right, stop doing dumb things. You're a big boy, do as you're supposed to do.' "
Terrell had recently promised his grandmother, Denise Kelly, that he would finish school and "make something of himself" - he even talked about college. And he made sure to pick up his younger brother and sister from school each day.
His mother, Rona Reed, who lives nearby in the South Clifton Park neighborhood, declined to comment.
There have been about 15 juvenile victims of homicide in Baltimore this year, according to an informal tally by The Baltimore Sun, and Reed was not the youngest. With this year's homicide count down 28 percent compared with last year, the number of juvenile victims has also fallen considerably. But that statistic is little consolation to the families of those caught up in the violence.
"Too many families are losing children today," Kelly said, shaking her head.
Police said Terrell was shot by an unknown assailant while standing on a porch, and they did not know a motive. The boy's family and friends say many youths in the area are involved in gangs, including the Bloods, Crips and other neighborhood "sets," and that tensions had been running high recently, with small arguments breaking out on the streets and in school.
They said Terrell had recently been having problems with some kids in school and that they advised him to tread carefully.
"I ain't worried about it," he assured them. "I'm not doing anything. I can take care of myself."
Because of his size, people often looked to him when they were in trouble. But he was a softie. That wasn't his style.
"Everybody expected so much out of him because he was big, but he was a big baby," Kiara said.
He was more content to play video games - Madden football was his favorite. And he could eat, relatives said, putting hot sauce and ketchup on everything. The night of his death, he downed two plates of spaghetti smothered in hot sauce at Blade's home just a few doors down from his grandmother's home.
It was not uncommon for Terrell to go out in the evening and hang out with friends in the area. He usually stopped by his grandmother's room on his way out, grabbing a handful of candies she kept in a jar. He would joke with her and tease her.
On Tuesday at about 8:30 p.m., Kelly said, he came to her door. "He stood there. Usually he'll say something. But he just looked at me and left out," Kelly said. "Now that I think about it, something wasn't right. He never would leave without saying something to me." Kelly urged those responsible for the crime to come forward. And she had a message for those seeking retribution: "Leave it alone. Let God and the police handle it."
Baltimore Sun reporter Gus Sentementes contributed to this article.