by R L Saunders
Alan laid his fingers on the man’s neck and felt no pulse, saw no rise and fall of the chest that would indicate breathing. The kid was dead. Hardly surprising, considering the long blade thrust toward his heart. Alan sighed, then swore. Well, he thought, it was him or me and he attacked me. Surprisingly, he felt saddened at the death of the young criminal. Almost automatically he pulled the revolver from the young man’s belt, an old .38 Special. Wished he were better with a handgun. Might need to use it in the next few minutes. He had grown up with rifles but couldn’t hit a barn from the inside with a pistol.
He looked out toward the piers, listening intently, hoping he wouldn’t hear anyone else. Perhaps the kid had just been trying to rob me? Then why hadn’t he pulled the gun and simply held me up? Why come at me with the knife? No, he wanted me dead, and quietly. That implied there were others around. For the first time, Alan noticed the other body and the briefcase at the back of the alley.
He had been taking an evening walk down by the Westside piers, a thing he often did when his Muse balked. Ducking into an alley to light a cigarette, he heard the attacker behind him. Turning, he saw the knife and without thinking, dropped to the ground and kicked the attacker’s feet from under him. As the young man fell, he had instinctively tried to break his fall. Alan grabbed the hand with the knife and turned it. The man’s whole weight had come down on the blade and it was over, just like that. Just like that, Alan thought. No preparation, no pleading, no time for regrets or last words. One moment he was alive and vital, the next he was dead. Could happen anytime, he thought. To anyone, even you.
Since there didn’t seem to be any activity in the street, he knelt by the second body. Dead too, his throat cut, blood all over hell. Judging by his appearance, he was homeless. Probably been sacked out here when the other guy arrived. Just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, Alan thought. He turned the man onto his back and felt the hair rise on the back of his neck. Except for being older, dirtier and unshaven, the dead man bore a remarkable resemblance to Alan himself. A wallet and a few papers had fallen out of the man’s pocket and Alan picked them up automatically. Richard Paul Evans: Driver’s License, Social Security card, miscellaneous photos and letters, two dollars, one bank card and the bill for that card . Not much to show for your life, mister, he thought. He turned to the briefcase and moved back to the edge of the building to catch the streetlight.
Opening the briefcase, he found it stuffed with bundles of Fifties and Hundreds. He sat back on his heels and his mind went into high gear. That explained why the young man had attacked him and it did not bode well for his chances of surviving the next few minutes. He had undoubtedly stumbled into a drug deal going down. If the late unlamented had just finished selling, his buyers might still be around. If he was waiting to buy, the sellers must be expected momentarily. Either way, he had to figure on trouble.
Sure enough, a large black limo was cruising slowly down the street, as though the driver were looking for something or someone. If he was lucky, he thought, there wasn’t a particular meeting spot. Maybe the driver was just supposed to cruise until the buyer approached the car. Better not bank on it. If they’re looking for this particular spot, I don’t want to be here when they arrive, he thought.
He turned and breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of the fire escape. Tossing the briefcase onto the first landing, he paused, then picked up the dead man’s wallet again. A plan was beginning to form in his mind. He extracted the Driver’s License and bank card and dropped the wallet, then jumped to catch the lowest rung of the fire escape. The ladder was supposed to swing down under his weight, but evidently the residents had immobilized it, probably because it made entrance too easy for potential burglars. Suited him. Made it more difficult for them to follow. He swung up to the landing, picked up the briefcase and clambered higher. Reaching the top, he came to an open window. If he entered, he’d have to exit the building normally, and might implicate the person in the apartment. Didn’t want to do either.
He heaved the briefcase onto the roof and began to scramble higher. Fortunately, the old brick and the once-fancy architecture left plenty of ledges and crannies. In a few seconds he dropped over the ledge onto the roof, just as a flashlight shone into the alley below. They knew where he’d be. When the find him dead, they’ll be some disturbed. When they find the briefcase missing, they’ll be mighty disturbed. Time to get the hell out.
He headed across the roof and dropped to the adjacent building. A few more buildings and he could climb down at the other end of the block and be away before they could find him. He chuckled softly to himself, then stopped. While he had the money, they had the drugs. That rankled. He had half a mind to return and face them, maybe shoot the bastards and drop the drugs off the pier. Don’t know how many there are, he reminded himself. There were better ways to skin this cat. He ran lightly down the fire escape of the end building and set off down the street.
Stepping into the light of Seventh Avenue, he headed for a phone booth. Might as well tell the cops. Maybe they could stop the limo if they got lucky. At least they’ll find the bodies. They weren’t going anywhere.