One night in the Bronx


Sweating profusely, Samir took refuge by the side of dumpster in the dimly lit alley way. The running footsteps of his assailants echoed ominously through the rather silent night. “Should have listened to James when he told me not to stay in the Bronx” he mused as he tried to catch his breath back. He heard the footsteps slow down. It sounded like they were just up at the entrance to the alley. Still panting, he tried to hold his breath so that they wouldn’t hear him gasp. He heard one of them mumble something and then there was a crash. From the sound, it must have been one of the many aluminium trash cans that lined the alley all the way to the dumpster.  

“They must be tipping over the trash to make sure I’m not hiding there” he thought as he pushed himself closer to the brick wall away from the light. Not too far away, he could hear more trash cans being thrown about. They were closing in, like predators for the kill. Except that there was nothing stealth-like about the manner in which they were trying to find him. He knew he’d be a sitting duck if he continued to stay there longer. He had to do something. He slowly crouched up. He was going to have to make a run for his freedom. Suddenly the long shadow of a man fell across his feet. From the looks of it, he had a baseball bat in his hand. Slowly the shadow of the man with the bat turned and walked away. Samir breathed a sigh of relief. It looked like he was going to be fine. He looked at his watch. According to the luminous dial on his watch, he’d escaped from the thugs in under 30 minutes. But he was going to wait for a few minutes, just in case.


He listened carefully. Apart from the noise of a few vehicles passing by on the main road, it was still largely silent. He slowly rose up and dusted himself. He was going to have a nasty bruise on his temple, where one of the assailant’s fist had collided with his head. Gently massaging the area, he walked out of the alley. At the entrance, he peered both to his left and right. Apart from a few cars and a couple of drunk revellers, there was no one else that he could notice. Going with his instinct, he decided to turn right. Steadily he walked away from the alley and into the main street. Suddenly he heard the shuffling sound of footsteps behind him. He turned back to look and then froze. He was staring right down the barrel of a gun. A bald behemoth of a man, in whose hands the gun almost looked like a toy, was grinning. Samir noticed a few empty gaps from missing teeth.


Having never been in such a situation before, Samir stood there unsure how to react. A few seconds later the bald man spoke. “Turn around slowly. Put your hand behind your head and keep walking. And no funny business, unless you want a bullet or two put in your sorry head!”. Samir did as he was asked and started to walk down the road, past the alley that he had taken refuge in a little while ago. Fear started to encompass him and he could feel his heart beating rapidly. He’d read about situations like these in books. He’d watched numerous news reports of other people being held at gun point and had tried to imagine what he would have done. But his brain had just gone blank. He could feel the point of the gun nudging against his back every time he slowed down. So he kept walking, only being guided directionally by the gun-toting stranger. He had no clue where he was or where he was headed to. Along with fear, a feeling of helplessness had started to set in too. All he knew was that he had to walk if he didn’t want his brains splattered on the sidewalk.


Samir checked the time on his watch as he walked. It was 2:13 am. “Not the best time to be walking about in the Bronx” he mused as he wondered back how he’d gotten into this situation. Having recently broken up with his girlfriend, he had moved into a dingy studio apartment in the Bronx a few weeks ago. A lot of his friends, especially James, had expressed their concern at moving into a place that was often referred to as “The Hell hole” in their circles. But then, he had no job, no career, no girl friend and whatever he’d saved up was no longer enough to stay in downtown Manhattan in the flat he’d shared with Sarah, his ex girlfriend. So he moved out here. Though he usually chose to be aloof when he encountered any kind of problem, especially one’s that he was not part of, today something different had happened.


Having had a couple of beers too many, Samir had decided that he wanted to take a walk through some of the rougher Bronx neighbourhoods. At 5”10’ and weighing less than 8 stones, Samir was a scrawny man and very out-of-place in the Bronx. Yet when he’d seen a couple of thugs almost beat the life out of a Hispanic man, he had decided to intervene. Fortunately for the Hispanic man and unfortunately for him, the single punch that Samir had thrown at his attackers was right on target and broke one of the attacker’s nose. Although it took him a few seconds to realise the enormity of his action, once he’d realised it, Samir had started to run, eventually finding what he thought had been a very secure hiding place behind the dumpster.


He was snapped back into his present predicament by a sharp nudge against his back. They had come to a large T intersection. From across the road, he could see a large black Hummer parked  on the pavement. And leaning against the vehicle was an enormously tall man easily weighing over 22 stones and built like a statue. And he was holding up a white bandage against his nose and glaring at him. “Go on! Cross the fu**ing road!” yelled the man who was holding the gun against him. Samir stood frozen to the ground. He was now starting to shiver and sweat at the same time.


Behind him was a gun-toting goon who was looking for a reason to use the weapon. Across the street, in front of him, was the apparent leader of this gang whose nose Samir had just broken in his sudden desire to be a hero to some unknown Hispanic chap. And not only did this man have a gun in his hand, he also had two other goons, probably his body guards, who looked like they could crush Samir with their bare hands. Samir felt helpless again. Death was almost a certainty. Though not a staunch believer in the miraculous powers of the  “Person above”, he silently crossed his fingers and put his best foot forward.


Suddenly there was a loud screeching of tires followed by the sound of multiple gun shots. Samir clutched the left side of his stomach and fell to the pavement. As he curled up in a foetal position, unable to concentrate on anything but the piercing pain, he heard the familiar sound of the Police siren. Though he could not be sure, he almost felt like he was within touching distance of the sound. As the sound of more gunshots filled the night air and the smell of gunpowder whiffed up his nostrils, Samir slowly opened his eyes. His hands were bloody but the pain had subsided considerably. There was a Police car blocking his view of the street across. He turned around to his side.


Lying beside him, still clutching his gun, his mouth wide open in shock and  a rapidly reddening circular patch on his forehead, was the goon who minutes ago had walked Samir up to the junction at gun point. In desperation, Samir tried to pry out the ruffian's gun from his dead hands. Unable to do so, he slowly sat up and kneeled over behind the vehicle. Through the shattered windows of the car, he could make out the rapidly changing blue and red lights of the siren as well as the hustle of activity on the other side. Gradually he stood up, a bit more confident, now that he could hear no further shots.


As he walked across the street, which was littered with glass pieces and blood, he could not see any sign of the goons or their “bandaged-nose” leader anywhere. He did see a contingent of police officers mulling around the now bullet-ridden Hummer. Suddenly one of them turned around and rushed towards him. As the officer came over to him, Samir could see that his uniform was stained with blood. The man stopped right in front of him and extended his hands outwards in a shake-hand. Though he was confused, Samir extended his hand too and clasped the officer’s strong hands.


“Congratulations! You’ve just helped us nail one of New York’s most wanted. Well done!” he said grinning happily. Bewildered at the sudden turn of events, Samir just stood there. The officer pointed over to the huddle of policemen still mulling around the vehicle and said “Oh, before I forget. Officer Ramirez sends his gratitude for saving him from Antonio and his thugs. If it wasn’t for your timely punch, Ramirez would have been in the morgue now. The NYPD is in your debt.”


And with this, the policeman walked away. As Samir looked over at the thinning crowd across the road, he noticed someone wave at him. He squinted in an attempt to find out the person. It was the Hispanic man who had gotten him into this mess in the first place.


[This post is written for the Project 365 program at We Post Daily aimed at posting at least once a day, based on the prompts provided. The prompt for today was "Helpless - that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –-and what did you do about it?". I've merely used this prompt as the situation for a short story, which I hope you enjoyed]