Friday, December 5, 2014

The Pursuit

From a distance, I saw the shooter run into the subway. He wore an overcoat that puddled around him and a fedora. As commuters streamed down the stairwells, the fugitive pushed through the crowd and kiosks of vendors shouting in their different dialects. A gypsy with bags under her eyes brushed past me. Checking my wallet, I felt it still there along with the .357 revolver in my shoulder holster.

Chasing him, the escalator dumped us onto a dimly lit train platform. A fluorescent bulb dropped a cone of light onto the messy concrete floor. Cold drafts hunted gaps in my suit, I thrust my hands deeper in my pockets trying to be more invisible. The suspect turned and gave me a curious look before pushing onto the train.

A crowd flowed into the parting doors, I pushed into the gaggle and onto the train. We both sat on worn plastic seats half a car-length apart. Looking away, I gazed at a scantily

clad underwear model with concentration camp collar bones pasted on a billboard. Glancing back, I saw he matched the description

of the bank robber, considered to be armed and dangerous. Without a partner or radio, I was a facade of apathetic cool.

The train swayed gently, passengers resembling bobble-heads, from summer baseball fan appreciation night. He reclined in his seat, pushed his feet forward, and clasped his hands across his abdomen. Settling back into my place, I watched him close his eyes. He was oblivious to his surroundings and this morning’s recent bank shootout.

The mono-toned conductor announced each stop with the inflection of a single piano key playing over and over. Anticipating his next move, I watched and waited.

Metal brakes squealed like rusty nails grinding against steel at each stop. There was a small blinking red light and a buzzer warned the doors were closing.

The train exhaled like an overweight boxer as it moved forward. The lights blinked at the next platform, doors opened and closed, and the train departed.

Brakes squealed at the next stop, the red light blinked, and the doors parted and shut again. Sleeping like a drunk, his chest heaved rhythmically, his eyes remained closed. He was as vulnerable as the day he were born.

My unease multiplied, bank robbers gunning down innocent bystanders, didn’t act like this. Exhaling, I glanced away. He darted for the exit, the doors brushed him farewell.

Watching him bound down the platform stairs, I lunged for the closed doors, weighted by my ignorance and nativity. As quickly as possible, I pressed on the emergency stop button, like a Morse code operator on a sinking ship.

The train jerked to a halt, the doors parted, and I ran onto the platform. Bolting down the stairs, I ran exhaling bursts of air and frustration.

Adrenaline swirled at the base of my skull. There were running footsteps down the desolate tunnel, I stopped for a moment.

They were my footsteps and inexperience running into the fatal funnel of the passenger underpass. My face was long and defeated, I dropped to a knee.

The bullet ricocheted off the ceiling peppering me with concrete and dust. Two more gunshots blasted in rapid succession, followed by a loud metallic thud, and then a series of hollow clicks. He was pulling the trigger faster than an epileptic in full seizure. Click. Click. Click.

Aiming into the abyss with an unsteady hand, my eyes narrowed, focusing on my front gun sight. I squeezed the trigger.

The tunnel roared in a loud blast and yellow flame.