Willie was on time for his work, as usual, sporting a tie and a suit. Even though, he worked independently, he had cultivated the habit of reaching his work place on time.
He had learnt from experience that he could not work with a laid back attitude. Discipline was the first requirement. He was short, as compared to what people imagine a black person to be. He wasn't muscular either. That's why he didn't work with his brothers, because they never took him seriously. Some of his pals had asked him to join him in their work in New York's Central Park, but he had refused, because he hated guns. And he did not want to become a mugger. He wanted to do something he could be proud of. Something that required skill & quick thinking.
He worked quite near the busiest square in the world, the 'Times Square'. Soon he saw his first 'client' approaching him. He was in a hurry, dressed in a black suit and a matching, expensive tie. Willie matched his pace and walked in his direction. They scrubbed past each other. Willie turned and mumbled a quick apology, his client just ignored it and continued on his way. It was a good catch. Willie had picked up the wallet from the top pocket of the hapless victim without him realizing it. Willie examined its contents in a shady alley nearby. Hundred and twenty bucks and 3 gold credit cards and some change. Willie pocketed the contents and disposed the empty wallet in the dustbin near by. He headed to meet his agent to sell off the credit cards as soon as he could.
He reached the Times Square. The stop signal was on. He waited with hordes of people for the walking sign to turn off. He noticed Deshawn standing at the opposite side of the road. Deshawn was in school with him. Was taller than him, wider than him and had made full use of his physique torturing him in school years. To say Willie hated him would be a gross understatement. For Willie, Deshawn was hatred personified. More so because Deshawn had suddenly come into a lot of money recently. He had bullied one of local musicians and sold off his tunes to some big music star. And to show off, he was wearing a gold necklace atop his dirty black jacket. He looked as poor as Willie was, and Willie took pride in the fact that he looked richer than Deshawn actually was. The signal turned off. Willie stepped down from the pavement and started walking, still watching Deshawn. He suddenly noticed a bulge in Deshwan's jacket's breast pocket. It looked like a roll of hundred dollar bills. Willie's eyes flashed. He made up his mind quickly and changed his direction to meet Deshawn mid way.
He brushed into Deshawn from side and skillfully retrieved the bundle of bills. He kept walking straight to get out of there, but Deshawn pulled his coat collar and stopped him. "Hey!", Willie heard him shout. Deshawn pulled his collar and turned him towards himself. He recognized Willie. "You asshole, picking my Money...!!!???". Willie gulped. He could have peed in his pants, but luckily he didn't. He knew what would come next. And as he had guessed, Deshawn pulled him closer and raised his hand to punch. Willie wished he had never seen Deshawn. Deshawn punched and nearly broke his two front teeth and raised his hand to punch again, shouting, "Give me the money!". Just then a cop standing on the pavement shouted "Hey!". Willie had a bright spark. He quickly bent towards Deshawn and inserted the stolen credit cards in his pocket. Then struggling to free himself from Deshawn, he shouted "Mugger! Help!" People around turned and looked, moving away fro them, scared. A cop at the edge of the road jumped in action. Deshwan suddenly saw the picture changing, the crowd staring at him. His lips were sealed, he looked around and saw the cop rushing towards him. He knew Willie had dropped something in his pocket. He knew he would go to jail if the cop got to him. He let off Willie and ran in the opposite direction of the cop. The cop ran after him. Willie didn't wait there either. He quietly slipped away in the crowd.
Willie didn't go to work the next day. He knew that Deshawn would get him if he did. He was lying on the couch, hiding under a thin blanket watching TV, when his school-going cousin, Winner stepped in. "Yo Willie, what are you doing Home?" Willie returned his Yo with a gesture and ignored his question, pretending to be interested in the TV. "Did you hear?", his cousin seemed more excited than usual. "What?", Willie asked, annoyed. "Deshawn...", his cousin said. "What?". Willie asked, startled. He sat up from his lying down posture.
"What about Deshawn?”
"He is dead."
"A cop shot him in a chase yesterday."
"What?” Willie couldn't believe his ears.
"Yeah, the shot went right through his heart", Winner said.
Willie removed the blanket and put his feet down on the ground.
"You know when?” he asked.
"Yeah, yesterday morning 9:30. You know Junior's brother saw him being shot. He was bragging about it at the school..."
Willie didn't hear rest of it. He was too shocked to hear anything. He just sat there, his face as grave as a whole graveyard.
Winner turned his face towards himself. "You listening?"
Willie somehow regained his senses.
"Ya... tell me what happened."
"Junior's brother saw a cop chasing Deshawn. You know the alley behind my school?", Winner paused for an answer.
"Ya, ya", Willie said and gestured for him to go on.
"Deshawn ran through that, but a garbage truck was blocking the other end. Junior's brother was on the garbage truck, from there he saw the whole thing."
"Ok, ok, what happened to Deshawn?"
"That’s what I'm telling man, what’s wrong with you?", Junior didn't like being interrupted.
"Ok. Tell me.", Willie said slowly, trying to keep himself calm.
"Deshawn was kind of scared that he won't be able to run away. He is kinda fat to dodge a cop you know."
Willie nodded, trying hard to keep himself from squeezing Winner's neck and making him talk straight.
"So he pulled out a gun and asked the cop to let him go."
"What? Deshawn had a gun?"
"Ya, all gang people keep one. Don't you know?", Winner asked disappointedly.
"Ok.", Willie said, taking a deep breath. He could have been shot with that gun.
"So then the cop took out his gun and asked Deshawn to put his gun down and lie down on the ground. Cops always ask suspects to lie down on the ground when they arrest them."
Willie nodded again.
"Deshawn moved forward instead of lying down, and the cop got scared that Deshawn would shoot him. Junior's brother could see the cop straight, from the garbage truck."
"Ok", Willie dutifully nodded again.
"So the cop got scared and he warned Deshawn to put his gun down, and Deshawn shouted back to let him go else he would shoot the cop. The cop got real scared and shot at Deshawn. Deshawn shot back but he missed the cop by a couple of inches. Then Deshawn fell down and cop stood there pointing the gun at him. After some time he went and checked Deshawn's neck and relaxed. That's when Junior's brother got to know that Deshawn's dead. You know Deshawn was lying like this", Winner lied down on the floor and spread his arms and legs around and id an imitation of a dead person with his tongue sticking out.
Willie pictured Deshawn lying like that with a bullet hole in his heart and he turned his face away from the sickly sight.
Winner got up, a bit dejected, "What happened?"
"Nothing, I'm just feeling sick.", Willie said, then added, "You better stay away from me, or you'll get sick too.", to get rid of Winner.
"Show me your tongue, doctors check your tongue if you are sick.", Willie's plan backfired.
"No, go check, there are chocolates in the fridge."
This worked. Winner exclaimed, "Chocolates, wow!" and instantly went running to the kitchen.
Willie took a deep breath and closed his eyes. His head was hurting like crazy. Did he kill Deshawn? He hated Deshawn. He was relieved that he wasn't going to get back at him and torture him. But would he have killed him with a gun? Would he have done what he did had he known this would happen?
He realized that no one can find out what is going to happen. He slowly opened his eyes. Did Deshawn die accidentally? Was it more of an accident? Yes, it did seem so. Or did Deshawn invite his own death? By pulling the gun at the cop, by evading arrest? Even this was possible. If he had not pulled his gun at the cop, the cop would have never shot him. He did invite his own death by pulling a gun at the cop. Or did he invite his own death by torturing Willie in school? The thought startled him. Did he? Well, if he hadn't tortured Willie than all this would have never happened either. So was it all Deshawn's fault? Maybe it was.
Willie shook his head. He did not want to think about this anymore. He got up and washed his face in the washbasin.
Winner came running out of the kitchen. "There are no chocolates in the fridge."
"Here, get yourself some", Willie threw Winner a dime from his wallet and then went in to get ready and go to work.
(C) Copyright Neel Bhatt.
Labels: flash fiction, short story