‘Sleep Diver‘ Part 3 – A Subway Train named Sitting Bull
The MTA is quiet; its late, the train almost empty. I sit back and remember how Afghan Dan first appeared on my radar. The call from New Jersey; an Afghan man skipping bail on a misdemeanour, did I want the mark?
I tracked him down to the Lone Star State. He put up one hell of a fight, then begged me to cut him loose, “no man you don’t know what’s going on! You gotta let me go man your killing me.”
We drove into an ambush on route to the Sheriffs Office. He took a gunshot wound to the chest. I got lucky; the slugs still in my shoulder. Two dead bad guys and a witness box. Some misdemeanour that was. We’ve been close ever since. Dan and the Kitchen Table Man, they’re all I’ve got.
The trains half full now. An old Indian sat opposite stares intently at me. He’s huge, a real chief sitting bull. Our eyes lock. The booze starts to ware off. I feel unnerved; possible situation brewing. Too big for a take down, but he’s old, real old, maybe wise to common sense…
“What’s up old man you loose ya squaw?” The Indian remains silent, “listen Chief this ain’t the cuckoos nest quit staring at me.”
Its as if he sees straight through me. Who knows, maybe he does.
“Jeez we got a live one here and it’s making me nervous!” I raise my voice while scanning either side of the train. His silence spooks me.
“I thought the L Train held the freak show at this hour.” None of the other passengers pay any attention.
The train stops at 116 & 8th. ‘Stand clear of the closing doors.’
Using the interruption to save face; I look along the carriage. Its then that I see her, through the window, out on the platform… Marcie!
It can’t be, surely to God… how, where, what the fuck?
I’m up and on my feet, hearing myself shout her name ‘Marcie’ as I dash for the door.
Like a God damn limpet mine this fuckwit latches onto my wrist. His hand squeezes so tight it stops me dead in my tracks. He’s rooted solid; unmoving.
“Fork tongue White Man, speak slowly.” His eyes never leave mine.
“Let go Sitting Bull or I’ll unleash the fucking Cavalry!”
Again…‘Clear the closing doors!’ And he lets go. I burst forward, almost make it. The doors nip shut, my hand half a second behind.
She climbs the stairs as the train bolts off. “Marcie,” I scream.
Geronimo laughs as I bray on the glass.
My heart thuds through my chest, head spins, time seems to stop. His laughter pulls me back.
The train screeches into the next station.
“I be seeing you Cryl.”
“What did you just say mother fucker?”
He reaches inside his coat and pulls out a bottle: Mad Dog 20/20.
“I be seeing you Cryl,” he repeats, pushing the wine my way.
I walk the last nine blocks home and find the place a crime scene surrounded with yellow tape. A squad car parked up front; two cops on the sidewalk. Across the street in the shadows, leaning on the corner of a building… a figure. I recognise the shape.
“What happened?” I say as I get close.
He turns to walk away. I reach out and throw him back against the wall.
“What the fuck is going on Zorro?” My hands grab his collar, “don’t give me any of that ‘No Hablar Ingles’ bullshit.”
He smiles. Silver glints from his teeth as sparks fire up in my skull; the glitch in my consciousness – they flash behind my eyes; an electric buzz in my ears. My stomach turns, I begin to convulse then crash to the floor. His face hovers close above mine, “dulces sueños Señor Cryl.” He laughs as his fist slams into my jaw.
A trailer on the beach. I wake to sunlight and the sound of a radio. Eddie Grant jams away —“You left me with a problem. Now I know what its all about…”
Expecting to see her cooking breakfast as I walk into the other room— “Do You feel my love..” and grab a beer from the fridge. She’s outside talking to someone. Her voice seems muffled, almost a whisper. I step out through the door and onto the sand. They pause, both look at me before scrambling into the car… her and Dan. The car speeds off —“Feel my love as I walk away.”
I turn to hear laughter coming from the sea. Louise Wishbourne wades through the water towards me. “Just me and you now Eli,” screaming as she dives at me, then the Glitch sparks up again.
My head pounds. I sit up. A half empty bottle on the nightstand. I grab the whiskey and take a swig. Last night comes flooding back. Downstairs is shot full of holes. This is fucked up.
The Cops found me out cold. I remember they ran a radio check, letting me in when my key fitted the lock. I grabbed a bottle on the way to the stairs… ‘That’s four now Dan’
The next night: a room behind the Beacon Theatre.
The Meeting ends…
‘Who you see here, what you hear here, when you leave here… please let it stay here!’
We grab a coffee from the street vendor. I drop a scotch in the mix as he turns to pay.
“What’s going on Eli?” he says, not trying to hide the concern.
“Not sure,” I reply. “Starting to wonder, maybe I’m loosing it.”
“Jails, Institutions and Death!” He swigs coffee.
“Marcie showed up yesterday.”
“What? How did that—”
“And Dans missing!”
Startled, he pauses, stares straight into me, “you better start at the beginning my friend. The truth Eli; the whole truth!”
I explain recent events: the booze, Miss Lou, Dan, the fucked up dreams and shocks to the skull, Marcie, Zorro, and the old native on the train.
When Im finished he just stands there quietly drinking coffee deep in thought.
“Tell me again, how you first meet Dan?”
“Old story.” I feel the hip flask in my pocket; that need for a drink, “why now?”
“Dunno, maybe I forgot, getting old, memory a bit fried.” He throws the coffee cup in a trash basket nearby. “Lets just say the booze blew a few amps,” He laughs, “whatever man just humour me.”
We walk west along 73rd Street towards Broadway.
“Ok.” I start, “I get to go play hide and seek with him down in Texas. Turns out he was in over his head; some dangerous characters, a heroin bust, nearly got us capped, he takes the stand, we live happily ever after.”
I pull out a pack of cigarettes offering him one as I light up.
“Yeah until the wicked witch shows up.” He takes the cigarette, “Whishbourne, what is it she wants?”
“Find a mark, what else!” I say.
“Exactly, what else, what about Dan?”
“Meaning what?” I snap.
“A drug bust brought you together. This ‘Miss Lou’ has him spooked, his place gets hit, he hails from the worlds largest exporter of heroin and—”
“Dans from the Bronx,” I interrupt. “His mother an Afghan, the old man a pipe hitting Negro doing 25 to life in Rykers Island.
“Yeah and he’s missing. Running scared by the sounds of it.” He stands on the cigarette.
“Right then my cell phone rings ‘ID withheld.’ I notice the tremor in my hand.
“Answer it,” he says.
“Mr Cryl?” Its Wishbourne.
“Yeah, listen lady I’ve been thinking, maybe I will pass on your offer of employment. The timing feels wrong.”
“Really Mr Cryl?” She sounds disinterested, “given your relationship to the mark, I would say the timing feels perfect.”
“Why you say that?” Sweat trickles down my brow.
“The man by the name of…” She pauses, “I believe you call him Afghan Dan!”
By the time I make it to the centre of the bridge I’m soaked to the skin and a little pissed off. The flag above the brick arch barely noticeable, almost hidden under a cold mist. The Manhattan skyline burns bright as I power on towards Brooklyn. Cars zoom bellow. Its dark; midnight usually is.
I almost regret not taking the subway then remember why; I need to be sharp, its the only game in town. I cant risk the hustle of a late train over the river with some psycho playing for laughs.
Almost there now. I can see where the sidewalk slopes down into a stair case. The stone walls lead down onto Dock Street. “Meet me there Mr Cryl,” she had said, “and one other thing… Come alone.”
My hand goes to the right side pocket; I feel the gun through the trench mac. In the left pocket a hip flask. I stop, take a drink, go to return the flask then take another swig. Whiskey – the one constant through this shitstorm of life. I have a need to give it up, but not now. Now I need it more than ever.
I pause at the first step. Its dark. Silent. I head down slowly giving my eyes a moment to adjust, ‘Still scared of the dark Cryl’, the thought flashes through my mind.
I make it to the bottom. Nothing. I look around. Still nothing. The sound of cars fading into the distance, but here just an arch leading to an empty street… a ghost town.
I light a smoke and draw hard. Leaning into the wall, my head pushes back into the cold stone.
“Eli Cryl,” I hear from up the stairs.
“Come out come out wherever you are!” A shiver breaks through my body. I know that voice, know it very well. I make my way to the bottom step and there stood on the level, silhouetted, hood up, but unmistakably her… Marcie.
“Hey sugar tits, how you been?”
This isn’t like anything I ever imagined. “What you doing here baby, what the fucks going on?”
Another figure appears at the top of the stairs. He places an arm around her waist and a gun to the head. I see the sparkle in his smile. “Señor Cryl,” laughs Zorro.
“Don’t move Eli, we don’t have much time.”
“We as in all three?”
Zorro laughs some more.
“She wants you dead,” says Marcie.
“Most people do.” I feel a tear leave my eye. ”Where did you get to? You broke my heart leaving like that.” An anger starts to rise; I feel for the gun. Light bounces back from the Mexicans smile.
“Its over Señor.” I knew that fucker spoke english.
He screams, “its time to die Eli Cryl.”
I hear the gunshot ricochet off the stone as a side force rams me into the wall. I free the gun from my pocket and scramble onto one knee. I squeeze off a shot as Zorro disappears out of sight.
I look behind, see the Chief walking off into the darkness, towards Brooklyn.
“I be seeing you Cryl,” he says.
That glitch again. My mind paints sparks that fire deep into my brain. An electric buzz bursts through my ears. The skin on my forehead heats like coal, then quick as it came… its gone!
I vomit violently. Unable to focus; I reach out to the wall, balance almost fails me.
“Marcie,” I wail, sprinting up the stairs.
I see Zorro running, at least a hundred yards ahead. I consider taking aim. Whats the point? Hard shot any day of the week, with the rain in my eyes… Impossible.
Frantically my eyes search for Marcie. Nowhere to be seen. On the ground a card. I pick it up, a strip joint: ‘Down the Rabbit Hole’ – New Jersey. On the back, written by hand ‘Lou’s Place.’
To be continued…
D&O in Fresno