Hello my fire starters. This short story I written I had submitted for a writing contest. Please let me know how you like it.
The crow cawed before the sun rose in the sky. ‘Bad omen’ was the thought that crossed my mind. Normally I wouldn’t care what time I left the house to catch the train but today was different. Today every hair on my body stood on end, my stomach felt constricted with nerves.
This was not going to be any normal day. The sun was scheduled to rise at seven fifteen. It was now seven thirty and the moon was still in the sky. Another bad omen.
I pull out my mental roller deck of prayers to make it safely to my destination.
A cab stopped in front of me. I would chose to take him instead of waiting for the local bus. Which by my watch was running late.
That was a third sign and yet I still headed on my way to work.
The drive to the train was uneventful. I convinced myself that I had to stop with all the superstitions. I paid my fare and ran to catch the train before it left the station.
I was just in time to squeeze in before the doors closed.
The train cart looked like any other New York City train cart except for the tall man that stood at the back exit.
I felt him staring before seeing him truthfully. I tried my best to ignore him but I could not shake the feeling that he was not normal. I could not get a good look at him. He seemed to be standing exactly right so that it seemed he was in shadow.
The train made three stops before a man who was living out of his shopping cart entered.
The mysterious man in the back watched the homeless man that entered. The air in the cart seemed stagnant almost enter to be choked by.
The train went into the tunnel and the lights went out for a few moments. No one moved or said a word. All you heard were the train rolling on the tracks and all you felt was the swaying of the cart. It was like we all knew not to move.
Once the lights returned, the homeless guy was slumped over his cart. Looking as if he fell asleep and the mysterious man was standing where he was before the lights went out.
But the air had a foul smell to it. I thought it was the normal odor from a person who had not showered in ages. That was my first thought, then a memory immerged in my mind. “Liver”.
Yes it smelled liked a bloodied liver. I glanced at the man that stood by the door and seen what no one else had noticed. The small puddle that he was standing in. It could have been water if it was raining. It could have been spilled coffee if he had any before I arrived. But I knew it was neither, I quickly turned my head and tried to focus on the movement of the train.
The man started to walk down the aisle. From the far end of the cart to the other. Passing in front of me, leaving dark red drops across my folded legs. He stood in front of the doors opposite a man with his eyes closed and nodding his head to the music he was listening too.
My heart jerked as the trained stopped and the doors opened.
The man left the cart. At that very moment the oblivious passenger that sat where he stood, realized that bloody foot prints made its way off the train.
A scream was let out by a young girl of fifteen as the homeless man fell over exposing his throat that was ripped out and gaping.
What a morning.
I made it into work two hours late due to the police questioning everyone that could have possibly seen the killer.
The need to get out of there as soon as possible was so strong I almost lost the contents of my stomach on the platform. The people who were there in the cart, were a mixture of media hopefuls and annoyed citizens.
I was neither. All I wanted was out. Sargent Lines was the one who questioned me, which felt more like grilling than questioning.
Once the ambulance came to pick up the body, the sergeant let me go. He handed me his card, stating if I could remember anything please call him.
I nodded and left as quickly as I could. The sun finally rose but it was not as bright as normal and the air smelled clean. Which is almost a praise on air quality when you work in the city.
Walking into “Hos. Med. Inc.” was the best feeling ever. I went straight to my office, locked the door behind me, took my goose down coat off and screamed into it until I could scream any longer.
I manage to collapse into my chair and take several deep breaths.
The image of the blood dripping across my lap was etched into my skull. I had to get them off immediately. I had sweat pants in my draw that I stashed for those rare days I would want to go to the gym after work. I quickly pulled out and changed into. I threw the pants in the trash. I did not want to try to save it. My mind will replay the incident every time I pulled it out.
Looking at the clock on my desk, I knew there will have to be explaining to do to my supervisor but I had to get myself together first or else I will fall apart in front of her. I sprayed air freshener in my office to help get rid of the scent of blood that was probably not even there but had to be trapped inside my nose.
It helped slightly. Forcing my mind to do the same ritual it did every day to make me feel a quarter normal was a task on its own.
Finally I was ready to face Lillian Farmer, my manager. She is a five feet, five inch Irish, Pilipino woman. She is absolutely pleasing to the eye until the appearance of the lines.
First her eyes level out and three vertical lines appear between her brow bones. Then her naturally bowed lips almost become as thin as construction paper because she curls them in to bite them. Finally the two vertically deep crest shape lines appear at the side of her mouth.
This all occurs the first few seconds of entering her office.
I took a deep breath. Let it out as slow as I could and knocked on her door.
As I open the door a swish of hot air goes across my skin.
I stepped in to be greeted by the lines.
“Why are you so late? You are supposed to call to inform me of any delays.”
“I am so sorry. I was being questioned at a crime scene.”
This piqued her interest.
“Crime scene. Did someone get robbed?”
“No actually a homeless man was murdered and they kept everyone who was in the cart there for a while. I could not use my phone because I have lousy service on the subway.”
Something happened to Lillian Farmer. The lines disappeared and a look of enthusiasm appeared. The same looked she gets when she presents one of my ideas as her own and gets praised for it.
“Do they have a picture of the person from the platform cameras?”
“I’m not sure. They did not let us know any of that information.”
“Okay well your excuse for being late is acceptable. You can go get yourself some coffee and get to the data analytic report for the meeting tomorrow.”
I gave her a forced smile and walked out of her office. She proves to me every day that I need to get out of this job.
The staff kitchen was a bit small but it suitable since we have a staff of thirty eight people. The Kureig was being used by Bria.
She always greets everyone with a smile. Bria has been with us a year and the environment had not tainted her a bit.
“Hi, I didn’t see you earlier. Are you working late today?”
When Bria asked you a question you feel it is out of genuine curiosity. There is not a malicious bone in her body and I felt she will not last much longer at this backbiting office.
“I was held up because someone was killed in the cart I was in. But I am fine now. Thank you for asking.” With a slight edge to her voice
Bria stood there looking at me and out of now where gave me a hug. Instinctively every muscle tightened up but I mentally pushed myself to hug her back. Finally she let go and I stepped back just in case the impulse to do that again overcame her.
“I’m so sorry. If you want to talk about it I am a good listener.”
“I appreciate it. All I need is coffee and to get back to work. Please don’t let anyone else know. I do not want to repeat this all day.”
She nodded, turned to the coffee machine and took her coffee. I knew I hurt her feelings but I was emotionally drained.
I hoped she would keep her word and keep silent.
Since that occurrence the rest of the day went along as normal.
The office staff did what needed to be done for the day. Including the gossips, the judgments and the unwanted opinions that were given to others without warning.
I stayed until seven. The seven fifteen train will arrive on time. That is one train that is always punctual.
Lillian had left a few hours ago making sure to tell me in passing that she expected a completed report.
I decided to finish it at home. I just wanted to be in my space. The last person to leave had to lock up so that fell on me.
The sun had brushed a muted orange across the sky. I looked as if the day was worn it out as well and it wanted it to be over or it could just be me projecting how I felt.
I managed to catch the train and get a seat. I had learned my lesson from this morning. I will just keep my awareness of my surrounding at least three feet around me.
With every stop the train made, I made a small mental plea to just get me home safe.
My stop was the next one on the train. I began to breath a little easier. Everyone seemed to be occupied with what they were reading or listening to on their phones.
I tried not to think about this morning but my mind would not allow it. The towering presence he had and the fact that I could not see his face was bothering me.
“Church Avenue. Next stop is…”
I almost missed my stop. I jumped up and bumped into a woman that was blocking the door.
“Excuse me.” I said I hurried out of the door and kept on walking towards the stairs on the north end of the station.
Once out of the station I wanted to run home and lock myself in. That would cause too many people to look in my direction. So I opted to walk quickly.
My apartment is a half a mile away from the station. When the building came into view, I slowed my pace a bit.
“Hey wait up.” A voice I knew too well was calling me from behind. I stopped and waited for Nancy to catch up.
She seemed a little more excited than usual. “What up?”
“I have to tell someone. I was just promoted to assistant director of advertising at my job.” She said bouncing up and down from her news.
“Congratulations, I know how hard you’ve been working lately. You deserve it.”
“Thanks. Let’s go out tonight and get some drinks.”
“Sorry not tonight but I’ll celebrate with you this weekend.”
She seemed a little deflated but she nodded her consent. We walked into the building talking about her promotion and what she was going to do with the extra income.
Nancy had so many dreams that I could not help but smile. ‘Just wait and see what taxes are going to do with all that extra income.’ I thought.
We both gotten off the elevator on the tenth floor. We have been living down the hall from each other for over six years.
We both went to the same high school. She came in on senior year and we hit it off right away.
The colleges we choose were very different. I wanted to do something that had medical influence to it. She on the other hand wanted to be in design.
She graduated with honors and I just passed with a B average.
Once I entered inside the apartment I was greeted with the familiar smell of bake chicken and turnip greens. My stomach felt as if it wanted to come out and feed itself.
“Hi Nona I’m home.”
Nona is my grandmother from my mother’s side of the family. My mother had left me with her when I was eleven years old and went off to live her life. My grandmother, Nona is what I would call her. Could not believe that she would do that but she did.
I received a letter from her when I turned sixteen years old. She apologized for not being in my life but it was for the best that she wasn’t.
I found out later that she was admitted into a hospital for mental illness. She was found in an alley surrounded by dead cats. She thought they were demons trying to suck out her soul.
I asked Nona about it and she just said to pray for her.
After that I never thought about her again.
“Yes I am in the front room. What is it?”
She was sitting on her favorite multicolored couch that went with the orange area rug that seen too many feet in my opinion.
I sat down beside her and laid my head on her shoulder.
“What is it? You had a hard day with your crazy boss?”
“No. Well yes but that is not it. On my way to work a man was killed in the train cart I was in and I can’t shake the image from my head.”
“Oh, baby. I’m so sorry you had to witness that. Did they catch him?”
“No he left the train before the police came. But it felt like he was staring at me.”
“Did you get to see his face?”
“No which I thought was funny because he seemed to be standing in a shadow.”
Nona was very quiet.
“Now honey tell me something. How was that man killed?”
“He had his throat ripped out.”
Nona’s body trembled a bit.
“Nothing why don’t we have dinner. That will make you feel better.”
“Nona I know you better than that.”
She took a deep breath and shook her head. “It maybe just coincidence.”
“Well when I just moved here from Richmond Dakota with your mom it was because it was getting too dangerous to live there. First it started out with a man ended up missing and when they found him with his throat ripped out. Then another body turned up. But I heard that they caught the man. So don’t you worry?”
“Well Nona you had me scared to death. They caught him.”
She rose from the semi lumpy couch and went to the kitchen.
I felt like there was something missing from her story.
“What are you not telling me?”
“Your mother had accidentally seen him kill someone.”
Okay my heart dropped. I had to find out who this person is and if he was let out of prison.
I went to my room to grab my lap top and went back to the front.
“Nona what year did this happen?”
“It was over twenty five years ago.”
“Twenty five years makes it 1994. Richmond Dakota murders.”
The newspaper article said that they caught the “Kota” killer. He was a young Caucasian man that lived on the streets after his parents were killed in a fire.
It went on to say that he suffered a psychotic break when he witnessed his younger brother being killed on a drive by.
The judge sentenced him to life. Unfortunately he did not make it to the prison.
On transport his body was found floating in the river. Arms and legs severed.
“Nona did you know they killed him before he even made it to the prison.”
“No I didn’t. So then there is nothing to worry about. This is a different guy.”
“Baby I would feel better if we moved.”
“No, Nona I am not moving. I love living in New York.”
“Well I won’t be chased out of it. I will leave when I am good and ready and not because I was forced out.”
Nona had seen the determination in her granddaughter eyes. She’ll stay but she did not feel safe at all.
A couple of days went by and things went on as usual and I had not seen anything about the murder on the news. I figured that they probably did not consider it big news since it happened to a homeless man.
I woke up late because I gotten caught up in a reality show that had nothing to do with my reality but it did lightened my mood for the night. I could finally get some sleep.
I barely caught the right train this morning and it is normally empty but today it was bustling with people. I hate it when it’s that packed. You cannot even think because people’s internal voice volume is busted.
I managed to stand by the door at the end of the train cart. Once the door closed the two women that was sitting in the seats near where I stood and started having a conversation about their jobs.
“My boss needs to be put on permanent time out.”
“Girl, you around kids too much. (Laughing) You can’t put a grown woman on time out.” (still laughing)
“You do not understand the type of crap she’s pulling. I should have went for that position. I’m doing her job and my job anyway.”
“Then you need to be put on time out.” The friend said while she continued to laugh at her.
Now que the traveling Mariachi band. ‘What is it with today?’ I thought.
I looked at the time it was three minutes to eight and the train was almost at my stop. I decided to look straight forward into the plexy glass windows on the steel doors.
Behind me stood a man who was wearing a hooded sweater. Nothing weird about that, until my stomach began tightening up.
The train stopped in the tunnel and the volume had went up a notch with everyone. He walked down the cart and bumped into this woman. She wore a tank top and fish net stocking over her shorts. . She had her pink and blue wig that is matted and slightly tilted off her head.
She was clearly not fully there. She pushed him back from bumping her then she turned back and continued speaking to this older guy.
When she waved her left hand in a playful gesture to the man before her, people started to look up. They felt something wet hit some part of their bodies.
A young man that was sitting in platter distance realized that he was being hit with someone’s blood. He looked at the woman and realized she had a finger missing.
“Oh miss. Your finger is gone.” He said and pointed at her hand.
That’s when everyone went out of control in that cart except me and the man who stood at the door at the other end.
He looked at me. This time I could make out that he had a faded mustache and beard. Something that is common on young men.
The train began to move and no one was paying attention to the guy who clearly was the odd one in the cart, o at me since I did not embodied the hysterics that was going on.
“Miss are you alright?”
I heard someone ask but was not sure they were speaking to me. It sounded as if I had head phones on and the sound was muted.
“I think she’s in shock. This train has to get to the station quick.”
As if on que the trained pulled into the station but the conductor did not open the cart doors.
“Are you kidding me they have trapped up inside with this maniac?” A guy said near the woman who lost her finger.
I glance away from him and in that moment he left the cart. He moved in between the two carts and jumped on to the platform.
No one bothered to hold him there. Instead everyone had their phones out recording the events that was before them.
The police arrived quicker than last time. Of course everyone interviewed gave way over the top explanations of what had happened.
The woman was rushed out and into an ambulance. The available police officers searched for the missing finger.
A toddler walked up to his mother to show her the toy he had and she screamed. Causing his little angelic face to turn red in fear. The tears followed behind that.
The officer took what the toddler was holding and it was the woman’s finger.
They tried to ask where he got it but he was scared and it was useless. He was too young.
This time I was not questioned there with the others. I was taken to the police station since I was at the scene of the other crime.
“Miss I find it hard to believe that you only gotten a look at him from his mouth down.”
“He was wearing a black hood. There were people videotaping him leave they probably got a shot of him.”
“We have confiscated all the phones to view. Right now you’re the only clear lead.”
“Anything else you can remember?”
“Yes, he kept staring at me.”
“Like he knew you?”
I just nodded. I wanted to leave and go home. I refused to go to work and deal with my boss after this.
“So that means you got a good look at his eyes?”
“Not really because of the hood. But he was intensely staring. Can I leave now?”
“In a few more minutes. You see you’re the only one who seems to get a look at him yet you don’t have a clear view. I find that odd.”
“What is odd about that?”
“You see him and then he kills people. It’s almost like he wants you to know he’s doing it.”
“Maybe it’s someone you know and you don’t know who it is or you know who it is and you’re protecting him.”
“This is crazy. I want to leave now.”
The other officer whispered something in his ear. It was like watching something on television.
“We cannot hold you but we will be watching from you. If he is trying to get your attention by harming people we will probably need you in the future.”
“Need me for what, Bait?”
“Maybe not certain.”
“Oh I’m out of here.”
I stormed out of the precinct, barley noticing what was going on in front of me.
I hailed a yellow cab to take home. I was willing to pay the outrageous fee was going to charge just to avoid the train station.
While I watched the buildings fly by and the people walk as if nothing could harm them. I could not help but to wonder where he was. Is he walking among these people just watching and waiting for the next victim?
I felt the water build up in my eye. Hot tears were released down my cheeks because I could not understand why me?
Why was I the one chosen to see what this man was going to do?
Not only once but twice. I closed my eyes and took a couple of deep breaths. I needed to center myself. The cab ride was long but peaceful.
I went to my apartment and my Nana stood up and ran to me.
“I saw the news. Did you see him again? You did, didn’t you?”
“We have to leave. I know you want to stay. But I feel we should go.”
“Nana where would we go?”
“I was thinking Hawaii or Trinidad.”
“What, where? We don’t have money to go to those places.”
“I have saved up enough to start over out there. Anyway there is not much starting over for me. But as long as you’re safe I will be happy.”
I cannot believe what she is saying to me. Not only did she want to leave, she is willing to leave the United States.
“Nana I want you to calm down. They will catch the guy.”
“Oh honey I heard the crows this morning. I knew something bad was going to happen. We have to leave.”
I know it was a superstation but it seems like the crows are a warning.
“I’m going to my room and get some rest.”
I went straight to my room and just flopped on the bed. I did not know when I fell asleep but I was in a dream.
I dreamt of his eyes and then the birds. What was the connection?
He stood in shadow and he attacks only the homeless?
Suddenly as if on speed, my dream fell upon his cloths. His clothes were not clean and severely worn. A smell came to me. A familiar smell. Like something sweet, something you would smell in the morning.
I looked up, I heard a voice. “I see you.”
The dream took me out side of my job. The security gaurds were joking around and a young man came up to me and ask for spare change.
I was able to find some and gave it to him. Then I heard my boss’s voice say, “What a waste?”
I told her, “It was not a waste.”
“She said “You’re the waste.” Then she started laughing.
The crow flew back into my dream and cawed very loudly.
I woke up in a sweat. I had a feeling I knew who it could be.
I should call the police, but something seemed to be nudging me not to get them involved yet.
I decided I was going to the train station. It was five fifteen. I’m sure he’s here.
The trains were crowed with everyone getting off work and rushing home. I managed to get on one. It made at least seven stops before he came on.
A young man asking for money to help him get something to eat.
“Why don’t you get a job or go to a shelter?” A man mumbled while he was reading.
“Are you willing to give me a job?”
He kept ignoring him. He walked from one end of the cart, to the other end. As he walked towards me, I took out thirty cents and gave it to him. I managed to get a good look at him and realized he was not the one.
“Thank you miss.” He said with his head bowed.
“Why don’t you get some help?”
“I help myself and I try to help others who can’t help themselves.”
“How are you able to help others?”
“Just because I ask for help does not mean I cannot help. You’re a good person but you work for someone who enjoys others pain. Why? Why help me when you do not help yourself? I have to go.”
He seemed very uneasy with talking to me. It was easier to ask for money, I guess. I looked at his cloths and he was wearing old jeans and t-shirt. His sneakers seemed alright. There was no hooded sweater at all.
When he left I smelled cherries? That was the smell in my dreams. But the guy who’s killing is taller than him. But he is connected somehow. I’m sure of it.
I decided to get off and go to the precinct. I found the detective speaking to a woman who looked as if she just was attacked.
“Listen I had to protect what’s mine and if she thinks he would leave me for her, she better thinks again.”
“Okay calm down miss. Just tell me what happened.”
I found a bench and sat down for a while. When he was finished with her, he noticed I was there waiting.
“So, did you remember anything?”
“Actually, I did. I think it a homeless guy that askes for money on the train.”
“That makes no sense. Why will a homeless man kill another homeless guy or cut a homeless woman’s finger off?”
“I don’t know but I think it’s him.” I told him what happened, and he did not feel like he was the guy but he decided it was time to use me as bait. I had my reservations about it.
The time was seven thirty-five and they wanted me on the train. I told them it only happens in the morning. The detective told me that this guy is probably following me and since he struck at eight, he may do it again at eight in the night.
I didn’t want anyone to be hurt so I agreed to try and get him.
I sat in the same cart with the conductor. It seems at this time the cart was buzzing with people meeting up to go to a bar.
I closed my eyes and tried to stay calm. There it was the smell. The cherry smells. He was there. I kept my eyes closed for a few more minutes.
“I know how invisible you feel. I will make everyone see you.” The voice whispered next to my ear. He never spoke to me before. I know that voice.
I opened my eyes and seen he was walking down the cart. He wore the black hooded sweater and dirty worn black sweat pants.
The train jolted and he bumped into a Hispanic man standing near the door.
He wore blue shirt and blue jeans. He was carrying a book bag over his shoulder.
He backed away and kept walking. The guy was bleeding on his side.
A girl noticed it too and pulled out her phone. The guy slowly fell forward from the shock, where was the police?
Other people took out their phones and someone had the guts to pull the emergency break.
Three men blocked his way trying to stay clear of the knife. I seen a couple of officers running in the other cart. They tried opening the door, but it seemed locked.
The man on the right a slightly think male, slightly balding and wearing a black shirt and matching jeans. The second guy was taller wore glasses and looked a bit more nervous than the other two men. The last guy looked like he was the one who would make the move to take him down. The police still could not get in.
The guy felt cornered and he swung the knife wildly. The cell phones were out and one woman was talking into it describing what was happening.
I went to him and decided to try to get him to give up the knife.
“Why don’t you just give up? There is no way out of here.”
The guy looked at all three men and dived for the shorter one.
The three men managed to get a hold of him and pinned him down. The shorter man stood up and discover that the knife was still stuck in his side.
They pulled down his hood and it was Crawford. One of the employees at the office.
“Crawford? What are you doing?”
The conductor finally unlocked the door for the police to get in.
“I am so tired of these people always begging for money. I had nothing and got myself out of it. These people don’t even try.”
“What’s the whole thing about, I know how invisible you feel? I’ll make everyone see you?”
“You cower down when the boss is around. You make yourself look so insignificant. I was going to make that psycho of a boss look up to you.”
“Crawford, you’re an idiot.”
The train started moving into the next station. The police took everyone statements and asked for all the phones to be turned off since this is an active crime scene.
I still had a bad feeling. What did the homeless guy mean by, I don’t help myself? I just did. I became bait for the police department.
After giving another statement to the police I was allowed to go home. Two officers escorted me out the door because all the news station had gotten a hold of the story.
I was able to get into a cab. This time the police department paid for my ride home.
Once inside I told my Nana what happened and she broke down and cried. My heart was breaking the more she sobbed. She said that her life would have been over if I was killed or hurt by this man.
She was great at guilt and I guess I did deserve it. It took me at least an hour to calm her down. I made her some tea and she took a couple of aspirin from the headache that came on from her crying.
I laid their on my soft bed and felt relaxed for the first time in a long time. I fell to sleep and what I could remember was the man’s words, “Why don’t you help yourself?”
I woke with a start. I could have sworn someone had spoken the words to me. The clock was about to ring anyway. I did my normal routine and went to work.
I walked into twenty eyes set on me. I knew this had to be because of me not coming in yesterday and Crawford being arrested for murder.
I put my things down in my office. Took a couple of deep breaths and went to Lillian’s office.
Have you ever seen an angry dog? How intense the stare is?
“You did not call out and you left me to fend for myself in the meeting.” She said in a low menacing voice.
“I’m sorry but I was not-“
“No you were not thinking as usual. Go to work and pick up Crawford’s slack until we can find a suitable replacement.”
I looked out the window and a crow was perched on the ledge.
“No. I done with this crap. I am your assistant not your slave. You take credit for my work and enjoy my misery. You’re really a sick human being. I did not realize how bad you were until you enjoyed the death of that man on the train.”
“Mali before you go too far and get fired. Go to your office and get to work.”
“No. I’m done here.”
“You’ll get no recommendation from me.”
“Don’t need or want it. I’m leaving. I guess you have work to do.”
I turned and walk away. I walked out of that place breathing easier than I ever had.
As I stepped off the side walk to cross the street a dove flew by and a smile appeared on my face.
A thought came to my mind. ‘He really did help me with no money.’