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Hackwriters
The International Writers Magazine: New York Stories

Samaritan - Making Things Right
• Sam North
'Doing a favour can be pretty damn inconvenient'.

It’s Christmas, two days to go and it’s cold. Yuletide fatigue has already set in and those who are left in the city wonder why the hell they didn’t book to go to Florida this year. Not that Florida is perfect, but it is a damn site warmer than Manhattan in December. David is walking, not his real name, Francis is his real name, but he hates that, so he calls himself David.

christmas

He likes to walk after his supper. He lives on 32nd street and Third within spitting distance of the Empire State building. The Mayor has done a wonderful job of cleaning up the streets, it was easier to go for an evening stroll now than it was. No hookers hailing down the Johns who pass slowly by in their Mercedes, no beggars trying to hustle you out of five bucks to ‘get home’ or to ‘feed the kids’. Life is better, life is friendlier. For now.

David works from home as an web business consultant. He works to LA time, so he starts late and finishes at 10 pm, usually. He eats pasta, almost every night. He doesn’t watch TV anymore, he gets his news from CNN or Al Jezera on the screen all day, so he knows what’s happening anyway. Sometimes he likes to walk down to the Sports Bar on 26th. But it’s cold tonight and besides he’s cutting down on the beer. He’s got to go to New Jersey tomorrow, get a gift for his folks for Christmas and then drive to Atlantic City where they live.

He hates Atlantic City. It’s tacky, the casinos are ugly, but his father was a Trump man, through thick and thin and now’s he’s retired- spending his empty days with Nancy, a retired cocktail waitress staring out at the ocean. David doesn’t want to end up like that. When he retires he wants to go to someplace warm all year around and stare at the ocean.

Tonight he’ll do two blocks. Right around. It’s exercise and clears the head after being on the screen all day. The market is up. But not by much and business confidence is slipping. He can feel it slipping day by day. Right across America projects are getting cancelled or postponed and that’s a really big sign that things are going to get tough next year. Printing money hasn't helped. America's just deeper in debt. He’ll be O.K., people always need people like him, outsourcing their problems, someone who can see where the fat can be cut, see where they can save money, or close plants without losing momentum. That is what he is good at. Momentum. That’s how he sells himself. “I can trim the fat and keep your business flowing’. Trained with Cap Gemini in Paris. They knew how to be ruthless and taught him well.

That’s why he had told his clients out in St Louis to let them go. Four thousand employees. Two days before Christmas. Going to get the chop, no Christmas bonus. No job to come back to. But they were over committed and construction business was taking a dive. Better to axe them now than wait for the business to come in. They won’t go away. If things pick up again, they can be rehired at lower rates. They’d be happy to get it, things going the way they were.

Tonight was colder than he thought. He didn’t really think about the people he had told them to lay off. Employment was no guarantee. There were no guarantees. He noticed the woman approaching people for money. He was surprised. The beggars were supposed to be gone. The Mayor had practically guaranteed it.

“Five dollars, five dollars, I have to feed my kid.”
He ignored her. The baby in her arms looked sick. He was annoyed to have his walk interrupted. Goddamn neighbourhood only just got cleaned up and now the beggars are back. Blasio's fault. He was going to roll all the good work back.

He crossed the street. A car slowed down at the curb and he saw a half naked girl run over to the window that was winding down and watched her lean right in. She wasn’t wearing anything under her skin tight skirt. The hookers were back. God, what was going on? The police had made this big thing about shifting them over to Queens and here they all were again.

Suddenly there was one stood right ahead of him wearing a French Maid’s getup. “Hi honey, do you like me? Want to play with the maid?”
He stared at this woman for a good five seconds before he realised that he was probably looking at a transvestite. David was really annoyed now. The hooker fell into step beside him and David swore under his breath. “Leave me alone dammit”.
“Oh you ain’t horny tonight? Well that’s too bad.”

She/he broke off. David ploughed on. He heard laughter behind him and a car door slam. The other hooker had gotten into the car and it took off pretty quick, sliding by him and disappearing into the steam swirling up from the grates in the the road. David noticed the Diplomatic plates on the back of the vehicle. He swore again. The untouchables. It was them who dragged a neighbourhood down.

He heard a cough and suddenly a hand grabbed him from a doorway. Her face was pale, her eyes were burning and watery. David was about to shake her off when he noticed that she was young, no more than a kid. A kid dressed in a black tube dress that hid nothing. “I’m sick.” She said.

David tried to shake her off, but he saw she was blacking out. She really did black out momentarily, still holding onto him and he held her up, moved her to a doorway entrance to a loft building. She came around again. “I’m burning up.” She said. “Help me.” Her hands were clutching at her stomach like she had eaten something bad.

David was thinking...It’s nearly Christmas, the neighbourhood has just gone to hell and a underage hooker has just asked him to help her. What do you do?

New York has rules for this kind of thing.
Rule One: Help No One.
Rule Two: Don’t walk the streets at night, especially when the hookers are out.
Rule Three: Helping her won’t help and her pimp would be likely to beat the crap out of you if he finds out.

David was about to do the right thing and walk away when she said the magic words. “Please, ’m sick.”
It was cold, this girl was sick, the least he could do was get her into a cab and to a hospital. He took out his cell. “I’ll call a cab. Get you to hospital.”
“No hospital,” she said with some force. “Need to lie down.”
David wondered if this was some come on. Hooker, lie down, pretend to be sick, but she looked really ill. She really did need a hospital.

A pizza delivery boy came out of the loft building. David caught the door. Took her inside. The lobby was warm. There was a sofa there and a soda machine. He put her on the sofa, she seemed happy to get off her feet. Only now did he see the stretch marks on her tummy where the dress was cut away. She was a kid, but she’d had one of her own, recently, by his estimation. His kid sister Charlene had looked like this when she’d given birth the year before. She looked a lot like Charlene, who’d got into a bad crowd and gotten knocked up by some loser.
“Look you need help girl. Can I call someone for you? Is there anyone?”
She looked at him, happy to have some attention without having to beg for it.
“Coke, I need a Coke and some aspirin. Got a fever. I’m cold.”

David remembered he had some Anadin in his inner pocket . He got her a Coke out of the machine. He knew from the way she looked that he had to ignore her pleas and call an ambulance or something. She was in a bad way. Her stomach looked distended and bruised. Perhaps she had complications from the birth...?
“Look, I’ve got to call someone. You’re really sick. You got a kid?”

She nodded, but suddenly was doubled up with pain. He was going to have to make that call. He gave her the Coke to drink and took his coat off to give to her. Suddenly, there was an awful sound, he turned to see her projectile vomit over the marble floor. It was very bloody, like she’d upchucked her heart or something. Gross. She uttered a harrowing cry and then lay back. He was just getting into to motion as he realised that she was dying. By the time he got to her side, she was actually dead. There was blood everywhere. It was disgusting and stank. The final breath left the girl’s mouth. She was gone. It took maybe two minutes. David was completely stunned.

He thought about leaving. He thought about going home and just leaving her there, but he just couldn’t abandon her. He realised that he was in a situation here. He was trespassing, he was with an underage hooker who had just died. So what he’d done the right thing by her, she was dead and he was there.

Dammit it was Christmas.

There was a payphone in the lobby. He called the cops from there. He didn’t want to use his own cell, they’d trace that pretty fast. Gave them a false name. Gave them the address. Told them she was dead. No, he didn’t know her name. This is how he found her. They probably didn’t believe him. They asked him to stay. He went over to her and closed her yes. “I’m sorry kid.”

David left the building, left the girl on the sofa by her pool of vomit and blood. He felt genuinely sorry for her, sorry for the baby that would be expecting her home. God, who was looking after the kid? It didn’t bear thinking about.

He continued his walk, feeling he needed fresh air. He was looking at the neighbourhood more carefully. The place he walked every night. Maybe it was his imagination, but it suddenly looked seedier and hostile. A cop car had already reached the loft building as he turned the corner. He was pleased to have done his bit for the girl. The cops could take care of her now.

He reached the Sports bar almost by accident. He went in. He had a few drinks. It was warm in here, the game was loud and people cheered a lot. By midnight he felt better. He’d almost persuaded himself that nothing had happened. An off duty cop came in for a drink. Sat right next to him. ‘Bastards out there you wouldn’t believe,’ he says. ‘This hooker gets dumped in the lobby of a loft building. Left for dead. She’s been punched so hard she’s spewed all her innards out. Bled to death. We’ll get him. We’re reviewing the video tapes now. The whole building was wired. I’ll personally get a picture of him out on every street corner around here. I’m going to get this bastard. Present to myself for Christmas.”

David reeled out of the bar and went home. He had some money. He had a passport. He could get out of the country fast. Tonight even. All he did was show a little charity. Help a girl out. He didn’t even think to check for camera. It wouldn’t show anything. He didn’t do anything. But the cops wouldn’t think that, would they. They’d think he’d punched this girl, killed her and then taken her into the lobby to dump her. He didn’t stay with her when they asked him to. He’d be guilty. They wouldn’t even look for anyone else. She was a kid for christsake.

He tried to think. He was wearing a hat. Did they have a full face view of him? He could ditch the coat and hat. He could ... he remembered taking off his coat. They had his coat!

The first flight out was at five am. Christmas in Italy. He knew people in Italy or France. He could do business there. He spoke some Italian and French. He’d get by.

David waited in the terminal building, anxious, a little nauseous. He felt stupid. He’d never try to help anyone ever again. The world was going to hell.

Outside it began to snow. The planes might be delayed. Christmas was coming to New York.

© SAM NORTH
editor at hackwriters.com
* If you are looking for a good read this holiday or just a nice thick paperback to keep a door open, my historical book Diamonds - The Rush of '72 is available now.
Paperback or $1.99 e-book download.

Sam North - Editor - hackwriters.com



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'vividly bring the American West to life ...a terrific piece of storytelling'
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