The International Writers Magazine: New York Stories - From the archives
- Making Things Right
No good deed goes unpunished
Its Christmas, two days to go and its cold. Yuletide fatigue has
already set in and those who are left in the city wonder why the
hell they didnt 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.
He likes to walk
after his supper. He lives on 32nd street and 3rd 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 ten 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 doesnt watch TV anymore, he gets his news from MSNBC or Al Jezera on the screen
all day, so he knows whats happening anyway. Sometimes he likes
to walk down to the Sports Bar on 26th. But its cold tonight and
besides hes cutting down on the beer. Hes 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. Its tacky, the casinos are ugly, but his father was a Trump
man, through thick and thin and nows hes retired - spending
his empty days staring out at
the ocean with Nancy, a retired cocktail waitress. David doesnt 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 hell do two blocks. Right around. Its 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 thats a really big sign that things are going
to get tough next year. Printing money hasn't helped. America's just deeper in debt. Hell 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. Thats 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.Thats 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 wont go away. If things pick up again, they can be rehired
at lower rates. Theyd be happy to get it, things going the way
they were. Tonight was colder
than he thought. He didnt 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
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.
He crossed the street. A car slowed
down at the curb and he saw a half naked girl run over to the window
winding down and watched her lean right in. She wasnt
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 Maids
getup. Hi honey, 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 man. David was really annoyed
now. The hooker fell into step beside him and David swore under his
breath. Leave me alone dammit.
Oh you aint horny tonight? Well thats 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. Im sick. She
said. Of course his first thought was flu, it was going around.
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. Im burning up. She said. Help me.
Her hands were clutching at her stomach like she had eaten something
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: Dont walk the streets at night, especially when the
hookers are out.
Rule Three: Helping her wont help and her pimp would be likely
to beat the crap out of you if he finds out.
David was about
to do the sensible thing and walk away when she said the magic words. Please, Im 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. Ill
call a cab. Get you to hospital.
No hospital, she said with some force. Need to lie
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 shed had one of her own,
recently, by his estimation. His kid sister Charlene had looked like
this when shed given birth the year before. She looked a lot like
Charlene, whod got into a bad crowd and gotten knocked up by some
Look you need help girl. Can I call someone for you? Is there
She looked at him, happy to have some attention without having to beg
Coke, I need a Coke and some aspirin. Got a fever. Im so 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, Ive got to call someone. Youre 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 shed upchucked her heart or something. Gross. She uttered
a harrowing cry and then lay back. He was just getting into 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 girls 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 couldnt 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 hed 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 didnt want to
use his own cell, theyd trace that pretty fast. Gave them a false
name. Gave them the address. Told them she was dead. No, he didnt
know her name. This is how he found her. They probably didnt believe
him. They asked him to stay. He went over to her and closed her yes.
Im 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 didnt 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. Hed 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 wouldnt believe, he says. This hooker
gets dumped in the lobby of a loft building. Left for dead. Shes
been punched so hard shes spewed all her innards out. Bled to
death. Well get him. Were reviewing the video tapes now.
The whole building was wired. Ill personally get a picture of
him out on every street corner around here. Im 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 didnt even think to check for camera.
It wouldnt show anything. He didnt do anything. But the
cops wouldnt think that, would they. Theyd think hed
punched this girl, killed her and then taken her into the lobby to dump
her. He didnt stay with her when they asked him to. Hed
be guilty. They wouldnt 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. Hed get by.
David waited in the terminal building, anxious, a little nauseous. He
felt stupid. Hed 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 2000 (2021)
editor at hackwriters.com
NY Stories by Sam
|Diamonds - The Rush of '72
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The true story of the Great Diamond Rush of 1872 and the adventures of Arnold and Slack, Diamond prospectors
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'a terrific piece of storytelling'
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First Chapter link here
A Cure for Sceptics by Sam North
Publisher: Hammer & Tong (2021)
Paperback & kindle: 326 pages
Delaney and Asha run the Berg City Office of City Oversight. Their role is to expose the shady characters running scams and fraud against the city. 300 complaints flood in for a $30,000 treatment that claims to abolish pain forever. Unfortunately the Mayor himself is touting the scheme. When Delaney finds himself left for dead at the bottom of a cliff he gets the message that he's supposed to leave this one well alone.
'A great human story that wears it's heart on it's sleeve.'
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‘a brilliant and intriguing tale’ Amazon
**Sample Sam North's new novel here.
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