Being inspired, maybe – 87


A picture paints ... well, as many words as you like.  For instance:



And, then, the words:

There was method in my madness.

Find somewhere where there are lots of people and blend into the crowd until I could work out what to do

It was a quirk of fate that I discovered I was being followed.  Two people, a man, and a woman, but it was the man I recognized having seen before.

Or it was just a case of severe paranoia.

But, with my mind racing with endless possibilities, it was a battle not to run, and if anyone took a closer look, they'd see a haunted expression, perspiration at a time when cold should preclude it, with nervous head movements and constantly checking behind me.

All the hallmarks, I realized, of the FBI running sheet for a possible terrorist.  I couldn't rule out that it wasn't the FBI tracking me simply because I fitted the profile.

I came to a stop by the George M Cohen statue and took a slow 360-degree turn, taking in the lights, which were very bright and almost mesmerizing, and the throng of people, tourists and residents alike.

My head was hurting, and my eyes were watering.  Fear.  Fear of what?

I'd accidentally missed my last dose of prescribed medication, but that was because I had to get out of the house.  The walls had been closing in on me.  Out in the cool afternoon air, it was better.  And, as the day drifted into twilight, and the cold set in, to now, the night, the withdrawal from missing the medicine was kicking in.

I shivered, but it wasn't the cold driving it.

I couldn't see the man or the woman who had been following me.  I searched in every direction, each turn becoming more frantic.  Any more pronounced I knew someone would stop and ask me if everything was alright.

It wasn't.  Not by a long shot.

A glance back up Broadway, the way I had come from Central Park, I just managed to catch sight of them off to one side of the road, together, perhaps working on their next move.  Or, was there a third, or fourth already here.

The fact they'd stopped meant they were not too worried about me escaping.

What did it mean, that my paranoia was fully justified?

For me, I could go in three directions, one way or the other up 42nd street, follow Broadway, or, I just realized, up or down Seventh Avenue. Not three, but five exits.

It raised a question, was it possible I was surrounded?

What could I do that was entirely unexpected?  I wasn't able to pick whether there was anyone in front of me, so I went back in the direction I'd come from, back towards them.  The least expected reaction.

I kept them in my line of sight, trying not to let them out of my sight. 

Which was fine until they realized, I was coming back towards them, and yes, I wanted to believe the look on their faces told the story.  Caught. 

Yet they didn't react immediately, in fact, to anyone else they were just two people walking along the street minding their own business. 

But from my perspective, having seen them earlier, not once but several times, I should be convinced, but their lack of reaction as I got closer caused me to doubt my judgment.  Was I imagining it all?

The traffic lights on the corner nearest to where I'd last seen them changed and I had to stop behind several taller pedestrians.   I tried to see through them, but that didn't happen until the lights changed and they moved forward.

They were gone.  By the time I reached the other side of the street and had a clear view of the doorway where I'd last seen them, there was nothing.

A few seconds later I was standing right where I'd seen them last.  I did a quick 350-degree rotation, trying to see where they'd gone, not into the building because I have could see straight in, and there was nowhere to hide.  I looked further up the street, but they would not have got too far away that I couldn't see them.

I must have looked quite agitated because a man had stopped and was asking me if everything was alright.  He had a hand on my shoulder, and I jerked backward away from him.

For a moment I thought it might be one of the pursuers, and hurriedly told him everything was fine.

He didn't think so.

It was then I realized he was a policeman, with a partner, and they were positioned so that I could not leave.

Did they think I was going to cause trouble?  I was sweating, flushed in the face, and agitated.  That was one too many symptoms of a troublemaker.

People were now walking around us, a couple stopped to see how the situation played out.

"I think you should come with us, sir."  He was being polite and calming.

"I haven't done anything wrong," I said, backing away, eyes darting each way looking for an exit.

Then, on the other side of the road, my two pursuers reappeared and were looking at me, one of the two talking into a cell phone.

Who was he talking to?  What was he saying?  Was it about me?

I started walking in their direction, but the other policeman stepped in my way and I had to stop.

Should I tell them about the two?  Would they think that I was being paranoid?

"Can you stand still please, sir, and show us some identification?"

The first policeman had taken put his radio and was talking to someone about this 'situation'.

I reached for my pocket but that sent the two into a moment of nervousness, hands moving to weapons in case I was about to become a threat.  Sudden movements, I realized, made most people nervous.

"My wallet is in my back pocket," I said, slowly moving my hand there at the same time.

Tension eased, I extracted it slowly and handed it to the first policeman, who then found the necessary card, and then spoke to the person at the other end, no doubt checking to see if I was on any wanted or missing list, or any other list.

We waited for an answer.  Several others had stopped, and we had become a sideshow for those who had nothing better to do.  The two people I suspected of following me were still there, watching the proceedings.

A voice on the radio, the policeman lifted it to his ear.  A nod and an 'OK', he took a step closer.

"I think you might be ill, so we're calling an EMT to check."

"I'm fine, just a little rundown and a touch of the flu," I said, knowing they were going to ignore that.

One of the pursuers was back on the phone, and, all of a sudden, I had a very bad feeling something bad was going to happen.  I'd momentarily forgotten that I needed to keep moving and keep to areas where there were a lot of people around.  Up until I'd stopped here, I'd done that, but now I was in the open.

Which doubled my level of agitation and panic, suddenly moving back towards the doorway, just as one of the two policemen stumbled and fell.

He'd been moving towards me, and I realized, for a moment provided me with cover.

A second or two later everyone knew he'd been shot and suddenly everyone was scattering.  The problem was no one could hear the shots.  The second policeman went down, just as I reached the doorway.

But it was not fast or far enough, and I felt the bullet hit, just before the glass door behind me disintegrated, and I went down. 

I thought I'd escaped but I hadn't.  They'd let me escape knowing where I'd go and had a team in place to track me, worse still maneuver me, until I moved into a position where they could eliminate their problem.

It was hard to breathe, several brave people had come back to check on the policemen, and another was standing over me, and looking in the direction where he thought the shots had come from, instead of showing concern over whether I was alright.

I think he knew that there was nothing he could do.  I could see the blood now seeping through my shirt and jacket and knew that it was bad.

In the distance, I could hear sirens, and behind the crowd more police running towards us.
Too late.  Far too late.  The man who had been standing over me kneeled down.  I tried to tell him who I was and what had happened, but I had no strength left. 

When I woke this morning, I had expected to get a promotion and a well-deserved holiday.  instead, two masked me were waiting outside my house, threw me into the back of a van, and took me to an old building near the Hudson.

I'd been warned that becoming a whistle-blower would get me killed, but my superior had said it was the right thing to do.  I had told the people who needed to know the truth, and they said they would look after me.

My last thought as the darkness closed in; dead men tell no tales.


© Charles Heath 2020


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