There’s a saying, no good deed goes unpunished, and it’s true.
Perhaps when I had the time to sit down and think about the events of the previous week, I might strongly consider minding my own business, but there is that strong sense of obligation instilled in me by my mother all those years ago that if we ate on a position to help someone, we should.
The fact this person didn’t want help, even where they clearly did, should have been a warning sign. It would be next time.
I was working late, as usual. Everyone had left the office early to partake in a minor birthday celebration for one of the team members, and I said I would get there after I wrapped up the presentation, due in a day or so.
That, of course, everyone knew, was the code for not turning up. To be honest, I hated going to parties, mingling, making small talk, and generally being sociable.
For someone who had to standing in front of large crowds making sales presentations, that sounded odd and it probably was. I couldn’t explain it, and no one else could either.
When I finally turned the computer off it wasn’t far off midnight. I brief gave a thought to the party, but by that time everyone would have gone home. Time for me to do the same.
Sometimes I would get a cab, others, if the weather was fine, I would walk. It had been one 9f those early summer days with the promise of more to come, so I decided to walk.
There were people about, those who had been to the theatres or after a long leisurely dinner and were taking in the last moments of what might have been a day to remember, each for different reasons.
When I stopped at the lights before crossing the road and making the last leg of the walk hone, a shortcut through central park, and yawned. It had been a long day, and bed was beckoning.
Perhaps if I had been more alert, I would have noticed several people acting strangely, well I had to admit it was a big call to say they were acting strangely when that could define just about everyone including myself.
Normally I would walk through central park after midnight, or not alone anyway. But there were other people around, so I didn’t give it a second thought.
Those other people disappeared one by one as I got further in, until it got to the point where I was the only one, and suddenly the place took on a more surreal feeling.
Sound was amplified, the bark of a dog somewhere nearby, the rustling of branches most likely being brushed against by animals like squirrels, and a few muted conversations, with indistinguishable words.
Until I heard someone yell ‘stop’.
I was not sure what I was feeling right then, but it was a frightening sensation with a mind running through a number of different scenarios, all of them bad.
I turned around.
I did a 360-degree turn, and still nothing, except, the voice again, that of a female, “Look, no means no, so stop it.”
I couldn’t quite get a fix on what direction it was coming from, so I waited.
A man’s voice this time, “You should not have led me on.”
“I said nothing of the sort. I said I would walk home with you, there was nothing else implied or otherwise.”
Got it. I heard a rustling sound to my left, abs an opening between shrubs, and crossed the lawn.
On the other side about 20 yards up the path, a man and a girl, probably mid 20s were sitting close together.
She said, “stop it,” and pushed his hand away.
I saw him grab, and twist it.
She yelped in surprise, and pain.
I took a dozen steps towards them and said, “I don’t think she wants or needs the attention. Let her go.”
He did, then stood. Not a man to be trifling with, he was taller and heavier that I was, and suddenly I was questioning my bravado.
“This is none of your business. Take a hike or you’ll regret it.”
I looked at the girl, who just realised I was standing there, a look of terror on her face.
“Is this man assaulting you?”
She said nothing, just glanced at the man, and then away.
“There is no problem here. Keep walking.”
I asked her again, “is this man assaulting you?”
She looked at me again. “No. Please go away.”
“There. You should be minding your own business. There’s no problem here.”
I could see from her expression there was, and it might have something to do with the man she was with.
I had done what I could, so it was time to leave. I just had to hope there was not going ti be an addition to the crime statistics overnight.
“As you wish.”
I turned and retraced my steps to the other side of the shrubbery but instead of moving on, I stayed. The was something dreadfully wrong with what was happening, and I couldn’t let it end badly. Of course, if or when I interfered, it could end worse than that.
He spoke again. “You were smart not to cause trouble. You’d be smarter to just give me what I want.”
“You’re nothing but a disgusting pig.”
The sound of was might have been a slap in the face reverberated on the night air, assaulting of a different kind.
I went back.
The girl was on the ground, and the man was leaning over her, going through the contents of her bag.
“Hey,” I yelled, catching his attention.
Enough time to make the short distance between him and and expect a running tackle, rugby style. Mt momentum would counterbalance his excess size and weight.
But I hadn’t considered my next move, had I. Or the fact for his size he was very agile.
I did see something that had been in his hand as we tumbled, and that was a gun, small but lethal. This guy had to be a criminal picking off lone women in the park.
The gun had been jolted from his hand in the tackle and he and I were roughly the same distance from it, but he had the added knowledge that it existed whereas I was still processing the information.
He reached it first, I got to it, and him a second later, as he was raising it to aim at me. I had microseconds to think, react, and consider whether the next second or so was going to be my last.
I got my hand on the gun, not thinking to pull it away from him because that might help pull the trigger but push it towards him in the hope if he did pull the trigger, the bullet wouldn’t hit anyone.
Too late. There was a loud explosion as the gun went off, and I closed my eyes and waited for the seating pain, and possible death. Mt life did not flash before my eyes, not like some said it would.
One second, two seconds, three.
I was still alive.
But any sign of resistance had gone, and the man had slumped backwards on the ground.
I rolled off him and could see the blood seeping through his shirt in an area near where his heart would be. I felt for a pulse but there was none.
His face was stuck on a permanent look of surprise.
Behind me the girl had come back to life and was on her knees, staring at the man, and then me. “What have you done?”
“I didn’t do anything. He had a gun and was trying to shoot me.”
“Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. This is, oh my God.” She scrambled to her feet, hurried tried to put everything back in her bag. “Get out of here, now. Run, and don’t look back.”
“Why. The police should be told he was assaulting you.”
“You fool. He is the police, and when they get here, we’re both going to die.”
She grabbed her bag, took a last look, and then ran.
A few seconds more to consider just how bad this looked, not that I had put together the pieces yet, I could see what she meant.
A dead cop.
I got up and started heading back to the other path.
Not this again.
Two police in uniform, guns drawn. A dead police office on the ground and a suspect leaving the scene.
Two plus two equals four, any day of the week.
© Charles Heath 2021