June 20, 2014 by T. Gregory Argall
The hero stood on the rooftop, gazing out over the city he had sworn to protect. The city sang to him, her voice a beautiful cacophony of traffic noise, sampled ringtones, broken conversations, and barking dogs. Her song told him things that it told no one else, dark secrets that only he could know.
Glancing down towards the street he spied a woman walking purposefully along the sidewalk. With a quick scan of the surrounding street he confirmed that she was neither in immediate danger nor a threat to others.
His eyes moved on.
The woman rounded the corner, checked her watch, and quickened her pace. The street sloped into a slight incline and she thought, not for the first time, that she was wearing the wrong shoes to be hurrying like this.
Distantly she heard ABBA’s hit “Dancing Queen” being played on kazoo. She had chosen that as her ringtone because she was always sure of hearing it through the muffling contents inside her purse. Digging her cell phone out of her bag, she glanced at the screen, seeing Cheryl’s name. Tapping the “TALK” button with her thumb, she held the phone to her ear.
“I’m almost there,” she blurted, forgoing any pleasantries. “I left work late because of a client call, then I missed the bus, then some guy was throwing pizza, and yeah, it’s been one of those days. Anyway, I’ll be there soon.”
She disconnected without listening for a reply and looked around the street, spotting a taxi driving towards her. In response to her waving hand, the cab stopped at the curb and she climbed in back, urgently giving the driver an address. Before she had fully closed the car door, the taxi driver was executing a u-turn, briefly mounting the curb on the other side of the street, startling a dog as it sniffed a fire hydrant.
The cab drove on.
The dog stood and watched the car as it continued into the distance. Losing interest, he looked around the street. He cocked his head sideways as he caught a familiar scent. With his nose close to the ground, he padded along the sidewalk, turning to follow the scent into an alley.
The dog stopped and looked up as he realized he was not alone in the narrow lane way. Two men stood in the shadows, whispering intently. One of them paused and looked at the dog. With a smile that put the dog at ease, the man walked towards him. “Hey, buddy,” said the man, with kindness in his voice, holding out his hand for a sniff. “What’re you doin’ here? Lookin’ for snacks? Sorry, buddy, I ain’t got no snacks.”
With enthusiasm, the man began petting the dog, stroking the fur on his head and scratching behind his ears. The dog pressed his head against the man’s hands, seeking more affection.
“Lenny, what you doing?” snapped the other man. “Forget the damn dog. We got a job to do.”
“Right. Sorry, J-Man,” muttered the man, Lenny, as he stepped away from the dog and pointed towards the mouth of the alley. “Get out of here, buddy. You gotta go. Go.”
The dog paused to look curiously at the man for a moment, then turned and trotted back to the sidewalk, turning towards the front of the building.
The dog walked on.
J-Man glared at Lenny. “You and dogs, man. I swear.” Lenny shrugged sheepishly but said nothing. “Come on. Let’s just get this done,” said J-Man.
The two of them moved further down the alley into the darkness. Reaching under his jacket, J-Man removed a crowbar and stepped up to a plain unmarked door. Jamming the wedge of the crowbar between the door and the frame, he was about to press on the bar when Lenny stopped him with a hand on his shoulder.
“Hold up,” whispered Lenny. “Did you hear that?”
The pair looked up in time to see the hero dropping from a fire escape railing. He landed in front of them, crouched down, fists ready. “What are you up to, boys?” the hero asked in a menacing voice. “Or do I have to… pry it out of you?”
The two men stared in confusion at the hero. “What?” said Lenny.
The hero shrugged. “Meh. Banter. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Anyway…” He leapt forward, blocking the swinging crowbar with his forearm, his other fist slamming into J-Man’s jaw.
And the night went on.
As always, try to be nice to each other.