Episode 1 Numbers
I was used to hearing police sirens. Well I mean, everyone was, especially in New York. It was a part of life here. Any given day in New York City, and chances are you'd hear police sirens at some point. This city was too big, and there were too many bad people in it. It was always something.
"Hey! Jesse!" I looked over. My boss was glaring angrily at me. "What are you staring at? Are you off the clock?"
"No Gio." I muttered.
"Then work." He threw a towel at me. I forced my attention away from the window and the first responders blazing by outside. Wherever they were going was none of my business and the emergency they were responding to wasn't my problem. My problem was getting these dirty dishes washed and this table clean for the next diners.
I couldn't stop thinking about it. I was up to my elbows in dirty dishwater and all I could think about was those policemen. They woke up every morning not knowing what kind of calls they were going to get, but they did know they'd be helping. And that's all that mattered to them. They charged into the unknown for unselfish reasons. They wanted to help others. I wanted that too. Instead I was scrubbing pasta sauce off of forks and flicking noodles off of plates.
"Hey! Jesse!" I looked over. "I think you cleaned that one pretty good. Clean the next one." I realized I had been cleaning the same plate over and over again.
"Sorry Gio, I got distracted."
"You got an easy job Jesse." He told me. "Lot of guys can do what you do. Lot of guys would even do it for less." Gio stuck his finger in my face. "Remind me why you're my guy."
"I don't want your excuses. That was rhetorical." Gio waved off my words. "Get back to work, or maybe you'll find some schmuck at your station tomorrow." I doubled down and refocused on my work. Who was I kidding? I couldn't be a cop, I couldn't help people. I could barely do this.
By the time my shift ended, I had convinced myself that my dream to be a cop was just my getting frustrated about working a dead end job. The grass was always greener on the other side. My mind yearned for adventure, desired to be a hero. So that is why I imagined myself becoming an enforcer of the law. That is why I've been dreaming of being a policeman these last couple of months. I blamed TV and movies. They always displayed the police has the heroes, as the good guys. Who wouldn't want that, especially after coming home from work smelling like unrefrigerated spicy meatballs everyday.
But none of that was realistic. I was reaching my peak. Bus boy didn't have much else in terms of career options, and there was a reason this is where I had ended up. You needed to be smart to be a cop. You had to pass tests and training. Gio had to explain to me three times how to mix the soap right to wash dishes.
I couldn't be a hero. I couldn't be anything, except a bus boy. I should just give up, if you never looked up, you'd never realize how far down you were. I was just bored and daydreaming at work. That's all. Helping people wasn't my passion, it wasn't my dream. It was a farfetched idea, a fool's hope to fix my life. To give me purpose and meaning. That's when I heard it.
The sirens sounded like they were coming from two blocks over but I couldn't be sure. Damn, Doppler Effect! I quietly and quickly ducked into an alley that would take me closer. I started chasing the sounds of the police. I ran across four lanes of traffic…on two separate occasions and I just got the usual amount of angry cabbies honking at me. But New York didn't care about me. I was just one more person living on an overcrowded island.
"Bank robbery." I muttered to myself observing the scene. Several police cars were blocking off the street, the officers were aiming their weapons at a bank. Inside several masked goons were holed up.
"Ladies and gentleman, I'm gonna need ya'll to back it up." A young policeman was trying to rope off the area with yellow tape. "Get out of here nothing to see!" he shouted. I did not move.
"Excuse me!" I stepped forwards, towards the cop. I was standing across the tape from him before he heard me. "Excuse me?"
"Can I help you citizen?" he asked.
"Why aren't you arresting them?" I indicated the row of cops with their guns drawn, yet still none were advancing towards the bank.
"You a reporter?"
"No sir." I said. "Just curious."
"We believe the suspects are armed." He told me.
"So is this like a Mexican standoff?" I asked. I couldn't contain my excitement.
"Shut up." The officer looked at me annoyed. "And get lost before I Taser you." Several people laughed and shook their heads at me.
Frowning, I took a step back. Right, I was a bus boy. This didn't concern me. I had no real reason to be here. I turned to leave. A bright light radiated within the bank quickly followed by shouting and the sound of gunfire.
I quickly turned around and craned my neck to look over the crowds. I couldn't see anything, well… there was nothing to see. The police hadn't entered the building yet. There was still a row of cops waiting outside, still blocking off the street. And from looking at their faces I could tell they had no idea what was going on either. Curious I made my way back towards the caution tape.
The gunfire was interspersed with very loud slaps. It sounded like someone was playing audio from a bare-knuckle brawl through an amplifier. After several such slaps, the gunfire ceased altogether, and silence fell on the bank.
Then the window crashed, and three unconscious bodies flew through it. Each were handcuffed and gagged.
"What the hell?" the officer before me muttered. He and some of his comrades rushed forwards, two stayed behind with the unconscious men while the rest entered the bank with their guns drawn.
My heart was pounding. I may not know what was going on, but it was exciting. How had the robbers been tied up if it wasn't the police? Was there a fourth bandit that was even now making off with the whole prize? Was it the FBI on some secret mission? What the hell had happened in there?
The police officers reemerged scratching their heads. They hadn't found whoever had tied the robbers up.
"Ok, everyone get out of here." The officer had returned. He was waving us off. Trying to disperse the crowd. "The fun's over. Go home. Eat your veggies. Stay in school. Go on! Hurry it up."
It seemed most of the crowd, like me, had come yearning to see the Boys in Blue at their finest. They wanted to see some action. They wanted a show. But whatever had happened…we saw none of it. We would be leaving disappointed.
"HE HAD A BABY! LISTEN TO ME I AIN'T LYING!" my ears perked up. Looking over I watched as one of the criminals was being dragged away. He was shaking and straining against the officer holding him. "HE HAD A BABY. HE WAS CRAZY! HE WAS FLASHING, STROBE LIGHT OR SOME…" at that point the suspect had been successfully corralled into the back of the police cruiser. The rest of his words were cut off from me. He had said there was another man. Could this fourth be the one who tied up and threw out the three others? I gazed back at the building as I walked away. And what was all that about a baby? Under what circumstance would there ever be a baby involved in a bank robbery. I shook my head. Criminals were crazy. I guess they had to be…otherwise you wouldn't be stupid enough to rob a bank.
I turned into an alley, making my way back towards Gio's. This little sidetrack had been fun, but I needed to take a shower. I smelt like I had pasta sauce in my bloodstream.
Now I don't know if you've ever been to New York, but sometimes…mainly at night…the alleys can be a little unsettling. Especially when a large male silhouette is making its way towards you.
I now found myself in such a situation. It was probably nothing, just another guy making his way home from work. But having already witnessed one crime tonight, I was little suspicious. I slowly took my hands out of my pockets and balled my fingers into fists. Better be ready.
The stranger and I met about halfway through the alley. He did not speak to me. He did not look at me. I had been mistaken, there was no danger. Typically meeting the shadowy figure removes all mystery from the equation. Not tonight.
This large man was holding a white ski mask and strapped snuggly in a harness on the man's chest was a sleeping baby. I did a double take.
Before I could speak, there was a blinding flash.