I commute into the city for work. It’s just easier that way. There are too many people and too much traffic. Getting in and out of Manhattan on a daily basis would be a nightmare. I do miss having the independence to come and go as I please, though. I make great money. I could easily afford a luxury sedan or sports car, but I’d lose my mind in the bumper-to-bumper gridlock. Then there’s the insurance premiums and huge parking fees. Nope, as much fun as it would be to cruise around in my shiny new ride, all of the related headaches wouldn’t be worth it. I’ll stick to public transit. If I miss my bus or train, there’s always another one. I might be a few minutes late but they run every few minutes. Giving up that autonomy is just one of the many trade-offs you have to accept if you work in a major city.
One day, a few days ago, I noticed a creepy guy standing on the train platform. That in itself is nothing new. If you use public transportation in a large city, you’ll see a wide cast of strange characters. What made this situation different was that he was definitely looking at me. For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the unofficial rules of metropolitan life, let me explain. You don’t make eye contact with anyone. ANY. ONE. You just don’t, but this guy was. He was looking directly at me. Worse, he was smiling. Red flags go off in your head if something like that happens.
Anyone who does that is either a thief, psychotic, or possibly both. I tensed up and guarded my wallet while I pretended I didn’t see him. He continued to grin and stare directly at me. I quickly made indirect eye contact back at him, just long enough to insure he wasn’t a long lost pal or classmate that recognized me first. Nope. I’d never seen this creep before in my entire life, and yet he kept smiling like a lunatic. I was in a public place, but the intensity of his gaze still freaked me out. I had to walk right past him to get on the train.
Just as I was about to pass by him, he did an aggressive about-face to confront me directly. “We have one reserved for you!” he volunteered with a manic level of enthusiasm. As if on a practiced queue, he reached suspiciously into his briefcase to retrieve something. I slipped past the guy and virtually leapt onto the train. Thankfully the doors closed and there was a thick pane of glass between us. As the train left the station, my heart thumped with a jolt of adrenaline which had just flooded into my bloodstream.
A few stops later, however, my little adventure was all but forgotten. I had to change trains for the final part of my route to midtown. As I walked to the platform, I couldn’t help but notice how vacant it was. Normally at this hour there would be a considerable crowd waiting to board. Amazingly, even in a city as large as the Big Apple, you could experience occasional lulls in traffic. I stood near the yellow line to secure a premium spot once the commuters on board departed.
To my horror, the grinning fool from the other station was standing on the other side of a support column nearby. He still had his creepy smile and looked even more determined to confront me. I didn’t want to guess why. He walked closer. I held my ground near the yellow line while eyeing the platform for help. There was never a cop around when you needed one. I held out my hands aggressively to dissuade him from coming any closer, yet he still did. It was just he and I on the abandoned subway platform. I didn’t see another soul around.
He clutched his briefcase in a way that chilled my blood. He possessed something inside that wasn’t meant to be seen by the public. Against my better judgment, I took a step back. I didn’t dare look down but I knew I was close to the edge. He stepped into the spot I had just retreated from. I started to raise my hands higher to make fists but I feared they would offer little protection from whatever he had in the briefcase. He looked down at its clasp. Slowly he unfastened it while maintaining eye contact.
I heard the train approaching and feared he would just shove me onto the tracks. “We have one reserved for you!” he spoke again while reaching in. I grabbed his wrists and tussled with him before he could retrieve his weapon. With all my might, I flung him off the platform and down onto the tracks, just as the train whizzed by. The sounds of the brakes squealing to a premature stop will never leave my mind.
The cops were summoned but it seemed to take them an eternity to get there. I just sat on the cold concrete to wait. I guess I was in shock. The guy was D.O.A., but no one expected any different. No one survives that, nor would anyone want to. A detective arrived at the scene and took me back to precinct headquarters. I explained that the stranger had stalked me at the other station and how he had reached for a weapon both times I saw him. It was then that the officer opened up the deceased man’s briefcase.
Inside were glossy sales brochures for new Mercedes Benz sedans. They were just like the ones I had admired earlier on a local dealer’s website. It appears that they use sophisticated data mine information to gain potential customers from the ISP of the online viewer. The dead guy had been a new salesman for the dealership. He’d recently relocated to the metropolitan area from down South and wasn’t familiar with our more introspective social customs.
It seems I inadvertently mistook Southern friendliness for homicidal tendencies and tossed a ‘good ol’ boy’ off the platform to his death. At least I won’t have to worry about traffic or commuting to the city again for a while.
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