“Can’t we just go back to your loft?” I asked Eddie, “Please?”
“You mean my abandoned shack with only one half-decent room?” his voice was emotionless, “Sure, let’s go.”
“Yay! You’re the best!”
“Don’t you ever forget it.”
When the intersection to head towards the boonies came up ahead I made a sharp turn, Eddie muttered some swear words under his breath, but he followed me faithfully. The sun came out through a small patch of clouds and warmed my skin. For a moment I missed my cat. When moments like that struck me I put my hand in my pocket and stroked the handgrip of my newly acquired pistol. Giving up the cat was worth it. It couldn’t be all for nothing. I was a soldier on a mission, and I couldn’t let soft moments get the best of me. All that was left to figure out was how I was going to get to Dwayne Jackson and teach him a lesson about what family meant to me.
“What are you thinking about?” Eddie asked me as he faithfully walked beside me, still in his green coveralls and the rest of his usual outfit.
“Oh, just pondering life and death.” I muttered in an absent-minded tone of voice not really wanting to tell him that I was plotting murder.
Eddie and I pondered together up until we made it back to his shack in East Yonkers. The red brick building never looked any better. It was crumbling more and more with each passing day. Sometimes floorboards randomly gave out and went crashing down into the basement in the middle of the night. If the city knew that people were living in there (which they probably did actually) they’d put a fence around the place with a big yellow and black no trespassing sign. That place was my home. Nobody could take it away from me. As awful as it was in there, it was my favorite place to be because only good memories were made in that tiny storage room on the second floor. No blood, no hate, no nightmares. It was the only real refuge I had.
“Wanna attempt the metal door?” Eddie joked well knowing that it was too heavy for me to open, “If one day we ain’t around you’ll have to find a way in.”
“I can always climb through a window, this building doesn’t have much left you know,” I joked in return, “but let’s see what this big ass door is made of!”
I grabbed the doorknob, turned it, and started pulling with all of my might, not that I had too much of it in the first place. I managed to get the door open a few inches, just wide enough for me to stick my hands inside in order to get more leverage and pull some more. I had no idea what kind of person would need such an enormous metal door for a fancy apartment building. What were they so afraid of? What needed to stay outside at all costs? Cannibals? Werewolves? The Ku Klux Klan? Catholic nuns? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Why the big metal door and cheap windows that could easily be punched through? But then again, what in life ever made sense anyway? The place was my home and I did manage to open the big metal door.
“Okay, you can go in now!” I muttered through clenched teeth and it took me everything to keep the door open long enough and just wide enough for skinny little Eddie DeSalvo to fit inside.
I then jumped in myself and let the door slam loudly behind me. It made a huge crashing sound and the entire building shook and resonated in response. For a moment I thought the whole thing was going to crumble to the ground but the other thing that happened was glass breaking on the second floor.
“That’s not good!” I laughed in defiance at the fact that I had successfully opened the door and let myself in without any help.
“I just hope that wasn’t my bedroom window,” Eddie muttered, “I really can’t afford to board up that one right now! It’s all I have!”
We both raced up the skimpy spiral staircase up to Eddie’s room, being careful that the staircase wouldn’t give out underneath it because apparently the slamming door had managed to break a window. Sure enough when we barged through the door of Eddie’s closet, the window was shattered and parts of it were lying on his makeshift bed. The hole in the window was big enough for me to stick my head through it and look down into the streets below, where I saw that more pieces of broken glass were lying on the sidewalk. I didn’t feel so defiant anymore. There were no other livable rooms in the entire building and living in the basement was not an option because the building might as well fall on top of us at any moment.
“I’m sorry man,” I sincerely apologized to Eddie, “I really am.”
“Hey Drifter, it’s not your fault,” Eddie reassured me by giving me a pat on the back, “you’re not the one who broke that window.”
“Well, I am the one who slammed the door like that in order to get the window broken.”
“So what? It’s not your fault that this happened. It was not your intentions, no worries.”
I cleared the bed of broken glass before I let myself flop down on the mattress and looked at the ceiling feeling guilty no matter what Eddie told me. I wasn’t one to usually feel guilt, but I was straight with people. I was fair to the ones who were fair to me, and what happened was unfair.
“What are we going to do?” I asked Eddie after a long moment of silence, “I really don’t want to move out of here or have to board up the window.”
“It’s gonna get hella cold if we don’t board up the window Drifter.” Eddie replied in a calm pensive voice, “But I don’t want to have to leave this place either. It’s like my own private sanctuary away from everyone.”
“We’ll figure something out,” I promised him, “we always have.”
“Yes,” he affirmed in a soft voice, “we always have.”
Eddie and I went out to a homeless shelter for some food and an extra blanket to spend the night. No matter how hot it was during the day, it was always chilly at night in an old half-insulated abandoned building like that. It was windy near the waterfront and not having a window to cut it out even just a little bit wouldn’t be anything pleasant at night or during any time of the day as a matter of fact. So that night Eddie and I bundled up tightly together, hoping and praying that it wouldn’t get too cold, that the warm weather would stay at least for another few days until we found a way to fix the situation. I could hear the wind whistling angrily outside but thankfully the bed was right below the window, sparing us from direct contact with the chilly breeze. The room was still considerably colder with the broken window but it was manageable until the morning arrived and the sun rose yet another day.
It was quiet, almost like the moments after a murder. I sat adjacent to the bed under the broken desk shoved in the dirtiest corner of the room. The rays of sunlight had just started piercing through the broken window and illuminating patterns on the wall. The city was just starting to wake up, I could already hear crews arriving at the docks down below and some more humming of engines in the distance. I held out my brand new weapon into the morning sunlight and admired it, but most of all I admired what I was going to do with it. It was a beautiful gun, handily fit into the enormous pockets of my enormous hoodie. Nobody would ever have to know! I had no problem giving a couple of years of my life to get that bastard back for what he did to my brother. Only, someone had already found out.
“Where in the world did you get that?!” Eddie’s voice was more than surprised.
I hadn’t even noticed that Eddie was awake. It was too late to put the gun back in my pocket and deny that I had such a thing. I easily could have stolen a gun from Cap’n Crunch’s hideout but a missing weapon would have been too obvious. I wanted my own, mine and mine alone, mine to do what I wanted with it and the only person responsible for it was me. I hadn’t stolen it, I had paid for it myself. The money might have dishonestly been gained but I still hadn’t stolen the gun.
“This is what I got in exchange for the junk I pawned off.” I blandly replied, already knowing what he was going to tell me in response.
“Why didn’t you just tell me you wanted a handgun for protection?” Eddie’s voice was sympathetic.
I wasn’t expecting that.
“I don’t know Eddie,” I whispered softly, almost ashamed of myself, “I haven’t quite been feeling like myself lately.”
Part of me almost cracked up laughing at Eddie’s naivety but I had to refrain from grinning too much because I knew too well that he was a very smart man and a very accomplished criminal.
“Or is that to kill Dwayne Jackson?”
“A little of both I guess.”
Eddie got up off his bed and squeezed himself underneath the table and took me into his arms. I motioned to shove the gun back in my pocket but Eddie grabbed it instead and the two of us were in a dangerous tug-of-war for a loaded weapon.
“Eddie it’s loaded!” I shouted for him to leg go.
“How dare you bring a loaded weapon into my home?” he was angry, “You can’t possibly be plotting murder for real!”
But I was. And he knew it.
“If you don’t want me to have weapons in your home, I’ll get out of it.” I snapped back at him as I got up to barge out through the door.
“Hey!” he shouted back angrily, “Get back here right now!”
But I was already gone. I barged out through the door with mighty force. I was a soldier on a mission and I was not going to be stopped, not even by Eddie. The huge door slammed behind me but I didn’t hear glass breaking, I guess it had already been all broken a long time ago by that point. The Ku Klux Klan and the Catholic nuns could enter the building, all that was left to fall off was the big metal door and the rest of the roof. I didn’t look back when I barged out into the street. There was no turning back. I had already crossed that line and there was no turning back. So I started walking.
Dwayne Jackson, I am coming for you and you will never know what hit you.