I spent the two and a half hours walking home from Beth’s house with a full stomach and constantly feeling the back of my head. She’d said it was mostly a ‘pixie’ cut. Well her actual words were ‘bastardised pixie’ because she said she hadn’t a clue what she was doing, which made me laugh. Most of it was shorter than hers, which was a bob.
I kept looking in shop windows to see my reflection. I really liked it. It was refreshing to be able to run my hands through my hair without it getting caught in all the knots.
* * *
I went out again that night.
I couldn’t sleep. I lay on my sofa, curled up in my nest of blankets, I was warm. Happy even. But the sleep just didn’t come.
I got up when the radio news came up saying it was 4am. There wasn’t much point in staying in bed. I was restless, I needed to move.
I wasn’t sure what I wanted. All I knew was staying here in this room wasn’t it.
* * *
I was more careful this time, I didn’t just jump in. I spent about half an hour walking the Island, watching, until I found a target.
I’d spent the last half an hour stalking them, there were two dealers. I’d run two circles of the area and hadn’t identified anyone with an eye on them or staying close as they moved through the outskirts of a well-known gang territory.
They were members. They each had a tattoo of three parallel vertical lines above their left eyebrow, the ‘Kolmek’. It was an Estonian gang that had been running drugs into Montreal for the last 30 years. It had dug out its place with a lot of bloodshed and risen sharply and brutally through aggressive territory grabs before I was even born. It had been losing ground lately to some of the younger gangs after its leader was killed in a shootout last year.
At first I was in two minds. If the gang had any kind of sensible organisation they would be prepared for an attack, from another gang at least. I’d guess they had some way of communicating to other members nearby. As I watched them though I found out that they really weren’t all that professional. One had clearly been drinking. He took a swig of his hip-flask every so often and got in arguments with some of the people passing. The other was young, he looked barely 16.
I wondered whether what I was doing was right. Moral. Maybe they weren’t so bad? But I’d seen how scared people were of the pair of them. Anyone passing would try cross the road, and if that wasn’t possible they stared at their feet and hurried trying to escape attention. When the drunk shouted at them they cowered from him. The young one was no better, he watched and jeered.
I waited until they actually sold some drugs to an emaciated woman. I thought about how I was going to do this. It was going to have to be fast, I had one free shot. Who should I take down? Young, fit and sober? Or experienced, and drunk.
I’d go for the young guy. If things went wrong I had more chance of out-manoeuvring an older person who’d been drinking than someone fresh and young. If things went really bad I could probably outrun him a lot easier.
I took a deep breath and lifted the black scarf I’d borrowed from Beth to cover the lower half of my face, tying it tight behind my head. I couldn’t be too careful. I’d found a 2 foot inch diameter steel pipe while I was roaming and shoved it in my belt. I drew it out and got a feel for its weight.
My plan was simple, maybe naively so. But simple was usually better, less to go wrong. Anyway, what was that famous phrase?
“No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.”
I walked up to them. I had the bar held against my leg so it wasn’t visible in the dim light of the streetlamps. As I walked past I was going to whack young-guy in the head and deal with old-guy on the fly. Preferably by whacking him on the head.
I managed the walking, that’s where things started to fall apart.
I missed. Or at least – the target moved.
I had under-estimated old-guy. He must have seen me starting to swing out of the corner of his eye. His pushed young-guy and my blow missed the head and smashed into his shoulder. Young-guy still fell over but I couldn’t rule him out. Pain alone wasn’t going to keep him on the ground for long and now I had to deal with someone who clearly wasn’t suffering slowed reactions due to the drinking.
I’d like to say there was screaming and shouting as we fought – but I’d be lying. It was eerily quiet. You’d be surprised how quiet hitting someone is; the movies make it sound impressive. The loudest thing was an occasional grunt as one of us landed a hit.
He knew what he was doing, I had the upper hand with my weapon but whenever I swung he caught it on the flesh of his arms as close into me as possible, avoiding the fast-moving tip. It must have hurt but probably did nothing more than bruise. If I took the time to give a proper swing he had time to guess where it would land. If I hit him fast, I couldn’t get much momentum and he wasn’t too troubled by it.
I should really have cut my losses and run.
To be honest? I felt alive. Maybe this is what I was seeking coming out here? Fun? Excitement?
I wasn’t doing well though; he hadn’t had a chance to swing more than a few punches. I could jump backwards and avoid most of them. A few caught me in the chest but I must have been moving back to avoid them and I barely felt it. The problem was I was always on the retreat. If I stopped my relentless attack with the pipe I didn’t know what he’d do to me. It was only a matter of time before he broke through, the young fellow recovered enough to distract me or he got some backup.
I had to change my tactic. What was my advantage? Speed? An idea popped into my head, something I’d done at primary school once and got in a lot of trouble for. It had been more effective than I’d planned.
I turned and I ran.
I could hear the slap of his footfalls as he followed. I didn’t go all out, I wanted him close for what I was about to pull.
After about 5 seconds for him to get into the rhythm of a chase rather than a fight and I found a suitable spot tried it.
Skidding up to the a curb I braced my feet on it to come to an abrupt halt. I dropped to the ground and curled up, almost on my side, with my back towards him and pushed my body back the way I’d come.
There was a tense moment before I felt myself collide with his lower legs. I scrambled to my feet as I watched him dive into the sidewalk face first. Panting with the exertion I watched for half a second but he wasn’t even moving. I turned to check on young-guy. As I feared he was up, but he was a good 200 meters away. I raised my pipe but before I could even start towards him he turned and ran.
Shit, he was probably going to get backup. I was surprised they didn’t even have a phone system. No wonder they were losing ground to other gangs.
I turned my attention back to the guy still on the floor. Flipping him over… wasn’t pleasant. His face was a bit of a mess. Hitting concrete at running speeds tended to graze. His nose looked like it might have been broken too. I felt a bit ill. Maybe I’d gone too far?
No going back now.
I went through his pockets as quickly as I could, luckily it seemed they either shared the drugs or he carried it. I poured what powder he had onto the ground and took his wallet. I had to move fast.
I walked away, it took all my willpower but I didn’t want to run. People watched running figures. I kept my steel pipe just by my leg just in case anyone was following me. I doubled back, zigzagged through backstreets. After ten minutes I was confident I hadn’t been followed and walked into a narrow alleyway before taking the scarf from round my face and wrapping it more traditionally round my neck. I threw the pipe over a fence and came out of the other side of the alley as a normal girl.
When I got back I had stripped out of my sweat soaked clothes and noticed a blossoming bruise on my chest. Ouch. One of those hits must have actually connected. I took a deep breath, it hurt but it wasn’t the sharp pain I’d had in the past that Mz Andrews said had been a fractured rib. Still, it couldn’t have been far off; it hurt a lot now I’d seen it. Pain is weird like that.
I needed some protection. I was going about this all wrong, if I really wanted to do some damage to these people I needed to take this more seriously. I needed to be professional about it, not some amateur running around swinging a pipe.
What the hell am I thinking? Do I seriously want to go down this road? Anyway stuff like that costs money, money I don’t have.
Then I looked at the wallet on the floor by the clothes, casually discarded.
I made sure mom was as comatose as usual, it was about time she was due to wake up, and went to get the cash from my first foray from its hiding place.
Then I counted it. Then I recounted out of disbelief. It took me a while.
I wasn’t expecting to be holding thirty two thousand dollars. How much money did these guys make? I quickly hid it again but I didn’t think it was such a good hiding place now I knew what was in it.
The shower seemed to wash off everything, not just the sweat but all my pent up energy. As I dressed I realised I had just stayed up all night. School was going to be fun.