“Where are you right now, Henry?”
Henry glanced over at Holden. He was wiping at his nose with the back of his hand, his eyes swollen and pink, looking up at him expectantly.
“Where were you?” he replied sharply. His voice was strained from the effort not to swear.
“I asked you first.”
Henry’s fist tightened painfully around his phone. It took him a moment, looking at Holden out of the corner of his eye, to control himself.
“As I recall, I was the one to call you to begin with, to which you didn’t reply,” he said, his teeth gritted.
“I’m assuming by the current lack of profanity that you’re in a public place,” Stephen replied. If he’d been standing in front of Henry, he would have punched the condescending look off of his brother’s face. “Can I call you back later?”
“No.” He looked back at Holden, getting to his knees. “You wouldn’t anyway.”
“You’re being a little dramatic.”
Henry took the phone away from his ear, his muscles tensed in rage.
“Holden, I need to talk to someone for a second,” he said, standing. Holden looked up at him, frowning, getting to his feet as well.
“Who is it?”
He heard a tinny voice emanating from the phone and lifted it back to his ear.
“… not necessary, Henry.”
“I need to talk to you.”
“Let’s meet. You have the briefcase.”
“Yes, I have the goddamn –”
“Don’t swear in front of your son, Henry.”
Henry could have ripped his brother’s throat out at that second. His injured arm shook by his side.
“There’s a junkyard in Brooklyn, on Grand Street. You’ll remember it when you see it, we used to hang out there sometimes.”
“No. I’m not meeting you at a freaking junkyard. If you want, let’s talk at a Starbucks, or a McDonald’s…”
“I’m not going to a Starbucks, Henry,” Stephen responded, his voice fluid and callous. “I’m going to be at Cash for Junk Cars. You can meet me there, or not.”
Henry exhaled thickly through his nose, a pent up fury broiling inside of his stomach.
“I won’t be there. I’m not doing this with you. You’re gonna give me a freaking explanation first.”
“At the junkyard.”
Stephen hung up. Henry stared down at the phone for a moment, and then tried to redial.
“Who was that, Dad?”
It went straight to voicemail. Clapping the cell phone to his head, he groaned quietly in rage. Henry managed to contain himself, but he could feel Holden staring up at him questioningly.
“That was your uncle,” Henry sighed, putting the phone back in his pocket.
“About…” Henry looked down at his son. Holden stared up at him so frankly, his face still fresh with cold and newly shed tears. He wasn’t about to tell another lie to him. “Stuff. He got me in trouble.”
“Does this mean you’re leaving now?”
Henry frowned at him.
“What do you mean?”
“You said you were going to meet him somewhere,” Holden said. His face had sunken with sadness. Henry sighed, combing his fingers over his bare head.
“I dunno,” he said. “I haven’t decided that yet.”
He looked down at Holden.
“Do you still want to play soccer?”
Holden just looked at him sadly.
Henry leaned against the door of his car, looking up at Carmen’s house.
“Your mom isn’t home yet.”
Holden shook his head. They had just come from the nearest subway station. Holden had his soccer ball cradled under his arm.
“No. She’s still at work.”
Henry threw a look over his shoulder, into the car window. He could see the handle of the briefcase peeking out from under the passenger side seat. It was bizarre to think of Holden standing so close to the stuff that had killed Alby. He wondered if the liquid in the vials was volatile. He knew he had to do something about it. He couldn’t hold onto it any longer.
A thought occurred to him suddenly.
“One second,” he said.
He went around the car, throwing the side door open. Pulling the briefcase out, he undid the clasps and opened it a crack. He could hear Holden’s footsteps come around the side of the car.
“What’re you doing?”
He tried to move fast, his fingers shaking, counting out the cash. Just as Holden came up behind him, he tossed half the money bundles onto the seat and slid the case back under. He turned around, holding the money out to Holden. His son paused, his little index finger lingering where it had been tracing the outline of a bullet hole curiously.
“Here,” Henry said, “I want you to give this to your mom.”
Holden’s eyes bulged out of his head, staring blankly at the cash Henry extended to him. “Did you rob a bank?”
Henry shook his head quickly, forcing a laugh.
“Is that why you’re in trouble?”
“No – Holden,” he said sharply. “This is my money. I earned it, working.”
It felt like a bald-faced lie. He could tell by the way Holden swayed, turning uncertainly on the spot, that he wasn’t sure if he believed it either.
“It’s a lot of money.”
“It is,” Henry agreed. He still held the bundles between his fingers. He wished Holden would hurry up and take the money already, but he didn’t want to intimidate him either. Henry’s bad arm had begun to shudder again.
“Why are you giving it to me?” Holden asked. He looked up at Henry anxiously.
“I’m giving it to you and your mom, because you guys need it.”
“No we don’t.”
Holden met Henry’s eyes. After a moment, he pulled his hands out of his pockets and put them out. Henry dropped the money in his hands.
“You’re leaving now, aren’t you?”
Henry looked at him sadly. He couldn’t tell if Holden was about to cry again. He put a hand on his son’s knee.
“We’ll always be together.” He stuck out his pinky finger, giving him an earnest look. Holden took off his glove and curled his pinky around Henry’s warily. “Okay?”
“You’re coming back,” Holden said, as though reassuring himself. Or instructing Henry.
“And I’m still gonna call you,” he replied. “Every night. Same time.”
Holden dropped his hand back by his side.
“It’s not the same.”
Henry blinked, his eyes stinging with salt. He pulled Holden in close and gave him a bear hug. He felt his son’s fingers digging into his back as he hugged him back.
Henry gave Holden a kiss on the cheek. Then he got into the car, leaving his son on the sidewalk, holding Alby’s blood money, waving to him as he drove away.
Henry didn’t drive to the junkyard. He wound up driving away from Brooklyn first, heading towards East New York, the briefcase full of lethal drugs and illegal cash sitting temptingly on the passenger seat beside him. He was stalling, buying himself more time to think. And giving the money to Holden had given him an idea.
Before long, the familiar sight of fenced in trees and cross-shaped, brick-walled Projects greeted him. Rectangular hunks of concrete rose up into the sky like washed-out legos, with balconies and shutters that were painted pasty shades of linoleum green and grey. Clusters of young kids with their bicycles and skateboards clustered around the bus benches or beneath the phone lines, smoking joints or just pacing the sidewalk with lethargy.
The familiarity of the scene made Henry squirm in his seat.
He cruised around the streets for a while, not remembering which building number he was looking for. All the buildings looked the same, marked apart only by the tags and graffiti decorating some walls.
Finally, he arrived. He made a wise decision, however, and parked several blocks away, in a part of the neighborhood that was, at least, a little bit nicer. Normally, he wouldn’t have trusted the car to remain unharmed if he left it on a random street. He certainly didn’t trust it with a suitcase full of toxic coke sitting in the front seat.
The situation couldn’t be avoided however. He felt the gazes of sallow-eyed teenagers grazing him as he walked down the street, with his new, clean sweater, and old paint-splattered jeans. If he still had his hoodie, he would have thrown the hood up. As it was, he kept his eyes trained on the ground, watching one foot placed in front of the other, walking in a straight line, confident in where he was going. His heart beat to the rhythm of his stride. It didn’t help his nerves that he had about five bundles of cash tucked into the waistband of his jeans, hidden under his sweater.
Finally, he reached the right building. He liked the new graffiti that had been sprayed onto the side without windows. It was some sort of giant octopus, crushing a ship at sea. It was much nicer than some of the other stuff he used to see sprayed around the neighborhood. And definitely better than any of the things he used to tag.
He walked into the door. The lobby was a tight little room. There was a cubicle with a guard sleeping behind it, a wall full of mailboxes and covered in Sharpie art, and a decrepit stairwell. Henry went through quietly, careful not to rouse the guard. He ducked around a host of kids on the second landing, playing a game of wall ball. He could feel them staring at him curiously as he stumbled his way up before they broke out into an argument again.
Henry had to take a break on the seventh floor. He sat down on the stairs, grasping his ankle. He rolled up his jeans. The tendon was swollen. He touched it tenderly, wincing. He wondered, sourly, if he’d somehow managed to do something worse to it, or if it was just the climb. He began to roll up the sleeve of his sweater as well, eager to check on his bullet wound dressing. The gauze had begun to feel wet.
“Whaddya doin’ ‘ere?”
Henry twisted around. There was a rather large woman leaning over the rail on the flight of stairs above him. Her mottled, greasy, brown hair was pulled back sharply into a ponytail. She was wearing nothing but a nightdress, which accentuated her fat rolls very nicely. Her chins wrinkled at him with displeasure, as she took a drag on her cigarette.
He squinted up at her, still out of breath.
She stared at him a while longer, tapping the ashes off the end of her cigarette. They fell, burning, at his feet.
“You still haven’t answered my question.”
“I came to visit.”
Her large, pink face was scrunched up closely with suspicion.
“I ain’t come begging for money, if that’s what you’re after.”
Henry could feel himself flush. Only a few moments in the company of his mother, and he’d begun talking like her again. Sometimes he forgot just what an impact Carmen had on him.
“That’s what it always is, with you,” she snorted.
“Sure, mum,” he said dryly, using the railing to pull himself painfully to his feet.
“Sure, mum,” she mocked in a shrill voice. “What is it you’re after, you fuck? I expect a straight answer.”
“I love you too, mum. Great to see you.”
Henry walked right on up the stairs, patting his mom on her blubbery shoulder as he passed by. She slapped him back, right on his bullet wound, and he hissed in agony.
“Don’t start with me, you cunt. I won’t have it. I already get enough from your sisters. What’s it? Why’d you come?”
Henry kept on going up. His mother toddled behind him, mounting the stairs with astounding grace for a woman of her size. She hardly broke a sweat. But then, she had to make this climb, every day. There were no elevators in the apartments around here. It was more astounding that she hadn’t lost weight, living on the tenth floor.
“How’s Rose? Vicki?”
“Who gives a fuck about Vicki?”
Henry sighed. His mother had almost caught up with him again. He could smell the nicotine, breathing down his back.
“I’m just asking, mum, I don’t mean anything rude by it.”
“She’s fine. She’s a fucking lunatic.”
Henry glanced back at his mother over his shoulder.
“Is she still pregnant?”
His mother walloped him hard, right on the back. Henry nearly collapsed to the ground with the impact of it, his knees buckling.
“Don’t you fucking jinx it, Henry Martin. The fuck sort of brother you are, can’t even remember whether your sister’s given birth or not…”
Henry straightened himself out, gasping slightly for air.
“Well she does it quite a lot…”
He made sure to keep well in front of his mother this time, but he heard her huff indignantly.
“Fucking asshole…” she muttered.
They came to the landing on the tenth floor. Henry opened the door into the hall for her, shouldering it ajar while she climbed up the last few steps.
“And Ellen and Jill. How are they?”
“The fuck you asking me for? Stop blabbering, I can’t talk and climb at the same time.”
Henry raised his eyebrows, deciding not to comment on her answer. She made it to the top of the landing, resting at the final step. She glared at Henry loathingly.
“Ask ‘em yerself.”
As she walked past Henry, she brushed her cigarette across his shoulder. Henry jumped back.
His mother cackled viciously, squeezing through the doorway. He followed behind her, wiping the ash off his sweater, stepping over her smoldering cigarette as she tossed the remainder onto the carpeted floor.
The hallway was tight, and she barely fit through. She stopped in front of one of the doors. It was already opened, and she squeezed right through. Henry paused in the doorway. He could hear the TV roaring with tinny voices, hear and smell the sizzling of breakfast foods bubbling in grease, and the clanging of knives on cutting boards. As his mum walked into the room, he heard voices raise.
He could feel his pulse elevating already, with irritation or fear, he didn’t know. He decided he would leave as quickly as he could.
Henry stepped inside.
It was a small, three-bedroom apartment. As he stepped out of the doorway, he saw the galley kitchen on his right, filled with the hissing of frying sausages. His little sister Jill, now at least twenty-years old, bent over the stove-top, her hair pulled back, fly-aways framing her face. She looked haggard and pale. To the left, there was a card table and a couple of chairs, packed full of junk – newspapers, mail, food wrappers and clothing. There was a couch against the far wall, and a motley of kids slouched across it, from years two to seventeen, all of Henry’s nephews and nieces. They stared blankly at the wall opposite, on which the TV was propped against, watching a Disney movie.
He could hear arguing from one of the bedrooms off to the far left. His mum filled up the doorway to the kitchen, fixing her fleshy eyes on Jill.
“Are they done?” she asked her.
“No,” Jill replied, avoiding their mum’s eye.
“Hurry it the fuck up, you said they’d be done soon. The kids are hungry.”
Henry glanced over at the kids. A few of the youngest ones, sitting on the arm of the couch, held a bag of raw cane sugar between them, sticking their hands inside and sucking the white crystals off their fingers, their glazed eyes never leaving the television screen. He felt his stomach curdle slightly before turning away.
“Hey Jilly,” Henry said.
Jill looked up, seeming surprised for a splinter of a moment.
“Hi,” she replied bluntly. She had a smudge of grease on her chin.
“The fuck is he doing here?”
Henry turned. His older sister, Vicki, about ten years his senior, hovered in the hallway to the bedrooms. Her face had become thin, her skin pale and leathery with years of stress, alcohol, and bouts of cocaine addiction. Her auburn hair was thinning. She glared at Henry, her crooked teeth showing.
“I already asked,” his mum replied for him. Henry gave Vicki a half-hearted wave, but his mother plowed on before he could speak. “The prude won’t share.”
“We don’t got any room for you ‘ere,” Vicki spat at him.
“Yeah, I know,” Henry said, leaning against the wall, looking to the kids on the couch. They didn’t even seem to register that he was there. “That’s what you told me before I got out.”
“Song’s still the same.” Vicki crossed her arms, walking towards him. Henry shook his head.
“I’m not asking for a room.”
“Then what do you want?”
Henry looked from his mum and Vicki, scowling fiercely at him, to Jill, who was trying to keep herself occupied by the stove. It took a lot of energy to bit down his tongue. Why was it whenever he visited his family they always supposed he wanted something from them?
“Where’s Ellen?” he asked conversationally. “And Rose?”
“Fuck should I know?” Vicki snapped.
“Why aren’t you answering any of our fucking questions?” his mum butted in.
“I came to visit, mum, I already fucking told you,” Henry said tiredly, forcing a smile to ease the tension. “Can’t I just visit my fucking mum?”
His mum stepped forward quickly, slapping him across the bruised part of his face. It wasn’t forceful, but the impact of it against his already tender skin brought tears smarting to his eyes.
“Don’t you swear at me, ya cunt.”
“Why you lookin’ like that, anyhow?”
Henry glanced up, rubbing at his cheek sorely. It was Jill who had spoken.
“What?” he snapped.
“You got a black eye.”
“And a busted lip,” Vicki chimed in.
“I’m not here because I got beat up,” he said, exasperation creeping into his voice.
“You’re picking fights? A month outta prison, an’ yer already picking fights?” his mother raged shrilly.
“No! No, mum –”
“What s’matter with you?” Vicki scorned.
“I didn’t get into a fight –”
“Yeah, sure as fuck,” Vicki said, shaking her head in disbelief.
“Would you fucking shut up?” he yelled at her.
Vicki uncrossed her arms, flying across the room as if she meant to add another blow to Henry’s battered face.
“Hey, HEY, HEY! Don’t you start fighting in my home, you cunt, don’t you start,” his mum screamed.
Henry put his hands up, holding them between himself and Vicki.
“C’mon,” he groaned. This is what he had hoped to avoid.
“Don’t you give me any of your fucking bullshit, Henry fucking Martin.” Vicki waved her finger into his face, spittle flying from her mouth. “I won’t fucking stand for it. I get enough bullshit, I ain’t taking yours too.”
“I ain’t feeding it to you,” Henry snapped.
“Don’t you start!” his mother yelled. “Don’t you two fucking start!”
“You’re a fucking cunt,” Vicki hissed at him, spitting on his shoes. “Only ever coming ‘round here when you think there’s something you want from us. Fucking disgusting.”
Henry gritted his teeth, containing his anger. He met Vicki in the eye.
He pulled one of the bundles of cash out of his jeans.
He had half a mind to throw it at her face. But he held it between them, his hand shaking. Her eyes nearly crossed as they fixed on the money, her face shifting from the consistency of granite to marshmallow.
“Where’d the fuck did you get that?” his mum hissed, eyes wide.
Henry didn’t answer her. He motioned at Vicki with the money.
“Go on,” he repeated. “Take it.”
Vicki was staring at Henry strangely, as though the site of the cash hurt her.
The bundle was snatched out of his hand. He turned. His mum held it aloft, squinting at it suspiciously.
Henry pulled the other four bundles out of the waist of his jeans. When he looked up, he saw that all the kids were staring, with large, glassy eyes.
“The fuck did you get this?” his mum spat at him.
“Where the fuck was this when we needed it?”
Henry scowled at her.
“Where the fuck was this money, when we were starving, eh? When you were taking it easy in a nice comfy cell?”
“Mum, I gave you what I could –”
“What you could, eh? Weren’t spending it all on pornos and cigarettes?”
Henry rolled his eyes around in his head.
“I only made minimum fucking wage!”
She raised her palm again, as though to strike him.
“Oh, come off it, mum,” Vicki snapped at her.
“You come off it!” she rasped back. “Where the fuck were you?” she seethed at Henry, getting right up and close into his face. “Huh? WHERE THE FUCK WERE YOU?”
Henry stared down at his feet, feeling his mother’s breath steam hotly down the front of his face. She grabbed him sharply under the chin, her long, chipped nails digging into the flesh of his face, yanking it up so he was forced to look her in the eye.
“How dare you…,” she growled.
Henry flinched to one side, trying to wrestle his face free. He could barely move his jaw to speak.
“I did what I could, mum.”
The back of her hand flew at him. This time he blocked it with his arm, the impact jarring his wound. She clutched at him, her fingers raking into his skin, but he pushed her away. He threw the money down onto the card table.
“This is a fucking gift. I don’t owe you anything,” he muttered, keeping his voice barely beneath his breath.
“I went to prison for you, mum. I went to prison for you and Vicki and this entire fucking family, and I don’t owe you a cent more.”
“You left us for five fucking years!” she screamed at him. “Nobody put you into jail but you! Nobody here did anything against the law.”
“Except collect unemployment when you weren’t looking for no job. Or claim false insurance. Or inhale crack all the day long, like it was going out of –”
A fist met him squarely in the jaw. Henry reeled back, blooding bursting in his mouth. He fell back against the wall hard enough that he felt a dent form in the cheap plaster. He looked up, his vision shattered and swimming like the eye of a kaleidoscope.
Vicki stood over him, pointing sharply towards the door.
“I think you better leave now,” she said, her eyes hard.
Henry looked from Vicki, to Jill, to his mum, her teethed gritted with rage.
“You’re scaring the kids.”
Henry looked over at all his nieces and nephews. They stared back at him, no recognition on their faces. They probably didn’t even know that he was their uncle. The two year old, sitting in the lap of the eldest, had sugar crystals crusted around her lips. She was still watching the television screen.
He heard one of the bedroom doors open. A potbellied man lumbered out, wearing nothing but a flannel shirt and a pair of boxers. He looked around the room, from Henry leaning against the wall, wiping the blood off his face, back to Vicki.
“Something wrong, hun?”
He glared down at Henry with a knowing, drunken irritation.
“No,” Henry answered, spitting blood into the palm of his hand. “Nothing’s wrong.” He looked back around the room again, straightening up, glancing at the bundles of cash. “Enjoy.” He began to walk out, but called over his shoulder. “A piece of advice. You might try getting your kids to a fucking dentist, Vicki, before you spend it all on a new TV.”
He slammed the door closed behind him. He walked down the hall briskly, hearing the door reopen behind him as he dashed down the stairs.
“Hey!” the gruff voice of the potbellied man called out behind him. Henry knew he had to be Vicki’s new baby daddy. Which was never good news. He kept on walking.
The man’s voice followed him down the stairs.
“Don’t let me see your face around here again, buddy! I’ll kick your fucking teeth in!”
“It’s my fucking family!” Henry shouted back at him.
“Do you hear me?” the guy kept screaming.
Henry tuned him out. He walked out of the apartment building, hardly aware of the hordes of teenagers who catcalled at him as he stormed through their ranks. He walked the two blocks back to his car, seething under his breath, before he finally got back to his car.
He slammed the door behind him as he slid in. He rummaged through his pockets for his keys. He couldn’t find them. He checked his jean pockets, his sweater pockets, he looked around the seat, in the consul, in all the cracks and throughout the entire car. He didn’t have them.
He slammed the car horn with his fists, feeling his wrists throb with the impact. Anything could have happened to them. He might have dropped them when Vicki punched him. The kids from around his mum’s building might have pickpocketed them when he was busy brushing past them. In either case, he couldn’t go back and find them. He had to go meet Stephen.
He punched the steering wheel again, and his knuckles cracked.
He cradled his hand into his chest, leaning against the wheel in pain. He scrunched his eyes up tight, his teeth clenched together.
“Shit,” he swore, his voice cracking. “Shit, shit, shit.”
The briefcase was still sitting on the floor by the passenger side seat. He threw it onto the seat, his fingers curling into a fist, about to pound it. His hands stopped an inch above the case. He gasped in frustration, wrenching it open.
The vials were all still there, and about two hundred bucks in twenty dollar bills, which he had kept for himself. He picked up one of the vials, holding it up to the sunlight. Just feeling the warmth of the liquid seep through the glass and into his fingers made him feel ill. He put the vial back into its Styrofoam slot.
There was something very wrong with the drugs Stephen had given him, beyond the obvious. These weren’t just spiked, or cut bad. These vials weren’t laced. Bad drugs just didn’t do to you what Stephen’s “liquid coke” had done to Alby. Henry wanted to look this up. He wished he had a smartphone or computer, or something that he could use to look into this whole ordeal, because his high school understanding of chemistry just wasn’t cutting it.
And Stephen knew. There was no doubting now, though Henry still felt the disbelief gnawing at his heart. Stephen had known what was going to happen. Everything his brother had done, from the moment he had called Henry up to ask him for this favor – giving him the rental, the track phone, and the address to the P.O. box with the drugs – to setting up this sketchy meeting, screamed suspicion. A large part of Henry very much did not want to give the drugs back to Stephen. He had absolutely no clue what his brother would do with them afterwards.
But Henry didn’t know how to get rid of them himself. Just handling the vials made his skin crawl. He shut the case again. He pulled out his track phone and once again tried calling Stephen up. He hadn’t yet gotten his chance to give his brother an earful. But, as usual, it went straight to voicemail.
Henry took a moment, using the collar of the t-shirt underneath his sweater to soak up the blood gushing from his mouth, and calmed down. He closed his eyes, and tried not to think of anything in particular. But he could still feel the anger, rising up in his bones, and felt the fear that came with it. The fear that always accompanied this instinct to hit something – to hurt something. It scared him. Painful memories came rushing back to him, images of incidents that had happened while he was interned at Lincoln. Of the bloodbath that had occurred last night.
He had changed quite a bit, in order to survive prison. He’d been so afraid. He didn’t want to play any more games, didn’t want to have to think about all the alliances and imagined slights that came with playing the prison politic system of different gangs and other factions. All he wanted was just to be left alone. So he’d cut himself off from everyone, for all of those solid five years, and he had done so by making a large, violent spectacle of himself.
He didn’t have any impressive traits. Years of adolescence spent pushing and bagging for the Saints had taught him that much. But he knew inmates rarely messed with the crazies. They were dangerous in a way Henry could be. It wasn’t that they were tough, but unpredictable. It had required keeping up a front, constantly, never letting his guard down. He was constantly worrying if he wasn’t actually going insane, always wondering if he was just taking his role to seriously. His act had required him to do embarrassing and cruel things – to himself and to others.
But he had never killed a man. Or thought of killing a man, with any seriousness. Not before prison, not after prison. And yet, last night, he had killed three. Four, if Alby was to be counted.
It was too difficult to work past that. It was a flesh-memory that could still be felt in his hands and his muscles, if he remained inert for too long, the way being tossed about by a violent wave revisits a person in his dreams. The sensation and repetitively of it. The motion. The smells.
Henry checked his wound again. The blood on the gauze had already dried brown, which probably was not a good sign, but he had forgotten to bring more gauze from Carmen’s house before he left. That had been foolish.
Sighing, he picked up the briefcase and got out of the car.
He had lived in this neighborhood for nearly half of his life, and so luckily, he knew where the nearest subway station was located. Walking all the way there was a bitch on his twisted ankle, but he forced himself forward, careful not to bump the briefcase against his knee.
He didn’t look anyone in the eye as he walked onward, wary of brushing past people, and risking jostling the drug case. He felt as though he were walking stiffly. As though everyone was staring at him, and could see right through him to the present danger, as obviously as though he were wearing a bomb vest over his sweater.
It was excruciating, standing by the station platform with everyone else, waiting for the subway to finally pull in. There weren’t many people. He had managed to elude rush hour traffic, by sheer coincidence. But that only made it worse.
When the train finally pulled through, the motion of the cars whisking past made him feel dizzy. He swayed. Stenches of piss and mold wafted up at him. As the subway slowed to a stop, and the doors jerked open, his heart hitched at the sight of a crowd of people already on board, pressed in tightly, leaning against the doors and holding tightly onto the bars above their heads. Henry waited as they shoved through the doors, streaming past him. He slipped inside and managed to find an empty seat between a young woman and a construction worker.
He placed the suitcase on his lap, holding it close to him. As the subway pulled out of the station, he caught sight of his reflection again, in the glare of the windows. There was a smudge of blood pooling at the corner of his lip and he wiped at it. He looked out of place holding Stephen’s case. He and it just didn’t match.
Henry glanced at the construction worker. The man looked back, blinking lethargically. Henry turned away.
There was a poster on the far wall, next to an ad for the new iPhone, asking for rail riders to report any abandoned packages, if they saw one, to the authorities immediately.
Henry hugged the briefcase a little closer, staring impatiently up at the electric banner announcing the next stop.
It felt like it had taken forever to get to his stop, but finally, Henry strode briskly back into the daylight. He knew, roughly, where he was. He was near Grand Street. The place Stephen had mentioned specifically was only a couple blocks away. He set off, alternating the case between his sweaty hands.
When he finally found the junkyard, he paused in front of the driveway. Stephen was right. He did recognize the place. He and Stephen, and a load of other punk kids, from the Sons of Saints or otherwise, used to hang out here during high school. One of his old school friends had a dad who ran the place.
Bitterly, he wondered if it might have been Donahue.
He took a moment to brace himself, and then walked in through the front gate.