By the time Henry got back to Chinatown, the sun was setting. The streets were still wet, drenching up a stench of rotten refuse that hung thickly in the air, but the rain had faded into a light drizzle. He threw his hood up over his beanie and walked through the streets with his hands stuffed into his pockets, wishing very much that he could take another nap.
It still took him a little while to find Atari for the second time, but at the very least, this time, he was remarkably dry.
He stood before the gate to Shane’s apartment building, buzzing his apartment. There was no immediate reply. He waited a little while, wondering if Shane was refusing to answer because he was still working. He buzzed the intercom again.
There wasn’t any response. He tried a couple more times. He ducked into the restaurant, to check if maybe Shane had popped inside for a food break. But he wasn’t anywhere Henry could see.
“C’mon,” he growled under his breath. He tried the buzzer again, and then again. Finally, giving up, he buzzed the apartment next to Shane’s. A woman’s voice replied, speaking rapidly in Mandarin.
“Hello,” he said, hoping very dearly that Shane’s neighbor spoke English. “Is Shane Chon home?”
“No Shane here, no. Wrong number.”
“No, I know Shane doesn’t live here. He lives right next door to you.”
There was a pause.
“Could you… buzz me in? I need to check on my friend?”
“Who are you?”
“I’m… Shane Chon is my friend. Could you let me in?”
“No, no, I can’t…”
“Please, ma’am, I was supposed to pick something up from him. I think his doorbell is broken.”
There was a very long breath of silence over the intercom. Henry pressed the button again, frowning.
The door buzzed and the bolt slid out of place. Henry shouldered the gate open.
“No you bother,” he heard the woman on the intercom say, or something to that nature. There were other voices in the background.
He hurried down the alley and opened up the apartment door. The stairwell was a little brighter than when he had left it. He took the steps down to the basement level quickly. As he was walking, he heard a sickly meow. He stopped and stared down the hall.
Shane’s cat, Horatio, was sitting in the middle of the hallway, staring at Henry, its ears pressed back against its head. As he stepped forward, he hissed at Henry and went scurrying into Shane’s apartment. The door had been left ajar. A strange smell drifted from that direction, along with the sound of tinny, heavy metal music. Henry approached it warily.
As he drew near, he realized it had been smashed in, the bottom hinges snapped clean off. As Henry tried to slip through, he reeled back, clapping a hand to his nose. A stench of rot and rust assailed him, making his eyes water.
Covering up his face, he pushed his way in. He stood in the doorway in shock.
The entire place had been trashed. Shane’s desk was flipped over, scattering shards of glass everywhere. Beneath it, a laptop screen flickered, flashing an error. The sofa had been torn apart. There were holes in the plaster wall. Shocks sparked at random along the ground, dancing along the ends of exposed wires. Shane’s pornos lay strewn about the place, ripped to shreds or exposed to random pages.
The briefcase was nowhere to be seen. Henry felt his head swim.
“You fucking… asshole…”
Henry turned, and nearly vomited. Leaning against the wall next to his bedroom, Shane glared up at him, all the lividity drained from his face. His belly had been sliced open, and he held his own intestines between his fingers. He sat in a puddle of his own rank blood. His glasses, hanging askew, were dotted with red. Horatio was curled up by his feet, meowing ferally.
“Fuck,” Henry hissed, blinking rapidly, his eyes watering with the foul smell. He felt his stomach revolt, and yet he couldn’t stop looking at Shane’s exposed guts. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
He staggered forward, his legs weak underneath him. There were shadows under Shane’s eyes. His nose was bent at an odd angle, his cheek had been split open, and there were red marks around his throat. Someone had beaten the shit out of him. He snarled at Henry as he approached, revealing broken teeth.
“Is that all you have to say?” he slurred.
Henry stood just above him, his hands feeling static by his sides. He didn’t know what to do. If there was anything he could do to help him. Should he try to stem the flow of blood, like he’d done for his bullet wound? Looking down at Shane’s stomach made his ears ring with nausea. He sank down onto his haunches, unable to stand any longer. Horatio hissed at him.
Shane removed one of his hands from his belly, waving it languidly up at the ceiling. Henry felt bile in the back of his throat.
He didn’t seem capable of finishing the sentence. Henry glanced up in the direction Shane was gesturing at. There was nothing there. He was staring vacantly up at the ceiling light. Henry looked back down at him, swallowing thickly. He looked pale and weak, like he was fading fast.
“Don’t…,” Shane wheezed, shaking his head. He broke off into a moan, clutching his stomach tighter. Henry raised the back of his hand to his mouth, fighting down nausea. He looked Shane in the eye. He looked back at Henry wearily, in great pain.
“What happened?” Henry asked tightly. “Who did this?”
Another groan escaped from Shane’s mouth, but the corners of his lips twitched, as though it were meant to be a dry chuckle.
“Asshole,” he breathed. He glanced up at Henry with watering eyes, his eyelids drooping.
“Shane,” Henry snapped. “Shane!”
There was no response. He reached out and tapped him on the cheek, trying to wake him. Horatio growled at him again.
He stopped. Shane’s eyes hadn’t moved from the place Henry used to be. They were frozen in place. He drew away, staring. Moments trickled by, a sort of static buzz tickling the air. Shane did not move. Henry did not move. The heavy metal kept on playing, low in the background.
Eventually, he leaned forward. He drew his thumb across Shane’s cheek, examining his eyes. They were shallow. Lifeless.
Henry fell back, sitting down roughly. He ripped his hood off, digging his fingers into his head. He stayed that way, just staring. Shane’s arms still circled his guts. He waited, as though he expected the man to look up at him at any second. He felt his nails cutting half-moons into the flesh of his skull.
“You fuck,” he groaned. He hit himself in the forehead. “You fuck. You fucking fuck!”
He began pounding the sides of his head with his fists, his teeth gritted in pain, an incensed, animalistic howl ripping through his throat.
“You fuck! FUCK, FUCK, FUCK! What did you do?”
Holding the back of his head, he curled up, slamming his head down onto his knees, and rocked back and forth.
“No…,” he moaned to himself. Through his legs, he could still see the pink swell of Shane’s innards. “NO!”
He remained like that for what felt like some time, inaudible, rage-fueled noises escaping from his mouth like the cries of a wounded beast. He had no thoughts. Just a raw cascade of emotions, which expanded in the cavity of his chest, making his lungs burn, his throat tremble, and his hands shake. “No” was the most concise word he could think of. It summed all of his thoughts right up. And he repeated it with fervor.
When he looked up finally, he found that Shane’s dead eyes were resting on him again. Groaning incoherently, he reached forward and tried to drag Shane’s eyelids closed. It didn’t work as well as he thought it would. It was as though his eyelids were stuck, glued in place. At last he gave up. Standing shakily, he went to Shane’s bedroom – which had been torn apart as well, and, by the smell of it, urinated on somewhere – pulled the bed sheet from the debris, and draped it over the body.
He leaned against the wall, clutching his head, the stench of blood, piss, and gore assaulting his senses. Henry knew that he should be leaving right now. For one, only half an hour ago, he’d been giving his parole officer a house tour, and now he was standing in his second crime scene of two days. But he was still trying to take this all in. He just didn’t understand. Alby’s men couldn’t have done this. Not that they weren’t capable of the savagery, of eviscerating this man they didn’t even know, but because they had no motive. They were after him. After Henry. And they had found him at this apartment. It was only by sheer luck that he had slipped past them, and they were bound to be right on his tail.
What interest could they have in the briefcase? They probably didn’t even know about the so-called liquid coke. There was no telling whom Alby had let in on his deal with “Xavier” before he passed on. Not even Donahue had known.
Shane’s apartment bore all the scars of being searched, not just carelessly destroyed. Whoever had come here was looking for something. Henry walked dazedly through the mess, lifting up the desk and looking under it, checking under the sofa, around the entire room. His body moved lethargically, and he couldn’t bring himself to turn the place over thoroughly, not with Shane’s body beginning to bleed into the sheet against the far wall. He turned off the music. It was playing from a dented speaker, linked up to who knew what system. All of Shane’s electronics had been scattered.
The briefcase had been taken. It had to be. All of Shane’s lab equipment had been smashed with deliberate care. The people who had come here had known about the coke, Stephen’s “ether”. They had taken it with them. They probably worked with Stephen too, he realized. He’d mentioned something about being able to get someone else to deliver the case to Alby. Of course, he wasn’t the only one in on this. Stephen had gotten exactly what he wanted.
“Then why did you…?”
Henry choked up. He was looking at Shane’s disemboweled body. It was just too brutal. It had been done with design, like putting on a show. But for who? Henry?
He shook his head. He didn’t believe in any of this. He didn’t see how any of it could be real. He could buy that his brother was crazy. He could buy that Stephen wanted to hurt people. He was even beginning to buy into the fact that Alby’s liquid coke was some sort of radical, liquid disease. But finding out there was more to it than that? A whole group of people, apparently, in the same mindset of his brother, capable of obliterating one man and his apartment in the matter of an hour.
It was one thing to find out that your brother might be insane, or even murderous. This was in a category all of its own.
Henry closed his eyes, shaking his head. He glanced away from the body – and halted. He was looking up at the ceiling light. There was a black spot on the fixture. Before, he had assumed that it was the outline of many dead bugs. This time he looked closely. And the silhouette seemed strangely cylindrical.
He set Shane’s swivel chair right, and dragged it beneath the light. It grated against the concrete floor. One of the wheels had been popped off. He stood on top of it, balancing lightly as it wobbled under his weight. With his face pressed close to the light fixture. He could make out the shape of the shadow better. It was inside the fixture, and it cast off an amber glow.
Henry grappled at the glass, trying to figure out how the fixture unscrewed. It took him a bit, but finally the glass dome popped out, leaving the bulbs exposed. Resting in the bottom of the fixture were the amber vials, still corked, and completely undamaged.
He exhaled sharply in disbelief. He looked down at Shane abruptly and near fell off of the chair. He hopped down to the ground, holding the light fixture close to his chest. Shane had hidden them. Somehow, miraculously, Shane had found the time to hide the vials before anyone had gotten in. And that was why they had beaten him, and sliced his belly open. They hadn’t been able to find them.
“You fucking asshole,” Henry murmured, blinking down at Shane’s body. He shouldn’t have done it. It would have better if Shane had just given them to these men. Henry didn’t know that it would have spared him, because he had no idea what kind of men Stephen knew that were willing to do this on his behalf. But he liked to think Shane’s chances would have been better. This thing that Stephen had gotten him involved in wasn’t worth anyone dying.
Henry stared down at the vials blankly. Here he was again. The same problem, and even more blood on his hands. He wished he had just let Stephan take them. Even though he knew Stephen wasn’t going to destroy them, as Henry had been hoping to. Henry just didn’t want this anymore. He didn’t want the damage on his conscious, or around the people he cared about. He rubbed a hand across his face.
There was no escaping it. Whether Stephen had the vials, or Henry protected them, there was no difference. He was responsible for what was done with them. Too many people had died already because he’d held them in his possession. The culpability of this whole disaster had seeped into his very flesh. He couldn’t wash himself of it, any more than he could deny the carnage, spreading rapidly in his wake. The madness was his now, to bear as well. He wasn’t a bystander or a witness. He held the trigger in his hand.
“What’d you have for dinner tonight?”
“Nice, nice. The dinosaurs?”
“Those are the best kind.”
Henry smiled faintly, to hear his son’s voice across the phone. He lay on his back, spread out across several seats on one side of the subway car, his head propped up on his arm. The other commuters, taking the line home after a long day’s work, sent him stingy looks. He kept his eyes trained on the ceiling. He knew he must look like a bum to them. But for the first time in a long time, Henry didn’t care so much.
“What did you have for dinner?” Holden asked him.
“Do you want Chinese food?”
“Yes. Mom never gets restaurant food.”
“Because it’s cheaper not to, bud. You know though, before I hang up, I’ll ask your mom if it’d be okay if I took you out for Chinese takeout next time I see you.”
“Yeah! Do it, do it, do it!”
Henry heard rustling on Holden’s side of the line, as though he was springing to his feet.
“Wait, wait, wait!”
“What?” Holden asked, perplexed. Henry laughed.
“I’m not done talking to you yet!”
“Oh.” He heard Holden sitting back down. “Okay.”
Henry wiped the wetness away from his eyes with the back of his hand. For once, it sprung from laughter.
“Anything else interesting happen today, goose?”
“Nothing. I just played soccer with you.”
“Alright. I’m sorry I had to leave so soon, Holden. I promise, next time I’ll stay longer.”
“Maybe you could sleep over, next time,” Holden suggested. Henry chuckled, his eyebrows folding.
“What, like an actual sleepover?”
“With popcorn and sleeping bags?”
Henry felt himself smiling faintly, and painfully.
“Well, yeah, maybe. That could… maybe, work.” Henry was afraid to promise anything to Holden. Carmen was pretty great about these things – it was as important to her as it was to Henry that Holden have a father – but he didn’t want to force himself on her either. “Or, maybe you could come sleep over at my place sometime. That’d be fun, you haven’t seen my new apartment yet.”
Holden sounded disappointed. Henry sat up in his seat, just as the subway pulled into the next stop, jerking him forward as it braked. He plugged a finger into his ear as a load of people hopped on, crowding inside the car.
“What?” he asked Holden.
Henry chewed on his bottom lip. He glanced up, seeing an elderly woman squeeze through the press of people. He stood up silently, motioning for her to take his seat.
“I’ll ask your mom about a sleepover, buddy,” Henry said, talking over the hubbub of commuters, making room for the older woman to sit down. “Okay? I’m sure it’ll work out fine.”
He still sounded unenthusiastic. Henry sighed, stumbling a little as the subway started again, bumping into the young woman standing next to him.
“Sorry,” he said, as he grabbed onto the bar overhead. His eyes travelled down the line of people, holding on tightly as the train lurched onwards. There was a man, grey hair, in jeans and a leather jacket, staring at him intensely from the other end of the car, leaning against the subway doors. Henry felt his skin crawl unpleasantly. The man wasn’t even trying to hide the fact that he was staring. He looked back down at the old woman, forcing a smile as they met eyes.
“What would we do at this sleepover, huh?” he asked Holden.
“We could watch a…”
A load of static popped and crackled in Henry’s ear. He pulled the phone away from him. Instinctively, he found himself glancing back over to the grey haired man. He was still scowling at Henry, his gaze unwavering. Henry turned his body away from him, his stomach queasy, speaking loudly into the track phone.
“Hello? You still there, Holden?”
Holden’s voice broke in, between puffs of electric static.
“Yeah, Dad, what’s wrong?”
“Could you say that last bit again?”
The line broke up again. Henry shook his head.
“Holden? Holden if you can hear me, I think the phone is breaking up. I’m in the subway right now, so signal is bad. Can you hear me?”
He paused a beat.
He pulled the phone away from his ear. “Call lost” flashed on the screen. The man standing to his left made a tsk-ing noise.
“What’s your carrier?” he asked.
“It’s a track phone,” Henry said, stuffing it into his jean pocket. It was what the parole board had allowed him, and Carmen chipped in with the payments.
“Yeah, I’m surprised you got service as long as you did. Signal is always crap down here.”
“Yeah,” Henry agreed, staring down at his feet awkwardly. He looked back over at the grey haired man. His line of sight had not faltered, and it pierced right through Henry. He swallowed thickly[SC1] .
“You might try Verizon,” the elderly woman sitting in front of him said, looking from Henry to the other man. “That’s what I use.”
Henry nodded, as though he were listening, but his mind was on the person watching him. He hadn’t noticed whether the man had been in the car this entire time or if he had just gotten on with the business rush. But he couldn’t shake the sinking feeling in his stomach. He had too many people looking for him to pass it off as paranoia. Today of all days, Henry trusted his instinct.
He hitched the backpack slung across his shoulder a little tighter. He’d lost the briefcase at Shane’s place, but now the vials were wrapped up in one of Shane’s sweatshirts, and stuffed inside a book bag he’d purchased on his way to the subway station. It made him nervous, having them in such a flimsy container, but he felt like a briefcase was more conspicuous anyway. The downside was, he felt as though if anyone leaned too hard against him, or bumped into the bag, the vials would break.
Henry pulled out his phone again. This time, he didn’t wake it up. He looked at the dark, blank screen, using the reflection to get another peek at the guy. He twisted his wrist from side to side, trying to get the right angle. When the reflection in the screen finally fell on his watcher, he found that the man was staring right back at him – into the reflection of the phone. His gaze was smug and leering. Henry began scrolling through his contact list nervously, trying to cover it up. He held his breath in check.
It could be one of Alby’s men. He was dressed rough enough, for a Saint, in his scrubbed up jeans, and salt-and-pepper scruff. But the Saints always tended to travel in packs. What was a gang that didn’t come in numbers? Unless there was more of them waiting for him at his stop. Henry swallowed, wondering if he should get off sooner.
As the conductor called out the next station, Henry braced himself. He was going to get off here. He was going to risk it. The man was likely to follow him off, but this was a busy station, with a lot of different transfers. There was a good chance he could lose him, and find a different way to get back to the Bronx. As the subway began to lurch, screeching painfully as the brakes were applied, and the tunnel walls zipped past, Henry straightened himself up. He looked out the window as pitch black mortar and concrete gave way to tile and yellow fluorescent light.
The subway car pulled to a stop. Henry let go of the bar.
But as he turned, he saw the doors opening. The grey-haired man was no longer there. He froze a second, faltering. Henry stood on his toes. He thought he could just barely make out the top of the man’s head, pushing through the throngs of people waiting to slip inside the shelter of the car. But he couldn’t tell if it was him. It could have been a different commuter, for all he knew. But Henry didn’t see the man anywhere in the car. His stomach shifted uneasily.
He took a seat next to the old woman, when someone else stood to leave. She leaned in close to him.
“How old is your son?” she asked in a whisper.
Henry looked down at his lap awkwardly, hugging the backpack against his chest. He could feel the outline of the vials.
“He’s seven,” he said quietly.
“That’s a good age,” she replied, nodding. She smiled, the wrinkles creasing around her eyes, as though in response to a good memory. “A good age.”
“Yup,” Henry said shortly. He looked down the length of the backpack, resting just beneath his chin, and held onto it a little tighter. Even through so much fabric, he could feel the warmth the test tubes emitted, soft and pleasant. Like a cup of freshly brewed coffee. “It really is.”
It took him another fifteen minutes to get to the Bronx. When he climbed the stairs and emerged above ground, it was the dead of night. On his phone, it said the time was around eleven. But it felt much darker than that. He set off at a slow pace, his hand stuffed in his pockets, his hood pulled as far over his head as he could manage. He avoided other people’s gaze, feeling the weight of the backpack bouncing gently against his shoulders like a hot coal, as though everyone could see the guilt and danger he carried.
He crossed an overpass, sticking to the sidewalk, leaving the residential neighborhoods behind, the rundown apartment complexes, tiny family-run stores, and nightclubs. He was entering into a part of the city that was almost entirely abandoned. Between closed down shops and people’s houses, there were lots of dirt coated generously in broken mortar and shattered glass that went on into the distance, at the end of which Henry could see a skyline of gutted buildings, jutting up against the harsh bruised sky like a row of crooked teeth.
These were the haunts of his youth. This is where young men and women came to smoke joints, start fights, drink tequila, and make love, with nothing but the gleam of streetlights to illuminate their endeavors. The place seemed full of ghosts as he drifted through. He hadn’t been back here since he had met Carmen. He had never brought her here. When they had been together, he had never wanted to. The empty lots of the city were places to sulk, or to forget. They were places where the young and the resentful could shout at the top of their lungs without anyone around to tell them they had no reason to. He had never thought he would crave that feeling again. But walking across that field of brick and debris made him feel young and hot-blooded again.
It also reminded him of Stephen. They had used to come here to drink, with groups of school friends, or often just alone. When something was going down with their mum, if Vicki was getting into a rut with her boyfriend again, if the children were screaming – they jumped a train and rode it until they found a quiet, abandoned place. High or drunk, they laid on their backs staring blankly, or climbed piles of refuse for sport. Sometimes they started giggling and couldn’t stop for the life of them. Sometimes they shouted, and broke things, and the fact no one cared that they broke things there seemed like a bitter medicine. Sometimes they came there just to talk.
Henry stopped at the edge of the lot. He stood before the ruin of an old parking garage. He closed his eyes, trying to remember[SC2] what Stephen had been like back then. What had he wanted? He could scarcely remember, and that was what made it hurt so much. Not knowing why his brother was doing this. More often than anything, on nights like these, laying on the backs of gutted cars in abandoned lots with a bottle of booze at hand, they had talked about one another.
He supposed Stephen had always wanted to be a leader. He’d wanted to be someone people looked up to. But it never worked out that way. In school, Henry had always seen him by himself. Sulking. He was such a fanatic – so outspoken – that he put most people off. He was always talking politics and injustice. About the “selfish bastards” and sticking it to the man. He wanted to make a difference. And he wanted people to agree with him. Wanted to so badly, sometimes it was scary.
It was Henry who’d had a following. He’d barely ever had a moment to himself. He was always surrounded by the Saints, and by the punk kids at school who were looking to feed off of Henry’s rather accidental “coolness”. They wanted his drugs – Alby’s drugs – but they also wanted to attain what Henry had. It wasn’t popularity. Henry really never had any friends at school. As he remembered, he spent most of his time studying and doodling, when not at work. But the kids at school, the ones who knew how Henry made his living – the ones who knew that he was one of the school’s suppliers – they didn’t see that. All they saw was freedom. They didn’t understand. They didn’t know that all that money went to his mum. All his time went to MacAwley. There was no freedom. Henry had no choices.
Stephen didn’t get it either. He’d thought that Henry’s attempts to keep him out of the Saints were attempts to hold him back. They older they grew, the more Henry had begun to sense that Stephen was embarrassed by him. After a certain point, he forbade Henry from ever hanging out with him or his very limited circle of friends. Whenever Henry was in the room, they were more interested in him, and his dirty business. They cared about the romanticized version of a teenaged mobster[SC3] . Stephen had grown to hate him for it. Henry had often wondered if that was part of the reason why he left. Besides wanting to escape their mum, that is.
Stephen had always wanted to be in control, and now he was. He was at the heart of something Henry couldn’t even wrap his mind around. Some group of people, extremists or whatever, bent on wiping out a couple hundred people with a ticking time bomb. Only his homemade weapon wasn’t homemade. It was something out of science fiction.
Henry shook his head, taking a sharp breath of crisp, cold air, clearing his thoughts. He walked around the perimeter of the garage, looking for an entrance. The driveway was boarded up, but there was a down-trodden path through the debris that led up to one of the windows. A piece of tarp had been taped across it, but it was easy to peel off, and it came up effortlessly, as though it had been pulled aside many times before. Henry squeezed through slowly, wary of bumping around the backpack.
It took a moment for his eyes to adjust. He was standing on the bottom floor. The wall across from him was lined, ceiling to floor, with paned windows, through which muggy light streamed. As he walked forward blindly, paint crunched underfoot. The floors were peeling, the old yellow parking lines barely distinguishable. A humungous cavern of pillars and vaulted ceiling stretched before him, molded and covered in black rot. He stepped lightly, listening with open ears, waiting for a sound of life somewhere – that some other person inhabited this building. But there was nothing.
At the end of the room, there was doorway, and beyond a flight of stairs. But just to the left, there was another opening, a yawning black pit. Henry walked up to it and stuck his head inside. It was an elevator shaft, but as he looked up and down, he couldn’t catch sight of the car. It was completely empty. He could hear a faint scuttling from below, small claws scratching over concrete.
He held the backpack in his hand, looking at the crusty, oiled chain which hung in front of him in the dark. He wondered if there was some way to attach the backpack to the elevator belt so that he could lower it down without having it land shoddily. He wasn’t sure he wanted to do this anymore. Now that he was standing here, on the edge of a precipice, ready to dump Stephen’s vials down an elevator shaft, the idea didn’t seem quite so bright. What if this building was torn down? What if someone still found it? The building could be inhabited by drifters. What if the rats got into it? He was rethinking his previously impractical plan of throwing the vials into the bottom of the Hudson Harbor, if only he could find some way to procure a boat.
A hand grabbed him by his hood and yanked him backwards, choking him. His arms flailed, and the backpack slipped from his hands, landing on the floor with a hollow thud.
Arms twined around Henry’s neck, smothering him. He struggled, gasping, swatting at the face of the man who held him, using his nails, trying to tear at his eyes. He felt hands grab his skull, pulling sharply, as though they were trying to snap his neck.
Henry let his legs fall out from underneath him, going boneless, letting his entire weight sink to the ground. He heard his attacker grunt with effort, but still, he somehow managed to clutch onto him despite bearing all Henry’s weight. Henry hooked a hand up. His fingers found the man’s mouth, curling around his exposed teeth. He yanked down, tearing at his jaw. A full-throated scream hurled out of the man’s throat, and Henry thought he heard bones creak.
The man’ grip slackened. Henry planted his feet down firmly and stood up, cracking his head sharply against his attacker’s face. They both went reeling, sprawling across the garage floor. Henry shook his head of dizziness and throbbing, squinting through the dark at the man who began to charge him, clutching his gushing red nose. Before he could react, he caught Henry in the chest, tackling him against the wall. Henry’s head smashed back against the concrete, and a loud clap reported throughout the garage. There followed a loud ringing in his ears.
The man propped an elbow under his chin, pressing Henry against the wall by his throat. Red spots flickered in front of his eyes.
A fist socked him in the gut. Henry couldn’t breathe. But through the gasps and flashes of red, Henry recognized the face that hovered before him. It was the man from the subway.
He leered into Henry’s paling face.
“Who’s the smart guy now?”
[SC1]Is the staring laid on a little too thickly?
[SC2]Fix this bit here, this flashback thingy. Or, make it more flashback-y. Is this a good place for a flashback?
[SC3]Is this all a little too melodramatic? Does the narration go on for too long? Is it coming off like a sob story?