The city that never sleeps.
Where dreams and opportunities come to life.
The city of solid concrete and never-ending traffic, of bright lights and dark alleyways.
The perfect place to get raped or witness your first murder.
The taste of fresh blood splattering on my uniform and partially into my mouth hadn’t exactly been the quintessential circumstances of a regular night shift. I must of blacked out for a second because when I came to, another gun shot sent my ears ringing followed by a deafening silence.
I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I stood against the cold stone, hoping that my loud breathing wouldn’t give away my presence.
Dumbfounded and watching the events before me unravel, Norman’s horrified eyes were engraved into my memory moments before he was gunned down.
I had been the last person he’d seen before the life was stolen from him. The thoughts that must have gone through his head when the bullet pierced through the bones and cartilage of his skull, a sight that I wouldn’t wish upon the worst of my enemies.
Norman had probably heard the second gun shot and Ramona’s bloodcurdling scream seconds before she hit the ground next to him.
The place I’d once so eagerly wanted to escape to for a fresh start had indeed turned into renditions of a pusillanimous nightmare. A new life with new surroundings was going to be good for me or so I had thought.
Six months in and I had yet to adapt to the fast lane and busy nightlife I wasn’t regularly accustomed to therefore, I’d made a deal with myself to not let it get to me. I didn’t want to end up regretting my choices.
New York City was a giant. It could easily chew you up and spit you out like it had done to so many my age.
My friends on the other hand were extremely good at balancing between there daily jobs and partying lifestyle and I was envious of that.
I didn’t come from wealth so a nine-to-five was a sin qua non and working at this small diner was helping me pay the bills while searching for my dream job.
It had been the ending of yet another tedious night shift prolonged by my unyielding offer to help Norman and his wife tie a few loose ends before locking up, an act of munificence that I would later come to regret.
I had been hoping for a long and uneventful weekend.
Therefore here I was, crunched in between two garbage containers silently praying that they were tall enough to block complete view of my petrified face and trembling demeanor.
A chill ran down my spine as two tall figures emerged from the shadows . They stood motionless over the bodies as if observing their work. One of them knelt down studying Ramona’s pale face.
Her brown locks were draped over her eyes with her mouth slightly open, her left arm thrown across her stomach. The other man -who was slightly larger than the first with a display of ink showing through the collar of his black shirt- pulled out a plastic bag.
They weren’t communicating with each other through the process of stuffing the bodies into the large bags, they remained silent with no sign of neither leniency or repentance of whatsoever.
The larger one motioned to the other and they both effortlessly picked up the bodies, their boots splashing through the puddles of water while carrying them to a black van.
The bodies were tossed into the back of the van, landing one on top of the other each with a hard thud.
The moon was casting it’s silhouette over the rooftop on the building across allowing the large bins to be covered in absolute darkness.
The doors to the large van slammed shut making me jump. I held my breath squeezing further behind the reeking garbage bags I had reluctantly brought out only minutes ago, as the van drove through the alley and straight ahead. It stopped shortly at the end before making a swift turn to the right and onto the streets of the city.
This was my chance to make a run for it. I shuffled my way out of the waste mound and sprinted through the alley, my eyes were fixated on the backdoor that led into the diner mentally preparing myself for what would happen next.
Slowly making my way around the puddles of blood I tried not to think about Norman’s lifeless features again. The rain was picking up now and soon enough the blood would be washed away at a perfect timing.
I quietly slithered to the door cautious enough not to make the slightest noise and curled my fingers around the handle giving it a twist.
I twisted again this time with more force but it didn’t budge. It had been locked from the inside. Was someone else in the diner? I could feel my hands beginning to shake with trepidation as I tried the nob once more.
“Is anyone there?”
My voice was barely audible but somehow it echoed through the empty alley making the hairs stand on the back of my neck so I started banging on the door, calling out to whoever was on the other side.
“Please, I’m locked out here, if anyone is in there please help me!”
I tried to remain calm as I listened for any sounds coming from the inside but all I could hear was the dull music from Norman’s crappy record player and the fierce drumming of my heartbeat inside my chest.
I had left him listening to that old thing before hesitantly making my way through the small corridor to the back. Usually Norman did the disposing other nights due to the late hour shifts but this particular evening I had been eager to get things done and leave by 2 am.
My eyes darted from one wall to the other, expecting something to come out and lunge at me. I made my way up the alley and to the front entrance of the diner. I was relieved to be under the light again and out of the darkness.
I let out a sigh as the front door easily slid open making the small bell above it ding and immediately shut my eyes, cursing myself for forgetting about the stupid thing.
I tried to focus on my steps while slowly pushing the door shut but the recently wiped floors caused my sneakers to make a screeching sound. The neon light flickered above one of the booths, the emptiness and complete silence of the place giving me an eerie feeling.
Norman’s record player was no longer spinning. But hadn’t I just heard it from the back alley? My blood ran cold at the thought of someone hiding inside the diner waiting to come out and grab me. I had to get to my purse to retrieve my phone which was the only source of hope and survival at this point.
I made my way through the empty booths on tiptoes finally reaching the end, turning a left and entering the kitchen I spotted my purse on the far end of the counter top but froze abruptly to the sound of a door being shut.
Slouching down I crawled under one of the counters pressing my knees up to my chest, listening for any other movements. I bit my lip suppressing a cry from escaping my mouth.
This wasn’t really happening, it was just another one of my creative dreams where I was going to wake up fully drenched with sweat.
Was this how I was destined to go?
I was going to die alone and then be thrown in one of the large garbage bags. They would probably bury me where they had disposed of Norman and Ramona’s bodies and nobody would ever find me.
For all I knew these people would wipe every trace clean and no one would even suspect that anything had happened. No one would be looking for me.
The three friends that I had wouldn’t notice I was gone until they returned from their summer vacations and that wouldn’t be for another two weeks or so. By then I would be rotting into the ground.
My thoughts were interrupted by the lights being completely shut off. Now it was pitch dark. Maybe if I just sat very still for the next three hours until the morning-.
I felt a leather hand clasp over my mouth and another one grabbing my ankle, dragging me from under the counter.
I gripped the edge of it with both hands trying desperately to hold on but the marble slipped through my fingers and with one tug I let go.
I struggled against the firm grip around my waist wriggling and squirming but in what felt like two seconds I was being carried down the hallway to the back door and through the alley again.
My legs were kicking in the air with full force now as we approached a vehicle with tinted windows, horrified by the realization of being abducted settling in at a rapid pace.
I was shoved into the back seat and the brawny masked man followed. I lifted my left leg running it into his face causing him to let out a grunt as he staggered backwards out of the vehicle.
I was rewarded with a blow to my left cheek. I scrambled to the right side and tried opening the door but was held back by my hair. Placing my hands on both sides of my head I screamed in pain.
He shoved my face into the leather seat pressing it down muffling the sounds. Music blasted through the stereo as the car pulled away. I struggled to break free from his death grip but to no result while fighting for breath. I was being smothered.
Just when I began to feel I was passing out he lifted my head, holding firmly onto my neck and I immediately gasped for air.
That’s when I saw him.
The black mask which had been covering his head and face had been removed and blood was gushing out of his nose.
I had hit him good.
He lifted his finger up to his mouth motioning silence as he raised his left hand holding a small cylinder object. My hands squeezed the edge of the seat as I felt a prickle on the side of my neck.
A wave of warmth went through my body and I began to feel tired. The man tilted his head watching me struggling to keep my eyes open but to no avail.
I felt myself falling, slipping in and out of consciousness, swaying from one side to the other until I lay back, involuntarily resting my head on the cool leather and fell into complete darkness.