Fever Part II
NY, 1978. Donna jammed her elbow repeatedly in my
ribs. I focused on the shadow play cast onto the basement wall. Our captors
upstairs had quit their card game. One man stood and made crisscrossing waves
with the straight edge of his hand. Donna’s elbow dug deeper into my side. I
batted it away. It came again.
it.” I hissed. She let go a moaning sigh.
new figures joined the men upstairs. One wielded a large kitchen knife. Another
held an object aloft. It was an oval with frizz. And tendrils. It was the head
of the man they’d executed.
cried a few of our crowd.
date didn’t see it. She whined, “Do you love me, B.K.?”
looked at her. In the half-light of the subterranean room her features were soft.
But anxiety had her eyes wide.
make it out of this. Sit tight,” I said gently.
we get out of this, I want you to marry me.”
got me into this.”
wanted to come here.”
the policeman,” she said too loudly.
slick-haired Romeo type nearby snapped his head toward us. “You’re a cop? What
the fuck have you been doing?”
a cop?” cried the woman sitting behind him.
says he’s a cop,” said Romeo,
pointing a finger at me.
a cop,” said another.
the fuck?" called another.
cacophony of loud voices cried louder and louder: “He’s a cop.” “What the fuck?”
shadow play froze with the dead man’s head being dangled by its frizzy hair.
Footsteps clicked on the dance floor overhead. The door to our basement opened.
Two men walked halfway down.
coarse voice shouted, “Shut the fuck up down here!”
gun exploded with a muzzle flash. We all dove to the floor. Plaster blew out of
the opposite wall. I thought of the two-shot Derringer tucked into the small of
my back—the gangbangers missed when they frisked me. Footsteps pounded up the
staircase again and the door slammed. The odor of cordite wafted in the air. I
raised my head. Some others did, too. Rounds of “shhhs” went through the crowd.
The men upstairs let loose a round of laughter and jeers.
Romeo guy gave me a sidelong look. He butt-shuffled over to me and leaned in
close. “We’ve all seen them. Are we going to make it out of this alive?”
the flashing disco lights I doubted anyone could have gotten a good look at the
invaders. And bright lights in my face when they took me upstairs, charging me
with keeping order down here. IDs would be difficult.
twenty-five people wouldn’t be easy.” I said. “We sit tight.”
say we set fire to that pile of junk over there. They smell smoke and evacuate.
We leave." The slickster produced a Zippo lighter and flicked it to flame.
they going to unlock that door to upstairs before they leave?”
door’s not so strong. They go, we can knock it down.”
suffocate us all. Put that away,” I said.
clamped the lighter lid over the fire. “I’m not waiting here for them to murder
took hold of his wrist and wrenched it. He winced but held the Zippo tightly.
His free hand came in. I brought in mine. We locked in battle for the lighter.
mister,” whispered a soft voice behind me. “Are you really a policeman?”
and I both looked to the voice. It belonged to a man dressed like John Travolta
in Saturday Night Fever. He was Latin
and thin. His dark irises pierced the dim light.
know about the back stairs?” the Latin man asked.
from the other side,” I said.
about the dumbwaiter?”
and I eyed each other and forgot our battle. We let loose our grasps; he
retained possession of the lighter.
me.” Romeo and I said simultaneously
man led us to the far wall where he pushed aside a pile of cardboard boxes. A
three-by-four elevator was revealed. He lifted one half of the door. The bottom
slide opened simultaneously. A dark lift was revealed. I put my hand in it.
There rested a steel carriage.
does it work?”
guy pointed to a panel of three buttons set on the frame. “Electric motor. It
comes out in the kitchen by the back door. Near the back staircase.”
they have seen the upstairs end?”
Latin guy shrugged. “Maybe. If they tried the doors they wouldn’t have opened
because the lift is down here.”
can go up this and out the back door,” said Romeo. He pointed a finger to press
the activation button. I batted his hand away.
an electric motor. They’ll hear it.”
looked to the Latin guy. He said, “It’s not too loud.”
hear it and whoever is in there is dead. We sit tight.”
examined the operating panel. “Why are there three buttons?”
goes to the subbasement. No way out there. Just rats and the sewer line.”
We sit tight.”
put you in charge?” barked Romeo.
chorus of ‘shhs’ came from our fellow prisoners.
in charge and they’re killers. Go sit down.”
you, cop. You don’t run me. You’re just chicken shit.”
“shhs” came louder and harder.
grabbed Romeo up under his armpit and bum-rushed him back to the pack of
hostages. I said in a low, clear voice, “They hold all the cards. We’re at
their mercy. Sit tight and shut up.”
threw him to the floor, went to my spot by Donna, and sat down. She lifted my
arm around her shoulders and snuggled in. It’d been three hours since armed
gangsters had invaded Plato’s Cave disco, forced all of us into the basement,
and executed the fat guy with the frizzy hair. They’d brought me up to lecture
me to keep the prisoners orderly. They’d taken my gun and badge. Since then,
from the shadow play on the basement wall, created by the bright klieg lights
on the dance floor, they seemed to be killing time, waiting for someone or
something. They’d played cards, toyed with the head of their victim, now they
lounged. It was two a.m.
had laid her head in my lap and dozed. I stroked her blond hair. She whistled
as she did when her respiration slowed for sleep. She hadn’t asked for a lot.
She just wanted to be taken out on a weeknight. I felt warmly toward her right
now. I nodded into half-sleep.
acrid odor of smoke snapped me alert. By the wall nearest the vent to the disco
room upstairs Romeo was fanning a crackling fire of a small pile of debris. I
jumped up. Donna came to. Other dozers woke. Cries of distress filled the
basement. Panic ran through the crowd. They ran to the stairway and up it. The
forerunners pounded on the locked door. Overhead heavy footsteps stampeded
and voices shouted. I ran to the fire,
knocked Romeo aside, and stomped my size-twelve Stride Rites onto the blaze.
The sound of an electric motor starting came from the back of the room. It
whirred for ten seconds, then stopped.
shouts and pounding footsteps came from above. Muted explosions of gunfire came
from above and to the rear. I finished stomping out the fire. Romeo grinned at
me. The electric motor ran again, then stopped with a clang on this level.
Romeo, Donna and I ran over and opened its door. The Latin guy fell halfway
out. His eyes were open. There was a hole between them. Blood poured from it.
screamed. She ran to the packed stairway. The mob desperately pushed upward.
away from the door!” I yelled, running to the roiling crowd. “Get away from the
door! Get away! Get away!”
two people at the top front heard me and got it. They tried to retreat but the
crowd on the steps pressed forth. One squirmed free and dove over the
bannister. The other ducked down. A fusillade of bullets ripped through the
door. The next two in line on the stairs took them in their heads. Gore sprayed
out over the crowd. They screamed and tumbled over themselves and each other.
Arms and legs flew in every direction. On the floor men and women in svelte,
tieless suits and taffeta dresses crawled for the far wall.
searched for Donna. She was trapped by one of the dead. I rolled him off her.
Her disco dress was soaked with blood. Her eyes were pinned open. She was in
shock. I search her over for a wound. There was none. She gagged. Her eyes
fluttered. I hugged her.
O.K. Donna. You’re O.K. Get up. Get up. This is not over. We’ve got to get out
dragged her to her feet and half walked/half carried her to the darkest shadow
in the room.
whispered to my love, “They’ll be back. You got to come around.”
door to upstairs was kicked open with a shudder. Three men descended. Guns were
ready in their hands. One was a machine pistol.
Greg lives and works in New York City. Stop
by his website The
New York Crimes at nycrimelimericksandbeyond.com for fun, free stuff.
And please, enjoy!