When I saw the blood, only one thought raced through my mind.
I am witness to a murder.
The killer didn’t see me at first. He slit the old fellow’s throat with a knife much longer than my forearm. Dressed in black shoes, black pants, black coat, black hat and black gloves, the man appeared nothing if obvious as if this were all straight out of some old noir film. Only in reality, when your eyes see this sort of thing and you take it all in and the signal hits the brain, something happens. There is a pause or beat telling you what you saw and that your eyes aren’t failing you. You know that this is in fact as real as a cancer diagnosis. I’ve always said human beings are selfish and I must say I still believe so. As I stood there behind the wall peering through at the scene before my eyes and the fellow on the cement floor with his head nearly cut off, I thought of saving myself. All the fear came from my survival. Now clearly this poor fellow wouldn’t survive anyway, but my instincts hit me so hard that I knew if he had a good chance of surviving I would have stayed right where I was and let the killer leave even if it meant allowing him to bleed out. I would save my own ass regardless.
Only that wouldn’t be happening.
The funny thing about looking through that hole in the wall wasn’t that I could see the killer and the victim. The funny thing is that the black- clad killer happened to spot the hole. I’ve always been known for my big set of almond eyes which have driven countless ladies to initially take an interest in me since I could remember. Only they must have given off the slightest hint of light. Enough to cause this maniac to run around the corner of the wall to go after his biggest problem. His witness.
Just as my instincts kicked into survival mode, I realized I couldn’t start running just then. My heart pounded as I stood where I was to await the onslaught of my assailant. The first thing in my vision was the blade swooping at my forehead at a breakneck speed. Sparks flew from the wall as my hair caught a bit of the slice. Had my head been an eighth of an inch higher, I would be dead.
Easing myself down, I kicked the killer in the knee. This did little. He walked straight through this. I’m not going to lie. I’m not a person who works out at all. I do not desire physical motion of any kind. I enjoy sitting on my sofa and reading magazines about different people around the world as people have always fascinated me. Reading about this man who wished to decapitate me would definitely keep me plopped on the sofa for hours. So my laziness could be my undoing as I’m not sure yet what will happen. I know if I had bothered to move my lazy ass more over the years, I would be in better shape to deal with the biggest problem life has ever thrown at me. Only I didn’t.
These things don’t happen overnight. Time and time again, we repeat our mistakes. That is what always gets us in the end. It’s not about what we do when confronted. It’s about what we’ve done to prepare for such occurrences. I had done nothing in preparation. Purely my own fault. I should have known better.
Once he walked through my pitiful kick, he slashed the knife at my chest. I could feel the small blood drops form as I grabbed his hat and yanked it down over his eyes. I toppled back to the same cement the deceased fellow now lay on behind the wall to my right. On the way down, he swung again, missing me as if this had been rehearsed. It was that close. Only there would be no director shouting for us to “cut.” I turned to get back up, but this one was smart. He didn’t attempt to raise the hat up out of his eyes. He slashed left to right downward, slicing my knee open. I don’t know why I didn’t shout in pain. I wanted to.
Rolling to my side, I found myself standing again somehow. He’d already adjusted the hat. He sliced toward my right, but I turned just enough for him to miss me and get close enough out his commitment to the slash that I slammed the fingertips of my right hand into his throat. He should have went down gasping but to go along with his other black attire, he wore a black scarf bundled around his throat as well. The blow did give him pause. I darted away.
My profession was a welder. I know I don’t seem the type. My job pays a decent wage but since my employer cut my hours, I found little side jobs. Tonight would be a good payment. I was putting the finishing touches on a Ford that had been sitting up to rust for some time. The owner loved old ford trucks and had replaced most of the interior parts so that it could run once again. Only the body needed some rusty holes patched up which I was happy to help him out with. I used this old building which he owned and had fallen out of use. He had plenty of money and knew that a new outfit was looking into moving back in here to give him a hefty rent payment shortly but for now, it was all mine. The job had taken me a week, but now I was finished. I knew a few hours earlier when I took a break to eat an apple I should have worked straight on through. Only, I denied my instincts. Now I was paying for it.
Racing away from my attacker, I turned the corner of another wall into a large opening. Even if I could outrun him, he had the opportunity of throwing the huge blade at me. Yet, I had no other options. I ran straight down the middle of the large room toward the door that led up some stairs to the next floor. My footsteps slapped the cement while his black shoes glided across. I always thought having heavy footsteps thump along behind you in an attack would be terrifying. I must say that peering over my shoulder to see that he nearly silently glided along behind me scared me much worse than I could have imagined.
As I approached the door, I knew this could go one of two ways. I would reach the door and attempt to kick it open. It would give. I would have to maneuver the turn just right so I could start my ascent up the steps without him grabbing me. Or it would not give and he would either run into my back from his momentum which could be very bad seeing how the blade could dig into me whether he meant to or not. Or I could get lucky and he runs into my back from behind and gets knocked off guard. This way I would have the chance to seize the weapon from him or if he was knocked down, I could resume my chase.
The door giving under my kick caused an explosion in my heart. My adrenaline had driven my out-of-shape pathetic body to knock a solid metal door right the hell open. The kick I gave him to the knee was from pure fear, but the run across the cement had strengthened me. If I could have kicked him that way, my problem would be over. Only doors stand there for you while black-clad killers do not.
The stairs were draining the wind from me. My adrenaline pumped well through my veins, but I didn’t know if it would be enough. The blade swiped near me legs. Again. Again. I could feel the heat off the damn thing. This man was determined. He had as much to fear from me as a witness even though I hadn’t seen his face really. I mounted the last flight of stairs knowing I’d have to turn and face him sooner or later. I could hear my own breathing but not his. The last flight was nearly over. The third floor was another wide open spot. I had to make my move. I had to use my biggest strength. I felt the black leather glove grip me. The blade would be next. This was it. My move.
“So what happened next?”
The interrogation room smelled stale to me. Like a whole gang of scumbags had just came in and relieved themselves before they brought me in here. Maybe it was the sour memory of what I had to do in order to just survive an hour earlier.
“I ran up the steps. He kept gaining on me.”
The detective had kind eyes. It was like he was one of us normal people instead of a cop. I liked him right off the bat. I went through what happened all the way to the grisly end.
“You dropped the floor, twisted his ankle in your own until he goes down and lands on the blade.”
He stared at my eyes for a while after taking that in. I thought he didn’t believe me. But then his look was like something else. He was probing my intentions as if he could see into my head. After several moments, he nodded. I watched him write up his report. He was a good man.
I was released shortly after. The night air smelled a bit sweeter than usual. I suppose that’s the feeling anyone would get when they just escaped death. Everything is brighter and better and means more to us. I strolled down the sidewalk to my car. Brand new Cadillac. I know I spoke earlier of my money problems. My solution s were little odd jobs for people with money. That was fun for a while.
The man clad in black was Herman Landau. A decent fellow with a small-time meth lab on the other side of town. On paper, he made very little, but in reality, he made enough to buy a Cadillac like mine every month. I think I did society a favor in shutting down his little lab and robbing him. Of course, I do feel bad for my friend Oscar who got in the way. I asked him to keep me company as I worked, but he was there to serve the purpose he ended up serving. The doctors told him the tumors in his stomach were back after all. Herman Landau is better off dead anyway.
All this floats along through my head as I aim the Cadillac back toward my house. I think I’ll put my magazines aside and treat myself to a movie tomorrow night. After all, Friday is pay day.
Bio: I have been writing short stories for a few years now. I had a story titled "God Hates Decatur County" published in Storyteller magazine in 2011. I live in Jackson, TN.