They were coming. Every instinct in Jerry screamed “Run!” But he fought the fear down and slowed his pace. By the sound of the footsteps, there were three of them. A shoulder clipped him as they passed and he stumbled for three steps before catching himself on street sign.
“What’s up, my man?” A large face with a toothy grin loomed into his space.
Jerry stood his ground, saying nothing.
Another one bumped by him and he swiveled on his feet to take all of them in. ‘Toothy’ kept smiling, but there was nothing friendly about it. The one that had just bumped by was long, lean, and emanated all the friendliness of a wood chipper. The last one was short and squat, but graceful despite his girth. His face was perhaps the most frightening because it said nothing.
“What’s a man like you doing in our hood?” Toothy asked.
Jerry definitely stuck out with his suit and fine leather shoes; like pearls in shit, but that was on purpose because he wanted everything about his presence to be a beacon.
“You’re not 5-0, are you?” The lanky one asked, then answered his own question, “No, you’re not the po-po.”
“Who the fuck are you?” Toothy asked, but the smile was all gone. “You can’t just come down here in the middle of the night like king shit and expect not to pay a toll.” He moved in on Jerry, his head cocked like a pit bull ready to snap.
Despite not wanting to, Jerry took an involuntary step back. Toothy nodded his head with approval, but Jerry rallied and stepped forward taking back the ground he’d lost.
“You want to fuck with me?” Toothy asked.
The lanky one punched Jerry in the shoulder from behind sending him into Toothy’s waiting fist which drilled into Jerry’s stomach causing all the air in his lungs to go in full retreat. He went to his knees, feeling the grit and grime of the street tear at his pants. Toothy sent out vicious kick to Jerry’s face, breaking his nose.
Jerry went down on all fours, blood dripping onto the sidewalk. He let his breath return, then looked up to them and said, “Fuck you.”
He hadn’t come for a beating. He had come for the whole enchilada and they must have seen something in the set of his face. Both Toothy and the lanky one stepped back misinterpreting the intensity behind Jerry’s face.
Short and Squat didn’t share their fear and kicked Jerry in the side.
Jerry rolled over and coughed for several seconds. He forced himself onto his hands and knees, then spat a mouthful of blood onto Short and Squat’s feet hoping that would get the party started. And it did. Short and Squat didn’t share any of his colleague’s hesitance and kicked Jerry again, a glancing blow off the side of his head. Jerry rolled with it because he didn’t want any chance that they just beat him unconscious and leave him to be taken to the hospital.
No ambulances, he thought. He’d only accept a hearse.
Three days ago, he has sat alone in the dark at the edge of a six story parking garage wanting to jump, but was afraid it’d be interpreted as a suicide. Insurance companies didn’t like suicides and could tangle up the money for years. Accidental death paid double and that’s what his family needed. It was cleaner and less ambiguous. That double indemnity would pay off the house, send the two kids to college, and keep his family from poverty.
Treatment for stage IV liver cancer, on the other hand, would drain their every last penny of their savings. Plus his kid’s would have to see him suffer and waste away. He would have none of that. Better to get it over quickly. He had heard of suicide by cop, so why not suicide by thug?
Jerry stumbled to his feet and decided to finish this thing, reaching inside his jacket like he was going for a gun. Short and Squat beat him to it, pulling an ugly little pistol and putting four slugs in Jerry’s chest, slamming him back against the ground where he became the city’s latest homicide.