The Bounty

By: Isaac J. Aguirre

It was the smell of murder. There they were in the alley: a dead man and a crying man. Neither moved when the silent sound of wailing sirens approached, and as the drizzle of rain trickled down the sobbing man’s face in the dead of the evening, one thing could not be more clear—one was dead and the other alive. A police officer ran toward the desperate scene and could barely make out the fading screams: “It was supposed to be me. It-it was supposed to be me!” Once confusion cleared the crime scene, the man was in an ambulance, and as a medical team searched for wounds, he gazed back toward the dead man and could make out two puddles: one of blood and the other a fusion of rain and tears. 

 

 

There comes a day when your world collapses on itself and you are left with two choices: to run or to confront your past. This is what happened to Anton—and he chose to run. His brother involved him in something big . . . then they bounced after taking some money, and now those people were chasing him, until a bullet landed him behind bars or in a grave. He had to move fast: a new identity, new residence, and a new life. You can only find that in Brooklyn. That was, of course, until he left his new address in his old apartment that was searched to the last inch. 

 

It was time to run. He caught a glimpse of where he might end up when he read a New York Times column covering his brother’s disappearance and alleged abduction. Anton thought he was the only person in all of New York City who knew what happened to James—he was gone, probably buried somewhere in upstate New York.  Maybe, he thought, my brother’s last words had to do with my whereabouts. It was a stretch, but after what Anton experienced growing up in the Bronx, anything could have happened to his brother. 

 

Three weeks into the hunt, they found Anton; but he managed to escape through the emergency passage outside his apartment, and decided that sleeping behind a motel would probably be safer. Word came around that some guys were arrested for an armed robbery, and their faces Anton recognized from their car business in Queens. Were they the guys chasing him? He just didn’t know. One thing he did know: it was time to move to a new place, where he could  rewrite his past, somewhere where there were new people and a brighter future. Probably down the street, he thought. 

 

Months became years, and after growing some inches and picking up a partime job at an Irish pub in Brooklyn, life was good. He was even invited to a theatre production by some co-workers, and then to dine at a fancy restaurant. The day fancied itself with streaks of clouds, and the sun staged it’s rays along the busy streets of Brooklyn. It was definitely the perfect day for an eventful evening. Night fell, and it was time to take a taxi to the theatre for the night’s performance—a tragedy. Anton navigated through the bustling lobby and concession stands to his seat. Much laughter, memorable lines, and now the convoy of friends made their way to St. Stephen's Eatery, in lower Manhattan. 

 

The time was ripe for dinner and Anton enjoyed every minute. His friends languished over the food and reminisced over the play they sat through. Anton slowly secluded himself from the conversation, and then excused himself for a smoke. He saw some workers out in the back, so he went through a side door to the shouldering alley. He felt a tingly sensation as a man approached him, and he then began to waive his hand to greet Anton with a warm smile plastered on his face. There he saw it: a threatening gun. He was a dead man. 

 

 

Later that day, the St. Stephen's Eatery was abuzz with the staff preparing for the highly-anticipated crowds that would flow from the award-winning theatre production that evening. The staff collaborated, and decided to promote newly-hired John as overseer of food delivery for the evening’s orders. John knew what they meant—he was going to have to stand out in the cold for hours until a delivery truck arrived. And they never really came on time. The sounds of customers’ dining drifted through the patio and to the alley where John awaited with growing impatience. He shuffled his feet and noticed the darkening sky shapeshift into rain clouds ready to pour over lower Manhattan. Hours passed with no sign of delivery. 

 

From the side of the restaurant came a tall man with a smoke in his hand. The man looked tired, like he had run all of his life. He also had a similar complexion as his younger brother. John could hear the rumble of the food truck crisscross the parking lot and enter in from the back of the alley. About time, he thought. The truck pulled up halfway from the beginning to end of the alley, and shot it’s high beams, and then flung it’s rear doors open. John made his way towards the truck and exchanged a few words with the one of the drivers about the miscommunication, and then made his way to unload the truck. There was no food. 

 

John looked up indignantly and saw one of the drivers walking straight towards the smoking man—and he was carrying something in his hand. He had an awful feeling about this. He grabbed a bar from the back of the almost vacant truck and charged at the attacker. Fully aware of the unfolding situation, Anton prepared for the worst. The armed driver felt a surge of pain through his body and fell over unconscious. Then came the last act: the sounds of gunfire. It seemed like people were cheering on the finale, but it was really a chaotic mix of screams and fleeing movement. Anton could see the other driver shoving his own weapon back in his coat, and then begin to drag his downed friend towards the truck. And just like that, they were gone. Through the commotion, Anton could make out the last breaths of the man who saved his life. At a second glance, Anton realized who this man was. It was his older brother. Then the rain finally came. 

 

 

    “Did you know him?” An officer with a clipboard asked in the hospital lobby. Anton answered by shaking his head, and then he made his towards the door. 

    “Wait! We have more questions,” the officer said impatiently, while signaling for him to come back.

    “Fine.” Anton said, trying to hold back tears. “I did know the guy . . . but I don’t know why he did it. The drivers staged the whole thing so they could get a couple of shots at me. They wanted me dead. That’s all I know.” Once dismissed, Anton emerged into the waking morning of Manhattan and felt a sense of relief, but he knew he couldn’t live on like this. At least not after what happened the night before. I am alive, though I was supposed to be dead, thought Anton, And my brother is dead, but should still be alive. He saw mercy peering down on him that night, but now today was the time for justice. He was going to turn himself in, and he was going to bring those mob guys with him.  One thing he had to do first: he was going to grab something to eat.

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