A man receives an anonymous note from someone on his commuter subway.
|The Message WC 765
Maybe driving would be better. Sitting on this subway day after day was getting to be a real drag. How many times have strangers sneezed on me, touched me, bumped me, and tried to pickpocket me? If he could only afford a car. At least his seatmate today was attractive. As usual, she didn't even notice him. Too bad she had that overcoat on.
She stood and ran off the train. An envelope was in her seat. "Uh miss. You left this…." Randy took a few steps. Where did she go? He looked at the envelope and wrinkled his brow. His name was on it. What the hell?
He ran his finger under the flap; he pulled out an index card.
"Come to 167 Renoir St., 9:37 tonight. You won't be disappointed."
That was it. Just an address. How crazy? He wasn't going. He didn't know her, but how did she know him? Strange. He stuffed the card and envelope into his pocket and readied for his stop.
He climbed the subway exit stairs. Winter cold bit his face as he pulled his collar up. He shivered during his five-minute walk to his apartment. Winter was great, but not the first couple freezes. He needed to get used to dressing warmly and acclimating himself to the cold. Snow and ice crunched under his feet, his lungs froze as he gulped in the winter air.
He paused before opening his apartment door. If she knew he was on the train, maybe she knew where he lived. Can't stand out here all night. Randy unlocked his deadbolt and the lock in the doorknob. His wrist crooked around the door facing; he quickly flicked the light switch and rushed through the door. Nothing. Just as he left it. Books and magazines strewn everywhere. CDs stacked neatly by his stereo. Dishes in the sink. No one broke in to wash them. Whew!
His keys rattled as they hit his entry table. He pulled the wadded envelope and index card out of his pocket. What the hell was this about? That was a good-looking babe though. Nope. Not going.
He turned up the heat and headed for the kitchen. The frying pan clunked as is hit the grate of his gas range. Fwoomp, the flame came to life under the pan. Soon, bacon sizzled. Nothing smelled better than cooking bacon. He turned the strips and added a couple of eggs into the mix, then threw the crisp bacon and over easy eggs onto his plate. What's the deal with that note? As he ate he ran the address over in his mind repeatedly. What was it about that address? He'd never been there. It's 45 minutes away. He wasn't going.
At exactly 8:52 p.m. he put on his coat, locked his apartment, and headed for 167 Renoir Street. The ride on the train took 41 minutes. He walked north and found 167 Renoir Street. He knocked on the door at exactly 9:37 p.m. No one answered. He knocked again; the door creaked open. The room was stealthily dark, quiet, and cold. Not going in there. A sharp push in the back. He fell forward and splayed onto the cold wood floor.
"I wasn't sure you would come," said the pusher.
"Why'm I here?"
"Just stay there. You'll see."
He started to get to his feet, but a foot landed in his chest. His back flattened to the floor. The pressure on his chest made it hard to breathe.
"It's better if you wait there."
His heart was running a marathon and he was lying on a cold floor in a dark room. A glimmer of light came under the closed door. There was no movement beyond. This couldn't be about a girl, he hadn't had one in years. He didn't get it.
"Now close your eyes, and don't move."
He couldn't have been more stupid coming here. Someone with a foot firmly implanted on his chest telling him to close his eyes. His ears roared from the noise of his frantically pumping heart. Scraping? Were there other people?
"Are your eyes closed? Keep them that way."
Light poured through his eyelids. What the hell?
"Stand slowly if you know what's good for you."
The pressure on his chest eased. He rolled to his right and began to stand.
"All right, open your eyes."
The room erupted in a cacophony of "Happy Birthday Randy."
"After all those tricks you've pulled, we finally got you!" said his mother.
He grabbed his heart. The mirror showed his relief and huge smile.