Crook Takes Pawn Part 3

Greg walks quickly to the corner where the woman described the car jacking and abduction.
Greg's sharp green eyes scan the intersection, looking for some hint at what direction the madman had peeled off. He saw a series of dark black skids on the ground, obviously where the van peeled out. Greg snapped his neck in the direction the tire marks lead.
As if on cue, Greg makes eye contact with another man driving a red Ford Tempo. The man is standing outside of his car, with on foot trailing onto the floor mat, and one of his long arms holding his driverside door open. The man's squinty eyes narrow behind thick glasses and Greg nods to him. The man nods back, and puts his hands to his mouth to shout over the wailing wind, which is battering his thin blue windbreaker suit.
"Hey!!" the man in glasses calls, waving Greg over. Greg quickly glances both directions before darting into the road without a walk signal. Greg's thick workbooks clop on the pavement as he approaches the unknown stranger. Greg quickly motions to the gun.
"I have a license for this."
"I figured," the man in glasses nods, "Are you looking for that crazy fuck?!?!"
Greg nods, his own eyes narrowing as well.
"Yeah, he took that lady's kid" Greg informs
The man's mouth drops open, "oh my God," the man exclaims, "we'vewe've gotta do something, the cops will be awhile"
Greg points towards the direction he figured the thief went.
"Did he go thataway? Can u follow him?" Greg asks.
the man nods and motions to the passenger seat," Get in, man".
The two men pile into the tiny automobile and tear off after the crackhead.
"My name's Robert" the driver introduces himself, extending his hand.
"Greg" is Greg's gruff reply, and the two shake hands quickly. "Do you have  a phone?" Greg asks, craning his head, trying to see around the congested traffic as they drive.
"Yeah, I've got a cell." Robert informs him.
"This van has a security kill switch." Greg explains, "once it's been activated, only the owner can dial in a code to stop it. So the guy couldn't have gotten far."
Robert nods and wipes his forehead, which is dripping with sweat.
"I was just coming home from the gym," Robert says, motioning to his track outfit, "I was right behind that lady when this psycho yanked her out. Hehe had a gun."
"So do I" Greg states, waggling his own gun for emphasis.
"maybe we should wait for the cops?" Robert says unsurely.
"I think I know who this crackhead is," Greg explains, " by the time the cops get here, he might take the baby for a hostage. I wouldn't put it past him."
Just then, out of the corner of his eye, Greg sees a clogged section of traffic. He arches his neck to peer around Robert, and sees the flashing hazards of the van, at the head of the crooked line of cars.
"THERE!!" Greg shouts, pointing with his free hand.
Robert proves to have fast reflexes, and hurriedly cuts across two lanes of traffic to get to the left turning light. Several cars behind them bray their annoyance with their horns, but the two men pay no attention. Robert swoops around the corner in a tightly controlled turn. Greg's searching eyes do not leave the site of that van. Greg's quick mind scouts possible angles to approach the van unseen. The maroon minivan's largest blindspots were of course the back window and rear quarter panel, by the side windows. If he could sneak up from the back unseen, he might be able to throw open the sliding door on that side, grab the infant, and run like a bat outta hell. Hopefully this could be done without firing any shots, either.
It all depended upon him quickly finding that spare magnetic key holder as fast as possible.
Greg points to a open space beside the sidewalk lining the length of the city park. Robert immediately swerves over and slips into the spot with graceful driving skills.
Greg opens the door to the car, waiting for the automatic seatbelt to drive forward on a rail, clearing his way to get out. The door open indicator dings, impatiently asking them to close it in a series of chimes. Greg turns toward this stranger, a man he never met before in his life, and gives him potentially life-altering instructions.
"Stay here and wait for me," Greg says, wiping sweat from his top lip and goatee, "I'm gonna try to get the kid out, and you can drive me back to the store where the mom is waiting."
The dinging continues as Greg grunts and shifts his weight out of the small car.
"What if you" Robert says, drawing Greg back, " what if you don't make it back???"
    Greg stares blankly at the dashboard for a few blank moments. He sees a sun-faded hula girl rocking slightly back and forth, with an idiots smile painted on her face. The hula girl seemed to say, if you don't come back, you're a dead man, that's what that means. Greg tears his eye free of this somehow hypnotic figure, and meets Roberts nervous stare. The brown eyes behind those thick glasses are scared, but there is also strength there. Greg nods his head again towards Robert, this stranger suddenly turned ally.
    "Don't worry about me, just worry about the baby" Greg says softly, "justjust try to follow him if he leaves with the baby, so u can tell the cops where to find them."
Greg slams the door shut, cutting off the ding indicator.
    Robert sighs deeply to himself, which dissolves into an uneasy humming sound. He grips the steering wheel of his cheap compact car until his knuckles turn white. Robert watches intently as Greg slips forward, weaving between the traffic. Greg moves remarkably light-footed for a heavyset man, robert thinks to himself before Greg slinks entirely from his view behind a yellow Ryder truck.
Roberts stomach clenches and groans as the stressful situation plays out without him.

Greg breathes as softly as possible. He wants to be as silent as possible in his approach. THe few breathes he does take waft from his mouth in a trail of exhaled fog from the cold. His life breath evaporates over his shoulder as his pace continues without pause.
He crouches low, behind a taxi cab directly behind the van. Greg now hears a loud commotion coming from the van. He hears muffled screams coming from within the ban, followed by loud crashes every few moments. Greg jumps slightly at the sound of each cacophonous blow.
Underneath it all, barely discernible, Greg also hears a crying child.
    Greg takes time to think once again of his own offspring, and realizes he hasn't seen his child in almost 2 years. Now, depending on how things turn out, Greg may never see her altogether.
The hazards from the van blink in a mindless pattern, periodically lighting up the wet ground with blurred symbols. Greg can hear the steady tick tick tick of the turn signal switches being activated. Greg uses that soothing pattern to help steady his own heart. He takes about 4 deep breathes, then hikes himself up slightly from his feet where he was crouching. Greg slips low to the ground, avoiding the rearview mirrors detection. Greg hugs the back of the van, careful not to push forward with his hefty weight. If the van rocks forward on its shocks, the crackhead could detect his presense behind him. Greg peers cautiously over the lip of the rear window seal. A flaring yellow baby on board sticker blocks his view partially, but nonetheless, Greg sees the skinny legs of that crackhead kicking out agains the riverside window. The glass on the drivers side is almost completely caved now, with deep spiderwebbing holding the shattered shards together. Greg watches those spindly little legs wail on the glass, and can see the thief has mismatches socks, as his pants are pushed up to his knees from gravity. The crackhead has one hand gripping the driver-side headrest, and the other grasping the dashboard, for leverage. The crackhead's ruffled hair rubs against the seat in his laborious effort. The crackhead is peurto rican, and although the crooks face is scrunched up with effort in his attack, Greg would know him anywhere. His previous suspicions about knowing this man are confirmed, and Greg's worst fears are realized.
It is Jessie, a name infamous around this neighborhood. Jessie is the prime suspect in the previous robbery on Greg's store, not to mention countless other breakins and assaults.
The crackhead was desperate, and strung out. Greg was reminded of those pictures of the Kitty hanging by its front paws on a closelineHang in there, strung out druggieMake sure you stay awake long enough to rob someone of their belongings to pay for your habit.
Greg was never one to judge, but operating a business required him to become aware of realities of street life. This crackhead Jessie was rare. Most homeless people that hung out around Gregs place never really injured anybody. Yes, some would beg and panhandle with their cardboard signs, but that was as far as it got. Very few robberies, very few violent encounters. There were exceptions (usually which would involve Jessies name) but for the most part the bums minded themselves.
    A few of the transients were addicted to heroin, but it was a different breed altogether than dealing with those crack-heads and meth junkies. When a shooter doesnt have their H, they get sickreally sick, with an inability to hardly move ailment. They can hardly even walk, much less try to mug somebody.But those crackheadsThey get antsy, and itchy and homicidalThey live for that next fix, whenever and wherever they can get it.
That includes robbery, maybe even ransom if Jessie's deranged mind could summon the skills to do it successfullyOr he might just as easily murder the child, without a second thought.
There had been a series of animal mutilations throughout that area, and Jessie was rumored to be involved in these instances as well. Torturing an animal was not that far from torturing a human, when it came down to it, and that thought set Greg into motion.
"Shut the fuck up!!" Greg hears Jessie shriek from inside the van, and Greg freezes.
"I'll fucking put you to sleep, fucking baby!!" Jessie screams in frustration. Jessie had obviously been hammering at the window for some time, and was finally settling into exhaustion, which held even more terror for Greg's unsure mind. If he gets desperate enough, what steps will he take???
    Greg glances over his shoulder at the mass of traffic behind him. Some cars were actually beginning to pass around Greg and the stranded van. As the flow of traffic trickled outward, Greg could see many of the drivers give Greg a curious stare as they slowly pulled away.Rubberneck drivers to the last, Greg thinks bitterly to himself, they don't want to get involved, but are helpless to look away.
    Greg fumbles underneath the wheel well, and for a moment doesn't feel anything. Then his thick fingers stumble across a small metal box. Bingo. Greg withdraws his hand, with the key holder clutched in his fingers. He hurriedly slides the top portion vertically, revealing the gleaming door key. Greg pauses for a moment. The kicking has stopped. Greg feels the front of the van shift and wiggle slightly as Jessie repositions himself. Greg hunches forward on bent legs, looking like some ridiculous crab scuttling forward. He peers into the sideview mirror, hoping to get a vantage point on what is happening. Through that tiny mirror, Greg sees Jessie wrigging his skinny arm through the reinforced safety glass, searching for the outside lock. For a moment, Greg sees the One-Star logo stamped in the lower bottom of the now-shattered window. I"ve got invest in some of that reinforced glass for my store, Greg thinks to himself in one final non-sequiter. After that, the next series of events seem to happen faster than his minds eye can comprehend.
With a speed he hardly knew he possessed, Greg drives the key home into the sliding door, and twists. Jessie's head cocks to the side at the sound of the door lock. No longer having the element of surprise, Greg shoots to his feet, at the same time yanking the sliding door with all his might. The door shoots back on it's bearing-guided rail, and crashes against the frame, shaking the entire van. Greg plants his knees on the vans entrance step, and lunges forward with his arms. Greg immediately sees the infant in front of him, with the baby's face turned backward toward the rear of the van. The child's chubby face is beet red, from untold minutes of terror and crying. The baby's scrunched eyes turn toward Greg's downturned face, and begin dripping fresh tears of fright. Greg sees the child is dressed in a chicken outfit, with goggly eyes glued to the childs hat, beneath a floppy red rooster comb. The suit is yellow, complete with feathery wings for baby gloves. Greg frantically hits the red release button in the center of the child's harness. Greg was hardly what one would call a baby carseat expert, but he had sold enough in his store to know the gist of how they operated. He was also familiar with the frustration of stuck locks on these things. To his relief, the bottom straps came free without struggle. With a small amount of force, the reaming straps coming over the childs shoulders came free surprising easily. Greg managed to do this in the span of about 5 or 6 seconds. For a moment, Greg thought this would be easy. Greg grabs the child underneath the armpits and tugs her free from the seatThen Jessie's hand clamps down on Greg's arm. Greg swings his head around and looks into the bloodshot hazel eyes of a psychopath and drug addict. Jessie's mouth is pulling back into a snarl, away from his crooked yellow teeth. Jessie inhales sharply to shout god only knows what command. The beretta is tucked into Greg's waistband, but the safety is still off. Greg sucks in his gut, and fights the wave of his blulging stomach to tug the gun free. For a split second, Greg utters a prayer that the gun does not shoot suddenly and blow one or both of his balls off.
"What the---" Jessie begins, but Greg cuts him off. With a grunt of full effort, Greg swings the gun at Jessie's face. the barrel collides with Jessie's mouth, and a sound like broken tile can be heard as Jessie's teeth crumble in his mouth. Greg can smell the noxious breath of Jessie, and is grateful when the crackhead falls back, taking away the horrid air with it. Jessie instictivally puts a dirty hand to his shattered mouth, and cries out in animal-like pain. Greg felt a maniacal burst of satisfaction well up from within as he felt Jessie's mouth break apart through the vibrations of the gun. That's what you get for hitting a mother, you fucking cocksucker!! That same inner-voice erupted within Greg.
Without missing a beat, Greg hikes up the kid with one arm, while still pointing his Beretta at the wounded man. Greg takes several steps backwards, away from the van, eyes never leaving Jessie. Meanwhile, Jessie was rustling around in his pocket for his own gun, a .38 snub nose revolver he had procured through god only knows what shady back-alley deal.
Jessie recognized the fat bastard from the store. He knew right where he could find that fat fuck, and there would be hell to pay.
Greg was pounding the pavement, cradling the baby with one arm while pumping his arm in a running motion. He did this all while still holding his weapon. Within seconds he had cut across the street, threaded through the traffic, and was motioning for Robert to start the engine.
Robert was way ahead of him, and pushed the passenger side door open while leaning across the drivers seat. Greg softly settles in the car, with the baby on his lap. The child squirms incessantly, struggling to be free of this strangers grip, but Greg hold firm.
"Don't worry, kiddo" Greg says in an out-of breath voice, "We'll get you back you back to you mommy in no time."
Robert jerks the wheel to the maximum turning radius and darts out into traffic. The passenger side fender clips a staggling car putting around with an old geezer behind the wheel. Robert does not stop to collect insurance information, neither does he obey very many traffic laws as he steers the Tempo through the tightly-knit veil of traffic surrounding them. Honking, and obscenities follow the two men as they maneuver against the flow of traffic.
Greg throws his head back against the seat, and emits a shaky breathe as they increase the distance from the madman.
"Is the mother waiting for us?" Robert asks, in a similarly shaky tone of voice, "is that where we go now?"
"yes" Greg says simply. He is gingerly bouncing the tiny child on his knee, trying to calm the hysterical baby. His rocking has little effect, and the child continues to wail it's fool head off.
"That's okay, baby" Greg reassures, "You go ahead and cry now, it's all over"
Robert takes his focus off the road long enough to brush the child's tousled hair back and forth softly.
"That's right, sweetie" Robert says in a soothing tone, "Uncle Greg gotcha back from that mean old man, yes he didYes he did"
Greg and Robert make eye contact over the head of the sobbing baby. Robert nods toward Greg, and pats him on the shoulder.
"you're a hero, man" Robert states simply.
Greg had become accustomed to failure, and the sound of compliment struck him in a weird way anymore. Perhaps it was low self-esteem, but praise thrown his way was always taken uneasily, as if it were incorrectly addressed. Surely someone else must deserve any kind words.
They drove in silence for the remaining portion of their short journey. Greg realized his life was different now. Nothing was the same. the same stores he saw everyday a thousand times seemed somehow more vivid to him now. Perhaps it was the adrenaline still pumping through his veins, but everything was heightened, excelerated. The hum of the cars tiny engine seemed to match the sewing-maching pace of his own heart. Robert pulled up to the door. Greg had never been happier to see his shitty little store in all his life. In his current frame of mind, he almost felt like dropping down and kissing the floor inside the store. He laughed to himself as he imagined what the cheap laminate floor would taste like.
As they pulled up, the mother was at the threshold of the entryway, wringing her hair with both hands. Upon seeing Greg emerge from the Tempo with her child, what little control she had over herself quickly eroded. She lunged from the store, shaking and screaming and sobbing. Greg could actually see her hands trembling minutely as they reached out to take back her child. That poor woman, Greg thought again to himself.
"Thank you, thank you, thank thank you, thank you," the woman repeated over and over again to Greg. Her final round of thanks dissolved into a series of hitched gasps, as her emotions finally caved in whatever defense she had put up through this ordeal.
Hell, the wait in the shop alone must've been unbearable, Greg realizes.
"I think she'll be okay" Greg informs, "She's going--"
The sounds make Greg jump. the sound of shattering glass comes from in front of Greg, to his confusion. With the second shot, Greg feels a force rip through his neck, and he stumbles forward. A fine spray of red dots the display window as Greg's jugular is nicked by a bullet. On instinct, Greg slaps his hand to the wound, where he feels something like warm syrup begin to pour down the neck of his shirt.
"Arghhh" Greg groans, stumbling forward. He puts his hand to the front glass to steady himself, and sees the jagged hole where the bullet went after grazing him. To his disbelief, he actually can see the second slug, smashed from the impact, and wedged into the metal door frame.
The wife begins screaming at the top of her lungs again, turning back inside the store to flee the danger to her and her baby. Greg staggers around to face his attacker. At that moment Jessie fired again. Greg's sudden movement through off Jessie's aim, and Greg can hear the third bullet scream past his right ear, and even ruffling the hair by his temple.
Jessie is a horror to behold. He stands rigid on the sidewalk, with his mouth stretched open into a lunatics grin. Blood drips from seemingly his entire mouth, coating his frayed sheepskin collared leathcer jacket. the yellow white from the collar of the jacket makes the horrible red blood stand out even more brightly in the overcast afternoon light. Jessie has the gun pointed at arms length, directly at Greg. Greg raises his own gun and starts shooting. The gun bucks each time it fires, but Greg carefully controls the proceeding shots after that. As before, when he practiced at the range, he waits for the guns slide to snap back into place before firing again.  In total, he fires 5 times, from a distance of maybe 15 feet. He hits Jessie once in the hip, which makes the crackhead howl and dive for cover behind a blue postal box. The remaining shots from Greg's gun pepper the sidewalk, but hit nothing.
Greg turns quickly and throws his front door open with all his considerable weight. the door rebounds agains the corridor wall, leaving a huge crumpled hole of plaster. As greg uses his free hand to swing the door shut, he is quite alarmed to see the gleaming red wetness of blood coating his hand. Greg leaves a large bloody handprint on the door as he pushes it shut.

Uploaded 01/03/2012
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