There was a great commotion aboard the 9 pm number 12. Passengers flowed out of cars, most rushing off toward the street with eyes grim or brimming with frightened tears. I sat up a bit taller on the bench as a stretcher rolled past me into a dining car, soon reemerging carrying an older gentleman – I say gentleman because ‘man’ doesn’t reflect the sharpness of his pressed suit, the precise line at the intersection of his pallid skin and trimmed grey beard, the shimmer of his cracked and unticking gold watch.
“The guy’s filthy rich as far as I know,” said an excited voice beside me. I looked up to see a man, red in the face with excitement, transfixed by the unfolding scene. “Probably best this way though,” he continued. “I heard he is, err was, a big shot in the mob or something like that. I was in the car when it happen ya know. The lights flickered, and then a thud and the old man was choking on the floor foaming at the mouth still holding his drink. We all heard the back door slam and saw a guy all done up in black climbing out onto the roof and-”
His morbidly gleeful retelling ended abruptly as shouts came from the last train car; and old woman wearing a small hat covered in flowers and holding a well-worn map looked innocently up at a young man holding a cream-colored box under one arm, his face twitching unpleasantly. His white-knuckled fist trembled at his side in an impressive display of self control. The look on his face suggested that he was imagining how nicely his fist would fit inside the old woman’s hollow cheek.
His shouts were audible from outside: “I’m telling you, lady, I bought that hat for my daughter’s birthday, and I know you snatched it. Just give it back here and I won’t make anymore trouble.”
“I’m sorry sir,” she responded meekly. “I don’t think I know what you mean, but I’m just looking for directions to the nearest subway entrance to visit my sister.”
Suddenly, the man lunged at her, barely an inch from beating her skull in, stopped just in time by a policeman who had been attracted to the scene by the shouts. The box the man had been holding tumbled to the floor, scattering its contents all over the floor of the train. Black shirt, black pants, black socks.
Black ski mask.
The policeman deftly twisted the man’s arm behind his back, not hesitating to acknowledge his prisoner’s shouts of disagreement. As he was dragged from the scene, the old woman turned slowly and returned to her seat. She removed the hat from her head and placed it into a cream-colored box under her seat. Then, she gingerly plucked a black glove and a small plastic bag with a single white and red striped pill from beneath the hat. After a pause, she walked past the spilled clothing and quietly dropped the glove into the pile. Tucking the baggie into her coat pocket, she exited the train, taking each step one at a time, and trotted off toward the street.