Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Midnight rumble.

"I don't think I'd ever dare drive a cab. It doesn't seem very safe."
"Honestly, I'm more worried about what's going on outside the car than inside."

Cabbing is not all vomit and misanthropy. Sometimes it is violence and pants-shitting fear. Like what happened a few weeks ago. It had been a good one and I had been raking in the fares. My colleague Bert was set to give me a ride home as soon as I returned the cab to HQ, and most importantly, I wasn't utterly exhausted but felt  comfortably calm, singing along to the radio and chewing miles.

On my way to HQ, I passed through a rough neighbourhood right on the border of an industrial area. In the corner of my eye, at the mouth of a dark alley, I saw two figures (for the sake of simplicity, let's call them Stack and Billy). Stack had his hand on Billy's shoulder, who was leaning  up against the wall.  I was just about to pass on by, and leave the creatures of the night to their games when the truth dawned:

Billy wasn't leaning against the wall; He was pushed against it. And Stack wasn't holding his shoulder; he was throttling him.

Stack had one hand locked around Billy's throat, leaving one hand free to deliver savage strikes across his face. After a couple of strikes, Stack grabbed Billy with both hands and slammed him hard against the bricks.

I'm not going to lie; I actually passed by. Call it cowardice, apathy or survival instinct, but my first reaction was this: Not My Problem.

I drove on for maybe fifteen, perhaps twenty meters, when I changed my mind. I hit the emergency number on speed dial, made a U-turn and parked my car squarely in the middle of the road, turning on the high beam, flooding the alley with light. Stack didn't seem to care, but went right on working Billy over.

"112 What's your emergency?"
"Hi. I'm Crabby. I drive a cab. I'm standing here at Generator Street, and I'm witnessing an assault. Send cops and an ambulance asap."
"All right, let's take this in order."

The operator then connected me to the police, who proceeded to ask me specific questions about the where and when and how, all the while Stack was going to town on Billy's face and head. Billy himself was sagging against the wall, not really responding to the pain, which was perhaps a mercy. While my first impulse was to curse the police out, and tell them to send cars first and ask questions later, a more rational part of me realized the value in this. So I described the situation.

"Well... The perp is slamming the victim against the wall. And the victim doesn't seem to be responding. He might be unconscious. And-" I saw Stack pull his hand back and thrust it hard against Billy's side. Billy sank to the ground. "Oh shit, I think he just stabbed him. Guys, you better hurry the fuck up-"

"Don't worry. Cars are being dispatched. Stay on the line. What's happening?"
"The perp is ... crouching by the victim. The victim isn't responding. The perp is..." I blinked. "He's lifting the victim up in a fireman's carry. And he's moving this way. He's moving straight toward my cab. How long until-"

Stack reached the car, with Billy draped across his shoulders. And I have never in my life been so happy for my headset. Stack nodded toward me, and I rolled down the window a few inches, all the while ready to kick the car into Drive and get the hell out.

"You have any water?" Stack asked.
"Sure..." I gave him my water bottle, almost empty.
Stack's eyes narrowed. "That's not enough."
"That's all I have."
"Fuck it, it'll have to do," he reached out and I pushed the bottle out  to him. He then turned away from the cab and my conversation with the police continued:

"All right, you heard what happened... he's walking away from the cab and he.. he's placing the victim on the ground. He's... he's splashing water on the victim's face..." Pause. "I don't think this is an assault."

"All right, just stay with us."

Stack got to his feet and hurried back to the cab. And his face was twisted in anguish. "Call an ambulance! Don't just sit there!"

"Don't worry," I said. "I'm way ahead of you. The cops are coming too."
"Not the cops, just an ambulance."
"A bit too late for that."
Stack sighed, shrugged and hurried back to Billy. Warily, I got out of the cab. Already I could hear the sirens in the distance. While still keeping my distance, I asked what had happened.

"I don't know," said Stack. "We were drinking and suddenly he blacked out. I've been trying to wake him."

And then they appeared, in a hurricane of screaming sirens and glaring blue light. One after another they appeared, cutting off the street in both directions, some coming in so hot they skidded to a halt. Not one car, not two, but four, with two cops in each vehicle. I hurried to the first one to leave his car; a huge, clean-shaven viking of a man.

"Hi, I'm the one who called. I don't mean to be rude, but I don't think this is an assault."
"All right," said Officer Olaf Smoothskin, his eyes turned sharply toward Stack and Billy. "What's going on?"
I explained the situation and Olaf nodded. He turned to two female cops and told them to see to the situation. Then he took me aside to get my testimony, while the remaining cops stood to a side, setting up some kind of perimeter. As I spoke to Olaf, I watched one of his colleagues speak to Stack, while the other checked Billy for a pulse. Finding none, she started doing CPR.

It was around this time that the ambulance arrived. Having given my testimony, there was no reason for me to stay. I stuck around another moment, until I realized the awkwardness of the situation.

Thinking back, I seem to remember Olaf telling me that Billy was breathing again, and that I'd done all I could do. I hope that's true.

That wasn't the first time I called the cops, nor would it be the last. In fact, the relationship between the cabby and the cop is worth an entry of its own. So I'll save those stories for later.

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