5th and West (Protag/Antag Contest)

Posted: August 1, 2012 in Scribbled Notes, Typed Pages and Published Work

This is an entry for a blog contest on TERRIBLE MINDS, the home of Chuck Wendig, freelance pen monkey etc etc.

5th and West

Ben Dodge


“He’s going off the charts!”

I thump the blood bag, keep the stretcher steady as our maverick of a driver wheels the ambulance around in a gritty parking lot so hard the wheels scrap tobacco-encrusted pavement from the tar.  The doors ahead swing open; offering more light than green LED’s and instrument displays.

“Fuck!”  The blond, petite trauma nurse grabs the paddles.  My team straps the man down, collectively holds their breath as the twenty-something shudders under the recoil of 5,000 volts.


I tap the monitor.  Nothing.  A spark.  The alarm stops shrieking.

“We’re unsteady, but his heart’s pumping,” I gasp into the pregnant silence.  Blood drips from my hands, across the casualty’s hoodie and jeans.  It’s his, not mine.

He’s lying strapped to the gurney, frothing at the mouth, hands bruised from the defibrillator’s shock.  In the dark, his skin’s so white it’s pasty, like baking dough.  He’s lost a lot of blood.

I check the readout as the trauma teams outside practically throws their gurney to a halt outside, bouncing with the roughness of the ‘lot.  He’s lost nearly two litres to be exact.  It’s 3:04 am.

My shift started eleven hours ago.

I hop out, help the crew slip the patient onto the wheeled stretcher.  The night air catches at my throat with the usual inner-city smells; pollution, smokes, the septic smell of a squatter community, blood from more recent arrivals.

“Who is he?”

I shrug, grabbing the edge of a gurney as the five of us haul ass to the open door.

“No idea.  A bystander we found near 5th and West.  Caught in some kind of crossfire.”  I gestured to the man’s over-sized black hoodie, where four .22 rounds had caught him across the lower ribs, stomach, naval, and crotch; neatly placed.

The double-doors bang open, throwing light into the inky blackness of the parking lot.  There’s no streetlights, and the glittering of skyscrapers isn’t enough to light up by, let alone tape up an assault victim.

I snatch up the bag of plasma as we roar through the peeled-paint halls, past the results of a dozen stabbings, shootings, domestics, police interventions and OD’s.  The lobby nurse waves us through the mob.  I stand beside the man, shielding his face from the morbidly curious throng.

I know him, you see.

He’s a cousin of mine, goes by the name of Weasel.  He isn’t a bystander.  He’s a gangster.  He also wasn’t caught in a crossfire; he was targeted.  Deliberately.

He’s family.

I stumble briefly, just in front of the emergency operating theatre to pull off his patient I.D.  The team swings past and they’re gone.  I’m done for the night.

My shoulders sag as I begin the long walk out, through the lobby to the open double doors.  I snatch a Belmont from my pocket, flip a Zippo as the door bangs open to reveal five of them.


“Sir, is it true that you’ve just brought in the criminal known as Weasel?”

“Sir, can you confirm-“

“Sir, can-


I elbow past all of them, lighting up.  I relax as their shouts grow dim and the embers-


as I try to relax.  My pistol shakes in a death grip as I lean in a bare-brick alley, just off of 5th.  Cars zip by.  Cops wail past like the metallic banshees they are.  Sobs shake the apartment above.  Loud music echoes like an anthem, a beat-driven memento to the fallen.

My cigarette drops to the curb.  I step out, pull up my hoodie, walk down the rows of shitbag tenements and trash-filled rows where the junkies hang thicker than the flies.  I elbow past two of them, watch their tracked-out veins wave as they beg for a loaner.  The .22 hangs in my waistband now, heavier than a death sentence.

It could be a death sentence.

There’s no way I can walk through the police tape.  I can’t waste all the cops here.  Nothing I can do about the evidence still there.  The .22 casings are in my shoes.

An ambulance came by, picked him up.

I didn’t finish him proper.

I’ve got debts, see?  Three grand is on the line, and I would have lost my place in the crew if I didn’t pay up by tonight.  With this, I lose my debt and any opposition to crew boss.

I turn at the corner of West.  The hospital isn’t far.  I’ve still got eight rounds.

I sprint down the spit-trodden sidewalk, bump past two bums and a dealer, hand around the handle of my .22, thumb around the hammer.  There’s an ambulance; a guardian angel unloading its latest victim at the parking lot.  There’s a trauma team, a few unmarked cars, but no cops.

One street to go.   A taxi looses it’s fender as I-


-my shoulders and try to relax, try to unwind after a long shift.  The nicotine calms my-


-as I leg it past a local beat patrol.  They start in their parked cruiser, coffees spilling across their uniforms as one goes for the wheel and the other goes for the radio.  Or a shotgun.

I can only keep moving.  They can’t spray and pray, they won’t with civilians all around.  My hand whips out the .22 as a man with a cigarette finishes up and takes a step aside, to go back inside the hospital, inside an open door and harsh lights.

I saw him brush past a few men and women in suits.  Reporters?  Seems this guy-paramedic, probably- doesn’t want to be bothered.

I know him.  Its Weasel’s cousin; the smart one.  He’s covering for his coz, again.

So am I.

He turns back, by instinct, stares me down as I stare down the rocking barrel, fingers squeezing the trigger fast as I can


through the double doors.  Six rounds bounce off the pavement.  The nurse screams.

A shotgun blast echoes through the cold, dark night


­-over my eyes.  It’s all over.

  1. Jo Eberhardt says:

    I liked the way you did the transitions here. I found the first part a little confusing (although that may be my tired brain talking), but once I’d figured it out, I enjoyed it. The characters are really strong.

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