Right Before My Eyes
My Name is Dane
Manuel parked his car in the underground garage and took the elevator to the third floor. He walked quietly down the semi-lit hallway and stopped at the first apartment on the left. As he inserted his key into the lock and turned the handle, the door opened no more than a crack. He swore softly, realizing that Sam hadn’t expected him back so he’d slid the security chain across the door. Damn it. He’d have to remember to try to give him some notice next time. Oh well, he couldn’t blame Sam for being cautious.
Conscious of the fact that it was well after one in the morning, Manuel called softly to Sam through the opening. “Sam. It’s me, Manuel. You awake?”
Manuel pulled the door closed again, locked it, and bounded back down the stairs, deciding he’d use the fire escape that led directly to the window of his bedroom. This had happened to him before. It was no biggie.
He made his way around the side of the building and into the alley, where he reached up and pulled down the fire stairs. He climbed up to his window and made an attempt to open it, but it wouldn’t budge. It seemed to be jammed. He swore again, now frustrated with the situation. He was exhausted. He really wanted to sleep. He took out the pen knife he carried in his pocket and started prying at the window. After somewhat of a struggle, he managed to get the window up far enough so that he’d be able to squeeze through.
When a loud rustling jarred John out of a dead sleep, he scarcely dared to breathe. Someone was trying to break into his room. Very slowly, he moved to the edge of the bed, reached down, and grabbed hold of the baseball bat he kept on the floor beside him at night. He was trembling like a leaf when he crept across the room, but he held the bat steady in his hand, hovering just beside the window, listening intently. He waited with bated breath, heart pounding in his chest as he watched the window rise. Suddenly a head appeared, then part of a torso.
John raised the bat and just as the body began to slide in through the window, he slammed it down hard on the shadowy figure’s head.
“Ow! Jesus Christ!” A deep voice growled. “What in the fuck did you hit me for?”
John raced around the bed and made two attempts to switch on the lamp before light finally flooded into the room. Haphazardly, he threw on his robe and shoved the bat underneath it. “I have a gun!” he announced loudly, trying to sound threatening. John’s hands shook so badly he could hardly control the bat. It was doing a bizarre dance under his robe.
The man on the floor glared up at him with pain-filled eyes. He rubbed his head, then jumped to his feet. “Well, so do I,” he snapped, “only mine is real.”
The man took a step toward him. John gripped the bat. “It’s a deadly weapon. If you’re planning on raping or robbing me, I’ll use it.”
“What in fuck is wrong with you?” The man gave him a strange look. “I don’t want to rape you. I just want to sleep. Who in the hell are you and what are you doing in my bedroom?”
“Your bedroom?” John echoed. “I think the nuthouse is back thataway, fella, a few miles down the road.” John patted the bat under his robe. “I pay rent on this apartment.”
“You know,” the intruder sneered, rubbing his head again, “it would be far more effective if you just showed me the bat. That way, it looks as if you’re happy to see me, if you know what I mean, really happy, actually.” He raised an eyebrow.
John turned crimson. He took out the bat and waved it at him. “Don’t come any closer. I’ll … ah … call the police.”
“I am the police,” the man muttered, rubbing his head through the black cap he wore as he moved past him.
John couldn’t believe this guy. He just walked down the hall to the kitchen like he owned the joint. John followed him with trepidation. He watched aghast as the man opened the fridge and took out some leftover pasta, then got a fork from the drawer and began to eat. He leaned against the counter, totally ignoring him.
John gripped the bat in his fist. “You can’t just eat my food. There are places, soup kitchens. They’ll feed you. I could call one if you like.”
The man issued him a forced smile. “That’s okay,” he replied, his mouth full of pasta, “they’re not open at this time of night.”
“I’m calling the cops,” John repeated, and reached for the phone.
Without looking at John, the man moved his coat aside and showed him his gun. Then he let the coat fall back into place and continued eating the pasta.
This guy really did have a gun. Jesus Christ. “Look, you can have me, but please don’t pee on me, and wear a condom because I really don’t want to catch anything.”
The guy didn’t blink.
“Did you hear me?”
“Yes,” he said, swallowing, “you said not to pee on you and to use a condom.” He put down the empty dish and looked at him. “Who are you again?”
John sighed. “It’s best we keep this impersonal.”
The man met his gaze. “I don’t get it.”
“Well, transference and stuff. Have you seen that film where the guy kidnaps the girl and they get to know all about each other, and they fall in love, it’s very romantic … only he’s really nuts and then when the police come—”
“Aha!” The man pointed a finger at him. “You’re a bloody actor, aren’t you?”
“How did you know?”
He pushed away from the counter. “My ex was an actor. They’re real drama queens.”
John stood in the corner. “Whatever you’re going to do to me, I ask only that you don’t hit me in the face. My face is my living. I just got a bit part in a movie and…” John stopped talking. It didn’t appear that the man was even listening to him. John made a face and followed him as he walked into the living room.
“He’s gone, isn’t he?” He turned and looked at him.
“Who?” John asked. “Who’s gone?”
“You know who! Stop playing games.”
“Okay.” John swallowed. The best thing to do was play along, not make him angry. Obviously, the guy was deranged. “I see him too. He’s over there in the corner, right?”
“Who’s in the corner?”
“The one that’s gone? I mean he was gone, now he’s back. But he left a message for you.”
The man tilted his dark head, narrowing his eyes. “He left a message? Isn’t that great? He doesn’t even bother to let me know what in hell is going on. He leaves a message! What did he say?”
“He said—” John folded his arms across his chest to keep himself calm “—he said not to get upset or hurt anyone. There are people out there who can help you with your little problems.”
He stared at John for a good long time in the darkened living room. “What in hell are you talking about? What people out where? Are you on drugs?”
“No. No drugs. Out … ah … there … not far, you know, not far. If you leave now, you’ll find it … out there.” John pointed at the front door.
“I’m not going anywhere.”
“Let me call someone. We can all sit down calmly and discuss this.”
“Who in hell are you going to call at this time of night? The best thing to do now is wait. Tomorrow we’ll sit down and figure this all out. I’m beat.”
“You mean, you’re staying here, tonight?”
“Of course,” he said with a yawn.
“Okay, but will you do me a favor?” John held out his hand. “Give me your gun.”
“I’m not giving you my gun!”
“Will you give it to the little guy in the corner?”
The man cast a wary glance in the corner. “Okay, you’re definitely on drugs. There is no little guy in the corner.”
“Good,” John said. “He’s gone, right?”
“Huh?” The man’s eyes widened. “Are you sure you’re not on crack?”
“Can you take the bullets out at least?”
“Sure.” He shrugged, pulling John’s attention to his broad shoulders. He’s really built. Too bad the guy’s psychotic.
“And can I ask … where did you get the badge, the one you showed me a while ago?”
“Where do you think I got it?”
“I don’t know. Is it real?”
“Of course it’s real.”
“You didn’t hurt anyone, did you?”
John swallowed as he watched him unload the gun. “Give me the bullets.”
“What do you want my bullets for?”
“I’ll keep them for you.”
“They go in here,” he said, walking over and putting the bullets in the kitchen drawer.
John nodded. “Thank you. That meant a lot to me.”
“You are a little strange. It didn’t mean shit to me.”
John tried to smile. “Hold on to your gun, but remember, I’m holding on to my bat too.”
“I could make a joke about how attached you are to your bat, but I don’t think you’d get it. In my experience, actors are not that high up there when it comes to brains.”
“That’s not nice. I’ve got an early morning call tomorrow on the set. It’s very important to me. I went to bed early on purpose so that I’d look good and you fucked all that up. You are intending on letting me go tomorrow?”
“It’s got nothing to do with me. I don’t care.”
“I’ll promise to come back. Please.” John slowed his speech down to make sure this guy would understand every word. “Just-don’t-give-me-any-trouble.”
At an equally slow pace, the guy replied, “You-can-go-anywhere-you-want tomorrow-morning. I might have a problem with you coming back, however.”
John eyed the phone. If only he could call the cops, get this guy out of here. He needed to get some sleep, but he was scared. It was obvious this guy was unstable. “Did you ever hurt anyone—badly?” he blurted.
The man appeared to contemplate that for a moment. “Only when I’ve had to.”
“Oh my God,” John gasped.
He sat down on the sofa with a yawn. “Well, it was either him or me.”
John bit his lip.
“We should go to bed.”
John tensed, took a step back. “I’ll fight if I have to, but if it comes down to it and you force me, I beg you, be gentle. You’ll get what you want anyway. My face is—”
“What in hell are you talking about?”
“If you try to … you know? I’m just trying to make you understand that I won’t fight if you’re not going to mess up my face. Let’s just get it over with.”
The man stood up. “Okay, loony guy, enough of that. If you’re auditioning for the part of someone in a mental ward, you got it, hands down, Academy Award. I’ll sleep here on the sofa tonight. You can have my bed. Tomorrow all this shit is going to be put straight.”
“Yeah, my bed. I don’t intend to talk about it anymore tonight. Let’s just get some shut-eye. Your virtue, or lack thereof, is safe with me.”
“You’re really going to sleep on the sofa here? You’re not going to try anything?”
“Try what? I’m beat. I just want to sleep, please.”
John sighed with relief. “Oh thank God,” he said. “I thought you were going to force me to sleep with you.”
“Now I think you’re on the border of insulting me. Could we not talk?”
“Yes, I’m going to bed,” John said, and went into his room. He closed the door and pulled the bureau up against it, keeping the bat at his side. Damn, he wished he had a phone in his room, or a cell phone, at least. He looked at the alarm clock. It was just after two in the morning. He thought about sneaking out to go to the police, but what if that psycho heard him? No, he’d take care of it before his shoot tomorrow.
John lay awake all night, alert for any little noise. Every time he heard the man in the living room groan or move in his sleep, he tensed. As soon as the sun came up, John dressed and sneaked out the fire escape. He went straight to the police station.
“Description?” the cop demanded as John tried to tell him what had happened.
“I told you, big and scary looking, crazy, and carrying a gun. He told me he’d hurt people. He’s at my place now. Go and get him,” John insisted.
“I don’t know. I can’t remember. I was scared. I think it was black. He had on a hat.”
“Height? Build? Was he white, old, young?”
“White, ah, swarthy, maybe Latin, Spanish, but he didn’t have an accent. Maybe he was a member of one of those street gangs. And he was tall, six-ten maybe.”
“Six-ten?” the officer echoed in disbelief.
“He looked really tall. He had a deep voice. He saw people in the living room that weren’t there. He said he was a cop, had a fake badge, or maybe he killed a cop and…”
The cop laughed. “Okay, okay.”
“Hell, I have to be on the set in a half hour. Could you go to my place and arrest him, please? I had to talk him out of raping me.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll check it out,” the cop said. “If we get him, you’ll have to come down to the station and identify him.”
“Okay. Just get him out of my apartment.”
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