There he was. The foreigner. My stomach churned with anger as I watched him. He was holding down the job I applied for and he took it from me. This is my city, my land, and I should have that job. But no – his extra piece of paper from the college he attended and his oh-so-charming smile meant that he is working in the smart office and I am out here on the street in the rain.
But perhaps this was my chance. He didn’t usually leave his flat at night. It’s a dangerous neighbourhood and people like him are at risk. I grew up here. I know most of the people who live on this street, and can call on friends at any time to come to my aid.
I have watched and waited, and when I saw him through the bright window of his flat, pulling on his sweatshirt and drawing the hood up I knew this could be it.
I called Jed and Tom from the pub behind me. They knew the story and were beside me in an instant. We watched the doorway of the foreigner’s building and when he came out we followed him without making a sound. It was something we had practiced often as we relieved people of their bags and wallets on dark nights in quiet places. We had to make a living somehow and things had not gone well with me since that interview.
The anger seethed inside me. This one was mine – and this time it would be different. I fingered the knife in its sheath underneath my jacket.
We chose our moment well. He didn’t stand a chance – and was down before he could even cry out in alarm or pain. Jed and Tom looked at me in horror as I wiped the knife on my victim’s jacket and put it back in its sheath. I glared at them and they turned and ran, leaving me with the man on the ground. I added a kick in his ribs to the knife injury and the man groaned in pain.
It was time for me to go, but I couldn’t leave. I had to watch this through to the end. I slipped round the nearest corner and hid in the shadows. I watched as the man tried to sit up. I heard heavy footsteps and risked moving slightly to peer round the corner to see what would happen. It was Joe. Joe was tough and there was no love lost between us. He couldn’t see me as he stopped to look down at the injured man. I held my breath. What would Joe do? But I should have realized that he wouldn’t help the foreigner. Another well-aimed kick had the man writhing again on the pavement. Joe laughed and walked away, not looking back till the end of the street when he glanced behind him as if to check that the man was still down.
More footsteps. Still the foreigner groaned. Once again I knew the person hurrying along the street. This time it was Luigi from the restaurant nearby. He too stopped when he saw the body ahead of him, but then, looking around like a frightened rabbit, he scurried across the road and broke into a run.
After a few minutes, I was still there, uncertain whether I should finish the job or just leave the man where he was when I heard yet another set of footsteps. There was a brief pause as the person saw the hunched shape lying in the lamplight. Whoever it was started running towards the foreigner – towards me – and I shrank back behind my corner.
Once again I peered cautiously round the corner. A young man was on his hands and knees, talking, talking, and trying to lift the foreigner off the ground. With a lot of effort he managed to get him standing, and together they struggled down the road towards the pub where I had spent an hour or so with my friends earlier. Cautiously I followed, curious to see what would happen. I walked into the pub, trying to look as if I was just a casual patron. I saw the young man talking to the landlord and giving him some cash – quite a lot of cash as it happens – and together they helped the injured man up the stairs.
I ordered a drink. I needed one after all that. And I was keen to find out who this young man was and why he had bothered with the foreigner. When he came down again I heard him say he would be back in a day or two and then he left.
I followed him. I don’t quite know why. I had nothing against him. My anger against the foreigner was melting away but I was intrigued to find out who this stranger was who had stopped in a dark street on a rainy night to help someone who could have been a decoy to lure him into trouble.
I was quiet, but as he turned through a gate in a street half a mile away from the pub he glanced around. It was the house next to the church. I think he saw me, even though I tried to look unconcerned as if I was just wandering along minding my own business. He didn’t acknowledge me, nor make any sign he had noticed me, but I just had a feeling.