Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Wasted Miracles 2
The two African guys grabbed him, real Africans from Africa, you could tell by their kind-of British accents. They knocked on his door and he opened it while talking on the cordless. He thought it was the paperboy come to collect. The taller African hit him a quick, vicious blow just below the chest and Herbie let go of the phone; the second guy caught it before it hit the ground. Then the first guy hit him again three, four, five times in the face, breaking his nose and opening a gash over the right eye. Then Herbie passed out.
The Africans found a pillow case in the linen closet, a garbage can bag in the kitchen. They slid the garbage bag over Herbie’s head, left it loose so he wouldn’t suffocate, slid the pillow case on top of that. They carried him down the service stairs to the alley behind the building and dumped him in a battered Chevy van with a magnetic sign that said Mr. Ratchet! Plumbing & Heating.
They drove Herbie through Rock Creek Park towards Beach Drive to do what they had to do, which was extract one or two pieces of information from him prior to finishing him off. But then things went wrong.
First, the tall African accidentally stabbed Herbie in the chest when he was just trying to draw a little blood but the van hit a giant ragged crater of a pothole. The knife, thin as paper and sharp as cut glass, slid in. It caused more pain than damage and Herbie roared through the pillow case and garbage bag. This shook the tall African. He was new at this, barely 20 years old and the whole thing was supposed to be a trial run. He hadn’t anticipated any difficulties, had paced through the assignment a hundred times in his head. But Herbie’s scream unnerved him and Herbie’s blood made him squeamish. So he stabbed Herbie two more times trying to quiet him down. Herbie roared again, kicked out, somehow got an arm loose, flailed and connected with a wild right fist that knocked the young man down. The driver, Comfort by name, an older man who’d done this type of thing in eight cities on three continents prior to coming to Washington, stopped the van and clambered back to help his colleague. Herbie, acting out of rage, instinct and primal fear was now trying to claw the garbage bag from his head. In the confines of the van, his struggle took up a lot of space. He was moaning and spraying blood, displaying an awesome strength for such an inconsequential man; the van was beginning to smell like a Third World slaughterhouse and rocking on its axles. The younger African took out his gun, a slim Beretta he’d never yet fired.
Earlier in the day, as he and Comfort were reminiscing about their respective childhoods, Comfort had told him how, when he was a small boy in his native Nigerian village, there’s been men who wouldn’t die no matter the harm done them. The youth had listened wide-eyed, dry-mouthed. Now, right here, there was such a man. He fired the Beretta point blank into Herbie’s chest. The sound was enormous inside the van, louder than anything the men had ever heard and for what seemed like an eternity all three were frozen in place. Then Herbie made an unearthly howl, a banshee shriek that tore their ears. Comfort cried: “He is one of them! He cannot die!” The young man shot Herbie three more times without aiming.