The dark tunnel twisted and turned, the tall bushy man popping in and out of view in front of us. He was running surprisingly fast, and my body soon began to ache as it tried to remind me of how badly in shape I was. Nonetheless, the idea of a SWAT team chasing me got my adrenaline going, and I sped up as I ran deeper into the depths of Montreal’s underbelly.
We finally came to a junction that revealed a large, open cave. The ceiling of the cave glimmered with yellow street lighting that streamed through large rectangular grates above us. As I looked up and saw the shadows of people walking I realized we were under a sidewalk, and were getting closer and closer to the surface.
I let out a sigh and looked around. We were in a fairly large open area, surrounded by a handful of huddled groups of homeless people. The men and women looked at us, somewhat curious, and we looked back at them just the same.
Then, as though the silence of the moment switched something on inside Steve’s brain, he broke down.
“I’m dead man,” he began repeating under his breath.
At first I thought he was going to begin hyperventilating, though his breath soon stabilized and he began to sob. As tears began to roll down his face, his broken voice made itself heard, and he was soon explaining everything that had happened to him over the past couple of months that lead to this night. His mouth and mind were on autopilot, and there was nothing I could do but to stand by him and listen.
And so that’s what I did.
I… I’m not sure how it started, or why. Probably a bet, a stupid bet with friends. Heh, why do I always do stupid bets? Anyways, it was late, and we’d been out for a while, and this one guy he pulls out a reefer the size of my middle finger. No joke man, it was huge! So they light it up, pass it around, and I… I didn’t want to be left out… so I did…
Nothing serious happened that night, but it wasn’t the only night we got together and smoked up. After a while I started not feeling the buzz anymore, you know? And we had this idea, this theory, that I was immune to drugs… So we decided to try and test it out…
I… um… At… At first I was ok, but as we got into some deeper and deeper shit, I could feel myself slide away… The worst part is that I knew it was bad, but I kept on doing it anyways. Man, the feeling was just so strong, so good… I needed more! I needed more…
I stole. Nothing too serious, well, at first anyways… I stole, there was this old lady’s necklace I remember, and a saxophone if you believe it! Hehehe, crazy saxophone! Then one day, I thought I’d hit the jackpot, I broke into this house up in Westmount, man, the biggest house you’ve ever seen. I grabbed everything I could find, but when I got ready to leave, I found them waiting for me by the door.
There were three guys, two thugs and one that stood out, you know, like he was their leader or something. He… he said he was an important man, very important, and that I’d just done something very stupid. He… he told me I had two choices: either they kill me right there in the hallway, or I needed to bring him money, lots of money, to pay for my life…
I… I didn’t know what to do… The guy, he told me he knew where I lived, that he’d find me and kill me if I didn’t bring him the money by tomorrow at noon. And now? Now I’ve lost the money! Its back there somewhere, and when the guy finds out I don’t have his money he’s going to kill me…
What am I going to do…?
Steve’s face fell into his hands as his sobbing took over. Uncomfortable, I stood and looked around at the homeless people, who were looking back at us intently, as though watching a TV drama.
“Hey! You guys coming or what?”
Steve and I both jumped, surprised at the tall bushy man that appeared right next to us.
“You can exit through there,” he said, pointing to the far end of the cave. ”There’s a ladder that leads to a manhole in a dead end street. No one should be there right now, so this is your chance. Don’t worry about the cops, if they do make their way here, we’ll keep quiet.”
Steve wiped his tears with his sleeve as we both thanked the man and headed for the ladder. I jumped onto its rusty steps and was overwhelmed by the excitement and relief that flooded over me. Finally I would be able to head back home and be free of this nightmare. Sure Steve needed some help, and I’d probably end up offering him my couch so as to avoid finding him dead in his apartment tomorrow morning, but that was fine.
As long as I got back home, it was fine.
I reached the top of the ladder and pushed the manhole up with all my strength. The large metal plate moved very easily, and I slid it forward, letting it drag loudly on the asphalt. Finally, I pulled myself up so I was halfway through the manhole, and my skin crawled as I heard a familiar voice.
“Well, well, well, look at what we have here…”
Staring back at me with the dark night sky as a backdrop, Officer Murray stood, his grin stretching from ear to ear.