Did you know that your nails don’t really grow after you die? In fact, it is just the skin receding around them that gives the appearance that they are increasing in size. But they, like the rest of you in the grave, are just decaying matter.
I began to vividly picture what my corpse would look like lying in my coffin, nails and all…
It’s funny the morbid thoughts that fill your head when the smell of a recently fired gun fills the air, you have a pistol pointed in your face, and you look down to see someone’s brains splattered on your shirt.
This past Friday began like many other nights out in the city. Even with the .38 caliber killer claiming his sixth victim two days prior, our spirits were high. Though his existence had cast a pall over the city, our plans remained steadfast. We were going out, and we were going to get wasted.
After some significant pre-gaming, I met my friends in the West Village of Manhattan for some late night revelry on Bleecker Street. As the night continued, one too many drinks were poured. We drunkenly speculated about who the Son of the Son of Sam really was. My favorite theory being that it was Jimmy McMillan who had finally snapped because the rent was still too damn high.
I looked at my phone with bleary eyes and realized that it was 2 in the morning. I said my goodbyes to my ever diminishing group of friends and stepped out to the street.
“Fuck!” I shouted as I felt the rain hit me. It is already difficult enough getting a cab in the West Village on a Friday night (I had a long trek to the Upper West Side ahead of me), and the rain was going to completely ruin any chance I had of getting a taxi. After five minutes of standing in front of the bar, I decided to stumble down the street and try my luck elsewhere. Cab after cab passed me, all with customers seated inside. After 10 minutes of waiting, I became desperate. My thoughts briefly returned to the gun toting maniac stalking the streets and anxiety flared up inside. I flailed my arms wildly in a frenzied attempt to draw a cabbie’s attention, but they continued to pass with their fares sitting snugly in the back seat.
Finally, an available cab stopped up the street for me. I became gleeful. However, someone rushed passed me and opened the door.
“What the fuck!?” I shouted.
The man turned to me and gave me a smug smile.
“That’s fucking bullshit!” I began to run toward him.
He continued to smile at me. He reached in his pocket as I approached and produced a single coin. He threw it in my face.
“Here’s a quarter, call someone that gives a fuck.”
He laughed as he shut the door of the cab. As they drove away, I was so stunned and annoyed that all I could retort was, “who the fuck even says that anymore?”
Now feeling completely defeated, I was about to give up all hope. Suddenly, a Lincoln Town Car pulled up next to me.
“Yo! You need a ride.”
I stared at the man inside, and my thoughts began to race.
This was a “gypsy cab.” These were unlicensed, and it was illegal for them to pick up street fares in NYC. My brain filled up with all of the horror stories I had heard. They ranged from friends being overcharged to, let’s just say, much worse. However, I was drunk, exhausted, and my bed was calling to me. After only a moment’s hesitation, I crawled into the car.
“I’m going to 92nd and Amsterdam,” I slurred.
“Of course my friend. My pleasure. My pleasure,” he said to me with a beaming smile written on his friendly face.
I was in high spirits when I left the bar, but this was all stifled by the rain and the anxiety of acquiring transportation home. The cab began to move, and I finally felt at ease. My demeanor improved tenfold as I settled into the leather interior.
“So, boss, how was your night?” He asked with a welcoming tone. Normally, I will avoid talking to cab drivers, but this guy’s disposition easily coaxed a conversation out of me.
“You know, actually pretty damn good,” I replied returning his smile.
“Business or pleasure tonight?” He said with a laugh.
“All pleasure,” I said with a wink.
“One too many tonight?” He inquired in a friendly, nonjudgmental way.
“Sure man, you know how I do!” This statement escaped my lips before I realized how fucking ridiculous it sounded.
“For sure, man, life is hard. You got to take the pleasure with the pain. Pleasure is why we’re here.”
“For sure… Fuck pain!!!” I shouted this out the window now fully back in drunken idiot mode.
“For sure, brother.”
We continued to wind our way through the West Village and toward the West Side Highway. Conversation continued. It remained jovial and friendly. It was a real pleasure to speak to this man, Dominik. He had a really strange accent. I spent the very enjoyable conversation trying to place the exact origin of it.
We stopped at a light on an abandoned street. Terror filled me as a large man began to rush toward our cab. His immense form approached so rapidly, I had no time to react. He reached for the door in a wild attempt to pull it open. Before he could grasp the door, the cabbie had engaged the automatic locks. With his other hand in his pocket, the man with the large frame pulled something out. My vision was obstructed. I couldn’t see what he held in his hand.
He began to frantically beat at the windows.
“C’mon. I need a fucking ride home. Open up!” He continued to pound on the glass. I finally was able to view what he held, a $20 bill.
The light turned green, and Dominik peeled out, raising a middle finger in the process.
I gave a hearty laugh and said, “Dude, thanks man.”
“My pleasure, my friend.”
“You’re the fucking man.”
As we neared the West Side Highway, the conversation continued to progress. It was then that I realized we hadn’t negotiated a price yet.
“Hey. We didn’t talk about a fare. How much is this going to cost?” I prepared for the worst.
“How about 10?” He replied.
What a fucking steal! A yellow cab would have easily charged me 25 for the same ride. The smile on my face grew even larger. I began to seriously question every horror story I had heard about “gypsy cabs” and made a mental note to tip this guy very well.
We were two blocks away from the highway and stopped at another light. The mystery of his accent wouldn’t escape my mind. I finally asked, “so, where are you o-originally from?”
Before he could answer, another vehicle pulled up to the driver side. The street was narrow, and this car was way too close, legitimately a millimeter away from hitting us. I pointed it out to him.
“Yo. H-Hey. He’s way t-too fuckin close.” I struggled to say those words as the massive amount of alcohol I had ingested finally caught up with me.
Still with a smile on his face, Dominik rolled down his window and began to berate the other driver.
I laughed as they traded increasingly heated words, finding this stereotypically New York exchange beyond hilarious. The shouting continued.
“You’re fucking dead!”
“Do it then!”
My driver pushed in the other car’s side mirror to emphasize that statement. I laughed again. Suddenly, the car pulled into reverse. I remember thinking out of sight, out of mind. I wish I had turned around, so I could have braced myself for the impact.
The vehicle slammed into the back of the town car. My head jerked violently. Completely dazed by the whiplash, it took a moment for me to recover and turn my head toward our attacker. I watched in horror as he got out of his car, opened his trunk, and approached the driver side window. My driver began to stir. Before he could react, his window shattered.
The man continued to strike the cab with the tire iron he retrieved from his trunk.
“…” My complete and utter shock at these turn of events left me speechless and paralyzed with fear in the back seat.
I was so relieved when Dominik finally picked up his head. He slowly reached into his glove compartment. I gasped as I saw what he retrieved. The man dropped the tire iron and reached inside. Before he could grab it, Dominik put the gun up to the attacker’s forehead and pulled the trigger.
The report was deafening. I instinctively closed my eyes. Nothing in the world could prepare me for what I faced when I opened them. Dominik, was now pointing the gun directly in my face.
“I can’t let you live.”
His voice had changed entirely. What was only moments before friendly and inviting was now icy and distant. His face had switched as well. An indelible frown was now plastered on it.
“Wait! What! Why!?! He attacked us. I-it was s-self defense. Let’s just t-tell the police. I’ll testify.” He didn’t respond. His face remained cold and indifferent. The man looking at me now wouldn’t think twice about pulling the trigger once more. What the fuck…?
The horrifying realization dawned on me. Dominik saw this change in my face. It was unspoken, but he knew now that I knew who he was. The gun remained stationary. Dominik continued to stare at me with unblinking eyes.
As cliche as it is, my life flashed before me. When my thoughts inevitably turned to my corpse lying in the grave, another vehicle approached. Dominik put the car into gear and stepped on the gas. Before long, we were on the West Side Highway doing 120 miles per hour.
“Sorry, my friend. I can’t let you live. I just can’t. You understand.” He continued to periodically point the pistol in my direction as he sped down the highway.
“No, no, no!” Tears streamed down my face. “I-I won’t say anything. Oh God. Please!!!”
“I wish I could trust that, my friend.”
I continued to beg and plead with him, but his face remained callous and determined. Eventually, he pulled off the highway and parked his car by the side of the road.
I searched my mind frantically for something, anything to dissuade this maniac. This was all I could come up with.
“I won’t say anything I f-f-fucking swear… W-w-we said that life is filled with pleasure and p-p-pain. Remember Dominik? Remember? Why more pain? Why!?! Please!?!” I pleaded with him from the depths of my heart.
“… You don’t know what real pleasure is.” Out of nowhere, a smile returned to his face. He calmly turned forward and began to drive. A modicum of relief began to permeate from my chest. He approached the intersection I had initially told him to go to and once again pointed the gun in my face. Even though he was still smiling, the fear came rushing back once more.
“Give me your wallet.”
I handed it over without a second thought. He took out my ID. He carefully studied my address. The ID went into his pocket, and he handed my wallet back to me.
“And you won’t say anything, my friend.”
“I swear to God. I swear on everything. Never!”
He pointed the gun at me one last time. “If you do…”
“I swear! Oh God! I promise!!!.”
I got out of the cab and watched as it slowly but surely pulled out of sight. I crumbled to the ground and cried hysterically.
Eventually, I pulled myself up from the pavement. Instead of heading toward my apartment, I walked to the hotel ten blocks down the street, madly checking over my shoulder the entire way.
I lay in bed as relief came crashing down on me. It was so palpable that I literally shook. I quivered uncontrollably. As the light of dawn peeked through the drawn blinds, sleep finally found me.
The next day I pored over articles about the Son of the Son of Sam. What I read made my skin crawl. Even though his method of execution was a handgun, there was an intimacy to his murders not usually associated with firearms. He toyed with his prey. He derived extreme pleasure from stalking and terrorizing them. If this wasn’t enough, it was the pictures of his victims that really got to me.
After seeing one in particular, Julie Gilpin, a single mother in her ‘30s, with her daughter, my heart broke. I stayed holed up in the hotel periodically staring at that picture of Julie as a debate raged inside. After two solid days of contemplation, I knew what I had to do.
I put a call into the police and then walked to the local precinct.
The following day, I received a call from my landlord.
“Where the fuck are you? You need to come to your apartment immediately. The police are on their way.”
My landlord met me outside. I had hoped that I would see squad cars parked in front of my building. My landlord assured me they would arrive shortly. I asked if he had seen anyone suspicious hanging around in the past few days.
“I was going to ask you the same thing. You know who did this to your apartment?”
We walked up the stairs, and I opened the door to my unit. It was trashed. The entire place had been tossed. My TV had been smashed. The furniture destroyed. In the center of the room was a pile of debris. Sitting on top was a photo ID placed under a .38 caliber bullet. I fell to my knees when I realized that the ID wasn’t mine. I screamed at my landlord to call the police again. I immediately took out my phone and frantically dialed my mother.
“Oh hey Alex. What perfect timing! I was just going to call you. You lost your ID a few nights ago in a cab didn’t you. You’re so forgetful.”
I attempted to speak but all that could escape my lips was a weak, “M-Mom.”
My mother continued, “you should be so grateful that you had the one honest cabbie in New York. He just gave it to me. In fact, he’s still here. He said he tried you at your house, but you weren’t there. Are you from around the neighborhood? I feel like I’ve been seeing you a lot lately.”
Tears streamed down my face as she continued to speak.
“This guy is so nice Alex. I even offered to pay him, but he wouldn’t accept. He just keeps saying, ‘it was his pleasure.”