Dawsons city, p.1
Pearson Learning Group
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Cover photographer: Armando Diaz
Copyright © 1984 by Pearson Education, Inc., publishing as Globe Fearon®, an imprint of Pearson Learning Group, 299 Jefferson Road, Parsippany, NJ 07054. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. For information regarding permission(s), write to Rights and Permissions Department.
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Tony Matheson spotted the woman. She was pushing through the crowd on the subway platform, trying to reach the train. But the doors hissed shut before she could make it. The train started to move.
Smiling, Tony waved at her through a window. She looked as if she were crying.
"Tough luck," he muttered, and sat down.
The subway train hurried along, carrying him through the dark, dirty tunnels. Tony kept his jacket shut tight and waited for the lights of the next station to pop into view. Moments later, Tony saw the station's white columns and white walls covered with red and blue spray-painted words.
The train came to a stop, and the doors slid open. The tired, unhappy people streamed in. With a smile on his face, Tony made his way out through the crowd. He walked across the busy platform with a bounce in his step.
At the far end of the platform, Tony shut himself inside a telephone booth and made sure no one was watching. Then he opened his jacket and took the woman's purse out.
Easy, Tony thought. A piece of cake.
He undid the catch and opened the purse up to see what was inside. Not much. There were only six dollars in the wallet. He saw a few credit cards, but he knew he could get himself in trouble trying to use stolen credit cards, so he didn't take them. Shoving the money into his pocket, he let the purse and wallet fall to the floor of the booth.
He flicked open the phone's coin return. Nothing there.
Tony stepped out of the booth quickly and left the station. The stairs took him up to the street.
It was a nice spring day. The sidewalks were filled with people. A lot of them looked like bums, but he saw plenty who were well dressed---and nearly every woman had a purse or bag of some kind. The careful women kept their bags tucked tightly under an arm. Quite a few, however, weren't so careful. They carried their purses by the straps. And hanging purses made easy targets.
Tony whistled as he walked. He felt very good. He had made only six dollars from the last grab, but he still felt the thrill of getting away with it. And his heart pounded with excitement because the sidewalk was full of women and purses.
Any time now. Any time.
Just pick one, grab, and run.
He watched a couple of old women coming slowly toward him. They had trouble walking and were holding each other by the arm. The purse of the closer one was swinging at her side. It would be simple.
Tony wondered if he should try for it.
Maybe not. Old women usually were weak, but they had a way of going wild when you snatched their purses. Then, more often than not, you got nothing but a buck or two for your trouble.
He might do better to pick a young, nicely dressed woman.
Like that one!
The woman stood on a corner, half a block ahead of Tony. She was frowning and turning her head as if she were trying to find someone. She was young, maybe 25, and very beautiful. She wore gray pants and a pink blouse that looked as if they had cost plenty. She held her purse by its strap.
As Tony walked closer, he saw a man climb out of a white van parked at the curb. The man spoke a few words to the woman. She nodded, and he went back to the van. Then the woman turned and walked away from the van. She came up the sidewalk, moving at a quick pace toward Tony.
He wiped his sweaty hands on his jeans.
But wait just a second---suddenly Tony realized that the woman looked familiar. He tried to think where he had seen her before. Was she someone who might recognize him? No, probably not. That was one thing he had learned---almost every stranger reminded him of other people.
It was nothing to worry about.
He stared at her face as she came closer. Her brown eyes met his gaze and looked away.
Great! That decides it. She doesn't know me.
In one quick move, he shot out his hand, grabbed her purse, and jerked it away.
"Hey!" she yelled.
She reached for him and missed.
Tony dashed up the sidewalk, knocking his way through the startled crowd.
"Hey!" the woman shouted. "Stop, you creep!"
He glanced back.
She was racing after him, her black hair blowing, an angry look on her beautiful face.
Tony pushed an old man out of the way. The guy bounced off a store wall and fell to the sidewalk. That gave Tony an extra lead on the woman because she stopped to help him up.
Tony ran around the corner. The sidewalk wasn't nearly as crowded as the other sidewalk had been, and he picked up speed. He was almost flying! But then he looked over his shoulder and groaned. The woman was coming after him like a sprinter, her head down, her arms pumping, her long legs speeding her along.
Forget it, sister, his mind yelled. You can't catch me. Make it easy on yourself.
But she was gaining on him!
He told himself that she would tire out and give up before long. He could outrun anyone. Nobody had ever caught him---at least not this way. He had been caught four times in the past, but never by his victims. Three times some jokers had got him from the front. They were guys who saw him running and knew he was up to no good. One had decked him with a punch. One had jumped out of a doorway and nailed him with a body block. One, an old guy, had tripped him with a cane. The fourth fall had come when he was chased by a police car. Nobody can run faster than a car.
But he was sure he could outrun this woman. Yet when he glanced back, she was even closer!
Tony reached the end of the block. The traffic light was against him, but he sprang off the curb and rushed into the street. The brakes of a large black car screamed. The car skidded and came to a stop just inches from his legs. He raced past it. A taxi horn sounded. He knew the taxi wouldn't stop. He leaped backwards just in time, yelling at the driver as the cab shot by. Then he charged in front of a bus and reached the other side of the street.
He ran with all his strength. Halfway up the block, he looked back. What he saw surprised him. The woman was still coming. The busy street had slowed her down a little. But now she was racing after him. And she was closing the distance fast.
For the first time, Tony felt a stab of fear. What if she could catch him?
Then she'd better watch out!
Tony had been busted four times. He had been in jail, and he wouldn't let anyone send him back there. If he had to get rough, he would. In the pocket of his jeans he felt the switchblade knife. He knew he might have to use it.
Again he looked over his shoulder. The woman was still chasing him.
What is she, a marathon runner?
He went for the second garbage bin.
Its lid was open. He tossed the woman's purse inside, then grabbed the metal rim, pulled himself up, and climbed in. Standing on the junk inside, he took a quick look back at the bright opening of the alley. The woman was still out of sight.
He ducked low and prepared to hide until it was safe to make his getaway. The garbage smelled awful. He tried to hold his breath but couldn't stop gasping. He thought he might be sick. But then suddenly he heard the quick slap of shoes on the alley. The sounds grew louder. He heard the woman's hard breathing as she ran by. Then the sounds faded.
Tony grinned. The trick had worked.
She was heading away.
As much as he wanted to leave the garbage bin, he decided to wait a few minutes more. He knew he had to give the woman time to leave the area. And he needed time to catch his breath, too. Tony looked down at the purse. Might as well find out how much he'd made off this woman. The way she had chased him, it must be plenty.
He flipped the latch of the leather purse, reached inside, and pulled out the wallet. When he opened it, the wallet nearly fell from his shaky fingers as he stared at the bright gold shield.
A detective badge.
The woman was a cop!
Tony felt sick. Of all the people in New York City, he had to steal the purse of a plainclothes cop! No wonder she had taken off after him. No wonder she had been in such good shape that she almost caught him.
Why me? he thought.
Well, at least he had lost her.
And, cop or not, he did have her purse. He looked for the money and found a nice surprise. Suddenly, he didn't feel quite so sick. He counted the twenties, the tens, the ones.
A hundred and fifty-two bucks!
Suddenly, he felt very good.
Who would ever guess that a cop would be loaded?
The word triggered an idea. A cop must have a gun! His heart started racing with excitement. He picked up the purse and started looking. If she had a nice .38 in here, he might get a hundred bucks for it. Better yet, he might keep it for himself.
He searched the purse twice, but he found no gun.
Well, he thought, you can't win them all. She probably was carrying her gun in a holster. He hadn't seen it on her. It must have been hidden under her jacket.
Good thing she hadn't pulled the gun out and started blasting. Tony knew he could outrun people---but nobody could outrun a bullet.
He had been lucky. Very lucky.
With the cash in his pocket, he tossed the purse and wallet onto the pile of garbage. Carefully, he turned around. He straightened his legs and peeked over the edge of the bin.
"Freeze, creep!" the woman yelled.
She was standing 30 feet away, her back to the brick wall across the alley, both hands clutching a revolver. The barrel was aimed at Tony. He didn't feel so lucky anymore.
"Climb out slowly," she ordered, "and bring my purse with you."
"Yes, ma'am,'' Tony muttered.
Turning around, he searched through the junk. He picked up the purse, brushed some spaghetti off it, and put the wallet inside.
"Out of there," the woman shouted at him. "Now!"
Holding the purse by its strap, he grabbed the metal edge of the garbage bin and swung a leg over. It was then that he remembered the switchblade knife in his pocket. He stopped moving.
"Yes, ma'am." He swung himself down to the alley. He was shaking badly. That knife---she would find it when she searched him. A hidden, deadly weapon. There would be a stretch in prison for that on top of what he got for stealing the purse.
"OK, buddy," she said. "Lie down flat on the sidewalk and put your hands behind your back."
He nodded, but he didn't move.
Still aiming the revolver at him, the woman reached behind her back with her left hand. She took out a pair of handcuffs. "I said to---"
Tony hurled the purse at her, spun around, and ran.
He kept running. The street was bright with sunlight at the end of the alley. If only . . . if only . . .
"Stop or I'll shoot!"
He ducked low. He raced from one side of the alley to the other, hoping to throw off her aim. But he didn't have a chance. He knew that. If this cop could shoot half as well as she could run . . .
The roar of a gunshot rang through the alley.
Tony waited for a slug to knock him to the ground.
But he stayed on his feet. The woman had missed! Or was it just a warning shot?
It didn't matter because now he was in the sunlight, out of the alley. Now he was out of her line of fire and racing wildly down the sidewalk.
With a quick look back, Tony saw that the woman must have taken a few seconds to pick up her purse and put her gun away before starting after him.
Now he had a little head start. But somehow it didn't seem like enough.
He had tried to outrun her. He had tried to outsmart her. But she was just too fast and too smart.
Still she raced after him, the handcuffs glinting in her fist.
Tony wanted to scream.
How could she do this to him?
Just ahead of him, a car was pulling to the curb. As he came closer, Tony saw a man with a business suit climb out. Tony leaped off the curb. The man looked at him with surprise and opened his mouth. Tony shut it with his fist. The man fell back to the sidewalk. Crouching, Tony yanked the keys from his hand.
Tony threw himself into the car. He stabbed a key into the ignition. The engine turned over. He shoved the stick shift into first gear, let out the emergency brake, and stepped on the gas. The car shot away from the curb.
Behind him, a door slammed shut.
In the rearview mirror, he saw a face that might have been beautiful except for the angry look in the eyes. He felt goosebumps on the skin of his neck as the cold steel barrel of the gun pressed against his ear.
"OK, buddy," the woman said. "Enough is enough. How about giving me a lift to the police station?"
"Please," Tony muttered. "I . . . I'll give you back your money. How about it? Give me a break."
"Fat chance," the woman said.
"Sorry doesn't cut it, creep."
"You can't take me in!" he cried.
"Just watch me."
He jammed the gas pedal to the floor. The car picked up speed.
"Ease off that!"
Up ahead the road was blocked by two lanes of cars waiting at a stoplight. But Tony kept his foot on the gas.
"Don't!" the woman shouted.
The car slammed into the rear of a taxi. Tony's forehead smashed against the steering wheel. But he wasn't knocked out, and he saw that the crash had thrown the woman forward.
Her body was trapped in the space between the two front seats. The revolver lay on the floor near Tony's feet. He reached down for it.
Then he felt something strike his wrist. And he heard the clicking sound.
"Got you!" the woman said with a smile.
Tony stared in shock at the handcuffs. One handcuff was locked around his right wrist. The other was locked around the left wrist of the woman.
"You only think you've got me!" Tony shouted back at her.
He grabbed the gun from the floor with his left hand. He pressed its barrel to the chain that connected the handcuffs and fired.
The blast of the gun pounded in his ears and left them ringing.
Through the ringing, he heard a distant siren.
He looked down at the handcuffs. The chain was not broken at all.
How could that be?
He fired again, and again th
The chain still connected his handcuff to the woman's. It looked as if the chain hadn't been touched by either bullet.
And now the siren was growing louder. People were gathering around the car.
Tony shoved the barrel hard against the chain and pulled the trigger one more time. The blast of the gun made his ears ache. But still the handcuffs stayed together.
"What's going on?" he cried.
"Blanks," said the woman.
A cop in uniform opened the driver's door. Tony let the revolver fall from his shaking hand. A second cop came into the car on the passenger side. This second cop found a key that unlocked the handcuffs.
"You OK?" the second cop asked the woman.
"Sure," she said. "All in a day's work." She pushed herself out of the space between the seats. She climbed out the back door while the first cop shoved Tony against the car and then started to search him.
As the first cop found the switchblade, a kid on the street suddenly shouted,
"Hey, it's her!"
"I'll be . . . ," came another voice.
The cop frisking Tony looked at the woman and shook his head. "It is you!" he said.
"It's me, all right," the woman said.
"Hank, look who we got here."
"Dawson?" The second cop sounded amazed.
"Dawson?" Tony asked.
"Sure. Best cop on the force."
"Just my luck," Tony muttered.
The second cop laughed. "This jerk doesn't know about Dawson's City. What's the matter with you? Don't you ever watch TV?"
"Yeah," the second cop said. "Dawson's City---that's the one television show I never miss."
While Tony talked to the second cop, the first cop was busy asking Dawson for her autograph.
"What happened here?" he asked, as the woman started to write her name.
"Well," she said, "we were shooting the show with a hidden camera over on 42nd Street. Then this creep came along . . . ."
Richard Laymon, Dawson's City
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