Where Have All the Heroes Gone?
“HELP ME!” The old woman’s desperate plea rose above the din of the afternoon traffic. The bystanders moved away from the trouble; in the rough neighborhood of Hamilton Heights, you kept your head down and your eyes shut if you wanted to make it home alive.
The lanky junkie yanked on the woman’s handbag. Her money was the ticket to his next fix, and that was a train he wouldn’t miss. His forearms, riddled with scabs, strained as he attempted to twist the leather strap from her hands. “Let go, you old hag.”
A small crowd formed, watching the struggle from a safe distance. None offered assistance. One man took out his phone but didn’t call the police; he pressed the video record button instead.
The frail Hispanic woman, whose age and poverty had worn her shoulders into the shape of a wishbone, begged for mercy. “No money.” She clung to the strap of the handbag like a drowning child clutching a rope. “Jus’ medicine.”
The junkie’s eyes widened. He jerked harder, pulling the old woman forward. Her legs buckled and then her knees crashed down onto the pavement. The junkie planted his feet and dragged her forward. Her fingers tightened on the leather as her legs scraped along the jagged concrete.
“My husband needs it,” the woman begged.
The junkie’s dilated pupils darted erratically. “Give it up.” He smashed his fist down onto her fingers.
The strap broke, and the woman landed with a sick thud on the sidewalk. The thief bolted with his prize clutched under his arm.
As the indifferent crowd parted to let him through, two young men stepped out of Ma Barker’s Mini Mart—and straight into the junkie’s escape route. When the druggie slammed into the first man—Chandler, all six foot six and two hundred and ninety pounds of him—he bounced right off. Chandler didn’t budge an inch.
The junkie swore, scrambled to his feet, and scurried away down the sidewalk.
“Please, please, stop him!” the woman begged, limping toward the two young men. “He stole my purse.”
The second man, Jack, turned and raced after the junkie without hesitation.
“Jack, stop!” Chandler called out, but it was too late.
Adrenaline mixed with testosterone surged through Jack’s body as he ran down the sidewalk. He knew that if there was trouble, you called the police. His adoptive parents had reinforced that concept at every opportunity. But Jack left caution in the dust as he chased the fleeing perp.
“Wait up!” Chandler yelled after him.
Jack, who had been working out every day to get ready for the physical entrance exam, didn’t slow. He wasn’t just “in shape”; he was close to his athletic peak. For the last year, he had been training with the same focus as an Olympian. But a gold medal wasn’t his objective—a gold shield was.
The wiry purse snatcher, clearly determined to sell the handbag for a fix, cradled it like a football. He picked up the pace. He had a huge lead, but Jack’s speed quickly shrank that distance. The sidewalk was crowded and traffic was heavy. The junkie weaved between pedestrians and shoved aside anyone in his way.
The old woman’s cry for help still rang in Jack’s ears. Her face flashed through his mind—desperate, bloody, and helpless. She was a victim. As a little boy, Jack had been the helpless victim—he’d been the prey… but not now. Now Jack was the hunter.
The deep-seated anger Jack kept constrained below the surface exploded inside him and propelled him forward. Blood pumped through him and power surged down his legs. His feet became a blur.
The junkie suddenly changed direction and headed for the other side of the street. Jack quickly adjusted his pursuit, cutting in front of a speeding car. Its horn blared and brakes squealed. His hand brushed the car’s hood and the bumper passed just behind his legs. He made it to the other sidewalk right behind the thief. Less than ten yards separated them now.
“I’m not going to stop,” Jack shouted as he flew forward.
The junkie cast a desperate glance over his shoulder. He gasped for breath and his legs slowed. Losing steam, he cut down an alley.
Jack barely slowed as he rounded the corner after him. His long legs stretched out and his hands sliced through the air as he pushed himself even harder.
Trash littered both sides of the narrow utility alley. Its graffiti-covered brick walls trapped the summer heat like a furnace, and the stench of garbage and urine hung in the stale air. A rat, searching for its next meal, scurried away under a dumpster.
When the alley came to a dead-end stop, so did the junkie. Cornered, he turned to face Jack.
Jack skidded to a halt. Figuring the junkie had had enough, Jack expected the guy to give up. “Hand over the bag.”