Rose’s father was usually alone when she found him… and often passed out… but not always. A couple of times there was another man, or two, who faded away when she came up.
One night, she didn’t have to go very far at all. Her father was just behind her own building… but there were two men with him. They were arguing about money- money Rose’s father owed and hadn’t paid for drugs.
“Oh Dad, not again!” I heard her say.
“Pay up now.. or we’ll take it out in trade. With the girl.”
Ok, that was not going to happen. I rounded the corner, not even trying not to be seen. The whole group of them was on a fire escape, two stories up. And one of the men was brandishing a gun. Rose’s father pushed her behind him… and she tripped, falling down one set of stairs and over the railing.
I don’t think I’ve ever moved so fast. I managed to catch her before she hit the ground but she must have hit her head falling because she was unconscious. I carried her inside, away from the fight, and laid her down on a bench in the lobby. Her colour was okay and her breathing was good so I didn’t think she was badly hurt. She’d probably have several bruises and a sore spot on her head but nothing major. Then I heard gunfire.
Ah, shit! I left Rose, she would be okay for a minute, and ran back around the building.
Her father was facing off with one of the other men- the second was dead. Obviously dead… and Rose’s father was still holding the gun.
I went up as fast as I could. I don’t know what I thought I was going to do but the other man saw me coming and ran for it, up the fire escape and over the roof, saying: “Your daughter- she’s ours!” as he went.
Rose’s father turned the gun on me as I got to the top of the landing but I was far too pumped on adrenaline to care. I smacked it away and threw it over the railing.
“Who are you? You’re not one of them… what do you want?” He shouted.
I stared at him for what seemed like a long time but probably wasn’t. “I want her.” I know I must have been frightening in that dark alley- I still hadn’t covered my face. He stared at me just like I had stared at him. “I won’t hurt her- I want to protect her.”
“No! I can protect her…”
“Did you hear what he said? The entire gang will be after her- I’m guessing it’s the Dead Rabbits- and there’s no way you can protect her from all of them. I can. I can take her away where they will never find her.” I don’t know how I knew she would be safe with me… but I did.
“I don’t even know you…” he must still be a little high- he kept trailing off without really finishing his sentences.
“So they won’t know even where to start looking. You killed one of their own- they won’t ever stop now. The money, you could have paid back. This is revenge now.” I felt like I was trying to explain something that should be obvious but I couldn’t tell if I was getting through.
“But what’s she going to think of you?” I guess my face finally registered with him.
“That’s my look-out, not yours. Meet me tomorrow night, in front of this building, at 10 pm.” I didn’t wait to see if he agreed- he would do it because he had no choice.