Until recently, I thought I understood the world. I thought I understood my job. Security isn’t an easy gig at the best of times: drunken idiots, homeless people high on shit, teenagers doing their petty vandalism and all it takes is one bad night and one lax moment and you lose your job to the kind of scum that want to break into buildings after dark. The Old Budapest Hotel in Fairview had been closed for six years but there was still a liquor store until 10 pm on the property.
Way I was told, the owner kept it there for tax reasons and possibly to annoy the city. Hotel proper was closed, gutted, nothing more than brickwork and rot. It didn’t stop people from trying to break into the liquor store through it, or just try and break in at all. Owner would only pay for one guard, so it wasn’t the kind of posting anyone wanted too often. I’d got used to it on the routine after six years: where people would go, how they tried to get in.
Four attempts in one night was a bit much and I got cranky at the fourth. Old man trying to get the padlock open to the electrical room, probably looking for copper. Didn’t recognize him, wouldn’t matter if I did. I yelled at him to get away and he didn’t, or he didn’t move fast enough, and I had my truncheon out and in my hand as I moved forward. He looked old, but old meant crazy half the time and this close he’d stab me before I had a chance to stop him. Truth told, I wanted him to move. I wanted an excuse.
“No,” came, beside me, and the hand that grabbed my right arm from beside me was a surprise. I spun and swung without even thinking. Drove the nightstick into the side of a kid’s head. He couldn’t have been more than eleven. All I saw as I dropped it was his white cane hit the ground and glasses go off his head. It was like something out of a novel: my bones were like ice and I couldn’t move at all. The kid staggered back. Somehow, somehow there was no blood and he glared up at me.
“I was just asking you to stop,” the kid snapped, as if blind kids do that all the time. Close up, his eyes weren’t right at all but that wasn’t a surprise given the cane.
I made a sound. Somehow he wasn’t dead. Wasn’t screaming. I could have sworn I’d connected with his head but I wasn’t about to press it, grabbing onto the miracle with both hands, terrified everything in my life would fall apart if I so much as spoke.
“He just wanted in from the cold,” the boy snapped, grabbing glasses off the ground on his second try, the cane a few moments after. It never occurred to me to try and find the truncheon. I just stood in frozen silence. The old man looked as shocked as I felt as the kid marched over and did something to the lock.
I guess blind kids are good with sound and tumblers? I don’t know, because it opened really fast and he whispered something I didn’t catch to the old man, who froze in place and then asked in a shaking voice if the kid was an angel. The kid giggled at that, sounding like any kid who had ever lived.
“Nope! Just helping,” he said, and there was so much pride in his voice I thought maybe my truncheon had bounced off of that. Honestly. He helped the old man into the room, closed the door and came back over to inform me that the old man would just be spending the night and leaving after and ‘just because bindings go bad it doesn’t mean you have to’, which made no sense at all.
I wasn’t about to ask. The kid just nodded and walked back out of the alley using the cane. Seeing it made me remember my truncheon. I dug out my flashlight and found it: if it’s stolen, you can spend upward of a week on paperwork alone. I picked it up and there was a dent in it. I sweat, a dent shaped like a kid’s head a little bit. I didn’t hurry after that, and the kid was long gone by the time I reached the street. I didn’t even finish the shift; went to the office, handed in truncheon and everything and left.
The old man was in the paper this morning. Turns out his family had been looking for him for going on two years: some issue with inheritance and insurance; he’d been wrongfully kicked out of a hospital, off-meds and wandering streets while they tried to find him. He went to their home, claiming he’d been told to go to that address, and his life was turning around again.