Back in 1979 I lived in Bridgeport, Connecticut and worked the second shift, 3-11 in Norwalk, Connecticut. I took the train everyday to and from work. It took me approximately 20 minutes to walk from the East Norwalk station to work and 20 minutes from the Bridgeport station to home.
One night on my way home from the Bridgeport station two guys walked up to me and asked for some change. As I reached into my pocket one of the guys steps behind me, gets on all fours and the guy in front pushes me with the palms of his hands against my chest causing me to flip over the guy behind me. They both punched and kicked me as I hit the ground. I pulled my feet up in the fetal position, covered my head with my hands.
They beat me up pretty good. I got up and ran.
As I walked into the front door of my apartment, my wife asked what happened since my face, arms and clothes were full of blood. I told her what happened then took a shower and she dressed my wounds.
What stood out most in my mind was embarrassment. I should have fought back, but, fear got the best of me. I felt ashamed and angry for not fighting back. I felt like a real pussy. I did nothing. I ran.
The next morning I called my brother Joe and told him what had happened. Joe was one of those gun nut types. He loved guns and had quite a collection, both legal and ‘not so legal’. I gave him a few bucks for one of the ‘not so legal’ ones, a sawed-off double barreled 12 gauge shotgun. The shotgun fit perfectly inside a photographer’s bag. I carried it with me the next day to work. Although I knew I’d never see my attackers again, (it was dark and I never got a clear view of their faces) just knowing the shotgun was at my side during my night time trek home gave me the feeling of security. Coincidentally, little did I know how this 12 gauge would save me from a mugging that very next night on my way home only this time it happened at the East Norwalk train station.
I’m standing on the platform waiting for the 11:24 back to Bridgeport . East Norwalk didn’t have a station; it had one of those Plexiglas enclosures with a bench. The night was warm, it was summer, August I think, so I leaned on the platform railing with my right arm, the photographers bag over my left shoulder. I was the only one on the platform. There wasn’t much traffic on the street or in the parking lot parallel to the platform. The only activity going on were cars going in and out of a Shell gas station two blocks away. I pulled a book out of my bag, Steps by Jerzy Kosinski and as I flipped the pages to the dog-eared one I last read, I noticed some movement by the platform stairs about 30 feet away. Two black guys walked to the foot of the stairs but only one walked up. I wasn’t sure where the other guy went; it was dark at that end. I didn’t pay much attention. The guy who walked up the stairs stood about ten feet away from me. We made eye contact then looked away. Nothing was said for about two minutes. He walked past me to my left about five feet away, he turned, facing me and snarls,
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m waiting for the 11:24 train, why do you want to know?”
“I’m a security guard with the MTA and I happen to know there is no 11:24 train.”
That’s when I realized something wasn’t kosher. First of all I took the 11:24 every night for the past year. Secondly the guy wore nothing that would indicate he was security, no badge, no radio, (every MTA worker I saw carried a walkie-talkie) nothing!
He took a few steps towards me. I moved back a few in the direction of the stairs he came up on. As I stepped to my right, trying to avoid him, he stepped to his left. I stepped to my left, he stepped to his right essentially blocking me in the way a boxer cuts off the ring forcing you to move in the direction he wants you to before going in for the kill. Then it dawned on me, he was cutting off the platform so that I would have to ‘escape’ down the stairs where his partner was hiding.
“Let me see some identification,” he said knowing I’d have to pull my wallet out.
I said, “Ok, it’s in my bag.”
I placed the bag on the platform, knelt beside it, pulled the shotgun out and cocked the trigger as I aimed it at the center of his face.
“Get the fuck outa here or I’ll blow your motherfuckin’ head off.”
He wobbled backwards, speechless, his arms flailed in the air, his mouth wide open, his tongue wagging as if trying to yell or say something but shock prevented anything from coming out.
My God! The power I felt at that moment was unbelievable. I literally held this man’s life (or death depending on what he did next) in the palm of my hand. Ironically, I knew exactly what was going through his mind. Many years ago I had a straight razor pressed against my throat by a sick junkie as he relieved me of my five dollar bag of dope. It happened back in the 60s yet, to this day, I remember what my thoughts and feelings were. I even remember the surreal state of consciousness, so clear and uncluttered. When you face death it puts you in a state of mind, a place on a different plain where you prepare yourself to die. I remember visions of loved ones and how I wouldn’t be able to give proper goodbyes. I remember thinking about how they would find me; my throat sliced open lying in a pool of blood in a stinking project hallway. I wondered how long it would take to die as blood squirts from your jugular, seconds or minutes. Will this be the end, I thought, or will there be another form of being, a reincarnation or do we simply decompose to nothingness? My very last thought was: this is it…this is how I’m going to die. Fortunately he let me live.
That wasn’t the first time I looked death in the face. In fact, the grim reaper swung his ugly sickle once more at me.
On May 22, 1992 my brother Mike received a 37 year sentence at the Florence, Colorado Supermax prison for his part in the sale and distribution of 200 pounds of cocaine a week and as the organization’s chief enforcer. He oversaw the collecting of debts and saw to it that his runners didn’t come up short when making deliveries and did not pilfer money or drugs. The authorities estimated the organization’s profits at 156 million dollars a year. The organization’s head honcho, Francisco Aguilar, in an effort to expand the operations profits, met with heavy weight dealers in Miami to negotiate a 100 kilo a week deal. As it turned out, the dealers had been undercover DEA agents who previously made buys from Aguilar. Indictments followed resulting in the arrest of everyone except my brother who went underground.
Mike called me one morning and said he needed a favor and he’d give me a thousand dollars if I went to his apartment, get his drivers license and bring it to him. He gave me a telephone number to call when I got it. He said he wasn’t sure if the cops had his apartment under surveillance but, he said he didn’t want to take any chances. I agreed. However, he failed to tell me that he had made death threats against one of the DEA agents, Special Agent Terrence Sprankle. Without Mike telling me this information I damn near got myself shot up.
I took a cab from Bridgeport to Norwalk where Mike had his apartment; he called it The Wolf Pit since it was on Wolf Pit Avenue . I told the cab driver to wait for me as I was going back to Bridgeport . I searched the apartment and found Mike’s license. Mike told me I could take whatever I wanted so I took a stereo set, a VHS player, a bunch of tapes, and 500 bucks I found in a dresser drawer next to a .44 magnum pistol. Along side the pistol was a list of names with check marks and the way Mike would kill the informants. For instance: CI#5, Shorty, dead real slow. Stab 50 times, cut throat and put on fire. I will do this, Mike wrote.
I didn’t touch the pistol or the list. If the .44 was used ‘to collect debts’ I wanted no part of it. I knew that meant instant prison time for me if I was caught with it. I’m glad I didn’t based on what happened next.
I carried the stereo and stuff to the waiting cab and headed back to Bridgeport via I-95. Halfway between Norwalk and Bridgeport the cab radio crackled:
“This is 26, go a head.”
“You need to get to a landline. Your wife is trying to get in touch with you…an emergency.”
“Ok,” says the driver. “There’s a McDonalds coming up, I’ll call her from there.”
The driver pulls off of the highway into the parking lot next to a landline. He tells me he’ll be right back. I knew something was wrong when he hung up the phone and ran inside McDonalds As soon as he got inside I heard shouting all around me.
“Place both hands on top of the front seat!” I was sitting in the back on the driver’s side. As I looked out the window stunned, there had to be about a dozen DEA, FBI , US Marshals and local police surrounding the car with all their weapons aimed at me.
I sat there trembling. I heard the sound of metal clacking—they all released their gun safeties.
“Use your left hand and open the car door from the outside…keep your right hand on the front seat…move slowly!”
The window was open. I reached out, depressed the car door lever, the door popped open.
“Keep your hands in front of you and get out of the car!” I did. “Place your hands over your head and step away from the car!” I did that too.
I damn near shit myself. Although it was a summer day I felt like I was naked in sub-zero weather, shaking like a man with a bad case of Parkinson’s. A trickle of piss slipped out as I thought what if one of these guys sneeze or cramp up? What if one gets trigger happy and decides to blow me away? A cop came up behind me, pulled my hands down and cuffed me. I heard the clacking of metal again. They reset the safeties. I took a deep breath. They took me to the station. They let me live.
As the 11:24 pulled up (it was late as usual) I saw the guy who was hiding behind the stairs run down the street. The guy in shock stood there like a mannequin unsure of what to do. I placed the shotgun in my bag and boarded the train. The conductor punched my ticket and asked me how my day was. I said ok, but whispered to myself,
“I let a man live.”
Bio: Dan Tracy – born and educated in the underworld of Bridgeport, CT – writes about what he knows best: fear, violence and death; the very things that make life worth living. Dan lives in a locked, furnished room with his archenemy, paranoia. Dan and reality never got along well—They will never be friends. For more of Dan’s stories follow the links at: Myspace.com/dantracy62 & DTracyCT@aol.com