by Anton Wills-Eve

<a href=””>The Golden Hour</a>

To all my close friends in the Big Apple this is only about a very small number of you in all jobs and walks of life.



There were seven of them huddled together on a moth eaten mattress just a few metres out of the light of the lampost. The dawn was trying to break but had not quite begun when Jake and Herbie silently approached the sleeping street dwellers. Then they saw the injection marks right up fifteen year old Barry’s arm and just smiled, leaving him alone.

The seven, three boys and four girls all aged in their teens, never had a chance. Herbie crept up on the oldest boys, Pete and Fritzy both seventeen and coloured, and just eased a small packet into the pockets of each of their jeans. Then Jake took an old pistol, unloaded, and very carefully tucked it under fifteen year old Carrie’s pillow. None of the kids knew each other but thirteen year old Kathy was one-eye awake enough to spot what was happening. Luckily for her she was on the corner of the pavement and an alleyway and very carefully managed to roll out of sight of the two men concentrating on the other girls whom she had never seen before. She quietly stood up behind a drain pipe and watched a ritual she had seen many times.

Herbie took out his cell phone and whispered into it while standing at the opposite end of the sleepers to his buddy Jake. They waited, certain of what was going to happen and what they had to do. Sure enough a couple of minutes later a police car sped round the corner and came to a halt as Herbie and Jake started kicking the sleepers and shouting at them to wake up. Two more cops leaped out the car and in minutes they had handcuffed all six kids who were barely awake. The chief cop from the car barked,

“Okay Herbie, Jake, what have they done. Read them their rights, show them the evidence and get them down the cells. Right?” It didn’t take long, but Fritzy piped up as Herbie pulled a packet out of the boy’s jeans.

“Wow, fellahs, look what Santa’s give me. Tell me, dude, you put it there wot is it? Coke, smack, something really deeeelicious? Well, honkey you can stuff it up yo ass coz it ain’t mine.” This earned him a backhanded really hard smack round the face that knocked him over. Resisting arrest and starting a fight were added to his charges. He spat in Jake’s face as Herbie backed away.

But the whole interruption gave one of the last two girls, Charlene, the chance to fish in her pocket and take out a few dollar bills from her trouser belt which she expertly stuck down the back of Barry’s collar. She whispered,

“That’ll buy you another jab, brother, I can see you need it.” Then she and the final girl, 14 year old Winnie, were charged with prostitution. They never turned a hair, but Carrie lost her rag and let out a stream of foul mouthed invective at the senior policeman. That was when the cops found the gun under her pillow.

“How much ammo you want in this chief?” Jake asked. I planted it empty.” He was told three. The girls and the two boys were bundled into a van and Herbie shouted he’d bring the junkie in his own car. Suddenly only two of them were left as the mattresses, kids, everything were driven off and it looked as though nothing at all had happened. Just Herbie and Barry and the hiding Kathy were left. The dawn was breaking. A strange melodius breeze was blowing, like a film score from a Sergio Leone film, and Barry was getting freezing cold. Kathy still looked on in resigned, depressed, hopelessness wondering what would happen. She wasn’t surprised.

Herbie suddenly became the cheery, helpful cop who strolled up to Barry and helped him to his feet. But what he said was far from cheerful. “Look son, we arranged so my buddy gave each of dem girls $50 so to make dem look whores. But I saw one slip her payroll down your collar. But I’m a good guy. I’m a policeman, I help people. So how about you lighten your weight by forty bucks, gotta leave you enough to buy another needle, and I’ll slip you two full syringes? Deal?”

“Barry nodded. Where do I get de stuff, Mister? They arrested my guy last night?” Herbie smiled.

“Lefty Malone works de corner of Maine and 42nd and we ain’t lifting him before tomorrow. He’ll see you okay,” and he jumped into his car and was gone. Barry shambled away in the vague direction of 42nd street. But didn’t really know where he was going.

At last, in daylight, Kathy left her hiding place and had to find some way of getting something to eat. She only knew one way. The First City Credit bank two blocks away was the easiest to spy on. She took up her usual place by the news stand close to the cash dispensing machines. Soon a prime target walked up. A well dressed, rich looking middle aged lady who fiddled in her hand bag before finding her wallet.Eventually she found her credit card, dropped it, picked it up dusted it and finally put it in the wall. It was kid’s play for Kathy to see and memorise the pin numbers. The lady withdrw $250 and just stuffed it in her wallet and made a show of where she put the credit card. This was going to be sooo easy!

Kathy followed her two blocks and then tripped in the kerb as they went to cross the road, knocking the bag out of the woman’s hand. Removing the wallet was so simple she almost laughed. Two blocks further on and to the left she picked another machine and easily removed $400 thinking that might be as much as it would pay. Well, limit or not it paid it. She made straight for the nearest diner and ordered a really big breakfast. Half way through it a rich, middle aged lady tapped her on the shoulder and said,

“Don’t worry honey. Eat your nice breakfast, you need it. Oh and keep whatever you took, it pays $500 but I don’t suppose you took that much. It’s not mine anyways so who cares.” Kathy was petrified. What did the lady want, what did she mean? She soon found out.”Look you’re very young and pretty and if you work for me, you know what I mean, we can make a packet. Otherwise it’s the cops again. Your choice babe!”

Kathy had had enough.She still had the card, although probably now worthless, and a lot of money. She decided to save herself. “Okay, I’ll come with you.” The lady had a coffee as the girl finished her meal. But when they got to the exit Kathy slammed the glass-plated doors hard into the woman’s face and just ran. She didn’t even slow for fifteen minutes, but nobody was following. She smiled and said to herself,

“Well at least I can afford to sleep indoors tonight. Maybe even tomorrow too.” And she smiled up at the statue in the distance with its torch and it’s message of hope for all. What Kathy didn’t see were the tears running down the statue’s face.