Not Me

When Rust Cohle said "The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door," I am pretty sure he had this story in mind. I mean if Rust was real and he read online crime zines. In the future. You get my point.

This is a story of bad men, and the worse ones we need to guard the gate.

Not Me by Phillip Thompson

The subway is no place to fuck around.

I don’t even like the subway, but I don’t have a driver’s license. So I jammed myself into a corner and stood near the door as it lurched toward the city. Three stops to fresh air, sunshine and work. 

I’d been out seven months. Seven months of readjusting to The World. Again. I’d had plenty of sunshine and fresh air, walking from one failed job interview to another. 

But on this day, all I had to do is get off this train and start a new job. Not much of one, but my P.O. said take it. 

When I got topside again, I’d be the newest loser working inventory at Goodwill.

I never sit on subway cars. I track and scan every motherfucker who gets on. Look them in the eyes and assess, catalogue and eliminate them as threats. It’s what I do. Crowds, close quarters, they still make me nervous. The shrink calls it “hyperalert,” a trademark of PTSD. I call it getting fucked over one time too many. One thing I’ve learned: watch everything that moves. The first time I made the mistake of not doing that, I took a hunk of shrapnel in Baghdad. The second time landed me in the joint doing a nickel for possession with intent to distribute. I didn’t make that mistake in prison. And I haven’t made it since I got out.

At the first stop, the usual mob of corporate drones crammed into the seats and the aisle—half-asleep, hung over, zombified, numb to all but the most severe stimuli. Three young women in deliciously short skirts stood near the door, tapping away on their phones. The one in blue, with her back to me, kept shifting her weight just so, making her cute ass wiggle under the skirt. A pair of twenty-something junior corporate raiders sat across from them, somehow oblivious to this generous display of legs and ass. Both wore the Urban Douchebag uniform: spiky gelled hair and light-colored, slim-fit suits that looked like they came direct from a men’s magazine. Faux expensive watches they checked every two seconds. 

The car shot down the rails before grounding to a halt, rocking passengers back and forth on the straps. The Star Trek doors whooshed open and a new tangle of humanity poured in.

And there he was.

Just inside the door. Unnoticed by everyone except by me. Three feet away. A kid, no more than twenty. Suburban white, blond. Jeans, black long-sleeve tee, backpack over one shoulder. His right hand was inside the bag, and I knew.

Even as I went for him, my mind screamed, I don’t fucking believe this shit.

He yanked the Glock out, extended his arm and set off pandemonium with three wild-ass shots that tore through the stale air like howitzer shells, reverberation thundering in a deafening hammer of sound.

A fat guy in a suit right in front of me screamed like a little girl and pissed his pants. I leaned into him and pushed him aside. He collapsed, still crying, “Not me! Not me!” 

The kid cranked off another four or five more rounds as people dove to the grimy floor of the car, wild-eyed, terrified. A slug hit the girl in the blue skirt right between the tits and she went down hard on her back. Why isn’t she wearing panties? I pulled my blade from my right-side cargo pocket and dove at the shooter. I came up on his right, just out of his peripheral. Grabbed a handful of hair and drove the blade deep into his neck and ripped it out the front. His carotid shot a pulsating crimson geyser over the howling crowd cowering behind the plastic seats. I knocked the gun out of his dying hand. It thunked to the floor and set off another round of shrieks. I took him to the floor, face first. Held him down by the back of his head until he bled out. I wiped my blade clean on the leg of his jeans. The place went stone silent. The whole fucking crowd—fifty, sixty people—stared at me. Oh shit.

The subway car squealed to a halt. My stop. The doors flew open. On the platform outside, a throng of commuters recoiled at the guy holding a kid face down in a lake of blood with one hand and a knife in the other. A woman wailed. I clicked the blade shut and dove out the door, moving across the platform through the panicked, backpedaling wall of eyes, fast as I could. I had to get out of there. Possession of a switchblade is a parole violation.

Phillip Thompson is a Marine Corps combat veteran, journalist, speechwriter and gun owner, among other things. His fiction includes three novels (Enemy Within, A Simple Murder, and Deep Blood) and short stories published by the Veterans Writing Project’s literary journal, The Review, and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.