A banshee shreik interrupted my homework. I rushed to the window above the alley, to oversee the common drama unfold. Fights happened regularly in the city streets, and even more often in the dark passages between stores, apartment complexes, bars, and restaurants. But every time, I was ready for an escalation. My cell phone lay flat in my palm, fingers perched to dial. I never did.
"Give me the wallet." The man speaking was tall, with a designer t-shirt peeking through two halves of an expensive sweatshirt's zipper. He was clean shaven and angry. Both hands held a meek victim by seven layers of rags.
"No." The reek of alcohol and menthol cigarettes hit me in the second story window, carried on the thicker fumes of musk. It was obvious who was worse off.
Rich man shoved his victim against a well built brick wall. "I don't want to put my hands in your filthy pockets- you'll do it yourself."
I'd already dialed the police station. I whispered the address of my apartment to the operator and was told to remain on the line.
A third voice, one whose body I could not see, spoke up for the homeless guy. "Please, don't- He needs it more."
"Then he can earn it."
I grabbed my baseball bat and rushed down the stairs. A prayer looped through my head- 'Stop his stubbornness. Let him keep his life. Let me get there before he's forced to earn it.' The stories about bum fights and human cruelty were familiar to me. It was merely one of the revolting trends of our great nation. And it wasn't about to happen in my alley.
I could already hear sirens when I turned the corner. My heart pounded as I lifted the bat, ready to defend if the criminal turned hostile when I told him to leave.
The third man was a priest, refusing to take the wallet Rich held out for him. "He needs it more," the priest said.
He was an old man with a gentle look in his eyes and thin strands of pale hair scattered on his head. He finally took the wallet from the mugger I'd seen, opened it, and removed a handful of bills.
The victim held out his hand, a grin spreading on his chapped lips. My stomach tightened at the sight of it- not joy, but greed.
Rich snarled. That look made Victim's entire body shrug back until it touched the wall by its own doing. He murmured a thanks and rushed down the alley, glancing back once to make sure he left alone. "You've encouraged him," Rich man said.
"God wants us to forgive all, and also to help everyone in need, no matter where they walk in life."
The squad car pulled up behind me. Both men turned to see they were no longer alone, nor had they been for at least a little while now. My bat sagged onto my shoulder, my brain sagged in confusion. From my window, I thought I'd known exactly who was bad. Now I wasn't so sure.
Neither seemed phased, and their conversation continued.
"Even the man who mugged you?" Rich asked.
"Even the man who mugged me."
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