The sky streaks red with the first rays of the morning sun. The rumbling of morning rush hour traffic vibrates me to the core of my being. The hum of tires on pavement dominates the otherwise still morning air. A gunshot echoes in from the distance. I shiver, vainly trying to shake off the cold that has seeped into my bones through the threadbare relic of World War One that I sleep in. Snow has fallen overnight, and the world beyond the small dry strip beneath the overpass where I lay is blanketed in white, looking clean is a way it never does without the covering. I sit up and wonder where I will find a meal today.
I hear another gunshot. Closer this time. I shiver again, this time in fear. I lie back down and squeeze back into the shadows, trying to hide my presence from whoever is firing their gun. I hear shouting now, loud enough to be heard over the noise of the highway mere inches above me. The voices are coming closer.
I hear running footsteps echoing under the overpass, and then they are gone. The shouts are still getting closer, and now I can hear what they are saying. They are the embodiment of my worst fears, they are the police. I squeeze further into the shadows of my hiding place, as if I could simply disappear entirely by doing so.
Suddenly my ears are ringing. The police are shooting mere feet from my hiding place above their heads, the reports amplified in the restricted space under the highway. I lose count of the gunshots, my world rocked to its core under their auditory assault. I wonder if war could be any worse. The shooting stops, and the ringing in my ears begins to subside. I no longer hear the voices of the police, and my curiosity begins to overcome my fear. I peak over the lip of my space under the overpass. From my hidden vantage point, I see three officers standing over a crumpled form. I see crimson stains, blemishes on the clean white sheet of snow, the final evidence evidence of what has transpired.
My eyes drift back to the crumpled form in the snow, and a new emotion washes over me like a wave. I recognize the jacket, its hand painted image of a Jack of Hearts making it one of a kind. I have no doubt, the police have shot Sad Jack. My eyes begin to water in my grief and anger. Sad Jack is the best person I know. He brings me food several times a week. He talks with me like I'm still a human being, something I've given up on ever getting from anyone else in this world again. We talk about our wives, both of whom were taken from us by cancer. We talk about our children, about how well his daughter is doing in 8th grade, and about my son who was killed in some remote corner of a middle eastern desert on a mission to steal oil from the locals. I can't imagine what Sad Jack could possibly have done to be chased down and shot like this.
Suddenly, I see the crumpled form move in the snow, and a ray of hope pierces the darkness of my thoughts. Sad Jack is alive! The officers standing over him notice as well, and one of them kicks him flat, and then places a boot on his back, covering the beautiful Jack of Hearts with mud. I can see the officers talking with each other, but I cannot hear what they are saying. They begin to scan the area, like they are looking for someone or something. Then the officer with his boot on Sad Jack's back draws his weapon again. Time seems to slow to a virtual standstill, but still it happens faster than I can think. He points it at the back of Sad Jack's head, and an involuntary shout escapes my lips. "NO!" I scream, but it is drowned out by the sound of a final gunshot.
I am no longer really in control of my body, no longer capable of making any decisions. I realize that I have fought free of my sleeping bag, and that I am jumping down the ten feet to the roadway below my hiding place, still shouting "NO!".
The officers turn to face me. I realize that the cane that I need to get around is in my hand, but I am not leaning on it. I am waving my cane at them like some madman. One of them shouts something at me but I'm not really listening. The world is like some dream. I haven't been able to run in years, and yet I still find myself running; running to Sad Jack's side.
I am face down in the snow now. I realize that I cannot breathe. My chest heaves but no air passes my lips. I taste blood in my mouth. I wonder, who will take care of Sad Jack's daughter?