Late Thursday Night - Chicago
Marcus closed his eyes when the Escalade started to roll down the boat ramp into the river. With his two oversized hands wrapped around the gun hand like corn fritter pancakes wrapped around a breakfast sausage, he frantically pulled on the Voice's arm with all of his strength. Although fighting for his life, he had time to think "I'll open my eyes in a minute and this will all be a bad dream."
When the truck hit the water, his eyes popped open. The shock of the cold water made him instantly realize that it was worse than a dream -- it was a living nightmare. He couldn't have imagined anything this frightening. It was real and he and the Voice struggled over control of the gun. Both men thought that someone was going to in the car and neither wanted to become the dead man. Drawing on the inner strength that made him one of college and professional basketball's best players, Marcus fought for his life. As he tugged on his attacker’s arm, bare skin was exposed. In a reflex action, Marcus bit into the Voice's right arm just above the wrist. The Voice screamed and pulled the trigger. The sudden explosion of a gunshot near his right ear further drove home the reality of the kill-or-be-killed struggle like a thundering slam dunk. The bullet flew past Marcus' face and shattered the windshield.
"You stupid bastard, I'll kill you," the Voice yelled in pain at Witherow, trying to gain control of his arm and the gun. A second shot rang out and the bullet went through the roof of the truck, just above the windshield. Marcus only heard the gunshot and not the spoken threat. He was too busy trying to bite off the assailant’s arm. He spat out a hunk of flesh and then decided to have a second helping of arm tartar.
On the second bite, the Voice let go of the gun and it splashed into the water that had already seeped up to the bottom of the seats.
The shock of icy cold water sends a tremor through a body. It's like getting struck by a frosty lightning bolt. It takes away your breath first, paralyzes the limbs and then the body, and eventually the lungs. Because the water was entering the truck slowly, both men could bear the shock they felt on their legs at first. If the water had entered the car in an instant, both men would have probably died from the trauma.
Marcus let go of the arm with his teeth and then pulled harder. Because of the buoyancy effect of the rising water, the Voice floated up out of the back seat as Witherow pulled. The upper body of the Voice moved over the top of the seat into the front with Marcus. All of the years of strength training and conditioning were now paying dividends as Marcus struggled for his life. He pulled the Voice into the front of the truck, grabbed his hair with the speed of a rattlesnake bite, and then stuffed the Voice's face and head through the open area between the steering column and the steering wheel. It was a tight squeeze, but the narrow shape of the voice’s head just fit into the open area between the air bag enclosure and the top of the steering wheel ring.
Finding his head caught in the wheel, panic engulfed the Voice faster than the rising water. Struggling to get his head free, the Voice quickly realized he would be the dead man in the car, not Witherow. The open window on the SUV was now under the water level and the liquid was coming through the opening like a tidal wave moving over the Carolina low country. The truck was sinking faster and it was time to get out or die.
As the water climbed up his body, Witherow turned his attention away from the Voice and toward his only chance of survival -- exiting through the driver side door. Groping for the door handle in the black water, he found it instantly and jerked violently to unlatch the door. Because there was enough water inside the truck, he was able to push open the door just as the last rays of light from the street started to vanish in the water. He was going down fast, only his head was above the water now.
The Voice made one last effort to grab Marcus with his left hand, but he couldn't get much of a hold with his head stuck in the wheel and his face already under the water. He got some of the jacket with his hand -- just enough for Marcus to glance back at the Voice as he left the vehicle.
That's the last time anyone saw the Voice alive. Marcus would never forget the look of terror in his face – eyes wide as saucers, with the whites visible all around – a look of shear horror. The water covered both their faces and then Marcus left the truck.
As Witherow exited the door, he gulped down a large breath of air and headed down. He didn't know where he was going. "Just stay down," he thought. He couldn't come up. The goons on the shore would be waiting for him to surface. Marcus thought his chances would be better in the water than against Shorty and his three enforcers. As he swam, the numbness started first in his fingers and spread to his arms. Less that one-half minute later, he couldn't feel his hands, but he kept pulling hard, through the black liquid. He tried to look around, but he couldn't see. It was like swimming in a Coca-Cola, but with a bad taste. Because he couldn't see, he closed his eyes tight, trying to shut out the cold. It didn't work. He was freezing. It was so cold he didn't notice that he was running out of breath. Even monster lungs like his couldn't hold out under the water for more than a couple of minutes.
He couldn't feel anything but pain and cold. His thought process was slowing to a halt when he abruptly slammed into something in the water. The bump of hitting something in the dark water jarred him back to a semi-lucent state. Startled, his first reflex was to lunge upward toward the air. He didn't realize that he was only two feet under the surface when he ran into the man-made concrete bank on the north edge of the river. When he lurched toward the surface, he gasped for air, sucking in what felt like a gallon of water. Choking, he fell back into the water, but he realized that he was on his hands and knees and his head was now out of the river. He coughed violently as he struggled to breathe. "Where am I," he thought, trying to regain his breath and composure. He knew he was still alive but he couldn't feel his lower legs and arms. He was freezing fast. He desperately crawled up toward the edge of the water and finally made the shore in a few seconds, although in his mind it felt like a marathon.
As he rolled over, he saw the red taillights of the car speed up toward the street and out of the boat launch area. At that point he lost consciousness, falling flat on his face.
When the car was out of sight, three young black street punks appeared from around a wall near the ramp. They had witnessed the whole scene, but wisely stayed hidden. There was no need to get involved with the problems of another man.
"You think he's dead?" one of the teenagers asked, looking at the oldest of the boys.
The leader of the mini-gang answered. "Don't matter if he is. We gonna' clean him out. Dumb ass nigga hanging in this hood at this time of night. What the fuck up with that?"
The three moved cautiously toward the body, making sure no one else was in the lot. Witherow lay face down. His breathing was shallow, but he was still alive. The first boy grabbed him by one of his shoulders and tried to roll him over. "Hey man, help me flip this giant mu'fucker over," the punk said to no one in particular. The two henchmen rolled the body over under the watchful eye of the leader, then stopped dead in their tracks.
"That's Marcus Witherow," the leader of the gang said. "Man, we can't shake down Marcus fuckin’ Witherow." Because Witherow played basketball, he was a hero to most black American males. Even the toughest of the bad gang members live by a certain code – there are certain things they don’t do. Mugging and robbing Marcus Witherow would be like rolling their own mother.
"Man, he needs help," the youngest member of the gang said, reaching down to touch his head. "He’s nearly froze. We gotta get him warm."
"We can take him to Jimmy Rae's," the leader said. He'll be safe there and those cracker-assed goons in the car will not be able to find him in the hood."
. . .
“That was pretty fucking wild,” the driver said to Shorty as the car got quickly out of the waterfront neighborhood.
“God damn that Maxie. How’d he let that som-bitch get loose like that?” Shorty said speaking of the lost hit-man in the car with Witherow. “You figure Maxie shot that bastard?”
“Twice boss, I heard two shots. Witherow’s got to be dead. I’d bet my life on it.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right.” Shorty said. “Get me to the airport. I gotta get back to Charleston.”
The Lincoln moved north on I-90/94 toward O’Hare airport. The longer they rode the more Shorty thought about the botched assassination attempt.
“What if that damn Marcus got out of there alive?” Shorty asked the riders in the car. They all agreed that Witherow had to die in the incident, either by gun shot or by drowning in the freezing water. Shorty didn’t care what ended it for Witherow as long as he was dead.
Shorty thought to himself. If he’s dead, then there are only three other people who can possibly finger us – his girlfriend and that red head they hang around with . . . and his mother, but his mother doesn’t know we tried to kill him. Can I take a chance that the two girls don’t know something?
“Vic, when I get to the airport, I want you to stay here and find Witherow’s girlfriend – you know her – Tamika Smith is her name . . . and find that red head too. What’s her name? Ferrell . . . no Feree,” he said to the man sitting with him in the back seat. “Kill them both.”
. . .
After dropping Shorty and the other two men off at the departure drop just outside the Delta-U.S. Airways terminal, Vic returned the Lincoln to the Budget rental car location at the airport and rented a Mustang. He didn’t like big cars and he would be alone while hunting the two girls. He picked up the new car and headed back toward downtown. He stopped by the United Center hoping to find someone, maybe a cleanup crew member, who noticed the red head at the game.
As he walked around the empty arena, he found a young man sweeping trash in the seats near the edge of the court. He pulled out a $20 bill and approached the man.
“I need to locate someone,” he told the worker.
“Are you a cop, man?” the boy asked. “Man, I ain’t got nothin’ to say to you.”
Vic showed the boy the $20. “I’m looking for a bitch, red flaming hair. She sat near these seats at the game tonight. Did you notice her?”
“Yeah, I noticed her. I’ve seen her a lot.” He looked back down at the floor and continued to sweep.
Vic pulled a second $20 from his pocket. “Can you tell me who she was with, or where she went after the game?”
“Yeah, I can tell you a lot of things, but not for no measley 40 bucks. It’s gonna cost you man.”
“Here’s a hundred dollars,” Vic showed the worker five 20’s.
“She was with Mr. Walker and a local sports writer – guy named Ashmore, I think,” the kid told Vic. He reached for the $100.
Vic pulled the money back and told the boy to slow down. “I need more than that. Do you know where they went?”
“Naw, can’t say I do, but Mr. Walker always stays at the Drake when he’s in town. I got to drive him there once after a game. I also work in the press lounge and at the scorers table during the games. I help hand out the stat sheets to the reporters. I just do this shit for extra cash,” he said reaching for the money again.
Vic gave the boy the money and turned and left the arena.
“That’s a start,” Vic thought as he got back into the rental car. “I’ll get a room and catch some sleep before I go find Mr. Walker.”
Vic found a hotel room near the Drake and got into bed. He wanted to catch Walker early in the morning.
Causes John Haslam Supports
I support the Constitution of the United States of America.
I support St. Jude's Hospital.
I believe in GOD.