– Continued from part 1 –
I looked back and said “I think that was it back there…”
“Yeah, I’m just looking for a place to pull over.”
Usually a comforting thing to hear except when the street is full open parking spots you are being driven right past. This was the worst excuse ever.
“I can just jump out at this light, no problem” I said.
“Don’t be silly, I’ll get you there” she replied and kept driving. Driving away from the hotel. About four blocks away she made a left and started driving up a hill “Since we’re over here I just want to show you something” and kept driving up the hill, away from my hotel. Half of me was trying to figure this out, perhaps there was a good view from somewhere on this hill, maybe there was some area of the city that a traveler might never see? The other half of me was quietly freaking the fuck out and knowing that something was very wrong and getting worse by the minute.
She continued with the tour guide routine though we were firmly in neighborhood territory now and no longer surrounded by shops and pubs. “This is where I used to live when I was growing up… this is the neighborhood my dad’s family is from… this used to be a much worse neighborhood but it’s been cleaned up a lot in the last few years.” She went on describing the area street by street though at this point we’d taken so many turns I was quite sure we’d doubled back in circles more than once but I didn’t recognize anything so I couldn’t be sure.
“This is still the worst part of town” she said as we made another turn onto a street that lent every bit of credibility to her story. Bars on the windows, busted out street lights. Garbage all over the streets and piled up behind black iron fences in little yards. I was thinking about how every city had an area like this but it’s rarely the area which guests are given a tour. This thought was interrupted by her pulling to a stop.
The street was pitch black with no lights on in any houses. They might have been vacant for all I knew.
“Well this is the end of our tour, if you walk up one block, then make a left and walk down the hill then go right you should be at your hotel.”
She was kicking me out of the car.
In what she had just told me was the worst part of town.
I knew what was going on but really couldn’t protest. What was I going to do, demand she drive me somewhere when I didn’t even know where I was? It was obvious she had gone out of her way to dump me here so I didn’t think it was worth it to try and talk her out of it. I said “Thanks” and got out.
My heart was pounding pretty fast at this point so I can’t be entirely sure of the timing, but the following three things all happened in almost perfect succession. I stepped onto the curb and shut her car door. She auto locked it and sped off. The headlights of a car parked facing my direction about ha lf a block down the street came on.
This was a set up if I’d ever seen one.
I had a choice to make: I walk in the direction Tabitha had pointed me, which was also towards the car and whoever was in it, or turn around and walk back whichever way we’d come hoping to find my way? I knew that we’d driven uphill away from my hotel, and the direction she pointed me in was definitely downhill. I also knew there was nothing preventing whoever in the car from following me should I turn around and go back the other way, so I decided downhill was my best bet. If this was a real threat, it was just as real no matter what choice I made. If I was going to get jumped regardless, I wasn’t going to give them the benefit of thinking they had me on the run.
So I started walking directly towards the car.
I was in an area I didn’t know very well so I had to use anything I could find around me to my advantage. Without changing my direction I moved out of their headlights and into the shadows. The darkness provided a little cover that I hoped would help. As I stepped onto the sidewalk I saw an empty glass bottle laying next to a fence and quickly grabbed it and stuck it in my back pocket. If there was some kind of confrontation that might provide just enough distraction to give me a window to escape.
Back pockets have always been my favorite spot for weapons, improvised or not – as that’s where most people keep their wallet so reaching in that direction usually wouldn’t alarm an attacker as much as reaching into a front pocket or waistband might.
I walked and as I got closer I could see there were two men sitting in the front seats staring right at me. They weren’t talking or doing anything to lead me to believe they were interested in anything except me. As I walked towards the car they never looked away and I expected them to jump out at any moment.
My heart was pounding but I kept walking. To turn and run the other direction would have put me at a huge disadvantage and at least this way I had some kind of control of the situation. That’s what I kept telling myself anyway. To be honest I was scared shitless.
I kept looking forward as I walked past the car, trying to act like I hadn’t noticed them. I kept waiting to hear the sound of a car door opening, but it never came. What the hell was going on? If they had jumped out it would have sucked but at least it would have been what I was assuming would happen. Them staying in the car was throwing me off. I made it to the next street and turned down the hill right at the same time as I heard their engine turn over and I looked to see them throw the car into reverse.
They backed up to block the street I’d just turned down, there was no writing this off as coincidence at this point. At that moment 3 guys turned the corner ahead and started walking towards me. And when I say started walking towards me, it went something like this – I was on the left side of the street, they were on the right. They were all looking at me, and in unison all walked between cars to cross the street and join me on the left side of the sidewalk. And then kept walking towards me.
They were talking amongst themselves quietly but staring right at me as they walked closer. I didn’t look but as far as I knew, the guys in the car behind me were still there too.
I had no option but to just keep walking.
So that’s what I did.
Right towards them.
I was imagining all the ways this was going to go down, they would block my path and ask me something. “Where are you heading?” “You lost?” “Know what time it is?” anything to distract me for a moment. Then one would grab me and that would be it. If I was going to do something it had to be when they weren’t expecting it. Whoever spoke to me was going to get the bottle I had in my pocket directly in the face and then I’d run. Where I didn’t know, but I had to make this up as I was going at this point.
We kept walking towards each other and right when I expected them to stop, they kept going. They walked right past me.
Were they just going to hit me from behind?
That didn’t happen either.
What the hell? I kept walking trying to figure out what was happening, but didn’t dare look back to see them. I got to the corner, made a right and sure enough my hotel was just down the street.
I could hear the sound of a ring I was wearing clanking against the glass bottle I was holding at my side– apparently I’d pulled it out of my pocket at some point. Or maybe I’d only pulled it out just that moment. I looked at the bottle, and my hand holding it, and only then realized how much I was shaking. Or maybe I’d just started. Everything was a bit hazy at this point. Too much adrenilan will do that to you.
I kept it together and kept walking. Reached my hotel, through the lobby and past the registration desk. The lady sitting there said “Hi.” I nodded and kept walking, continuing directly to my room. Once inside I took off my coat, and sat down on my bed. This was when I finally allowed myself to freak out.
So much had just happened, but nothing had as well. I wasn’t really sure how to handle that, mentally. I’ve been in fights before, and afterwards you can always think about and focus on what actually happened which is somehow comforting. At least it’s real. I don’t even know what this was. I passed out, still dressed, in the middle of the hotel bed.
The next day the sun rose as usual, but I spent the entire day trying to wrap my head around what had happened the previous night. Or didn’t happen. To this day I’m still but my best guess is that it had nothing to do with the internet threats, and I feel kind of silly for ever thinking it did. Paranoid much?
I seems likely that it could have been a set up, that for some reason was called off at the last second. Maybe I gave the impression I wasn’t going to be an easy target. Maybe my lack of an umbrella in the rain suggested I was broke and not worth the effort. Maybe that’s all in my head too.
Maybe the guys in the car were waiting on someone else. Maybe for the other guys on the street.
Maybe Tabitha really was trying to give me a little tour and everything else was just coincidence.
I’ll never know for sure, and I guess neither will you.
I left Cork a few days later and never heard from Tabitha again.
* This post is part of a series of serialized posts that would have been chapters in a book I never finished writing. I’m calling it ‘Bits and Pieces’ at the moment. Click here for info about this as well as links to the other stories/chapters.