Saving Mr Lennon
December 8th 1980. New York City.
Murphy ‘Jagger’ Salmon was drunk. That much was certain. He might have even broken his own personal best when it came to rapid-fire consumption of Guinness. It was always the same when he walked into an Irish bar. He’d stroll through the door, tossing his long red hair all over the place like a shampoo ad for the gingers of the world. And when the tossing part was over, he’d wield his Celtic heritage like a club, pretending to one and all that Murphy was in fact his last name and not his first.
“Free pint o’ the black nectar?” Jagger would ask the barman in his best Irish accent. “I’m from County Cork you know.”
Most of the bartenders saw him coming. But for some reason, the staff in the Emerald Inn fell for his bullshit act. Not just one, but two freebies were given out that night. Jagger was so shocked that when he thanked the man for his second complimentary pint, he nearly lapsed back into his natural Brooklyn accent.
I’ll stay here awhile, he thought, watching the man pour another gift. He studied the man’s scientific approach to pouring the perfect pint of the black stuff - the tilt of the glass, the forty-five degree angle, leaving it to settle until a clear distinction had emerged between the dark body and the white head.
For sure he’d stay here a while.
Several hours later, he almost fell through the door of the Emerald Inn. He’d been watching Monday night football and he might have tried to tackle the front door. Jagger couldn’t remember. Still he turned around and gave the bastard a dirty look. Then he straightened himself up and tried to focus.
Where was he?
He was on West 72nd Street, he could remember that much.
Fucking hell, your Brooklyn ass is lost. He was even thinking in an Irish accent now. Hail a cab, said the drunk Irishman in his head. But Murphy ‘Jagger’ Salmon scoffed at the notion of seeking help. Like all drunks, he was indestructible.
“To hell with that,” said Jagger. “It’s only a five-minute walk to Annie’s apartment.”
But which way?
Jagger was a New Yorker. It wasn’t like Manhattan was Madagascar to him. But he came from the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge and the streets of Manhattan were unfamiliar to him. He only came here once every five years to see his younger sister Annie, and to spend time with her two kids who he’d seen little of over the years. And in true form, on his first night with the family, Uncle Loser had gone for a ‘walk’ and ended up in the Emerald Inn, spending over half his weekly budget on drink.
She was going to be so pissed. Especially if he couldn’t get back to the apartment on his own.
Oh you absolute fuck up of a brother!
The task was simple. Get home. You’re perfectly capable of walking back to your sister’s apartment. It’s on West Sixty-Something Street, remember?
New York City.
But seven pints of Guinness and three (or was it four) Jack Daniels and Cokes were conspiring against him.
Jagger clenched a fist and shook it at the night sky.
“C’mon! Show me a sign or something.”
His Brooklyn accent had returned. Attempting to pull himself together, he turned on the switch. There’s an invisible switch inside every drunk and it goes on every time they walk through a pub door in a state of blind drunkenness. It’s like a homing beacon for alcoholics and no matter how far gone the individual is, it always brings them safely home. At least that’s how it usually worked for Jagger in Brooklyn. But this was Manhattan.
He looked to his left and right. With a shrug of the shoulders, he chose left and started walking down West 72nd Street. Like a lost tourist, his eyes searched near and far, seeking a glimpse of something familiar. He tried to keep track of the numbers on the various buildings, which he noticed were going down instead of up. Were they supposed to be doing that?
It was almost 11pm. That night was surprisingly mild for a New York winter. Good thing too, considering Jagger was dressed only in a pale green Hawaiian shirt, cream chinos, and a pair of Vans ‘Old Skool’ shoes.
He made his way down 72nd Street, walking past a blur of tall buildings. After about five minutes of moving in the same direction, he gradually became convinced that he’d made a mistake. That he should have turned right instead of left outside the pub.
Jagger stopped and looked around. Nothing looked remotely familiar. Turning his head in the direction from which he’d just travelled, he considered turning back towards the Emerald Inn. Maybe even partake in another free pint?
A little further along 72nd Street, a limousine pulled up at the side of the kerb.
A-ha. Maybe these rich assholes can point me towards West Sixty-Something Street, he thought. He walked closer to the vehicle, trying with all his might not to look like Mr Random Drunk Guy homing in on a flash car. But the more he tried, the more spectacularly he staggered.
“Ah fuck,” he said.
He looked down at the feet that were so cruelly betraying him.
“Now there’s a thing,” Jagger said.
The laces on both Vans were loose.
There was no time to do anything about it. The rear door of the limousine opened and a small Oriental-type woman got out. A man got out and followed at a short distance behind her. Jagger approached them, keeping his eyes on his laces, fearful of tripping up.
Somebody else was there too. On approach, Jagger noticed a chubby guy, skulking close to the vestibule. Jagger watched him take a few steps backwards towards the street. There was something in his hand but it was too dark to make it out.
Jagger turned his attention back to the business of staying upright. His laces were in an even worse state now.
The limo couple were getting away. They were heading towards the entrance of the building. With one eye on his laces and the other on the couple, he steered in that direction too. It was at that same moment that Jagger finally realised where he was. What this massive building beside him was. It was the Dakota building. Of course. Now as he walked after the rich assholes, he gazed up in awe at the gigantic and brooding apartment complex, its high gables poking into the night sky.
This building’s famous, Jagger thought, straining his neck. Didn’t Roman Polanski make a film about devil worshippers or something in there? That’s so…
CRACK. A sound. There was a high-pitched scream.
Jagger didn’t have time to think about what he’d just heard. At that moment, his knee collided into solid matter. He’d hit someone. A man cried out in pain and collapsed onto the ground. There was another sound too; the metallic clang of something hitting the concrete nearby.
“Watch where you’re going you fucking asshole!” Jagger yelled as he too fell backwards, nearly spilling onto the road.
The Irish accent was back.
Jagger felt nothing of the fall. This was largely thanks to the alcohol cushion he had on, not to mention the thick wall of beard protecting his face.
He lifted his head and saw something lying on the ground. Was that a gun?
Turning towards the Dakota, he saw the Oriental woman and the other guy, who had a 1950s Teddy Boy haircut, hurry into the safety of the building. They ran into the vestibule and in matter of seconds had vanished out of sight.
By now, the doorman of the Dakota had leapt on top of the gunman. Another person had jumped in to assist him. Between the two of them, they pinned the would-be-shooter down, flipped him over and twisted his arms behind his back, locking them up.
Jagger recognised the gunman. It was chubby guy from just a few moments back.
“You were going to shoot them,” the doorman screamed into chubby guy’s face. “You were going to kill them both. Weren’t you?”
Jagger climbed onto his knees. He watched as the doorman wrestled chubby guy to his feet. The gunman’s face was blank, emotionless, as if there was no one at home. He looked at Jagger with dead eyes as he was led away.
Jagger felt himself sobering up.
He tried to put the pieces together. What just happened here? The doorman said that he was going to shoot ‘them’. ‘Them’ who?
Others quickly arrived on the scene. Along with the Dakota Building’s doorman, they dragged the gunman closer to the building and held him down against the concrete.
“Call the police.” A voice shouted.
A moment later, the doorman hurried over to Jagger.
‘My friend,” he said. He spoke in an accent that was perhaps Latin American, and with all the enthusiasm of someone greeting a long lost brother. “You saved them. You’re a hero!’
The doorman offered a hand. Jagger took it and in one swift motion was pulled up onto his feet.
“I tripped actually,” Jagger said. “That’s the truth.”
“You’re too modest,” the doorman said. “Just like a true hero should be.”
More and more people were arriving outside the Dakota by the second. It was becoming a scene. And a crowded one at that.
“Uh…do you know where Annie Salmon lives?” Jagger asked the doorman. “She’s my sister.”
The doorman put an arm around Jagger. His grip was ferocious and Jagger found himself being led towards the crowds. Exactly where he didn’t want to go.
“This man is a hero,” the doorman declared to the world.
Some of the people gathered there broke into a round of applause. Jagger was too busy looking for gaps in the crowd to notice. There had to be a way out.
But the doorman had him locked up good. Occasionally, he would lean over and kiss Jagger on the cheek. Jagger relented and decided to go with it. So much easier to give in than to resist.
Sirens could be heard screaming towards the Dakota. In a matter of seconds, several police cars had pulled up outside the building. Some of the officers eyed Jagger, who was still on wobbly feet, with suspicion, as if they were thinking about grabbing him.
The doorman pulled them in the other direction.
“Not him. This guy,” he said.
Jagger put a hand up to shield his eyes from the flashing lights. His head was throbbing and if he’d done such a good thing then why had his hangover turned up so early? Was sort of a reward was that?
A huge crowd gathered to watch chubby guy being placed under arrest by the police. Even the excitable doorman got distracted. Jagger saw this as his chance to get back to the Emerald Inn.
“Shoulda called a cab,” he said, taking a few steps away from the scene.
Just then, a massive arm thrust itself around Jagger’s shoulder.
“Where are you going red-headed hero?” the doorman said. You saved them. It’s a Christmas miracle. Hallelujah.”
“It’s cool,” Jagger said. “No charge. But I gotta get back home fella.”
Jagger kept walking. The doorman walked with him, his arm still stubbornly positioned around Jagger’s shoulder.
“You’ve got to meet them both,” the doorman said, almost spitting out the words. “They’ll want to meet you. You’re their saviour.”
“Yeah,” Jagger said. But he was too busy thinking about Annie. And how she was probably waiting up for him with that pissed off look on her face that she did so well. Getting ready to kick his ass.
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