Encased in shadows, Michelle leaned against the building watching the movement at the end of the alley. Twenty feet away, crowds poured out of the bars into the street. She took a long drag on her cigarette, then flicked the ash behind her. Feeling anxious, she swayed from one foot to the other, pushing her shoulder against the dark brick wall, feeling the jagged edges of the old stone through the thin jersey of her sweatshirt.
It was Saturday night, just after 2 am. The crowds were thick and boisterous. Drunk, too, from a night of liquor. Voices were louder, steps were wobbly and inhibitions lowered. Groups passed by the alley, oblivious to the hidden figure in dark jeans and hoodie sweatshirt.
Two nights a week, Michelle posted herself in various locations, almost sentry-like and with a definite purpose. Fear was something she lost months earlier when the first outing had been successful, surging an adrenaline rush through her veins that kept her coming back. Last night she harvested four hundred and fifty dollars. Her father was a police officer who said that because of his job, he had that exact feeling. He sounded like an adrenaline junkie rather than a cop.
She had been skeptical when he filled dinner conversation with stories of chasing suspects or coming up on suspicious vehicles or entering a darkened building with a potential intruder. His heart pumped wildly while his hair stood up on the back of his neck. He spoke of caressing the handle of his service revolver with a sort of heightened frenzy. Michelle remembered she would roll her eyes, sarcastically asking if he had also killed any puppies while he was at it.
He told her she would never understand such a rush because she wasn’t interested in anything besides sitting in front of the TV. He preached that when you were passionate about your job, a hobby or a person, that every little pursuit and every success was a bigger, better high than any drug you could take and the memory stayed with you always. And he told her once she knew that feeling, then she would want more, which is why he went back every shift in the hopes he’d feel the rush again. With his death a year earlier, she’d never had the chance to tell him that she got it, that she understood the adrenaline rush.
A rowdy group of males stopped at the end of the alley, laughing, shouting and shoving each other good-naturedly. She looked up quickly, eyes narrowed to better assess the situation. She inhaled deeply again, keeping the cigarette cuffed in her hand to avoid detection. Michelle carefully dropped it below her sneaker to step it out.
One of the group stumbled up the alley towards her, calling out over his shoulder that he’d only take a sec. She pressed herself close to the bricks, avoiding detection. The man was sufficiently inebriated and stopped a few feet away. With a bit of difficulty, he unzipped his pants. She glanced back to the street and saw his friends had moved on. The entrance of the alley was filled with passing pedestrians who weren’t paying attention.
She waited until the stream began to flow. Then she pushed herself off the wall, securing her grip on the billy club. Swiftly, she cracked him across the back of his skull. He dropped to the ground without a sound.
Working quickly, Michelle picked the cash out of his wallet, slid the watch off his wrist and plucked the phone out of his front pocket. Sprinting down the alley, she stuffed the items into pockets, jumping over a small bag of garbage in the middle of the road.
The adrenaline rush would keep her awake until the sun rose. Michelle smiled to herself as her feet pounded quietly against the silent night, echoing her racing pulse. Dad, she thought, clutching his billy club to her stomach, you were never so right.