Don and the Cabbie

Donatello found that scrounging in a junk yard at two in the morning had certain advantages. He could take his time picking through the piles of stuff, he didn't have to worry about money, and best of all was that there was no one else around.

Don's brothers did not enjoy 'shopping' and rarely accompanied him on his explorations. That didn't particularly bother the intellectual turtle; he knew they did not have his type of imagination and so did not see the wondrous possibilities in all of the twisted and broken things the way that Don did.

His sojourn's out to the junk yard served another purpose as well. It gave Don some much needed alone time. He loved his family dearly, but being cooped up in the lair with them every day was trying. Especially when Michelangelo was bored.

It came as a surprise to him then when he heard the squeal of tires as an automobile was brought to a quick stop outside the tall fence. Not even a moment later another vehicle pulled up, the sound of two separate types of engines easily distinguished by Don's expert hearing.

The engines stopped and as Don began to hear the murmur of voices, he ducked into the shadows, slinging his duffel over his shoulder. Squatting next to a stack of crushed cars, he listened as several car doors slammed shut, a sure indication that the occupants of those vehicles had gotten out.

The chain that held the gate closed rattled and Don sighed as he got ready to leave. Sliding back a few feet, he had just turned when the first set of distinguishable words stopped him.

"Mister, I promise you, I didn't see anything," a man said in a frightened voice.

"Get in there," another man ordered, his tone gruff and nasty.

Curious now, Don crawled along inside the line of deep shadow until he could get an unobstructed view of what was happening.

At the gate were six men, five wearing suits and ties, the other in jeans and a short-sleeved button down shirt. Don caught a glimpse of a taxi and a dark sedan just before the gate was swung shut by one of the suited men.

The man who Don guessed was the cab driver had short, black hair dotted with gray. He looked up at the men who were surrounding him, his terror obvious from his facial expression and stance.

Two of the men carried a six foot long object wrapped in black plastic and tied off with twine. Don had seen enough movies to recognize the scene being played out; he was just a little shocked to discover that these things happened in real life.

"I have a family," the cabbie told them. "I swear, I never see anything. I've been driving that taxi for fourteen years and it don't pay to see things."

"You know something else that don't pay?" one of the men asked. "Going soft and leaving behind a living witness. I been around this long 'cause I ain't soft."

When the cabbie balked, two of the men grabbed his arms and half-dragged, half-carried him towards the car crusher.

Don followed along, careful to stay hidden and silent. About halfway through the yard the group of men reached the heavy piece of machinery.

The man who was obviously in charge asked, "Is that trunk big enough for two?"

Peering around the bumper of a wrecked pickup, Don could see that a car was already sitting inside the crusher. The men had dropped their plastic covered burden on the ground and were opening the trunk of the car.

"Yeah boss, lots of room in here," one of them said with a chuckle, clearly enjoying himself.

The cabbie kicked one of his captor's legs, jerking his arm free when the man jumped back, but when he tried to run the other man punched him in the stomach. With a pained gasp, the cabbie fell to his knees. The man he kicked doubled his fist and delivered the older man a bruising blow to the side of his head in retaliation.

Don had seen enough. His shell cell was already in his hand but he realized that his brothers couldn't possibly arrive in time. Saving the cabbie was all on him and he knew he'd better move fast.

Quickly scooping up a handful of small metal rivets and washers from the ground, Don darted over to a stack of precariously tilted crushed cars. Grabbing a dented cylinder block, Don slid it near the cars, letting it serve as a fulcrum while he used his bo staff for a lever to knock over part of the stack.

The cars fell with a resounding thud that shook the ground and lifted a cloud of dust into the air.

"What the hell?" the boss yelled, spinning around and then jumping back as parts of the busted vehicles flew in several directions.

While they were all off-balance, Don snatched his slingshot out of his duffel bag, loaded one of the metal washers into it and let it fly.

His first target was the man who was holding the cabbie down. With unerring accuracy, the washer smacked into the man's forehead and his knees buckled. When he fell unconscious next to the cabbie, the older man stared at his captor in astonishment.

Before Don could unleash another attack, the remaining four men pulled guns from their shoulder holsters and turned to face outwards, each pointing a weapon in a different direction.

"I don't know who you are," the boss shouted, "but that was a big mistake. If you don't show yourself I'm gonna put a bullet in this old man's head."

In answer, Don launched another missile, this time aimed at a pile of junk just opposite him. The sound drew all four men to open fire simultaneously and then two of them cautiously approached the area to see if they'd hit anyone.

Don shifted his position and sent another washer pinging off of a metal surface a bit further away. The two men crouched and turned, staring at the area but not moving. Taking aim, Don hit a rusted toaster and sent it tumbling from its perch.

Both men instantly sprang forward and their boss followed after signaling the one man to remain behind with the cabbie.

"We know you're back there," the boss called into the darkness. "You've got three seconds to come out or the old man is dead."

Don almost laughed out loud. They were already planning on killing the cabbie, why would anyone show themselves over a threat like that?

Turning his attention to the old man and his guard, Don lifted his slingshot and let loose a metal rivet. As soon as it hit the gunman, Don dashed out of hiding and crossed the open space to the car crusher, moving as fast as he could.

From the corner of his eye he saw the cabbie struggle to his feet. When Don reached the car crusher, he pressed the automatic push-button which activated the hydraulics. As the heavy steel plate came down on the car inside the crusher, Don grabbed the cabbie's arm and jerked him into the safety of the junk piles.

The man's eyes were wide as he stared at his rescuer, quite obviously in shock at Don's appearance. The purple banded ninja didn't have time to worry about how he was going to explain himself; he just shoved the man down to hide him and then peeked out to locate the final three gunmen.

All three had come running when the car crusher began moving and they were now standing in front of it, watching the car that was meant to hold their two victims being completely crushed. As one of the men reached for the crusher's controls, Don loaded his slingshot. Before the man could deactivate the machine, a well-placed washer hit his temple and flattened him.

Don grabbed the back of the old man's shirt and yanked him up, pulling him along to another hiding spot. The cabbie stumbled as he tried to keep up and the sound of his feet drew gunfire.

Squatting slightly, Don swung an arm around the man's midriff and lifted him onto his shoulder, barely breaking stride as he did so. Whatever was going through the cabbie's head, at least it didn't involve speech; he seemed to have enough of a self-preservation instinct to know he needed to stay quiet.

When they were far enough away, Don set the cabbie down and took a quick look around. He could just hear the two gunmen calling to each other as they searched through the stacks of junk for their quarry.

Flipping open his shell cell, Don pushed it towards the cabbie. "Call 911 and tell the police to get here as fast as they can. Tell them there are men with guns and they're standing over a dead body."

The cabbie looked at the phone but didn't take it. "I . . . I don't wa . . . want to be involved," he said haltingly.

Don spared a quick glance at him. The man's eyes were still unnaturally wide and he was shaking.

"You don't have to give them your name," Don said gently. "Make it an anonymous tip. We'll be gone by the time they arrive."

Something in Don's manner seemed to calm the man and he took the phone. As he punched in the emergency number, Don said, "Stay here and stay quiet. I'll be right back."

The man nodded his acquiescence and Don slid away, prey turned hunter as he silently glided through the mazes he knew so well. He moved as quickly as possible, knowing that the police would arrive very soon after they received the cabbie's phone call.

Don spotted the last flunky tiptoeing through one of the narrow alleys created by rows of junk vehicles. The gun he held was thrust protectively out in front of him, almost as though he was using it as a shield. Feeding another metal rivet into his slingshot, Don fired it directly into the back of the man's head. As the gunman fell flat on his face, Don took off.

There was only the boss left to deal with and the man seemed to have grown wary, because Don couldn't locate him. Thinking that he might have decided to cut his losses and make a run for it, Don headed towards the gate.

When Don reached the area though, he saw that the gate was still bolted from the inside and that no one was around. Waiting for a moment, Don spotted no movement of any kind and turned to go back towards the car crusher.

He'd managed two steps when the boss stepped out from the back of a stripped down van. Gun pointed directly at Don's middle, the man smiled.

"I don't get this new thing you guys have for dressing up and tryin' to play superhero," the boss said. "Here's the last lesson you're ever gonna learn, courtesy of Sammy Johns. I always win."

Don's leg muscles bunched preparatory to springing aside but before Johns could pull the trigger, something slammed into the back of his head.

With no more than a low groan, Johns collapsed in a heap, his finger still curled around the trigger. Don looked up and saw the cabbie step out into the moonlight, a metal pipe clutched tightly in both hands.

The pair stared at one another for a second and then Don rushed forward, grasping Johns by the back of his shirt and dragging him next to the dead body. While he did so, the cabbie tossed his pipe far away, sending it into a pile of scrap metal.

Don found the other man he'd flattened and pulled him close to his boss. Just then he heard the sound of approaching sirens.

"Time to go," Don told the cabbie, breaking into a run.

The cabbie followed, dashing out of the junk yard when Don opened the gate. The sirens were drawing nearer and the cabbie made straight for his taxi, jumping into the driver's seat as Don slid in beside him.

Reaching for the ignition, the cabbie grasped thin air. "They took my keys," he said, his voice high from panic.

"Move your legs," Don instructed, yanking his bo free and tossing it into the back.

Spinning on the seat so he could see underneath the console, Don pulled several wires loose and touched the exposed metal parts against each other. The engine immediately turned over and Don twisted the ends together and sat up.

The cabbie threw the car into drive and hit the gas pedal, making the car practically leap forward. At the very first corner, he sent the car into a screeching turn, throwing Don against the passenger door panel.

Don saw the flash of lights from several police cars pass on the next street and then his view was cut off as the cabbie made another quick turn.

It took several more blocks before the driver slowed the car to a reasonable rate of speed. His eyes were glued to the road in front of him, the dark skin across his knuckles blanched to a lighter color by his tight grip on the steering wheel.

"I ain't a coward," the cabbie finally said, his voice low with an underlying emotion that Don couldn't quite catch.

"You saved my life," Don answered quietly.

The man's eyes darted over and then back. "Doubt that," he said. "I think you coulda outrun that bullet. You took the time to save my ass and I owed you something. Wish I coulda saved my own self, but I guess we never know how we're gonna really act when the time comes."

"I've had a lot of training," Don said by way of explanation.

The cabbie nodded. "I thought I'd know what to do if something bad ever happened. I took classes to learn first aid and cpr, went to training sessions where they tell you how to act during a holdup so you don't get shot. That ain't really enough, but I had my own personal policy not to get involved in stuff and I figured folks would leave me alone 'cause of it."

He glanced at Don again and then back at the road. Don thought he might have been looking for something judgmental in Don's expression, but the ninja knew how to hide his emotions.

"I want you to know I ain't never turned a blind eye on someone in need," the cabbie said, talking a bit faster. "If I see someone getting hurt, I'll blow my horn and use my radio to call for help. It's just that you can't earn a living on these streets if people get to know you got eyes, do you catch my meaning?"

His voice had a pleading tone to it and Don told him, "I think I'm better equipped than most to understand exactly what you're saying. Vendettas and revenge are hard to avoid when you're vulnerable."

"Damn right they are," the cabbie agreed. "That man back there, the one done up in plastic? I drove him to his home earlier. He was my last fare of the night. I took him right to his doorstep, got paid and left. Only partway down the block I realized that he'd left his hat on the backseat."

When the cabbie pointed behind them with his thumb, Don turned and saw the hat. It was dark gray and very eye catching.

"That's a fedora," the cabbie said with the first touch of a smile lifting the corner of his mouth. "My grandpa used to wear 'em, back when men didn't leave the house without first putting a hat on their head. He couldn't afford one like that, but I learned about 'em 'cause I wanted a nice one of my own. That there is beaver fur and worth an easy three hundred bucks."

Don glanced at the hat again, shaking his head at the prices people paid for clothing.

"Not like a sweatshirt that you can toss in the lost and found, is it?" Don asked.

"Nope," the cabbie said, seemingly glad that Don understood. "I made a U-turn and went back to return that hat. They'd already killed him and were rolling his body in that plastic when my headlights hit 'em. One of those goons stepped out and pointed a gun at my windshield so I'd have to stop. You know the rest."

"You're safe now," Don said. "They'll indict those men on the evidence they found and when Johns learns there are no witnesses, he'll leave you alone if for no other reason than to avoid incriminating himself further."

They drove in silence for a few minutes more and then the cabbie sighed. "Thanks," he said.

"You're welcome. If you'll pull into an alley somewhere, I can make my way back home," Don said.

"Only fair I take you a little closer to home," the cabbie said, and when Don hesitated, he added, "I guess you know by now I ain't the kind to give away your secret."

Don smiled. "If you can swing around to the four hundred block of Lexington I'll be close enough."

At that time of night it only took about ten minutes to reach Don's drop off point. When the cabbie stopped the car, he turned to Don and held out his hand.

"My name's Russell P. Cochrane," the man said.

Don took his hand and found the grip to be solid. "Donatello."

They shook and then Don grabbed his bo and duffel and climbed out of the taxi. Cochrane got out as Don walked around to the sidewalk, seemingly hesitant to relinquish the turtle's company.

Digging into his pocket, Cochrane fished out a card and handed it to Don. "That's got my private numbers on it," Cochrane said. "Anytime you need a ride or even some information, you give me a call. If I had two lifetimes I could never pay you back, but I would sure feel better if you'd give me a chance to try."

"Okay," Don said, meeting the man's eyes as he tucked the card into his belt.

Just as he turned to leave, Cochrane said, "Wait."

When Don looked back, he saw Cochrane reach in through the open taxi window and come out holding the fedora.

"I can't really return this now and it ain't really my style anymore," Cochrane said with a twinkle in his eye. "I'm too old. I think maybe you should have it; seems like it fits your personality, kinda daring and debonair."

Don laughed and took the hat, trying it on his bald pate. It sat perfectly on his head and he couldn't resist tilting it to the side just a bit.

Cochrane grinned at him. "Makes you look very distinguished," he said.

"You think so?" Don asked.

"I do," Cochrane answered. "Daring, debonair, distinguished, and dashing Donatello; there is only one other word to describe you but it doesn't start with a D."

"What's that?" Don looked at Cochrane curiously.

"Friend," Cochrane said. "Take care of yourself."

He saluted as Don disappeared into the darkness of a nearby alley.