I'm sitting in Pav's Bar, just metres from the apartment block where I live. Drinking heavily. Chatting with Dave, the barman.
I just had to forcibly remove a thug who tried to make trouble for my favourite barman. Bad news when Raphael is around. For the thug, anyway.
Nursing a neat double of rum over ice I am relaxing and enjoying the feeling of drunkenness that's settled over me. It takes more to finish me off these days. I've had plenty of practice.
I began drinking as soon as I was legally old enough. Dave always opens late for me, I'm one of his regular customers. He even has a radio on the bar beside me, catching the police broadcasts.
Its illegal. Mikey hates the thing. He hates that I listen to him during working hours, but I can't help myself. Old habits die hard.
Plus, Mikey worries me. Being on the force without us as his backup. I always worry I'll be too late to get to him if something bad happens and he needs me.
I don't think I'd be much help at the moment if he did truly need me. Too drunk to co-ordinate my limbs. I wonder how I've got into this state. Again. Night after night, its always the same.
Evacuating the brawler from Dave's bar was tricky enough. Especially as I was seeing double.
I order another rum. Dave looks concerned as he pours it dutifully from the half empty bottle.
"Wanna slow down there, Raph?"
I force a smile, and clink the bottle with my glass. "Just celebrating, Dave."
"You're always celebrating." Dave sidles closer and leans towards me. I hate proximity, but I allow it - he only cares. "You know, Raph. Ever since I've known you you've been taking out the garbage. Whatever or whoever they are, if they cause trouble then you are first on the scene. Its great, really it is. But I've noticed you lagging. You aren't as focused as you used to be."
I smile at Dave, more of a grimace. Hell, it's the best I can do. "I know, Dave. I'm not stupid. I can see what this stuff is doing to me." I look at the rum, splashing inside the glass invitingly. "I don't see the point anymore. I can still handle the street trash, that's never been an issue. Drunk or sober. I'm just feeling lost. Without a cause. On my own."
Dave nods and brings out a rag to clean the bar. He always keeps his hands busy. "You should talk to your brothers about all this, Raph. They care a lot about you. They can see where you're heading."
I shake my head. "Where am I heading, Dave?"
Dave stops cleaning the bar and looks seriously at me. "Nowhere good, Raph. Nowhere good."
I throw some money across the counter and stand up to leave. Down the rest of the rum, bang the glass down and stagger out the door.
Its nearly 3am and the night is dark. The world is only slightly spinning, so I count myself lucky. I got away lightly tonight.
I hear gunfire coming from my right, and turn around hastily. I'm not so deft on my feet at the moment, but I quickly get a grip, scanning the night for the source of the shots. There were two distinct shots, and I see the source of them now. Two thugs chasing a young woman armed with a couple of pistols. What the hell is she doing at this time of night out in a dangerous street like this?
As she runs toward me, panic in her eyes, I see her clothes for the first time and my earlier question is answered. She's a prostitute.
I watch as she runs by, the breeze created by her movements brushing my face as she whips past me. She's breathless, scared. Panicking.
She's also been shot. I can see a trickle of blood on her arm. That was a lucky shot, barely catching her; intensifying her fear.
As the two thugs come charging towards me, they are bellowing at the top of their lungs. "Get out the way!"
At the last moment, I barrel into them as they try to dodge past me. The escaping girl disappears around a corner and barely looks back.
The two men are cursing as they try to untangle themselves from me. I'm not going to make it easy for them, let them kill her. I force my elbow into the nearest thugs face and he howls in pain and rolls away, holding his face in his hands.
The other thug looks at me, cocks his head. He knows who I am. I see recognition flit across his face. Then anger. He kicks my plastron. Hard. I sweep his legs, hearing him fall with a dull thud. He's hit his head on the way down. Out cold.
This is definitely easier than I thought it would be. I stagger to my feet, grinning as I realise I am sober. Nothing like a tussle to bring out the inner warrior.
It only dawns on me that I've made a mistake when I hear Dave shouting a warning at me. I make the mistake of turning to look at Dave, he's running at full speed toward me, then I look behind and my heart sinks.
The thug I elbowed has regained his footing and has a loaded gun pointed at me. I freeze. One move, and I'm riddled with bullets.
Everything goes into slow motion. The gun is turning towards Dave. I run forward trying to dislodge the weapon before Dave is shot. The weapon fires as a scuffle breaks out between me and the thug starting the thug into flight mode. He runs off at full speed, dropping the gun in terror.
Dave reaches me. He's panting and can barely stand. He isn't shot, which is good.
"Raph? I'll get help. Just hold on." Dave fishes into his pocket for a mobile phone.
Only then does it register. At first I felt nothing. Not even a twinge.
Now there is a burning sensation in my shoulder, and my hand reaches up to assess the damage. My once green hand comes away bloody.
"I'm okay, Dave." I reassure him, even as I'm falling to my knees. Last thing I want to do is cause a fuss.
The burning intensifies, and I feel the warm trickle of blood forming a stream down my body, pooling onto the ground beneath me.
I barely register Dave on the phone, talking hurriedly to someone at the other end, panic in his voice. He walks towards me and clamps a clean cloth over the wound. I gasp. Its like someone has put a burning blade over the pain, and he's holding on for dear life.
"Okay. I'm okay." Does my voice really sound that weak? I've slumped to the ground, and Dave is still talking on the mobile with his right hand, and has clamped the cloth with his left hand firmly over my wound.
I can hear sirens. See flashing lights. A car stops close by and I see a flash of green. Has to be Mikey.
It never occurred to me that Mikey might have given Dave his own number in case something like this should happen.
Hurried voices. Mikey's voice among them. There's more than two. I feel myself lifted onto a gurney and into a waiting ambulance.
I feel embarrassed. I hate causing a fuss. Would much rather die in a gutter than all this be happening.
Someone is explaining my anatomy to the paramedics. Surely not Mikey. What does Mikey know about anatomy? It must be Mikey, because they are removing my breast plate and rolling me onto my stomach. My injured shoulder is being medicated somehow, although I'm too out of it now to even know what they are doing to me. Just get on with it.
Mikey's voice. So distant. Reassuring me.
A dark cloud is all around me, muting most of the noise. I'm not unconscious, but I can vaguely hear the alarm in everyone's voices. I feel cold, and try to express this. I'm being moved from the ambulance to a hospital which is jarring my hurt shoulder. I smell disinfectant and that strange hospital smell that makes me want to gag; I want out. I want home. I want bed.
A mask is put over my face. Didn't they do that first, usually? Mikey's voice again.
The mask brings complete darkness with it, and I realise they've put me under. That's the last conscious thought I have before total oblivion.