Waiting for Dawn


As soon as his card began to emerge from the machine, a hand reached from behind him and pulled it clear. ‘What…’ he began, surprised, not really knowing what to do or say.

A second hand came around his other side and took the notes that were also emerging. ‘Shut it,’ the man behind him said forcefully, and slammed him forward so that his face was squashed against the front of the machine.

‘Help!’ he shouted loudly, but even as he shouted he knew he’d wasted his breath. The place was deserted.

‘What’s your PIN?’ his attacker asked.

His mouth was forced against the metal edge of the machine. ‘Fuck off,’ he tried to say, but it came out distorted, unrecognisable.

‘Your PIN,’ his attacker said again.

He pushed back against the machine with all his might, and tried to turn to see what he was faced with. He managed to get his shoulder to the machine, and turned his head.

His attacker was much bigger than him, both in height and in bulk. He was bearded, his teeth were bad and his breath smelled of rot. Behind him Martin could see another shape in the darkness, another bearded man wearing a hoodie, a little smaller than the first attacker.

‘Your fucking PIN,’ the big man said. ‘Now.’ And he pulled Martin away from the machine and smashed him back into it, his head striking the wall.

Martin didn’t actually see stars, but he recognised now what that expression was supposed to convey: he lost all sight for a moment or two, and then everything seemed to swim before him. The pain in his head was excruciating, and his arm where the big man was

holding him was in agony. He couldn’t have spoken if he had wanted to. It seemed almost in slow motion as the big man pulled him away from the machine a second time and slammed him back again. This time he slumped and felt himself drifting away.

‘Shit,’ the man in the hoodie said. ‘Take it fucking easy, mate, you’re going to kill him.’

The big man let him go, and Martin fell to the ground. He wasn’t able to stop himself falling, or even to protect his head as he fell. ‘Two hundred,’ he heard hoodie say. ‘Come on, mate, let’s leave it at that.’

‘Not enough,’ the big man said. Martin felt himself lifted by the arms and propped against the wall beside the ATM. The only light came from the machine itself. The big man grabbed Martin’s shirt in his left hand, bunching it up beneath his chin. ‘What’s your PIN?’ he demanded, his face inches from Martin’s.

‘Fuck off,’ he said as loudly as he could. There was just over seven hundred left in his account, and he needed every cent of it to see him through the next month.

He felt a blow to his thigh and an agonising pain. He looked down at his leg. The big man had stabbed him in the thigh with a long fishing knife. The pain was worse than anything he had ever felt before, but a few seconds later it became even worse as the knife was pulled out, the saw-toothed back of the blade tearing his flesh apart. He could feel the blood spurting down his leg under his trousers.

‘I’m gonna stab your other leg in five seconds,’ the big man said. ‘What’s your PIN?’

Martin was horrified. He blurted out the four digits. The big man stabbed his other leg anyway, and thrust Martin to the side. ‘You’d better not be lying,’ he said, ‘or I’m gonna stab your eye next.’

But Martin hadn’t been lying, and the big man put the card back into the machine, entered the PIN and then punched in a demand for two-thousand.

‘Insufficient funds,’ the machine reported. The big man looked down at Martin. ‘How much you got in here?’

‘About five hundred,’ Martin groaned, gripping his legs to try and stop the blood gushing from the two wounds.

The big man punched in five-hundred, and the machine whirred. Out came the card, out came the money. The big man stuffed the money into his pocket and re-entered the card, punching in a demand for another five-hundred.

‘Insufficient funds.’

He tried four hundred.

‘Insufficient funds.’

Three hundred.

‘Insufficient funds.’

Two hundred.

The machine whirred.

The big man took the money and once again stuffed it into his pocket. ‘Get his wallet,’ he told Hoodie.

The wallet had been in his hands when the attack started, and it had dropped to the ground. Hoodie searched Martin’s pockets. ‘Shit, it’s not here,’ he reported.

The big man reached down and grabbed Martin’s arm once more, dragging him to one side. The wallet had been underneath him. Hoodie went through it. ‘No more cards,’ he said. There was a twenty dollar note in the wallet, and he took that.

‘Get his phone.’

Hoodie found it and handed it to the big man. ‘Fuck, it’s crap,’ he said, and turned into the darkness and threw it far across the carpark. ‘Okay, let’s go.’ He turned back and kicked Martin in the ribs so hard that he was almost lifted off the ground. The two men sauntered off, the sound of their retreating boots the only thing that Martin could hear.

He lay under the ATM, sobbing, sure that he was going to die. It was nearly midnight, no-one was going to come along and help him. There was no way he was going to be able to find his phone in the vastness of the car park, so no chance of calling for help. It was freezing cold. He was done for.

He tried to sit up, his back to the wall under the ATM. It was a struggle, and the pain in his ribs and his legs was frightful; but once it was raised, his head began to clear. He had to attend to his wounded legs. Slowly he undid his belt and wriggled his trousers down over his hips, then raised himself and slid them further until they were bunched around his ankles.

There was just enough light from the machine above him to see that both wounds were still bleeding, though not copiously. Painfully, he undid his laces and slipped his shoes off, and finally removed his trousers. He’d have to tear them to make bandages. But even though they were fairly light material, and pretty old at that, he found that he couldn’t tear them at all, though he tugged and tugged.

All the effort had made the two wounds bleed even more. The best he could do was to hold the legs of his trousers over the wounds, and keep them in place with his hands.

He looked at his watch. It was a quarter to one. At least six hours before anyone was likely to find him.