He stood there watching from the peephole high in the center of the door. They stood over the other man, swinging their arms, throttling him with kicks and punches.
The only light came from a distant streetlight, and he couldn’t see anyone’s faces, but he knew who they were. He shamed the man who’d been caught in their circle for being out past curfew. There was no one to offer protection at this hour.
He felt a stirring in his belly, a fire, a restlessness. He clenched his fist as his eyes widened. They were yelling at the man, who now resembled a dark ball, crouched on his knees, head to the ground.
Another man casually walked toward the group. His cigarette glowed in the dark. He passed through the stream of light cast down on by the streetlight, and his face was briefly illuminated. It was Herbie Gray. He tossed the cigarette into the street and gave terse directives to the other men, who then scattered into the dark.
Gray bent over the balled-up man, spit out a few words then offered one final swift kick to the ribs. The man on the ground let out a squeal, then fell silent.
Through the peephole, he squinted at the sound. Gray turned and slowly walked down the sidewalk and disappeared into the night.
He pulled his gaze from the peephole and grasped the door handle. He glanced at the phone hanging on the wall, wondering who was left to call. Moving to the view from the kitchen window, he saw the man stirring. He’d be OK. He’d be OK.