Randall Uzoma was heading south on Mill Road, taking his girlfriend, Vivian, to one of his favorite Italian restaurants - Marinara's in the Peninsula Shopping Center. His family had gone to the restaurant since he was a kid, but this was only the first time he'd taken Vivian. It was that special.
Randall was almost to his turn and in the left lane, when he heard a whining sound behind him and glanced in his rear view mirror. A small car - maybe a sports car - was swerving along the street. Vivian must have also heard the sound or noticed Randall staring in his mirror, because she half-turned to see what was happening. As she did, they both felt an incredible force of air as the sports car whizzed past on their left in what should have been the oncoming traffic lane. Randall glanced at his speedometer to make sure he wasn't speeding and confirmed he'd slowed to 25 to get ready for his turn. So the sports car had to be doing well past that.
As he and Vivian watched, the small car swerved off Mill Road and raced into Marinara's parking lot, where it collided with a light pole.
Issac Yoguez was still painting the concrete lamp pole bases in the parking lot when it started to get dark. He had a half-dozen to go but figured he'd finish this one, knock off for the night, and clean up. The only reason he was painting was it was a really slow night at the restaurant.
On busier nights, he was a busboy, and Marinara's had plenty of busy nights. On really busy nights, or when somebody suddenly called in sick, he'd even been a waiter. But the owners didn't completely trust his English, and he didn't know why. He could understand more than he spoke - or more than he could speak clearly. He'd think he was doing fine, then could tell by the looks on his customers' faces that they didn't really understand the specials he was explaining. Still, he never got an order wrong.
As he was tapping the paint can lid in place, after having drained off the excess paint with his brush, he heard a squeal. Kids were always racing down Mill or Peninsula - especially Peninsula - and he'd even heard women scream obscenely at drivers next to them that they were going too fast. "You have kids in your car," he'd wanted to tell these women. "You want them to talk like that?" The sad thing was they probably already did.
But this was a different squeal, and it was close. He looked toward Peninsula but saw nothing. He looked toward Mill. Holy Christ!
A small red sports car was coming straight at him. He instinctively grabbed his paint can and ran. When he'd gone maybe fifteen feet, he heard a loud bang. Still running, he looked back and saw the car in mid-air, with two guys being thrown out at the same time. By then, he'd run about fifty feet and felt safe enough to stop.
The car was still in mid-air but was turning completely around. Somehow, it landed right side up, on all four tires. One of the guys landed half under the liquor store van, which was parked next to where the sports car finally stopped. He couldn't see that guy's head or chest, but his legs were sticking out from under the van. The other guy landed on the passenger side of the car, bleeding from his head, ears, and mouth. Issac couldn't tell who was the driver. But Holy, Holy, Holy Christ!
Jyoti Patel was ringing up a sale when she heard an enormous crash. She was standing just inside her liquor store, facing the windows as her husband, Ahmed, came in the front doors. They were propped open, as were the matching pair, five feet away. It was a beautiful night in early May, and the small foyer didn't have to keep warm air in or hot air out.
"What was that!" she quickly asked.
Ahmed hadn't yet turned, so he could see the look on his wife's face. It told him something was seriously wrong. He dropped the push broom he'd been using to sweep their sidewalk and ran back outside. The store had customers, so Jyoti stayed where she was.
The first thing Ahmed saw was that the light pole, usually some thirty feet in front of their store, was down. Its head stretched toward him but was still maybe twenty feet away, and its concrete base was rolling around the lot. He ran past his van, which was tall enough to block his view, and just behind it was a sports car.
A guy lay beside it, face up, though the passenger door was closed. Ahmed went around the car, which had crashed into the back of his van, to better see the damage. A second guy lay on the ground, again face up but half-hidden under his van. His legs stretched past the open driver's door and his feet were on the car floor just under the steering wheel.
Ahmed wanted to help but knew he didn't know how. He certainly knew not to touch the guys and was about to call the police when he heard sirens.
Kyle Espinoza had stopped to pick up his friend Griff. It was their day off, but they were taking an arson course with the fire department, and it only met Tuesday and Thursday nights.
When Kyle walked in, Griff's scanner was broadcasting a 34 - their code for first aid squad, major injury. Besides being police officers, he and Griff were volunteer aid workers - had been since high school.
"It's on our way," Griff said. "Let's see if we're needed."
They piled into Kyle's car and were at the accident in under three minutes, the first members of their squad to arrive. But there was an officer - Adam Chen - and a crowd of maybe a hundred people who'd come out of the restaurant, supermarket, and the other small stores.
A sports car had T-boned into the rear end of a liquor store van parked right in front of the store. A guy lay on the ground, so that's where they headed, but someone - two or three people actually, one he thought he recognized - shouted there was another guy under the van. So Kyle changed direction without ever looking at the first guy. Griff, who was in front of him, went on to the first man.
The cramped area of the parking lot was crowded, and Kyle had to squeeze around the back end of the sports car. It was good there had been an empty parking space between the liquor store van and the SUV parked beside it or the sports car might have hit them both. As it was, the sports car was almost directly behind the van, its nose faced away from the SUV and angled slightly towards the van.
It was also good that people had shouted there was someone under the van because, just standing there, Kyle never could have seen him. It wasn't that dark yet - the sun was almost an hour from going down - and the parking lot lights would soon be bright. Still, Kyle had to get on his knees to spot the guy under the van.
His feet were protruding, and he was pretty well under the end of the chassis. Kyle had to reach halfway in, almost to his waist - he practically had to crawl - to even touch the guy's chest.
The man wasn't breathing. Kyle felt near his nose, and there was no sign of breath. He had no idea how Griff's guy was doing, but Kyle yelled that he had a respiratory arrest, and he started to drag the guy out.
As he grabbed the guy's waist - maybe his pants or belt, Kyle wasn't sure - and he pulled, the other officer, Adam Chen, came out of nowhere to help. Fortunately, the driver's side door of the sports car was bent back so wasn't in the way. In the crash, it must have opened completely and was trapped between the liquor store van and the front of the sports car. That gave Kyle and Adam a little room, maybe a couple of feet.
Kyle held the guy's head, to stabilize his neck and prevent any further spinal injuries, and he and Adam tugged the guy clear of the gasoline and other liquids coming from the car. The man still wasn't breathing, so Kyle started rescue breathing and CPR. At some point, he had Adam get some of the clothes off the guy's chest, in case his heart stopped, and soon after, Kyle realized Griff Navarro had replaced Adam. It could have been a minute. It could have been less. At that point, Kyle was focused on saving the guy's life.
Around then, one of the other first aiders had noticed a badge or pointed out a police pendant, and someone behind Kyle said, "Yeah, this is one of yours." By then, Griff was in the process of intubating the guy, putting in a tube so the rescue breathing would go better, and Kyle had a moment to look.
"I think this is Brad Coghlan," he told Griff, but Griff had no clue Kyle ever said that because he was so fixed on his job. Besides being a first aider, he was also a paramedic.
There were other paramedics by then, and ambulances, so Kyle backed away, seeing he didn't have the advanced life support equipment or training. Still, he was helping - holding an IV bag and letting it run through - when someone mentioned that a nurse had come out of the restaurant and was already giving CPR to the first guy when Griff arrived. That's why Griff had been free to help Kyle.
The whole thing took less than ten minutes - from the moment Kyle and Griff pulled in to the lot to the moment they watched the ambulances take the two guys away. While they were standing there, watching, Kyle again said, to both Griff and Adam, "That looked like Brad Coghlan." But only afterwards did they find out Kyle was right.
Cowboy had been on a great date, but when he drove past the spot on Mill Road where he'd almost been killed a couple of hours before, he got pissed off all over again. He'd tried not to vent over dinner. He'd just met the woman and liked her enough to be on his best manners - which wasn't always the easiest for him. So he'd kept things simple: told her about his work and, especially, about his bike. That's how they'd met. She also liked choppers.
The intersection on Mill was quiet now. Of course, it had seemed quiet when he was nearly clobbered. Everything else disappeared, and the sports car just zoomed at him. In the two seconds he thought he had left, he knew he didn't have a chance to flatten across the passenger seat and brace himself - if that would even help in his own small car.
The rest of the street was quiet, too, and he poked his way down it. He's was staying at his friend Psych's in Cedarhurst, instead of driving back to Staten Island. He hadn't had much to drink but couldn't have predicted that. Or that there wouldn't be an immediate follow-up to dinner. Still, after they'd met, he hadn't wanted to wait till the weekend to see the woman again, so he'd asked out for Tuesday.
As he neared Peninsula, he saw lights off to his left - red flashing lights, cop lights, easily recognized. He had friends who were cops, but not in this area. Still, he wondered if the little red sports cars that nearly killed him had killed somebody else. So he pulled into the lot.
Sure enough, the wreck of the sports car was being tugged onto a tow truck. But there was an officer nearby, directing traffic, and Cowboy went up to him. "That car nearly killed me a few hours ago."
The officer glanced at him, maybe thinking he was another gawker. There was a small crowd.
Cowboy respectfully took off the white cowboy hat he liked to wear, so the officer could get a clear look at his face. "I'm serious," Cowboy said. "At just after seven, maybe ten past - somewhere in there - I was stopped at a red light on Mill Road" - he pointed at the street behind him - "just south of Sunrise. You know, there's a strip of stores on your left and a park with a lake or something on the other side."
"Roosevelt Avenue," the officer told him, now maybe taking Cowboy seriously.
"I'll trust you on that." Cowboy said, grinning. His cop friends said to always make an officer your pal. "I'm not from around here," he went on, "and I only know the main streets."
"What did you see?" the officer asked. His badge said Suarez.
"It's not what I saw," Cowboy explained. "It's what nearly killed me." He thumbed toward the wreck of the sports car, now up on the tow truck. "That was coming, full speed - must've been doing 90 or more, no lying - down the wrong lane from Sunrise. Heading straight friggin' at me. If I'd been a weaker man, I might've panicked though there wasn't much I could do - there was nowhere to go. But right before he hit me - and I'm talking head on - he swerved. But he was that close." Cowboy held his thumb and forefinger maybe an eighth inch apart. "He nearly took off my front fender, and I'd swear he was going to crash into those stores. But he kept racing down Mill."
"This was what time?" Suarez asked.
"Like I said, a little past seven - ten or fifteen minutes."
"And you're only telling me now?"
Again, Cowboy grinned. Be nice, he warned himself. "Like I said, I was heading in the other direction - north. I had a date - a hot one, actually. I'm just coming back now."
He grinned as wide as he could - as if he'd gotten lucky. The officer didn't know if it was true.
"Will you make a statement?" Suarez asked, and Cowboy knew why. Some witnesses don't like to go on the record.
"Sure, but do I have to do it now?" Cowboy didn't want to seem reluctant, but he really wanted to get to bed. Early work tomorrow.
"Soon as you can," Suarez advised.
"I'll be back in the area in a couple days. Friday. Maybe Thursday night. That soon enough?"
Suarez nodded. He didn't think too much about the incident and was more concerned with keeping traffic flowing in the lot. The fallen light pole was still blocking lanes.
Cowboy thanked him and was about to leave, when he stopped to study the car.
"The guy live?" he asked., pointing toward the tow truck
Suarez didn't even turn. "Yeah. He's in the hospital."
"I hope he dies," Cowboy said quietly. "He deserves it."