Blade stared at him. I looked on, my eyes darting from Joe to Blade, to Blade’s gang, and back again. Joe was gambling, I knew. At any moment, one of them might simply think, “fuck you”, make a stupid move, and sooner or later, people would die. I’d be one of them.

The seconds stretched out into eternity. I watched, my heart racing, drumming out a rhythm that urged me to fight - or run. Or scream. I tried to move once; twice, but through it all, the Joe’s outstretched hand was there. His lightest touch seemed to hold me firm, defining my boundaries. My only boundaries. To step beyond was to wade an ocean.

Suddenly, Blade’s head dropped; the tension shattered. He muttered some last defiant insult at Joe, but his body language said the opposite, crying submission as he shrank and moved aside. He turned to his gang, his words beginning to mirror his shrugging shoulders, as he laughed his way back into their safety. Soon, they were all laughing it off.

Joe moved not an inch, until they began to leave.

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