By Nash Dunn
O-N-E Staff Writer
It was about 2 a.m. on Saturday night, and the time was passing quickly.
The Crescent Moon Café in Hickory, a glowing bubble of blue and violet just minutes ago, was now illuminated with yellow fluorescent light that made most of the patrons squint.
“Closing time,” I thought.
Looking around the smooth, stone bar, no one was quick to rush out. The comfortable sounds of classic Rock and Roll ceased, and the chatter of about 30 people resonated throughout the building.
“Y’all ready to leave?” I said, looking over at Brian and Josh.
We moved to the semi-circle or “crescent” bar and paid our tabs. I think I was signing a sticky receipt when a shout made me turn.
“Hey!” a man screamed as he burst through the door. “Hey man, they are fighting out here!” His comment, directed at the bartender, muzzled the murmuring crowd to silence.
I looked through Crescent Moon’s large glass window facing First Avenue NW, and the majority of the crowd had already moved outside. Following my acquired, yet sometimes dangerous, journalistic instincts, I quickly followed suit.
As I exited Crescent Moon, my eyes immediately focused on a man screaming in the middle of the two-way street. He wore a long, white T-shirt that was ripped around the collar. Someone, maybe a friend, was shuffling along the asphalt trying to calm him down. He did not respond.
“He had to be in the fight, right?” Brian said to me.
“Yeah, he had to be.” I looked around for another involved party, but saw only interested onlookers perusing the scene cautiously.
The man with the ripped collar was still shouting unrecognizable profanities, pushing away from his companion all the while. He marched like he was on a mission – stomping theatrically toward a 90s-era SUV in front of Crescent Moon. When he entered the car, the enraged man uttered one last thing to his friend before putting the car in reverse and taking off. His tires squealed, the truck jumped backward, and he traveled about 10 feet before slamming into a car traveling legally down the road.
Through the SUV’s window, the angry man’s head fell into his hands. He was calm now.
But before the crowd of 30, still gathered outside Crescent Moon, could comprehend what just happened, a different SUV drove down First Avenue NW and parked directly in front of Crescent Moon in the street. Three men emerged from the car wearing loose-fitting charcoal jeans and multi-colored T-shirts. One of the men had his shirt off.
The mysterious group of men did not waste time making their presence known. They walked back and forth along the onlooking crowd, yelling profane vulgarities that pierced the humid night air.
It was about this point at which I pulled my cell phone out and dialed 9-1-1. I didn’t hit the send button, for I did not know the purpose of the men’s torrent. But after the fight, the wreck, and now this, I knew nothing very positive could happen next. It became apparent that these men were trying to intimidate the crowd by challenging them to fight, screaming inches from the bar goers’ faces and making it clear they did not have any regard for civility.
“But why were they doing this?” I thought. “What was the reason for this random turn of events?”
The answer to those questions became all too clear when one of the three intimidators opened the door to a Crescent Moon customer’s car and attempted to steal the vehicle. The car’s owner, standing merely feet from the attempted motor vehicle larceny, was not going to be frightened away, though. He quickly ripped the faulty thief from the vehicle and had brief “words” with him before they started fighting.
At this point, a rumble ensued.
Friends of both fighting parties jumped in, and it was hard to follow what was going on. I pressed send on my phone and was connected to a 9-1-1 communicator within seconds. I tried my best to explain what happened, but my mind was spinning in 20 different directions.
All the while, glass bottles were breaking, and men were being hit with elbows across their boney faces as they lie on the ground being pummeled. Friends and lovers of both parties screamed for it to cease, but it was an all-out skirmish.
On my phone, the 9-1-1 communicator kept asking, “Are there any weapons?”
“No,” I told her. “But I can guarantee you there will be in the next few minutes if officers don’t arrive.”
“Are they there yet?” she said.
Just when I was about to answer, “No,” a brigade of blue flashing lights came flying down the street. There had to be at least six police cars.
At the sound of the sirens, the skirmish broke up, and the involved parties fled to their cars. The three intimidators and attempted car thieves all returned to the parked SUV and slowly made their way from the scene.
Seeing this, I ran to an officer and told him that the SUV contained the men who instigated the whole ordeal and needed to be apprehended. The officer looked up the road and made little notice of the SUV as it continued to drive away.
“I’m telling you right now that those guys are the ones who started everything!” I repeated.
He did not acknowledge my statement again.
I turned toward the fleeing SUV as it turned along a side street to get away. They escaped.
“Does anyone here need medical attention sir?” the officer asked me.
I just stared at him.
“Is that car accident involved?” he continued.
I shook my head and walked away through a mirage of blue and white flashes. After turning up a alleyway, I trotted cautiously back to my car a few blocks away, knowing all the while that an intimidating group of car thieves could be right around the corner in the heart of downtown Hickory.
This area is a fairly safe place, but you never know what can happen. These guys are still on the streets, and they made it clear that they are not afraid to steal, or injure, in public. If you witness something unlawful, call 9-1-1, and hopefully they will get the “bad” guys next time.
Nash Dunn is a reporter and columnist for The Observer News Enterprise. His column appears in the Wednesday edition of The O-N-E. Reach Dunn at firstname.lastname@example.org .