"How do you know?" Ashley asks. "How could you possibly know it's open all the way through?"
"Currents," Kelly replies, pushing me away a little. I think about the cop mentioning currents and realize he's right. In order for there to be currents, the tunnel must be open.
"They're actually pretty strong down there. It was almost like getting sucked into a drain. Lucky for me, the current was pushing me back out, otherwise…" He doesn't finish. He doesn't need to.
He coughs, spits. "I ended up grabbing onto some old wiring or something and pulling myself along the ceiling. I went as far as I could before I ran out of air and needed to turn around."
"That was some crazy-ass shit, man," Reggie says.
Kelly locks eyes with Reg and doesn't answer. After a few seconds pass, he combs his dripping hair away from his forehead with his fingers.
"I thought I'd just let the current push me back out, but then my shirt got caught on something." He lifts his arm to show us the tear under his left sleeve.
I don't know why the next thought pops into my head, but suddenly I wonder if the cop happened to notice the rip. Why that would matter I don't know, but the whole encounter strikes me as odd, forced. Why would he just take off like that without even scanning us? And what does Kelly know that he'd want to hide the scratch from him?
Kelly laughs weakly and shakes his head. "I sort of panicked, thinking it was one of those sewer gators you always hear about."
"Urban myth," Micah says.
"I guess I freaked out. I lost my air. I tried to kick. Whatever it was holding me tore away. I felt my shirt rip and the next thing I knew, I was shooting back out with the current. Good thing too, because I don't think I'd have made it out if it was even another second or two. I'd probably have inhaled a gallon of water and sunk straight to the bottom."
"What do you think it was?" Ashley asks. "That snagged you, I mean." She has this worried look on her face. We can all see what she's thinking, but nobody wants to say it.
Kelly shrugs. "Loose panel or something. Maybe a jammed log or a pipe. I don't know. It was too dark to see. There's got to be a ton of crap washed down into there, just not enough to block the flow entirely. The current's definitely strong enough to move a lot of water, so there's got to be spaces wide enough for a person to swim through."
I lean back and study Kelly and wonder why he's suddenly stopped being so resistant.
"Or maybe it was a zombie," Reggie jokes.
He suddenly laughs and slaps Kelly on the back and makes appreciative sounding noises. "Just kidding, brah. But, man, that was totally off-the-wall, what you did."
Everyone nods, but I'm still furious.
"Why?" I scream at him. "You're the last person I would've expected to do something stupid like jump into the river!"
"It's not the riv—"
"I don't care what it is! You could've drowned."
He shrugs and sighs. "Maybe that's why I did it," he says, studying my face. "I don't know. Maybe I just realized that you're always right about stuff and I'm wrong and such a stick in the mud all the time. I just figured I'd see for myself."
"You could've lied about it," Micah quietly says. "You could've told us it was gated or something. We wouldn't have known any better."
"Believe me, I thought about it. But while I was struggling to untangle myself, I don't know, I guess I just thought, really?" He looks at Reggie. "I still think it's a bad idea, though. Nothing changed my mind about that."
Reggie shakes his head.
"Besides," Kelly goes on, "there's the other tunnel, the Brooklyn Battery. If I told you this one was blocked, knowing you guys, we'd just end up going over there and checking that one out. Am I right?"
A couple of us shrug and murmur our agreement.
"Guys?" Ashley says, interrupting the boys. "I hate to break up this little discussion, but maybe it's time we cleared out of here. I don't know if that cop was serious, but I don't want to find out. He said he'd be back, but he didn't say when."
Reggie and Micah help pull us to our feet. Despite the warmth of the day, Kelly is still shivering. The scratch on his cheek has stopped bleeding, but now it's puckered out white and angry-looking on his pale face. He lifts his shoulder to wipe it away, wincing, and a fresh thin line of blood appears.
"Don't do that," I tell him. "You'll only make it worse."
"How'd it happen?" Micah asks as we walk back to the car.
Kelly shrugs. "Like I said, it was dark. Whatever it was that snagged my shirt scratched my face too, I guess."
I take a closer look. There are three parallel scrapes, each separated from the other by about a half inch. They look like claw marks. Only the middle one is deep enough to break the skin. "Just make sure you put some antibiotic on it when we get back," I say.
"Yes, Mom," they all chorus.
I frown at them. "Hey, it may not be the East River per se, but it's still pretty nasty water."
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