I was in a rented Toyota Corolla, driving with three family members who were also returning to America: a woman and her two children, a 9-year-old and a toddler. Soon after we crossed the bridge, the toddler’s diaper began emitting a horrendous stench, and we looked for a suitable place to change him. It took a few minutes. One candidate spot was too dark and secluded; another would have worked fine, but a car was idling there suspiciously, so we rolled down the windows and moved on. Finally we found a gas station by the highway. It was across from a diner, and had just closed but remained brightly lit.
We parked next to one of the pumps. I got out and stood on the passenger side, checking my phone and passing wipes as needed. The child wanted to keep his soiled diaper—his only souvenir of the Falls—and he howled through the two or three minutes it took his mother to change him on top of the trunk. During a lull in traffic, I noticed that his cries were echoing through the dark neighborhood beyond the gas station. Then I saw a man in the shadows, about 70 feet away, walking fast and crossing a street in our direction. When he entered the penumbra of the gas station’s floodlights, he stiffened a little, as if mildly surprised that I had noticed him, then ducked behind the gas station’s mini-mart.
“We need to go now,” I said.
The mom was leaning into the back seat to buckle in her toddler. She protested that she hadn’t yet attached every point of his harness. Then I saw the man reemerge, wearing a red hoodie and a mask that covered his whole face. He was striding toward us purposefully, past the mini-mart and into the light, and in his hand he had a pistol.