Part 1 of this old story (written back when I was about to start college – man, that was a long time ago!) was published on Monday. You can find it here.
It was the third time that I spotted him that really did me in. Bad things always come in threes, don’t they? Isn’t that what they say? Although nothing terrible happened the first two times I saw him. I guess maybe I just couldn’t have my run of good luck keep up forever. I’d been winning enough cases to stay afloat, so I perhaps wasn’t thinking as cynically as I should have been.
I was stepping out past the pungent odor of tobacco for a stroll before lunch when I glanced over and noticed him, ducking into the alley where the sun never seems to penetrate. Some vague recollection must have stirred in my memory, because I played the damn fool in deciding to follow him. He had a backpack on; it was gray as well, although the bottom seemed to be stained darker.
It wasn’t noticeable, but he was moving pretty fast, scuttling along a little. He still seemed rather confident, though, as if he belonged where he was, not as if he was doing anything wrong. I kept well back, which was probably the only sensible thing that I did do that day.
I tailed him through a couple twists and turns of the alley, ’till we came to the far fence. A woman was standing up against it, leaning nonchalantly. She must have been waiting for him, since she straightened up when he came. The man’s backpack was dropped loosely against one wall of the alley, out of the way.
It was here that I got the first real look at both of them. I thought “hooker” as soon as I laid eyes on the woman, but then realized heartbeats later that, although she was wearing somewhat skimpy clothes, she was fairly well off, likely in business. I could tell that much from her posture, upright and crisp. The skirt might have ended well above her thighs, but the gray suit seemed to almost be flickering in on the edges of my vision, as if my mind knew that it was what she belonged in. A faint stream of light from above glinted off the diamond on her ring. Restrained, but expensive nonetheless. She didn’t look half bad, probably a good five or six years younger than myself, judging by the way she filled out her disguise.
And the man? Again, I didn’t even seem to notice. He was, well, background. He had on gray jeans. They were splattered with something dark, maybe paint. He had a gray shirt on that was a little long, coming down to his crotch. Something bulged in the back of his pants. He had dark gray hair. I don’t remember anything about his face. His eyes were shaded by his hair; I couldn’t even see their outlines.
They were talking, but I couldn’t hear. I probably could have crept closer at the start without being noticed, but it took a while before I had the nerve. The woman was facing me, but she seemed not to be able to take her attention off of the man in front of her for a second. She seemed to be ill at ease. The man was just as confident as he had been walking into the alley. His smooth bass overrode the woman’s rising and falling alto.
As they talked, the woman became more and more agitated. I thought that I could see a glint of worry in her eyes, and I slowly emerged from behind my corner and slunk closer. I was worried that the man would hear and turn, but he didn’t seem to notice.
Once I was closer, I was able to more adequately judge the look in the woman’s eyes. It wasn’t worry, I realized; it was fear, pure and simple. She was starting to edge back away from the man, heedless of the rough boards of the fence stopping her retreat. “No, no,” she was protesting over and over. “No, you promised!” I heard her voice rise uncontrollably on the last word.
The man said something in return. ” . . . should have known what was coming,” were the last few words. I couldn’t catch the rest. He stepped forward smoothly towards the woman. One of his hands snaked around to pull the bulge from the back of his pants. It was a knife, I saw. It was the same dull gray as the rest of him.
The woman tried to shriek. The man covered her mouth easily with one hand as he slid the knife upward in a smooth motion. Amid the screams I was trying to stifle, an absurd thought noted how neatly he had done it. Almost as if he did this sort of thing all the time.
I must have been backing away at this time. I don’t remember too clearly. He had lowered the woman to the ground, and was, well, emptying her. I can’t think of a better word for it. He was removing everything inside her, depositing it all in a careless pile.
I was backing away, yes, but I couldn’t wrench my eyes away. I watched as he held up what was left after he was finished. It was limp and boneless, like a strangely shaped sheet of rubber. The last thing that I saw was him unzipping the backpack with one hand, holding it in the other.
At this point, my gag reflex took over and I fled out of the alley. I threw up at the entrance, not even receiving a glance from the passerby. They didn’t care, of course. They hadn’t seen.
The man left the alley a minute later, carrying the backpack over his shoulder. I could see his entire front covered in liquid darkness, the same as was dripping from his backpack. Didn’t anyone notice? I was silently shrieking out. Didn’t anyone realize what he had done?
He glanced at me as he walked past. I saw his eyes then. They were blank. I don’t mean that they looked any different than yours or mine, this part is always hard to explain. Everyone’s eyes glint, it’s just the light reflecting off of them. His didn’t reflect any light. They weren’t any unusual shape, or color, or anything. They were just dull. They made him look lifeless.
Stay tuned for the conclusion, coming Friday!