by GR "Maya" Cogman
I had been watching her for a while. She was leaning in the shadow just behind the streetlamp, flecks of light catching on her boot-buckles and earrings. The alley to her left curled backwards, with old papers wrapped round the corner of the building by the wind.
Several men had tried approaching her, and been given the brush-off. They went away muttering, feet tapping down the pavement and retreating into silence, passing through the streaks of neon lamplight alone.
I was curled under my newspapers across the street. Half asleep, half awake, watching the pale empty sky: it was four in the morning, and even the rumble of the Underground had stopped. She watched, I dreamed.
Her jacket was black leather, like her skirt and boots, with heavy dark metal buckles, and her top was some bright spandex that the streetlight paled to pastel. Her eyes were half-lidded, small sparks of awareness in a bony face. A can rattled across the pavement, jarred into motion by the wind, and she watched it jitter past, a terrible mildness on her.
If eyes are the windows of the soul, I thought, she has no soul. I do not know why I thought that.
Footsteps approached us down the road, and awareness flicked into her like the sudden flash of light in a dark room. He was in a well-cut suit that the surrounding shadows washed to darkness, a middle-aged man with carefully combed hair and a busy face.
She stepped into his path as he came under the light, murmuring, "A moment."
He jolted to a stop, eyes assessing her. "Sorry," he muttered with the habit of practice, "not tonight."
She raised a hand to stop his movement to one side. "You are Brian Dudlingham, owner of the block of shops two streets down. Three days ago, you had a young single mother evicted, and she committed suicide."
His eyes went flatter and flatter as she spoke. "Listen, bitch, I don't know what you're playing at, but I'm not interested, kapisch? Take your stories somewhere else."
The grip she caught his hand in looked almost gentle. She nodded towards the alleyway.
It still seemed dreamlike, action viewed through a filter. The wind drifted more rubbish into the gutter as he began to struggle, and as she twisted his arm behind his back to shove him into the shadows of the alley. His yelling rose, then cut off on a choking noise.
There was a frantic tapping of feet as the choking died away, like the can that had been rattling across the street earlier. The sky paled further, a million million miles away from me and just as uncaring. I closed my eyes, and perhaps I slept a little.
When I looked again, she was walking down the street. A single foot protruded from the mouth of the alley, limp as all the rest of the rubbish that had collected there.
She walked down the street away from me, through the haloes of neon towards the paling sky, and the shadows lay behind her like dark wings.
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