Shane walks in, hurries to the back of the bar. He finds the door opened to an alley littered with the garbage of the restaurant beside it, the one whose neon sign has two lights blown out.
“Sally, we should leave through this door if the man comes in.”
“Why?” He seems agitated, unused to disagreement.
“This alley has no exit, there is a chained linked fence, and besides, we have nothing to be afraid of.” She says, rubbing his shoulders soothingly.
The smokers are staying outside, yet the air is thick with the crowd's breathing. It feels as if someone is dabbing their skin with a warm cloth. The frigid air outside is an incentive to stay put, at least for awhile.
Sally and Shane order two beers before they start to discuss the reason they are meeting tonight, on such an artic night in the seedy part of town. They contemplate their drinks.
"My cousin, actually distant cousin, will be at my place tomorrow night, just as the sun sets.” Sally swallows the last drops of her beer. She orders another; Shane is still taking shallow sips of his, as he wipes the moisture that has left a mark on the counter.
“Okay, then, Shane. I will meet you at the laundry mat across the street from my apartment in the morning at eight. It will still be quiet at that hour. We won’t be seen.”
"There is a woman who has helped others like us, she will be with me."
Sally is finished with her second beer. She ties her scarf tightly around her pale neck, tucks the woolen red and blue scarf into her brown jacket. She takes a deep breath, declares the matter settled.
A man with a knit black cap pulled low over his eyes comes into the bar, a dark mocha scarf cloaked around his mouth. The Winter night releases him from its icy grasp as the bar door closes behind him, its frost-bound fingers tracing his muffled steps hastily as it retreats from the heat of the bar. Sally cannot see his face.
“One vodka and tonic, please”.
Shane immediately recognizes the voice and whispers to Sally, who smiles abruptly when she sees Shane’s fear.
"He cannot harm us.”
Shane walks quickly to the exit, Sally behind him. He notices the streetlights outside flicker as he steps outside, pulling his dark coat tightly around him. He bids goodnight and walks rapidly down the street, his footsteps echoing like the voices of long lost friends. Sally waits for her ride, and as the car pulls up, Shane turns and sees the driver is his wife, the passenger his brother. He begins to run to the car now leaving the curbside. He calls out “Sharon! Bill!”
A blackness envelops his senses after unbearable pain and he is unaware of falling.
The next morning, at a corner newsstand near where Shane used to commute by train to work, a headline, in small bold printing, tells the news of the murder of a man.
A commuter skims through the article, sets the paper aside. It becomes a forgotten incident in a small brightly lit city.
Copyright © Jennifer Cahill | Year Posted 2021
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