It was a Monday morning. Almost noon. Just woken, he needed coffee, as much as any drowning sailor had ever needed air. And the café before him, that had been openly there before him countless days before, was boarded up.
The bold words scrawled on the paper-covered window disturbed him: FOR SALE.
Checking in at the agency for work without coffee would be too painful. And it would be too soon. His next briefing's files wouldn't be ready until after lunch. He wasn't a 9 to 5 kind of man. He was a 1 to 3 and then 6 to 12 kind of man, most nights. On nights when the customer didn't want more from him.
Two blocks north, he knew there'd be another coffee house. He hit the button for the cross-walk, and then began to jay-walk long before the walk signal ever came.
He wasn't the typical worker at the agency. No, he was the exception to the rules. For one thing, none of the others had tattoos and piercings. They all worked in tuxedos and cologne. He worked in... whatever he God damn pleased to.
It was the same kind of clientele, of course. Except he wasn't the one they sent out to pompous dinner parties and charity balls. He was the bona fide party animal, the wild clubber and wild lover.
An escort. And off the record, sometimes something more.
A fake lover. A depraved lover. A lover of high upkeep. With a brand of love convoluted with lies and unrequitability.
And so, when the doors to Clara's Coffee burst open and he charged in with a confident grin, he eyed the upscale customers. They were faces that he could recognize, but wasn't willing to.
Except one face. It made his breath cut short for a moment, and then he blinked in disbelief. A lover of a better kind, a truer kind. A derelict love that he longed to repair. And as her head slowly began to turn from the window, he ducked behind a counter. For the first time in a long time, he could hear his own heart racing, thumping, living.
The cashier looked down at him, unfazed, "Next, please."