The late autumn sun had set quite a few hours previously. The glorious orange sunset over the city had lasted only a few minutes before the millions of neon city lights polluted the night sky hiding the sunset to the casual observer. The brief rain shower that had accompanied the dusk had turned into a cold drizzle and then finally petered out dropping the ambient temperature to a chilly two degrees centigrade. The gutters emptied noisily onto the black streets sending small rivers of rainwater and other detritus gushing into the sewers or filling the numerous potholes and hollows across the city. It was just another damp chilly evening in the City of Don.
Deep in the southern zone of Meadowhall was the Porter district where lay the semi-derelict industrial steel producing area of the city, there a scruffy hunched figure in an old army coat scurried down the broad poorly lit streets carrying an assortment of supermarket shopping bags, an old floppy fedora hat was pulled low over his sunken blood shot eyes and the collar of his coat turned up around his ears. Only an untidy bushy grey beard around his lower face could be seen, if there had been anyone around to see it. Old and deserted factories, with multicoloured graffiti and pollution covered walls lined both sides the street, echoing to the ancient dark green grimy army coat flapping wetly around his ankles at every shuffling step.
He paused every now and then to glance at each doorway and archway he passed, until he found one to his liking, sheltered and dark without a working streetlight nearby but with some cover from the squally weather. There he sank down into a flaking red bricked up doorway, dragged up his feet in their disintegrating mud splattered black leather combat boots under the filthy coat and drew the cluster of off white supermarket plastic carrier bags grasped in dirt black fingerless gloved hands into his chest and huddled there for a moment, his breath blowing crisp white clouds out in the cold evening air. In the badly lit doorway he pulled various bits of cardboard and tattered looking bits material around him. Once he was settled into his comfortable cocoon of rubbish, a deep quiet settled back over the street.
The gentle drip of water droplets from the gutters and streetlights counter pointed the light whistling of the breeze that whispered through empty streets and buildings through broken windows and doorways in the desolate industrial area. There were no other sounds other than the buzz of the various electric streetlights and the hum of far off traffic on the main southern road artery, upon which city workers headed out of the city to the suburbs going home after a long days work, to break up the quiet of the damp early evening. All the factories that were still producing goods in the once bustling industrial area had shut and bolted their doors for the night and the parking lots emptied of all vehicles except for the occasional dumped and burnt out car. The surviving businesses kept only one day shift working while they tried to survive the decade long recession that had driven so many of the other businesses across the country to the wall.
A gradual increase of noise froze the tramp in his doorway. It was that of a car gently cruising down the street. A brand new top of the range cream Cape Town saloon car was slowly driving down the street and then it gently came to a stop at the entrance to an alley a couple of hundred feet away from the tramp and his doorway. The shiny spotlessly clean car reversed smartly into the alley and disappeared from view except for the beam of its twin headlights cutting across the street and reflecting off the shattered windows of a vandalised sheet metal factory opposite. The inky darkness of the alley returned as the headlights and engine were switched off and the area returned to its gloomy ill lit darkness with splashes of yellow light made by the few working streetlights up and down the street.
The driver of the car had been clearly visible to the tramp before it reversed out of view and a vague thought staggered through his head, “Whash a pretty lady doin’ dawn here?” Even such a mystery as this did not hold his interest for long, he pulled a bottle of some sort of alcohol from beneath his rags, took a long swig and he fell back into a comatose state of lethargy that had allowed him survive on the streets of Don for the past ten years since his life has crashed down about his ears and sent him onto the streets and anonymity.
Sometime later, though how long the homeless beggar could not tell or even care, a new noise roused him from his murky dreams of past glories. In the distance, a clicking noise travelled faintly on the night breeze, the pile of rubbish shifted slightly as the curled up figure strained to identify it. Slowly the sound became louder and regular enough to be recognised, footsteps. Not hurried but moving at speed, no casual walker out for a late night stroll. Though with no residential houses in the surrounding area, that would have been very unlikely.
With the footsteps that much closer it was also possible to identify there was an odd rhythm. It took the silent pile of rubbish a few long seconds to work out that the late nightwalker was either walking slightly faster to the pools of light cast by the streetlights or hurrying through those patches. He sensed that this intruder was afraid of something, a something the huddled body in the doorway did not want to have anything to do with. It was his present purpose in life not to be noticed and therefore safe, until the booze ran out and he was forced to find some more.
The pile of refuse twitched slightly in the dank gloom of the doorway, allowing a bloodshot eye to gaze vacantly from underneath the brim of his hat and look down the street at the approaching figure. Old and an alcoholic he definitely was but his eyesight was still good. It was a man, smartly dressed, wearing an unbuttoned dark navy blue overcoat over a dark grey double breasted suit, white shirt and grey silk tie and a smart black Hardy hat pulled down on his head.
He was obviously concerned about something, he stuttered his way down the street quickly passing by or through the pools of light cast by the occasional working streetlights. The well-dressed stranger was just passing in front of the alleyway two hundred feet from the watcher when the hidden car engine rumbled into life and headlights speared the stranger, appearing to freeze him like a rabbit in the glare of torch. It was only a second later, though to the stranger it probably felt like a million years and he was running down the street, his dark coat billowing out behind him like a cape.
The speeding figure passed in and out of the infrequent pools of light cast by the surviving streetlights looking like Batman in a stop motion movie. In a flash of brilliant white the car roared out of the alley and hurtled in pursuit of the fleeing figure. Only a psychologist could have told why he began running down the middle of the road. He dodged from side to side but nothing could keep the car from closing down on its victim. The headlights seem to follow every dodge casting a long dark running shadow up the street.
The man had just past the doorway and its hidden occupant when the car caught up with the fugitive. The car stuck the running man on his left hand side, flipping him up on to the bonnet and then over the roof to slam on to the tarmac behind the car with a sickening bone cracking thud. The body bounced and slid on the wet tarmac coming to rest in the centre of a nearby circle of orange light cast by an old style streetlight. The circle of light pinned the broken body like a spotlight on a stage. The expensive Hardy hat flew off and landed in front of the tramps resting place.
The saloon car came to speedy but controlled stop, no squealing of tires, 50 yards from where it had struck the running man. A smooth gear change and it purred in reverse to stop five feet from the body. Silence encased the area except for the softly idling engine; the drivers’ door swung open and the watcher saw an elegant tall black leather low-heeled boot appear from behind the door. As the rest of the body unfolded from the car the watcher almost gasped, a vision of ice-cold beauty strode toward the spread-eagled body. Hair that shone like gold in the streetlights framed a classic profile, pale white skin and understated red lips and blue glacial eyes, which held not a shred of warmth. She was dressed in a dark jacket with small gold buttons, pulled in at all the right places to make any man forget to breathe, with a matching mid calf dark skirt split up to the thigh.
This vision of beauty gazed down for a few seconds at the dent on the bonnet made by the flying body. She gently touched the dent with a black-gloved finger and then she strolled over to the body lying face down in the middle of the damp street. Her right hand reached into a small reticule, which matched her outfit perfectly, carried in left her, and brought out a small automatic Webley handgun. Standing a few feet from the body she raised the automatic until the barrel was pointing down at the blood-matted head. She then methodically put two bullets in to the back of the bloody covered head. The body jerked in response but otherwise made no other movement. The two sharp cracks of the bullets echoed up and down the street.
She then stepped forward, reached down and felt in the corpses inside jacket pocket to remove a small black flat square of plastic. Giving the corpse a final studied glance she put the handgun back into her reticule and then coolly strolled back to the car without a care in the world. The murderess gracefully folded herself in behind the steering wheel of the car brushed her hair from her face and then pulled the drivers door closed with a gentle thump. The car then slowly eased away and disappeared into the night at a sedate speed as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
The watcher waited frozen in the doorway for almost twenty minutes. When he was sure the murderess was not coming back he hurriedly pulled all his belongings together. As he passed the hat he snatched it up from the ground and stuffed it into one of the plastic bags. He knew where he could exchange such a valuable item, it would be worth a few drinks and a dreamless night. Staggering back down the street passing the mangled body without a glance and into a side street and away from trouble that would surely follow if he stayed.
The murder had only taken a two minutes and the tramp did not want to be still there when the police eventually did arrive.