Across MacDonald St, then up half a block to Needle Alley. He knew that cutting through the Needle was dangerous at the best of times, but it would save him the two and a half block run up Cook St and down to the base of Johnson Avenue where Shrivers' Gate stood, overlooking the harbor.
Needle Alley was too damned claustrophobic. There was only perhaps four feet between buildings, and the ancient bricks smelled of too much urine and rotten fruit. Most of the suit-and-tie crowd avoided it. Here, the only occupants were the wasted and the bitten or those who catered to them. It was always dangerous going through Needle Alley. Someone might recognize him.
"Hey Sonny!" A weathered old man called out from ahead of him, waving a hefty piece of watermelon. Jackson groaned and pushed forward. He'd have to pay Mr. Ng later.
He didn't stop, he didn't say hello. He just put his head down and barreled on, trying to twist away from the old man as his shoulder connected with a too-solid thump.
He'd pay for that, too.
The sweat started to trickle down Jackson's back and he cursed again. If he didn't make it to Shrivers' Gate before the Noon bell, she'd make him pay and pay and pay again in spades. She was too high up the food chain for a schmuck like him, and he was too damned close to losing her. She'd never seen the desperate side of him before.
Jackson promised himself that if he made the Gate on time, he'd never take a bite again... It wasn't the social status he craved. She'd simply given him something he'd never ever had before... And he'd give up every last tooth for her.