In The Chill Of Night

It feels really strange to be prowling my usual late night haunts with an uncovered head, without looking over my shoulder for the cops or carrying my backpack full of spray cans. The weight of my wallet in my back pocket feels wrong somehow, like it doesn’t belong in this part of the city, but it carries my pass to freedom tonight.

It holds in its worn and cracked leather hands my press ID card - 3 inches by 2 inches of plastic immunity. My other tools for my new nightly work are a digital camera and a tape recorder, both requisitioned from the Tech department of the Daily Word. In a brown three-season bomber jacket, black long-sleeved cotton shirt, blue jeans and brown Dr. Marten oxfords, I wear another man’s uniform as I walk the streets.

Tonight my name is Jeremy Paulo and I am hunting the shadow known as Red Five.

I turn down the alley between Manuel’s Dry Cleaning and Rosa’s Bakery, making sure to breath through my mouth to avoid inhaling the stench of rotting humanity. I do my best to avoid stepping in the various puddles of liquids of origins unsavoury - I need to return these shoes to the store I bought them from this afternoon and I don’t need the hassle of scrubbing human waste off of them in order to do that. I certainly can’t afford to keep them - I think I’ll keep the jacket though.

The piece is as I left it two months before - no small miracle in this part of town. I raise the camera to eye level, snap the picture and the faceless policeman taking a baton to Lady Liberty, her blood pooling to form the numeral five, is tucked safely away in the memory card. Wonderful thing sometimes, technology.

I leave the way I entered, reach the sidewalk and rejoin the flow of foot traffic. I had left these various undocumented pieces all over the city, in out of the way locations. A lot of them were practice for bigger versions on more visible canvasses, others just an outlet for my own frustrations, but combined they make a pretty decent portfolio.

I’m working strictly from memory - it would be hard to explain to an overzealous cop just what I was doing with a detailed list of locations of vandalism performed by a man wanted for murder. I have one more stop before I start up Phase 2 of The Plan, which will probably have to wait for tomorrow. I really do need some sleep.

I hope Trevor is willing to go along with this stage of my scheme… if he resists I’ll have to let him in on Phase 3 and I’m hoping to hold off on that one until the very last moment. I’ll be on the receiving end of far too much attention regardless of how it goes down but I want it to be on my terms.

I can already feel Hypnos tugging at my eyelids while standing on my feet - I’m going to need some caffeine if I’m going to make it to my last destination. I spot a tiny coffee shop on the other side of the street and utilize a break in traffic to make my way over to it. I enter the shop’s heated confines, happy to leave behind the chilled night air, and join the three person line-up at the counter.

While I’m waiting for my plain black coffee I nod my head along to Jack Johnson’s Symbol in my Driveway and allow my thoughts to stray back to Emma B. I need to get in touch with her, to make sure she’s okay and thank her for risking her neck to save my hide. I know where to find her but I’m not sure she’ll be showing up there anytime soon with the police looking for her. Maybe I should swing by tomorrow, just to check…

The jingle of the bells attached to the door, followed by a bark of laughter too big for this intimate space, rip my attention back to the present. I’m about to turn to glare at the newcomers when one of them speaks; his words grip my spine with icy fingers and root me in place.

“We will make great art with his blood!”

The words are so thickly accented I’m not sure I heard him correctly. I accept the steaming paper cup from the man behind the counter and turn slowly to exit the store. My eyes fall on the two thick-necked men in black parkas and my mouth goes dry. I’m not sure I recognize the one on the left but I’ll never forget his companion.

How could I forget the man who had Emma B at gun point?

The End

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