Michael pulled his
hoodie tighter around his face. A car was following him, he
was sure of it. It was a little pale blue hatchback, a granny
car with a dodgy fan belt by the sound of it, not the ominous
quiet running black limo with black tinted windows that was
supposed to follow lone walkers down darkened alleyways, but
it made him nervous all the same. He fingered the switchblade
in his pocket and walked faster, hunching over into the rain.
The car drew level
with him and the passenger window slid down with a faint squeal.
“Do you want a lift?”
back from the curb. He’d seen the driver around, a thin woman
in late middle age with grey-streaked straight dark hair. She
liked to hang around the parks and overpasses, talking to the
homeless kids, sometimes handing out money or food, all the
time staring around with big, haunted looking dark brown eyes.
Not a churchy do-gooder type—they always worked in pairs. Possibly
an undercover cop, or more likely a guilt-ridden mother looking
for her own runaway child. He dithered on the footpath, trying
to second-guess what she wanted from him, what he could get
from her, and what would be the cost.
“Are you hungry?
You want to go get something to eat?”
It could be some
kind of set up. But he was hungry. He was almost always hungry.
He was also cold and wet. And she was a lone, unarmed, slightly
built woman. He looked around, stepped from foot to foot and
jiggled the switchblade.
“Yeah,” he said,
quietly, almost to himself, then louder, “Yeah. Yeah, OK.”
Once inside the
car, the woman held out her hand. “I’m Susan.”
“Michael,” he mumbled,
shaking her hand awkwardly.
“I’ve seen you at
the park, Michael,” she said. “It must be very difficult for
you, so young, living the way you do, no family…”
“You a cop or something?” His
hand tightened on the door handle. The car had begun to pull
away from the curb, but if he jumped out now he might still
escape without serious injury.
“No, nothing like
that. I’m just…it worries me, seeing all these beautiful young
people out on the street with nobody to care for them.”
So, that was her
angle. Michael knew her type, but they were almost always men
trolling for a bit of young rough. He looked at her more closely
and shrugged. Could be worse.
As if reading his
mind. Susan reached out and stroked the leg of his jeans.
wet,” she said. “You’ll get sick if you sit in those clothes
for too long. I don’t live far from here—you could take a bath
while I wash and dry them for you.”
“I wouldn’t want
to put you out…”
“It’s no trouble,” she
said, far too quickly. “No trouble at all.”
Bingo. Hasn’t been
five minutes and already she’s talking about getting me naked.
He smiled and settled back to enjoy the ride.
Complete story available in the
print edition of Big Pulp Winter 2010