Charlie stared at the grainy screens. A complete view offered by two cameras showed the owner, Zane, complete with knit cap and heavy leather jacket, at the front, sliding his keys into the lock on the iron gates. Charlie watched as he slid the gates opened and turned to unlock the glass door. Before he entered, Zane, looking like a founding member of Hell’s Angels, knelt and spoke to a little kid. Charlie saw him take an envelope, shake the kid’s hand and turn back to his flower shop. The kid ran off across the street.
Charlie rewound the tape. One day, all the stores would have digital cameras that worked as more than just decorative deterrents. One day, he would walk into a place and the tech in charge would hand him a flash drive with the times and dates of perfectly good video to peruse in his leisure. Until then, Charlie realized how lucky he was that the cameras even worked and the video had not been recorded over by tomorrow’s surveillance.
“Do you know the kid?” Charlie asked the storeowner. Zane had shoved the knit cap into one of the pockets of his worn leather jacket and dropped it over the chair behind the counter. Charlie had to look up past the denim shirt into the scruffy face above to make eye contact with the bald man.
“Nope. Haven’t seen that kid around at all. And I know most of the kids on account of they come in and work a little with me after school and on weekends for a little extra cash.”
“Their parents don’t mind?”
“Make ‘em do their homework first. And after, I let them play video games in the back. ‘Course parents don’t know what I let them play.” Zane winked. “Most of them around here are single parents who work a lot. The community got together a while back and most of the businesses around here offer the same kinda deal, watchin’ the kids after school, keepin’ them from gang crap, makin’ ‘em do their homework and getting little jobs done around our shops at the same time. We’re the village, ya know.”
“Anything you can tell me about this one?”
“Just that I haven’t seen him before. All he said was that some guy on the bus wanted him to give this envelope to me.”
“Did you see where he went?”
“Right back on the bus. Wasn’t on the street more than five minutes.”
“Do you still have the envelope?”
“Gave it to your tech guy who made a copy of the tapes. Had to pull it out of my trash though. Don’t know how much it’ll help. Little dude was wearing gloves.”
Charlie motioned to the FBI artist he had called and introduced her to Zane.
Zane promptly offered her a pink chrysanthemum with a smile. Charlie’s cell beeped. It was Davis.
“Charlie, you need to come back to the hospital.”
Angel moved without direction through the sparkling night. Rainwater fell from the gutters above splashing down into puddles. Water slid through the cracks into the rivers next to the sidewalks. She walked without thinking, without planning, focused only on putting distance between herself and the dead man behind her.
She felt no repercussion from killing the man. He would have killed her without thinking too hard about it. She did what she had to do to survive.
Guilt from leaving the hospital, leaving Agent Hardy draped over her. Now that the tracking device was out, she was free. She had to get as far away from her last known position as fast as possible. Completely blank of personal memories, practical facts still resided in her brain. For now she would run. She felt sure that something somewhere would jog her memory and she would eventually find her way home. Leaving Agent Hardy and his resources only delayed the inevitable for a little while. Leaving the hospital kept her safe, kept her alive.
Clouds slipped over the stars above, reflecting light from the city around her. So much light, it was easy to move through the shadows. Somehow, she knew this was not the first time she’d walked like this, hiding from the world, never leaving the darkness. Yet, deep down inside, she began to feel a yearning for light, a light so familiar she should never have forgotten.
As Angel splashed through the time between rains, it occurred to her that leaving the hospital might not have been the best idea she ever had. Then, she couldn’t remember before the hospital, so who was she to say? Angel found herself with nothing but the clothes on her back, a small duffel bag, a penknife and no freakin’ clue as to where to go or what to do. So she walked.