In the silence between the buildings of the early morning city Maddie heard the familiar ca-chink of a Zippo lighter. Its glow illuminated the face of a man in a long coat lighting his smoke across the street. He was watching them. Maddie knew what this was, that her night was not over.
“You staying far from here?” Maddie asked.
“Couple blocks. Got a room at the Carlton while I’m waitin’ for a break in the action.”
“Got anything to drink?”
“Half bottle of Jack.”
He nodded and started down the sidewalk. She walked alongside, and kept a easy eye over her shoulder. As they turned a corner she saw the cigarette cherry of the man in the long coat. He was following them.
“You know that guy?” Fillmore asked without breaking stride. She didn’t answer.
In the reflected light of the 2am backstreet Fillmore got a sudden case of the nerves. It wasn’t his habit to bring women home, especially ones with deadly reputations being followed by strangers. Just didn’t work out. In fact it was against house rules to have visitors past 11.
Of course he didn’t mind sharing his bottle with her. He suffered fools rarely and not very well, but Maddie had character, heart. Walking at her side he felt alive and ready for risk. Its mercury was in his blood, its metallic taste beginning to appear on his tongue, the savory taste of possibility, the richer the better.
This sent a sensation up to her neck and down her body, partly from danger and suspicion, partly from sudden curiosity and desire.
The desk clerk was asleep as they silently passed through the lobby of the old hotel. Up a flight of stairs, key quietly opening the door. He was smart and kept the light off to not advertise to their tail. The lights from the street lit the room a clean, smoky blue, and Maddie and Fillmore became silent, shadowy silhouettes, anonymous but recognizable. The room was small, but neat and efficient. He threw his jacket and key on a chair.
“I been livin’ out of a suitcase and garment bag for five years now,” he said, pointing to his belongings in the closet.
“I know what you mean,” she said, moving to the window.
“He still out there?”
The man with the cigarette was moving slowly down the sidewalk, away from the Carlton. Maybe it was a false alarm, she thought. The rain had started to fall again, and through its curtain the man tossed his smoke into the gutter, rounded the corner, and was gone.
Fillmore had leaned close to look out, and in the light of the window noticed a spot of mud on her shoulder from earlier in the night. As he pressed her shoulder to brush it off she spun around with a trained reflex. She had spun in to face him, and their bodies were touching for the first time, as if they were about to dance. Her motion caused his fingers on her shoulder to spread open his hand, and he steadied it.
This unexpected touch was warm against her skin, and she discovered she was staring at him. He stared back and felt her chest rise and fall with breath. He gently slid his grip from the firm texture of her shoulder down to her arm, where the flesh was soft but strong, and squeezed with just enough restraint to know it. This sent a sensation up to her neck and down her body, partly from danger and suspicion, partly from sudden curiosity and desire. They stood in silence, testing with their eyes, waiting for some unspoken permission. She knew he wanted her, but he was not a beggar and neither was she. She noticed her breath. Now she wanted him. She shifted her body slightly against his and another sensation came and went. He felt his face move towards hers without thinking, his mouth reaching out like fingers to touch a butterfly. Their eyes closed, and their lips touched with the hesitancy of children. The rain hit strong against the window.
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