The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. Verbal Kint, The Usual Suspects
Hobbs sensed movement to his left. Out of his peripheral vision he saw a pistol appear, aimed point blank at the visitor.
Slowly the trigger finger squeezed. The hammer fell. A flash, a deafening roar, a cloud of acrid smoke, and the ball escaped casually from the barrel. It homed in on the visitor and struck him square in the chest. He sat down heavily, a stunned look on his face. He collapsed backward, stretched out flat of his back on the floor.
Hobbs looked to his left. Pistol and shooter gone. Turn and look out open door. Neighbor’s door open. Across landing into apartment. Bed on right. Young woman with sheet pulled up in front of her, enigmatic smile on her face. Artist/writer to her left, cowering behind her. Open window in opposite wall. Torn awning below. Man running down street, already nearly a block away. Turn back to door. Young woman’s smile now openly inviting. Door and jamb undamaged.
Back into his apartment. Wilson on one knee holding victim’s wrist, checking pulse. Large leather bound notebook on victim’s chest with hole in it.
“He’s fine. Just stunned. Should be coming around any minute. The notebook saved him. Rather large, isn’t it? There’s a pocket on the inside of his overcoat. A large pocket, amateurishly stitched in. He get away?”
“Yes. Did you get a look at him?”
“Not clear. You were between us. What do you make of this?”
“Well it’s obvious that…”
Footsteps on the stairs. “Quick Wilson. Follow her. Five foot five. One hundred and twenty pounds. Dark brown hair with a hint of red. Meet me at our tea room in one hour.”
Wilson stood up and rushed to grab his coat. “Who is she?”
“I don’t know yet but she has something to do with this.”. Wilson headed for the door.
“Try to make it look like you don’t want her to know you’re following her but make sure she knows you are.”
Wilson looked vacantly into space trying hard to parse the sentence. “How am I supposed to do that?”
“I don’t know. Be creative.”
Wilson stood in the door. Hobbs was watching the victim. “What if she catches a cab?”
Wilson entered the tea room and looked around for Sir Reginald. He was near the back at a table for two, against the north wall. He was facing away from the front door but there was a large mirror on the back wall that afforded him a clear view of the front. Hobbs had lectured him on how to pick your spot. They frequented this tea room not because of the service or ambiance but because of the strategic seating.
Hobbs locked eyes with the Wilson in the mirror for an instant then looked away. Wilson made his way to the table picking the clearest path in order to attract the least attention. He sat down across from Hobbs. There was a cup of tea in front of him. He felt the cup. Perfect temperature. Hobbs’ timing was impeccable as always.
Hobbs looked up from the paper spread on the table in front of him. “So?”
“Quite lovely. What was she doing when you saw her?”
“Sitting up in bed with my neighbor, sheet pulled up in front of her.”
“Just a sheet?”
“As far as I could tell. Where did she go?”
“A few blocks north, then west. She spent a lot of time wandering in and out of flea markets. Then back east into the pub district. Of course the streets were deserted this time of morning. She finally ducked into a particularly nasty looking place. I waited a while in front then went around back into the alley. There was a back door. I hid and watched. She came out and looked around, went back inside. I went back around front and found a place where she could see me and waited. She came out, looked around, saw me but pretended not to see me. She started south toward the river. I followed for a while but it was time to break it off and come here.”
“She knew I was following but pretending not to know. She went to great pains not to lose me. I knew she knew but I pretended not to know. Cat and mouse. A merry chase. I would like to do it again. Next time I would like to catch up with her. Make her acquaintance and, you know…”
“Wilson. Come back to me. Your imagination is getting the better of you.”
“Imagination? Let’s talk about imagination. Moriarty? Really Hobbs. It’s a wonder he didn’t laugh in your face and walk out.”
“He couldn’t walk out. He had instructions. He was waiting for something.”
“Waiting for what?”
Copyright © 2012 by Angus B. Lewis
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