Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The Switch

Angel clattered down the last of the concrete made stairs and ran forward into the inner court of the tower block complex. The echo of her stilettos enlarged the effect of her entrance, an edgy imbalance to the previously quiet zone. Angel looked around frantically, her overlarge silver hoop earrings swaying in time with her high ponytail, swept back tightly in an informal and temporary facelift, and in obvious distress.
“What’s the matter? He run off without paying?” The old man chuckled.
Angel jumped, she had been looking about so intently but she had not seen the old man standing in the damp stained corner of the lobby. She frowned. “It’s not what you think, old man. It’s not like that.”
The old man chuckled again, his mouth barely open beneath his nicotine stained moustache. “Whatever you say love.” His hands, arthritically cramped together, shook with suppressed laughter and contempt.
“Which way did he go?” Angel asked him. She started to move closer to him, scrutinising him more carefully to see if she could place him in one of the myriad apartments in the complex. Her skinny jeans highlighted every contour of her legs.
“Ah,” the old man shook his head in mock regret, “that would be none of my business.”
Angel stopped within smelling difference and her nose wrinkled in distaste, the old man smelt bad, really bad. “Come on. I’ve told you, it’s not what you think.” She said in her most persuasive voice.
The old man simply grinned, an uneven sight of fractured and missing teeth, enjoyment apparent.
Angel’s heavily made up face changed expression again, from reasoning to pleading.
“He stole something from me. Something important. Can’t you tell me which way he went?”
“See no evil, hear no evil… that’s my motto.” The old man rocked on his battered tennis shoes in glee.
Angel moved away from the man in exasperation, took one last lingering look around the empty courtyard, then turned around and headed, slower now, back up the unforgiving stairs.
The old man listened to the noise of the woman ascending above him, tilting his head in concentration. A door opened, slammed shut, and quiet returned. He chuckled again and began to shuffle his way out into the limited daylight of the court. He turned right and headed towards the exit corridor, taking his time.
Several streets and corners later, all travelled in that slow old man shuffle, the last vestiges of his disguise melted away. Face, body, walk, all transformed in a matter of seconds without an obvious effort or an obvious trigger. Instead of an old man there only remained a young man, a wide smile on his face and his right hand firmly holding something, something that didn’t belong to him, in the pocket of his trousers.
Even the old man smell had gone. Only the reek of recent intercourse and betrayal remained…

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