A January Silhouette

Alex sat in the nondescript sedan, huddled into the driver’s seat, hoping the shivers would soon subside, and cursing under his breath. Two hours standing against a wind-swept building in January made him question his choices. The man he was supposed to meet didn’t appear at 9 p.m. A friendly black cat kept him company, sitting at his feet as if it were waiting for someone as well. Alex waited another hour until the cold seeped into his joints. Knowing that texting their mutual acquaintance would be pointless, he carefully walked back to his borrowed car. As the car warmed, some of Alex’s ability to reason returned. He knew he would need to go back and wait, even if the person he was to meet took all night to make an appearance. So, he sat and felt the warmth of the vents surround him. Twenty years of this job made him cynical. And also practical. Five more minutes.

As he shut off the ignition and opened the driver’s door of his car, a gunshot echoed through the alleys of the nearby buildings. Unlike what happens in tv shows, Alex’s pulse quickened involuntarily, but he did not react. And he didn’t rush to hurry. Only fools or rookies barge into gunshots. Also, he knew in his gut that the man he was supposed to meet undoubtedly was the one receiving the bullet. Men like him invited such calamity. Alex calculated the odds of the police arriving in less than five minutes. He shut the car door and walked back toward the place he’d waited previously. As he neared the spot, Alex saw a body on the ground. A light above one of the stores’ rear doors provided enough illumination to see the body slumped against the bricks and cement. The friendly black cat sat a few feet away, watching. It didn’t surprise Alex that the gunshot hadn’t scared the cat. Like Alex, it had undoubtedly seen a lot.

Alex paused and listened for approaching cars, voices, or footsteps. Silence. He moved along the edge of the wall, face tilted down in case of clandestine cameras. He pushed against the slouched body with the tip of his right shoe. Dead. Alex crouched to his knees and carefully put on a nylon glove, which resisted stretching in the cold. Using his left hand, he pulled the torso of the body toward him and over.

For a few seconds, Alex’s mind went blank. Nothing in his twenty years of this crazy life prepared him for what he saw. He always considered himself prepared for anything. Alex remained crouched, staring at the face on the ground. It was his own face, detailed down to the bullet scar across the bridge of his nose. Alex reached down and inside the corpse’s coat. He removed the wallet and flipped it open. He saw himself in the driver’s license photo. Everything in the wallet looked identical to the same wallet he had inside his coat pocket.

Alex didn’t notice the approaching figure, stealthily moving behind him. He didn’t see the arc of the baton as it descended on the back of his head, knocking him unconscious. The cold cement welcomed him as he fell.

The black cat, having seen enough, meandered away into the darkness.

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