Nightfall. A brief respite from the toils of Day. For others, it was the era of opportunity.
Such was the case for Gidro. The night was his time to be alive.
Earlier, the day had been loud and Gidro had hunkered down in his hidden shelter among one of the streets many abandoned container units.
But now, the streets were his to prowl.
The streets provided everything for Gidro. Cloth he repurposed into clothing; furnishings for his shelter: bedding, milk crate tables, even a lamp; food from restaurants.
Occasionally, he scored shiny items people had lost or discarded and was able to barter it for other goods.
Did it matter to him if it came from what others called trash?
Perhaps it was because it came from trash it meant more to him; after all, was he not trash, long abandoned by society?
The world may have cast off Gidro, but the streets provided.
Including the man Gidro was tailing.
His jacket, long and dark, was probably real leather. His skin was white as the froth of a wave. The whitest white. Obviously not from around here. Probably from America. Tourist.
Which meant he had to be loaded.
Gidro followed the man in black as he wound through the streets. He seemed intent on avoiding the main streets, as though begging to be made.
Gidro was all too happy to help.
He had gotten his name from the streets as well.
During one of his rare daylight excursions, a local had seen him swing down on his long and lanky, but lithe limbs, whereupon he snagged a backet of fruit.
The vendor shouted and Gidro darted off, stuffing as many fruits in his homemade sack as he could, clambering back up an alley wall.
The vendor cursed after him, shaking a fist, declaring him a tricky little monkey.
Soon enough, stories spread of the angular male snatching what little scraps he could muster.
The name suited Gidro well enough. He had little use for it though.
On the man’s right hand, several large rings glimmered in the glow of the moon.
Something silvery shone from his left side as well.
The man in black turned down yet another alley.
His head tilted just a degree to the right. Gidro silently slid behind a pile of rubble, still warm from the loudness.
A stank clung in the air as well. It wasn’t a good smell. Like fire chemicals. Not natural at all. It was all over the town.
He held his breath, then the man in black continued walking and Gidro followed, loping after him in a half crouch, his naked feet producing not a single sound.
About a third of the way down, Gidro caught up with the purported American.
And now was the delicate part….
Toeing forward on the tips of his toes, Gidro reached toward the coat pocket on the man’s left.
Right was usually where everyone stored their precious cargo. Cell phones.
Useless for him.
But everyone else liked to have them at the their ready hand.
Money in the opposite.
With a practiced slowness that was near painful to watch, Gidro willed the fingers of his hand to flatten to paper, to glide into the pocket like oiled silk. The tips touched something in the pocket and his heart hammered with a familiar rush.
This was it.
Every urge and instinct begged him just to rip it out and run away. He knew he could easily escape. But the goal was to escape unnoticed.
People would come for him, if enough people knew to.
Instead, he shut out all other thoughts, focusing on the wallet and teasing it from the pocket.
As though possessed of a will of its own, drawn out into Gidro’s fingers like a fawn to a hunter’s call, the wallet slid out into his hand.
A grin broke across the urchin’s face and he tiptoed back, feeling ecstasy build and bubble like a rocket. He could barely contain the pressure.
Oh how he yearned to cry and cheer and celebrate his earning.
He could buy something hot. Drink something that made his head buzz and swirled the world, oh oh, he already knew the first thing he would do –
A scorpion tail movement and a shiny silvery something was dug onto his shoulder.
Something cold and sharp.
“Look mate, I can’t in good conscious let you run off with an expired Visa, a library card, and thirteen dollars of what’s more or less Monopoly money over here.”
The man’s voice wasn’t American. It was too pleasant. Almost musical. Almost but for an edge nearly as sharp as the hook pressed into Gidro’s shoulder.
At the hook’s suggestion, the would-be pickpocket turns, coming face-to-face with his failed mark.
He was even whiter up close. Paler than the bones of a lemur that had been bleached by the sun. But his eyes were a bright blue, like the sea.
“That’s my drop wallet, for situations near exactly the same as these,” the white man in black explained. “But you legitimately seem out of sorts and I’d be thoroughly remiss if I weren’t to at least offer my services.”
The kid looked barely into his teens. Long, thin limbs, sunken eyes and gaunt face. Colin wouldn’t be surprised if the kid’s last good meal had also been his first.
His eyes shone with that desperate gleam Colin had seen too often among a thousand other men, and women.
Colin doubted whether even half his words were getting through to the kid. But the tone was what mattered.
From an inner pocket, the black coated brigand withdrew a wrapped protein bar.
The kid’s eyes locked onto it like a heat seeking missile and Colin extended it out to him.
“It’s a bit banged up, but certainly edible. Mint chocolate chip. Not exactly my favorite, rather like squirting a bottle of toothpaste on top a slab of cardboard. But it has a load of protein and nutrients.”
Whether the kid was listening was negligible, as his eyes never left the bar until Colin stopped. Then the kid flicked his eyes with extreme rapidity at Colin, then latched back onto the bar, as though trying to decide if it was a trick or not.
Food won out and the kid just as quickly snatched the protein bar out of Colin’s grasp, ripping it open and taking a big, greedy bite.
A moment of chewing, then a soft moan escaped and another bite, this time slower, savoring every molecule.
“Alright, yeah?” At the end of the alley they had entered from, distant voice filtered down.
Colin didn’t think it was them. They’d have to be hiding out from the Malagasy forces as well. But it wouldn’t do to dwell in one area too long. Already time was wasting.
“Mate, if you’d like, I think I know a place – a good place – I can take you to. It’s not safe to be out here in the streets. Bad people are around. You heard the commotion earlier, aye?”
At failing to illicit a response Colin mimed a gun.
“You know…ppck, ppck, bhhhg, bhhg, bhfffmm…”
His hand and hook blossomed an explosion.
Still the kid remained resolutely lacking in expression as though he only now considered the man in black might be crazier than him.
“Alright, forget about it, c’mon…”
Striding down the alley, Colin halted.
The boy hadn’t budge an inch.
Honestly, Colin was more surprised he hadn’t just run off.
“C’mon, I’ve got more of those in the Jeep.” He nodded to the empty wrapper the boy was now licking for any last crumbs.
Maybe it was the voice or the few scant words Gidro understood, hopes of finding more of the deliciousness, or just for the sake of adventure and opportunity to score something, he followed the man in black out of the alley.
Riding in the small Jeep was an exotic experience for Gidro. Like running without moving your legs. And it was a nice change of pace not having someone chase him, he could actually appreciate the cool air of the night streaming against his face.
The man in black was headed out of the city, towards the more rural area.
Only when Gidro was partway through his third candy bar did he wonder if this mightn’t be a trap, if he was being lead somewhere to be locked up where they’d hurt him and beat him.
The thought made the peanut flavored protein bar stick uncomfortably in his mouth.
But as quickly as it occurred to him, he reasoned there were enough trees in grabbing distance, he could easily escape if he had to.
Ten minutes down the increasingly bumpy road, the trees thinned out, they passed a field and came to halt in front of a shabby house. Actually, it was a series of houses and huts.
A flickering glow of light came from the largest. This was the one Colin tapped his hook against.
The door opened with an expected creak and squeal of old wood and rusty hinges.
There was also a metallic clicking as a shotgun was racked and aimed straight at Colin’s head.
“Ianao indray?! Rehefa vita ny nataonao tamin'ny sahako, dia tokony hitsoka ny tananao ilany aho, dia ny tongotrao, ary ny lohanao!”
Gidro jerked his head from the angry old lady to the subject of her displeasure, the man in black. Just what in the world did he have in mind?
If he were at all concerned with the shotgun practically booping his nose, Colin gave no indication.
“Ah yes, hello Mrs…Voahangy, was it? Is your son around?”
Though he needn’t have asked as the buff farmer was already coming from another room. Currently, his hands were empty of any firearms or weapons but was no less intimidating than the old lady.
His eyes narrowed on sighting Colin and the latter wondered only then if this might’ve been a mistake.
Donning his best Captain’s grin of confidence, Colin pressed on.
“Hello again. Faneva was it?”
“What do you want?” Faneva demanded, immune to the pirate’s charm.
“Well, I feel our last encounter left a less than desirable impression and I aspired to make amends.”
Colin motioned to Gidro, who hesitantly took a step forward. The older lady at least spoke his words. And she had a weapon. Was she cop? Maybe friend. Maybe not.
Faneva sized up the scrawny child, then, with sudden suspicion, his eyes swept out past Colin and towards the fields.
“Where are those other two?”
“They…ah….had a trip to make. Not here. This, however, is an acquaintance of mine I’d like you to meet.”
The old lady Voahangy set her most menacing glare on the boy and for a baited moment, Colin wondered if she was going to put the gun on him. Bloody hell, she really was quite the harridan.
Then her expression softened and Colin swore a decade and a half of life merrily sailed off her face.
Her lips spread in an unfamiliar curve, like a stubby U.
“Noana ve ianao ry kely?”
Instantly, the boy nodded and Voahangy extended a hand towards him, shoving the shotgun in her sons arms as she took the kid back to the kitchen.
Warily, Faneva watched in their general direction before shifting focus back on the black coated brigand.
After a few moments deliberation, Faneva gestured Colin to enter.
From yet another interior pocket, the incorrigible Captain withdrew his rum flask.
Faneva motioned to end of the house opposite Voahangy and Gidro went, where a pair of chairs and a table wearily sat. The buff farmer produced a pair of glasses and Colin liberally encumbered them.
Faneva waited until he saw Colin take a sip of the rum, then joined him.
Rum was truly a peace-making elixir. There wasn’t much that couldn’t be solved with it.
Wordlessly, Faneva jerked his head to the other room, his inquiry blatant.
“Found him in the streets…” Colin explained.
“This isn’t a welfare or charity house.”
“I couldn’t bloody well leave him there, mate! There are bad people in town.”
“Bad people you brought,” Faneva surmised.
“Not me personally, but I reckon I may as well have,” Colin admitted with a sigh. “I understand if you can’t house him, but I couldn’t let him stay out there and well…I thought maybe you or your mother could put him to use. Lend a hand out on the field.”
Faneva made a scoff.
“Typical American…passing your problems off.”
The pirate’s face contorted into something of extreme horror and disgust, but the affront was easily readable.
“Oi, I’m Irish, thank you very much.”
“You spend enough time with them, it’s hard to tell the difference.”
Faneva took another sip of rum, thoughts floating.
“My daughter tells me you people saved her.”
The stoic stature cracks as Colin’s confused brow furrows.
“We did?” Then immediately, “Aye, yeah, we did.”
Possibly due to some language or social barrier or just the grace of Poseidon, the reed farmer doesn’t register Colin’s stupefaction, caught in his own thoughts.
“We could use the help,” Faneva mused. “He’ll need fattening though. Build muscle.”
“I’d appreciate that. Maybe even sleep easier.”
“Mm. Speaking of. Time you were going.”
Abruptly, Faneva stood, drained the remainder of his rum in an overtly casual manner.
Colin made to show himself out when the buff farmer rested a solid hand on his shoulder.
“Whatever it is, this thing, these people….be careful.”
There was much Colin could say to this. Offer gratitude for the concern or make false promises to further atone for their misdeeds, not just to Faneva and his family’s farm, but the entire Bay.
But he found his silver tongue had seemingly slithered off and instead was only able to offer the only sincere phrase left in his extensive vocabulary.
With nowhere else to go, banished from the hotel, an outlaw of the town and a hunted man to boot, Colin headed towards the docks.
The Penitent Man
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The Penitent Man
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