Monday, February 17, 2014

End Lesstin Kering 4 2/17/14

(This is late from the week of 2/10/14)

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 Maria leaned in close to Lesstin, letting him hold some of her weight on his arm. “It's just not the best neighborhood, you know?” She kept her voice low, and aimed toward his ear, as if afraid that saying so would summon her fears.

A cool breeze whirled down the dark city streets, tugging at leaves edged in yellow and orange, pulling the tails of Lesstin's coat. Maria wrapped her arms around her body to hold in a shiver. Even in the dim glow spilling from the street corner lights, he could see the goose bumps on her arms.

“Here,” he said, wrapping his suit coat around her shoulders. “If I'd known it was going to be this chilly, I might have brought a coat.” He left it unsaid that he had brought a coat, but she had only worn a thin dress. It put her athletic body on good display, but she had been shivering even when they left the house.

“Or you could have parked closer,” Maria threw back. After fifteen years of marriage, she knew what he meant.

Down to three layers, if he counted the vest, now it was Lesstin's turn to feel the cold. Well. Better than hearing about it for the whole ride home.

“There's no point in paying for parking when there are open streets nearby.”

She made an annoyed sound from the back of her throat. “You consider this nearby? We're ten blocks off of First, and more than that from the restaurant.”

This wasn't a new argument. “I offered to come pick you up,” he said. “You didn't want to wait in the restaurant.”

“It's in the other direction,” she said. But the tone of her voice said she wasn't interested in the argument.
Lesstin changed the subject to their meal, which they both agreed was nice, but overpriced.

“I think someone is following us,” Maria threw into the conversation. It took Lesstin several seconds to piece together what she could have meant.

“No,” he said, patting her hand in a way he had seen actors do when calming a distressed damsel. “There is no sidewalk on the other side of the street. Where else do you want people to walk?” Lesstin refused to look over his shoulder to check. He didn't want to encourage her foolishness. It had nothing to do with not wanting to look bad to whomever was actually behind them. Nothing at all.

“Is there some other way we can go?” She asked. The nervous notes in her voice gave her a sharp rasp. Lesstin suspected the people behind them could her her quite easily, and wondered if they were whispering to themselves about the paranoid woman in the red shoes.

“To our car?” Lesstin asked, unsure of her intent. “Do you want a detour that adds ten minutes to our three minute walk?”

She didn't have a good answer to that, but Lesstin could tell she was nervous. A few months together and he could tell when she wanted to talk. A few years, and he could tell when she just wanted someone to lean on. After nearly three decades, he could probably have quoted what she was thinking just from the tremble in her shoulders, or the curl a the edge of her mouth.

“Here,” he said, carefully moving to drop his hat on the ground. “Oops.” He spoke louder than needed, and stopped, looking backward as he moved to recover the hat.

A quick glance, and a smile backwards spotted a pair of dark garbed men, who slowed awkwardly, seeming more startled than they should have been. The taller of the two frowned, and Lesstin would have sworn the man's lips formed a word he wouldn't have said where his wife could hear it.

As they rounded the corner, Lesstin affixed the hat to his head. “You might be right,” he admitted. “But nothing to worry about. Our car is just ahead. If we walk a little faster, I doubt they'll catch us.”

“What will,” Maria started, then lowered her voice, as if they hadn't already heard her. “What will you do if they...try something.”

He patted her hand again. Did that actually help? He certainly felt better, having something to do. Feeling a little manly, he affected a British accent. “Stiff upper lip, and all that.” But he wasn't entirely sure. He knew he wouldn't give them his wallet, or anything of the sort. “I've been in worse trouble. I'm sure I can brush off a couple of hooligans.”

Another two blocks and they turned onto a side road, where the bright lights of first street no longer reached their fingers of light and glamour. He wasn't sure which car was theirs. This time of night, the entire side street was filled. But they were most of the block up, under a large willow tree. He thought.

They hadn't passed more than two of the tall apartment buildings that lined both sides of the street, when a bundle of young men stepped out from a particularly dark alley. Maybe they were armed; Lesstin couldn't tell in the moonless dark.

“Wallets and phones,” one of them said, a rough demand. He waved his hand at them. He gestured to the clutch gripped in Maria's left hand. “And your purse.” In the alley, movement said these three weren't alone.
He heard the men behind him move up. They seemed to know these new bandits. Maybe the lot were working together.

“You'll get nothing from us,” Lesstin said, feeling brave and sure of himself.

For a moment, confusion flashed over the tallest stranger's face. As if that response had never occurred to him. Lesstin smiled, now quite sure of his victory. Oh yes, these men would buckle.

Even as he watched, the confusion vanished, and the man's eyes widened in rage. His lips twisted into an animal snarl. He reached into his pocket, digging for something that bulged oddly in the half light. But his feet never moved.

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