When James woke it was already dark. The heavy blanket he’d hung over the window had partially fallen down (again) and he could see the night sky. He glanced at the stars through the triangular gap. The constellations seemed particularly clear this evening: he could clearly pick out the bright zig-zag line of stars in the form of a kneeling woman, dubbed “The Intern”. He groaned and turned over hoping to find a warm patch, recently vacated by Sarah. The bed was cold except for one 10 inch patch warmed by the cat. She was gone. Not just “out of the room soon to return” but _gone_. Forever gone. James ached to be able to cry but there was nothing behind his eyes but dust. He rolled back to “his” side of the bed again. He’d have gladly stayed in bed but his bladder wouldnt let him. With an annoyed grunt he hauled himself out of bed and off to the bathroom.
She was everywhere. To James the bathroom was a functional place, get in and get out, but she’d insisted on decorating it. There was even a small bookshelf to the side of the toilet. He glanced along the line of books and noted that the last of Sarah’s journals was tucked in behind them. There was something so private, so invasive, about reading it stopping him from delving into its pages for just one last encounter. His hand hovered near it before he made the decision to leave it alone for the time being. He knew only one thing: he would never part with that book. It was the last link back to her.
His business done, James shuffled out of the bathroom without looking at himself in the mirror. It was simply too depressing. His hair was unknempt and the growth of beard across his chin had almost reached the same length as the prestigious mutton chops he was famous for. Back in the bedroom he hunted around, pushing his hungry cat out of the way every few minutes.
“Where are you?” he muttered.
“Ah, there.” he sat back with a smile of triumph, a bottle of whiskey in hand. He closed his eyes and grinned in anticipation as he unscrewed the top. He leaned back, opened his mouth and poured … then closed his mouth with a snap when nothing arrived. He held the bottle up to the light of the stars. Empty.
“Damn you!” he shouted and threw the bottle across the room in frustration. It shattered against the wall and his cat took off out of the room at a full run.
James found himself on the streets with smog rolling in, a real pea-souper. He pulled his woolen great coat close around himself and strode off purposefully toward a main street and the hope of catching a cab. In the distance he head the shrill of a Bobbie’s police whistle. Hoof beats signalled the arrival of a cab. He turned around and watched as it emerged, a ghostly black spectre gliding out of the smog. It pulled up close to him.
“Where’re you going Guv’ner?” he cabbie asked.
“Docks.” James answered. He reached for the door handle.
“Oh, bad place this time of night. I wouldnt go there if I w’you.” the cabbie said.
“I know. I grew up there. Now, if you please?” James snapped, a little more annoyed than he wanted to, the cabbie standing between him and a spot by the fire in a dock-side pub. If the cabbie stood between a warm fire and the warm inner fire of cheap whiskey, he needed to be moved out of the way.
“Drive on!” James called.
The pub that James was looking for wasnt hard to find – it was the only building with light and sound for a two block radius. The pub itself didnt exactly _nestle_ between the large warehouses and factories so much as it _squatted_ there, an ugly black single storey building with oily smoke coiling out of a chimney stack at the centre of its roof. The cab driver dropped him off a fair distance away and made a quick getaway saying something about not wanting to pick up a fare from this part of town.
The walk took James past a run-down hotel building and two warehouses.
“Some hotel.” he snorted as he drew close. The hotel mostly housed workers who hadnt been granted permanent housing elsewhere by the housing authority. The building management offered both weekly and hourly rates. Its proximity to the dockside pub made it a favourite haunt for many of the drinkers seeking a place to crash either with, or without, the company of one of the working women of the establishment. Three women lounged against the front wall of the building. He quickened his pace not intending to give them even the smallest hint of any interest. Who were they to think that they could replace his Sarah?
James was just reaching for the door handle when he thought he heard footsteps a few yards behind him. Survival instincts flashed and he turned to confront his shadow, expecting to meet one of the local footpads. There was nothing but mist. The smog was swirling, caught by unpredictable gusts over the docks from the waterline. James shook his head and turned for the door again. As he turned he thought he saw something, vague and only partially defined, in the edge of his peripheral vision. The swirling smog seemed to outline a figure. James held his breath and tried to be as still as possible. He didnt dare turn. Another gust from the water and he caught the outline again, a burly man standing over six-feet tall. The spectre seemed to phase in and out of view. James guessed that each new gust had an even chance of outlining the figure. He waited and caught sight of the figure three more times, the last of which looked like it had moved off toward the hotel. He waited a while longer then opened the door to the pub casting around for familiar faces among the crush of people in the small room.