Police boots crush gravel and malcontents in the square as the man in the long grey coat shuffles along, hoping for anonymity. The rain is starting to come down as he moves around the crowd, his face a blur in the mass. Police boys with underage electrical truncheons brush past, scanning everyone and red-ribboning possible suspects. A flash of red on a coat becomes a bloody mess in an instant.
The rain comes down as the man slips into an alleyway and bangs on a wall that is, inspected closely, a door.
Part of the door grinds open and a select few inches of face become visible in the gloom behind. A dirty, hopeless grin breaks the face. I wasn’t expecting no one so early, the face says.
No, the man nods, I made good time.
Do you have the package, the face at the door says.
Is it ready?
No. The man shakes his head, and passes the package through the door.
The door grinds shut once more, and becomes a wall. The man in the long grey coat steps out of the alley and into the arms of two black suited policemen. The silver badges of the black watch. What’s this then, says one of them. He is lumpy and intense. The other is lean and short and his suit bulges with guns. Lumpy stares at the man, then into the alley.
You think you can just dart in for a piss anytime you want, sunshine, Lumpy exclaims. These are government buildings.
They’re all government buildings, the man says. Grey numbers worn into the sides again and again. Housing 1033. Shopping 1034. Train station 1035. Housing 1036. Down the block everything shakes as a train comes in, covering the noise of Lumpy striking the man in the stomach.
Lip on you, this one, says Lumpy. What’s your name, sunshine?
August, says the man. Looking closely at the man. Lank black hair frames a thin, unconventional face. August is worn but still young. Lumpy grabs August by the chest.
You can’t piss on walls in this city, my friend. Lumpy and Lean stare at him with eyes like holes, and August knows he could be sent away on the spot. The train departs, shaking the ground around all of them. Lumpy smiles, with blocky teeth, and lets go of August.
But it’s Christmas time.
I thought Christmas came in December, Lean says, his voice a reedy rattle. Lumpy laughs at this, slapping the front of his jacket. He looks at August.
Get out of here, sunshine. Run on home. Don’t ever get seen pissing on buildings outdoors again. These are nice buildings.
Lumpy brings a small black ball the size of a fist out of his pocket. August knows what this is, and tenses. I’m giving you a friend, says Lumpy. For a week. He’ll follow you around.
Pressing buttons, Lumpy throws the ball up in the air. It stops dead and hovers, then a camera, an eye emerges, focusing on August. There you go, sunshine. He’s your little buddy. He’ll keep an eye on you for us. The black watch is everywhere, you know.
August looks at Lumpy. One of Lumpy’s eyes is covered in a mess of thin wires, barely visible, but August knows Lumpy will see him all the time for the rest of the week. The black watch will know everything. August knows he is doomed. Even without infraction, the black watch will invent an excuse to retire him for the good of the citizenry. The camera might as well be a gun barrel.
Thank you, officers, says August.
Get on then, Lumpy says, and turns around, tapping Lean on the shoulder. The camera moves to a comfortable distance next to August, who stares at it, feeling alone. The camera shutter closes and opens quickly, an awful lot like a wink, and August has the feeling that Lumpy is toying with him.
Come on then, August says. Judas. Maybe the camera isn’t wired for audio. Judas is a good name for you, August mumbles, and walks down the street once more, grey coat flapping. Rain falls on August and Judas as they move to the train station, great heavy greasy drops.