Identifying Features

The chain of the fence reverberated, wobbling under his weight. He balanced there, fingers clinging painfully to the jagged top of the fence before his shoes hit asphalt with a slap.

He shoved hands in pockets and looked at the ground. Far past the tenement buildings distant back lots were aglow with firelight and the drone of drunken crowds. No one bothered him when he got there, they assumed anyone in the compound had come through the front and the security there. And besides, he was big enough to be part of that security.

Bonfires roared in makeshift pits, just piles of debris soaked in lighter fluid. Occasionally one would collapse in a flurry of smoke and sparks. Those surrounding would yelp or laugh, spilling drinks over their dresses and dirty jeans.

He didn’t pay attention to them or the other strangers drinking and smoking, instead beginning a slow circuit around the dandelion infested lot. The people around him repaid the favor. No one started conversation or anything else with him, it was apparent he was looking for someone who wasn’t them. They were okay with that.

She was near the house, half leaned up against the porch railing to rest her feet, which she’d shoved into thick heels. With cell phone in one hand and an opened yet untouched beer in the other she laughed. The flushed young man at her elbow nodded and kept talking.

Both stopped when he walked up. Her eyes widened. Her companion took in the width of the newcomer’s shoulders and his expression and decided to pursue less guarded quarry.

The two watched him leave, then turned to each other with looks of expectation. She crossed her arms, his jaw hardened. She gave first, rolling her eyes and taking his sleeve, drawing him towards the side yard and around the house. The party faded to a dulcet hum as they walked in silence.

The broken pavement the old parking lot was dug into a sunk ring. Utility lights illuminated its occupants and threw shadows over everything else. Yells and cheers masked the  snarls and sounds of scuffle. Two canine shapes tore at each other while onlookers cheered.

Her mouth straitened into a controlled line while his fists balled at his sides. Her hand on his arm couldn’t have held him back, but he stopped after a step. They weren’t close yet, none of the very large men outside the ring would allow that.

She held her cell phone up to his face, showing him the contents. The ring, the guards and the many men surrounding it. Their face’s were too hazy at the distance, not a single one identifiable. She stepped back and twisted her mouth.

He lowed his ball cap, the shadows stealing away his features as he motioned her forward. Cash quickly exchanged hands and they let him past, shaking their heads at her. He palmed another set of bills and they stepped aside.

He didn’t place any bets or yell with the crowds. He didn’t even watch the fight and people noticed. The soft murmurs started first, then the louder muttering and glares. Soon many were watching him.

Everyone ignored the bored young woman at his side. She spent the entirety of the time there on her phone.

The gamblers didn’t stomach him long. Three rounds passed and the group shifted. A few of the bigger looked between themselves before turning uniform scowls his direction. He didn’t wait for them to decide anything.

Her smile got wide as they left the makeshift arena behind, teeth flashing in the light from her phone. With small flicks of her pale fingers she moved from one picture to the next. Faces, money, tattoos, and dogs flashed across the screen. He kept his head half turned, watching the men watching them go.

Far from the house, lot and fights they stopped at the chain link fence. He held out his hand.

She scowled, moving to clutch the phone protectively against her chest. He didn’t withdraw the gesture. She sighed and handed the phone over, sullen. The controls were small against his large fingers, but he made short work, pulling open her email.

A minute later he handed the phone back. When she opened her pictures the same shots lit up the shadows around them. She looked up at him, a crease between her brows. “You didn’t take them.”

“I did, I just also left them on the phone. You going to post those?” He asked.

“That’s what I was planning. Can I?” She asked and he shrugged. She slipped the phone into her purse and pulled out a rolled pair of flats. “Not going to be much a story after they get arrested.” Her smile was crooked. “Will they be enough?”

He offered a hand as she balanced, slipping of her heels and wiggling her feet into the more practical shoes. “Should be, at the very least I can start an investigation.”

“Good.” She looked over her shoulder towards the party and the seedier amusements they’d left behind, then back to him. “Thanks.”

“Yeah. Call me next time.”

“You would have tried to stop me. I needed the pictures.”

“And I got you them.” He said.

She rolled her eyes. “Fine, lets leave before they return the favor and figure out who you are.”

His mouth twitched in a small smile and followed her.

 

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