The wind blew cold through the streets. Even through my thick winter coat I shivered. I should have been indoors, in front of the fire and under a warm light, not trekking through the streets of this part of town at this time of night.
It’s an odd mental balancing act, walking in this kind of area. On the one hand, I was diligently trying to ignore the piles of rags scrunched up in the doorways of the abandoned shops, not wanting to catch anyone’s eye; on the other hand, my coat was expensive enough that it could mark me as a target, so I was glancing around every street corner.
I caught sight of a child’s face amongst the rags, chalk-white, asleep – or unmoving, at least. I kept walking. Every shadow could contain a drug-addict mugger. Every moment I was there I was in danger.
Maybe I should have stopped. I don’t know. Am I responsible for every damn loser in this world?
I reached my destination without confrontation, as it happened. I cursed under my breath as I fiddled with the keys: they were like shards of ice. My fingers were burning from the cold. I thought: there had better be a damn good reason for dragging me out here. Otherwise there’d be Hell to pay.
The door was plain metal – the same kind that all the absentee commercial landlords had up, to prevent squatters. There was a poster up from the police, and more importantly there was a gang sign sprayed on the door: this building was protected. My key clicked in the lock and the door swung out.
The walls inside were freshly-painted. The twang of a sitar echoed down the corridor: inside it was warm, and bright. I stepped past the threshold and into safety.