Black Dog Rib.
There were two of them, only two, and they left the car by the side of the alleyway, the one who had driven locking the doors carefully, looking about as he did so. His friend, or companion, pulled a cigarette from a crushed packet with his lips, slowly lit it with a lighter, and the first exhalation of smoke formed a haze that drifted past his face and became yellow as it joined the over warm air in the street. He looked up and around, as if searching for the sun.
They both walked calmly away from the car, down the street and then up the inclined alley where everything was made of grey. Neither of them spoke. They looked like insurance salesmen, which they weren’t, and their light-coloured suits became grey as they walked. There was the sound of dogs barking a distance away, then raised voices, then dogs again. Sirens from the city rose and fell with the wind, and the long slow sound of the river barges punctuated the air.
They stopped at the entrance to the shop. The sun was high at the time of day, and no shadows fell; the only shades were those caused by age, and the damp that crept in from the broken pipes, and moved up from the drains.
The driver checked his watch and waited as his friend slowly finished his smoke. Still they did not speak, and rarely looked each others’ way. The driver leaned into the entranceway of the shop, looked around for some seconds, and straightened up. He walked back to his friend, and still they did not speak.
The cigarette finished, it was flicked to the ground, where it threw tiny sparks which flew and died and became grey ash. The butt rolled and bumped down the incline, hit the gutter and fell into the drains. You would have had to listen very hard to hear it hiss as it met the slick of water there.
At this time, the men entered the shop. It was dark, lit only faintly by red shades in the corners and weak neon set into the countertops. The man behind the till straightened and spoke to the men the first words that either had heard that day.
“Tortello’s men, is five hundred, yes?” he said. “Five hundred still, for the black dog rib?”
Neither man spoke, and the job was done.