Grey Men under Grey Skies
The rain falls gently but persistently, so you never feel like you’re getting wet until you suddenly realised that you’ve been soaked. Every now and then the sun makes a half-hearted effort to burn through the clouds but it’s never enough, and what heat there is cloying and heavy, although punctuated with sharp, wet breezes across the courtyard. My jacket feels like it’s either not keeping me dry enough, or keeping me too warm, or possibly both. I wish I’d worn my overcoat, just for traditions sake, but that would probably be worse.
I huddle into a corner away from the rain and light a cigarette, and survey the scene. Little groups of tourists are wandering around under umbrellas, chattering and pointing at the view, and a couple of Gendarmes are patrolling in that arrogantly casual way of Police everywhere. I can’t see any sign of my contact, even in this sparse crowd, which is a worry. They should be here by now. The more paranoid wheels of my mind start to turn.
Cigarette lit, I can’t stay here forever, so it’s back out into the rain and a turn around the square. I try to stay away from the larger crowds; stay visible, but not conspicuous, just another lonely man meeting up with someone, like many of the lone figures here. Actually there are quite a few loners around the place, and another through shoots through my brain. What if I’m not alone, what if they are watching for me?
A check of my watch and my contact is definitely overdue. Could their train be late? (are they on the train? I suddenly can’t recall). Could they have been intercepted? Could this all be a trap? The passage of time, the ticking of the watch and the patter, patter of the thin rain, it all starts to consume me. I’m walking faster, but going nowhere.
One of the other men stands up off his bench and starts to walk towards me. I must stay calm, and fight to stay steady as the bile rises in my throat. He is wearing a waistcoat, damn him, and he’s closer. Closer. And then he passes me, with no flicker of anything on his face. I feel my own sweat fighting with the raindrops on my face, and try to casually turn the corner of the square, to start the long walk up the next side.
I’m halfway along when I finally decide it’s too late. Time to go. I can’t wait here forever, waiting to be intercepted, interrogated, waiting for whatever dark fate awaits the waifs and strays caught alone on grey days. I change direction, and which a renewed sense of purpose set off across the square towards the Metro. As I reach the steps I realise that the man is there again, waiting for me. Smiling.
I don’t even feel the shot hit.
My chest is suddenly warm, and the rest of my body is going cold. I should sit, maybe, but my legs won’t respond, and instead, against all command, I sink to my knees. The man is just standing there, watching, a smile on his lips but a strange sadness across his eyes. And then my back gives up on me, and all I see is the sky. The sun makes one last attempt to break through the clouds, but the rest is greyness.