Pulling his collar up to protect against the incessant rain, the man tried not to pace back and forth as he waited. The dingy alley sat in stark contrast to the neon glam of the street outside, well-to-do socialites on their way to or from any of the many clubs which populated the area. The alley was dirty, damp, and private – only the barest gleam from the street penetrating into its depths. Long minutes waiting had stretched into half an hour or more; the man didn’t have a watch, but the dark alley gave him some measure of confidence that he wouldn’t be found.
It would be easy for anyone who did notice him to mistake his high-strung nervousness as withdrawal from any number of street-level narcotics, but the man had been clean for at least a week. He had been clean ever since he happened to look out his kitchen window and see the … he shuddered. Ever since he saw it, he hadn’t been able to calm down, relax, or even score another hit. Living in existential fear sure had a way about it, he gruffly mused.
His old partner was late. He didn’t know what time it was, but he knew it was later than they’d agreed. Anxious shivers ran up and down his body, and he rubbed his arms to try and get a grip on himself. “Something came up,” he mumbled to no one in particular. A scavenging rat, mangy and skeletal, seemed to pay his outburst no mind. “She’ll be here soon.”
Between the pulsing beats of club dance music, unceasing sound of the pouring rain against concrete, and the muffled and far-away conversations of those walking the street. He heard something, something which caught all of his attention.
He strained his senses to pick up any sign – had he been mistaken? Was his paranoia playing tricks on him? He was ready to give up the idea as an overactive imagination when he heard it once more – a gunshot rang out, this time with more than an ounce of finality.
The partiers on the street didn’t seem to notice – too busy with their fanciful club life to notice little things like back-alley murder, even within earshot. The man considered his option, an animal trapped between threats. He could run out into the street, where the crowd may help disguise him, but where he would draw unwanted attention from everyone else. He could run through the alleys and twisting passages that snaked behind the large, warehouse-like buildings, into a maze he didn’t know and didn’t trust.
He could almost imagine the sound of a pistol cocking, held by someone walking slowly, deliberately, inexorably toward him. His partner, former partner, wouldn’t be making the meet. Panic sweat rolled down his face and into his raised collar, lost among the drops of acid rain which poured from above.
It was time to run, at least until he could figure out what to do next. Run he did, into the labyrinthine and refuse-filled dark, directly away from the lights and sounds of public society.
He didn’t know where he was going, but he knew he couldn’t stay. They were after him, too.
Very sincere thank you to @noealz, a Korea-based street photographer for the header photo.