Michael sat on the wooden bench and gazed up at the building across the road from him. A roadsign was fixed to the wall about halfway up the building. “Tottenham Court Rd. W1”. As he glanced around him at the people going about their daily business, he suddenly became very aware of himself. The bench was in the middle of a large open area set back from the road, to the left of him was a brightly coloured mural adorning the wall of an old building, to his right, several coffee shops were bustling with lunch break workers scrambling for cappuccino's and skinny latte's. There in the middle of it all sat a dishevelled, tired man, his elbows resting on his knees, and his palms supporting his forehead as he slowly ran his hands back through his thick black, wavy hair.
“Here you go mate, take this”. Michael glanced up as a young man in a suit pressed a coin into his palm and curled his fingers around it. “You need it more than me. Get yourself a coffee eh?”
“What? But?” Michael's protests were in vain as the man hurried off towards his office and his life consisting of days spent staring at computer screens.
He glanced down at the coin and in turn at the torn, muddy clothes he was wearing. He hadn't slept in three days. The stubble on his face had given way to the early growth of a beard and he was sure that pungent smell was coming from him. He gave a disconsolate sigh, put the coin in his pocket and suddenly realised that the man had probably thought him some sort of vagrant, down on his luck, without a home and without a friend to care for him. Michael gave a wry smile. He may have been down on his luck and he may not have had anywhere to sleep for the last few days, but a friend? That was something he definitely had.
The wristwatch was caked in mud. Michael raised his thumb to his mouth, moistened it with his tongue and then brushed it roughly over the glass of the watch. The small white box opposite the number '3' came into focus as the mud was pushed away from it. 'Sat. 27'. The last Saturday of the month. Tonight he would finally get to see Angela. Tonight it would all be over. The running, the hiding, the escaping. Everything would return to normal tonight, he could resume his life with her and move on. He had found what he had been searching for. It had taken him over six months and several trips away from Angela, but he had found it. He moved his hand to the left pocket of his trench coat to reassure himself that the small black box was still there. It was. It was the same ritual he had performed almost hourly for the last week since he had obtained it. It was too valuable to be lost again. He had been given the task of reclaiming it and now that he had done so. He had no intention of losing it again.
His thoughts drifted back to the events of the last seven days. Almost immediately he shuddered as he remembered those eyes. The "men" with their Black, sunken, soulless eyes. Several of them had found him. He had no idea where they had come from or who had told them, but they had found him. He immediately chased the thoughts out of his mind and slowly raised his aching body up from the bench. He remembered the coin in his pocket. Maybe some of that coffee would help get him out of the haze he was in. Minutes later he was back on the bench and sipping at a steaming hot cup, which he held between both his palms to help warm him from the cold London air. Two young girls walked by him and giggled. One of them looked back at him and smiled. She reminded him of a young Angela, fresh, vibrant, full of life and full of love. Before all the madness had overtaken them and brought them to this hellish life they were now leading.
They were running, always running away and hiding. Moving on, looking back and waiting for the tap on the shoulder that would destroy them. Michael allowed his thoughts to drift away from the dirty bench he was sitting on and to the woman that was waiting for him. He remembered the last time they were together, how she had laughed as he told her another of his stories of being on the road and how that laugh had turned into a kiss. His one abiding memory of Angela was always her laugh and how she made him feel so at ease. They laughed at the same things and each other, they made each other happy. She made him happy. In fact she made him more than happy, she made him feel alive. When he was with her he felt complete, the two of them complemented each other perfectly. When they were apart he longed for the time to pass so he could be with her again. To just be with her, laying beside her. To feel her skin pressed against his and the warmth of her lips. To feel her head on his chest as he ran his fingers gently through her hair and told her over and over how much he had missed her.
“Scuse me mate” A rough, gravelly voice pulled Michael back to reality. “Can you tell me where the bus stop is for the number seventy three?”
Michael glanced up as his gaze was met by a pair of black, sunken, soulless eyes.
Immediately his instincts took over. The hand holding the coffee was thrust forward sending the contents of the cup towards the man's face. As Michael jerked himself upright his left hand was pushed into the man's chest, sending him off balance and tumbling towards the ground. As he stepped over him, Michael quickly glanced around to see if the man had an accomplice. He couldn't see anyone else, but he couldn't take the chance. He glanced at the man, and gave him a hard punch to his stomach, winding him and leaving him gasping for air. He took one more look around him and ran along the pavement, up towards Oxford Street and into the crowds that he hoped would hide him.
Michael mingled with the shoppers and tourists for at least fifteen minutes before taking a side road to gather his thoughts. They had found him again. How were they doing it? How were they always just a step behind? He instinctively reached his left hand down towards his coat pocket for the reassuring bulge that meant his quest was over. He patted the pocket, it felt wrong. He thrust his hand into the pocket and moved it around grasping for the item. It was gone! It had all been for nothing! He couldn't go back now, he had to find it. Had someone taken it from him while he was distracted? Had he lost it in the scuffle. He had no idea, but what he did know was that he couldn't return to Angela until he had it again and he wouldn't sleep soundly again while it was not in his possession.
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