They met on the street in the dark of the warehouse building and walked over to the arcade, the rain slick on the sidewalks but no longer falling from the skies.
She was boyish and alluring and when he followed her over the sidewalks her shoes skipped to scud and skid and she fell into the street before emerging from the puddle sheepish and dripping and bloody and laughing
They were pure but excitement can blow the wrong way and the air was snapping and crisp as they committed to somethings just a little risky and dangerously foolish and it felt they were there in the middle and it all in it’s newness pushed them together with a suddenness that couldn’t help but be thrilling and it seemed it would hold while the night was all dreams and breaths and sighs and superstitions.
Pulling at worn boots the straw pallet scraping at his legs to greet the dark of the morning with some kind of sigh. He tried to be gracious but the tiresome days clawed at him and they made him tired in a deep and senseless sort of way. He had a small bit of resourcefulness and experiment and had for years saved nominal amounts and had now the keeping of a few shops on the main streets with the wide sidewalks. Other men ran them, but he had chosen these men and they had amazing industry. The means were above his head, but he soon saw the ends fill his pockets, with which he quickly invested in his farm (he had been for years performing the work of many, many machines) which profits he then put back in the men and the shops they ran.
A fastidious man, he never invested in himself; that is, in his home, or his clothes, or his gun. It all went to the cycle of profit, he knew the farm and the men knew the shops and it all ran with a most alarming smoothness in the eyes of the hardworking farmer.
The wide sidewalks were quiet in the morning. His boots made an odd crunch on the pavement. The lights were on in the store, back in the office,
usual for this time. He stepped over the doorway into the dark store front, and he went straight to the office, empty.
Flipping the light coming back he saw one of the store men, the one who ran this store, he noticed but only after he saw the glass and the blood and he wondered why such an obvious observation would present itself now as he dialed the local station and explained what he saw and where he was and what was the apparent condition of the man on the ground? You mean is he alive or dead lady?
No homicide, they told him later like it was a victory. Broken window, odd he wouldn’t have turned on the lights? He works there, yes?
He nodded and said he never turned on the lights, none of them did until the minute before opening so customers wouldn’t walk in early, uh efficiency or whatever they said but no, no they never turned on the lights that early. Not that he had seen.
Cut and dry they told him and he thought to himself how odd when people say things like that.
But then they came back and questioned him and he had to prove he owned the shop and employed the man and they interrogated him and distrusted him until his proof couldn’t be refuted and so they left him in his bloody shop with the glass all around and they muttered about farmers as they went.
As a matter of course he called the other shop men and they came and they soothed him and sent him home and when he returned everything looked normal and clean.
The reports at the end of the month were dismal at best. The shop man with the sad mouth was sent and he explained the distress at the loss of their fellow and the resulting impact in productivity was only a short term effect while they redistributed their responsibilities and things were certain to improve.
He still rose from the straw every dark dawn and talked things over with every man. He felt he understood what they said, for it was what they had said every time before. He noticed little things; they wouldn’t always meet his eye, or would scuffle at edges of the counter. Yet the men were not truly nervous, and he had the unsettling thought that he was unsure of his ability to intimidate them at all.
The next time he visited the shops one of the remaining four were missing. His reports the following day were the lowest yet.
And one by one they all left, some with more than they should and a few honestly.
The fall was slow and heavy, as through water, but his investments and finances, once easily met, were sucking the life and ribskin from him and his sons, daughter and wife.
The man who owned the arcade now ran the shops on the road with the wide sidewalks. He sat tonight behind the dark bar, out of reach of the colored lights. Two entered in, each leaning on the other and stumbling through their laughter. They had been here before, perhaps; their reckless charm was familiar and snapped at him, all full of glassy shards of dreams and stones of superstitions.