‘You got the stuff?’ I asked the man in the trench coat. He had his back to me, silhouetted by the neon-drenched reflections in the rain-soaked alley.
‘You’re late,’ came his gravelly reply.
‘Traffic, y’know,’ I shrugged nonchalantly.
‘You drive?’ he asked, turning slightly, face still obscured by a wide-brim hat.
‘Nah, not much,’ I tried to laugh. ‘Not in this city, y’know?’
‘No,’ he said, turning away. ‘I do not.’
He went quiet again. After a moment, a thick plume of smoke disappeared into the air above him.
‘Not many of my… customers… drive,’ he said eventually. ‘That makes you unusual.’
He dropped the burning dot of a cigarette to the ground, stamping it out and turning to face me in one smooth motion.
‘Unusual people make me nervous,’ he growled.
‘Look man,’ I said, taking a step back and raising my hands up. ‘I just wanna buy what you’re sellin’, okay?’
‘Maybe, maybe not,’ he shrugged, following me deeper into the alley. ‘Depends if I can trust you.’
‘What, do you need like a reference or something?’ I laughed nervously. ‘Because I got this great eye doctor operating in Bayside who can—’
He flew across the grim-caked street between us, grabbing my outstretched hands and pinning them behind me as he slammed my face into the filthy wall.
‘No more speaking,’ he breathed. I couldn’t make a sound even if I’d wanted to, as he patted me down.
‘L–look,’ I managed to stammer out as he frisked my legs. ‘The only money I have is what I was gonna give you anyway, so you may as well take that and just leave the–‘
‘Shut up,’ he growled, rattling my whole body. ‘And for the record, the only eye doctor I trust is an optometrist near Bentleigh with good reviews.’
‘We can have different optometrists, man,’ I blubbered.
‘Are you a cop?’
‘No!’ I protested. ‘I work in sales!’
‘What are you doing in my alley?!’
‘I thought we’d already discussed this! I’m friends with CJ, he said—’
‘CJ?’ he gasped, stepping back from me like I was on fire. ‘Oh god… what have you done?’