For the fourth night in a row, I waited beneath a poplar tree at the edge of the parking lot. Exactly five minutes past closing, three women exited through the bookstore's back door.
All three looked in my direction to check if I was there. They neither knew nor cared that I could hear them. The words homeless, stalker, pervert all reached my grubby ears. Fear pointed out my filthy garments, broken spoke bicycle piled high with all my worldly possessions.
The lit ember of my cigarette gave my eyes an unearthly glow. The women shuddered as they walked past. The older brunette wrinkled her nose as if to seal off the heavy smell of woodsmoke from my campfire. Perhaps she was sensitive and caught a whiff of my unwashed skin and clothes.
The youngest, a thin girl in her late teens turned and looked back over her shoulder. She expected me to race from my post behind the tree and cut them down before they could reach their vehicles. They said goodbye to each other in haste and departed for safety.
It didn't take long for the other to step out from behind the dumpster. Clothed in fine cloth, with clean hair and the sharp tang of aftershave, he was everything I was not. Night and day, clean and filthy, danger and safety.
He was a man women would stop and sigh for. I am not. Yet neither of us were as we seemed.
"Again, brother? How long will you watch over them?"
"For as long as I must"
"You know her time is coming. All men, and women, must die."
We both paused to think to of the middle woman. The blonde with short-cropped hair, a strength of character and confidence that kept her moving forward, towards opportunities and people no matter their circumstance. She'd looked at me, wondered if there was some way she could intervene, to improve my lot in life.
"They need not all suffer." I held my ground. His grin faded and he slipped back into the shadows.