The case came from The Scotsman. Like all of them, he was built like a bomb shelter and looked like he'd been through a war or two. Honest as a rifle and every bit as loud, he told me exactly what he wanted, and vanished.
Of course, what he told me was worthless.
He wanted dirt on some American insurance company. That much, at least, was in my favour. The only business with more dirt than the American kind is the insurance industry. The night rose in mist and rain, and I left the office to search for answers.
I knew a place to be tonight, a place where the right kinds of scum could be found. The Scotsman hadn't given me much, but I figured I'd follow my nose.
The bar was croweded with familiar faces I'd never met. Sometimes, it seemed there were only a dozen people in the world, copied somehow into a million different bodies. I heard familiar laughs from fat men, raucus cries from fat women, saw lies seeping out of every pore like sweat. I used every disguise I have to melt into the crowd, and my investigations began.
Looking back, I'm not sure why I went. I had hoped for clues and answers. But as soon as I saw her, I knew all I'd get was questions and regrets.
She moved around the bar like a raincloud bursting across the Sahara. She left a wake of smiles and lingering eyes as she passed, waving and winking. Everyone wanted to be her best friend. Everyone wanted to be her best lover.
My eyes lead a private life of their own as they followed her movements. She moved with more than just physicality - her spirit was serenity itself. She was a cool cloth against the fevered brow of the bar. Her eyes met mine, and her spirit was a balm. She was grace. She was peace.
I was defenceless.
The Twins rested under my coat, cool and heavy, but they were small comfort. My many masks were broken under her gaze, and my gut faught my mind at every decision.
I made my way around the room, speaking to anyone sober enough to speak back, but drunk enough not to think too quickly. I made enquiries, I heard names. But she was always there, or never there. She was like the brightest light in the world - I shrivelled and withered under her brilliance. The world was reduced to sillhouettes in her brilliance. Even with my eyes closed she burned red against my eyelids.
I was lucky enough to find her eyes a second time. The gaze lingered for a second, and I felt peace inside myself. For a second, the world lifted, my rage subsided, she promised to take me somewhere else.
But when her eyes left me, I was more alone than I had ever been. The world came back with a crash, fear took me over, anger seized my heart once more. That single second of peace was destined to cast a shadow which would last a lifetime.
Divided, confused, and feeling oblivion, I left.