Thane saw him appear and smiled. A banker? Butcher? Candlestick maker?
He caught Thane’s eye half way down the street, a rumpled thin man in a too-big black suit and a once-white shirt, his fat tie a bland shade of olive. He walked quickly, stooped under a newssheet to keep off the drizzle, one meaty hand gripping a battered briefcase. Waited for a cab to pass before darting across the street. The man would have passed on by, scurried off to whatever hole in the world he was borne for – but instead, he paused. Stood transfixed outside the front of Papercrook, staring ahead as if he’d simply forgotten how to continue walking.
Thane watched from behind the bar, cleaning a glass patiently, listening to the tinkle of the piano and soft empty chatter of what little patrons remained. He counted: One… two… hurry-up-three… and then the man’s shaggy blonde head began to turn, twisting towards the bar.
He stood a moment longer, staring blankly at the dim watering hole set just below the street – as if it were crouching and hiding. He stared beyond the twin panes of rain-sequined glass into the smoke and drunken miasma.
Thane put down the glass.
As the man stepped inside, he tripped on the stoop and sent a flurry of fresh droplets into the air, scattering them amongst the array of ceiling decorations. Thousands of loose pages hung on pegs and wires overhead, covering any and every inch of ceiling space like the dirty feathers of some great inky bird. Clustered amongst the pages were singular naked light bulbs, protruding dangerously out of the dry paper with a hot warm glow.
He was a scarecrow, the man, Thane realised. Reminded him of Wizard of Oz, even his shirt cuffs poked out from the jacket sleeve like tuffs of hay.
They all reminded him of someone.