The overshoes slipped into his pocket. He had quite a walk ahead. Public transport was out of the question and his car was already there, he had dropped it off earlier in the week. It was a nondescript vehicle, grey, not old and not new, it wouldn’t have registered with anyone. If it had, if someone had noticed it standing there since yesterday evening, then it didn’t matter, it couldn’t be traced to him.
He had watched the area for three weeks, in all that time he had never seen the police, no traffic wardens. The refuse collectors didn’t even go back there, great rubbish skips gathered in a locked enclosure negated any need. It was a small back road near some old storage warehouses. The car was parked at the kerb outside one of the smaller ones. He had seen that people came and went but nobody stayed long. Being simply a storage facility people popping in and out were involved with their own business, wrapped up in themselves. A workshop would have been no good, smokers would hang around the outsides and notice the car parked there for such a long time, but this place was perfect. They were all quick visitors with other things on their minds. Probably some of them were up to their own dodgy tricks and sneaky doings. It was the little things that made the difference, the details. The car boot was already lined with plastic and there were bottles of fluids and the paraphernalia for what he needed to do afterwards.
The night was calm. A pretty moon beamed in its silver circle, it was cool and friendly and he enjoyed the fast walk. He made his way to the main road but didn’t stay on it for long. The bright shop windows and the floods of light from the fast food places made it too easy to be seen. He ducked down a side road and then, after a few yards, turned left and stepped briskly along, parallel to the main drag.
The part of town he was heading for would be washed with sodium glare but that was unavoidable. He could handle it though, had factored it into the plan. As he sped past the little terraced houses he didn’t wonder about the lives hidden behind dim windows. He knew them. This was the sort of place he came from, the habitat of people like Gran and him after she rescued him. Little rooms, little gardens, little lives, small and ordinary but mostly safe and that was so special, the safety.
Ahead of him, a door swung inwards, spilling the hum of a television programme into the road. He slowed his movement, not stopping, simply adjusting the speed, giving himself time to take stock and decide on any action. An old bloke in baggy trousers, a sleeveless vest and carpet slippers shuffled out. A fag-end glowed as he sucked on the cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth, the scent of tobacco wafted back to where Peter now leaned against the low wall. Bending as if to tie a shoe lace, he was practically invisible in the gloom but every sense was humming. He mustn’t be seen, he was too near to his destination now. The old bloke shuffled down the tiny path and heaved at the lid of a wheelie bin parked against the inside of the garden wall. He puffed and swore as he struggled with the heavy plastic cover. It flipped back with a thud and he tossed a white rubbish bag inside. “Buggering thing, bloody great soddin’ thing.” He dragged the lid back in place and, leaving the curses still hovering in the darkness, he staggered back to his warm, empty evening staring at the flashing screen. The door slammed and Peter straightened, glanced left and right, and then resumed his trek. He needed to move faster now, only a minute or two had been lost but he had to be in place in time
That she was punctual to her spot outside the pub wasn’t a surprise. She was bussed in with the other girls, he didn’t know where from. He didn’t need to know where she spent her days, it wasn’t relevant. Extraneous information was a complication he avoided. How these lives spun out didn’t matter to him, it wasn’t the living of the life that was important, it was the leaving of it and the cleaning up afterwards. That’s all he needed to think about. At first, he had wondered a bit, wondered if the bosses ever dropped the girls off with a tiny spark of regret, but then why would they? He never told them when he would be working. Once the money was paid in full he did the job. He was reliable and had never let anyone down and so they did as he asked, stuck to the usual routines and asked no questions, made no fuss when the cargo home in the morning was one light.
As for the authorities, well, they barely acknowledge these girls existed. They were invisible, a nuisance on the streets, cleaned up sometimes like the wheelie bins, but generally ignored. That they had family somewhere was immaterial. Their families had let them down anyway, didn’t deserve them, how could they let this happen, how could they put their children in harm’s way? They would thank him if they knew how he had rescued their daughters, how he had got them out of this mire. Cleaning up, that was all this was, sorting out other people’s mess, making things right. He was almost there, the spot he had chosen was near enough to observe and listen to the subject but he knew that in his dark clothes he would be unseen. He slipped the overshoes on, slid the knife from the customised pocked inside his overalls and went to work.