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.The hole in the floor was also a standard tactic.The drug dealers who ran the houses sealed off whole sections.They stretched lino over holes in the floorboards and established booby traps.Dogs roamed the dark hallways, too light to go through the lino.Customers knew the safe routes into the drug forts.Cops met with a surprise welcome.As Creed and Anna set about freeing the puppy they heard the sound of feet rattling on the fire escape outside.They tore black paper off the window in time to see a dozen junkies and dealers escaping into the rain.Upstairs they found the place deserted except for a three‐year‐old infant.The child was filthy, covered with scabs and suppurating sores.He tugged anxiously at Creed’s hand and told him solemnly, ‘Watch out for the needles.Don’t touch the needles.’ The child looked up at Creed through crusted eyes, anxious to impart this essential information.Discarded syringes lay on the floor all around them.‘Those were probably the first words he ever learned,’ said Anna as they stood in the rain, watching an ambulance take the child away.Her voice was a little unsteady.She gave Creed a disinfectant tissue to wipe himself off where the child had touched him and then they went back into the building and brought the puppy out.He lay on a blanket on the back seat of the squad car, whining now and then as they took a corner.They drove him back to Creed’s place.They’d named the puppy Bert and Anna was so concerned about his progress that she became a frequent visitor, turning up with rubber bones and cans of chopped steak.And from there it was natural enough that she began to stay the night.It wasn’t long before she moved in.There was plenty of room for the two of them and the dog.Now a cool night wind was easing through the big apartment as Creed put away his gun and his sports bag.He opened a can of some anonymous brown protein and put it in Bert’s bowl before going into the big living‐room.Creed knelt on the floor, a heavy stack of antique records tilted against his knees as he searched for an old favourite, a selection of serenades.He finally dug the LP out.Vaughan Williams, Delius, Françaix and someone else.Creed stared at the cover, looking for the composer’s name.Warlock.He put the record back.Creed smoked until his throat was raw and the previous day was a distant echo, ebbing in his neurons.Finally he was able to stop thinking about the ones who had died that day.Larner and the kid whose name he couldn’t remember.Then, as the morning sun was beginning to shine delicately on the walls, he went to bed.He was asleep and dreaming almost immediately.But not of the kid or Larner as he’d feared and half expected.It was much worse than that.He dreamed of Anna.Creed woke up immediately.He threw back the sheets and got out of bed.Bert whined from his basket as he paced to the far end of the living‐room.The apartment was the ground floor of an old house which had been subdivided.On one wall of the living‐room there was still a staircase that ran up to the next floor, although the door at the top had been taken out long ago, replaced by a smooth stretch of blank wall.Now Creed sat on the edge of the stairs feeling sick and hollow.The stairwell seemed deeper, as though there were fathoms of dark air rising above him.He shifted forward and the creaking of the wooden stairs made a prolonged sound that began to frighten Creed.He could feel his emotions circling in himself, dangerous animals ready to go out of control.He concentrated, staring at the chipped paint on an upright post of the staircase.It seemed sordid and sad, emblematic of a thousand anonymous wasted lives.Memories of Anna kept trying to break through.He dodged them, thinking about other things.Then finally he made himself look squarely at the memories.She hadn’t been anything much.She had been a small girl, very skinny.The crescent shape of the contraceptive implant standing out starkly under the smooth coffee‐coloured flesh of her slim arm.He could feel it when he held her in the dark, and he would rub her skin thinking what it meant.He imagined the crescent feeding her bloodstream with its payload, floating a chemical barrier between them, a fine net in an ocean, invisible there in the darkness, deep inside her body.After the long violent days he would come home and find her in the apartment.Just stripping off her own uniform, pads of ceramic bulletproof armour on the floor around her as she stood sweaty and naked.She’d come into his arms and he’d feel the heat of her against him, starting at his belly and flashing up his chest.Her body damp against the thin cotton of the T-shirt he wore underneath his own body armour.Bert would skulk off into the kitchen and lie down in his doggie basket, tail curled around him as Creed carried Anna through the apartment to the futon [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]