William Fitzgerald and the Old Man

A man named Nick Clytie had hired William Fitzgerald to follow a young homeless girl around the city. Clytie was an old man with a horse’s square yellow teeth and breath like rotten meat. He wore a black hat with a blue suit and insisted on shaking William Fitzgerald’s hand after paying the retainer. “The personal touch, sir,” he said, grinning and breathing in William Fitzgerald’s face. “A forgotten art.” His hand was cold and clammy.

None of this was calculated to endear him to William Fitzgerald, but since he wasn’t accustomed to liking his clients much in the first place, he took Clytie’s money and bonhomie and agreed to follow the girl. Clytie wouldn’t say why he wanted her followed: “Oh, no, it doesn’t matter, I just want her followed. Ee-hee-hee.” His laugh was high and nervous. It sounded like sex to William Fitzgerald, or anyway blackmail.

He’d been following the girl around town for close to a week. She drifted from one overpass to another, glassy-eyed and quiet, and wandered through the parks. She didn’t seem to eat anything, but he never saw her shooting up either, or smoking, so it didn’t seem like it was drugs. She spent twenty minutes talking to a mural in the old religious district, and his eyes were on her the whole time, but at the end of it she walked into the wall like it wasn’t there and disappeared.

There was no door there, just a bare patch of wall. The graffiti that covered the rest of the block stopped there; not painted over, just not there. William Fitzgerald put his hand on the clean bricks and wondered what he’d tell Clytie.