They call me Voltaire. I saw this coming. I may have even started it, but it isn't for me to finish...
..."Hey buddy" croaked the bum by my side. I turned slowly to face him. The rain ran off his greased hair making an oily puddle on the floor. As our eyes met he began to whine like a hound. His mottled eyes couldn't hold my gaze. They'd seen too much of this for his ruined mind to take. He turned back to the photograph in his hands and spat on the floor, another yellow stain on this yellow world. "Fuuuuck buddy... I neeeed to get movin'. Theeey'lll be baack....."
I looked up through the rain. He was right. The dark wet afternoon was beginning to curdle into evening. Soon it'd be dark. Soon they'd be coming.
I tried to shut out the bum's keening and knelt to adjust the tarpaulin. Beneath it she looked the same as she always did. Bright red lipstick, curled blond ringlets. A real throwback to the Hollywood starlets of the old days. The only thing which spoilt the look was the dogtag I'd given her to wear and the gaping hole in her stomach. Last time it'd been a bullet wound. This time was more messy. With the raindrops hammering unforgivingly on her shelter no matter how I arranged the sheet, a steady red stream ran from underneath.
Lifting the photo out of the bum's hands I stood and glanced up to the junction. She was hidden for the moment. The downpour acted as a fog, numbing the streets to a monochrome. All white static and blurred edges as if the world wasn't quite real.
I touched the brim of my hat muttering a quick Hail Mary, turned up the stiff collar of my coat and gave the bum a head start with my boot. Pressing on, through the discontent of our winter, I headed back towards the smudged lights of Redcliff.
My office was on the third floor of an old abandoned shoe factory. I set it up here half in the hope that no-one would find me, but somehow they still managed to seek me out. The door was already ajar when I reached it, the worn gold lettering of the legend "Voltaire. Finder of Lost Things" lit in silhouette from inside. I didn't need to open it to work out who'd be waiting for me on the other side but I went ahead in anyway. There's little point trying to avoid life happening to you.
"Mr Voltaire" she crooned from behind my desk. "You found me again didn't you?" She brushed the blond ringlets behind her ear on the left hand side, her dogtag catching the light from the desk lamp.
I gulped and stared at the figure behind my desk, shocked as ever to see her again and gave a small nod.
"...and have you found the people responsible?"
The scar on my neck began itching like it always did when I was on a case - a reminder of how close things had been to being different. I threw the picture on the desk in front of her. "Mean anything to you?"
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