|Edward Hopper (1942) Nighthawks at the Diner|
He was cool. The coolness of a man whose guilt had already been assuaged by a salve of excuses and planned path of redemption. It was a coolness that had been interrupted earlier in the evening with a sharp pause of desire. He knew she was the one as soon as he saw her. She needed attention. Red hair, red dress, red lips. She knew what she wanted too and he was the one to show her, but she didn't know about the lesson she was going to learn.
He took her away from the bar as soon as he could, to this crackpot diner, the only thing open, where he could regain some calmness while he mentally worked through the plan. It hadn't been easy. Their peace had been ruptured with a loud clatter of stainless steel as the waiter sent the milkshake cups flying when the latest customer had slunk in. The noise richoched around his head, puncturing his demeanour. While she stared at her fingernails he shot death stares at the waiter while he willed his mind to be still.
He wondered what passers-by might think if they saw him there with the girl. Would they think, he wondered, of her warmth and his coolness? Would they wonder why they were together? Why she would be with him? Did they know?
At first glance she was beautiful, but under the skin he knew that wasn't so. Warm on the surface but her soul and heart were slowly atrophying. In the fluorescent light it was easy to see that the poison was reaching her skin.
It was the guilt that did it. He knew from nights like this one. Nights he tried to resist, but couldn't. Women he tried to resist, to no avail. Urges he tried to resist, but failed.
The sex, and the blood, and the violence. And then the redemption for it all. He remembered every night like this. Different towns, different hookers, different dresses. But the scripts were all the same.
He spared a minute from his thoughts and glanced across the counter at the customer whose entrance had so startled the waiter. It didn't take him long to put a name to the uncharacteristically solemn face. Detective Seb Lazarides from over at 4th. It was definitely time to leave. He willed himself calm as he threw the coins on the counter and nudged her. She put on her coat and he grasped her by the arm, leading her towards the doorway that bridged darkness and light.
For observers it looked as though he was leading her into darkness. But he knew that the darkness was here, in places like this. His truth was that he would lead her to the light.
Oh yeah. She would atone for her sins tonight...
The policeman was still fussing with his badge as he rushed out the door to start his shift. Slacks pressed, creased tightly down the middle, coal black boots freshly spit-polished, baton knocking against his leg. His partner smiled a patient greeting. "Did you hear the news?" he enquired.
"I haven't had time! I was out late last night at a club, just got in this morning and obviously I'm running late!" He winked. Why, what's up?"
"Lucky bastard. No wonder you've got bags under your eyes. How the hell do you manage to get lucky so often when you've got no bloody hair? I'll have to get a leave pass and come out with you one night and get some of your magic. I can be your wingman!"
"Sure, sure - just let me know when. What's the news?"
"There's been another hooker murder. Poor bitch, apparently it was ugly."
"Really? What's that? Ten now?"
"Christ, they better stop that bastard soon."
"I hope so. The paperwork is killing someone."
"What's the first job today partner?" he asked, through a nonchalant smile that betrayed nothing.
"We've got to go over to the Southside. She had a kid that she apparently left home alone at night."
His badge fixed perfectly on his lapel and knowing everything was in order, just the way it should be, the policeman looked up and began the short walk to the patrol car. He was a knight to the rescue of the endangered child.
Redemption, it seemed, was waiting.