Sleep Will Banish Sorrow

by Allen Kopp

The time was between ten and eleven and traffic was light. An occasional car went by, slowly, its lights reflected in wavering bars on the wet pavement. A liquor store in the next block went dark. A policeman walked his beat, rousting a drunk from a doorway.

A man stepped out of a dark alley. He took a few slow steps into the glow of a streetlamp and stopped. He heard a siren off in the distance and lifted his head to listen, but gradually the siren faded to nothing. He reached into the pocket of his coat and removed a cigarette and put it between his lips and lit it with the little gold lighter engraved with his initials that he always carried. He took a long drag on the cigarette and turned and walked down the street.

In appearance he was a man like many others: not young and not old, of average height, lean and muscular, broad through the shoulders and narrow in the hips. He wore an expensive, perfectly tailored suit and a hat low on his brow, making his face difficult to distinguish.

He spotted a policeman walking toward him on the opposite side of the street. He knew without looking directly at him that the policeman was watching him. He didn’t want the policeman to think there was anything about him out of the ordinary or that he was, perhaps, planning on breaking into one of the businesses along the street that were closed down for the night. He began walking a little faster, with apparent purpose in his step, so as not to arouse the policeman’s suspicions.

After he had walked another half-block, he glanced over his shoulder to see if the policeman was still looking at him, but he was far down in the next block peering into a darkened window. A taxi went by, its tires hissing on the wet pavement. A woman’s laughter came from inside the taxi, a high-pitched sound that might have been a drunken laugh or even a scream. The tail lights of the taxi were receding into the distance when movement in an upper window across the street drew his attention. A woman came to the window and was silhouetted in the light behind her. She looked down to the street for a moment—she seemed to be looking right at him but he couldn’t be sure—and then reached above her head and drew the curtain closed. Seconds later the window went dark like all the others.

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