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Glad Rags This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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He’ll be here soon.

The man sips at his coffee, cold now. He faces the window, eyes flat and dead to everything but the street.

He missed him once; it won’t happen again.

It can’t happen again.

A movement in the alley across the street makes him tense. Yowling, a trashcan lid clanging noisily.

“Mister?”

A cat darts out of the alley. Color flows back across the man’s knuckles as he releases the edge of the table.

The man pulls back his lips in what he thinks is a friendly smile. “Yeah?” he says, turning to the guy in the stained apron behind the counter.

Mr. Apron Stains twists a filthy rag in his hands uncomfortably. This guy makes him nervous, with his fancy striped suit, diamond pinky ring, and shiny shoes.

And the way he keeps his right hand over that lump in his jacket pocket.

“It’s about eleven,” he tells the guy, trying to keep his eyes off that pocket. “I gotta’ start closin’ up.”

Mr. Stripes looks up at the grimy clock ticking away up on the wall. “Twenty minutes.”

The tailored suit fits him well enough, but he doesn’t quite fit in the suit.

A back alley wolf in a sheep’s expensive clothing.

Mr. Apron Stains twists the rag harder, a cold sweat beading on his brow. He runs a hand through his thinning hair and pulls his lips back, too. “Well, all right, then. I hope you don’t mind if I start cleaning up.”

Mr. Stripes shrugs his tailored shoulders at Mr. Apron Stains and goes back to his vigil, fingers resting lightly on his pocket.

He’ll be here soon.





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