The Dark Stride.

The Dark Stride

She walked towards me. I knew in an instant it was her. High heeled, black open toed sandals with straps that climbed the leg. Black straps climbing tanned skin, nothing but skin. Firm, sun kissed legs, crossing with each step. The day was hot. I was decidedly out of place in my suit and tie. One never knows what to expect. The train pulled away, she approached, I waited. She walked to within an inch of me, lifted her hand to her mouth. Red lips, a cigarette, one long, deep, languid inhalation. Her head inclined backwards, she cast her eyes to the sky. She stood astride, the ash from her cigarette falling on my shoe. Slowly she exhaled. Her breath rolled like a wave through her body. Her eyes met mine.

Teasing her lips with manicured nails, this woman, the woman before me, held my gaze. There was no threat in her manner, none that I could see.
“You must be warm, Mr. Filmore.” Her blue eyes surveyed my attire. She drew again on her cigarette. The midday sun burned, the station was quiet.
“Come, I have a car waiting.”

The countryside was barren, mostly shrubbery; low growing, dull in appearance. An occasional bright, flowering, something, horticulture never was my game. Through the windows of the limousine, I contemplated the motives of my client. An attractive heiress, well bred as they say. Widowed at twenty-four, living a self-imposed exile in Haiti. One of the family’s estates…half of the island if you believe the locals.
“You’ve come a long way, Mr. Filmore, thankyou.”
“Well,” I replied with a wry grin, “I’ve always wanted to come back, you see I left my hat in Haiti…” I was smiling and thinking myself quite clever, my client didn’t respond. She was staring straight ahead and for a moment I thought I might explain, about the song and my joke… I thought better of it. We sat in silence.
The limousine slowed before a pair of huge wrought iron gates. Huge walls rose from the ground penetrating the sky. The gates opened inward, inviting you to proceed, but to where? I suddenly became dispassionate about the money I’d been offered. At that moment I would have paid to leave. The air inside the limousine was ice cold, my client an enigma with whom I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. The walls were a fortress, the heat and isolation, death.

The gates disappeared, the walls blended with the beautiful foliage. My breathing slowed considerably as the limousine circled a fountain and pond. Beyond, an oasis, lush, green and very soothing. White washed buildings set in a courtly manner, tropical vegetation, birds the colours of the rainbow. A paradise extending beyond imagination.
“The south wing is the guest house, Mr. Filmore. One of the boys will show you. I trust everything will be to your satisfaction. Please don’t hesitate to call on any of the staff.” She turned to face me, adding, “at any time.”
My client gathered together her possessions, the fixed gaze lay upon me again.
“We shall meet for supper,” an invitation just short of an order, “to discuss necessary details.” In the rear vision mirror, I caught the eye of the chauffeur, the warning was strong, so was the fear.
Again, my heart began to race. Leaning back against the leather upholstery, my client feigned a gesture of welcome. With a small, half smile she asked politely to be excused.
“These past months have been difficult.” She clasped her hands together softly and lowered her eyes to the space between us. “I’m sure though,” she breathed softly, “things will all be better,” leaning forward she looked up at me, “now that you’re here.”

The Dark Stride.

Joanna Beilby

East Bentleigh, Australia

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Short Story

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