Prologue - Angel
Ty had better shit to be doing than freezing his balls off waiting for some guy to go get his works. Yet he stood down the street a couple blocks away, watching the door for the old man to return. Had he known it was going to take this long, he probably would have told him to fucking forget it. If Art hadn't been a regular for as long as Ty could remember he would have told him to just fuck off, but he couldn't do that to the old guy. Ty knew Art needed it to get through the cold night. He also knew Art more than likely stole or begged for the money he paid Ty.
It’s too fucking cold. I swear when I can get out of here I'm going somewhere warm. Some place where below zero windchill and freezing aren't in the daily weather report. Ty mentally ranted as he pulled his hands up into the sleeves of his coat. He wished he would have thought to grab some fucking gloves before he left home. His old, worn, black leather jacket didn’t do much to keep him warm even with his black hoodie under it. The bitter chill nipped at his cheeks and stung the exposed flesh. Ty flipped the collar on his jacket up and dropped his chin before crossing his arms across his chest. He tried not to shiver.
"Damn it, old man. Fucking hurry up," he mumbled under his very visible breath. The streets were mostly empty. It was just too cold for most people to be outside. His eyes followed a homeless guy further down the block. The man stumbled and swayed as he crossed the street heading towards the alley. The spotlight created from the street lamp behind him highlighted his ragged old jacket and the brown bag clutched in his hand. Ty shook his head as he watched. The poor bastard would probably freeze before morning if he wasn’t lucky enough to be picked up for public intoxication.
Once the old man was out of view, Ty turned back and glanced towards the small storefront that was Safe Works. He was the required distance away, barely. He rarely made exchanges that close to the place--and so visibly--but it was a fairly deserted night and the chance of being seen was minimal. He expected Art to walk out any minute, so Ty headed back down the block towards him. Ty sent him in to pick up new shit, doubting he had anything and knowing he'd just steal what he needed off some other junkie. Ty didn’t normally make that a requirement but tonight they were only a few blocks away from Safe Works when Art found him. Ty had been around enough junkies to know clean works didn't matter to them, but he tried to at least encourage them to get it. After all he made sure his heroin was as pure as it could be, the least his buyers could do was use clean shit to inject it. Live customers were returning customers.
There was only so much he could do. Everyone had to make their own decisions in life. He had made his own decisions and there was no changing that now, even if he wanted to. Ty flexed his pecs involuntarily as he often did when he thought about the reminder he carried above his heart. Redemption. He wondered if there was really such a thing for a person like him. At one time Ty hoped there was, but that hope died a little more each day. As much as he wanted to change things, there was just no way out.
Ty moved closer to the building he was standing next to, pressing his back against it as he huddled up, desperately trying to retain any warmth left in his body. He kicked at a little pile of gray ice that was once pristine snow before being trodden over for days. Just like everything else in the city, it ended up dirty and ugly. In his world there was no such thing as lasting beauty.
I should have taken my car. Ty mentally kicked himself again for agreeing to this and to staying out in the cold. He would have had his car if he hadn't been at the bar before this. Art was just lucky that he found him and he happened to be carrying. He hadn't planned on being found tonight. Ty just wanted a night to himself. A night he could go be someone else, at least for a little while.
He left his guitar at the bar. He would have to go back and get it before going home. Ty had been looking forward to playing at the open mic night. He rarely did it, only when he desperately needed the escape. He could forget everything else for the few moments he was onstage. Forget who he was, where he was, but mostly forget the reprehensible life he led. The desire to play left him after Art had tracked him down. As soon as Art came back Ty planned to collect his guitar and go home. Instead of drinking at the bar he would go home and drink alone.
Ty turned and looked down the block. No sign of life beyond the cars driving by further up the street. The cold highlighted the exhaust that ghosted behind them. It reminded him of smoke from a cigarette. His fingers twitched to reach for his pack but it was too cold to hold one. Finally, he saw Art walk out the plain brick storefront. As Art shuffled down the sidewalk towards Ty he called out to him, bringing from the shadows.
"Damn Art, keep it down," Ty growled at him. "What the fuck took you so long?"
The old man was losing it. He always was a little off, talking to himself and shit like that, but Ty never knew him to hallucinate before.
"Whatever. Did you get your stuff?" Ty knew Jack was there and would have made sure Art was taken care of. He was almost always there since he went straight. With as far gone as he had been Ty didn't see how Jack could hang around addicts all day. It made no sense to Ty, but then he had seen crazier shit.
"The angel gave it to me. An angel with a needle." Ty rolled his eyes at him as they ducked back behind the shade of the brick wall to make the exchange.
"The most beautiful angel. And she talked to me. You have to see the angel." He continued to mutter about the angel, but Ty didn't understand him and didn’t really care about his ramblings.
"Art, have a good night and try to stay warm." Ty tried to hurry Art along so he could get out of there. He didn't like hanging around a sale any more than necessary.
Art grabbed Ty’s arm and Ty turned to look him in the face. The shadow crossed over the lower half but the street light hit his eyes and their stony gray was serious.
"You need to see the angel. You have to go there and see her." His voice held a clarity and reverence that Ty had never heard from him before.
Ty shrugged him off and told him good night before watching him shuffle off down the street. Ty threw a glance back towards Safe Works, curious about what Art had been talking about, but not enough to hang around in the cold. He turned back the other way to head back to the bar to pick up his guitar. It was just a few short blocks and the walk warmed him up some. He stepped inside and immediately the strong scent of smoke and beer hit him. Ty reached into his inner pocket and pulled out his cigarettes. He would have a quick one and a drink just to warm up before he left again. Ty sat down at a table away from the door and listened to the guy on the stage. He wasn't bad, just generic as shit. He ordered a Jack and Coke and finished off the cigarette, deciding that the whole night had been a wash.
The guy on the stage continued to strum along, morphing one stale song into another. Ty looked around as he waited for his drink. The atmosphere was hazy with smoke in the dim lighting. The patrons weren't paying much attention to the guy on the stage. Most were deep in conversations at their own tables, a few were playing darts and a couple of old timers were sitting up at the bar watching a muted hockey game on TV. The mood of the room was the same as it always was; a blend of those out for a good time and those out because it was better than being home alone.
Ty’s drink came and he tossed some money to the waitress and tipped it back. He lit one more smoke to go along with the booze before he headed out. Ty noticed a few people he vaguely knew in the back corner, but didn't feel like heading over and talking with them. He might have before Art found him, but now his mood had soured and he just wanted to be alone.
His mind went back to Art and his angel. He tried to forget about it. Ty might have been able to chalk it up to the ramblings of an addict if Art’s eyes hadn’t been so clear. Art was junk sick and needed a fix, but he was still lucid. Ty took another drag and let the smoke fill his lungs before he slowly let it leak back out. Art could have just been talking about Jack. The fucker was pretty enough to be thought of as an angel, but Art knew Jack and wouldn’t have suddenly taken to him. Ty shook his head to rid it of thoughts of angels. He focused on finishing off his drink so he could leave.
He got up and pulled his jacket around him and zipped it up as he made his way over to the bar. Ty caught Ben's eye as he was pouring a tap beer and jerked his head towards the back room where Ben had let him stash his guitar earlier. Ben nodded and pushed the handle back, shutting off the amber flow before it spilled over the edge. Ty opened the door to the little room and maneuvered around a couple empty kegs and some crates. He grabbed the guitar by its strap and slung it over his shoulder. He closed the door and walked past the bar on his way outside.
"Hey TJ." Ty turned to see Ben waving at him. "Aren't you going to play for us tonight?"
Ty rested his foot on the railing that ran the length of the bar as he leaned forward to talk to Ben. "No, I'm just going to take off. I don't feel like playing anymore."
Ben shook his head. "The ladies are gonna be disappointed." Ty rolled his eyes. "You know they love it when you play. We always do better business when you play. You need to come around more often."
Ty shrugged and muttered a "see ya later." It always made him uncomfortable to have his performing commented on. He never did it to impress anyone; he just did it for himself. As Ty reached the door he had to step back and let a couple guys pass by. They were arguing over something and one guy playfully shoved the other one and he bumped into Ty. Their eyes locked and Ty’s hand twitched at the “fuck you” glare the guy challenged him with. Ty didn’t need the trouble--or the satisfaction--that pushing back would give. He apologized and looked down before quickly stepping away.
Ty didn't give the incident a second thought as he walked back out into the cold. He started up the block to the next, busier intersection. It would be easier to catch a cab on a main street than hope one passed by on the side street. He started to whistle as he walked and stopped when he realized he was whistling the last song the guy on the stage had played. Echos of the chorus lingered in his mind promising an angel to sign of beautiful things. It brought to mind Art and his angel. For some inexplicable reason, Ty found himself turning around and heading back towards Safe Works.
The whole way there he told himself he was being ridiculous. It was just going to be Jack there. Finally he was close enough to it that he could see two people standing out front. Ty quickened his step, hoping he could make out who it was before they were gone. As he got closer he easily made one out to be Jack. His tall, thin frame was fairly recognizable. Ty had no idea who the small girl in the over-sized white puffy jacket was.
He stood in the shadow of a doorway across the street and watched them. He had yet to see her face, yet he was entranced with the way her long fair hair bounced around her shoulders as she swayed back and forth slightly, trying to stay warm. She was definitely not there for works. He'd seen enough junkies in his life that he could spot one with just a glance. No, this girl was definitely not an addict. Ty wondered what she was doing there. He briefly thought she could be one of the rich donors, come to check out where her rich husband's money was going. He studied her more intently. That couldn't be it. She didn't have the air of a rich bitch.
Ty was still puzzling it out as a bright yellow VW bug pulled up in front of the building. Both Jack and the girl turned to look at the car and that's when Ty got my first glimpse at her face. His breath hitched and he felt as if he’d just taken a punch to the gut. Standing out in the cold, on a desolate street in front of a rundown building that treated the forgotten of mankind, stood an angel. Long, light, golden hair framed a delicate round face that seemed to radiate with the most beautiful smile. She was looking at the car as she smiled before she turned and said something more to Jack. Ty had a surge of jealousy course through him as he watched her and the smile widened as Jack said something back to her as they walked towards the car together. The smooth bastard opened the car door for her and leaned in to speak to the driver before he backed away and motioned for the angel to get in. She stepped towards the car but stopped before getting in. She glanced in Ty’s direction but the smile was gone. In its place was a look of confusion. He knew she couldn't see him standing in the shadows of a doorway, so Ty wondered just what put that look on her face. She shook her head and shrugged after Jack spoke to her. She looked glanced in Ty’s direction once again and said something before getting into the car. Jack shut the door and watched it as it took off down the street. After it pulled away Ty realized he hadn't even looked at the driver.
Ty stayed hidden as he watched Jack scan the street searching for whatever it was that caught the girl's attention. Ty could have just gone over and talked to him but something stopped him. He knew he shouldn't be there, but Jack wouldn't turn him in. Jack and Ty had known each other for a long time. One would almost say they were friends before Ty went off to prison; as much of friends as an addict and his dealer could be, anyway. It wasn’t long after Ty got out that Jack left for rehab and since then they had been cordial if they happened to bump into each other, but nothing more than that.
The icy wind blew down the deserted street and Jack turned and went back into the small building. Ty hadn't been in Safe Works and decided now wasn't the time to change that. He reached in for a cigarette and lit it before pulling his hood up and headed back the way he had come from. Ty watched the smoke dance through the night, the white wisps were highlighted from the street lamp nearby. As it dissipated back into the gray of the night he pictured the face of the angel. He knew it was likely he would never see her again but it left a tiny spark of hope in him that just maybe there was still something good and beautiful left in this world.