IT WAS Christmas Day and Danny the Car Wiper hit the street junksick and broke after seventy-two hours in the precinct jail. It was a clear bright day, but there was warmth in the sun. Danny shivered with an inner cold. He turned up the collar of his worn, greasy black overcoat.
This beat benny wouldn’t pawn for a deuce, he thought.
He was in the West Nineties. A long block of brownstone rooming houses. Here and there a holy wreath in a clean black window. Danny’s senses registered everything sharp and clear, with the painful intensity of junk sickness. The light hurt his dilated eyes.
He walked past a car, darting his pale blue eyes sideways in quick appraisal. There was a package on the seat and one of the ventilator windows was unlocked. Danny walked on ten feet. No one in sight. He snapped his fingers and went through a pantomime of remembering something, and wheeled around. No one.
A bad setup, he decided. The street being empty like this, I stand out conspicuous. Gotta make it fast.
He reached for the ventilator window. A door opened behind him. Danny whipped out a rag and began polishing the car windows. He could feel the man standing behind him.
"What’re yuh doin’?"
Danny turned as if surprised. "Just thought your car windows needed polishing, mister."
The man had a frog faceand a Deep South accent. He was wearing a camel’s-hair overcoat.
"My caah don’t need polishin’ or nothing stole out of it neither."
Danny slid sideways as the man grabbed for him. "I wasn’t lookin’ to steal nothing, mister. I’m from the South too. Florida – "
"Goddammed sneakin’ thief!"
Danny walked away fast and turned a corner.
Better get out of the neighborhood. That hick is likely to call the law.
He walked fifteen blocks. Sweat ran down his body. There was an ache in his lungs. His lips drew back off his yellow teeth in a snarl of desperation.
I gotta score somehow. If I had some decent clothes…