Night Windows (Excerpt from In Sunlight or In Shadow)

(The following is an excerpt from the anthology In Sunlight or In Shadow)

Night Windows
by Jonathan Santlofer

There she is again, pink bra, pink slip, in one window then the next, appearing then disappearing, a picture in a zoetrope, flickering, evanescent, maddening.

Yes, that’s the word: maddening.

Then he thinks of another: delicious.

And another: torture.

He hadn’t expected a replacement so soon. The last one, Laura or Lauren, her name hardly matters, gone now four or five months, not like he’s not counting. They’re all replaceable, one as good as the next. Though he liked the last one, her innocence—and taking it away. He tries to picture her but her features are already blurred, like she was a watercolor and he’d run a moist finger across her face, smearing her features, erasing her, creating her then destroying her. Exactly what he did. What he always does.

The woman in pink bends over, her rear end aimed right at him and he would laugh but she might hear, might look across the alley and spot him, the man in the window opposite, the man in the dark, and he’s not quite ready for that. The meeting has to be planned. And it will be. Soon.

The woman stands up, turns and leans on the window ledge, her blond hair backlit, and he thinks: The gods have sent me a new one.

That last one was lucky to have known him, a rube like her, easy to manipulate, almost too easy. He’d broken her in; just plain broken her.

So how did she have the strength to get away?

No matter. He was tired of her anyway, her whiny voice, her all too eager need to please.

This new one looks perfect, the way she glides past the windows oblivious to the fact that she is being watched.

This one will be easy.