TITLE: Sea of the Vanities
GENRE: Science Fiction/Fantasy
Shaw clicked his pocket watch shut and set off again at a brisker pace. His evening appointment could prove interesting, and if it proved dangerous, so much the better.
He walked through smoke that drifted from oil lamps, curling like sinuous snakes into the pink and blood red bougainvillea that trailed down walls and festooned trellised windows. The flowers tickled Shaw’s nose as he brushed against them, and his walking stick beat a rat-a-tat-tat across the bricks.
An evening stroll through the business district of Rio is discouraged for most Europeans wearing jewelry and fine haberdashery. Shaw had no worries. He carried nothing of value. Marching along, he was accompanied by the now familiar feeling of being stalked. A sheep in a herd of faceless and silent wolves would feel the same.
As he neared the water, the lamps appeared less frequently and the streets shortened and twisted into dead ends. He would have been lost if not for the sounds of activity coming from the harbor and the increasing stench of fish and decay emanating from the docks.
Rounding a corner at full steam, he collided with a smarmy old man who reeked of something worse than the bottom of a ship, or the inside of a barn. Shaw apologized and made to go around, but the man grabbed his arm.
“Yes, err--?” Shaw felt in his pocket for a coin, expecting to contribute to the evening’s wine consumption.
“Mister Shaw?” The old man’s voice dribbled from a toothless and foul mouth.