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We Are Smoke: Prologue


Walking toward Harry’s Bar.

Even from a distance, I can see there is a line waiting to get in. The street is dark beyond it and I realize Via Veneto essentially ends there at the Porta Pinciana—the 5th century archway.


I turn and start walking back when I see him coming toward me. I cross the street and quickly turn off onto Via Sardegna. The street is quiet. Toward the end of the block there is a pizzeria and a ristorante. I quicken my pace and head toward the restaurants. Behind me, I can hear the sound of the bastard’s leather loafers against the stone street in long, confident strides. Some part of me knows I should slip off my sandals and break out into a full-on run, but another more civilized—more liberated—part of me won’t allow it. I won’t become the fucking snow hare in a wildlife documentary.

When I reach the restaurants, I find they’re sparsely crowded. There’s no cover for me. I keep moving. I turn onto Via Marche and find it looks identical to Via Sardegna. In my mind, I’m walking in the direction of my hotel. I hear the persistent footsteps behind me. Every damned street in Rome looks the same; endless rows of parked Vespas on one side of the street; endless Fiats flanking the opposite side. At the end of Via Marche, I turn left onto Via Scilia, then a right on Via Toscana. I hurry to the end of the street; the pace of the stalking footsteps behind me becoming faster. I turn left onto Via Boncompagni and I realize that I don’t know where I am. I’m lost. Still walking, I reach into my purse and fish for my phone. A left onto Via Piemonte—still sifting for my phone—


I forgot it back on the table at the Westin. Goddamn it. How could I be so—so—careless? I must have forgot it in my haste to get away from this—this—this bastard son-of-a-bitch. I turn right and suddenly I’m back on Via Sicilia. I walk for some distance, the footsteps still behind me, always behind me. I search my purse again as if my phone will magically appear; instead, I find my house keys. I slip the keys between my fingers to make a claw just like they’d taught us years ago in that self-defense course on campus. At least I think it was how they taught us. Goddamn it, why was I stoned for that?

I turn left onto Via Romagna. The footsteps are closer now—faster; more aggressive; they’re gaining on me. The street ahead is quiet. Coming to Italy alone—to find Jack; it was a mistake. Don’t cry, Nora, I tell myself. Don’t cry—

I’m crying. I’m fucking crying. Goddamn it goddamn it goddamn it—

I’m crying as my pursuer reaches me as I open my mouth to scream; as no sound comes out.

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Mystery/Thriller