college street

by Vanzetti

He turned the corner and the city changed: dingy downtown office buildings and a half-empty mall behind him, and before him an expanse of trees and grass and a church of red brick and white paint like something off a fucking postcard. Beyond that, some kind of stone tower looming over the park, against the bright blue fall sky. Keep out, Krycek thought, that's not for you. He walked toward it anyway, noticing the stores getting fancier the closer he got to the college. Up Chapel Street, past Church and Temple: the city fathers sure hadn't spared much invention on naming their streets. And here he was at the corner. College Street. Of course.

A left turn would take him to the bar where he was supposed to meet his client: The Anchor, just like the old man had described it. He could see the dark glass in the window and the neon sign. That was the smart thing, since he was early: get a feel for the place, make sure there wouldn't be any surprises. On his right the stone walls of Yale rose up, gray-brown rough blocks like some kind of gothic fortress, with honest-to-god ivy growing at the bottom and bars on the street-level windows. Krycek wrinkled his nose and crossed the street. There was some kind of cafe right in front of him at the corner, glass windows and the menu up on a chalkboards and it all looked just a little too healthy for a man like him. Men like him didn't eat in places with windows like that, and anyway, he could smell good coffee somewhere nearby.

The coffee-smell was coming out of a little shop, just a storefront, really, with room for a counter and a couple tables and an old fashioned copper roasting machine shifting and turning the beans as they grew darker. He would happily have stood there, breathing deeply and watching the patterns the beans made and thinking of nothing at all; instead he joined the line inside, listening to the kids in front of him, students, probably, as they placed their orders. By the time he got to the front he knew to say, "small house, no room," hand over his money and get a smallish cup of black coffee. He'd never figured out people who couldn't blend in wherever they were.

It was good coffee. He might come back here someday, and thought he'd try to remember the name of the place. Willoughby's. He grimaced. No way in hell.

Yale was right in front of him as he walked out, and something--the sunlight, the free time, the good coffee--made him think, what the hell. He crossed Chapel and walked down College, stone walls on one side and the park on the other. There had to be a way in along here somewhere, and sure enough, here it was. An open gate and arched passage right underneath that tower he'd seen. It was dark and a little cold and he shrugged off the feeling that the place was trying to keep him out. He walked in and made himself keep going when he found himself right by some kind of police station. Just past that was a little linoleum foyer with an elevator, carved out from the stone and looking as out of place as he felt. Then he was out in the open again, inside the fortress now.

More trees and grass, this time with stone building pressing in around them, and crowded compared to the park outside: bicycles chained up against a wooden railing, a shaggy-haired blond kid playing with a shaggy-haired dog, three more kids throwing a frisbee around. Two girls sitting at the foot of a tree right across from him, one with bright red hair and a bright red skirt and the other Asian, a round face, round glasses and an old denim jacket. A cluster of students walked past them on a flagstone path, words like "Durfee" and "Stiles" tossed in among the regular English; they headed for one of two low red-brick buildings standing in the middle of the block, just to his left as if the campus, the whole city maybe, had grown up around them.

Someone not far away was playing the violin. The light fell dappled through leaves just on the verge of changing and Krycek caught his breath, something bitter at the back of his throat, and not from the coffee. He'd already taken a step backward when the red-haired girl shrieked and jumped to her feet, waving her arms around her head. He froze, mouth half-open, hand reaching back for his gun--and wouldn't that have been a disaster--when he realized that the other girl was laughing.

"It's only a bee," she said.

"A wasp!" the first girl insisted. "A wasp in my coffee and... damn." She looked down at the ice and milky coffee scattered over the grass at her feet. "I hate them."

"It's because they know winter is coming, and they're all going to die. And because you put, like, way too much sugar in your iced coffee."

Another step backwards and Krycek was under the shadow of the tower, back in the cool, slightly damp air. That would explain the shudder he couldn't quite repress. Winter is coming, and they're all going to die. He rolled his shoulders as he stepped back out into the street; there was a contact to meet and no time to waste sightseeing. He'd been stupid to forget it.


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