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Street Corner Memories

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"Are you sure about this, Boss?"

Hannibal adjusted his wig, making sure the straggly black hair covered the ear piece. The man he was today, Sammy Watson: nomadic street person, might be a compulsive scratcher, but he certainly wouldn't have a blue tooth.. "Yes, Face," he muttered, staring around him, "I'll see you in an hour."

The line went dead, and Hannibal scratched his ear again, knocking out the comm and sliding it into his jacket pocket. Between wearing three layers of flannel and a torn green duffel in late June and hunching over to knock a foot off his height, he didn't know if he'd last an hour. However, this had been his idea. The team had been in the area on a job, and he hadn't been able to resist.

He shuffled down Kingston and took a right up Burbage. If the city hadn't changed in the last few years, that would neatly loop him around the area with the most street people. He wanted to be inconspicuous, not a source of gossip.

Once he got to the corner of Government, he sank down against a lamp post in front of the Seven Eleven and across from the library and settled in to wait. 1530 on a Wednesday, so he shouldn't be there long.

Ten minutes later, the doors to the city library slid open, and a tall, bony woman with cropped silver hair strode out. Sun had darkened her skin to the colour of raw leather and webbed it with far more lines than Hannibal remembered, but she wasn't showing age spots yet. She had a bulging net bag of hardbacks clutched in one hand, balanced out by that old yellow handbag in the other, and seemed to be managing the steps without needing the handrail or a cane. She must have got that knee surgery finally; she'd been on the waiting list for years now. Even so, when she made it down to the curb, she set down the bag and leaned against the lamp post opposite Hannibal's, fanning herself with a brochure.

Hannibal rubbed some more grime onto his nose and pulled his ball cap down a little further. The movement caught the woman's eye, and she glanced across the street at him. For one heart stopping moment, he thought she was going to cross the street to give him change. Then her eyes flicked past. He didn't know if he felt more disappointment or relief. Meant for the cameras or not, the last words she'd said to him hadn't been kind ones. He couldn't let himself think how much he wanted to hear her say, "Bless you, son," no matter if she knew who she said them to or not.

The woman smiled and waved, and Hannibal found his hand starting to raise of its own accord. Before he could, an old powder-blue Buick beeped its horn in response. The driver had his head turned away as he pulled up, so all he could see was the shoulders of an old leather jacket and the back of a Tigers ball cap. The hair under it had more grey than he remembered, but was still maddeningly dark compared to his own.

He caught a snatch of the woman's voice as she got into the car, but no words, and then they were both gone. They managed to catch both lights and turned up Lexington before Hannibal quite realised they were gone. He blinked and rubbed his eyes wearily; they felt dry and raw and the contact only made it worse.

"You can't loiter here," said a voice from above. Hannibal looked up and blinked, scowling to cover his reaction. David Cho. Christ, he hadn't changed a bit. Hannibal wondered what he was still doing on the beat. Maybe he liked it there, or, more likely, he'd pissed the wrong people off again.

"Sorry, officer," Hannibal muttered. He threw a bit of California into his accent so Davie wouldn't think he was local. "Give me a minute to find my feet."

Of course, Davie being Davie, that wasn't the end of it. "You new around here?" he asked, and Hannibal shrugged.

"Just passing through." He leaned heavily on the lamp post to pull himself up, and kept his gaze down. "Probably go south again soon."

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Davie nod. "There's a shelter over on Madison and Kemp," he said, voice as kind as when he'd heard Sarah had left Hannibal for the last time. "And First Baptist on Willington serves a decent breakfast; you have to get there early though."

"Thank you, officer," Hannibal said, turning back up Babbage. "I'll just be going now."

That should have been it, but suddenly Davie circled in front of him, ducking down to stare into Hannibal's face. "You seem familiar," he said, eyes narrowing. Hannibal almost could see books of mug shots flashing behind his eyes. "Have you been through this way before?"

Hannibal shrugged again. "I guess I must have some point. Not for a dog's age though." That at least was true enough.

"Huh." Shaking his head, Davie stepped out of Hannibal's path. "I must be thinking of someone else. You take care, then."

Between slumping and shuffling and the lump in his throat, Hannibal didn't get more more than a grunt out in response. He kept his head down and walked a slow and steady pace all the way to the park where he said he'd meet his boys. The truck pulled up just as he got there, and he slid into the passenger side without a word.

"You ready to get out of here?" B.A. asked from behind the wheel.

"Step on it," Hannibal told him. He kept his eyes fixed on his hands until they were well past the city limits.