The sky over London is grey and overcast, the sun weak behind cloud cover, a light drizzle falling to the streets below and pattering on the roofs and in the gutters. Traffic blocks the roads and people walk with heads down and cold hands jammed firmly into pockets. In a back ally littered with chocolate wrappers and cigarette ends a woman steps gingerly around a large puddle, tottering momentarily on high Prada stilettos.
"You're late." A man in a pristine suit, patent leather shoes and a bowler hat leans nonchalantly against a crumbling brick wall topped with the glass of broken beer bottles. The woman in the Prada shoes glares.
"I'm on time. You're early." The man in the suit shakes his head.
"No no, it's my meeting, it starts when I want it to. As I said, you're late." He leers at her, comfortably.
"Couldn't you have chosen somewhere nicer?" The woman waves a hand at the ally, the rubbish, the lewd graffiti scrawled on the opposite wall.
"I quite like it." The man replies. "Of course, this suit is a little mucky, this place doesn't get much cleaning." He brushes the dust from his sleeve and takes a step closer to her. "It doesn't matter. I can get a new suit. I can afford it."
She raises an eyebrow. "Can you?" A sardonic smile splits his face.
"Of course not. Why do you think you're here?"
"You know I haven't got anything left."
"No more money in the bank?"
"No more properties to be mortgaged?" A shake of the head.
"Those shoes are nice." She pauses for a moment confused; and he holds out an expectant hand. She stares at him, tries to keep her gaze level and challenging, but her bottom lip trembles. Not that it makes much difference. He can feel her fear.
"Don't you want to give me your shoes? Because if you don't, I know something several other people would pay good money to see; something you are pretty heavily invested in them not seeing. We wouldn't want you to waste your investment." She glares, grey blue eyes filled with an icy hatred, as she reaches down and one by one pulls her stilettos from her feet. He takes them from her hand with a flourish; and she shudders as his fingers momentarily brush hers.
"Nice clasp in your hair. Is that a diamond? Classy." She removes the clasp and white blonde waves tumble loose over her shoulders as she drops it into his hand. His gaze moves to her throat.
"Oooh, pearls. Now they are lovely. Hand them over."
"They were my grandmother's."
"Family heirloom. Adds to the value. Goody." She unwinds the necklace slowly and painfully, thrusts it at him inside a fist white knuckled with strain.
The man bends his head to his glittering haul and stares at it, pensively, for some moments. The woman stands cold and shoeless, eyes brimming with tears, hair in disarray. Finally, the man nods.
"This will do for now. Should fetch me a few thousand, if those pearls are as good as I think. Enough for a month." She sighs with relief, but he shakes his head.
"You're not so lucky. If you don't have anything better next time, I take your engagement ring, the wedding ring too if I want." He tosses her grandmother's pearls high in the air, so they glint in the weak sun for a moment, then they fall; and he lets them drop down into a dirty puddle and watches her face contort as her stolen inheritance is muddied. He leans down slowly to pick the necklace up, dries it off on his suit jacket and slips it into his pocket. He flashes her a final smile and tips his bowler hat to her, mockingly.
"Good day, Mrs Copland." He saunters away, casually, leaving her standing alone in the rain. She's his, he thinks with satisfaction. He owns her now.
He doesn't see her when she leaves. He doesn't see the tears recede, the frown straighten, the lips curl up in a sneer.
"I want to kill you." She whispers to the wind. "I will, one day. When I find the opportune moment." She walks away brusquely and when the piece of broken glass slices her exposed foot, so that crimson blood seeps from the gash, she doesn't even flinch.