The Signs

There have always been signs. Ever since there have been have and have nots, beggars, derelicts, people currently without housing, those in need have communicated with others of their ilk to eat, to get help, to protect themselves. A small pile of stones hidden meant shelter. A coarse cross scratched on a doorstep meant a kindly soul. Tony learned the hobo signs from his Grandpa Bill who learned them from his own grandfather.
A drawing of a cat meant a generous woman. A smiling face meant free medical help. His mom always said her dad was three kinds of useless. But Grandpa Bill taught Tony how to hunt and read the signs in the woods. He taught his favorite grandchild how to read people and see around corners. And Tony remembered all the things Grandpa Bill taught him.
Maybe that why after Grandpa Bill fell on hard times and headed to California to get his feet under him Tony was sure he was okay even when the phone calls stopped. That the old coot was okay. Tony knew his grandfather was okay until he felt in his bones that the old man wasn’t. Without hesitation, Tony took a bus cross country. With his baby face and faux guileless charm, Tony got answers easily. He followed leads until they led to a homeless encampment among the dive bars and abandoned warehouses. The trail grew ice cold. His grandpa was missing. Al lot of grandpas were missing.
Tony didn’t bother with the police. He knew no one really bothered looking for the homeless or runaways or sex workers. Some people are just less dead than others. Instead Tony got a job at Goodwill, moved into a long term sketchy hotel, and he read the signs of the city. With time he picked out the metallic smell of fear under bridges and in supermarket Dumpsters. Finally he notice a rectangle with a dot the hobo symbol for danger written in chalk under an archway. He saw the danger code again in black permanent marker on a STOP sign. Then he saw it again and again.
On the way to work Tony saw danger code with a pair of double Vs. That night Tony dressed in his black hoodie and started to watch the encampment. Night after night Tony watched people, following the fear.
When he stumbled over his first corpse, a little old lady who used to work in nursing home, tucked partially under a park bench Tony could see how pale she was. Her neck was torn away but not nearly as bloody as the wound should be. Her small hands were unblemished and her face was peaceful as angels. Tony prayed over the little old lady. He remembered when he first came to LA this little old lady had been kind. As he walked back to his hotel he remembered her name was Ines. As he walked home Tony realized how Vs can look like fangs. Laying in bed covered in dawn Tony fingered the crucifix around his throat and planned the hunt.

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