The sound of someone pounding on his front door shoved Charlie out of his dream, and into the cold reality of his one-room flat. He opened his eyes to stare at the flaking, yellowed paint on the ceiling, and saw his breath cloud up in front of his face. November was a cold, damp month, and he hadn’t enough kip to cover the utilities since last spring.
The pounding at his door continued.
Charlie shoved the wool blankets down to the end of the bed, dark grey with a red stripe. He got them at the surplus store — figured they were old hospital blankets or something — but they kept him warm, and had a nice weight to them. Sitting up, he pulled his socks from his boots, and girded his feet for the day. They were surplus too, olive drab and boot black.
The pounding stopped.
Charlie decided to spend a little juice, and cranked up his hearing. Immediately, he heard the traffic outside, through the thick old windows, like he was standing on the street corner. He heard the pigeons cooing on the rooftop across the street. He heard dogs barking, and two boys playing catch in an alleyway, and Mrs. Tweed making dinner in the corner flat upstairs.
Behind his own door, he heard feet shuffle, and a slight wheezing of breath. What he didn’t hear was the creak of a palm gripping a weapon. That was a very distinctive sound, if you knew what to listen for, and Charlie had definitely heard it enough to know.
He got up from the bed, and stomped his boots a little as he walked over to the door. He wanted whoever was on the other side to know he was coming, so that they didn’t start pounding again. He always tried to avoid upsetting the neighbours like that.