When he spots her, she is hurried, jerky, in her working movements, and her feet in trainers patter, squelch the wet concrete, as if hurry would prevent the threads of evil latching onto her.
Threads of evil did seem to be in that particular downtown air.
Only because he was seeing her — had discovered her? — and he could not fathom it, simply could not.
If she were one of those workers who regularly disappear down a manhole into the sewers,
Or a window-cleaner hanging in a gondola far above,
He might have a chance.
Instead, she is washing down a wall, as if doing a menial job, using one of those high-pressure hoses used for removing graffiti and the like. There was a work-crew with her, she seemed to be part of that crew, and she didn’t seem to be hiding the fact.
He’s still walking along at this point,
Any doubt that it is her? He doubles back like a fish, a darting minnow,
And it is her. He stops, making sure he is about fifty yards away, with the constant flow of pedestrians masking him.
They weren’t due to meet up that day; they’d fixed something for Friday afternoon.
The work-crew has a pickup truck nearby, presumably theirs. There doesn’t seem to be any obvious graffiti. Just cleaning a wall, with high-pressure hose, and she laughs once and points out something to her mates, handling the hose with some skill, gracility and evident experience.
Of course, he has absolutely no proof she is a journalist, none at all. She’s never showed him a union card. He’d been fool enough not to ask.
MH is dead of marsh fever that day, so he has to be back at the lab.
He decides to walk on, and suffers, naturally, the rest of the afternoon for not approaching (confronting) her. He convinces himself though that it’s better this way, better to ask her when out of the situation, and then they will both have a clear head—
See where they go from this bombshell.
Woman of Mystery: although discovered doing something not very romantic, flamboyant, glamorous, sublime, or quixotic, nor obviously unlawful, just unusual, so that just increases the enigma.
Not exorbitant of his belief, that she could be doing this on the side, as it were.
Like a feather, he is, willing to accept, be blown in the wind.
It was her, perhaps it wasn’t.
Filter the brain carefully for any possible reason why she should be working as undercover journalist, washing down a wall with a work-crew…
Sure, he should have noted down any name on the van: done all the inquisitorial things, discovered any clues that were there to be discovered
Probably he doesn’t do his best work this afternoon. He goes back in the evening, after stripping the gloves and the protective suit — the wall is freshly washed down, and that’s it, no clues that he could determine.
If there had been Writing on the Wall, it had been extirpated.
Left in a situation where she can just deny everything — if she wants to play it that way.
And lie with impunity to her nearest and dearest.