As I passed by Gunther's store he gave me a nod and started heading into the doorway, but then stopped for a second with a strange look on his face. He began to turn towards me to get a second look, but I moved in front of a group of pedestrians and did my best to be inconspicuous.
It was at that moment that I realized how much space I had gained on Gladys in doing so. I was less than five feet behind her. If she turned or looked over her shoulder, my cover would be blown. I scanned the street and ducked into a little alcove next to a pastry shop and gave her a few seconds lead on me. As I waited and counted to ten hippopotamus, the scent of freshly baked bread and sweets wafted over me. The mix of cinnamon, vanilla, and yeast smells set my stomach to rumbling. It almost overpowered my brain as I took a couple of steps towards the shop, but caught myself in time to make a quick turn and continue tracking my prey.
I gathered my bearings and found Gladys' trail again and was on the move. I passed several more store fronts along the street that I had never taken the time to notice before. One of the shops was a little fashion boutique filled with frilly skirts and "distressed" jeans.
Can I just stop for a second and ask, why would anyone want to buy a pair of already worn out jeans? Isn't that half the fun of owning them? I mean if they had been worn by someone famous or in a second hand store, sure, that makes sense to me, but brand new jeans with rips and holes in them? Le sigh. I digress.
Another shop was a butcher shop with a large goat's head over a pair of axes as the sign. Stenciled beneath the image were the words Billy Gruff's Meat Market. I stole a peek in the front window and was expecting a troll to be manning the counter, but instead, there was a little, elderly man with a white smock, a pointed white cap, and a grin behind the register. He gave me a wave as I passed by and I gave him a nod and a smile. You had to admit, it was some good marketing on his part. I mean, who wouldn't have to have a look after seeing that sign?
As I turned the corner on the block following the trail, I spotted Gladys near the other corner floating about twenty feet off the ground. She was perched in front of a window looking in at the residents. Whether she was chatting with them or just peeping, I couldn't tell from this distance, but with her at that height, it left me too open to being spotted. I ducked into the first doorway that was open and stepped in to watch out their front window. After a few minutes, Gladys hadn't moved and I continue to watch but my lurking was interrupted by a small voice behind me.
"Can I help you find anything, sir," a soft female voice asked as I stared out the window.
"Just browsing," I didn't take my eyes from the window. "I'll be out of your hair in a minute or two."
"Is there anything you are interested in from the window," she persisted in her quiet voice. "Maybe something for your, um, special lady friend?" That got my attention.
"What," I asked as I turned to look at the salesperson. As I did the rest of the shop came into view. I came to an awkward and spine tingling revelation. I was surrounded by lacy, silky, and oh so tiny garments. I was standing in a lingerie shop, and a very scantily one at that. I could feel myself turning a very bright shade of red.
"Or maybe," the woman that now stood before me was not as meagerly attired as her mannequins, but it was a close thing. She stood about shoulder height to me and she was standing very, very close. "Maybe you are more interested in something for... yourself?" She smiled and gave me a very slow and sly wink. Her grin was all shades of mischief and seduction.
I swallowed, audibly.