The notes hung sweetly in the bitter air. The violinist’s raw hands made the bow dance over the strings as he finished the piece with a zephyr of glittering sound. He stamped his feet and glanced down at the violin case at his feet, brown leather slowly darkening in a pool of grey slush. At the bottom lay a handful of dull coppers. He gazed bleakly at the line of muffled commuters shambling down the station steps. A flurry of sleet blew into his eyes causing him to blink. Looking up he saw an elderly man staring at him intently.
The man’s words billowed and condensed in the cutting cold. ‘I know you. Weren’t you Kretschmer, Victor Kretschmer?’
‘No’, said the violinist.
‘Sorry, my mistake.’ The man fished in his pocket, produced a silver coin, and tossed it into the case. ‘You play well,’ he said, over his shoulder.
The violinist closed his eyes and let his mind drift backwards. A luminous morning, the fragrance of freshly-cut grass, childish laughter, his wife’s eyes.
A cough wracked his body and he tasted the blood bubbling up into his mouth. He felt that familiar flutter of hope.
Not long now, he thought.