He jogged, not too fast, back round the corner. She was still there and someone else was with her, a man with his arm around her. Slowing as he approached them, he saw her white, shocked face, and read the man’s expression of concern as they looked towards him.
‘Oh,’ she said, in a voice that pulsed with gratitude, ‘you got my bag!’
‘Did you catch him?’ demanded the man, in a quick, harsh tone. His arm tightened protectively around the girl.
Danny shook his head. It wasn’t a lie; Will had stopped and given himself up. ‘He threw the bag away.’ At least that bit was true. He held them out — the bag, the purse, the phone. ‘These, too. Is there anything else missing?’ Because if there is, I’ll get it back.
She opened the bag and peered inside, flipped up the flap of her purse. In the half-light he could see that she wasn’t short of money. For God’s sake, she should just have got a taxi and spared them all. It didn’t look as if she had to make decisions about how she spent her cash.
‘It’s all here.’ She looked up at him. ‘I forgot my manners. Thank you so much for that.’
She wasn’t a pretty girl, or he hadn’t thought so. His first impression had been one of an angular face, harsh cheekbones accentuated by fear and distorted by shadow. But she smiled, and a second look made him catch his breath. Nobody — surely nobody — had a smile that lit up their face like that. ‘It’s okay. I wish I could have done more.’ Though quite what more someone like him could have done for someone like her was beyond his comprehension.
‘I want to thank you. I…’ Her fingers hovered uncertainly over her purse as if she were deciding whether she’d insult him by offering a reward.
He spared her the decision, raising his hand and stepping back. ‘I didn’t do anything. I was just out for a run. It was just chance.’
‘But you didn’t have to go after him. He might have been violent. You might have got hurt. What’s your name?’
He shook his head. ‘It doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. It only matters that you aren’t hurt.’ And then, before they could think of insisting that he tell them his name, dragging him in as a witness and tying him into the elephant traps of the justice system and the inconvenience of being good, he turned his back. ‘I’ll be on my way.’
‘Thank you,’ she called after him, and he didn’t answer. And as he ran, he heard the man’s voice. ‘Come on, Giorgia. Let’s get you home and call the police.’
He was well out of that. Best just to hope they never came looking for him, that they took his act of charity at face value and left him in peace.
More tired than he’d thought, he nevertheless put in an extra few hundred metres to give Will time to get out of his way before going home. A pretty girl, after all. And a beautiful name. Giorgia. He ran it around in his head a couple of times, wondering if he’d go through the rest of his life associating that name with those eyes, with that smile, whether he’d forget her soon enough, or whether any subsequent Giorgia he might meet would disappoint him by the comparison.
One thing was certain. He didn’t know who the man was that she was with, but if he was her boyfriend he wasn’t looking after her. Putting your arm around her after the event was worse than useless; he should have been there when she needed him. If she was Danny’s girl, he’d never have let it happen, never have left her side.
But she wasn’t, and never could be, his girl.