If Arthur Thompson were to be frank, he would admit that this café’s coffee nauseated him almost as much as the man sitting across from him, who in turn was almost as repugnant as the gum stuck to the bottom of the table that was situated conveniently between the two business partners. Sometimes tables served a double function: first, to give Thompson a place to steady his fidgeting hands, and second, to place distance between him and his conversation partner.
The man across from him blinked, now once, now twice. His name, if Thompson recalled correctly, was Mr. James Pratt. He was a CEO. He was also agonizingly slow. His average speed made sense when one looked at his body; it was massive enough to paint Pratt’s ability to move at all in a very positive light.
Pratt’s mustache was almost as large as his girth. It wiggled when he spoke. “I wanted to talk to you about your promotion,” he said in explanation for this unconventional meeting.
Thompson kept his face straight, reminding himself that he had paid for his own coffee, so he owed nothing should this particular superior prove irrational enough to fire Thompson on the spot.
“Platt,” said the mustached, overweight man whose name was apparently Mr. John Platt.
Thompson gritted his teeth. “Right. Mr. Platt. Excuse me for the slipup.”
“No trouble,” said Platt gruffly. “I just wanted to say... you’ve had a tendency to rock the boat at our office.”
Here it comes. The inevitable warning to do nothing, say nothing that could cause turmoil. All Thompson had done as a baseline employee was report several small breaches in employee conduct. That, however, had led his coworkers to petition his strictness and accuse him of being a tattletale. No one likes a tattletale.
“I just wanted to say you can’t do that so much as a superior. It’ll reflect on your record.”
“Well, the higher-ups don’t want word getting around about broken rules.”
The coffee’s fumes were beginning to addle Thompson’s brain. Platt didn’t notice Thompson’s glazed eyes and continued: “I’m just asking you to sweep anything you see under the rug. It’s your responsibility, now, after all. Consider it a little friendly advice.”
Thompson nodded slowly and took another sip of his mocha. “Yeah. I’ll, uh, keep it in mind. Thanks.”
He didn’t intend to keep it in mind, but maybe not rocking the boat here would lead Platt to trust him more in the future. Platt nodded as if Thompson had passed a test and turned back to his own coffee.
I set down my cup on the metallic table, so unbalanced against the floor that my beverage caused it to tilt ever so slightly. Staring out from the terrace at the beautifully lit up city, I made a futile attempt to keep my eyes from drifting skyward. I had resigned myself to the reality that stargazing was not a possibility for those living in such a bustling metropolis. I glanced back at the table, picking up my cup and swishing around the black coffee inside it, watching the liquid rock around itself. I watched a waitress walk out from the café kitchen, coffee pot in hand, very deliberate in her journey to me. I watched her approach with mild interest, giving a polite smile as she came to my table.
"Care for a refill, sir?" she said, grinning. She couldn't have been a day over seventeen, the touch of youth still so overpowering on her face. She possessed a form that had yet to develop into full adulthood, awkwardly pushing her glasses closer to her light brown eyes.
"No thanks," I replied. "I'm about to get going."
She shivered as a gentle breeze joined us, sending the cool October wind brushing against the unprotected parts of our skin.
"Have a nice night, sir," she finished, smiling as she departed.
"You as well," I added before she could fully turn away.
I reached for the empty cup of hot cocoa across the table and set it next to my own cup. As I did, I heard the distinct sound of my son approaching. At six, he'd just recently learned to tie his shoes, but had also taken a new interest in shuffling his feet.
He looked up at me with a smirk and asked, "Can we go now?"
"I told you to stop shuffling your feet like that," I replied. "It's bad for your shoes."
"I'm sorry, daddy," he said awkwardly. "I'll try to remember not to."
I felt my phone vibrating a few times in my pocket and I hurriedly fished it out. Despite my sleep deprived state, I was suddenly wide awake.
"Hello?" I said. "Already? Okay, we'll be there soon."
I put my phone away and smiled down at my son. "Well, I thought we'd have a little more time for a stroll, but no such luck. We need to get back to the hospital."
His eyes lit up. "It's time!?"
"It sure is," I told him, standing up and pushing in the chair. I downed the last of my coffee and took a deep breath. "Let's get going, young man. You have a sister on the way."
The small cafe was only half full in the early evening, but that was normal, as the man sitting quietly to the side knew. He was a frequent visitor to the café these past few months, but few people knew really who he was. He did not mind that, in fact he rather preferred it, speaking to few, and revealing even less. He was content to observe, content to search.
There was nothing particularly amiss in the evening, but to the man, there was; namely, the other man had arrived. He did not know his name, nor very much about him, although not from lack of trying. But he knew some facts, facts which caused him stirring. For the other man was one whom he sought, and one he sought desperately.
But waiting was a necessity now, and so he lingered, waiting. The other man seemed to not be in much of a hurry, but at last he left. Second after, the first man slipped after him.
It was not vengeance, Jason decided as he left the café, trailing his target, whom he knew only as the man, or as the murderer, the assassin, as well as other worse phrases he applied in the depths of his heart. It was more like justice. Justice for wrongs of long ago, but wrongs which to him could have happened but yesterday, the pain was so sharp.
The other man did not move swiftly, and he did not appear to notice his pursuer. But then, Jason was neither clumsy nor loud, and moved silently and swiftly, although without much training at stealth. There were not many people about, but he blended in with those passing by. His target did not try, he simply walked in the gait of a man without a care in the world.
[i]Has he fattened himself up that much after his slaying,[/i] Jason wondered, [i]as to not worry of any pursuit?[/i]
Perhaps it was so. It had been nearly a year, and until now, Jason had never managed to track him down. But now was different; perhaps his long wait was paying off.
At last his target was moving off the main street, into the quiet streets beyond. Swiftly Jason moved after him, praying with urgent fervor that he would not be noticed. He closed more and more, as much as he dared, while at the same time slipping his revolver out of its concealed holster. A break in the houses could be seen up ahead, and Jason planned his move, holding his gun out of view from the front. At last his target was in position, and he called out a greeting. His target turned, and even as Jason raised his gun, recognition spread across his target’s face.
Then the bullet entered it, taking the recognition away along with the man’s life.
She winced as a plate smashed against the wall behind her. A puddle formed on the pale tiled floor after the coffee waterfall had run its course.
Unnecessary yelling and the sound of ceramics shattering followed shortly after. But she was used to this chaos by now, and wasn’t surprised by this. Eli and Nick trashing the Ambage Café had become the norm. They would have to clean it all up afterwards anyways.
She looked up from her laptop in time to see Andrew, always the good cop, step in between the two RPG nuts of the group and calm them. Eight seconds and a headbutt to the sternum later, Andrew had taken his seat at the table with the rest of the sane denizens of Ambage.
“We need to regulate who does and doesn’t get coffee here,” he grumbled.
“That’s the last thing those two need,” Caleb shook his head disapprovingly. “I, for one-“
[i]“As the opposite of what you say is true, your statement must be erroneous!!”[/i] Nick’s shout interrupted everyone. He was standing atop the nearest un-overturned coffee table, pointing a straw at Elijah Lucas Brockway. He liked to say it was a mace most days. Today was one of those days. Nate and [end because of lack of creativity and way overdue]