A Meeting

By Cthulhu


Sharon had been watching the pair sitting at the table for three hours, trying to work up the courage to ask them to leave. So far they'd only ordered one cup of coffee between them, and that had been sitting in the woman's hands, untouched, since it arrived. Normally Sharon would have bawled the two out of it and thrown them out the door hours ago, but there was something too weird about the couple for her to want to go near them. 'Couple' was probably too strong a word for them anyway. Other than ordering, they hadn't said a single word. Not even a "thanks" when Sharon had brought the coffee over. The woman had just stared out at the busy street as evening fell, and the man had just stared at her with angry eyes as she did so. They hadn't moved in three hours. It was freaky.

There were enough other customers in the place to keep Sharon occupied though; the coffee shop was always busy at this time, for which she gave a small prayer of thanks. If the boss turned up she'd get it for not vacating the window seat the pair occupied, which should have seated four, but that was an if that hadn't happened yet. Let him sort them out if he shows, she thought. I'd like to see that.

Her mind was drawn from the couple by another customer stepping up to the counter. He was wearing a neat suit, still complete with tie from the day at the office.

"Howerya," he opened, flashing a warm smile. Sharon didn't smile back. "Could I have an open sandwich with ... eh ... chicken and salad please. And do you have any pickle?"

"Yeah." Sharon monotoned.

"Well lash some of that on top. And a cup of tea, please."

Sharon tapped the order into the till and made of the sandwich in silence. The man watched her all the while, smile gone now, humming under his breath. She put the food down in front of him and took the proffered note. He gave another smile as she gave him his change, then turned away with his cup in one hand and plate in the other. As she watched him go Sharon realised that he was heading for the couple by the window, and the woman had turned to watch him approach. Though the man still stared grimly at his partner.

The freaks had a friend. Fine. It solved her problem for a while.

Cet sat down beside Mara. She stared at him with dull, lifeless eyes.

"Hiddly-ho," he greeted her as he shook out his napkin.

"Why are you so perky?" Mara responded in a tone which suited her eyes. If she were to be any more corpse-like, Cet noted, she'd have to start rotting.

"Well, for one thing, it's just about that one time of the day when we get a good feeling," he said nodding to the rapidly-darkening street outside. "And for another, I have good news. So it's good all round. Why not be perky?"

Mara glanced back out the window for a second, sensing rather than feeling the fading sun behind the overcast sky. Then back to Cet, sipping at his tea.

"Did you notice the waitress has a cross around her neck?" he added conversationally, "Self-delusional little wagon. About as Christian as I am."

"Some of us still have work to do." she intoned. "So this news have better be really feckin' good."

"It is. Very good. In fact, it's so good that you don't have to keep dragging that thing around with you anymore." he gestured to the man sitting opposite her, who had not even glanced at him until he said this.

The woman looked across the table at her companion and caught his gaze for a few seconds. Then the two of them turned back to the newcomer.

"Details. Now." There was finally activity in her eyes, but to call it life would have been to slander the living. Something dark and angry swam behind those orbs. Something which had just been pissed off.

"I found someone who can help you, Mara. But it's going to cost. Lots. And that..." here he once again gestured to the glaring man, this time with his fork, "... is going to be part of the price."

"Don't bloody play with me Cet. Tell me what you've done, and tell me why they want Robert."

"For the life of me, I don't know." Cet smiled around a mouthful of chicken. "I didn't ask. And I don't think he would have told me if I had. And I've done what you asked; found a way to get your pet off the hook. For good. I'm going to stick around to see it through, and then I'm gone. And we're through, Temptress."

"I told you to find a way to clear Ryan's name. Not someone else. You." Mara hissed. Robert's gaze was flickering between the two, caught trying to decide who to glare at.

"Yep," said Cet, still smiling, "and I've done so. I have found a way. You never said that the way couldn't involve someone else, or that it couldn't cost you extra. And you never said that I had to be the one who personally cleared the name. Pretty stupid of you really."

"Tell me everything."

"Hold." Cet lifted his knife for silence. Both Mara and himself gave the briefest, tiniest of shivers. "Aah. Now that hits the spot." He took another mouthful of tea.

Mara shook her head and sipped at her cold coffee for the first time.

"What the hell have you done, you bastard?" Robert finally spat out. Cet ignored him, and addressed Mara again.

"I've found someone who can make the gardai loose all interest in your 'Ryan'." Cet grimaced as he said the name. "He serves Secrets. One of the big ones. Word-bound. He will undertake this task, and he will succeed. Without question or doubt. But part of the payment will be that." Cet made yet another stabbing gesture at Robert.

Mara paused. Glanced at the near-foaming Robert. Then:

"What's the Word?"

"Unsolved Murders." smirked Cet. "What else would it be, really?"

"I don't want anyone else involved. Even letting you know what Ryan did was dangerous. Why the hell do you think I want him cleared? If he goes down I loose everything I've been working for here."

"You've given me the bloody spiel already Mara. I know how important your boss thinks this guy is. I really don't give a crap. You've made me swear never to tell on you or him, even to Fleurity's bunch I might add, who would be very interested to know. And this guy I've called in doesn't need to be sworn to secrecy. Think of who he serves? Think of what his Word is? He doesn't want anyone to know who committed this murder. Anyone at all."

Mara sat back, cradling the half-empty cup in her hands. She stared absently at Robert as she thought. There was a vein on his temple fit to burst.

"So really, I just have to choose who's more important to me." she muttered. The expression on Robert's face went from psychotic anger to slowly-dawning horror as he turned towards her.

"Yep. A murderous drug dealer who brews shit that would make even your Princess have bad dreams, or a twitchy git who can't keep his mouth shut and obviously wants to kill you. I'd get rid of both of them, personally, but I can understand you're seeing this differently." Cet finished off his sandwich and washed it down with the last of his tea.

"And what else would this guy you know want?" asked Mara, not shifting her gaze from Robert's wide eyes.

"Probably a few minor Hooks. Maybe some Essence. Not really much at all, when you put it like that." Cet smiled at Robert. "I told him I'd introduce the two of you later tonight so you could fill him in on the rest of the details."

Mara was quiet for a few more seconds.

"Take me." she said in the end. "And you'd better be right about him."

The colour drained from Robert's face.

"Would I lie to you Mara?" Cet said in an earnest tone of voice, wiping his mouth with the napkin and then folding it under the cup.

Mara dragged on her leather jacket, a tattered affair which looked as though it had been involved in a car crash. Which it had. She didn't bother responding, opting instead to drain her icy cup.

"C'mon Robert," she ordered, standing up, "you've got a couple of hours to prove that you're still worth my while." Not that you'll succeed, she thought. Not a snowballs chance of that

Sharon watched the threesome walk out into the night; the newcomer grinning as he led the way, the wagon trudging along behind him in her ridiculous heels and the skinhead with his arms tightly clutching his sides.

They were leaving just as the place was emptying, the freaks, but Sharon didn't really care. As long as she didn't have to deal with trying to get them out at closing time. Not her problem anymore.

Though God only knows whose they were.


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