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