A Second Cup of Coffee

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“Total Removals. You say where, we say when.”

“Where.”

“What?”

“You said ‘you say where, we say when’.”

“So?”

“So I said ‘where’.”

“You trying to be funny?”

“I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I’m just a bit nervous.”

“That’s quite all right sir, there’s no need to worry. We’ll take care of everything.”

Percy’s face sagged with relief and he gave a quick thumbs up to the barista. Killing the man in the cafe had not been part of the plan. Not much had been; the plan was sparse at best: meet the man, take the briefcase, leave. It sounded good. Simple, uncomplicated. It sounded like a good plan to someone who didn’t do planning well. The clarity had especially appealed to Percy, for whom planning was alien.

He had arrived at the cafe on time and remembered not to have a coffee – it tended to get caught in his throat when he was tense. Instead he got a large muffin, loaded with raisins. The barista stabbed a fork into it and sulked off into the backroom. He hated staying late for these people. Percy managed not to notice and sat at the sole illuminated table in the coffee shop.

He didn’t have to wait long. A tall man, carrying a case, slid through a narrow opening of the door, like a cat between legs. The miserable barista squeezed a few meagre drops of coffee into a mug and slouched off again. Percy beamed with anxiety and sweating good cheer. He pushed out a chair and gestured violently towards it. The man looked confused. Percy patted the seat encouragingly. The man looked at him as if Percy were an idiot (an apt summation). However, since the rest of the coffee shop was filled with shadows and Percy’s was the only table with a light above it, he sighed and dragged another chair over and sat down. He placed his coffee as far from Percy as the tiny table would allow and turned to face the window.

Percy grinned wildly as the gentleman placed his case on the floor. Percy nodded knowingly and reached for the briefcase. As his damp fist closed over the handle the man grabbed for it defensively.

“No no, it’s okay. I know what I’m doing,” said Percy with a reassuring wink. The other man gave him the idiot look again, seized the case and pulled hard. Percy pulled even  harder, hauling the perplexed and angry man across the table. Percy wrested it off him and fell backwards in his chair, the case clutched to his chest. The man fell forwards and let out a surprised “oof”, then lay on the table. Percy sighed in relief; he really hadn’t wanted to screw this up. He climbed back on to his feet and set the chair upright again. The man still lay, still, across the table.

“Up we get, all sorted now,” Percy said jovially, delighted with how easily the plan had played out – a full two thirds of the plan had been accomplished already. He nudged the man. No response. Anxiety filled Percy’s face and it crumpled like a dam under the flood of perspiration. He shoved the man harder. The man rolled off the table and on to his back on the floor. Percy’s muffin stood proudly upright in the man’s chest, quivering on the end of his fork. Blood soaked the front of the once-white shirt.

Percy’s high-pitched wail of distress brought the barista back out. He took one look at the body on the floor, sighed, and withdrew a business card from under the till. “Call this number,” he said. Percy commenced babbling. “Just call the number you…” his words were lost to Percy’s panicked ears as he retreated into whatever hole grumpy service staff lurk in.

Percy’s hands shook as he dialled in the number. He tried not to look at the body, but didn’t want to turn his back on it in case it came back to life.

“Total Removals. You say where we say when.” Percy got through the initial awkwardness, gave the address and was firmly instructed to exit the premises but leave the back door unlocked. Percy rang the bell on the counter for attention and received a scowl in return.

“Apparently we need to leave now,” he evaded the deepening scowl, “sorry about all this.”

“Why did you kill the guy?”

“It was an accident. I just wanted a muffin. And the case. I was only supposed to take the briefcase,” he shook the trophy he’d won in the tug of war.

“It’s not much of a briefcase is it? More like a satchel really.”

Percy looked more closely at the bag he was holding. The door to the coffee shop swung open. A tall man stood in the doorway, smartly suited with a briefcase under his arm. He took in the obviously dead body lying, as if in a tableau in the pool of light, then the sweaty sight of Percy clutching the bag and the indifferent barista standing in the gloom; he hastily fled. The door closed in his wake.

“Now that,” the barista commented, “that was a nice briefcase.”

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