A new serial! This idea has been bouncing around my head for a few weeks now but until now I haven’t had much to go on apart from this opening scene. I hope you all like this and forgive the unusual nature of the title. It is explanatory – partly – but I have always wanted to use this word in my writing.
‘Hey there brother!’ The momentary pleasure of that first sip of my lunch time coffee with rich cream and brown sugar was matched only with the heart-sink moment of being interrupted by the homeless man as he shambled along the bank of the River Thames, caught site of me – the only other black man in the square – and made his way towards me with that determined expression that saw only money and an opportunity to extract some. He was overweight and balding with two-day stubble that was slightly greying, but he was otherwise well-dressed for a member of London’s displaced.
I raised my coffee mug to him. ‘Good morning!’ I responded in a chirpy manner, feeling the sunshine on my face and the satisfaction of the deal I’d closed ten minutes before. That promotion was already in my pocket.
‘Yeah,’ He looked at me, to the coffee shop behind me and noticed that less than half of the tables scattered around the cobbled square were occupied. ‘Listen, you got to help me.’
Heart sinking and false smile plastered across my face, I reached inside my suit pocket and pulled out my wallet.
‘Hey, put it away brother!’ He waved vigorously. ‘What do you think I am? I don’t want your money.’
I felt a little sheepish at my assumption and invited him to sit down. Cautiously, I offered to get him a coffee and / or something to eat. I also felt annoyed at his second address of me as “brother”. I had no brother – not any more – he died in a car crash when I was 9 years old.
‘Nah,’ he responded, ‘not staying long.’ He cast another gaze over my back, staring towards the glass doors of the coffee shop behind me. I heard it open and close, a woman’s voice talking into a mobile phone moved towards us and then disappeared off to my left. To the right, two men discussed last night’s football match and suggested taking the rest of the day off work.
I raised an eyebrow at that. ‘So, what can I do for you?’ The River Thames, brown and not particularly enticing even on a good day, sparkled in the sunshine.
‘First, I need you to go in the coffee shop and tell me if there’s a woman in there. I’ve been watching you and I saw her come by here. Some homeless guy stopped me so I didn’t see what happened to her.
Keeping my smirk to myself, I nodded. ‘What does she look like?’
‘Oh, she’s about four feet eleven, blonde. Wearing a green dress and big black glasses. Maybe 50 years old? She got that business lady look about her, you know? Trust me, if she’s in there you will know her.’
I stood and made my way along the cobbled path to the metal and glass coffee shop. The shop had only been open six months but was already my favourite coffee shop. I slipped in through the door and did that thing people do when walking into a pub and pretending to look for somebody but really just looking for the toilets. I did a circuit of the coffee shop before a bored barrista stopped me. ‘Have you lost something?’
Thinking quickly, I asked him for more sugar.
‘Here you go mate,’ he said, tossing three sachets on the bar, ‘we don’t put them out.’
He was still there when I returned and looked anxious. I had barely got back to the table before he blurted out at me. ‘Did you see her? Did she see you.’
I waved him into calm. ‘No, I did not see a woman in a green dress.’
He visibly relaxed. ‘Ah, well that’s good brother.’
I winced a third time at the salutation. Once more, and I would have to firmly tell him to stop. ‘Why is it good? Who is she?’
I had barely got the words out of my mouth before he leaned forward and firmly gripped my wrist with both hands. ‘Because now we can leave.’
One second I was at the table of my favourite coffee shop, and in the next I was somewhere else.