Geoff stared at his blank computer screen while the server whirred silently behind him.
He was exhausted. He’d hardly slept over the weekend with his head full of the events that had taken place. His body ached with tiredness. His joints groaned in protest whenever he moved.
Geoff had given some serious thought to calling in sick today and hiding at home. But where would he hide in a city with boundaries? He was always being watched so hiding was futile, for anyone.
His mind turned to Jeanie, that poor girl. He’d managed to get her to A&E at the hospital after realising she was not returning to consciousness any time soon. He didn’t leave his name with the nurses though. He didn’t want to cause Marie any shame or embarrassment, he didn’t want her knowing he’d found Jeanie so as to spare her feelings.
He simply gave them Andy’s name along with Marie’s to contact, but, perhaps out of a sense of frustrated spite he’d suggested that Andy would be best to contact first.
Geoff played out in his mind what may have happened when Andy got the call and his heart sank a little when he thought about how Marie would be feeling.
His thoughts were broken by a tap at his door. Geoff didn’t have time to offer a ‘come in’ as his door stood open and a figure stepped in.
It was Terry Duran.
Geoff gulped and braced himself for the inevitable interrogation about his run in with Lahm. Geoff feared this would not end well for him. Underneath that fear however, Geoff’s newfound fury simmered, and he was ceasing to care about consequences after the awful weekend he’d just had. This latest encounter would just be the cherry on a toxic cake.
“Geoff let’s go for a walk eh. You and I need a little chat about Lahm and what the fuck you get up to on weekends. Follow me.”
With that Terry turned and left the room while Geoff sat staring.
“I haven’t got all fucking day Mr Smith!” bellowed Terry and Geoff found himself involuntarily leaping from his chair and following.
Terry climbed the stairs, delayed for a second allowing the scampering Geoff to catch up, before proceeding through the reception area, tipping a wink to the surly security guard who had caught Geoff with Lahm two days ago, and wandered outside of HQ. Geoff skipping behind looked back at the security guard who was shaking his head and smiling at Geoff.
Geoff stepped outside and stood alongside Terry. Terry stared at Geoff and started to walk at a pace again. Geoff bemused stood where he was.
“Smith! Don’t make me ask you again. Come on man!”
Geoff again found himself scampering like a dog towards it's owner. It was a feeling Geoff despised.
Terry and Geoff wound their way through the city and eventually stopped off in a quiet little café, one of those hideous city café’s which offered endless options for coffees and none of them at a reasonable price. It grew even quieter when Terry entered followed by an out of breath Geoff.
Terry shouted for two coffees and two cream cakes.
Geoff sat down opposite Terry. Terry smiled and said nothing. The silence between the two became agonising. Geoff was about to blurt something out to break that silence only for Terry, with a sixth sense, to shake his head and mime a ‘zip it’ motion. Those black pearl eyes pierced bone. Geoff found himself again obeying, reluctantly.
The waitress brought Terry’s order to their table as Terry thanked her before following her back to the checkout. He leaned across the counter and whispered to her. Geoff craned his neck forward but couldn’t hear any recognisable words.
The waitress, Geoff observed, nodded nervously before asking the smattering of customers to leave. One stood up and protested. “I have not finished my drink. Do you know who I am woman?”
Terry marched over to the individual and grabbed him by the lapels. “I know exactly who you are you jumped up sack of shit. Get the fuck out. I need this place now, and you, fuck off and go back to your office before I parade you in front of the whole fucking street, kicking you every inch of the way eh? EH!?”
Terrified recognition was written all over the man’s face as he caught on just who he was talking to.
He hurriedly made his escape, glancing at Geoff with a hint of sympathy as he did so.
As the café door swung shut behind him, Geoff couldn’t help think this was like a scene out of a western with the saloon cleared of all drinkers and the killer left to do his deed. All that was missing was the piano player in the corner ceasing his playing abruptly and sneaking out through a swinging backdoor.
“Peace. Can you hear that Geoff?” said Terry as he calmly sat back down and eloquently ate a slice of his cream pie. “Mm, that is gold, sheer gold. Try a bit Geoff, eh? Don’t make me eat this treasure alone.”
Geoff did as he was asked, all the while knowing Terry was building up to a head of steam and things would soon get unpleasant. Geoff nodded as he chewed. It was indeed very nice, but the taste was somewhat sullied by an impending doom.
“I hate this fucking café, pretentious, full of twats as you just saw with that slick fuck back there, but Geoff, the cream cake is out of this world. Don’t you agree?”
“Yes, it’s very nice Mr Duran. Bit soured by the fact you are about to murder or torture me or whatever it is you do, but the cake is very nice. Not worth dying for though if I may say so.” Geoff found himself momentarily surprised by his own reply. But what the hell, he was exhausted, angry, and despairing at how things had turned out over the last few days. He may as well plunge in deeper with the shark now that he was swimming with it.
Terry gave a hint at a smile in response but no more. He continued to eat and savour his cream cake and beckoned Geoff to do the same. The café stood silent apart from the clink of forks on plates coming from their solitary table. Geoff could take the silence no longer.
“Ok Mr Duran, if you’re going to do whatever it is you do, please get on with it. Please. I don’t need to be dined before I get fucked.”
This time Terry did smile. “I like that Geoff! EH! That’s a good one. I don’t need to be dined before I get fucked. My. Seems I haven’t got the monopoly on smart turns of phrase after all. Good. Now, if you don’t mind Geoff, let me finish this last bite and then we’ll dance, ok sugar tit's?”
With that Terry finished his cream cake and pushed his plate away, leant back in his chair, took a long sip of his coffee, and peered menacingly over his mug as he did so.
“Ok Geoff. Now we can talk. The reason we’re here we both know. Franz Lahm. You eh, rescued the poor wretch on Saturday. He looked fucking awful. First time I’d seen him for a while in fact. So, what did he say to you Geoff?”
“He said nothing of any note, he was raving a like a lunatic, talking shit. I didn’t understand most of what he said,” replied Geoff, a little quicker than he would have liked.
“I see. Most of what he said. So, you did understand, some of what he said? Tell me what you understood of Lahm’s ramblings Geoff and don’t fucking lie. I’ll know. I smell lies like bad farts, and both anger me.”
Geoff made a snap decision in his mind to tell Terry some of what he’d said. He would tell the truth but limit it.
“He told me about making the teleportation pads. He invented them. He told me how the four heads were out to kill him or something and we’re all doomed. It was deluded rambling you know, paranoid end of the world stuff. That was as much as I could make sense of, really.”
“I see. What do you think of what Lahm had to say Geoff?” Terry leaned forward and intensified his gaze.
“Well. I believe him on the teleportation pads. He looked like how a mad scientist should look that’s for sure.”
“Good Geoff. What did you make of his doomsday scenario? The whole four heads out to kill him?”
“It sounded like extreme paranoia. I mean, he’s obviously a clever man to invent something as incredible as teleportation but equally insane by my first impressions of him.”
“Still Geoff, must have been shocking to find him there tampering in your office. All skin and bones and raving about death and persecution. You put all that down to a delusion?”
“Sure, why not? It’s not unique, a mental health issue. I mean in truth it’s really none of my business. I just found the guy, did what I had to and got him out of there and went about my day afterwards.”
“Ah yes Geoff, your day afterwards. Anything you want to tell me about your day after the unfortunate Lahm meeting? Anything else interesting happen during Saturday that you feel may be in your best interests to share with me? Eh?”
Geoff wasn’t expecting this line of questioning. Sure, he could understand the Lahm thing but his discovery of Andy and then worse Jeanie? Terry couldn’t possibly know of that could he? You are always being watched Geoff; his mind reminded him. Jesus, perhaps I’m developing paranoia myself Geoff thought.
“No, I don’t have anything else to share. Why do you ask?” replied Geoff while playing with his spoon.
“Let’s cut the shit Geoff, I don’t have time to play all day. Lahm told you a little more than you are letting on. Lahm is or was up to something. You may or may not know what that something is. Judging by what you did Saturday for Marie Petrie’s junkie kid, I don’t think you are a danger to people here or me. I do however know you are now a potential danger to the four heads. Not your fault, but when you saw and spoke to Lahm, accidental or not, you essentially turned into a giant fucking exclamation mark with neon lights. Fortunately for you, the four heads are on one of their trips outside the City today, they have Lahm with them. Fuck knows what they are doing but it’s convenient for me and lucky for you. I’m doing the questioning as per usual under their say so and reporting back. Even more fortunate for you is I don’t see you as a threat or a problem. I see you as potentially useful and having a purpose. What that purpose is, I have no fucking idea but when my instinct rings, which it has around you, I listen.”
Terry leaned back once more and let Geoff soak up the information.
Geoff for his part looked stunned. He was on a reprieve of sorts it seemed, but he had no control in whatever this game was turning into. How the fuck did Terry know about Jeanie?
“You’ve been watching me? All this time, it’s been you watching me?”
“Now Geoff, don’t flatter yourself eh? I keep my ear to the ground and my eyes well fucking peeled, it’s my job. I watched you Saturday very closely but frankly I have better things to do than watch you twenty-four seven. I tracked you Saturday out of necessity, being the new pin up boy for the heads and all. But my interest in you previously has been intermittent at best. The Marie factor interested me, seeing you two all cosy over Steve Rocker. But your chance meeting with Lahm was a game changer. Things are about to take off and you, Geoff, you find yourself at the centre of the game.”
Geoff sat in amazement as he processed all this. This man’s reputation for all seeing and knowing wasn’t misplaced.
“I…I have no untoward motives towards Marie, Mr Duran. Of that I can promise you.”
“I know you don’t Geoff. You are a fucking blessing to that woman compared to Andy Petrie. But he is no longer my concern and nor is Marie. She doesn’t know by the way,” Terry added.
“She doesn’t know what?” Geoff asked.
“About her daughter, being a fucking junkie that is. The hospital phoned Andy and Andy, being up to no good as you could testify, picked Jeanie up himself and said fuck all to Marie. Reason I know this is Marie is in work today, happy as fucking Larry and none the wiser to her husband’s ‘twattery’ and her daughter’s newfound heroin addiction. We’re going to keep it that way too. I need things running as usual at HQ and beyond while I try to figure out where all this is going. It’s a fucker being me sometimes but hey knowledge is power.”
Geoff simply gazed silently in response.
“Now Geoff, here is the play. Listen up close it may just save your life. I’m going to return to the four heads when they get back, all eager to know what you know. I’m going to tell them you are a weak rather stupid man who knows very little. I’m going to suggest how lucky we are it was you who found Lahm and not someone who had a brain cell. I will suggest that I keep my beady eye on you just in case but as far as I can tell, Lahm told you nothing of value. This is true to an extent, in reality you told me fuck all about your encounter with Lahm. Now between you and me, I know or think he has something planned. I want to see how that may play out. In case you didn’t notice Geoff, things are starting to get pretty fucked up in this City and it doesn’t take a genius to work it's only just getting started. When that happens, I need a card up my sleeve. You may be that card. Or Lahm may be. Marie could even be that card. Who knows, I may even have a winning deck of the fuckers up my sleeve. Time will tell. Until such time, keep your mouth shut and when you get back to HQ, try looking like I’ve just mauled you and you don’t know which day of the fucking week it is. Alright?”
Geoff nodded numbly.
Terry stood up and slapped Geoff on the back. “Good man. Keep friendly with Marie and don’t mention Jeanie or Andy to her. Should whatever Lahm have planned come to light and you see that light, I strongly suggest you tell me about it. Now, I’m going back, you follow ten minutes later looking like the perfect sacrificial lamb. Do you have any questions? No? Good.”
Just before Terry exited, Geoff did manage to spit out a hasty raft of questions. “Steve Rocker. What happened to him, where is he, did he get demoted?
Terry’s poker face momentarily disappeared. “Knowledge is power Geoff, but sometimes, there are things we’re better off not knowing. Steve Rocker left the City and that is all you need to know. Stay off the radar Geoff Smith.”
Terry strode out the café and left Geoff to nurse his now cold coffee.