“No,” she said firmly, “I won’t get involved in this.”
He bowed a little. “Alright, then we’re done talking.” He waved her to go open the door.
“You can’t stay here – I can’t have the bar be related with you in any way!”
“I wasn’t going to. Oh, and loose the heels – they’ll want you to come after me.” He smiled and waved towards the door again. “It’s not so pretty.” He said with his smile widening.
He was right, she didn’t want to watch him do it. She left to front and began drying glasses Matteo had neatly gathered on the farther edge of the counter. Matteo hated drying finery, she hated washing the floors – both were happy.
She couldn’t forget the man in the back and wondered how big hole will be left after mole of such proportions dug the floor up.
She began swearing under her breath and ran back. She flew the door open and stared at the empty room. There was indeed half a meter wide hole right next to the granite. She quickly started pushing the dirt back in it and began stumping on it until it looked nice and firm from far. She knew it wouldn’t fool anyone if they’d look closer, but until she had time to properly cover it up, it had to do. After five minutes of constant work and finally agreeing with the outcome, she pushed herself up, went back to front and washed her hands under warm flow of water.
She was about to reach for the towel, when she saw from the mirror how Sergeant Isley entered the bar with his two companions. They had guns and bullet vests on. But this time they looked like policemen.
She bit her lips. Matteo didn’t like police. They had the policy to help the forced security, but that was as far as either of their love for blue uniform went. Many of the customers stared at them, too, making it more obvious why they carried guns all the time. But she guessed they couldn’t go running around in military uniforms. She doubted if that would have brought them more love around here.
“Which way did he go?” Isley didn’t bother to be polite.
“Through the back and to the left.” She tossed the towel back on the side of the sink.
“Who?” Matteo stared at both of them with growing concern.
“We had a little thief.” She lied quickly, knowing it will backfire in less than a…
“And you didn’t tell me?”
At least he was arguing, she retorted. “He already got away and we cant’ go hunting him down on the street. Police can.”
“What did he get?”
“The bugger took some beers and boss’s wine!”
“Oh…” his eyebrows flew up and landed down in deep frown. She was lying her teeth out and he knew it. She saw it from his face he knew it.
“I’ll explain it later.” She promised quietly and received a hidden nod. Then she turned to sergeant and earned a scorning frown.
Nice! She thought, but quietly flipped out of her shoes, leaving them this time in place where she could come and pick them up later.
“We’ll need you to come and show us, where you saw him run.” Silver sounded official, far cry from the soldier she had heard before.
“Yes, of course.” She came out from the bar, asked Matteo to cover for her and lead them back out, then on the left side of the house.
The moment they got in the alley, sergeant grabbed her elbow and pulled her to stop. “You’ve been spreading the news?” he said.
“No, I have not!” she pushed his arm away. “How many would believe a story about crazies digging through ground? By my counting – none! I’ll come up with something less elaborate,” she stepped away from his reach, “tooth aching pirate hopping on one leg after booze perhaps?” she murmured, trying sensing any vibrations nearby. Some other time, maybe.
They didn’t come after her, but stood few steps back and waited with their guns ready.
There was nothing that sounded like him under the ground anymore. It was dead silence around. Not even cats moved around.
She felt relieved. At least this time she could honestly retreat from being part of killing someone.
“It isn’t here anymore, I think it has moved on.”
Her joy was short lived. The moment she let the thought through her mind, she sensed a rumble beginning from the mid-street and heading towards the end, then it quickly disappeared behind the brick wall built in-between the two streets
“It is on a move again – there!” she showed them the way and they ran after it, leaving her there alone.
She didn’t dare to move. She felt heavy, unable to wash off images of others, who had died, because she told them where they were. He wasn’t like them, but if things went as they had gone so far, he too would be soon referred to as something dangerous in the past.
Only, he didn’t seem dangerous and she wasn’t threatened by him. Which made her feel even worse that she was the one who would have them point the gun right at his face.
She went back inside after they hadn’t returned in ten minutes. At first she planned to wait them out, but realized suddenly that she didn’t want to know the result of this aftermatch. She just didn’t. Inside she was faced down by Matteo and one of his friends who had taken their seat in their usual place right in front of the bar.
“I swear to you, it isn’t what it looks like. I didn’t rat out on anybody.” She said after she got back and climbed back in her shoes. It had felt good to walk bare feet on cold asphalt.
“Then what was it?”
“We had rats.” She stayed firmly to her answer. Petty thieves – no one cared enough to even give them out to police.
“We deal with our rats ourselves, we don’t need pest control!”
“Yes, well, this time we did.”
Oh don’t ask me so simple questions! There is no answer to it!
“Matteo, give the girl a break.” The man behind the bar intervened while gulping down his tomato juice.
“Thank you, Nowak.”
Gallant as he seemed that man was no saint and she continued the followed silence by counting numbers backwards in her head. Six, five, four, three…
“So what was it in the back room?”
“Back room?” she froze. “There was nothing in the backroom. Why would you ask?”
“Your little show running here and there…” He played with his glass while her eyes stuck to his black fingernail.
“I saw a man there.” He added oil in the mix. “Just for a blink, but there was definitely a man.”
That was like showing red flag to a pull. Matteo was immediately glued to her side and showed one guy asking for a beer to wait.
“You just told me it was a rat!”
“He is a rat!” she got angry. “Now, serve the kind gentlemen over there!” He didn’t move. “I’ll wait and tell you then, ok?”
That got him going and left her alone with Nowak. He had the pleasure of watching her cleaning the counter while they waited.
Nowak man worked for car repair down the street. He loved his wife, he said, but he never had enough intellect to go straight to home. His slightly grey crewcut was evidence that it wasn’t his first marriage and the longer this marriage lasted, the less he wanted to go home. This lasted exactly an hour and then Matteo would take him by the hand and take the man home, despite him not being so drunk not to find his own way. But it was his smoke pause. One smoke, like he excused it to boss. So what if it was one smoke there and one back- by the time he got back, it was always near to its end.
The client got his drink and Matteo was back, filled his friend’s outstretched empty glass with next tomato juice and waited.
“When I was in circus,” she began with as innocent eyes as he could manage, “I dated a soldier.” Which wasn’t a lie. There had been one four years ago, but he had gone off to a mission and she never heard of him again. But their schedules clicked, she joked – neither had more time than tea break in the night after the show.
“You?” Nowak sounded very incredulous.
She frowned harsh. “Yes, me! Is it really that hard to believe?”
“No, you date alright, but didn’t think of you as a military chick!”
“Thank you, honey, that’s so assuring coming from an ex con!”
“Anyway, he showed up here and wanted to talk. We didn’t quite break up on small-talk, so knowing that he should be in Colombia instead, I used my chance and told the police that we have an escapee. They came and picked him up.” Her eyes lit up. That ex harassing was quite handy lye. “Serves him right for dating Faruk!”
Matteo listened it in silence and patted her back, growing laughter echoing as he went to serve the next customer while Nowak just stared.
“You are very revengeful person, you know that?”
“And you admit it? Woman – that does not bring you men!”
“He deserved it!”
“Then next time if you find someone deserves your revenge, let us know first!”
She smirked. “Why?”
“I have enough friends, who still want to practice a bit.”
“Perhaps some other time!”
They both laughed, she from relief and him just for the joke. She looked up and her smile died on her lips, when she saw sergeant coming through the door. She immediately walked away from him to the other end of the bar, signaling him to follow.
“Thank you for calling Dr. Hagen.” He said immediately when he reached the counter. “But this hasn’t changed our offer – you could do a lot of good there!”
To which side, she thought grimly. “I’ve given it some thought…” she started, but fell silent, sensing that without even realizing it, she had accepted the monster’s offer and had chosen to follow his command. And that was bad.
He waited. His body stayed relaxed, but his eyes were tense.
“Can I call you tomorrow?” she asked instead. She had to think this through again. She couldn’t trust her own feelings right now, she knew it well enough to put halt on anything she’d say next.
His eyes fell on the clock behind her.
“After I’ve slept on it?” she tried again. Working in late nights could get those things confused.
Her shoulders slumbered – it was that easy? No yelling, no tossing things? No guns and pointing them at her?
He grabbed a black marker from his uniform’ pocket and searched for a piece of paper. They had none.
“People steel them a lot.” she explained.
He sniffed for a second, like asking if she was serious, but instead grabbed an empty glass from the tray she hadn’t got time to finish up yet, and wrote there his phone number and his first name.
“Call me when you wake up.” He said and left.
She took a deep breath in and fell a step backwards before looking around and seeing Matteo and Nowak staring at her, giggling to themselves like little children.