Not happy with this at all really, but I banged it out in about 40 minutes this morning, and it’s the first creative writing I’ve done for a week – so I’m just chucking it up there anyway.
Several hours before Alistair’s summoning by Fudd; Marguerite, was meeting a contact in an expensive pavement cafe outside the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. She watched the cafe first from the window of another cafe upstairs and across Grey Street from the theatre. About ten minutes before the scheduled time a woman in a maroon headscarf and classy tawny rain coat and dark glasses took a seat at the pavement cafe. She had moved quickly, jerkily to get to her seat looking around and making little darts to her target. It reminded Marguerite of a small bird avoiding hawks.
That was her. It must have been. She looked at the iMessage again. “meet me at the Cafe Royal NE1 @2pm tomorrow. A Friend”. It was followed a few seconds later by a photo of a maroon silk scarf with gold braid.
Marguerite got to the cafe a moment before two and startled the other woman by dropping unannounced into the chair opposite her. “Hi, how are you?”
The other woman recovered slightly and smiled back. “I’m well. I assume you’re from…?”
“Yes we got the message. Black americano please.” she turned to the waitress who had appeared between them. Maroon scarf ordered a latte.
“So, we’re old friends meeting for a coffee and a chat on a dull Monday in toon right?”
“Of course.” Marguerite said.
“We should probably use names?”
“Well you can call me Marguerite, mainly because it’s my real name. And you are Saira.”
The other woman’s eyebrows lifted past the frames of her large back sunglasses, and she jerked back in her chair slightly; but she didn’t look like taking flight. Marguerite smiled at her.
“Don’t worry, we handle everything confidentially, we’re professionals.” Well eight weeks basic police training down in York, followed by 12 weeks tradecraft skills in Gothenburg, followed by two years now as a field operator for Office 19 of the Northumbrian Home Department. That was about as professional as things got round here.
“Okay.” They were quiet for a moment as the waitress delivered their coffees.
“So Saira what can I do for you?”
“Well, if you know my name, you know where I work right?” She was testing her, more confident now.
“Yes. You still work at the Office of Inward Development don’t you?”
Saira nodded. “And who am I married to?”
“Look Saira, I’m not here to play games. What can we do for you?”
“Okay, this is difficult for me. It’s my husband you see.”
“What about him?” Rishi that was his name. Scottish, Marguerite remembered.
“Well Rishi, has been acting strangely recently. He’s a freelance web developer and has never shown any interests in my work, or in politics. But after going back to Dundee to visit his mum who is not well, he’s been acting increasingly strangely.” She took a sip of coffee.
“Then last week I caught him going though so papers from work that I’d brought home to prepare for a conference.” She held up her hand as Marguerite was about to interrupt. “Don’t worry it was nothing confidential, I’m a professional you know?” They both smiled at this.
“I love Rishi, and I trust him totally. But, I also care about Northumbria, I care about my country. And well you know, since Scotland abolished free healthcare Rishi’s family have had big bills to pay for his mum’s care. What if he’s being pressured or blackmailed into spying for them?”
Marguerite sat back and absently drained the last dregs from her cup. This was a pretty big thing for Saira to do if she wasn’t just lying, to get Rishi into trouble because of some real or imagined infidelity.
She didn’t reply straight away. Silence and gaps in conversations are powerful in themselves, leave until it becomes uncomfortable and the other person feels compelled to fill the silence. It didn’t always work though, especially not with an experienced government employed negotiator like Saira. She just blinked behind her glasses and stared at the empty white cups in the middle of the round metal table.
“Alright Saira, so what do you want us to do?”
“What do I want you to do? Well find out for me? Is he spying on us? What can you do?”
“Well what we can do,” She emphasised the ‘we’. “Is quite limited compared to the police, but then that’s why you came to us right? You don’t want him banged up and interrogated. What if he’s innocent? Yep you made the right choice coming to us first. I’ll take this back, and see what we can do. However it might not clear things up for you. You might not be told what we find out, it depends on the implications for the region.”
Marguerite stretched out and shifted in the hard metal chair. “What are your current main focuses at work?”
Saira had deflated slightly at being told she might not find out what Office 19 find out, but now she visibly brightened.
“Well the papers he was looking though were for a conference for the light plastics industry that was in Leeds last week. That’s a big part of it, the other main stream is working with Googlemap app developers on a range of tools we want to role out to other regional and small state governments. It’s quite exciting actually. I imagine that would be the more interesting to the Scots.”
“Well it’s most likely that if they really are using Rishi to spy on you, it’s pure opportunism, they probably weren’t planning to grab info on either of those projects, but who knows? Thanks for your help Saira. I may be in touch again.”