The mystery deepensMature

As he sat there, his glass empty yet again, Edwin took notice of someone observing him from a table at the far end of the room.  A man, a tall man in his mid-forties. His slumped but broad shoulders looked very muscular underneath his black leather jacket. He also wore a blue turtleneck, and his square jaw was outlined by a thin black beard.

The man reminded him of a fellow teacher from his years spent at the Culinary Institute. That is why he had first noticed him, that very morning in the park, as he observed the chess players arguing and reflecting on their next moves.

And now the same man was here, looking at him conspicuously from across the room.

It was reasonable to think he was being followed, but Edwin sought certainties, facts. He was already wading into some muddy waters, he didn't really need to complicate things further.

"Garçon, he called out to the waiter. I'll take the check now."

The waiter, already busy with some other clients, nodded to indicate he had heard the request, as he leaned over his customers' table to fill their glasses with crystalline water.

Minutes later, he was back with the check and Edwin was already up, slinging his coat negligently over his shoulders. After a brief look at the check, Edwin handed the waiter the exact change.

"And here's a nice tip for you, he said, slipping a 20 dollar bill in the waiter's hand. Thank you for a most excellent service." As he did so, he glanced at the far-end table, where he noticed some hint of smothered agitation.

Then he was out on the street, greeted by the foul, greasy air of the metropolis, and the unending procession of cars. It was raining pretty heavily that afternoon, and the falling rain on the sidewalks muffled even the sounds of the heavy traffic that plagued the city. The few people who were outside in this weather walked hastily towards their destination, a lucky few with umbrellas to shield themselves. With a few long strides, Edwin was on the other side of the street, cutting through the lines of cars waiting for the light to turn green, and into a dark alley. There he quickly hid behind a dumpster as he surveyed the restaurant's door, his clothes already damp.

"At least my feet are dry", he thought to himself, just as the restaurant door spat the leather-jacket man onto the street. Edwin felt a ping of triumph at this sight, expecting his follower to panic when he failed to find his mark. However, the man simply looked up at the sky, lifted his collar to better cover his neck from the rain, and walked down the street towards an unknown destination. He was soon out of sight.

Edwin was puzzled. Could it have been merely a coincidence that this man he had seen at the park in the morrow had also been eating in the same restaurant as he?

Had he noticed the tiny earplug in the leather-jacket man's right ear, and the grey van parked several meters up the street, he would have understood that it had not been so. Alas, Edwin did not see the van, as he did not see the plain-faced woman step out of the same vehicle, her brown eyes set right at him as he exited the alley and started to walk towards the nearest subway station.  The plain-faced woman let him walk for a full minute before she deployed a black umbrella and followed.

The End

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