Graeme came to in a coffee shop he didn’t recognize.
He was clean, and freshly shaven. The crisp shirt hugging his torso was new and blood-free. A pair of boots covered his feet and they were blissfully untouched by vomit. There was a cup of coffee that was not his in his right hand and a copy of the New York Times in his left.
Graeme blinked into his coffee cup. Was he dreaming? Was this just a long, astoundingly vivid nightmare? He took a sip from the cup. Heavy cream, no sugar. There was no recollection of ordering his coffee incorrectly, but there it was in his hand.
Around him, there was very little activity. The overhead lights flickered now and then, but the atmosphere was otherwise still. Most of the employees milled about behind the counter, talking in low voices he couldn’t make out from his spot in front of the window opposite to them. His feet were propped casually on the ottoman in front of him, and his body felt relaxed. Unease was the only thing he knew himself to be feeling, and yet there he sat, like the coffee in his hand.
Steam coiled out of the large coffee urns. The aroma of percolating beans permeated the entire room. A small group of young girls sat in a table diagonal from his leather lounge chair. They twisted hair around their fingers, sipped their iced coffees, and communicated with a series of whispered squeals and hand gestures. A few tables away, two businessmen poured over legal documents, highlighters in hand and Bluetooth earpieces blinking.
All at once, his attention zeroed in on a man entering the coffee shop, a cell phone pressed to his ear and his frame hunkered down, intently listening. He breezed by a lovely redhead in a maroon dress, his eyes never lifting to her. Graeme didn’t know why he was struck by that, why he felt compelled to find out what the man was hearing, who he was speaking to. He abandoned his paper and took his unappetizing coffee with him when he moved to a small table closer to the stranger as he waited in line.
It required a certain intense level of straining to hear what he was muttering, but he managed. “I lost him, what do you want me to say?” Silence. “Of course no one saw me, Jason. Can you just send backup already? We underestimated him.”
Graeme felt smug at that.
His watch beeped.