It’s my responsibility as Tristan’s senior and as a fellow experienced employee to take control of the situation while buying him some time. I had already texted the reinforcements, and the boss was on his way. Now, Ms. Rika is a dangerous customer. She’s got it all; money, power, influence, pink hair.
But you see, I’m a master at the art of conversation. Plus, I’m pretty experienced in handling this loose wire of a woman.
I cleared my throat, “Ms. Rika and… Coco (I feel like calling someone younger than you Mr. is weird), what’s the weather like in South Korea?”
Ms. Rika sighed, checking the time on her diamond studded watch, “IT’S FINE. VERY WARM THIS TIME OF YEAR.”
“Oh. Cool.” There was a long pause. Coco had taken a seat near Scanta's ceramic frog collection, keeping himself occupied on his phone with his breezepods in.
I had to break this awkward silence. I cleared my throat, “I like your timepiece, where’d you get it from?”
She looked slightly insulted, “THE BOLEX STORE.”
Coco turned the other way and stifled a laugh.
It was a slow day so the only other customers were Genu Tibia, the detective lady, and the DJ guy, who was sitting in the corner making a very quiet phone call. From what I could see, he had a pink Hello Kitty flip phone. Interesting choice, but I respect it. He looked nervous for some reason, or maybe that was just his face.
I tried to keep the conversation going. “Wow. The Bolex store on Prince Street? The one beside that mattress store that everyone says is a coverup for money laundering?”
This seemed to peak her interest. “YES. YOU’VE HEARD THE RUMOURS AS WELL?” she slammed her hand on the table, obviously very passionate about the subject, “IF WE REALLY INSPECT THE SITUATION, HAVEN’T YOU EVER WONDERED WHY THERE ARE SO MANY EMPTY MATTRESS STORES? IT’S QUITE SUSPICIOUS IF YOU ASK ME.”
“I know right? There’s definitely something going on there,” I said, nodding understandingly. “You know, I’ve heard that we’ve also got foreign spies around here.”
“REALLY?” said Ms. Rika, putting her hand over her mouth. She leaned in closer and spoke in a hushed tone (which was a normal volume for anyone else) “WHAT ARE YOUR SOURCES.”
I pointed discreetly to Genu who was sitting across the room on his laptop. I lowered my voice, “He’s this city's best information broker. Very reliable. He’s got all the te- I mean gossip.” Woah, that was a close one. I wonder how Tristan was doing on his search.
She whipped around, not so discreetly, and observed Genu for a few seconds. He paid her no attention, typing away on his keyboard as usual while sipping his fourth energy drink of the day.
“ARE YOU SURE?” she asked, raising an eyebrow, “HE’S VERY YOUNG. WHAT ARE HIS PRICES? AND HIS CREDENTIALS?”
She seemed to have forgotten all about her order. “Oh. he’s a computer science student, and we’re around the same age. I bought him a soda since he forgot his wallet and he told me to ask him something I wanted to know.”
She didn’t look very convinced.
I handed her a plate of honey toast and gestured towards the table for her to take a seat, I wasn’t sure how much longer Tristan needed. “Ok, but hear me out. You know what’s even more suspicious than all of that? More suspicious than the moon landing, KJF’s assassination, and Princess Biana’s death?”
She sat down and immediately stood back up, “WHAT?”
I looked around cautiously. You never know who, or what, was listening.
“The raccoons in this city.”
Ms. Rika gasped, “YES, THERE’S A CONSPIRACY GOING AROUND THAT THEY RUN THE UNDERGROUND MARKETS.”
I checked my phone. Boss had seen the messages but didn’t respond. Tristan had been gone for a while now. Ok, it was only like 15 minutes, but making Ms. Rika wait more than 5 was pushing it. Multiply that by 3 and you’ve got a death wish.
But I think me and Ms. Rika had a mutual understanding.
Coco stood up abruptly and scurried towards the counter. He handed me a $50 bill then turned to Ms. Rika. “Mother, we have to go now or else we’ll be late! We can get tea at the airport.” Damn, ok, a little impatient if you ask me. We were talking about important stuff.
Coco flashed me his kpop idol smile that disappeared as soon as he turned to exit.
“AH YES, WE MUST LEAVE.” She checked her watch again and put on her sunglasses.
“WE’LL DISCUSS MORE OF THIS SOME OTHER TIME,” she said, walking out the front door.
I took the plate of untouched honey toast, grabbed a fork and took a bite.
10 points to Wabong.