#FlashFiction: The Stories – the villain of the piece

The new job was going great. I congratulated myself on the latest wheeze. Temping was the perfect cover, and it meant a new ‘audience’ every other week or so. The key trick to the whole thing was to time my activities so that they weren’t linked to my arrival or departure. I’d been sent on a coffee-run for the team I was based in the very first day. They favoured a little independent, a street or two over from the soulless office block that housed their firm and a couple of others. Getting strategically lost a couple of times had been…educational.

I pushed the door open and took my place in the queue, glancing around. It never hurts to pay attention to your surroundings. I spotted someone who looked interesting. I placed the order and walked over.

“Hey there!” He looked up from where he’d been staring into his coffee. “It is you isn’t it?  We were at school together.”

“I’m not sure that can be right – I would definitely have remembered. But feel free to take a seat, whilst you’re waiting.” It was hard to get a handle on this guy. He was amazingly average. I wondered if I’d even be able to pick him out of a line-up if I needed to.

“Do you mind?  That would great!” I flicked my hair, ash blonde at the moment and perfectly waved for that little mannerism. “I’m doing the coffee-run and it’s going to be a while.  It’s so busy today.  Actually, I think I’m a bit later than normal, it was so hard to get away this morning for some reason.”

I chattered about inconsequential things for a moment, trying to pull him into the conversation.

“Are you sure you don’t remember me?  I have the strongest feeling we were in the same English class, or maybe it was Maths?” That usually works, but this guy –

“I’d be surprised if you remembered me, I was just one of the faces in the crowd.  I wasn’t good at sports, I wasn’t brainy, I wasn’t even the class clown!”

“No, but you have a nice smile, and that’s the sort of thing that brightens a dull class.” I flashed him a smile of my own. I was really having to work at this.

“If it was dull, there wouldn’t be anything to smile about.”

“You seem determined to be curmudgeonly.” I frowned, teasingly.

“No, just argumentative,” He said with a smile. Right! Now we’re getting somewhere. Right on cue, the barista called my name. Or at least, the one I was using at the moment.

“Oh, that’s my order – here” I took a pen out of my bag and wrote quickly “my number – I’d love to catch up properly.  Best days of our lives and all that!” Carefully, I got up in the perfect way to catch the edge of the table without hurting myself and without making it look deliberate, masked in part by my handing over of the napkin.

“Whoops – be careful!” I helped tidy things up. “Sorry about that – see you soon!” I tossed that last over my shoulder as I picked up a cardboard tray with four coffee cups. He hadn’t even noticed that I’d mopped up the spilt coffee with my number – it was fake anyway – nor that I’d removed his wallet and phone from where they were stacked on the table. On the otherhand, I hadn’t noticed the plainclothes policewoman by the door.

“Excuse me madam, would you mind coming with me, please? I think you’ve got something that doesn’t belong to you.”

Ah. I riffled through my catalogue of sob-stories.

© David Jesson, 2021

Author’s note: with all of literature to choose from, I’ve actually gone back to something that I wrote almost exactly 4 years ago, for another #FlashFiction prompt that we ran. You can find the first story here.


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