“Cash or Check, monsieur?”
“Cash, thanks.” He handed him a note, the man accepted with a nod.
“Merci. Have a good day,”
He left the hotel without a word; on a usual day he would have returned the greeting, but today was far from usual. He stopped for the moment at the curb and counted how many notes he had left. A five, a twenty and a fifty as well as an assortment of change, all in Euro. He looked down the busy street of Lyon, cars continually rushing down the narrow way.
He had come here for a few reasons; he had business here in Lyon, the company had sent him for certain ‘negotiations’, and he was a very good negotiator.
He walked ahead, having to dodge a few people as they rushed along the footpath. He reached a small café and entered; the smell of coffee in the air. A man walked in from the storage room and moved to the counter; he didn’t see his face as he was sorting out his money.
“Ah, no thanks, I’ll have…” at this point he glanced up at the fridge, then resumed rummaging through his wallet, “A Coke will do, thanks”
“Ah, I see,” It was clear the café owner was not impressed by his choice, but in all honesty, he didn’t even care. “3 Euro, monsieur,” he looked up at him. He looked down, counting his money, realizing the exchange rate meant a Euro was nearly double a dollar. He also knew it would be rude of him to refuse it now.
“Fine, here you go,” he pulled some coins out and handed them to him, “Merci, monsieur, a pleasure doing business with you,” were his final words, and he handed him the Coke. He took the pro-offered drink; with that he turned and left. Still something seemed a bit strange; he hardly thought of buying a Coke as doing business. He walked outside, since he had been in the café the sky had turned grim as it began to rain.
He headed for the nearest alley way and walked down it, the rooftops above a welcome shield from the pouring torment that had arrived. He looked back for a moment at the street, still walking, then turned to face the alleyway ahead. He could see shapes ahead, partially obscured by fog, the forms of two men. He turned to go back but the way was blocked by a third man wielding a spanner. All three closed in, and he saw no exit. The first swung his arm at him. He ducked at the right moment, then rose up beneath him and used the man’s unbalanced action to pull him to the ground, rendering him unconscious. He rose just as the second man’s fist came for him, hitting him squarely in the jaw. The guy behind hit the backs of his legs with the spanner, and he staggered, just as the second man him again, this time in the stomach. The ground embraced him, gasping for breath the last thing he saw was the two men running back out onto the street, his wallet in hand.
He awoke to the sound of groaning somewhere behind him. He got up steadily, looking around. He registered the source of the groan; the man he had rendered unconscious earlier. He got up, rubbed his head, wondered how long it had been that he had been out for. Recalling the events that had transpired earlier he remembered his wallet, the men had taken it. The huddled figure on the ground moaned louder this time and made to get up, but he struck him on the head, grabbed him by the hair and pulled him close.
“Your friends seem to have liberated me of my wallet. Maybe you might know where they were headed?”
“Je ne comprendz pas. Je ne parle pas anglais!” he explained, a sense of urgency in his voice.
“You don’t speak English? That’s too bad; I really didn’t want to kill you.”
“Non, non, attendez, le café, le café!” he was scared now.
“Merci, monsieur, have a good day,” and with that he released his grip and left, walking back to the street he had come from. He walked along the street for a bit, the rain had cleared up, the streets damp and the sky was ashen.
He reached the Café then strode inside. The smile that previously on the café owner face disappeared, recognition dawned, dropping the money extracted from the wallet.
“Je suis desolé, monsieur,” he pleaded, money in hand, spanner abandoned on the front counter. “A misunderstanding, I’m sure,”
“Yeah, I’m sure too,” he said, and with that he drew his pistol, aiming it at his forehead. He smiled, somehow today did feel normal now, “My wallet, thank-you, now.”
By Nathaniel Harrison
© 2013 Nathaniel Harrison – All rights reserved