June 1, 2008

In the Hands of Others (4 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

‘That’ll be five forty,’ said the paddy behind the counter, proffering a genial smile. The chalked menu behind him listed authentic Irish fare such as southern fried chicken in four sizes, Yorkshire pudding and rib steak kebab (with CURRY SAUCE in loud capitals). Contrasting aromas emanating from the kitchen copulated in the air, producing a hybrid child that only bore resemblance to one of its progenitors, the overpowering scent of curry.

‘I’m sorry, don’t understand,’ said Mr. Alpha, cupping a hand over one ear. ‘Your accent, see, can’t make it out.’

‘Five forty. Five euros, forty cents.’ The paddy repeated, his smile withdrawn, glancing at the queue behind Mr. Alpha.

‘No, sorry, not getting it. Are you speaking in Garlic? Three forty? Is that it?’

‘No, no, no! I’m not speaking Gaelic.’ The paddy swallowed and spoke clinically: ‘Fi. Vuh. For. Tee.’

‘Jesus and his wife Nora, you don’t have to sound like that, do you think I’m a fucking imbecile? Here’s your bloody three forty.’

He planted a pick-n-mix collection of coins onto the counter and left the café with two steak and stout pies, not quite as steaming hot as they had appeared through the window. He handed one to Mr. Omega.

Mr. Omega said, ‘You really are an asshole just waiting to happen.’

‘It’s the small things in life, mate,’ Mr. Alpha replied, taking a bite out of the pie. It tasted fresher than he thought; perhaps they had used an oven and not a microwave after all. ‘Anyway, we’re told to keep expenses down. Doing my bit for asceticism.’

They wandered through the cobbled streets of Temple Bar, amongst the mid-morning crowds that convulsed from shop to shop on the trendy side of town, wading through a sea of cigarette butts. Why the fuck they hadn’t yet banned smoking here was beyond him.

They walked past the garish yellow façade of the Oliver St. John Gogarty bar, its ground level painted a glossy olive green in a concerted attempt to clash. Various European flags dressed the second floor windows, enhancing the sensory overload. Mr. Alpha waved his tie at the building and said ‘Dear Mr. Christ, that place is the same colour as these shitty things.’

He was depressed again. Any sort of shopping haven depressed him; it was like being drowned in consumerism, materialism. The Cloth was his home and it gave him the very minimum of what he needed, which was more than enough. A mobile hotline to Supply would have been welcome though.

‘Where are we due?’ Mr. Alpha said and took more bites from the pie.

Mr. Omega’s shades were misted up from his own pie and detached them, revealing a pair of square lenses that were also misted. ‘Just down this road here,’ he said. ‘We’re looking for a small company called Scala Caeli. They’re the local blue centre.’

‘Actually are they a real company or just a shop front?’ A gang of teenage girls passed them: denim skirts, loose tops, swinging handbags. One of them had swinging breasts. Mr. Alpha tensed up, beaming silent hatred towards them.

‘Groundstops nearly always provide a real service.’

‘Why’s that?’

‘Think. The more we hide, the more effort we piss away on hiding instead of getting out there and working towards The-God-To-Be. So these places ain’t just shell companies, and won’t register on anyone’s radar looking for something shit out of the ordinary. Last thing we want is real police attention or, fucking forbid, a tax inspection. They provide a service and generate legal revenue meaning we don’t have to shift cash around too far. They also make grounders self-sufficient, a cheaper option all round than yanking euros out of the nearest school budget.’

They turned down a grimy alleyway that smelt of drunken urination and, oddly, oranges.

Mr. Alpha said, ‘I never wanted to be a grounder. Sounded fucking dull, stuck in a shop all day, doing the same thing day in and day out. At least we get to go places and play police.’ He carried on eating.

‘Grounders are important. They’re the local eyes and ears, they’re usually the ones that find us snags. Not everything is about running around town and shooting your gun off. It was obvious that you didn’t have the stomach to sit still and keep your mouth shut for more than ten bloody seconds.’ Mr. Omega chuckled to himself, lines creasing. ‘That’s why I picked you up. You showed the minutest promise for legwork. Shit, I should eat this.’ Mr. Omega attacked the pie with a voracity that suggested indigestion was waiting for him on the horizon.

Mr. Alpha finished his pie and threw aside the paper bag it came in. He scratched his nose, wondering if it was good time to ask about the ex-Mr. Alpha. And why he was ex.

‘Question?’ Mr. Omega shouted through pastry.

Mr. Alpha didn’t have the courage to mine that particular topic, not just yet. He shook his head.

They emerged from the alleyway into another wide road, gummed up with slow traffic, lined with warehouses. Mr. Alpha spotted the place quickly: about twenty metres to their left was a crimson warehouse, looking recently repainted and rust-free. Metallic letters with neon surround spelt out “Scala Caeli”.

‘Jesus H,’ said Mr. Alpha. ‘It stands out a bit. This is what we call a secret operation?’

Mr. Omega sighed. He finished his pie, scrunched up the bag and threw it towards a nearby cat which moved away at its own pace. ‘Remember, they have to run a proper business. If you wanted to have yourself put into cryogenic suspension, would you purchase the service with a company that stored you in a rusty old shed with spiders or one that had bright, shiny, modern-looking digs?’

‘It’s a good point,’ Mr. Alpha answered.

As they crossed the road, snaking through slow-moving cars, Mr. Omega said, ‘Of course it’s a damn good point. Kids today… where is the fucking respect for one’s elders?’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1618

2 Responses to “In the Hands of Others (4 of 20)”

  1. Jennifer wrote on 4-Jun-2008 @ 2130:

    Such litter bugs!!



  2. Jennifer wrote on 4-Jun-2008 @ 2130:

    Such litter bugs!!



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