Saturday, 15 June 2013

Bill and Ben

“This place is a bit posh isn’t it?  Did you see that the waiter at the door had lavender in his buttonhole? Where’s the button go, then?”
“Jesus, of course it’s posh.  We’ll be coming back here a little later, on a special visit.”  I lowered my voice a little more, so that I was practically whispering now.  “And that wasn’t a waiter, that’s the maître’d.  He’s top of the food chain in restaurant service, and I don’t want us to piss him off, or we won’t get a good table.  And we want a good table so that we get a good view.”
“This can’t be right,” said Ben looking around.  “The name of the restaurant we’re supposed to be visiting is Middle Kitchen or something.  That’s not a posh name.”  I felt a moment of panic when Ben said that, wondering if I had gone and misremembered the name and booked the meal at the wrong place.  I pulled out my smartphone.
“Hang on,” I said.
The phone might be smart, and its little black touchscreen and bevelled aluminium corners were definitely alluring and seductive – looking at it I concluded that if I hadn’t had the opportunity to steal one I might well have bought one instead – but that just meant that I could be made to jump through all the more hoops in security-theatre.  I tapped the app icon and entered my passcode as prompted.  Then it beeped softly to itself and asked me to enter a pass-phrase on its little keyboard.  I typed this with care, aware of how enthusiastic the phone could be for choosing the wrong letter – autocorrect was clearly designed to embarrass people at the wrong moments – and then waited to see if it would recognise it.  The app closed itself down, and I looked around.  No-one else was on the phone.
Ten seconds later the phone rang, and I answered it before it finished the first full ring.  As I’d almost expected, the maître’d had heard the ring and was looking around for the culprit.
“The moon is full tonight,” said the voice on the other end of the line.
“I’ve not gained that much weight!” I replied.  The phone-call ended, and I took it away from my ear.  The app restarted, and the maître’d started walking our way with menace in his step.  It struck me that I’d not realised how muscular he was when we’d arrived; undoubtedly all to do with the way his suit was cut.  Expensively.
Medea’s Kitchen,” I said to Ben when the app produced the first page of my briefing notes.  I closed the phone down and slipped it into an inside pocket.
“That sounds a bit posher,” he said.  “Greek?”
“We don’t allow phone-calls in the restaurant, Sir,” said the maître’d, stressing the Sir rather unneccessarily, I thought.
“I hadn’t realised,” I said.  “I shall turn it off.”
“Please do,” he said.  “Or we can hold it for you at my desk.”  He turned to Ben.  “The name of the restaurant is not connected with Greek myth at all,” he said.  “People do sometimes make that connection, but is is, of course, incorrect.  Medea is merely the name of the owner’s mother, and she is the executive chef.
“Glad to hear it,” said Ben.  “Otherwise I’d be rather put off eating here right now.”
The maître’d glared at him.  “Your reservations are good until nine-thirty, gentlemen,” he said.  “After that your table is booked again.”  He walked away, his shoulders indicating that he would be sulking right now if that weren’t unforgivably unprofessional.
“So this is the right place then?” said Ben.  He picked up a menu and opened it.  Then he closed it and checked the cover, and opened it again.  “This is on expenses, right?”
“Yes, and yes,” I said.  “It’s nice, isn’t it?  Did you notice that the lighting is quite localised, you can’t easily see who’s sitting at the other tables.”
“Like a privacy veil?  I knew a girl who had one of them once.”
I looked at him.  “Yes, and when you say that…,”
“I mean it,” he said.  “She liked to use it for outdoor sex.  You could be shagging away, and the people right next to you wouldn’t know what was going on.”
“Except for the fact that you were just a little patch of darkness in the middle of a park on a sunny day,” I said.  “I think they could guess, you know.”
“Maybe,” Ben said.  “Not the park though. She liked to do it in the supermarket.”
“I don’t know how you find them,” I said, with sincerity.  “And I don’t actually want to know either.”
“So what’s our aim then?”
“Well,” I said, looking around.  “I think we’re going to have to get into here, and then use this as our base of operations to get the jewellery and bring it back to.  But I’ve got this idea–“
“May I take your order, gentlemen?” asked an elderly looking waiter whose hands were shaking as though palsied.
“Oh yes,” I said, with relish.  “Definitely!”

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