Time once more to link up with Linda G Hill for her Stream of Consciousness Saturday Sunday feature. (sorry, I was busy yesterday)
This week’s prompt was as follows;
“is” Use the word “is” to begin your post – bonus points for using it as a word on its own or at the end of your final word, (i.e. “metamorphosis”)
So here we go…
Dead On Time.
“Is anyone sitting here?”
Bailey looked up from the crossword he was working on, shading his eyes from the low evening sun as he squinted at the silhouetted figure above him,
“No, be my guest.”
“Thank you,” said the newcomer, seating himself opposite Bailey, extending one hand and dropping keys, coins and other pocket debris onto the street cafe’s small table with the other, “Dennis Opperman, pleased to meet you.”
“Hello,” Bailey shook the man’s hand and nodded, then began to clear a space on the table, moving his folded newspaper and placing it on the third, unoccupied chair, “a very pleasant evening to sit and watch the world go by.”
“It is indeed, I’m rather fond of this spot myself. Are you from out of town, I’ve not seen you here before?”
“No, no I’ve been around for a while, just don’t get across town too often, that’s all.”
“Hey Guido,” Opperman clicked his fingers loudly a few times in the direction of a waiter, as he hurried past with a tray loaded with plates, “can I get some service here?”
The waiter shot him a withering look and carried the clattering pile into the cafe, reappearing a few moments later with menu and a notepad.
“The special today is roasted tomato and basil tart with…”
“Just a coffee,” Bailey’s uninvited guest abruptly interrupted the young man, “and bring me an ashtray.”
“A coffee and an ashtray, of course sir. Nothing to eat?”
“Are you deaf? I said just coffee.”
“Right you are sir, no ashtray then?”
Opperman, instantly furious, turned to glare at the waiter, “Are you taking the piss boy?”
“Not at all sir, just checking,” he smirked, I’ll be right back.”
“Bloody cheeky little sod, no respect these days,” he gave Bailey an expectant look, “don’t you think?”
“Oh I don’t know, most young people seem quite polite, I’ve certainly found they respond well to good manners anyway.”
The sarcasm seemed to pass Opperman by completely.
“You got kids then?” he asked Bailey, clearly uninterested in the answer and absently patting his pockets as if looking for something
“I haven’t, no,” Bailey replied, “not any more.” He watched the other man searching his pockets once more before enquiring, “Have you lost something?”
“Can’t find my damn cigarettes, sure I had them with me earlier.” He began the search for the third time.
“Here, have one of mine,” said Bailey, passing a open packet across the table, “I’m trying to cut down anyway.”
“Yeah? Forty-a-day man myself and never even had a cold,” he reached out and snatched the proffered cigarette, “load of bollocks they talk about it giving you cancer, all part of the government’s programme of brain washing, you mark my words.” He flicked a cheap lighter and drew heavily on the cigarette, blowing the smoke carelessly across the table as the waiter returned and unceremoniously dumped a tray in front of Opperman.
“Your coffee and ashtray, sir,” he said, “will there be anything else?”
“No. And don’t expect a tip either,” Opperman snapped, as the waiter turned to leave, raising his eyebrows at Bailey, who smiled and shook his head in silent agreement with the young man, whose name badge read “Kevin”, and his obvious opinion of the obnoxious customer, “In fact wait, I’ve changed my mind. Bring me a double brandy will you.”
“Is that the house brandy sir?” asked Kevin politely.
“No, I don’t want any of that cheap shit, the good stuff boy, that’s what I’m after.” He watched the waiter depart and then turned back to Bailey, “Did you see that, little bastard was talking back to me again?”
“I’m sure he didn’t mean anything by it Dennis, he’s probably had a long day, we all have. I expect it’s the heat. A young lad like that, run off his feet all day in this weather, he’s probably exhausted.”
“Crap!” he slapped his hand on the table, making the cups jump in their saucers,
“They need to toughen up a bit, these kids nowadays. I’ve been at my desk since eight this morning, ten o’clock I had to take a load of clients for drinks, then to lunch, I had to stop for a pint with a couple of blokes from head office after work and now,” he paused, took one final, ferocious drag on the cigarette, before crushing it out in the ashtray, “ now I’ve got to drive halfway across town in this fucking traffic…” he tailed off and looked up, as Kevin returned and placed a large brandy glass on the table in front of him.
Opperman raised a hand to indicate he should wait, drained the glass and slammed it back down on the table.
“So I’ll be wanting another one of those…” he focused his unsteady gaze on the waiters badge, “…Kevin. Go on boy, chop chop, hop to it!”
“Are you sure you should be driving Dennis?” asked Bailey, still smiling but sounding concerned, “You don’t look so good you know.”
“Rubbish, I can take my booze better than anyone I know!” becoming aggressive now, he snatched the glass from the tray as Kevin was cautiously approaching the table, seemingly not noticing the brandy that slopped on his sleeve and down his shirt as he threw back the remainder in one gulp, “Right lot of bloody nancy boys these days, I could drink the whole fucking lot of ’em under the table!”
Opperman grabbed another cigarette, blearily glancing at Bailey as he did so, “You don’t mind, right? Trying to cut down, you said.”
“No, not at all Dennis, feel free,” said Bailey cheerfully, “one or two more or less won’t make any difference now anyway.”
Denis Opperman scrabbled amongst the detritus of his pockets, spread out on the cluttered table, until he located his lighter, managing to light the cigarette on the fourth attempt and collapsed heavily back into his chair, sweating profusely, with an expression of puzzlement.
“Legs feel a bit strange, think I’d better sit for a while,” he wheezed, “don’t know what’s come over me. Must be the heat, like you said.”
“Oh, I’m pretty sure it’s not just the heat. Not just the booze either I’m afraid, although I’m sure you’ve drunk enough to make most people keel over, so congratulations on that. No, I’m afraid your problem is somewhat more… terminal than that.”
He let Opperman, who was now giving Bailey his undivided attention, absorb his words before he continued,
“Because you see Denis, I know who you are, even if I mean nothing to you, like my daughter’s life didn’t, I know all about you.”
Opperman now looked panicky, almost terrified, and yet he remained sitting in the chair across from this stranger that he’d met only thirty minutes earlier, staring as though transfixed, his mouth moving silently, his eyes darting this way and that, as if searching for a way out. Then he seemed to come to his senses and addressed Bailey in a strangled voice.
“Your daughter? I don’t understand, you said you didn’t have kids.”
“I said that I didn’t have children any more,” replied Bailey, his expression, previously friendly, had turned as hard as stone now, all amusement gone from his eyes, “my daughter was taken from me exactly a year ago today,” he looked at his watch, “in twenty minutes in fact. Then it will be precisely a year, to the minute, since a hit and run driver ran down my daughter as she walked home from her friend’s house. Police say he must have mounted the pavement, more than likely drunk, going way over the speed limit. Deborah never stood a chance. That was her name Dennis; Deborah. I thought you should know that, before you died.”
Opperman’s eyes bulged desperately, but he seemed unable to get his voice to work anymore, his mouth opened and closed like a dying goldfish.
“Allow me to fill in a few details for you Dennis,” said Bailey, “just so you don’t miss anything important,” he glanced at his watch again, “although I’d better hurry, we don’t have long, or should I say, you don’t.” his smile of satisfaction at Opperman’s increasing discomfort was no more than a grimace now, as he turned his blazing eyes on the terrified man and continued in a voice devoid of emotion.
“You were driving back from a meeting with some high class clients at the time Dennis. Had a few bottles of bubbly to celebrate closing the deal.”
Opperman’s eyes rolled wildly, his body otherwise frozen in the chair but his distress plainly visible nonetheless.
Bailey continued in the same steady, emotionless tone,
“On the phone to your mistress when you killed Debbie weren’t you? Didn’t even bother to stop and call for help. Don’t bother denying it, I’ve seen your phone records, I’ve seen your self-pitying e-mails. Oh, I’m sorry, you can’t deny it can you? Don’t worry, we’ll come to that in a minute,” the humorless grin again, “Do you know, I’ve spent the last year getting to know you very well indeed, Dennis Opperman. Where you work, where you live and, most importantly, where you drink. Here, for instance,” Bailey tapped the table with a fingertip, “I’ve noticed you like to get drunk and abuse the unfortunate staff here on a Friday, after you finish work and before then driving home, hence my surprise appearance at your usual table this fine evening.”
Opperman’s face managed to convey bewilderment but little else, so Bailey spoke once more.
“Oh look here, I’ve found your cigarettes for you, I must have picked them up with my paper.” Bailey lifted the newspaper off the chair beside him to reveal Opperman’s crumpled packet and indicated his own pack, still lying where Opperman had left them, after taking the second one a few moments before, “and, this is the part that I feel sure will interest you Dennis; you’ve been smoking these,” he picked up the packet, to show there were only two missing, “and I’m afraid I added a little something to them.” He let that sink in, watching Opperman’s mouth working listlessly, his eyes staring madly at Bailey.
“I’m a chemist you see, a pharmacist by trade, I have access to all sorts of fascinating compounds, several of which are now circulating around your bloodstream. One of them is responsible for your current state of immobility whilst another is interfering with your speech. But most of them are concentrating on your nervous system and internal organs, all of which will soon begin shutting down for good. There is literally nothing you can do. A sensation I have become only too familiar with over the past year, but one which I believe will begin to fade very, very soon.”
He picked up the newspaper, glanced briefly at Opperman, eyelids starting to droop now, consulted his watch one last time and returned to the final unsolved clue in his interrupted crossword; “Relieving traumatic experiences through emotional closure”. Bailey thought for a moment, nodded, filled in the small white squares with a wry smile and left the newspaper folded so Opperman could see it. Then he got up, left Kevin a large tip and walked into the bustling crowd.
In the last moments of Denis Opperman’s life, peering at the paper through the rapidly closing tunnel of his fading vision, he could just make out the word “ Catharsis“.