The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 21 – Kemp Street

Chapter 21 – Kemp StreetThe Girl from a Thousand Fathoms. Cover art by David Bezzina (c) 2017

‘Log me in please,’ Persistent Smith boomed as he took a seat in the internet café. ‘I don’t like that bit.’

The chubby young man with a peach-fuzz beard smirked as he leant over the keyboard. His fingers rattling across the keys. ‘There you go, mate,’ he said and waddled back behind the counter.

Persistent Smith didn’t mind computers but he didn’t like the internet one little bit. He didn’t like the way it was so disorganised, so higgledy-piggledy. You could never tell what you were going to find. Or rather, you could, and it was rude. In fact it was more than rude, so much more that it needed a whole new word to describe it. Smith didn’t know what that word was but it was extremely rude and the temptation to look was hard to resist. His mother would not have approved. ‘Oh Derek,’ he could hear her say. ‘That was not Good Looking.’ He was not entirely sure she was right.

Smith sucked at his water bottle. The internet was very naughty and he was determined not to be diverted, not to take even a quick little peek at whatever. He typed in the name Clive Barnett had given him:

Markus Koponen.

He sucked anxiously on the bottle again and discovered it was empty. He asked the man behind the counter for a refill, returned to his seat and began to read the search results.

They quickly became very interesting.

Some time later he typed ‘Kylma Kala’. Soon after that he startled the other customers with a great guffaw of laughter. Shuffling his bottom on the seat, Smith extracted the pen and pad from his fleece and carefully copied down an address.

A shadow fell across the screen. ‘All right, mate?’ The café assistant peered suspiciously at the screen, bemused that anyone might find multinational company information so hilarious.

‘Finished now, thank you!’ Smith clicked the window closed and logged off. ‘Finished, haha. Finished with the Finnish.’

#

Despite his fascination with timetables Smith disliked public transport and walked whenever he could. It gave him an excellent sense of direction, shoes that need frequent re-soling, and knowledge of the streets of Brighton that any taxi driver would have sold their soul for.

It didn’t take long to walk to Kemp Street and find the right office block. Smith carried on past and looked back. Even if there were no armed guards, attack dogs, laser-droids or air-tight blast doors, a building like that would at least have a receptionist.

Receptionists asked questions, they looked at you and everything. Smith would rather confront laser-droids.

Low in his belly an uncomfortable pressure grew.

Smith knew he only had one chance to bluff his way in. If it didn’t work the first time he was bound to be recognised if he tried again. One of the many things Persistent Smith knew was that he was no Master of Disguise.

He paced up and down at the corner of the street, anxiously sucked on the nozzle of his water bottle and considered his options:

  1. Pretend to be making a delivery.
  2. Pretend to be there for an interview.
  3. Pretend to be a meter man.
  4. Rush in. Shout ‘Look at that!’ Point outside, then hide.
  5. Sneak in on hands and knees.

The water bottle was empty again. Smith slipped it back in his fleece.

The pressure in his body continued to grow. Smith realised he rather urgently needed the toilet. He gave a small whimper of frustration. This was not Good Planning and Foresight.

Pressing his knees together Smith waddled towards the building. The pressure grew to an insistent agony. Idea! Smith galumphed knock-kneed along the pavement, lolloped up the building stairs, pushed through the revolving door and staggered across the marbled foyer.

‘Can I use your toilet?’

The reception desk was deserted.

A wide, grey-panelled foyer lay ahead. Stick-man and stick-woman signs were on the doors to one side, lift doors on the other. Smith hurried into the men’s room.

None of the urinals were occupied. Moving to the far end, Smith did what he had to do, huffing and puffing with relief. As he stood there a dark-haired man dressed in dark trousers and white shirt, tie and jacket entered and stood at the next but one place[1].

Smith noted the breast-pocket badge and epaulets. This was the security guard. He stood where he was as the man washed his hands left the rest room. Once again he was alone. He stifled a giggle. By sheer luck and, he had to admit, yet more luck, he was inside the building.

He washed his own hands and checked his watch. It was late afternoon, people would be leaving soon, he didn’t have much time. He eased open the door and peered down the corridor. The uniformed man was sitting behind the reception desk swivelling on his chair smiling and talking into his mobile phone. The lift on the opposite wall pinged, the doors slid open and half a dozen staff emerged. Smith crossed smartly into the lift and pressed the button for the highest floor. The doors hissed shut and he was whisked upwards.

To be continued…


[1] Urinal occupancy follows fixed rules: Adjacent urinals are never used until every alternate one is taken. Only then will the intervening ones be used. It’s a bit like electrons filling atomic orbits.

 


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