chapter 1, part 5

Edward smiled and nodded an acquiescing yes and took his few bits of paperwork out to the car. He looked at the tax disc and thought ‘Well I shall have a good reminder of Geraldine for the next year even if nothing comes of this, I have a paw print in the middle of my tax disk to look at every time I take out the car.’

He sat in his Vauxhall, idly working at the perforations around the disk as he waited for Geraldine to appear. He analysed what he had seen of her so far. She was wearing a beige sheepskin coat unfastened, over a revealing white blouse buttoned to reveal only a slight amount of cleavage. Nestled in her cleavage was a small gold locket. Her skirt was a dark brown and was at approximately knee length, stopping just above the high leg boots that covered her feet and calves. Her bra had been slightly discernable through the blouse and appeared to be a lacy affair. Did, he wondered, her other underwear match? It was not him to pick up women, which was the only phrase that came to his mind for what he had just done. Edward had an organised life; and that life did not include the complications of women, yet here he was complicating his day by his own volition. Picking away at the perforations as he mused, he had completely removed the disk and loaded it into the screen holder by the time she appeared with her small plastic bag of purchases. He went from his car across to the car that she was stood next to.

“Is this Mini yours? Mine is the Omega. Do you want to go first, and I’ll follow, or will me following you add further credence to the stalker allegations?”

“Ha ha very funny Mr Stalker. I’ll go first and I shall put my tiny little car in the biggest space I can find, and then I can watch as you have to put your big car into a tiny little space. Last one in buys the coffee.”

“Right, you’re on and first one in buys the buns. Race you for the best parking spot then.”

Edward laughed and turned towards his car, blipping the alarm as he approached, opened the door and sat in.

“Hello Edward” the car computer greeted him as he put the key in the ignition and started the engine.

“Hello Olga” he replied, as he fastened his safety belt, engaged drive and prepared to leave the small parking area and head off to the main Abbey car park by the coffee shop. Olga was not a standard fitting; a local research lab had put ‘her’ together, and he was undertaking field trials for them. Olga could hold a basic conversation, with him, answer the phone, make calls, tell him of a few potential hazards, such as rain or ice, and outside of work she was the only even vaguely female item in his life right now.

Well, had been the only female. The somewhat alluring and mysterious Geraldine was already out of the car park and on the main road headed towards the coffee shop. ‘No time to lose,’ he thought, kicked down the accelerator and roared after her.

There were a number of spaces in the car park and Geraldine had indeed arrived first and parked. And she was right in the middle of the largest free parking space in the car park, but standing not parked. As Edward swept through the barriers she waved and stepped aside giving him free access to the best spot available. He pulled in, bade Olga farewell and got out to greet Geraldine.

“Nice parking spot, I thank you.”

“My pleasure, Mr Stalker and I wonder, are you an organised man Edward? Can you give me an Aspirin to help with this thumping head?”

“Not Aspirin, no, but I do have some Ibuprofen in the car, works for some people, and it’s an anti-inflammatory too, wait a moment.”

He popped to the passenger side, opened the front door and pulled a bubble strip of tablets from the storage compartment. Shutting the door, he locked the car and back went the few steps to where Geraldine waited and passed the strip across.

“Come on, let’s go and get the coffee and buns. You need to eat something with that tablet.” Edward put a shepherding arm around her shoulder and they walked out of the car park towards the coffee shop.

The coffee shop was so period it was as if it was straight out of a film set, faded Coffee Shop name over small Georgian paned windows with black and white painted frames, complete with a very old looking bull’s eye glass in the centre of the window. As Edward opened the door latch for Geraldine he looked at the empty seats, noted the prime location and could not help but wonder how the place had managed to keep going with no trade. If this location had been her suggestion rather than his, his senses would have switched to high alert. A waitress in small black skirt, white blouse, hat and pinafore met them and offered them a window seat.

Edward held the chair for Geraldine and then pushed it in beneath her as she sat. He took off his coat and scarf hung them on the hooks provided just past the entrance door. He hadn’t realised quite how cold the day and how good the coat was until he removed it. He felt quite a chill and briskly rubbed his hands as he walked back to Geraldine, and took his seat opposite.

“So, here we are. Now let’s try and get some coffee and food ordered, are buns okay, or would you perhaps prefer something warming if they can offer anything?” Edward asked as he picked the small folded menu up from the table and passed it to Geraldine.

Her finger tips briefly brushed against his as she took the proffered menu, and Geraldine felt a slight quickening of her pulse at the unexpected contact. “Oh I don’t know, let’s look and see.”

Geraldine examined the menu as if she had never been in the coffee shop before but knowing full well that the fare was simple and depended on the time of day as to what was actually available “Oh look, they offer bacon sandwiches, let’s see if they can do us some rounds of sandwiches, and personally I will go with an herbal tea if they can offer the right flavours.”

“Right then let’s see what they can do for us.” He beckoned the waitress over and requested two rounds of hot bacon sandwiches, adding a slight emphasis to the word hot, and asked what flavour herbal teas they could offer. The waitress popped over to the stand beside the counter and returned with a small basket with an assortment of herbal and speciality teas in individual packets. Geraldine found her favourite, ‘Winter Warmer Berries’, and almost clucked with pleasure.

“Oh excellent, I love the aroma of this one,” Geraldine said to Edward, “it smells so much of jam and perfume, and it does rather bring Granny to mind.”

“Right,” Edward turned to the waitress and requested the herbal tea for Geraldine and a pot of coffee with milk not cream for himself.

“I made it up you know” she said cutting into the silence as the waitress left to attend to their order.

“Made what up?”

“About the garage.”

“What about the garage?”

“That you had seen me there. It was a gamble if you like. I assume that do go to garages, and you will notice I just said ‘the garage’”

“Smart, but I am sorry I did not notice you in Smiths, I first saw you with a young girl buying a newspaper in the Post Office.”

“I wasn’t in Smiths, I made that up too.”

“But how did you know I was?”

“Well I presumed that you were local as I have noticed you driving around town before now, not many people driving Omegas these days, but I had never seen you in the post Office before, so I guessed you usually bought your paper in Smiths.”

“Was your great great-grandfather Sherlock Holmes by any chance?”

“No, of course not silly, but Daddy is in the CID and when I was growing up he used to explain to me how they caught people and the mistakes that criminals made, sometimes it was the smallest thing that caught them out. I then started watching people and trying to guess if they were criminal or not. Of course it isn’t really possible to look at someone and determine that, but I spent most of my teenage years thinking that I could and that I was going to be the greatest defender against the evil of the criminal world. I studied people and tried to judge what they were going to do next, which way they would go as they walked into the shopping centre for example”

“So, did you become the scourge of criminals?”

“No, not at all. I learnt much about life and people from my observations, but really I never learned not to assume things, not to only base my judgements on facts and not to use my ‘feminine intuition’. I think Daddy was a little upset that I didn’t end up going into The Job after University, but really, it wasn’t for me. I could not live with the implications of someone having gone to jail wrongly because of me, or even worse, not gone to jail and then offended badly. No, all in all, the Police was not the place for me. Daddy hid his disappointment well I think”