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He didn’t think he liked coffee. But that was before today. He twirled the empty cup around in his hands, wondering if you were supposed to drink the little grains that looked like dirt, swirling in the bottom.
“I hear you’re good at finding people.”
He looked up, his green eyes taking in the man who had just slid into his booth.
You can never be too sure with strangers.
“I read about you on the internet. You’re Austin Bradley, right?”
He was on the internet? Great. Just great. He scowled. They were going to pay for this.
“So can you help?”
Austin focused on the man once more.
“Depends on your problem.”
The man shifted slightly on the bench before speaking. “I need you to find my daughter.”
“Why would I help you?” Austin asked bluntly. He leaned against the back of the booth and raised an eyebrow, studying the man in front of him. Mostly bald, with a few wisps of hair that looked as if they were glued on to the sides of his head. A stomach that threatened to pop the buttons of off an expensive, pressed button-down. The man continually wiped away beads of sweat from his forehead with thick fingers.
“My name is Tom Carrey. I have money.”
Austin lowered his eyebrow and sighed inwardly. Money.
“I see,” he said, disinterested.
“Enough to make finding my daughter worthwhile,” Tom added.
“I see.” He said again.
The conversation paused as a group of teenagers noisily walked past. The fluorescent lights gleamed off their red jackets, which matched the interior of the diner perfectly. The noise of cars whizzing outside the large picture window blended with the low roar that was their conversation.
“Finding people is your job, isn’t it?” Tom asked once the group left.
“More like a hobby.” Austin corrected. “I don’t work for just anyone.”
“I am willing to pay.” Tom leaned forward across the table, his hands toying with the rings jammed tight on his fingers.
“You mentioned that.” Austin glanced around the diner, wishing Tom would just leave.
“Why can’t you find her?” Tom’s eyes were distraught.
Austin’s senses shifted into high alert. To his far right, down the street, another group was coming. He needed to escape. Now. He looked back at Tom, staring straight into his pleading gaze.
“I’m picky.” He stood up and tossed the paper cup--grains and all--into a nearby trash can. He pulled a wad of cash out of his pocket and threw a bill on the table.
“And I don’t like the internet.”
He strode out, shoving his hands into the pockets of his leather jacket. Four steps out the door and they had reached the diner. Austin sped up his pace, ducking his head so that only his brown hair was visible over his jacket collar. Green bands flashed through his mind, reflecting in his eyes, warning him of their oncoming presence. He swerved to the left. Tall buildings lined the dirty sidewalks, closing in the throngs of city pedestrians. Gray skies, normal for November, cast muted light on the streets on New York. Austin glanced over his shoulder, sure that they were right behind. There. The bus was blocking them, but he could sense they were there. As he looked forward again, he slammed into someone rushing toward him.
“Watch it,” A voice grumbled.
Austin steadied himself and glanced up.
“Sorry--” He began. He froze. The other man was gone now, but Austin was sure he has seen a flicker of blue in those narrowed eyes...
He frowned. No. He was seeing things. He had to be seeing things. Austin shivered slightly, and it had nothing to do with the chilly air. He was getting paranoid. With a deep breath, he ducked into an office building that dominated the street corner. They were in sight now, and he hurried down a hallway, ignoring the confused receptionist. The hallway led to a door which opened to a bunch of cubicles. Austin scanned them, searching for an empty one. He nodded to a couple of the workers who glanced at him oddly, and walked over to an empty cubicle that would hide his face from the door.
“Excuse me, I don’t think I’ve seen you here before.”
Austin turned to look at the owner of the accusing tone. She was standing to his right, arms folded, a suspicious look in her gray eyes.
“I’m picking something up for my friend who works here. It should be right over here..”
Austin brushed past the woman and sat down in the leather rolling chair. He opened a drawer and rifled through the contents, all too aware of the woman’s gaze boring into the back of his head. Suddenly the door flew open and they stormed in. Austin slipped off his jacket and slowly rolled his chair closer to the desk. He placed his fingers on the keyboard and began typing idly, not looking at them, just blending in with the dull thrum of regular office work. The woman had moved over to them and he saw her gesture emphatically toward the door out of the corner of his eye. Austin glanced at his watch. He really didn’t have time for this. The computer in front of him sprang to life, due to the idle typing. A picture of a woman filled the screen. Austin blinked. On second thought, he could make time.