It began. In a moment. Without warning. Seated at the corner table at 217 Elgin Street, the café where he wrote before work each morning. Amid the grinding of coffee beans, the clinking of cutlery, the conversations colliding in the air … when no one was looking.
The sound of a chair scraping across the floor made Jonas Martin look up from his black hardcover notebook. Before him sat a man with smooth olive skin, close-cropped brown hair speckled with grey and eyes that burned with purpose. The guy didn’t smile, didn’t seem to blink.
“Can I help you?” Jonas said askance.
“Yes, actually.” The man pointed at the door. “Let’s go for a walk.”
Jonas raised an eyebrow. “I’m sorry. I think you have me confused with someone else.”
“No, Jonas … you’re who I want to talk to.”
Jonas closed his notebook and held the man’s gaze. No, they’d never met before. He was certain of that. He remembered things. He remembered everything. The feel of his long-dead grandmother’s velvety hand on his arm. The three-inch scar on the guy’s shoulder with whom he’d lost his virginity. The words to every Nina Simone song. The name of every guy he’d slept with — no matter how bad it was or how desperate he was to forget. “Look, I don’t know who you are or what you want, but —”
“My name is Brent,” he cut in and offered a faint smile. “We’ve never met. Not officially, anyway.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Jonas said, curt. “And I don’t really think I want to, either.”
Brent chuckled. “I’m a recruiter. A headhunter. I’d like to talk to you about a job.”
Jonas picked up his charcoal grey satchel off the floor and slid the notebook inside. “I have a job.”
“I know. You’re a Senior Policy Analyst with the International Crime and Terrorism Unit at Foreign Affairs.”
Jonas’s body went rigid. “How do you know that?”
“I know a lot of things,” Brent said, matter-of-fact. “At least hear what I have to offer.”
Jonas checked the time and stood. “I’m not interested.”
Brent rose from his chair, reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out a beige business card. “In case you change your mind…”
Jonas stared blankly at Brent and, after a time, slid his hands into his pockets.
Brent set the card on the table. “If you’re at all curious, give me a call.” He turned and walked away.
Jonas watched Brent, dressed in a blue checkered suit, put his phone to his ear as he neared the entrance to the café. What the fuck was that? he wondered. His gaze shifted to the card on the table, which he slid towards him as he sat down again. The text on the card read as follows: Brent Reed. Recruitment Manager. Atlas World Corp. Jonas had never heard of the company. He looked in the direction of the café entrance. Brent was gone. Now Jonas’s mind was in an anxious tumult. He didn’t know what to think of Brent Reed or his ‘offer.’ Was it a joke?
He sat there a few minutes longer, searching through his catalogue of memories, but when it came to Brent Reed he drew a blank. It didn’t make sense. None of it did. He shot out of his chair and his gaze immediately locked on the card on the table. Why couldn’t he just walk away? He pocketed the card and left the café.
As Jonas crossed in front of the National War Memorial, he reached into his pocket and fingered the card. Something didn’t feel right. And for some reason, he was thinking about the evening he’d spent with his grandmother when he was ten while his parents attended a friend’s wedding. Slurping up a bowl of his grandmother’s hamburger soup, he started asking questions. “Why does everyone call Aunt Aisha a ‘Coke Head?’” Then, without missing a beat, “Why did Uncle Carl go to jail?” And “I heard Dad say he loved the way Mom went down on him last night. What did he mean?” He raised his head when his grandmother coughed. “You okay, Grandma?”
“Just eat your soup,” she said with an edge. “And I’m gonna tell y’all something I want you to remember for a good, long time.” She leaned forward. “Curiosity killed the cat.”
A car horn honked as Jonas was about to step off the sidewalk. He felt the air brush against his face as the black Rav4 sped by. Then he looked in both directions before darting across the street.
Maybe Grandma was right. Approaching the trash bin on his right, he pulled out the card and tossed it in.
Jonas was just getting his life back on track and didn’t need any more distractions.
But some people don’t give up.
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