After a routine inspection and debrief down at the station I was free to go. It helped that David was so distraught at killing another man he broke down and confessed it all, from the affairs with his students to plotting my murder and the shooting of Mr Lee. Sure made my life easier. After a few hours of paperwork and waiting around I was a free man and back on the streets. Morning had come and gone so I figured why not skip straight to lunch, I’d worry about sleep when I was dead. Looking at my track record for the past few days it wouldn’t be long now. I swung by Ness’s apartment to see if she wanted to join me but found she was out and about somewhere. I wasn’t disappointed but I was hoping that she’d be a little more concerned about me after last night’s rumble with the divine four. I shrugged it off and decided to lunch alone, taking up the rest and relaxation that only solitude can deliver. While I would usually luncheon a the bakery across the road from my office I decided to avoid that area altogether. The yellow police tape covering the building would stare at me from across the road and put me off my food.
I ended up wandering the streets on foot seeing as Ness still had my car. For the better part of an hour I walked, just taking my time and enjoying the mundaneness of life. By the time I reached the little diner I was in desperate need of coffee and something to eat. I hadn’t set out with this place in mind but I guess my feet knew the way and the pull of the temple was just too strong considering the activities of the past few days. Thankfully, Imogen was nowhere to be seen another waitress served me a piping hot cup of coffee and suggested the quiche and salad as today’s special. I asked for a large slice and a serve of hot chips on the side, arteries be damned. Leaning back into the soft leather of the booth I stared blankly out over to the temple. During the day it lost a lot of its mystery, the hulking marble edifice sat quietly at the top of the wrap around steps, alone and empty. I rested my head against the cool glass and shut my eyes for a moment, letting the world wash away, leaving nothing but the quiet thoughts of sleep running through my mind.
The clunk of my meal arriving woke me with a gentle start, the waitress smiled apologetically and left me alone with my lunch. The smell of deep fried potato covered in salt wafted up to me and my mouth began to salivate. I didn’t realise how hungry I was until I saw the food. Eagerly, I devoured my meal pausing only to take long swigs of coffee or to let the burning hot potato digest as it slid down my throat. Before I knew it the meal was gone, devoured by a man who hadn’t eaten in twelve hours and who hadn’t slept in even longer. Full, I leaned back and smiled as the waitress returned to fill my coffee and buss my table. My mind drifted and I started to think of all the work waiting for me back at the office. I needed to write up an expense report for the Olivers’ as well as arrange for a new safe to be installed and I’ll have to replace half the furniture in the room, that’s if I’m even allowed to go back there. Mr Lee’s wife didn’t look too happy the last time I saw her, police morgues tend to have that effect on people though. To be fair, some things have come up in my favour, for instance I haven’t been cursed beyond recognition by a trio of angry goddesses, my car repairs were all paid for and it’s looking better than it has in years. And then there’s Ness. I know it will end badly, it always does, but for now I’m looking forward to enjoying the moment and just seeing where life takes us.
I was on my fourth cup of coffee when she walked in. Disorientated from the sun outside she looked around. I waved a friendly hand at her and she gave a look of recognition and came over. I watched her walk towards me. Her simple green dress hugged her feminine curves and left little to the imagination, not that I ever needed to think too hard around her. Ness flowed into the booth seat opposite, removing her large white sun hat. Strands of crimson locks fell around her face as she deposited her bag and hat beside her. She raked her hair back with a stray hand and gave me a warm smile.
‘I like your hair. New?’ I asked. She gave her long hair a shampoo commercial flick and looked at me through doe eyes. ‘You don’t think it’s too much?’
The combination of her pale complexion and bright red hair complemented her beyond a doubt.
‘If you had been there last night I would have had no choice but to hand the apple of Discordia over to you. I’d be a dead man, but it would be worth it.’
She blushed. ‘Stop it James, you old flirt.’ The waitress came over to take Ness’s order and offer me a fifth refill. As she walked away I noticed the large envelope protruding from Ness’s handbag. ‘What’s that?’ I asked nosily.
‘Oh,’ she replied handing it to me. ‘I popped over to your apartment this morning to check on you. Love what you’ve done with the place by the way. The yellow police tape makes it look so much bigger.’ Sarcasm dripped off her tongue.
‘You noticed that huh? I was going to get a new rug but the tape was on sale, couldn’t pass up a bargain.’ She stuck out her tongue as I opened the envelope. ‘How’d you find me anyway?’
‘That nice cop, Fellows, was there and told me what happened, said you were ok but had to go through the motions at the station. I figured I’d have enough time to get my hair done and pick you up just as you were leaving. Must have just missed you but Detective Gold told me which way you went. I just kept driving and when I saw the temple I figured you’d be around here somewhere.’ She shrugged. ‘And here you are!’
‘Here I am.’ I said with a smile. I turned my attention back to the envelope. It was unmarked by the postal service and simply bared my name on the front.
I knew it was from her the moment I opened the envelope and that unique perfume filtered out. Inside was a printed receipt for twenty thousand dollars for a donation in my name to the Aphrodidic temple’s wayward youth charity. On the back was a hand written note that read in the most flowery of cursive: I couldn’t just give you the money, James. This way everyone gets to share your good fortune. Love A. A line of X’s followed. I had to laugh. Handing over the note for Ness to read I looked out the window towards the temple and raised my coffee cup in a midday salute to the goddess. At least she followed through on her promise, that was more than I expected from one such as her. Ness made a disappointed noise as she read the note.
‘After all that? Oh James, I’m sorry.’ She reached out a hand and stroked mine. It felt nice to be comforted, even though I didn’t need it.
‘Doesn’t matter, Ness.’ I said, patting her hand back. Truthfully I didn’t. I’d be getting ten grand easy from the Olivers soon, more than enough to patch up the office, and I’ve gotten a brief reprise on my rent. An extra twenty would have been nice but it’s not the end of the world. The waitress delivered Ness her pie and I declined a refill, my hands were beginning to shake a little on their own and I did want to sleep sometime this week. We sat silently simply enjoying each others company while Ness ate her pie and I sipped the last of my coffee. I couldn’t help but look out towards the looming temple and think, ‘If I ever see another temple girl again, it will be far too soon.’