Alpha Test; The Jacket

Didn’t finish this. Kinda ran out of ideas and realised that I didn’t know where I was going with it.

One day I’ll come back and fix it – just like the rest of the Alphas.

 

The jacket hangs from the back of the chair. It’s a good jacket, nice quality. I pick it up and look around. My shift at the café had just started. The jacket was cool, no body heat left in it so it must have been there for some time. Night shift probably didn’t bother to move it at before closing.

I toss it behind the counter and get on with my tasks. I’m on the early shift today, so I have to get things set up. I make my way around the café, setting out condiments and the like.

I wonder what sort of person would own a jacket like that. What would a person who could afford a jacket like that be doing in a place like this? Hardy’s isn’t a fancy place. A person who would own a jacket like that would be able to afford fancy coffees and the like. The best we can do here is a latte, only ours is really just a coffee with milk.

I wipe a spot of grease off the counter and start cleaning the tea urn. Alf, the cook, clangs around in the kitchen behind me. He sticks his radio on. Radio one, same as every day.

I look at the jacket again. It is fancy, really fancy in fact. Not new though. It has a small thread poking loose from a button on the left cuff. The material of the arms feel stretched.

Maybe whoever owns this has kids? My sisters’ are always grabbing her and pulling her clothes out of shape. Could be that the owner of this jacket once had kids.

Two builders come in. Full English with tea and toast for both. I write up the order and slip it through to Alf.

The owner of this jacket didn’t have kids. No way. Doesn’t smell right. There’s the slight hint of sweat, but that’s normal. Nothing that screams kids.

Big though. I’m not good at judging clothes much, but I think this is a man’s jacket. Huge woman if it isn’t though.

Built like a rugby player I’ll bet. No, rugby players tend to have a gut, this jacket comes as part of a suit and if you put the buttons together like this it closes it tight. Whoever wore this had slim hips, no gut.

I know I shouldn’t, but I look through the pockets. Nothing.

No, wait, a single piece of rice. Uncooked rice. What the hell? Who carries around this sort of thing in their pocket?

No one. No one carries this sort of thing around deliberately. Maybe they just put it in there by accident? Like it got picked up with whatever else they were grabbing.

I find a PostIt note. It’s green and has the word ‘Banks’ written on it.

Banks? Is that a name? Or is it a memo? Go to the bank? Then why write it plural? ‘Banks’ maybe means that he has to go to lots of different ones.

That’ll be it.

Alf dings the bell to let me know the breakfasts are ready. I take them out with two white mugs of tea, three sugars each.

Why would you need to go to lots of different banks? What’s the purpose? Also, wouldn’t you need to write the addresses down as well?

I go back to the jacket. I can smell cologne on the collar. It smells just as fancy as the jacket looks. In another pocket I find a small iron key. It’s black with age and looks like something out of one of the period dramas my mum watches.

Who has this sort of thing?

What is it a key too?

Three cab drivers come in. One tea, two coffees, two eggs and bacon in a bun, one full English, one plate of chips with toast.

I hold up the key. It’s old. Under the black I can see rust hiding in the teeth.

So, what does it all mean, I ask myself as I scrub down the tables.

What do we know; probably has money based on the jacket and the cologne; big, has muscles if the stretching in the arms and shoulders indicates anything.

So why was he here?

I find a tiny speck of egg yolk on the right cuff and some toast crumbs on the lapel. That’s interesting. He sat down and ate something, probably a boiled egg and soldiers or perhaps a fried egg on toast.

So, this big fancy man with money comes down to Hardy’s for a snack. Why?

Maybe he was in the area. Of course he was, think about it; anyone with the money for this kind of suit and cologne wouldn’t even know about this lace. We’re not in the middle of the city, we’re not even in a town. We’re stuck out here, half way between Somewhere and Nowhere. Why stop off here?

I feel the jacket again and my fingers find a small hole. It’s just inside the left armpit. But it’s not really a hole: It’s a pocket. I can feel something inside. I reach my finger in to fish it out.

A lorry driver comes in. Egg and chips, coffee, a bottle of diet coke and an extra portion of toast. Alf needs me for a moment, something about the cooker. We get it working, although I don’t know how.

I unroll the scrap of paper I found in his pocket. It’s fine, thin and waxed, like butchers paper or the paper my dad uses with his messenger pigeons.

Three young lads, all hung-over. Three full Englishes, two bottles of coke and a latte. They pay in handfuls of damp coins and scrunched up notes. I don’t reckon they’ve gone to bed yet.

The paper is covered in tiny writing. I don’t know the language. I never took languages at school. I always kinda wanted too. I wanted to go to France for a year, backpacking with my friend, Cass. I never did in the end. I can’t remember why.

I know all the letters, but there’s what look like maths symbols on the paper. There’s weird looking symbols as well, like someone messed around with the fonts on a Word document.

Two men in cheap suits and hi-vis vests come in. Two teas, two portions of toast, two eggs and bacon baguettes.

Is it a code? A pin number? A website address?

A tiny crumb of glass glitters on the lapel. Who was this man?

Maybe he was here for a meeting? What sort of meeting would a man like this have here?

Maybe he was meeting a prostitute? I know there are some who work the truck stop.

Maybe he was invited here by someone? Maybe he met an old friend here? But how would anyone this man knows even think to come here, unless…

We’re out of the way here. We’re slightly off the normal road, but not so much that it’s inconvenient. Maybe they met here to be away from prying eyes?

Why would they do that? Was it drugs? Did the owner of this jacket buy drugs? Maybe he sold them? That would explain the fancy cologne and nice suit.

The crumb of glass troubles me. Why would that be on his lapel? Did he walk near a building site? Did he smash a window? Maybe he was meeting this ‘Banks’ here and on the way there was some sort of car accident and his window smashed?

Or perhaps he had to break the glass of someone else’s window to get them out?

Three men dressed in the hi-vis orange jump suits of road workers come in. Two plates of chips and beans, one full English, extra fried bread.

 

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