There was a delay.  A frog stole my shoes.  Back now.  Read.


Ordinarily, people don’t erect a stripy deck chair in the middle of the street, crack open a book and smoke a cigar while sat in the rain, but Haul had decided to do just that. His attempt to interrogate Pyle once more had run aground when the receptionist refused to let him in but, being a stubborn man, he had decided to hang around until she changed her mind. Women did that quite often, he understood.

The deck chair was something he always kept in his car, as was the book, but the cigar had been bought especially. Pyle didn’t smoke, but could tell every brand of cigar from the smell of the smoke, and cheap cigars drove him nuts. The rain would be doing a decent job at dulling the smell, but Haul was sure some of it must be getting through to the upstairs office.

The receptionist was ruder than normal, perhaps she was getting sick of his face. He had been to this damn office too many times recently, and playing games to get any scrap of information was starting to do his head in.

The thing about the whole situation that got on his nerves was the inability for the police to openly accept that Pyle ran a group of hitmen. It was so obvious, everything seemed to fit, but there wasn’t a single scrap of evidence to prove it. This meant that every trip to see Pyle would result in cryptic questions, which lead to cryptic answers, which lead to headaches, which lead to confusion. But not today. Haul was going to get proper answers today, even if he had to sit in the rain for a few hours first.

A lot of people hate the rain. Anything that directly effects someone by falling from the sky and being wet is going to gain a few enemies, but it had never really bothered Haul. This was, he reasoned, the biggest piece of evidence that proved he was designed to be a policeman, who else would be willing to stay out in the rain so long?

There was a muffled shout from upstairs and Haul craned his neck. The raindrops did their very best to extinguish his cigar, but failed. The shouting was coming from Pyle’s office, which Haul took as a sign that the man could smell his cheap tobacco. He blew a congratulatory smoke ring (which looked more like a big cloud than a ring) and turned his attention back to his book.

Five minutes later the front door opened and a stringy mass of red hair poked out. The receptionist probably had a face, but Haul could never claim to have seen it. Any features that weren’t concealed behind her unruly hair were hidden behind some of the largest glasses he had ever seen. He had seen the typical NHS glass bottle things, but the ones worn by this woman dwarfed them. The lenses were the size of saucers, and so thick that Haul couldn’t even see her eyes on the other side, assuming she actually had them. Perhaps it was a disguise.

‘Would you mind putting out that cigar, sir?’ she asked.

Haul took a long, slow drag on his cigar. ‘Yes, I would.’

The woman shuddered and slammed the door. Haul made it through three more pages before she came back and repeated the question, with slightly more frustration this time.

‘Would you mind putting that out now, sir!‘ she tried, doing her best to sound authoritative.

The cigar was more or less finished by this point, so Haul smiled at the woman and stubbed it out on the wall behind him. She flinched as he did so but smiled as he dropped the extinguished cigar to the floor. Her relief lasted until he pulled a fresh one from his breast pocket.

Haul pulled a lighter from his pocket and held it up to the cigar. The woman was practically livid by this point, sweating bullets as she watched the man light up another of the offending rolls of tobacco.

There was a crash from upstairs and something buzzed noisily in the hall behind the receptionist. Her head disappeared around the door for a moment, then popped back.

‘Lord Pyle will see you now, sir.’

This elicited another attempt at a smoke ring, before Haul stubbed out this second cigar on the wall before dropping it back into his pocket. Carefully placing a bookmark into his book, he got up and strolled into the building, winking at the receptionist as he did so. She growled.

Haul loved it when a plan came together.


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