By Leila Baez / Matthew staff || Edited by Giulia Leo
The Cafe in the Crypt was the perfect place to sit down, skim through the menu, and get some peace and quiet. One could easily spend the afternoon looking through files, trying to figure out the need to know information of a case. Lucinda took in the ambience in her own way, looking at her phone while letting out a stressed breath. The situation at Scotland Yard had her on pins and needles. Donovan told an unnamed consultant to shove off and now everyone was in a tizzy. She, as usual, was the office destressor. She knew she would inherit whatever current case was being worked on as a string of sloppy, angry texts pinged in. Donovan’s explanation. She could not care less. She could not care less about Donovan, Anderson, or any other member of The Yard. But, if she wanted to get her eyes and hands on cases and make a difference in the city, she would have to put those acting skills to the test. Swallowing her pride and annoyance, she sent back a one sentence text, asking what everyone wanted from The Crypt.
While group lunches were rare, the cafe was where any of them headed to on their hour breaks. Lucinda hoped they would give her a break after a few sips of something warm and a bite or two out of some biscuits. After a minute of silence, a ping went off and she skimmed the order. A smirk formed on her lips as she recognized the usual choices. She looked up to take in the area and her eyes landed on a man looking at a manila folder with The Yard’s sigil on the cover. From her place a few feet away she could vaguely recognize the format. Chocolate curls and a tailored wool coat with no badge or other identifier in sight. That was the consultant Donovan was raving about. She would have to say hello. He was silent, and she could not see his face, but she imagined an annoyed expression.
It was her turn to order and she was quick about it, handing the cashier the phone with the order, speaking her own once he returned the device to her.
“Hello Sir. I’ll take one of those mozzarella melts and a slice of turtle cheesecake. For the drink, I’ll get a large cappuccino with a shot of espresso, white cream and chocolate powder on top.”
She gave the cashier a warm smile, making sure to be pleasant considering the large order would not only take time to prepare, but also take up much of the workers’ patience. She paid quickly and tilted her head to the side, deciding to ask the cashier what was on her mind.
“Would you let me know what the young man in the wool coat over there ordered? He is a coworker of one of my friends at The Yard.”
The cashier returned the smile with a nod, “He came in quite quick. Ordered the special and a Twinings without a glance. He didn’t say which one, we’ve still got ourselves deciding for him.” the man chuckled, “Taking a risk if he’s on break. Most take the whole hour just to get here and eat, not that he seems to be taking much of one.”
Lucinda smiled, “He never does. He got sent here to give himself and his coworkers a breather. If you have Lapsang Souchong, I think he’d approve. And a slice of blood orange cake. I’ll pay the difference.”
“Of course!” the cashier replied as they completed the transaction, “It’ll all be out in a minute. Are you both together? Working on a case?”
“If together means sitting by him, then yes,” she dodged the second question, “Such a sweetie you are. Thank you.”
She placed the bill in her bag and took the scenic path around the tables and strewn about chairs left by tourists and lunch hour guests alike. She had to bite her lip to contain the giggle threatening to escape as she decidedly tested the waters.
“You caused quite the stir this morning. Got Scotland Yard bristled like a poked cat.”
The man had an expression that surprisingly didn’t convey annoyance, rather amusement. He glanced up to her with a chuckle.
“More like a cat suddenly drenched in cold water.” he glanced up, as his head was at the level of her midriff, then down again at the case file, “Working with those arses is like walkng into a room of tots. Will they be happy? Stressed? Constipated? Will they let out their pent up aggression on me to feel some form of relief?” He closed the case file and shook his head, “Don’t mistake me. I, myself, am an arse, but they’re so far up their own that they couldn’t see obvious evidence and come to a rather simple solution.”
Lucinda was shocked by the man. He was quick with a sharp tongue. She had to admit she admired the quality.
“I bet you enjoyed seeing the circus act nonetheless?” he continued, “I apologize, wrong words. I meant the cheaply done soap opera they acted out.”
Lucinda failed to contain the snicker. An amused smirk formed on her lips once again.
“I haven’t stepped into the office yet. But the text declaration let me know at least one person in this city keeps them on their toes,” she looked at the closed case file, “It looks like someone managed to sneak a file out. Did you hide it in that statement piece of yours?” she motioned to the coat, “They’ll be throwing ones just like this at me until their feathers unruffle. But you don’t come here often, do you?”
She took his silence as an invitation to continue, “You see, the specials are always just tourist trap food, terribly dry, so the gravy is going to be your best friend. Lucky for you, I intervened on the tea order so you should be able to wash it down well enough. And the cake will be a nice palette cleanser.” she mused, noticing the quiet chortle that came from him. She finally took a seat across from him and thanked the servers who came out a minute later, waiting until they left before handing him her sandwich.
“Take it. Trust me.”
The man smiled and nodded as he took the sandwich and hummed as he took a bite. The woman had good taste.
He swallowed and replied, “I may have taken it during the hourly team tantrum. As for the tea and cake, you were spot on. Not many would guess so accurately.” his lip turned up on one end, “You observe well. We should take each other to lunch more often. Makes me wonder why you work with the loons.”
Lucinda took a moment as she sipped her drink, glancing at him, “Truly a shame we haven’t met before now. But with thousands in The Yard throughout its jurisdiction, I can’t be totally surprised. As for why, I owe them. I, myself, am a consultant and that means I can’t exactly walk in, grab a case pile, and go about my merry way.” she smiled slightly, “So, when Donovan doesn’t feel like straining her brain, she calls for me. I’m just a year out of university, Cambridge, and I have nothing else to do with my time except to represent the family when necessary.”
She took another sip, “I learned in my youth that I must be cordial if I want to be involved.
The man nodded, listening to her responses. He understood her position, but could not comprehend the thought process.
“From experience,” he began, “being cordial will only get you so far. The false face will bore you if not exhaust you. When you know they do something wrong, I assume you have stayed quiet in order to at least be in the room?” He got his response as the woman silently glanced into her cup, “You fear being ostracized so early in the game. Now forgive me if I am upfront but you have to take the risk.”
The man’s eyes remained on her as he continued, “Take that risk early. Being as you usually are with them will only restrict you from achieving goals and doing as you need to.”
Lucinda was quiet. She had no doubt that she had a history of simply picking up whatever was thrown her way, not what she had the full potential to pursue. Though, the question of her owing them hung in the air like a daredevil on a frayed tightrope.
“I can assure you,” she began, “my youth has little to do with it. Though, you speak as if you aren’t under thirty yourself. You are bold, almost impulsive, and intellectual, but not because of constant study.”
The man shook his head in response, “I thank you for the compliment, but you have so much unsaid for yourself. You need to push those boundaries and see what they allow. You have potential and owing fools should not be part of the equation.”
Lucinda smiled and hummed into her cup as she sipped, creating a couple air bubbles, responding after the swallow.
“I suppose you are right. It’s just,” she paused, “I don’t owe them for any common reason. They saved my life in a way that went above and beyond the job description, in a way that cost a few their lives. That is something no amount of cafe runs can give back.” she looked at the man, “It must be the Londoner in me, but I can’t bring myself to be coarse with them.”
She knew he was right. She would never be taken seriously unless she made them. She might even find it in her to ask the man across from her for pointers, maybe a tutoring lesson or two on the art of being a hardass. But she was admittedly sick of being pushed around in her passion. She was tired of being treated as less than she deserved. This stranger deduced her, reading her like a magazine editorial. She appreciated it.
“I understand the situation,” the man explained, “but, as you said, some favors can’t be returned. They know that as you do, so don’t spend your life trying. I respect integrity and maturity, but you have to take charge eventually. A sharp tongue is a deadly but sometimes necessary weapon.”
The man looked at her with a gentle gaze, “I am grateful that they saved you. But that performed duty can’t remain a setback. You have done enough and deserve to grow and be taken seriously.” he smiled slightly, “You aren’t some puppy. You can bite back as I do if you desire, but you take a mature, respectful way. While I applaud you, don’t let them waste your time. Enough with the kiddie gloves, don’t you think?”
Lucinda felt her cheeks warm, nodding at the pep talk, “Once again your deduction is on point. Your reputation remains intact.” she took a bite from her cake slice, “I’ve got plenty to catch up on. I can tell you like a fairly played game.”
She placed her fork on a napkin and looked at him, “I promise I won’t waste anymore time.” she mused and took another sip. She appreciated him, and no doubt formed a bit of a crush at this point. He did not understand, no one could, but he comprehended the situation, and treated her with some form of respect. Perhaps they would work well together. On cases, of course. She was released from her thoughts when the servers brought out the office’s order, all carefully packaged in two large cardboard bags and an insulated carrier for the drinks. She thanked the servers before they walked off before turning to the man before her.
“I suppose now it’s time for me to go repair the damage?” she teased.
“Of course it is,” the man smirked, “but, once they drink their coffee, maybe, just maybe, they’ll be calm enough for me to consider coming back. Who knows? If they seem to have the capacity to listen, I may consider saving them from embarrassment by picking up the pieces and saving them from the wrong path they’re trekking down.” He smiled at her as he finished his tea, “Quite the pleasant chat.”
“We really should do this more often,” Lucinda smiled.
The man nodded, “I can’t wait to see what you give them. I know you already read parts of the case file during our chat, analyzing the chicken scratch? Any conclusions?”
Lucinda smiled at the impromptu test, “Just in case they throw a different case at me, I suppose I can disclose my findings.” she mused, “The answer is right in front of everyone. Port of London, Tideway. Look for shipping containers from Birds Eye. I would say position agents by the unloading sites. Cargo bins near the area have a distinct sediment runoff caught in the evidence. Position the agents right and not only will they find the culprit in the act, but said culprit won’t be able to run.” She smiled at the man, “It’s been pleasant.”
She took the bags into one hand, finishing her drink and tossing the cup and paper plate of her now finished cake slice into the bin. She glanced back at him.
“You will let them know the case they haven’t solved in over two weeks was solved by two consultants, both having not even hit the big three zero yet, over lunch, yes?”
The man chuckled, “Of course. Can’t wait to see their faces.”
Lucinda smiled and nodded, “Until we meet again. This was quite fun!”
She walked away from the table, out of the building, taking in the bustling streets of London as she made her way to Scotland Yard. There was a pep in her step from the excitement of the meeting, only calmed by the realization that she forgot to get the man’s name. She never gave hers. She cursed, shaking her head as she got to her destination, stepping into the chaos, determined to prove she was in the right place.