Waverley station was big, bustling and full of tourists. Benn forgot how unreasonably close to August it was, when the huge arts festival enveloped the city with people wandering around, asking for directions and just generally being tourists. Benn couldn’t stand them, but he wasn’t as vocal about it as Ede was.
‘I’m so glad we’re getting out of here for a while.’ Ede said as they made their way down the stairs from the main road. ‘I’m so sick of waiting in line for God damn everything.’ He stressed.
‘What’s worse is the festival doesn’t start until next week.’ Benn agreed with Ede’s outrage, ‘Think of how bad it will be then.’
‘Wouldn’t be so bad if people remembered to walk on the left!’ He shouted the latter half of the sentence at a woman walking towards them on the steps, she glared at him briefly before returning to her loud telephone conversation.
‘I swear it’s always fuckin’ yanks, man.’ Ede said through his teeth.
‘We’re almost at the station, try not to spout any loud racism until we’re at the platform at least.’ Benn smiled, Ede could be an intense person, but Benn had always found it more funny than unnerving. Most would disagree.
‘How is ‘yank’ racist?’ Ede winked, Benn wasn’t sure why.
‘We’re not getting into this again.’ He said as they reached the bottom of the steps. ‘Do you need to grab your tickets?’
‘Nah, man. Gonna get ‘em on the train.’
‘Isn’t that more expensive?’
‘So what? Work’s paying for it.’ Ede shrugged as the two of them moved towards the departure information screen that overlooked the centre of the station. ‘Wait… you mean to tell me you always pre-book?’
‘Normally, yeah. Do you not? It is cheaper.’
‘You are such a goody-goody.’ Ede mumbled.
‘What?’ Benn asked, he genuinely hadn’t heard Ede’s remark over the noise of a child screaming that it wanted ice cream.
‘Nothing.’ Ede said louder. ‘Platform thirteen, ah shit that’s through a ticket barrier…’
‘You’re hopeless.’ Benn sighed as he walked back towards the ticket machines.
‘Thirty quid!? For a two hour train!?’ Ede yelled loudly as Benn typed the necessary details onto the touch screen and inserted his credit card.
‘This is what happens when you don’t pre-purchase.’ Benn said coldly, ‘Besides, work’s paying for it, remember? So what do you care?’
‘It’s the principal, man! That’s way too expensive!’ Ede flung his arms into the air as though complaining directly to some sort of pricing god.
‘I don’t think I’ll ever understand your priorities.’ Benn said slyly as he handed Ede his freshly-printed tickets. ‘There. Happy?’
‘Shit dude.’ Ede said, staring at the departure board, ‘Our train’s about to leave! I thought we got here early enough!’
‘So did I.’ Replied Benn, confused. He checked the board as well and it did, in fact, show that the train was only a minute from departure.
‘Let’s go!’ Ede said, grabbing his bag and running towards the ticket gate. As he stood and waited for the small plastic door to open he danced as though he desperately needed to pee. ‘Come on, come on…’ he said to no one. Benn’s gate opened faster than Ede’s did as his ticket appeared to be rejected. Benn checked the time again, the train was about to leave.
‘Damn it! What’s going on?’ Ede said quickly to the machine. Benn went to help his friend and poorly stifled a chuckle.
‘You’re supposed to scan the ticket. Not the receipt.’ Benn said more condescendingly than me meant to.
With a curse under his breath Ede crammed the receipt in his pocket and found the ticket. With a small beep and a swoosh of gears, the plastic door opened for him without trouble.
‘What are you standing around for?’ Ede said, as panicked as he was embarrassed.
‘I think we can relax, Ede.’ Benn motioned with his head towards the departure board. The train had been delayed for five minutes.
‘What the…?’ Ede went pale as he stared at the board with disbelief.
‘What’s wrong?’ Benn asked as he took Ede’s arm and started moving him towards their idle train, ‘Trains are delayed all the time, it’s no big deal man.’ He smiled. Ede shook himself from whatever stupor he was in and smiled an unconvincing smile.
With no seats booked the two boarded from the nearest possible carriage and made their way through the main aisle in search of unoccupied seats. As they did so, they ignored all the luggage shelves and overhead storage, ensuring their bags stayed with them at all times, not just in sight as the pre-recorded warnings advised. The life of a professional assassin meant that all one’s personal effects, be them related to the job or not, were to be kept on the agent at all times. Benn and Ede didn’t even need to think about it anymore, ensuring that their bags were never left unsupervised had been habit to the both of them for years.
With a fortune neither of them expected, they found an unreserved table seat and settled themselves into it without delay. As they got comfortable an announcement from the conductor apologised for the unexpected delay without giving any reasons.
‘What’s on your mind?’ Benn asked as he saw that Ede had finally begun to calm down.
‘Nothing… it’s just… I dunno, man. I mean…’ He stammered. Ede was normally so confident and cheerful, always sure of himself, he was beginning to make Benn nervous. ‘Like the Doc watching us in the office yesterday. And now… I mean we were about to miss this train.’
‘And you think the GDLA somehow knew we were running late?’ Benn asked frankly yet quietly.
‘It’s not that unlikely, is it? I mean. They basically run the world, man.’ Ede whispered the last part. Benn rolled his eyes and began to talk at a normal volume for fear of looking suspicious to the other passengers.
‘Even if that was the case, what do you care?’ He gave a patronising smile, ‘What exactly are you getting up to that you care if people are looking?’
‘Shut up.’ Ede smiled. He had calmed down but held about him a nervousness that Benn pretended not to notice. He realised then that this kind of thing was probably why he had been asked to keep an eye on him, though Benn couldn’t quite figure out why. Still, he had never refused an order in his life and he wasn’t about to start now.
Happy enough to see Ede return to semi-normality, Benn leaned back and looked out the window as the train slowly began to pull out of the station. The next stop would be Haymarket, about five minutes away, a station mainly used by business people, locals and tourists who didn’t know that it wasn’t actually the city centre. As the train began to gather speed Benn suddenly found himself staring into a pair of eyes. The carriage had entered a tunnel and the station seemed to vanish as he was left face-to-face with his own reflection. He pulled himself and his gaze from the window with a noticeable wince and began to rummage inside his bag.
‘What’s up?’ Ede asked as Benn pulled a book from his bag.
‘What?’ Benn replied as he opened it to the first page, Ede recognised it as the book he had given to Benn the previous day. ‘You didn’t think I was going to want to speak to you for the whole two hours, did you?’ Benn smiled as he began to read, recognising none of it as words he had read the night before.
‘I guess I can’t blame you there.’ Ede smiled as he looked out the window, the darkness of the tunnel projecting his own image back to him. Benn had deliberately pretended to misinterpreted Ede’s question, but Ede knew his friend well enough to press no further, not yet.
The two of them remained in silence for just under an hour. Conversation in public was difficult between the two of them. No matter what they talked about or how interesting their lives had become in the time since they had last seen each other, sooner or later it always became a conversation about work. A member of the GDLA was not bound to secrecy over their profession, just their assignments, yet most knew better than to speak of their work in the open. Like repo men or toilet cleaners, their jobs were neither unethical nor illegal, they simply would rather no one knew unnecessarily. It avoided complications, dirty looks, drinks ‘accidentally’ being spilled on them, and the more unfortunate things that tended to befall all those in necessary yet frowned-upon professions.
‘Don’t you think it’s strange?’ Ede said after they had hit Carlisle, somehow knowing that Benn was thinking the same thing he was, ‘I mean… it’s not like we’re bad people, is it?’ He spoke quietly, which was understandable but out-of-character enough to make Benn a touch nervous.
‘Curse of the job.’ Benn matched Ede’s volume, ‘To them we’re just necessary monsters.’
‘We should be heroes…’ Ede said mostly to himself.
‘No such thing.’ Benn answered immediately with a frown.
Ede sulked in his chair and fidgeted as he watched the people on Carlisle platform bustling about with their luggage of various sizes and colours. A group of teenagers sat on a bench were drinking cans of cheap lager while beside them a man with a newspaper skipped straight to the sports section. Two well dressed people who looked like academics laughed at each other’s jokes, one seemed to never take his eyes of the departure board while the other simply stared into the middle distance.
As the train began to move again Ede scoffed at nothing and quickly got up to make his way to the toilet. Benn stared out the window with an absent mind until he saw someone else take Ede’s seat.
‘Excuse me.’ Benn said as he faced the man. He was a young man easily in his mid- to late-twenties, not too much older than Benn and Ede. His unkempt stubble and strange hat juxtaposed his neatly pressed white suit that fit his frame perfectly as though tailor-made.
‘Don’t worry, Benn. Your friend won’t be back for ten minutes.’ The man grinned slyly, the handsome sneer making Benn sit up straight in preparation for something he didn’t quite understand.
‘What did you do?’ Benn said sternly, his sudden accusation surprising even him as he realised this man was having a bizarre effect on him.
‘Nothing at all.’ The man’s grin grew wider as he took off his hat and set it on the seat beside him. His hair seemed to have been straightened but still stuck out in places. He was somehow neat and scruffy at the same time like an organised mess.
‘How do you know my name? Who are you?’ Benn spoke quickly, nervously. He hushed his voice though he didn’t know why.
‘Now that…’ the man said dramatically as he took out a briefcase and opened it on the table, ‘is a very difficult question to answer.’
The briefcase was labelled with four white diamonds which comprised the company logo of Wisemann Industries, an outfit Benn had never heard of. The man opened the briefcase so the back of it was facing Benn, as though he had wanted him to see it. With a flourish the man produced a sealed folder not unlike those which enclosed GDLA targets and placed it in front of Benn who took it cautiously.
‘Don’t open it just yet.’ The man closed the briefcase and returned it to the floor under the table. He leaned forward and tented his fingers, Benn only just barely managed to ignore his urge to push back into his seat.
‘Who are you?’ Benn asked again with a harsher tone than before.
‘Someone who is very interested in ensuring the future of the Panacea, and someone who is very invested in ensuring you make the correct decisions.’ He winked. The smirk never left his face.
‘And what decisions would those be?’ Benn asked, remaining cautious.
‘You’ll find out. Somewhere around now I imagine.’ He leaned back in his seat. Benn’s phone immediately began to vibrate in his pocket. With hesitation he took his phone out just as the stranger stood up with his briefcase and put his hat back on with oddly theatrical and smooth movements. With a smile and a bow, the man left the carriage. Benn made sure he had left before he answered the phone without checking to see who it was.
‘Mister Salva?’ The voice was not quite familiar enough to for Benn to recognise immediately.
‘Yes?’ He answered hesitantly.
‘It’s Barbera. Barbera Rounde, from the office? I kicked Mister Moiles in the head?’ She said with a level of pride.
‘Oh. Yeah, I’ve been meaning to thank you for that.’ Benn attempted a joke.
‘Mister Salva, I’m sorry for getting in touch on your day off, but is Mister Moiles with you?’
‘He’s… in the bathroom.’ Benn said, unsure whether or not he should have answered such an odd question, ‘Why?’
‘It’s just… he didn’t show up for work today, he hasn’t signed in or anything, I was wondering if you knew where he was?’
‘We’re on a train.’ Benn said, confused, ‘We’re on our way to one of his assignments now.’
‘But… Mister Moiles doesn’t have any assignments yet, he was supposed to receive one today but isn’t answering his phone.’
‘What? But that’s-’ Benn stopped himself when he heard the toilet door open from across the carriage.
‘Could you please tell him that there’s something wrong with the tram? When he does come in he’ll have to take the bus then walk. It should be fixed by tomorrow.’ She sounded more rushed than before.
‘I don’t-’ Benn started as she hung up, for a moment he looked to the phone in confusion. Between the train’s coincidental delay, the strange man and the weird call, Benn began to wonder if he had been dreaming the entire day. As Ede approached Benn hastily shoved the folder along with his book into his bag.
‘What’s up, man?’ Ede said as he sat down, noticing Benn’s discomfort.
‘Nothing really, a call from Barbera at the office.’ He said, putting the phone back in his pocket and acting nonchalant, Ede didn’t seem to notice.
‘Oh? What did she say? Anything about me?’
‘The tram’s out of order, apparently we’ll need to park and ride or something.’
‘Ah.’ Ede said, a flash of what might have been panic appeared on his face for just a moment but Benn pretended not to notice, ‘Sounds like a pain.’ Ede sighed, turning his gaze to the window, ‘Let’s hope it’s fixed by the time we get back, eh?’
‘We can hope.’ Benn replied. He looked at Ede for a moment, the call had some deeper meaning to it, but it all had to make sense. Ede could be weird, occasionally even downright creepy, but he wasn’t a shady man. Benn had known Ede for almost as long as he’d known Alys, the three of them had practically grown up together, Benn couldn’t fathom the idea of his now best friend getting up to anything that would warrant constant watch from the GDLA, but he had been advised, ordered even, to keep an eye on him.
Benn rationalised it in his head, Barbera could have just received wrong information, Doctor Noore herself had directed Benn to go with Ede on this assignment, meaning he wasn’t disobeying any orders, it wouldn’t make sense if he were. Benn didn’t want to think about it anymore, following Doctor Noore’s order was the only priority he needed to think of, even if it meant being vigilant around someone he had trusted for so long.
‘What’s on your mind, buddy?’ Ede asked.
‘Nothing, really. Just kind of sick of being on a train I guess.’ He lied.
‘Don’t bullshit me, man.’ Ede looked to Benn with something just short of a glare.
‘I saw you wince earlier when we went through that tunnel. You can’t look at your own reflection, can you?’
‘Don’t be ridic-’
‘Benn!’ Ede said loudly, startling several other passengers, ‘You told me you were passed this, we worked through it, didn’t we?’
‘It’s about Alys, isn’t it?’ Ede looked directly into his friend’s eyes. Benn did nothing but look back out the window, unable to deny anything. ‘You’re always so damn stoic, man. You know you’re allowed to feel bad, right? You can’t be a robot all the time, humans aren’t built that way.’
‘I’m fine, Ede.’ Benn met his stare, ‘It’s just a momentary lapse, you know I’d tell you if it was anything else.’
‘You damn well better.’ Ede replied, relaxing everything but his facial expression, which remained in an odd form somewhere between worry and anger.
‘Thanks, man.’ Benn said after a few awkward moments.
‘Looking out for me. I know outward emotions aren’t exactly your forté.’ He said with a smile.
‘Look who’s talkin’.’ Ede winked.
‘Always bigger than you think, huh?’ Ede said as the two looked at the ruins of Penrith Castle from the steadily slowing train.
‘Smaller, actually.’ Benn mused. It was true, the word castle indicated to Benn something that stood high up, towering over everything around it, the ruins at Penrith were nothing more than a pile of bricks to him that were less impressive than he remembered every time he saw them.
‘Really? I think it’s cool.’
‘You live in Edinburgh, you comparing that thing to the castle there?’
‘Is that praise for our fair city I’m hearing, Benn?’ Ede stuck out his tongue.
‘No!’ Benn sounded more defensive than he meant to, ‘I’m just saying-’
‘Whatever man.’ Ede stood up and hoisted his bag over his shoulder, ‘Come on, we gotta go.’
With a sigh of resignation – something one had to become accustomed to when arguing with Ede – Benn stood up and took his own bag, following Ede to the train doors where he began impatiently pushing the button to open the doors before the carriage had even stopped.
‘Just wait, man.’ Benn said, ‘It’s not like we’re gonna have to jump for it.’
Ede ignored him and just kept pushing the button incessantly as people behind him began to shuffle and tap their feet expectantly. Benn had no idea what it was about public transport that made everyone so impatient. Between priority boarding passes on planes and pushing in front of the line for a bus that would leave at the same time no matter when you got on, people were far too rushed even when they had no reason to be. It made Benn uncomfortable.
A loud beeping noise indicated that the train had come to a complete stop and Ede’s diligence made the doors open almost immediately, allowing them to disembark. The air was colder than the both of them had expected and once they were out of the way they both scrambled to put their jackets back on. Having neglected to bring a waterproof coat, Benn hoped it wouldn’t rain.
‘Should I get us a cab?’ Benn asked as he brought out his phone, ‘Where are we headed, anyway?’
‘No need, man. Our hotel’s right there.’ He pointed to a large building that looked far too modern in contrast to the town’s rustic appearance.
‘Across the road from the station?’ Benn glared. ‘I don’t know about you man, but I enjoy sleep.’
‘It’ll be fine!’ Ede began walking towards the station exit, ‘It’s a new build, great reviews online so far.’
‘If the internet is wrong I’m on the first train back, got it?’ Benn grumbled, Ede pretended not to hear as he made his way across the road to the large black box that was the hotel.
Benn was prepared to complain further until the automatic doors shut behind them as the two entered the impressive foyer. It was as though the outside world completely vanished along with the noise of traffic, trains, pedestrian chatter and the light winds which had been picking up since they left the station.
‘Soundproof?’ Benn whispered to himself as he was taken aback by the sudden silence.
‘Got that right.’ Ede smiled, ‘Told you it’d be great.’
The foyer of the hotel was huge and coloured in red, black and white in odd combinations that were busy but somehow pleasing to the eye. A pleasant looking woman wearing a suit and a neckerchief sat behind a marble counter, a smile gracing her face while she typed softly on a keyboard.
As their footsteps echoed on the hard floor Benn was reminded of his university library, an odd sense of nostalgic tranquillity always overcame him at the idea of being surrounded by so many people yet still being allowed to enjoy relative silence. Benn felt self-conscious of speaking in such a quiet place.
‘Good afternoon gentlemen.’ The woman greeted as they approached the desk. ‘How can I help you?’ Her smile looked real, as though she actually did enjoy her job, a rare sight in customer service.
‘I have a reservation for two under Hice.’ Ede said with the smile he always put on when speaking to someone he had a crush on.
‘Ummm… yes. I see.’ The woman responded after searching the name without needing to ask for its spelling. ‘I’m afraid your room won’t be ready for another hour. Are you okay to wait?’
‘I think we can do that.’ Ede said with a wink, Benn fought the urge to visibly cringe, though he allowed himself a subtle eye roll.
‘Excellent. Here are two tickets for drinks at the bar with our apologies.’ She said, handing them each a decorated slip of paper she appeared to take from nowhere. ‘Please enjoy them with our compliments, the bar is down the hall behind you.’ She gestured with her arm towards the hall.
‘Thank you very much.’ Ede winked again. Benn rolled his eyes.
‘May I say I am very happy for the both of you.’ She beamed.
‘Oh. Um. Thanks?’ Ede started, unsure what she meant. Ignoring the urge to question the remark, he began to make his way towards the bar with an equally confused Benn in tow.
‘What was that about?’ Benn asked as they walked down the well-decorated hallway.
‘I thought he was joking…’ Ede muttered to himself, annoyed. ‘Never mind, man. Let’s just cash these in.’ He held up his ticket, a smile returning to his face as the promise of a free drink seemed to override whatever mild irritation he was feeling. Benn had to admit to himself that he was looking forward to one, too.
The bar was as elegantly presented as the foyer, surprisingly well-worked colour combinations brought about a sense of majesty that made Benn and Ede realise that they would never be able to afford a hotel like this under normal circumstances. The GDLA’s expense allowances often spared enough for a comfortable room in an acceptable establishment, but the hotel in which they stood felt like the kind of place where dress codes and management positions were minimum requirements to enter the building, never mind stay there as guests.
The tables were peppered with finely dressed men and women speaking softly and laughing gently into the backs of their hands. Benn and Ede both took off their coats as they entered, Benn was happy to be wearing a nice enough shirt while Ede seemed uncomfortable in his bright red t-shirt which had the word ‘relax’ written in yellow across the chest.
‘Let’s… get a booth.’ Benn said as he noticed Ede’s attire, ‘I’ll get the drinks.’
‘Good call.’ Ede replied, looking embarrassed. He handed Benn his ticket and hurried into one of the private booths as Benn approached the bar.
‘Hello, sir.’ A nicely dressed bartender greeted him, ‘How may I be of service today?’
‘The receptionist gave us these.’ Benn handed him the tickets. Under normal circumstances Benn would have objected to being called sir, but he had his suspicions that such objections would go unheeded in that kind of place. ‘Could I please get two pints of… something.’ Benn realised that he recognised none of the beers the bar had on offer.
‘Pints?’ The man looked surprised. ‘A… absolutely. What would you like?’
‘Um… whatever you recommend.’ Benn couldn’t hide his confusion. The man picked up two glasses with an impressive flourish and began to pour from the nearest tap.
‘Please forgive me, sir.’ The man spoke as he focussed on his work, ‘Most of our clientele follow more… traditional archetypical roles, my surprise was not meant to offend.’
Benn waved it off, insisting that it was fine. The man’s way of speaking seemed natural, automatic, yet his words and mannerisms aged the hotel’s values by about a century if not more. Benn had never dealt with such formality in his life and felt increasingly more uncomfortable as an awkward silence followed the over-worded apology.
With nothing but a slight nod, Benn took the drinks to the booth where Ede sat far back in the corner, doing his best to not be seen.
‘Thanks, man.’ Ede said as his pint was placed in front of him. Benn was happy to hear his casual speech.
‘Who’d have thought a place like this would pop up in Penrith?’ Benn said as he glanced around, ‘When did it become such a posh hotspot?’
‘I have no idea.’ Ede said, ‘I didn’t make the reservation so I had no clue it’d be like this.’ He took his first sip of beer.
‘Who made the reservation then?’ Benn looked to Ede with a serious expression.
‘I did.’ Ede winked.
‘Bullshit.’ Benn glared, remembering Ede’s earlier comment, ‘What are you up to, Ede? I know you’re not on an assignment here so tell me what’s going on.’ Benn’s own forwardness surprised him.
‘It’s… ugh, fine.’ Ede said hesitantly, ‘You were probably gonna find out anyway. This isn’t a normal assignment, it’s a private contract.’
‘A what?’ Benn snapped quietly through his teeth, ‘What the hell is wrong with you?’
‘It’s as sanctioned as can be.’ Ede said, ‘We have permission.’
‘From who? Do you have any idea how illegal this is?’ Benn managed to maintain something of a whisper.
‘Doctor Noore.’ Ede said, annoyed, he looked at Benn with a seriousness that didn’t suit him.
‘It’s a covert deal. I didn’t ask questions because that’s not what we do. The only special instruction I was given was to talk you in to coming with me.’
‘Why me?’ Benn leaned back and took a deep gulp of his drink, acknowledging immediately that he was yet to eat that day.
‘I don’t know, and you now know as much as I do so don’t ask anymore, okay?’ Ede responded quickly, as though attempting to demonstrate just how much he wanted the conversation to end. ‘I was supposed to brief you on the way here, but the train was too crowded. Happy?’
‘I… don’t know exactly what to say.’ Benn stammered, ‘But if it’s all sanctioned then I don’t see a problem.’ He was talking to himself more than he was talking to Ede.
‘No need to say anything.’ Ede said, ‘Just enjoy the luxury we’ve found ourselves in.’
‘Should we be drinking?’ Benn asked, ‘I mean, this seems like an important mission, you sure we should be getting sauced?’
‘She doesn’t arrive here until tomorrow, the dance will take place in the evening. I’ve got this covered, man, so don’t worry about it. Just enjoy the country break and take half the credit when we’re done.’
Benn didn’t quite understand. The idea that such an assignment would be fully sanctioned under the GDLA, along with everything else that had happened in the last few days, he just felt an overwhelming wish for everything to just feel normal again, and then there was the file the man had passed him on the train that Benn was yet to open. He decided to take Ede’s advice and simply enjoy the break, but made sure to keep Doctor Noore’s instructions on the forefront of his mind. Wishing to add nothing more to the already tense conversation, Benn simply nodded in acknowledgement of Ede’s words and drank.
‘So who really made the reservation, then? Or was the Doctor Noore too?’ Benn returned to his earlier question.
‘Some guy named Karl Wise. Apparently a good friend of the boss who made the request.’
‘Wise…’ Benn whispered to himself, remembering the strange man’s briefcase marked Wisemann Industries on the train.
‘Something wrong?’ Ede noticed Benn’s confusion.
‘No, not at all. The name just sounds familiar.’
‘I’d never heard of him. But his name doesn’t sound that uncommon.’ Ede waved the thought away. ‘Now, on to more important matters.’ He put the folder back in the bag and tented his fingers on the table. ‘Who do you have a crush on?’
‘What!?’ Benn’s reaction was loud, a woman a few tables over made an annoyed, nasal grunt that only the upper class seemed to ever do.
‘C’mon!’ Ede leant back. ‘You’ve been acting weird lately, even before the whole… y’know. Something’s up, I can tell. And I know you always get really self-conscious when you have a crush.’
‘Don’t be an idiot.’ Benn looked away, Ede was just trying to get on his nerves.
‘Then why the reflection thing, Benn?’ Ede’s expression got slightly more serious, though his joviality didn’t fade. ‘I thought you were beyond this. There’s nothing wrong, okay? You know that better than I do. You’ve been wound up tight for too long, I hate seeing you like this and I know Alys would, too. Get over yourself, would you?’
‘Fine.’ Benn smiled a cocky smile, a rare occurrence for him, ‘What do you suggest?’
‘Step one, get absolutely fitshaced.’ Ede winked, ‘Not tonight though, but we have a few days of leeway here. After this assignment we’re dragging you to Lancaster and hitting up every bar mentioned in that book.’
‘You’re joking.’ Benn grimaced.
‘Nope.’ Ede’s smile widened as he held the beer to his lips, ‘I’m going to get fun Benn back if it kills the both of us.’
‘Knowing you it just might.’ Benn’s own smile returned.
‘But seriously man.’ Ede looked down to his drink, ‘I think we really need to talk about Alys. I know you’re going through some stuff, man, but professional stoicism just isn’t gonna cut it this time.’
‘I don’t know what to say…’ Benn bit his lip, ‘I miss her, y’know?’
‘If I didn’t do it someone else would have.’ Benn acknowledged for the hundredth time, ‘And who knows what they would have done to her, you know we work with some real psychos, I couldn’t leave it to chance.’
‘So you’re okay?’ Ede asked directly, his blunt way of speaking always gave Benn a comforting feeling.
‘I will be.’ Benn said, raising his glass, ‘To Alys.’