Sandra sat eyeing the last piece of toast in the silver rack in front of her.
Hell, it’s only half a slice. It’s not as if I’d be shoving down half a loaf. I mean, half a bloody slice. Get a grip, woman. You don’t even need to put much butter on it.
Maybe you could just do the marmalade and forget the butter altogether. Yeah, that’s it. Marmalade. No butter. Well you’ll have to have marmalade at least ‘cos it’s been sitting there for a while now, and it’s going to be as dry as the driest thing in Dryville on Saint Dry’s Day without something or other spread on it.
‘Would madam care for more coffee?’
‘Jesus,’ she said, snatching back the hand that was already reaching for the toast.
‘I’m sorry, madam. Did I startle you?’
She turned to see a waistcoated and bow-tied waiter with a dome of a forehead and an absurdly pointed chin hovering above her with a china coffee pot.
‘Er… No. Er, no, not at all. I was only…’
‘Would madam like some fresh toast?’ said the waiter with a slight inclination of his head towards the lonely piece in the rack.
He reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t quite place him. In any case, he was obviously on to her with the toast thing. She could read it in his wide-set eyes, and what he really meant by all the madam this and madam that was: Okay, fatty, I can see you’re gonna scoff down every last scrap of food on this table, so why don’t I get you some more and you can have yourself a frigging party?
‘Excuse me?’ Her tone was indignant.
‘Would madam like more toast?’
‘Oh, I’m sorry. I was miles away. Er, no. No thanks.’
‘Coffee?’ He tilted the pot towards her empty cup.
Was it the chin or the heavy, dark eyebrows that made him seem so familiar? Or perhaps it was the mouth, which looked like it couldn’t decide whether it wanted to pout or sneer. But where had she seen him bef—
‘Of course,’ she said with a click of her fingers. ‘Quentin Tarantino.’
‘What?’ said the waiter, losing the ever-so-slightly-French accent in that one solitary word.
‘You know. Reservoir Dogs and all that. Kill Bill? Inglourious Basterds?’ Sandra beamed at him, delighted she had cracked the mystery.
“Quentin” now stood erect and bristling. ‘No coffee or toast then,’ he said in a seriously Birmingham accent as he began to turn away.
‘No, no. Both. Bring it on.’ She sat back, flamboyantly folding her arms and staring at the lonely piece of toast, a beatific grin still spread across her face.
Quentin leaned forward and poured coffee into her cup. ‘As madam wishes.’ The words came through teeth that appeared to be intent on grinding each other to dust.
Sandra watched the flow of dark liquid and inhaled the bittersweet aroma. When the waiter had gone, she added a dash of cream and a teaspoon of sugar, hesitating for the briefest of moments before adding a second. She raised the cup level with her eyes. ‘Here’s to me,’ she said. ‘Sandra Gray. Private detective.’
Taking a sip, she thought how good life could be sometimes, and her tongue tingled with the anticipation of the crisp, fresh toast that would belong to her, and her alone, in a few short minutes. A touch on the underdone side of overdone and cut triangularly. It always tasted so much better like that, so why was it she always cut it straight across on a right-angle when she made it at home? It wasn’t as if it involved any more effort.
Hang on though. Yes it did. She vaguely remembered her geometry from school and something about Pythagoras’s hypotenuse – or was it isosceles? Or even Isosceles’s pythagoras. Whatever. Anyway, it was definitely true that the slopey bit was much longer than the straight bit, and to confirm it she traced a right-angled triangle with a fork on the tablecloth.
To hell with it. I’m having extra butter and marmalade when it comes, and bugger the consequences. I should be celebrating, not fiddle-fannying around about a few calories here and there.
She took a generous slug of coffee and leaned back in her chair. Two grand and all expenses paid. Not bad for a couple of days’ work, and she’d only been in business less than six months. Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy. All she had to do now was—
‘Your toast, madam.’
Sandra looked up into the face of a scrawny, raven-haired girl with multiple piercings and skin the colour of anaemic alabaster. She had never fully understood the allure of the Goth look.
‘What happened to Quentin?’
‘Quentin, madam?’ said the Goth in a monotone and without any attempt at eye contact as she placed the silver rack of toast within easy reach.
‘The guy with the pointy chin and the eyebrows who was here before.’
The girl finally met Sandra’s gaze. ‘Don’t know, madam. I expect he’s doing other guests.’
‘What makes you think he isn’t on a plane halfway to Costa Rica?’
The Goth clearly didn’t recognise Mr Pink’s line from Reservoir Dogs, and she gawped for a moment before reciting, ‘Would madam like more coffee?’
‘Yes please. Oh, and could you bring a little more butter while you’re at it?’
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