I sat in the café, nestled in my headphones watching the world swing past around me. I shook my head politely at a waitress wandering over to me, and she acknowledged with a smile, quickly pivoting into a new direction.
I jumped as the headphones were ripped off my ears, and the sound of the city rushed back in, busy in my ears.
‘What the hell?’ I growled, spinning in my seat to look up at whoever had taken them.
‘Where’s my money?’ the heavily-tattooed man growled above me. I snatched the headphones off him and folded them up, scowling.
‘I told you, it’s on its way.’
‘That’s not good enough anymore,’ he said, dropping heavily into the seat across from me.
‘Please,’ I gestured sarcastically for him to join me. ‘Can I get you a coffee? Croissant?’
‘I’d rather my money,’ he said, the tribal tattoo that curled around his bicep twitching menacingly.
‘You’ll get it!’ I snapped. ‘In fact, I’m here waiting for someone – it’s for a job.’
‘That’s my business,’ I said, closing my laptop and sliding it into my bag. ‘But if I ever need to know where to find a Japanese tattooist in Brisbane, I’ll give you a call.’
I went to stand, but his hand shot out and grabbed my arm. Even through the layers of fabric, his grip made me wince.
‘My boss is not a patient man,’ he whispered harshly, audible above the din. ‘I thought you were smarter enough to know that.’
‘Anyone ever tell you that you have the bedside manner of a tribal tattooist?’ I shot back, wrenching my arm free. ‘Like I said – you’ll get your money. But only if I can meet my contact, and only if they see me alone.’
He held my gaze coolly for a moment, then stood up. His chair scraped backwards, almost colliding with a flustered waiter.
‘Two days,’ he said, deeply. ‘Then we stop being polite.’
I watched him thread his way back out of the café, absentmindedly rubbing my arm, convinced his fingers had left dents.
‘Damn,’ I sighed. ‘I really wish I was actually meeting someone.’