"The Coffee House Spy"
Her favorite coffee shop was crowded with the morning rush of fellow caffeine addicts and Emily wasn’t in the mood to wait in the twenty person deep, queue. Deciding her second, favorite coffee shop would have to do this morning, she stepped out the door and back onto the sidewalk, moving through the workday crowd to the ‘Café of Roasted Happiness’ that beckoned to her from around the next corner.
Emily opened the door to the little cafe and smiled; there were only three people waiting to be served. She stepped joyfully into the fourth spot in queue and expected to soon have her hit of morning energy and be on her way, but the gods of simplicity were not of a like mind that morning.
The sound of the door opening behind her and the ensuing commotion of someone, or something, barreling into the tiny café didn’t at first registered in her sluggish un-caffeinated mind, but when that something barreled into her; she was fully engaged in the chaos.
Emily turned around and looked into the big brown eyes of a large, chocolate brown, Labrador Retriever who'd bumped into her upper thigh with its nose. Its leash was firmly held in the hands of its owner but before she could follow that leash to the face of the person at the end of it, the dog raced around them and, in its mad circular dash, quickly bound them together.
Emily found herself in a compromising position, pushed up against the very tall, muscular body of that crazed dog's owner.
“Sorry,” the man said as he placed his arm around her and pulled her closer so he could reach down to unsnap the leash off the dog’s collar and free them.
Once the leash fell, Emily stepped back from the man’s embrace but the now unleashed beast began to jump up and down in front of her for attention.
“I’m so sorry; Sir Harry is still a pup and very playful.”
The man offered the explanation as he commanded the dog to sit.
“Sir Harry? You knighted your dog?” she asked brushing the brown dog hair from her white jogging pants.
The man chuckled. “No, it wasn’t my doing. Sir Harry was a gift from a good friend and he came with the documented name and title.”
“Interesting,” she mumbled, not interested at all and feeling conspicuously under dressed noticing the man was wearing a navy blue, tailor fitted, power suit. When she threw on her clothes this morning she hadn’t intended to encounter anyone on her mad dash for a cup of coffee, and if her stupid coffee pot hadn’t broken she’d be ensconced in her apartment with coffee cup in hand and avoiding this embarrassing mishap all together.
“I hope you can forgive his manic, puppy behavior and I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee to make up for it,” he offered with a sincere smile.
Emily shrugged. “It's not necessary but thanks for the thought.” Then she turned around and realized the other three guests had already been served and seated, and like everyone else in the small café, they were watching the scene with interest, avid interest. Apparently, she was their morning’s entertainment.
Emily sighed heavily and stepped up to the counter and ordered a large cup of coffee with no frills.
The knighted dog’s owner stepped next to her and she felt him staring at her.
“What?” she asked without looking at him.
“No latte…or mocha something?” he queried with curiosity.
“No, I just need coffee, unfettered, un-tainted coffee. Is something wrong with that?” She turned and asked, sounding defensive.
“Not at all, I find it refreshing and I’ll have the same and, I am paying for both,” he insisted and placed a large bill on the counter. “Two coffees, no frills,” he told the barista who was staring at them with unabashed interest.
“Got it,” the barista responded and slid the bill from the counter.
“You didn’t have to pay for my coffee but…thanks.”
She said it a bit ungraciously but that was because she was uncomfortable standing next to him in her jogging pants and angry bird t-shirt while he was dressed well enough to attend a formal affair. She wanted to slink away, or better yet, she wanted him to slink away.
“It’s the least I can do; you’ve been more than gracious given Sir Harry’s terrible behavior,” he replied with a smile.
Emily stared at his perfect teeth and thought he must have to bleach those pearly whites in order to get that pureness of color.
The barista retuned and handed them their hot brews, gave the dog owner his change and asked if there was anything else they needed.
“No, this will do,” he replied then he turned his attention back to the woman wearing the charming t-shirt.
“Do you play?” he asked innocently.
Emily had just sipped the heavenly brew and nearly spit it out at his very shocking question.
“Excuse me?” she said indignantly.
He chuckled and clarified his question.
“Angry birds, do you play the game or are you just a fan of the art work?"
“You’re funny,” she said with a shake of her head and walked towards the door but Sir Harry decided to block her escape. He sat his very large, doggie body down in her path.
“Can you move your dog please; I’d like to go now.”
The man clipped the leash back on the dog’s collar and tugged but the dog was immovable.
“Sir Harry come away from the door; let the lady leave,” he commanded but the dog just tilted its head as if to say, are you kidding?
“I’m sorry, he usually listens,” the man offered with a slight smile and a shrug.
Emily turned and walked to an empty table, way in the corner of the room, deciding she may as well finish her coffee at the café and once that man got his dog under control and they left, she’d do the same.
Unfortunately, the dog decided he wanted to be near her and pulled his owner back to her side.
“This is ridiculous; that dog rules you. Do you know that?”
“I’m beginning to think for some reason, he wants to stay by you.”
“Yes. He’s never followed another before and it’s highly unusual for him to ignore my commands.”
Emily scoffed, “Sure, I can see that he’s so well trained but suit yourself, and your dog. I’m just going to enjoy my coffee and as soon as I can outwit your beast, I’m out of here.”
“Sounds like a good plan,” he chuckled and sat down, “And since we’re going to be sharing this table, for however many minutes, until we resolve Harry’s issue; we shouldn’t remain strangers. I’m Brent Devinger,” he said extending his hand to her.
“Not Sir Devinger? Why I’m surprised your dog even allows you to be around him,” she scoffed but took his hand and added casually, “I’m Emily Smith.”
“I’m charmed to meet you Emily,” he said squeezing her hand slightly before he let it go.
Sir Harry lay on the floor, close to the table, and gave a whimper to let them know he was there.
“So, do you always dress up to walk your dog; does his doggie knighthood demand it of you?” She teased.
Brent smiled at her jest but slanted a look at her attire.
“I must admit I was unaware of the jogging pants and character t-shirt required for getting a cup of coffee.”
“Smart ass,” she thought but she knew he had a point.
“And to answer your question,” he continued, “I don’t normally walk Sir Harry in business attire but this morning the dog walker didn’t show up and as you see, I had no choice.”
“You have a dog walker?”
“Is that odd too?”
“In my circle it’s very odd; so does Sir Harry also have a cook, butler and lands granted with his title?”
Brent hesitated; an affirmative answer could be met with humor, or suspicion, so he turned the conversation on her.
“Do you own a pet?”
“A pet, no, I can barely afford myself,” she said with honest, self mockery.
“May I ask what you do for a living?”
“I read, a lot, and then I make notes about what I read and I grumble. In general, my job makes some people happy but most people unhappy; including myself.”
His brow furrowed with confusion.
“What kind of job is that?”
“I’m a book editor for a small, nearly invisible, publishing firm.”
“Oh,” he smiled, “So you have to make the decision if something is worthy of being published.”
“That’s my job description in a nutshell and now that you know all about me…tell me what you do.”
Brent leaned his arms on the table and looked surreptitiously around before he whispered, “If I tell you, it could put you in danger.”
Emily scoffed. “A spy with a knighted dog, now that would make an interesting novel; I might even enjoy reading it.”
“I never said I was a spy.”
“No, but weren’t you leading me to conclude something like that?”
Brent chuckled, “No I wasn’t, but it’s a fair guess.”
“Okay so not a spy…not CIA…then are you FBI?”
“No to all.”
“You won’t tell me what you do?”
Brent smiled and was about to offer some casual explanation when he spotted someone through the window of the café, someone he didn’t want to see.
“Do you mind keeping Sir Harry with you for a moment; I need to use the restroom.”
“Sure, I don’t mind.”
Brent walked to the back of the café and down a small hallway to the men’s room but he didn’t linger there long. Instead, he opened a window in one of the stalls and climbed out.
Outside he assessed the area behind the café for escape routes and taking his best course of action he left the area.
He knew Sir Harry was safe with the girl but she wouldn’t have been safe if that man saw her with him.
He’d retrieve the dog later, once he was sure he’d lost the man trailing him. He already had the girl’s address, after he’d snapped a picture of her with the camera hidden in the strap of Harry’s leash he’d sent it to his trusted source to check her out, within minutes he’d had a dossier on her entire life uploaded to his phone. He admitted he was curious about her and would like to read it but because of the uninvited friend searching for him…that would have to wait.
Emily waited twenty minutes before finding the nerve to ask one of the male baristas to check on the man who’d gone into the restroom and never returned. When they told her no one was in there, she began to suspect he may not have been completely honest when he denied being a spy.
“Is your name really Sir Harry?” she asked the dog.
The dog whimpered and lowered its head as if he were guilty of espionage too.