“Hiya, boss. So where did you hide the body?” Ben’s deep Edinburgh brogue lent itself particularly well to sarcasm. Behind Ben, Chrissie Henderson, Greg’s bar manager and second-in-command, gawped goggle-eyed around Ben’s lofty shoulder.
“What body?” Greg looked down at his blood-spattered shirt front. “Aw, no, would you look at that! I cut myself shaving. I thought I’d staunched it.”
Ben laughed as he tipped ground coffee into the pot and filled it with hot water. “Lucky there’s a spare shirt hanging in the office.”
Greg groaned. “But not so lucky, it’s one of yours.” The reason Ben could never do Saturday afternoon shifts was that he spent them propping up the back row of the Edinburgh Academicals’ rugby third fifteen. Borrowing a shirt from a rugby player like Ben would be like draping himself in a beer tent.
“Maybe I can cover it,” Greg suggested, adjusting his Tellers’ staff tie. At three inches wide, it was still three inches too narrow to cover the stains.
“Aye, right.” Ben grinned. “On the other hand, you could wear the clean shirt and just keep puffing out your chest for the rest of the day so it looks like it fits you.”
Greg admitted defeat. “I’ll go and put it on. Give me a minute.” He eyed the pot of coffee. “Have you just made that for a customer?”
“Table six.” Ben made to pick up the pot, and then caught the determined gleam in Greg’s eye. He sighed heavily, and slammed the plunger down. “It’s all yours, boss. I’ll make them another.”
Five minutes later, ignoring Ben’s hearty guffaws, Greg emerged back into the bar. He’d tucked the enormous shirt into his jeans as best he could, but it felt like wearing a bedspread. The sleeves bunched up underneath the arms of his waistcoat, no matter how many times he rolled back his shoulders to make it more comfortable. Ah, well. At least he could congratulate himself on his self-imposed and totally egalitarian uniform policy. Even though he was sole owner of Tellers’, he still dressed the same as everyone else...even if he looked utterly ridiculous.
Lunchtime was the usual Friday affair, trainee lawyers and giggling office-girls from the Georgian-pillared businesses in Queen Street and Charlotte Square. The booze they knocked back made sure the most efficient thing they’d achieve that afternoon was a spectacular slump over a desk. Three o’clock came and went, bringing its throng of no-class-but-plenty-of-cash Edinburgh WAGS, all done in after hours of nail extensions, Brazilian waxes and clearing the designer concession rails in Jenners department store. They ordered sustenance in the form of Tellers’ own coffee blend and plates of Danish pastries, which they prodded with forks but left uneaten.
After they’d cleared out, Tellers’ was at last blessed with a couple of hours’ peace. The staff heaved a collective sigh and set to preparing the place for the Friday evening crowd. Nothing eventful happened except Chrissie tripping over Ben as he knelt behind the bar to re-stack the mixers shelf and tipping half a bottle of vermouth and a bowl of stuffed olives down the back of his neck. Ben took it in good part, commenting that while he smelled like a martini, he was only stirred and not at all shaken.
Leaving them to clean up as he sliced lemons and limes for the bar, Greg mused on whether the olive incident counted as Thing Number Three, and was on the point of convincing himself that definitely, absolutely nothing else could possibly go wrong for the rest of the day, when she walked in.
Greg froze, hypnotized by the reflection shimmering in the long mirror behind the bar. It disappeared briefly, moving out of his line of vision and he stepped sideways, following the mirror along the wall, seeking her out if only to convince himself that it couldn’t possibly be her — that Julia hadn’t just walked back into his life four years after he’d walked out of hers.
Read a Five-Star review and buy Edinburgh Fog in all its formats including Kindle here at MuseItUp Publishing.