by T. P. Keating
London holds my leg a little longer,
and I can't say when our next 5th Avenue shopping trip will be. I'm still here because the Kimberccino arrived quicker than
I'd anticipated. The bean, the roast, the flavour, all topped off with a chocolate “K” and a 15 percent share
in the profit. Tasty! That young barrista, Charles Markham, had done all of us at New Emperor Coffee proud. A one-man caffeine
hit, who dared to defy convention and take international branded coffee to a new high. You could consider me one very happy
“I say, it's rather top hole
Kimberly, what what?” Sitting opposite me at the table, Malcolm Fairfax put down his own Kimberccino. As with mine,
the female employee at the counter had written “Good luck” on his cup. In his early fifties, Malcolm wore his
customary black suit and carried his usual black umbrella. He dabbed his mouth with a napkin. I'd gone for a yellow pantsuit
and stilettos, with a yellow velvet band for my permed black hair. I considered myself fortunate, to have such a trustworthy,
resourceful colleague as Malcolm.
“It can kill you.”
“What, a single cup? I'm afraid
that you're going overboard with your criticism, Kimberly.”
“No, a single slip with a weapon
like that.” I nodded my head towards the sawn-off shotgun and the woman wielding it, who'd managed to empty the Piccadilly
branch of all but two customers, including the staff. Those two being Malcolm and I. She strode over to us.
“The Kimberccino, now.”
The frankly over-made up eyes, behind the plastic pig mask that hid her face, fixed on my cup.
“Here.” I shoved my unfinished
drink towards her.
“Don't move,” she insisted.
A police siren wailed in the distance, which made her take fright and race out of the branch.
“Clearly a twerp,” observed
“Because she could've left
the shotgun and mask at home and simply bought the coffee.”
Er, yeah, absolutely. You see why
Malcolm is invaluable to me? The young female employee poked her head around a door. “I called the police.” Her
male colleague appeared at her shoulder.
“I'll contact Head Office and
arrange cover,” I soothed. “The pair of you can take the rest of your shift off, at full pay, and claim for an
extra shift too. Malcolm will handle the paperwork.”
An hour later, having given my statement
to a very sympathetic and understanding policeman, I headed home. The masses of balloons and bunting in the branch, for the
launch of the Kimberccino, had blocked the surveillance cameras. With no other immediate evidence, I doubted that the coffee
cup thief would be found.
Within a short while, I turned the
key in the lock of the large, black door and trudged up the stairs to my top floor apartment. I suspected that another branded
coffee chain had become aware of the Kimberccino, and my cup would soon be undergoing scientific scrutiny. Once they launched
a copycat version, New Emperor lawyers would be dragging them though the courts.
With which happy thoughts, I dropped
my handbag on the large mauve sofa, ran a bath and took a long, relaxing soak. Ah, the smell of freshly ground coffee. This
Kimberccino bubble bath was bound to be a hit. What a Monday afternoon in London. Added to which, the moon would be up shortly.
The full moon. The throb in my head heralded its approach. In the kitchen, wearing my pink satin pyjamas and a fluffy pink
dressing gown, I slipped the howl-suppressing silver talisman around my neck and swallowed a pair of herbal painkillers. The
mirror already showed the strain in my light green eyes, along with the accompanying growth of facial hair. I wouldn't be
venturing out for 3 days. My cell phone rang.
“Hello, Kimberly Duncan,”
said a female voice, “thank you for lending me your coffee earlier.”
“You'll never get away with
the fake Kimberccino.”
“The fake what? Poor, slow
Kimberly. If your DNA from the cup found its way to a government laboratory or two, I'm sure the scientists would find it
I shuddered. “How did you get
“It's listed on your company's
web site.” I should've seen that coming.
“What do you want?”
“I'm about to text you my bank
account details. You'll make a deposit of a million pounds, by midnight.” She disconnected. I rang Malcolm immediately.
“Hope I didn't disturb you?”
“Most definitely not, Kimberly.
Is there a kerfuffle?”
“If by that you mean a commotion,
then yes. It's called blackmail.” I recounted the conversation. “And I want you to trace her call.”
Due to high-tech business spies,
New Emperor had invested hefty sums in counter-espionage technology. I pressed the counter-espionage button on my cell phone,
and keyed in the activation code. Five minutes later, the text message arrived. Not two minutes following, my ringtone trilled.
“Malcolm here. The text came
from a handheld device, probably within the London boundary. Unmarked New Emperor vans are on the streets. Can you get her
to send another message?”
I replied, including her original
message with some of the letters scrambled, and asked for the bank details again. She answered almost immediately, with the
correct particulars. My cell rang.
“We've located her. It's a
loft near Canary Wharf.”
“I'm going to make a house
“I anticipated your request.
I will be there with my car shortly.”
That I could venture outside at all
was thanks to a recent improvement in my magi-cation treatment, in the form of a throat spray, shipped over by Doctor Abraham,
my specialist. It would prevent me from becoming a violent creature, with only “Grrrroar!” in her vocabulary.
That much I'd told Malcolm. Mind you, I didn't mention that I'd never used it before, so I crossed my seriously hairy fingers
when we started the journey. The traffic was kind to us, and we parked outside a converted warehouse. Somewhere across town,
my fingers uncrossed.
I turned my by-now completely hairy
face to Malcolm. “If I show signs of anger, or try to lash out at her uncontrollably, remember. Please don't try to
“And spoil the fun? Why Miss
Duncan, it's the very reason a tea man joined a coffee chain.” Slipping on a scarf and raising the hood of my jacket,
I exited the car.
Without expecting any success, I
knocked on her apartment door.
“Come in, it's not locked.”
I couldn't help but feel wary of her sang-froid. We entered. “Well, close the door, we're not animals.” The large
room, illuminated only by the moon through the skylight, was full of deep shadows.
“Actually, you're partly mistaken
with me,” I said.
She stepped into view, wearing a
white tunic and white trousers, which put me in mind of a martial arts movie. I could recognize her thickly applied, cheap
cloggy mascara a mile away. “Tell him to leave. We'll settle this between us.”
“Malcolm, you can wait in the
“Very good.” He slipped
“Why the blackmail attempt?”
“Who doesn't need money?”
Good point. “Now you're here in person, I'll accept cash.”
“Are you in the coffee business?”
“I was, until recently. Temping
in your Head Office, actually. When my snooping revealed your werewolf status. All those disposable razors in your rubbish
bin, which always coincide with a full moon. Bit of a giveaway, no?”
“I'm able to hold a rational
conversation as a werewolf because of my medication, which is new to the extent that most of the ingredients don't have a
formal name yet. I'd be careful not to rile me, if I were you.”
“Oh, I don't really care about
your lycanthropy. I'll extort anyone. I have no prejudice.”
My claws raced for her throat. She
somersaulted over my head. I turned. She yanked me forward, through an open window and onto a narrow balcony. Far below, Malcolm
squinted up at us. In the middle distance, the lights of the West End twinkled. I grabbed her and forced us both half over
the iron railing. “Better we both die, than the good name of branded coffee be disgraced.”
“You're a nut.”
“Give me one reason to spare
“To hell with your DNA. I really
will make a fake Kimberccino, and we could join together to form a cartel. Let's say, a seventy-thirty split?”
I forced us further over the ironwork.
A crackling red energy ray hit the side of her head. She fell. Her body burst into flame and was gone. In the street, Malcolm
blew red smoke from the tip of his umbrella. I might be a ruthless CEO with incredible werewolf powers, but cartels are plain
evil, and I won't be party to them.
Back inside, I flicked on the light
switch. A Kimberccino stood on a side table. It had “Good luck” written on it. I took it and headed downstairs
to Malcolm, where I slumped gratefully into the car seat.
“Yeah yeah, I'll live.”
After days like today, who could honestly begrudge me my fifteen percent? By the way, Jo-Beth, how are the cubs? Have they
had their first shave yet?