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48 hours in London
J Jackson Bentley
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Threadneedle Street, City of London, Wednesday, 11am
The rain was persistent but not heavy. It drizzled down like sugar onto strawberries. At
first the tiny droplets sat on the wool worsted of my suit as if on a newly waxed car. Then,
within seconds, capillary action sucked the water into the fabric until it became saturated. I
hadn’t moved far along the slick pavement before the rain had soaked through the lining of my
jacket and into my thin summer shirt.
It was still warm, and the rain that hit the warm concrete paving vaporised, sending a thin
mist swirling around the feet of the people rushing for cover. The skies were darkening by the
second, but not as rapidly as the mood of the commuters struggling to unpack pocket sized
umbrellas that took longer to erect than Ranulph Fiennes’ Arctic tent.
A Starbucks coffee shop was quickly looming on my left. The dull green lighting scheme
seemed to brighten as the contrast with the naturally lit street increased. I stepped into the
doorway and shook the excess water droplets from my jacket in much the same way as a wet
dog shakes its sodden pelt. The windows in the shop were already steaming up, and a long line
of men in ruined silk ties and women with flattened hair queued to order a serving of comfort
in a cup.
I waited patiently as the machines coughed and spluttered out order after order, sounding
like some geriatric patient in a hospital waiting room. The rich, dark coffee odour was thick in
the air. There was no need to ingest the caffeine. You could just breathe it in.
My spirits lifted as I held the hot cup in my hands and blew gently across the surface of my
Caramel Macchiato, as if my breath produced some super cooling breeze that would make the
scalding brew instantly consumable. With no tables available I propped myself up against a
shelf and set down my drink next to a blueberry muffin.
I sighed and let the tension flow from my body. I was about to lift my cup and see how
many layers of skin the superheated concoction would dislodge from the inside of my mouth
when I heard three successive beeps. A text message had arrived on my BlackBerry.
I took the BlackBerry from my pocket immediately, as we all know it is important that you
don’t offend your mobile phone by ignoring it, even for a few seconds, and so I flicked a
couple of buttons to reveal the text message:
If you do not pay me £250,000.00 in the next 48 hours, I will kill you after noon on
Friday! Check your emails for instructions.”