Tempus Vocat

“That’s what they said,” the man said, twisting the chopsticks around to root out the last stray noodles from the plastic tray.  “They was talking rubbish then, same as you are now.” He burped, and flung tray and sticks over his shoulder.

“We had a deal,” I reminded him. “Your opinions weren’t part of it. You’ve had your food. You let me have what I’m looking for and I’ll be away. Won’t need to be troubling you any more.”

He looked at me, eyes glittering in the street lights. “Think you know it all, you lot,” he said. “Well, you dunna. You know that? You dunna.”

“No,” I said. “I dunna. But I want to; and there’s ways you’re going to help me with that. We agreed, remember? You signed your name.” I waved the tattered piece of paper that had served as a makeshift contract.

The man griped and mumbled under his breath. Finally, he sighed, and reached into his filthy, ragged jacket, pulling out a small, gleaming object. I felt my heart rate quicken, and tried to keep my breathing even. Even so, I couldn’t help the tiniest little laugh as he opened his palm, and there, in his hand, it lay. A watch, too old to be modern but not old enough to be antique; battered, tarnished – completely unremarkable to any eyes but mine. Even in his own, I doubt it shone with the same fire I saw glinting from its brass-coloured casing. Here it was. Here was my answer. I reached out and closed my fingers around the watch.

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