The agents and Harold let themselves into Mr Teeth’s house.
Othello gave a softly appreciative whistle upon surveying the interior with its cool white walls, blond wood and abstract paintings.
“The man certainly does have taste,” he said, shaking his head wonderingly.
“Are you kidding?” said Prada, scornfully, “These pictures look like they were done by a monkey – no offence, Mr Teatime.”
“None taken,” replied Teatime, “I would venture the same opinion myself. I mean to say, just look at that one over there, all bluey-grey splodges. What on earth is all that about?”
“That’s ‘Bullet the Ocean’ by Tom Windermere, you philistines!” said Othello, walking over to the picture.
“One of his early pieces. He was very talented.”
“Was?” asked Prada, “Was? Don’t say he died a tragic death, too! What is it with these creative types always dropping off their perches early.”
“The brightest lights burn the shortest, I guess,” said Othello. Prada made a rude noise.
“Well, he should have lived to be a hundred then, looking at this.”
“Art doesn’t have to be photographically representational, you know,” Othello began to reply with some heat, but all the chatter was cut short as the house’s front door swung open and Mr Teeth came in.
He showed them all to a large, airy room that would serve them as an office for the duration.
“Let me just clear away this junk,” he said, and began sweeping bits and pieces – a broken pencil, a candy bar wrapper or several, some screwed-up sticky notes, bent paper clips and whatnot – that littered the two large oak desks into a waste bin.
“We got wireless networking here,” he continued, “Passphrase is ‘Steamy Windows’ and when Othello raised an eyebrow, he added “Don’t ask!”
“Thanks,” said Mercury, and they began to set up.
The room was well-equipped. Apart from the desks and chairs, there was a whiteboard and dry-wipe markers, a printer/copier and one of those phones with an external speaker for conference-calls.
Harold felt a little bit left out as he was not needed in any capacity at this point: Othello was setting up his laptop at one of the desks while Mercury was writing notes on the whiteboard. India and Prada were assisting him, adding material from their own notebooks. Bored, he wandered over to the printer/copier and started to press buttons for something to do. The machine emitted a series of protesting bleeps.
“Cut that out!” snapped India, “You’ll break it.”
“Sorry,” said Harold, giving the machine an apologetic pat. “Human technology fascinates me – actually, I say ‘human’, but I’m pretty sure some of my kind had a hand in designing these things.”
“I can believe it.” Said Mr Teeth, coming into the room. “Damn thing’s given me nothing but grief since I got it,” He set down his own laptop on the other desk. “One of these days I’m gonna take it out back and shoot it, I swear.”
Mercury glanced at his watch.
“I wonder what’s keeping Box.” He said, “He should be here by now.”
Box almost lost control of the bike as pain exploded in his right leg. So they hadn’t missed, after all! Well that confirmed it – as if it needed confirming - the so-called Infinity Recycling people were definitely NOT legit.
He wrestled the veering machine back onto a straight course, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision with an oncoming truck, which blared its horn at him. He risked a quick glance down at his leg. It didn’t look too bad down there – he could see a hole torn in the calf of his boot where whatever they had fired at him had gone in and there didn’t seem to be much blood as yet. Maybe the damage wasn’t too severe, just very painful.
An intersection was coming up. Carefully, Box moved his foot to see if he could still change gear, and almost lost control once more as even the tentative pressure he had applied to the gear shifter caused the pain to double. Suddenly, he felt sick and could feel a cold sweat breaking out all over. Shock. This was not good. Not good at all. He should stop before he had an accident. Fortunately, there was no other traffic at the intersection and he was able to sail straight through.
He glanced in his mirror. Was that white car following him? He tried to remember the make of the car that had stopped outside the house, but couldn’t – he’d only seen it for a few moments anyway. Ok, if the car was from Infinity, he couldn’t afford to stop or they’d catch him for sure and they were playing for keeps, that much was obvious. Neither could he just ride to Mr Jackson’s house, the whole idea of moving there was to throw RolexBoy et al off their trail so he couldn’t risk them following him there.
What to do, what to do. He was beginning to feel dizzy and lightheaded. If he didn’t do something soon, all decisions would be taken out of his hands when he fell off the bike – as seemed more and more likely.
He made a left.
The white car turned in after him.
He made a right.
The white car followed him.
“Zeus’s Golden Gonads.” He breathed. “Gimme a break!”
There was only one thing for it. There’d be all kinds of awkward questions of course, but the way things were going, it was the only sane choice.
He made another right and headed downtown.