After we passed through customs, Rory said he was peckish, so he and I stopped at a little airport coffee shop plastered with Italian flags and paintings of the Colosseum, called Caffè di Venezia. Rory ordered a ham and cheese croissant, Vegemite toast, bacon and eggs and an orange juice; I ordered a chocolate milkshake. While we waited for our traditional Italian cuisine to arrive, Rory borrowed my phone to check his emails, and I went to the newsagent to get a copy of The Sydney Morning Herald.
Rory wore a serious look when I returned, as he stared at my phone screen. When he saw me, he closed his email, and smiled.
“Thanks for that, bro,” he said, sliding my phone across the table to me.
Our waitress, Yuzuki, set our food on the table. We thanked her. Rory dived straight into his brunch, and I checked the newspaper.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” I muttered, examining the front page.
“What is it?” mumbled Rory, through a mouthful of eggs.
“They bumped my story… Here it is—page three. And butchered in the editing by the look of it. Unbelievable. The world’s first real glimpse at life under New Zealand’s communist regime, and instead the paper leads with a story about… what is it? Drama on a realty T.V. cooking show.”
“I thought you said you just wrote about wombats.”
“Yeah, I adapted a story about wombats, but still…”
Rory’s knife rattled on the plate as I slapped the paper down.
“You finished with that?” he asked.
“Oh yes. Believe me—I’ll never write for a newspaper again as long as I live.”
“No, I mean are you finished reading?”
“Oh. Yeah, I guess so.”
I tossed the paper across the table.
Rory flicked through the pages, starting with the comics (as was his habit), while wolfing down his toast. After a couple of minutes he stopped, and his finger thumped the open page, right beneath a face in a grainy photograph. He swivelled the paper around to face me and tapped the photo.
“You know who that is?” he asked.
I checked the picture—a mugshot—but didn’t recognise the mug. I read the caption beneath; the man who owned the face was one Jimmy “Biscuits” O’Shea.
“Never heard of him,” I said.
“That’s Jimmy O’Shea,” said Rory.
“Yeah, I don’t know who that is.”
“For years he was the most feared mob boss in Britain. Canny, obsessive, and absolutely ruthless—no one messed with him.”
I looked again at the picture.
Rory seemed lost in grave thought for a second.
“Some say he went crazy. He’s kind of a recluse these days—not a big figure in crime anymore—but he keeps his fingers in enough pies to stay cashed up.”
“Is that what the story’s about?” I asked.
“No. It says he’s gone missing. I figured as much.”
“You did? I didn’t know you were interested in the English mafia.”
“Yeah. Since 2006.”
“Huh. So, what do you reckon happened to this guy? He got whacked?”
“Not likely,” said Rory.
He finished his orange juice, while he scanned the rest of the page with a keen look.
“Check this out—record snowfall in London… a bunch of dead birds floating in the Thames—wait a minute—” he flipped to the back of the paper “—here, see—the English rugby team lost by forty-five points… against Canada!”
“What are you getting at?”
“Jimmy O’Shea disappears, and then all these crazy things happen in London—you don’t think that’s a hell of a coincidence?”
“What—are you saying a former mob boss made it snow? And killed a lot of birds?”
“I’m just saying this all happened when Jimmy went missing.”
“Okay. Well, in the media we call those ‘unrelated stories’.”
“You’ve been in the media a week. And you just said you quit.”
That comment hurt me. I don’t know why.
“Well, I know this much,” I said, “even a crime boss can’t create record snowfall. It’s impossible.”
“Impossible? How can you still believe in that word?”
(I assumed he was referring to a certain experience I had in New York—see my story entitled The Heist.)
“Well,” he said, “if you still need proof that there’s more to life than what we see—” he took something from his pocket, hiding it in his fist. He looked around and then set the secret object in front of me: it was the arrowhead he had taken from the murdered co-pilot. It flashed and began spinning on the table of its own accord “—think about this morning’s events and see if that doesn’t convince you.”
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