‘Why not’, he thinks as he circles the advert in bold red ink, ‘I’ve tried everything else’.
Wanted: People who can find lost things.
He’d always been pretty good at figuring things out, liked reading detective novels when he was younger, and he never failed to find his Christmas presents no matter how ingeniously his parents hid them. Yeah, this might finally be the job for him. God knows he’d tried just about everything else, and had the scars to prove it.
With nothing else catching his eye, he scoffs down the last bite of his pastry, washes it down with the last of his coffee and hustles over to the payphone in the corner.
“Yes?” a brusque voice answers.
“Ohh hi, I’m.. eh.. phoning about the job advert in the paper today?”
“Well it just says ‘Wanted: People who can find lost things’ so, I guess, that one?”
“Ahhhh yes, of course,” the voice softens “yes yes, when can you come speak with us? Are you free this afternoon? It would be great if you were as we are very keen to get people started, especially smart and on-the-ball individuals like yourself.”
“Ohhh right, well I’m free all day so, yeah, I can meet with you this afternoon if you like.”
“That’s wonderful, yes yes, tell me, do you know the cafe on Mitchell Street, just up from the laundrette on the corner of 4th?”
“Well sure Mister, I’m standing in it right now.”
“You are! Ohh how delightful! Yes yes yes, I wonder, yes, perhaps I could pop over now and have a chat with you? Would that be acceptable? I realise it’s very short notice but time is always of the essence, isn’t it Mr. … Mr…??”
“Finch, Alan Finch.”
“Excellent, Mr. Finch, so if I could trouble you to order me a coffee, black, no sugar, I’ll be over presently to have a little chat. Yes yes this could work out quite well I think”
“Sure thing, you want anything else with that?”
His question echoes down the line and the dial tone confirms the reply.
He hangs up and as he walks back to his seat he realises that he doesn’t know who he is meeting, or what he looks like. He turns to eye the street outside, looking for… well he doesn’t know who but he looks anyway.
The waitress idles over and he turns and orders two black coffees. As she leaves she glances down at the paper, the advert circled prominently and as the hint of a smile starts creeping across her face, turns to fetch his coffee.
He is still staring out of the window when a voice interrupts him.
‘Mr. Finch, Mr. Alan Finch?’
Startled he turns, his elbow catches his empty coffee mug and sends it hurtling towards the floor. The man standing there deftly reaches out and plucks it from the air, then places it firmly down on table.
‘Wow, Mister, good catch!’ he says, only now looking up and into the face of who he presumes is the man he spoke to on the phone mere moments ago.
‘Yes yes, I suppose it was, just a reaction thing I guess, always been quite good at that kind of thing. Do you mind if I sit down?’
As he sits he draws a business card from his pocket, holding it out with long powerful looking fingers, ‘My name is Bachman, Richard Bachman, thank you so very much for meeting me at such short notice’.
The business card has the same name on it, with the same phone number listed for the advert. Nothing else.
He takes the business card, flips it over and back again, looking for some sort of clue of what this might be about. He is just about to ask that very question when the waitress arrives, steam billowing from white china mugs. She plonks them down on the table, and in a flat drawl tells them to enjoy their beverages.
Alan looks up at her as she turns to walk away and he’s sure she winks at the man sitting opposite. Alan turns his attention to the strange man sitting there, taking in the thin yet powerful looking body, and the weary looking face offset by the most piercing grey eyes he’d ever seen.
‘So young man, I’m guessing you are wondering what the advert is all about? Yes yes I can see it in your eyes already, itching for knowledge, for answers. Well don’t worry I will tell you everything in good time, but first a question for you, do you mind if I ask you a question Alan?’
‘Of course not, fire away’.
‘Alan, and I need to you be very very honest, if you lie I will know and that will be the end of the interview. OK, you do understand that, don’t you Alan? I do not like time wasters and have seen enough to know when that is the case, do not lie to me’.
‘I won’t, look I need a job, you are advertising for… well, something, I don’t know what, but I need the work so I’ve no reason to lie, do I?’
‘Excellent! You are quite right, yes yes of course you have no reason to lie, yet people do for a myriad of reasons, right and wrong. But yes, you are candid and honest, good qualities, ones I like and that have taken you a step closer to being successfully chosen for this position. Yes yes I feel this is going very well already, now that question, it may sound odd, it may sound … what is the word now, oh yes, macabre, yes a delicious word but not one you’d hear at many a job interview, is that right? Yes of course it is, so, yes, that question, are you ready for the question Alan? Ready to answer truthfully?’
In his mind he was already beginning to regret making that phone call, and that the man sitting opposite him might not be completely sane… but what other options did he have? None, he knew it and he sensed this odd man sitting across from him knew it too. He had no other choices, no cards left to play.
‘Yes, I’m ready to answer truthfully’.
With that the man leans forward, his face hardens and his eyes seem to glow. In a low clear voice he asks the question. The question that will change everything.
‘Alan, have you ever looked into a dying man’s eyes?’