This opening to a story is inspired by a recurring dream I had, where a couple of friends appeared in my room in Florence, swore and jumped out the window. I never stayed asleep long enough to work out why they did that.
“Fuck you!” he shouted, jumping from the window.
Wilkins sighed. It was the third time in four assignments he’d tried to get out of a job this way, and she was starting to think he lacked imagination. This time, however, he hadn’t expected the trampoline.
Wilkins sighed again and leant on the windowsill. “Come on, Conrad,” she told him, as he bounced up, “all I’m asking you to do is take a look. It could be nothing.”
His – Conrad’s – still bouncing hand gesture of defiance suggested that he required more convincing.
“All you need to do is look at the goods and maybe take a trip downtown. If the warehouse is running stolen art out of the country, then report back and we’ll do the rest.”
“Oh no.” Conrad folded his arms across his chest as he came in and out of Wilkins’ gaze. “It’s never that simple. Next you’ll be saying you need me to infiltrate the warehouse alone, or follow the trail abroad. I always agree to one thing and get pushed to do several.”
Wilkins allowed Conrad a few sullen bounces before speaking again. She dropped all subtle attempts at persuasion. “All right. I didn’t want it to come to this, but if you do the job, Murray will buy you a drink.”
Conrad whistled – this was a rare offer from the boss! “Must be important,” he muttered.
Then the woman continued, after a pause as though she hadn’t heard him: “but if you don’t, then he’ll call out a job on your goldfish.”
A sharp intake of breath. “He wouldn’t harm Mr Bubbles?”
“Mr Bubbles? What happened to Goldie?” asked the agent.
“She went to the big bowl in the sky.” Replied Conrad, gravely.
Again Wilkins sighed. “Fine. Whatever. Just do the bloody job and report to the rendezvous point tomorrow at 10. And maybe buy some windows with better shutters.” She turned to walk away, giving a slight gesture to the four men standing at each corner of the trampoline. They cut the ropes and folded the canvas in on itself at just the right moment to bundle up Conrad, and plonk him in the middle of the alley. By the time he’d extracted himself from the material, they and Wilkins had gone.
To be continued…