Chapter 29: Ships That Pass In The Night
A: You seem to be undecided, madam. Are you looking for somebody?
B: No, I was seeking an empty seat. This is the only one. May I join you?
A: Delighted. I always think it’s a little dreary to dine alone on long rail journeys, especially at the last sitting. Perfect timing, too. I was just about to order. Heard someone say the steak’s good, so I’ll try it. A rare one for me.
B: I’ll have the same. Remarkable enough that these people offer so varied a menu, but the inclusion of rarities is astonishing.
A: Er, perhaps so. Fairly comprehensive wine list, too. I suppose one should opt for burgundy, but I have a weakness for claret, so I’m going that way.
B: Claret, you say. I’m more inclined to Bordeaux, but I will accept your choice.
A: Excellent. One shouldn’t be too fussy. My name is Spond, Shane Spond. Let us dispense with formalities. Call me Shane.
B: Pleased to meet you, Mr Spond. Legova, Major. I agree that we should not stand on ceremony. My forename is Puttya. You may use it.
A: Puttya Le ... yes. The pleasure is mutual, Major. An army officer, are you?
B: I was for some years, but not now. The title keeps slipping out. It’s a habit. Excuse my saying this, Mr Spond, but I have a strange feeling of having come across your name somewhere, and your face seems familiar, too. But then, one sees so many dossiers and photos. No doubt I am mistaken.
A: Most likely. I keep a low profile. Don’t believe I qualify for being on record anywhere. However, it’s funny you should say what you did. I have the oddest sensation that the same applies to both of us. It’s probably just one of those things, but somehow your appearance rings a bell, and as to names, yours has a vague resonance with me.
B: I cannot imagine how or why. I also fly below the radar. Perhaps we’re thinking of two other people. Forgive my curiosity, Mr Spond, but you give the impression of a businessman. What line are you in?
A: Nothing glamorous. I’m a kind of agent. Ordinary bricks and mortar stuff.
B: Ah, construction, is it?
A: Actually, it’s the reverse, but really quite mundane.
B: Demolition? Fascinating. I once saw a TV programme about that. All shaped charges and dropping of lofty buildings so that they cover only their own footprints. Is that what you do?
A: Well, you could say that I deal with bod ... er ... objects taller than they are wide and that covering footprints is important to me at times. However, my efforts are not very refined. You could call me an animated wrecking ball. I’m sure your work is more interesting than mine.
B: Hardly, though I too am an agent. I deal in metal products. High-velocity things, mainly steel and lead. It’s simply a question of knowing who has something to sell and who wishes to buy it. I’m sometimes jokingly referred to as a loose cannon.
A: Dear me. Wrecking balls and loose cannons, eh? A detached observer might regard us as a destructive pair, wouldn’t you say?
B: Possibly, but I’m sure neither of us has anything negative in mind at present.
A: I sincerely hope not. A laughable idea.
B: Pardon me again, but I must say you seem to be staring at me. Is something disturbing you, Mr Spond?
A: Shane. I am the one who should be begging forgiveness. It’s just that you have striking eyes. A man could get lost in them, Major.
B: Puttya, please. Yes, my eyes are said to be compelling. Look into them, Mr Spond. Take your time. Lose yourself. Eyes are magnetic. Eyes are entrancing. They’re rather like mirrors. What do you see in mine?
A: Right now, the reflection of a man with two knives coming up behind me. What do you say to that, Major Legova?
B: He also has forks and spoons, Mr Spond. He’s our waiter.
A: Ah, I see. May I inquire where you are going, Major?
A: Sorry, I didn’t mean to be. Just making conversation.