I certainly recognized the man in the wimple, and I could tell he recognized me by the way he did a double-take when he saw me. We stared at each other warily for a second or two. Then, deliberately making sure he noticed, I removed my right pinky finger and set it on the table in front of me, pointing to the ceiling.
The man backed away a step with his hands raised, rightly recognizing my threat. Then he turned and went to the counter. I heard him order an iced chai. Drink in hand, he slowly approached my table, his other hand in full view at all times.
“May I join you?” he asked.
After some consideration, I replied with mock cordiality, “Oh yes, please do have a seat.”
He sat down, carefully, eyeing my right pinky finger. Setting down his drink, he folded his hands and set them on the table in front of him. In his wimple, the position could almost have been worshipful. “I assure you, there’s no need for that,” he said, indicating my finger. “I have no intention of threatening you in any way at this time, and it would ease my mind if we could converse like civilized business men.”
Again, I considered. It was true that he had made no threatening move, we were in a somewhat busy coffee shop, and I could always reopen my digital cavity should the need arise. I picked up my finger and put it back on my hand. My companion relaxed visibly.
“I appreciate it,” he said quietly. He paused to take a sip from his drink. “My name is Binks,” he continued. “Roger Binks. And you are Andrew Millik.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“The reason I know your name is because I was hired to kill you. I’m an independent contractor in the same field you work in.”
“I don’t kill people,” I retorted.
Binks shrugged. “I don’t either, typically. This was supposed to be a sort of test job with my client. If I did well, the understanding was I would get regular work more in line with my areas of expertise. A gateway job, if you will.”
“Well, I hope you understand that a person can take a job without fully understanding the ramifications. Particularly a person in financial difficulties.”
“So you want money from me?” I said.
Binks became irritated. “Shut up and listen,” he snapped. “I was hired to kill you before this business went down.” He gestured vaguely at the sky. “I took the job without understanding what your role would be in said business.
“When a man wants out of his contract, he should be able to get out of it. But there was no exit clause. So if I should choose to do you in with a dismantler drone, and if there should be a DDA agent in the vicinity, well, what can I do about it? I tagged you, and in my book that fulfills my contract. Thank you and have a nice day.”
He paused to regard me. “Am I being understood?” he asked.
I kept my face expressionless, but nodded once, slowly.
“Good,” said Binks. He produced a business card from somewhere. I didn’t see him reach for a pocket; it seemed simply to appear in his hand. He set it on the table in front of me. “This is my card,” he said. “I’m making myself available to you in your task. Pro-bono. And that’s nothing to sniff at; my abilities and resources are substantial. Should you need anything, simply lick the card and I’ll be around.”
“Where’s the card been?” I asked sarcastically.
Binks snorted. “I assure you it’s non-toxic, antibacterial and antiviral.” He stood up. “There are trying times ahead, Millik. Even a mercenary like me has to choose sides. I choose to be on your side. Be seeing you.” He turned to leave.
“There’s just one question,” I said. Checking his departure, he turned back to me. “What’s with the wimple?”
Binks smiled a half smile. “What’s with the duck shoes?” he countered. Then he was gone.
I looked down at the card on the table. I picked it up and put it in my right pinky finger. Despite my misgivings, I recognized that Binks had the potential to be useful.
That was twice today that someone powerful had warned me of the future and put themselves at my disposal. I was beginning to worry.