The rambler puffed and panted her way up the hill. What had started off as a pleasant morning in the beautiful rustic countryside had turned into a torrential disaster of an afternoon. She’d been strolling in a loose sweater with a fleece wrapped around her waist and now, she was thankful she’d packed the waterproofs before leaving the house.
She dug her heels into the mud, pushing on two walking poles, dragging her body towards the top. Rainwater dripped off the hood of her jacket. After several minutes of intense core strength, she managed to make it to the top of the hill and was relieved when she saw the warm lights of a nearby pub. She could take shelter and fill her stomach with cider, gravy and mashed potato.
She was not alone on the hill. Somebody else was there, mad enough to attempt to climb the rest of the mountain.
“Hey!” the rambler shouted. “I wouldn’t go up there if I were you, mate. The rain’s too heavy. You’d be better off waiting!”
The other rambler donned in the same hiking gear turned to face her. He had a druid beard which hid middle eastern features and hair so long that it spilled out of his hood. He raised his hand signifying a gesture not to be worried. Then he smiled, giving the rambler the thumbs up and continued to trudge upwards. He wasn’t wearing any walking boots. How strange. His bare feet would get cut to shreds or he’d catch some sort of infection in this weather.
The rambler glanced at the pub in a panic. She didn’t want to be responsible if the body of a man was found buried somewhere on the mountain, even though she’d tried to warn him. She turned back, the rain was hailing down. She could barely see the crown of the mountain. The strange thing was, the other rambler had vanished.
The coffee shop on the high street was one of his favourite places to unwind after a hard day’s work. Jove acquired the booth by the front window, delicately sipping his large skinny latte. He enjoyed watching people pass by; it was humanity at its best. They were lost in their own little worlds, unaware of who was observing.
He peered at his watch, his former employee was late, whereas he on the other hand… was on time. After half an hour, he sensed a presence enter the coffee shop, then a soft manicured hand lightly brushed his shoulder.
“I think you should invest in a watch,” said Jove.
“You know I don’t bother with that old fashioned garbage,” the voice replied, belonging to the woman standing before him.
Jove sighed. “I’d appreciate it if you could inform me that you’re going to be late. It’s called common courtesy. I have other places to be. You know this.”
The woman plonked her handbag on the opposing seat, disturbing the gentleman reading his newspaper in the next booth. She didn’t notice his annoyed expression, she didn’t care.
“Good place to sit,” she said. “You’ve got a keen eye. Watch my bag.”
She grabbed her purse and marched to the bar. Her sharp high heeled boots clicked and clacked on the shiny floor. Her provocative walk echoed dominance and confidence.
“Splashing out I see,” Jove commented when she returned with a large caramel macchiato and a plate of fruit toast.
“It’s a special occasion,” she replied merrily, sitting down. “Our meet-ups are important.
Oh, and by the way, it’s Lucille when I’m in this skin. Respect my pronouns haha.”
“Fair enough,” Jove replied. “How have you been?”
She sucked the cream ravenously from her fingers. “Profits dropped slightly this month. I’m working on a strategy to increase the market.”
“And what is that?” he asked.
Lucille smirked. “You know I don’t part with my ideas.”
“Of course, I was just venturing.”
She wiped her hands with the napkin and began to lather the butter onto the fruit toast with a plastic knife. “You know, I truly think the modern world was made for me. The secrets, the scandals, the back stabbings. Souls willing to part with their shares for a couple of thousand followers, faking chronic illnesses for attention. Social media is a wonderful thing. It’s an all-you-can-eat-buffet of human depravity. I love it.”
Jove did not need the loaded information. He already knew about it, and it troubled him.
“How come you chose Starbucks?” Lucille bit into the toast, ripping it with her teeth, the way a predator tore into its prey. “I thought you were a Costa Coffee guy.”
“I felt like a change.”
“I agree,” Lucille nodded. “See that guy outside?”
Jove watched out of the window, noticing a tall man in a long grey overcoat with receding brown hair purchasing a Big Issue magazine.
“He sold me a share because his wife left him for his best friend. Oh, and that woman, and that fat bloke there. Infidelity is a real mood killer for passion.”
Jove caught sight of each person Lucille indicated. The crowds moved similar to a fast-pacing stream. Before he could hone in on her clients, they melted into the background of the city. A soul wafted past and he pointed at the window pane. “That girl broke her leg saving her brother from a house fire.”
Lucille rolled her eyes at his observation. “Whoop de doo. Good people, so boring. Anyway, how’s everything down your way, or should I say up your way?”
“Does anyone ask after me?”
“Your name pops up, now and then. Not in the most civil terms, I might add.”
“Doesn’t surprise me. I’m glad I gave in my notice, no offence.”
Jove frowned. “From my recollection Lucille, you were… cast out.”
Her gaze hardened. “I walked, actually.”
“I’m not here to argue. But, if you cleansed your heart, I’d let you back in with open arms.”
“That’s sweet, but I love being my own boss.” She wiped her mouth with the napkin, careful enough so she wouldn’t smear her lipstick. “I think all of you have your wires crossed. My job isn’t much different to yours. It’s not… bad. It’s not evil either. I collect and punish the wicked and sinful. Isn’t that a good thing?”