Chapter 3

Tying up loose ends

One down. A few to go. The job was done, sorted. Next up I had to get rid of my apartment. Thankfully it was not uncommon for people to meet Estate Agents in cafes. I picked up the phone. Held it for a moment. Put it back in its cradle. I knew no Estate Agents. I needed the Internet. Did the café even have it? Why the frack didn’t I check! How could I live here without the Internet for 6 months? I frowned. Scratched my head. Rapped the table. How was I going to do this? Once gain Erica to the rescue. She must have been watching me. My frown for all to see.  She wandered over and smiling and placed an iPad in front of me. The devil’s own distraction.

‘We have free wi-fi,’ she said simply, smiling and wandering back to the counter.

OK. Let’s do this. I hooked up meetings with a few places. Let them convince me they were the best to sell my little flat.  Now what? Moving stuff? Calling the parental unit? Brother? Friends? I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I knew it would be a hassle. But it had to be done. You can’t run from emotional situations forever. Best to get it over and done with.

First I called my parents. They agreed to meet me at the café the following morning. Concern obvious in their voices as I spoke to each in turn on the phone. They had been divorced for 10 years, but at least they were civil to each other. I still couldn’t tell them anything of substance of course. That was part of the deal. But I gave them enough to think this was a sound decision. It would become more difficult later on. Next I called my brother and my best mate. They agreed to help me move my stuff. I could tell they thought I had gone a bit Howard Hughes when I told them I couldn’t help them. Oh well. Let them think what they want. In 6 months this would all be over. And by this time in 2 days I would have all my stuff with me. In the mean time they had agreed to drop over a few necessities. They also wanted to check out my new mad scheme. They’d be here in a few hours. I could handle that.

In the mean time I needed a drink and some information from Erica. I look up at her cleaning glasses behind the counter. Everything went a bit fuzzy for a moment. Like it wasn’t real. Perhaps my brain wasn’t coping. Too much change for one day. Erica caught my eye, grabbed a bottle and two glasses and came over. Sliding into the seat opposite me, she opened the bottle and poured to large measures. Whisky. Japanese. Nice.

‘So, you wanted to ask me about some things?’ She said.

‘How did you know?’

‘That look, quizzical, but not knowing how to start the conversation. I’ve seen it before.’

‘Just how long have you been here?’ I asked, suddenly alarmed.

‘You know how long, Luke told you.’

‘Oh yeah….’ I drifted off.

‘Look, not everyone makes it. Luke asks a lot. Have you ever spent months locked inside, unable to leave? I was a drug addict, I’m used to not seeing sunlight for days on end. I can handle it. Anything that doesn’t involve being high is a win for me. Others, well, they’re a bit more mentally fragile. The minute you go out that door before your time is up and it ends!’ she slapped her hands, ‘you’re done before you have a chance to live again. Literally.’

‘I get it,’ I said pensively.

‘Yes, well, since I’ve been here I’ve seen three hopefuls come through. The last only fell a few weeks ago. It’s difficult because you get to know people. Like them. Form friendships. Then you watch them throw it all away for one breath of fresh air. Maybe they think it’s worth it. But I have to see their faces before they fall. I see the regret, the despair. I don’t want to go through it again, so I will answer any questions you have, and I will help anyway I can. For the next three months, anyway,’ she smiled.

‘Oh that’s right, you only have three months to go, you must be excited to get back to your life.’

‘Yes and no, but anyway shoot.’

‘OK, so you’re stuck here same as me right?’

‘Yep.’

‘So who does all the ordering, food supplies, liquor that sort of thing?’

‘Luke takes care of everything. Bills, supplies, everything. You just have to run the place. He’ll take the cost of everything out of the profits. I mean you can run that side yourself if you like but if he’s gonna do it for you I don’t see why you would want to.’

Hmmm. Why indeed. I was willing to play along on this side of it. I wasn’t into doing admin. If Luke wanted that responsibility. He could have it.

‘And you’re happy here?’ I continued with my questions.

‘As happy as I can be. It was difficult at first, but as soon as I made peace with the building it all went smoothly.’

‘Wait… what?’

‘I’m sure Luke mentioned the Café La Morte has a mind of it’s own right?’

‘Yes, he did in passing, I didn’t think anything of it.’

‘Well the building is possessed…. You know haunted… by a number of … souls I guess you’d call them. Mostly they’re a good bunch but there’s a few nasties. That’s why the other hopefuls didn’t make it. La Morte drove them mad, but it took a little more than that to push them out the door. You really have to be tough to stick it out.’

Ah-ha! I thought. There’s always a catch. Oh well. I should have read the fine print, but I was sure I could handle it if Erica could.

‘So how did you make peace with La Morte?’

‘I offered them a sacrifice. The other hopefuls. It’s a bit difficult to understand but as far as I am aware, if someone leaves before they’ve served their term the café gets their life force. It keeps it going. It needs the energy.’

‘Well that’s charming I must say,’ I was quite affronted. She better not try to pull that shit on me.

‘Look, it’s survival of the fittest right? La Morte was giving me a really tough time, and I had to do something. So I bargained three souls for safe passage through my 12 months. You being number four, you’re quite safe from any of my deals, but don’t judge me yet. You still have to get through your first week, let alone 6 months. I’m guessing if you’re smart, you’ll need to make your own bargain.’

Suddenly I didn’t feel like talking any more for a while. I said as much and sulked into my corner. Erica sighed and went back to work. Perhaps when I’d calmed down we could pick this up again. I needed to know more about this damned Café I’d signed my life away for.