Alan looks at Jay, then Stephen, then Natalia, and then back to Jay. He considers lying, or apologising, but instead he defiantly declares, ‘Fuck that!’
Jay and Stephen aren’t amused, but Natalia fights back a smile and looks around for the waitress.
‘You guys want a drink?’ she asks, and glances at her luxury white gold Cartier watch. ‘We can all go back to mine afterwards. I’m expecting a few friends.’
‘Yeah!’ Alan excitedly exclaims.
‘Fucking sweet,’ Derek slurs.
‘I don’t know about that,’ Stephen instinctively objects.
‘Come on,’ Derek chides.
She smiles and says softly to Stephen, ‘It’s nothing like you’re thinking. Just chill, have a few drinks. I’ll personally make sure you’re home safe.’
Stephen nods in agreement, and she turns to Jay.
Jay stares back at her and it’s evident to him that she really wants him to come along, and he struggles to conceal a flattered smile.
Alan watches Jay and Natalia for a moment, with envy evident on his face. He grabs Natalia’s arm and says, ‘Let’s go dance!’
‘Let’s do it,’ she says, and stands.
Alan leads her out of the VIP room and Derek languidly follows.
‘I’m leaving,’ Jay says to Stephen, and stands.
‘Why?’ Stephen asks.
‘What do you think?’ Jay retorts.
Stephen nods knowingly. ‘See you in the morning then,’ he says.
‘Be good,’ Jay says.
Stephen nods and smiles and Jay smiles back. They bump fists and Jay walks out of the room.
On the busy dance floor, Alan’s attempt to dance is severely hampered by his inebriation, but he still knows how to move to a rhythm, as he hasn’t danced sober in years.
Natalia is amused and keeps a bit of a distance between them as she dances along with him. She spots Jay, and watches, over Alan’s shoulder, as Jay walks across a corner of the dance floor towards the exit.
Jay walks to a quiet area outside the club and pulls out his phone. He scrolls to the message from Mr Smith: “ROBERT 07859007525”.
He takes a moment to contemplate, and glances back towards the club – as if looking through the walls to what is at stake if he makes the wrong move.
He makes the call, and it’s immediately answered, but no one speaks, just lively background noise on the other end of the line.
‘Robert?’ Jay says.
‘Captain?’ Robert replies in a London accent.
‘Where do we meet?’
‘Oh, err … at mine?’
‘No. A public place. Are you alone?’
‘Well … yes. Yes, I am.’
‘Where are you?’
‘You are coming here?’
Jay removes the phone from his ear and stares suspiciously at it for a long moment, and then returns it to his ear.
‘… Captain?’ Robert eagerly calls out for the third time in succession.
‘Yes, Robert, I am coming to you. You are in a public place, aren’t you?’
‘Yes. Guildford … Palm Palace. Shisha bar.’
‘I’ll be there shortly.’
Jay ends the conversation and immediately turns to his left – Natalia stands a short distance away; she smiles at him.
She pulls out a pack of cigarettes and a Zippo lighter; she offers him a cigarette, and he declines. She nods and sensually places a cigarette between her lips. She lights up the cigarette and takes a long drag.
‘Meeting someone?’ she asks, and adeptly blows out smoke.
‘No, not exactly.’
‘Hmm, not exactly,’ she repeats, and wraps her arms around herself – she is cold. ‘The intrigue continues.’
He smiles, takes off his jacket, and wraps it around her.
‘Thank you,’ she says, and smiles.
He smiles back.
‘You’re not coming back to mine then? It’ll be fun, I promise I don’t bite.’
‘I’ll have to pass. Don’t think Alan would want me there.’
‘I want you there.’
He stares at her with a raised eyebrow, and she smiles.
‘Maybe some other time,’ he says.
She tosses her cigarette butt to the ground.
‘See you then,’ she says, and kisses him on the cheek.
She walks away, still wearing his jacket, and he watches her, captivated.