Even though it was already the end of March, the nights were cold and Egon wished his bedsit had central heating, but instead he turned on the gas oven as soon as he got up.
Munching on Weetabix he googled dog breeds and there she was – a Golden Retriever. All the dogs looked cute but none of them had the effervescent beauty of Gilda. Eager to find out more about the breed, he learned that Golden Retrievers are cheerful, trustworthy, demonstrative and forgiving – characteristics he had always hoped to find in a girlfriend. It also listed mouthiness, heavy shedding and distinctive doggy odour. Still, he reckoned, something he would put up with.
Half an hour later Egon entered Costa Coffee on Kingsland Road, not his usual hang-out but he felt he needed to stay close to the crime scene. It was only 9.30am but already busy. A stressed-looking girl with sad eyes under a heavy fringe served behind the counter and made coffees at the same time.
Finally it was Egon’s turn. He could just place his order but had thought of a more original approach. ‘That’s a nice name.’
The barista girl shoots Egon a confused look.
‘Suela I mean.’
She looks down at her name tag then at him. Annoyed. That didn’t go well, but he was just getting back into the habit of flirting and needed some practice.
‘Could I get a flat white to stay?’ making sure to accompany his order with a crooked smile. What he really wants to say is ‘You are beautiful’ but out comes, ‘You look a bit snowed under, despite it being end of March.’
Instead of a response, he sees two eyes rolling behind a fringe.
Small-talk and flirting was an art and he hadn’t mastered neither.
Suela passes him the coffee, fixes Egon with her gaze and must have decided he was for real, because she says with a warm, guttural voice, ‘I tried to get the day off to go to a funeral, but the manager wouldn’t let me.’
Egon is entranced by the sound and accent he can’t place and wonders briefly where she’s from and whether she has a working permit.
‘I’m sorry, it’s a bugger when someone close to you dies.’
‘Well, yeah, apparently a dog’s funeral isn’t a good enough reason.’
‘Dog? You mean the one who died yesterday on Kingsland Road?’
Suela shoots him a quizzical look, then adds carefully, ‘She used to come by during my cigarette break. I always had left-overs for her.’
Egon likes her immediately, for the fact that she’s a smoker and for looking after Gilda. She hands him the coffee, ‘I choose animals over people anytime.’
Egon wonders whether she means him specifically but knows that having a narcissistic personality means that he thinks everything is always about him.
He pays and lingers, wanting to spend more time with Suela and find out more about Gilda’s last minutes. Lowering his voice, he asks, ‘Did you see what happened?
The skinny guy behind Egon makes a huffing noise, but Suela ignores him and leans across the counter. ‘I saw how she dragged herself across the street, already limping and weak as if trying to get away from someone. The car managed to avoid her but she dropped dead there and then. I wanted to run out and help her, but my manager was next to me and I couldn’t.’ Her eyes well up.
Can I get some service here?’ The skinny guy shoves Egon aside who almost spills his coffee. His hands shake when carrying the cup to the table. He’s not sure whether it’s because of Suela or because of what he’d just heard. So he was right, Gilda was already fatally injured, it wasn’t the car that got her.
He sips his coffee extra slowly, hoping Suela would come and talk to him some more but the shop was still busy.
For once Egon had a plan and knew exactly what to do next.