“I have already asked you to leave, but you ignored my request.” He fixed his gaze on Robert. “So now I’m telling you.”
To Alice, the man sounded considerably more agitated than the situation warranted. He was sweating heavily too.
Robert got up from his chair, a little unsteadily. He stood toe-to-toe with his antagonist, glowering at him.
Alice tugged at Robert’s right arm. “Come on, let’s go.”
Robert shrugged off her hand and turned away. Alice gathered up her jacket and shepherded the men out of the bar.
Halfway down the staircase, Alice heard a beeping sound coming from the upstairs bar. Worried that she had left their phone on the table, she hurried back up the steps, but the sound ceased before she reached the top. Dismissing the thought, she continued down to the ground floor.
Outside, Alice found Robert and Jim standing in the heavy drizzle, seemingly sharing a joke while Jim lit up. As she walked up to them, they exchanged glances and then each grabbed a hand. Laughing, they splashed through the puddles towards Piccadilly Circus.
Jim was squeezing her fingers.
Joseph had just closed the door behind the late-leaving trio when the ashtray started beeping. Fearing the sound would carry, he rushed over to the table. He prised open a panel in the ashtray’s base and pressed the tiny stud within. If the recorder had exhausted its battery any sooner, the situation would have been embarrassing at best, a police matter at worst. He had never previously forgotten to change the battery before deploying his homemade bugging device.
He stood by the open window, gulping in great draughts of cool air, letting the tension that had built up over the previous hour drain away. When he felt calm again, he retrieved his daysack from a cupboard beneath the bar, extracted his laptop and placed it on the table by the window. Once it had booted, he downloaded the audio data from the ashtray and piped it into the laptop’s dictation software.
The sound of the door clicking open made Joseph jump. He looked over his shoulder and saw Harry leaning against the doorframe, his meaty elbows crossed, his eyebrows raised in a here-we-go-again expression.
“Won’t be long,” said Joseph.
Harry grunted. “It’ll cost you.”