Two cups of coffee later, Felicity was going to leave when Alex Portman walked into the Cafe.
Felicity looked at her watch and saw it was still a half hour before her meeting with Alicia, so she must have decided to get a coffee before facing the ice maiden.
Alex ordered a coffee, and then looked around the room eventually going over to, and sitting down at, a table behind Felicity. If she knew who Felicity was, she showed no sign of it, going her a wry smile as she walked past.
Several of the patrons saw her, but only one had a look of distaste, obviously judging her for being different.
A moment later she heard her voice, "Alicia, darling, it might be better if we talk in that quaint little Cafe opposite your building. I'll be there five minutes before. Mochiato isn't it? Of course."
Why be here a half hour before?
Felicity didn't have to wait long. A short portly man arrived and waddled over to her table behind her and made a lot of noise sitting.
She'd recognised him as one of Xavier Walthenson's friends, Alexander Argeter.
"I don't like this one little bit." It was clear that she didn't want to be there, nor deal with Argeter.
"You don't have a choice."
"How did you know she would call me?"
"Everyone knows what your ambitions are, and people like Alicia have piles of money to throw at political candidates that can help them. That's what the pitch will be, but there's always a price. She needs eyes and ears inside to find out what's happening to the port land redevelopment."
"You think she has the title document?"
"Nothing would surprise me. Her, or that other witch Giselle."
"You might not want to disparage her in front of me, Alexander, or you will get nothing more from me."
"Don't ever get the impression that either woman wants to be your friend. You are simply a commodity to both of them, useful if you succeed, but nothing if you don't."
"And what does that make you?"
"At least with me, you'll see the knife coming. The title document. Walthenson had it, and he says its gone. Someone has it. We need it. And we need to talk, so when you're done here, I'll be waiting at the usual place." There was a short pause, then, "If you want to succeed..."
"Yada, yada. Now go away before she sees you."
A grating sound of metal on stone, and Felicity just managed to see him waddle out the door.
Alicia was late, and Felicity didn't see her arrive, only hearing her come over and sit in the recently vacated chair, after a customary hug.
Perhaps they were closer than just mere acquaintances, but Felicity did not think Alicia was gay, but only pretending to be, though Felicity also knew Alicia was not above using her sexuality to get what she wanted.
Just that thought sent a shudder through her.
"I'm sorry to sound blunt," Alex started, "but what do you want? It's become clear to me that people, like you, seem to think that I might be useful if I become a councillor. You're not the first to make an approach."
If Alicia was fazed by this opening gambit, then her tone didn't betray it.
"As I'm sure there will be more, and with more dubious claims. We are strong women, with purpose, and like-minded in what we want, and I make no apology for wanting power and using that of others to get it. We could be of mutual benefit to each other. You need campaign funding and friends, and I have an abundance of both."
"And in return?"
"I think you know well enough how this game goes."
"Not to the point where I get caught in the crossfire which, it seems, is likely to happen. I did some homework before I came. You and Giselle don't play nicely do you?"
"Giselle? What does she have to do with anything?"
"Everything. She is an old dear friend. I've known her longer than time itself, and I know what you did. I know you're ruthless, single-minded, and, yes, you want power, but you're not the sharing kind. But, you're right, I need funding and I need friends, so tell me, what do you really want?"
Felicity doubted anyone spoke to Alicia like that and was still breathing, but it depended on how desperate Alicia was, and whether it was connected to the port land.
"As I said...."
"Let me spell this out, so neither of us is in any doubt. If you are sitting on the port land title that Walthenson so conveniently misplaced, then I suggest you arrange a meeting to hand it over. If you have not, nor know where it is, but expect me to keep you informed about any developments related to that parcel of land, then you are wasting your time if you think you can buy me."
"I don't have it, and I really don't know anything about it, but since it affects the practice, I thought I'd better find out. That was all I intended, a few simple questions and answers."
Her tone now did betray her anxiousness. Felicity doubted Alicia had been expecting a full frontal attack, or that it would be so direct.
"Nothing is simple with you Alicia, and you are just the sort of person I don't want to be associated with."
A scape of the chair and retreating footsteps. All that remained was a shattered Alicia who was staring at the coffee cup when Felicity left.
© Charles Heath 2020-2022