The Inspector sat on a bench on the roof of the Maharajah Hotel. The night was cool, but not uncomfortably so. He looked at the skyline of the city before him; a sweeping transition from smaller buildings on the outskirts to the great skyscrapers and arcologies of the city centre – where buildings literally almost touched the sky. Like a dense and vibrant star cluster or a stadium of orange fireflies, the lights were splendorous, if that was your kind of thing. Some ran in streams as vehicles carried the wealth of districts through the arteries of the City, others just sat there, content to blink and glow in the darkness.

A stray cat slinked up to the bench and clumsily jumped up next to the Inspector. He carefully picked it up and began to pet it. It didn’t seem to mind.

“Sara Rossi, Rosa Dioli, whoever you may be, I couldn’t take them on. They were too strong, had too many connections, it never would have ended. I just hope that, in a small way, I brought you justice.”

“I’d be careful. If you start talking to animals people might think you have no friends.” The waitress from the dinner came up behind him and dumped herself on the seat next to him, “Nice manner you had in there. You should become a funeral director, or one of those people who comes to people’s houses to tell them someone’s died. Something to do with death, anyway.”

The Inspector emitted all the enthusiasm he had in the dining room, “Strangely I feel like I should thank you for keeping out of my way. You barely even acknowledged my existence.”

“I know how you prefer to work by yourself,” she said playfully.

“Why do you do this? I know you’ve saved me from a tight spot more than once before, but you don’t need to. You don’t need to follow me around.”

“Why do you do this?” she countered, “It doesn’t get anyone locked up, it doesn’t reveal the truth to anyone else as far as I’ve seen.”

“We don’t live in a perfect world. The world is unjust. Some people will never pay for their crimes; they always stay one step ahead for the rest of their lives. Who knows, maybe there’s some afterlife where the good are rewarded and the bad are punished, and justice is preserved? In any case, maybe if I can get at least some wrongdoers to face their crimes, some justice can be done here on Earth.”

The waitress smiled, “That’s right.”

The cat settled down into the Inspector’s lap. “I can’t move now, she’s dropped off,” he said. So they sat together for a few minutes, listening to the din of the after-dinner socialising. Just before they were about to leave, somebody else walked up from behind and sat next to the Inspector. It was Lilo.

The waitress jerked back in surprise, but the Inspector seemed indifferent, “So, you found us.”

“I want to say sorry.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes, really. What I’ve done, I’ve done for years; I can barely remember how I started, it doesn’t even seem to matter. But when you get into these routines you don’t stop to think about whether it’s right or wrong.” She looked over; the waitress looked back with interest, the Inspector was stroking the cat. Lilo continued, “The reason I came here is… I want you to take me to the police. I want you to show them everything you showed us tonight and make sure I pay for it.” She looked over to make sure he’d heard.

“I can’t.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m not a police inspector. I work for myself. That’s all.”

“And with me!” butted in the waitress.

“And sometimes maybe with her.”

“Oh,” Lilo seemed disappointed, “I spent a lot of time thinking about that.”

The waitress chuckled. The Inspector cautioned a smile, “You know, what I did at the dinner this evening, I’ve done it a few times. Not once has someone found me to say sorry.”

“It seemed like the right decision.”

“You should join us,” said the waitress. Sensing the Inspector’s immediate objection, she talked over him, “You could help out; we could be like a team!”

Lilo shuffled around, “Really? If there’s any way I can make amends, I’d love to. But are you sure?”

“Yeah!”

The Inspector sat up, disturbing the cat and causing it to jump down onto the ground. “I suppose I’m not going to have a say here.”

The waitress chuckled, “No, of course you’re not.”

“Then it seems I’m going to have to reorganise how I do things.”

“That’s the spirit!” she exclaimed, giving him a pat on the back. She leaned forward to look at Lilo, “He changed something! You’re a good influence.”

“Perhaps,” said the Inspector

They didn’t say anything else after that. The three of them – and the cat – sat and looked over the city as the guests began to file out of the hotel beneath them. Eventually the din faded away, the hotel doors closed, and the dinner finally came to an end.

The End

COFFEE | AFTER DINNER

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