Sadie McGregor stood by a shower head display and watched Fiona from a distance. The young woman was talking to a customer, an elegant woman in her middle thirties who seemed confused about the differences between sink plungers. Sadie's assistant Donna had been talking to Fiona, talking to her about important things. Matters of guilt and honesty. Crime and punishment.
Light and dark.
The voice belonged to her sister, the severely misnamed Angela.
"What about timing?"
"Timing is everything," Angela said. "Fiona is on the verge of confessing her role in the armoured car heist. This will inevitably implicate Axel. With him in prison, it will be very difficult for the Handy Pavilion to win this war with the DIY Barn. If only you'd pushed her harder, Axel would already be in prison, and Ms Shan could have planned for his absence. If you'd pushed more gently, she wouldn't be ready to go to the cops until after the dust had settled. You've lost the war for the Pavilion."
Sadie felt her lip curl into a sneer. She was good at sneering, and she knew it. And a sneer was the only appropriate response to her sister's gloating.
"That is nothing to me," Sadie said. "Who wins the hardware war is not my concern. My concern is with how the conflict is conducted, rather than who emerges victorious."
"Hypocrite!" Angela snorted, stalking off. Sadie didn’t watch her go. Why bother? It wasn't like she hadn't seen her twin leave in a huff before. Besides, Angela was wrong. It really didn't matter to Sadie if the Pavilion lost to the Barn. Did it?
Sadie did not like doubt, and so she refused to feel it.
She took one final look at Fiona and her customer. The elegant plunger buyer would not have got her high paid job if she hadn't padded her resume. Sadie strode off, past a carpenter who habitually bullied his apprentice. She turned left at garden tools, where a welfare fraud and occasional car thief was looking at hedge trimmers. She passed thieves and liars, drunkards and addicts and who knew what else. For once she could not bear to look at their consciences.
She took a seat in the Pavilion café, hoping to see Norman. Of the three people involved in the armoured car heist, Norman was the most difficult to read. Fiona had never done anything criminal before, and predictably she felt the most troubled about her deed. Axel, the ringleader of the crime, had an enormously complex relationship with his conscience, but balanced against that was a lifelong commitment to never dobbing on his co-conspirators. Norman, though… Norman wasn't a bad person by any means. No one could say that about him. But he just seemed to have joined in a major crime as if it were nothing but a silly little joke.
What did that say about him?
But Norman wasn't in the café. There was a greasy blue sign on the counter assuring Sadie that he would be back at two forty-five, but since it was already five past three Sadie found it less than convincing.
"He's in the dunny," said the only other customer in the café, a burly old guy with olive skin and a white beard. "Probably trying to avoid me. That's why he's taking so long."
The old man smiled in what was probably meant to be a charming way. Sadie had a long-practiced glare that could shut down any attempt at charm. It took a little longer than usual to make the old man drop his smile in favour of a neutral expression, but it worked in the end.
"I'm his dad, by the way," the old man said.
Out of curiosity, Sadie tried to read the old man; to see what evil lurked in his heart. She saw nothing. Not 'saw nothing' in the sense of he'd done nothing wrong, so much as 'saw nothing' in the sense of invisibility. It was like he wasn't there.
"Oh, I get you," the old man said. He smiled – not a charming smile this time. More of a knowing smirk. "Yeah, that won't work on me, love. Things don't work like that where I come from." He hopped to his feet, spry for his age. "You want a coffee? Norman won't mind, and I'm sure someone like you won't skip out on paying."
Sadie watched with baffled interest as the old fellow went behind the bar and started making cappuccinos. "Me name's Zeus by the way, love. As in the Zeus. King of Olympus, and all that shit. Well, in title, anyway. The missus got the real estate in the divorce."
"I know of no God, but one," Sadie said.
"If you reckon," Zeus said, with a shrug. "I tell you, one of the best things about being a deity is that theology is someone else's problem. You know, like how starfish don't bother with studying marine biology. Now, what's your interest here?"
Sadie sighed deeply. She'd come here to take another look at Norman, to reconsider the question of whether his dark deeds ought yet to be brought to light. Because that was where Angela had it wrong. Even in the face of disaster, Sadie had a job to do, and that job would be done. But there was no reason that that job might not wait until things settled down…
"Your son was involved in a serious crime," Sadie said.
"Rhadamansthus had some problems when he was young," Zeus snapped. "But he's over that now. He's a pillar of the community. Besides, those records are supposed to be sealed… Wait, a mo… You mean Norman? Huh. How about that? Didn't think he'd have it in him. Take a seat. How do you have your coffee?"
"I dislike caffeine," Sadie said. "And I believe I'll stand."
"Suit yourself," Zeus said. "And I'm not making some pissy herbal tea. You don't want coffee, you can go thirsty. So what did Normy do?"
"Armoured car heist."
The old man whistled. "What do you know? The boy always tells me he doesn't like adventures. Good to see that he was lying."
"Are you trying to get a rise out of me?" Sadie said.
"I know better than that, love. Met your type before. None o' youse can handle a joke. Too black-and-white in your thinking. Now white-is-black… that's funny."
Sadie glared at him. "So you'd laugh at a minstrel show?"
"Lady, you don't even want to know how lowbrow I can get," Zeus said.
"Your son's crimes must be brought to light," Sadie said. "They will be. Ideally, he will confess of his own accord -- but if he is informed upon, that will suffice."
Zeus shook his shaggy white head. "You people! Minds of inquisitors behind faces like…"
"Faces like what?" Sadie said, feeling the muscles of her jaw tighten in spite of herself.
"I was going to say 'models,'" Zeus said, pursing his lips. "But what you thought I was going to say... that works too."
A man darted around the corner, a hat down over eyes that were already obscured with heavy dark glasses. Before either Sadie or Zeus could react, he ducked behind the counter and shed his obvious disguise, revealing himself to be Norman.
"No one looking?" he muttered, shrugging off the light jacket that covered his Handy Pavilion t-shirt. "Good to go! Oh, hey, Sadie."
"Hello, Norman," Sadie said, feeling the initiative sliding ever further away from her.
"Okay, now, just so you know: I've been here for the last half hour, okay?" Norman said to his father. Zeus nodded, an impressed-in-spite-of-himself look creeping up from under his beard.
Norman turned to Sadie and looked her square in the eye. "Okay?"
Later, Sadie would wonder again and again, just why she said what she said next.
"Okay," she said. A second later she heard the explosion.
Norman grinned. "Now how's that for timing?" he said.