TEA TIME

Submitted into Contest #128 in response to: Set your story in a tea house.... view prompt

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Adventure Suspense Fiction

The things I get myself into, I mused, quietly looking back over the past few years and where life has taken me. With different undercover assignments, I encountered an overload of high gear situations, some taking place in pretty dark places.

This morning, the cup I was holding, held a complex brew of tea leaves from a jar labeled, EXPECTATIONS. This was such an inviting aroma and one of an assortment, that I recently purchased at a local tea house upon just arriving to this new assignment location. Another interesting day was brewing, as I looked out across the river to the ocean, from my window seat. A cryptic note was slipped under my door sometime late last night. This was an expected message signaling the start of my next assignment and as always, done in a clever way, which I so appreciated. Sometimes you got to make life fun with the small moments.

In my job, as an uncover special agent working for the government, I got used to subtle clues, messages, meetings, packages, etc. One time, it was musical paper notes clipped to the clothesline at an adobe brick house that I was stationed at, living among the natives in New Mexico. I was only known to others by my nickname, Punk or sometimes, Punkin. Any message received, was short, sweet and to the point. It was coded in such a way that it was like a language unlike any other and not for the average person to understand. Over time, I learned how to read the message behind the message.

Today, I needed to go over the note I received, several times, to clearly and without doubt, understand its meaning. Many times, over past assignments, messages were addressed as if it was from my real Mom or my made up, aka fake Mom. More than likely, it was probably written by a guy. This latest note, however, was one to ponder, as it alluded to a situation that meant that someone may have to be thrown under the bus. Some days are tough. I get it. This was a career choice and one that I signed a contract going into long ago. One part of it stated that the job was and is always a priority. Any friendships should or would be cancelled. No exception.

The note read, "Good Morning Punk - I thought I would help you finish editing your new story before it goes to press. It's certainly a game changer. However, I did find many i's to dot and t's to cross. These were not taken care of. Let's fix this, okay? Love, MOM xxoo

I got the message, loud and clear. What I 'heard' was that the i's to dot also meant eyes, as in the fact that there were many eyes all around. Notice who, what and where is in the shadows and to watch out and be aware. T's to cross also meant the tea house is the place that is in the cross hairs of this assignment. So, while I'm there at any time, just play it cool. Don't make someone cross (or react in a mean way) and have to settle a score. This small town on the Maine coast was where my story takes place and I'm in it from beginning to the end. 

It was my second morning here and I continued to set up my tiny rental place with the basics. I needed a comfortable vibe now before too long since my time here could be gone in a minute. Looking around at blank walls, I decided to venture into the town and maybe find a few local artsy pieces to make the place feel like home. I parked near the waterfront and walked about trying not to be noticed as the new kid in town and paused, as the cute sign and my soon-to-be place of interest, caught my eye, "SEA THE TEA LIGHT in Maine". It was an image of a lighthouse painted inside a giant teacup. Clever. I walked into the tea house cafe to the welcome aroma of baked bread and fresh cinnamon and was greeted warmly by a young lady, and who was the baker in the house. I smiled and stepped up to order a special blend on the menu, T's Toss and Tumble, a tea blend of random unrelated herbs. Great. Another message. 

I took my cup and went into the tearoom that was set in accordance with a lovely English tone. The linens graced the tables along with creative, elegant place settings and centerpieces. A few ladies were dressed to impress, and I felt somewhat out classed in my simple, casual outfit. I have learned to never assume anything. This is a clever interpretation of a bigger picture. It may give you the impression of a tea house during the day but there was more going on behind the scene and I was here to find it.

The owner and baker came over asking if my light refreshment, and their number one item, was served to perfection. I gave her credit for the effort put in every day. "The scones are so delicious that I'm coming here tomorrow to sample everything on the menu. Be prepared!" She laughed and we chatted for a while until duty called her again. She left quickly and attended to someone who came in the back door. I noticed a man in a hooded jacket who purposely stood with his back to the open area, yet in the shadows.

Finishing my beverage, I headed to the door and subtly glanced over to see the owner over by the kitchen door standing erect but head down as this joker leaned toward her more than likely giving her a message. I casually eased my way out and strolled down the sidewalk. I grabbed a free newspaper and took a seat, that from a distance, discretely faced the building and side of the tea house. I faked reading as the guy walked out, and noticed he left in a truck with a sign on it, COASTAL LINES. I proceeded to walk the other way along the shore. Noticing the morning and evening boat activity was on my list. Today the traffic was steady with barge after barge. They had their station points to off load which were being scrutinized by other agents. What they carried was what was being investigated. My mind clicked over and over analyzing subtleties and taking notes. I needed a break for a moment and paused to take in the amazing view beyond this, walking further along the ocean. Time's up. Now, I needed to get back and set up the plan and returned to my place a bit more rejuvenated. 

My gut sense told me the owner of the tea house was not the problem. She was being used. It's time to deal a new hand. 

The next morning, I got up early and checked for any messages. I found one under a potted plant on the front steps. Update: "Good Morning! Mom here, to let you know I couldn't fix your story. My suggestion is for you to rewrite it. Start at the beginning, change up the characters and their intentions and see how it goes from there. OK! Get to work."

That was some kind of a stern message, for sure. I let out a long exhale and put the paper in my pocket. Somethings off. I dressed for the tea house, this time with a nicer outfit and arrived to find a new sign on the door. It stated that new owners had taken over the business. The place was to remain the same, with several changes. Names were not revealed, and I could only think back to what I witnessed there between the owner and that guy. 

Open hours were limited. Two distinct clues appeared to make this situation now a high priority. One - No seating in house. Everything is strictly 'to go'. Two - Cash only.

The new playing field now has distinct layers alluding to money laundering and perhaps another which would be drug smuggling. I knew this was the real reason that brought me here. SEA THE TEA LIGHT in Maine. I get it now. 

January 14, 2022 21:09

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