Ted was sitting in his favourite diner enjoying a strong hot pot of coffee reading his paper the New Amsterdam Times, on the counter top was his other paper the Daily Globe.
There was a cough to gain his attention.
He slowly lowered the paper to peer over the top. He was confronted by a almost comical sight.
“Well my eyes and soul if it isn’t my old friend Ted Grant.” The voice was that of a southern yokel.
Ted winced and lowered the paper further.
The young man standing gawky in front of him was an old school friend. Simon ‘Stretch’ Skinner towered over Ted and Ted wasn’t a slouch when it came to height. Stretch stood six foot nine and was very slim which gave him the appearance of being all elbows and knees. His clothes were old fashioned, a high button collared shirt a checked suit and a straw boater, which made him look even taller.
If his height wasn’t a handicap in its self, Stretch was clumsy, very clumsy.
“Hello old friend how are you?” Ted asked with a rye smile.
Ted and Stretch had been at school together for the last two years and at the same university though Stretch was doing law.
As Stretch sat his knee hit the table with enough force to make Ted’s cup jump.
Ted signalled for another cup and coffee pot.
“I’m not doing that bad to be honest. I’ve two more years before I get my Law degree.”
Ted tried to imagine his friend in the wig and gown of a barrister and decided it was probably best not to try.
“I’ve a vacation job shadowing a private investigator from the Pond’s Investigations and when I’m not doing that I’m an Intern at the Ponds Lawyers.” He continued as he spilt his coffee on the table.
“It sounds like you have landed on your feet there.” Ted was pleased for his friend. People often misjudge the ungainly young man, behind all that buffoonery was a sharp mind.
“Yes.” Stretch said guardedly.
“You didn’t just happened to be passing were you. This is way away from your usual haunts so what’s up?”
“I heard you have a fight on Saturday?”
“Yes and so has Alan. You remember him, a short fiery Irishman.”
“Yes I do. It’s a good job I’ve a photographic memory with all the stuff I’ve got to learn.”
Ted was puzzled about this sudden change of direction. He lent back in his chair and had a look around at the other folk in the diner. It didn’t take long to spot the newcomer who was paying them an unusual amount of attention.
“Ted. Can I see you after training today?” Stretch asked quietly his coffee cup masking his mouth.
“Drop round to the gym around six.” Ted replied intrigued.
They finished their coffee and settled their tab.
As they got up Stretched shook Ted’s hand.
“It’s great to see you again old friend. We ought to have a meet with the other guys from our last year at old ’Bessie Street.”
Cupped in Stretch’s palm was a small piece of paper which he past over to Ted with the hand shake.
As he watched his old friend walking away like the Giraffe’s in the zoo, he absentmindedly put the scrap of paper in his pocket. ‘Bessie Street’? We never went to Besse Street we went to Broadway Academe. He’s losing it.”
It wasn’t till he was having a rest for a light lunch did he remember the slip of paper. He took it out of his pocket and unfolded it. There in Stretch’s signature scrawl was four words.
‘You are being followed.’
Ted pulled the blinds slat down and peered out into the street. There standing next to a beaten up sedan was the man from the diner.
It was at this moment Alan came in fresh from University to begin training.
“What’s up Ted?” Alan asked.
“I bumped into Stretch this morning.” Ted told him.
“More like the clumsy oaf bumped into you.” Alan asked. “I don’t know how he never fell over his own feet.”
“He did, often. But that’s not the point.”
“Well what is the point?”
“He’s working for a PI and a law firm called Pond’s”
“The name doesn’t ring a bell. I’ll ask Jim when he comes in just in case he’s heard of them. What so special about them?”
“I don’t know? When we shook hands he passed me this note.” He passed the scrap of paper over to Alan.
Alan read it and whistled through his teeth.
“And there was a man in the diner taking specific interest in us and now he’s outside standing beside the sedan.”
Alan returned the paper and peaked out himself.
“Do you want me to go out and settle his hash?” Alan said angrily.
“No. Lets wait till we have seen Stretch.” Ted got up. “He can wait we’ve fights to prepare for.”
Ted undertook the work with unusual ferocity.
Jim came in sometime later after his shift. Alan told him what was occurring.
Alan crossed over to where Ted was having a medicine ball bounced off his stomach.
Alan took over the medicine ball whilst Jim watched from the side.
“I’ve told Jim, Ted.” He said as he bounced the ball off Ted’s incredible stomach muscles.
“I’ve had a look at your stalker Ted.” Jim told him.
“Do you know him?” Ted asked.
“Not personally. Before each shift we get briefed about any problems we might meet up with and also pictures from our rouges gallery.”
“And his photograph was one of them?”
“Again no, but his twin Douglas is. He’s just come out of the Pen after a four stretch for petty larceny. The one out there is Alexander Lent. We have never been able to pin anything on him but were pretty sure he’s involved in minor thuggery. He sometimes works for a grimy PI by the name of Henry Alliums as an enforcer.”
“Why on earth would he be following me for?” Ted got up and Alan took his place.
“Do you want me to go and have a word with him?” Alan asked angrily.
“No not the sort of word your thinking of.” Ted rebuked.
Alan look at his friend and smiled.
“I wasn’t thinking of using my knuckles strangely enough. It must be because of being with you two that I’ve come over all noble.”
“Either that or it’s due to a certain Mary Jones that you’ve got an eye on but are to frightened to talk to.” Ted laughed before coming more serious. “We will just have to wait till Stretch can throw light on the subject.”
It was two hours later when the call came. The three young men had showered and dressed and were waiting for their lanky friend to turn up with varying amounts of patience.
“If his gone and fallen over his feet and ended up in the Emergency Room again I’ll put him in the ring with a pair of boxing gloves.” Alan said to lighten the mood.
It was then that Ted saw Socko coming across the gym to them with a worried expression on his face.
“I’ve just had a phone call from the Free for you Ted. Simon Skinner is in the ER ward. Apparently he had your name and address on him. He’s in a bad way. I’m sorry son.”
A look of horror came over Ted’s face. His harmless friend was in danger and needed him that was all he could think about.
“God help that man outside if he is anything to do with it.” Ted growled.