Chapter 27: Almost Caught
Mike had very little money. He had spent most of it on a long baguette at Metro in the Yonge Eglinton Centre. When he was walking outside again, he saw a homeless man cross the street. He had a long greyish white beard, yellowed in parts, and his hair was sweaty and dangling from his skull like a drenched mop. He walked towards Mike. He was carrying five ripped blankets on his shoulder that were covering most of his tattered brown shirt and matching shorts. His shoes were filled with holes and the tongues flapped on top every time he walked. Mike had seen the man before. He usually wandered the streets of Eglinton and Lawrence. Sometimes he even took the subway. The man stopped in front of him.
“Would you be kind to share?” he asked hoarsely. He was missing a few teeth and they were all yellowed. Mike wanted to walk away but knew he couldn’t. The stench of him was awful, a mix between terrible hygiene and smells of the street. This was whom he’d probably end up like and so he decided it was best to get along with the ways of the street. He broke the baguette in half and handed the poor man the half he hadn’t eaten. The man smiled through crooked teeth as he began chewing it ferociously.
“I was wondering if you could do me a favour,” Mike said as the man munched away. He didn’t stop eating so Mike continued. “I was wondering if I could have two of your blankets. You see, I’m homeless like you and it’s rather cold at night. I would love the extra warmth.” The man stopped eating.
“Give me your coat.” Mike thought about it. He knew he would be freezing if he didn’t wear it. It was spring, but it was his only warmth for those cold nights. He couldn’t give it up.
“Fine,” said the man not looking surprised. He took another bite and headed north, breadcrumbs now entangled in his beard. Mike watched him leave, feeling guilty. He still believed he had made the right decision. He could never believe though how the homeless could stand the cold. He felt very privileged with his coat. The man turned a corner and Mike pondered on what to do next. He looked down at his small grey Roots watch. It was almost 11:00 in the morning. He was standing right outside SilverCity and knew that inside the Yonge Eglinton Centre was a restaurant called Gourmet Eggs. He had no money, but he figured that maybe he would be able to get inside and out with no one noticing. He tried his luck and headed up the stairs.
He got into the restaurant and ignored the PLEAE WAIT TO BE SEATED sign. There was no one waiting at the counter so Mike secretly searched for a seat. He moved behind the seating areas and made his way to the back of the restaurant. He found a booth close to the window and sat down. One waitress passed, staring at Mike as she went, carrying a tray of food. Mike smiled charmingly at her. He looked behind him to see her speaking to a short man dressed in a black suit with spiky black hair. There was a lot of nodding from the man and he then headed towards the hostess. The waitress disappeared to hand out her food to the guests. The man in the suit spoke to the hostess. Mike watched her shake her head as a couple lined up behind her. She smiled at them and the man headed towards Mike’s table. Mike tried to hide his nervousness as the man leaned over with his hands behind his back.
“Excuse me sir, but I don’t believe you were seated.”
He had a thick British accent that rang against the walls.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I must have not seen the sign,” Mike lied, trying to sound innocent.
“We never allow guests to seat theMs..elves. I guess you haven’t been to many restaurants, have you?”
“No, I haven’t.”
“Well, I’m sorry to trouble you. I’m the manager and it is my duty to make sure everything goes smoothly here. Sorry to trouble you. Someone will be around shortly to serve you.”
He gave Mike a fake smile and approached one of the waiters heading into the kitchen. He stopped him and began talking to him. The waiter nodded and proceeded into the kitchen.
10 minutes later, the same waiter walked towards Mike’s table carrying a black menu under his arm.
He had dark blondish hair, dressed in black like all the other waiters and waitresses, and his brown eyes smiled at Mike as he said,
“Hello sir, my name is Dave.” He placed the menu on the counter and took out a small black notepad and a pen. “Shall I start you off with drinks?”
“Just water would be great,” Mike said calmly.
“Sure thing.” He quickly wrote it down and headed towards the kitchen.
Mike was very worried.
Soon Dave came back and placed a glass of cold water filled with ice before Mike. “Have you decided?”
“I’ll have the eggs benedict please,” said Mike politely without even looking at the menu.
“Very good.” Dave wrote it down and disappeared again.
His behaviour was quite strange. Mike had at least expected him to ask if he wanted potato wedges or at least offer something. He had an upsetting feeling that this restaurant wanted to get rid of him quickly.
It concerned him even more when Dave appeared with his meal ten minutes later! Mike had been watching him. All Dave had done since he had served Mike was head in and out of the kitchen. He never stopped to take anyone else’s order and never even took someone else’s dishes away. His behaviour was very suspicious given that Mike knew he would only receive this sort of treatment if he were a celebrity.
Mike tried not to think about it as he placed the serviette on his lap, picked up his knife and fork, and began eating the meal in front of him. It was delicious. The eggs weren’t too hot, the ham was cooked just right, and the hollandaise sauce balanced it all together. He dipped the potatoes wedges into the sauce and tried not to think about Dave and Gourmet Eggs.
When he finished his meal, Dave appeared as if he had a camera watching Mike knowing exactly when to arrive.
“How was everything?”
“Best eggs benedict I’ve ever had,” Mike admitted.
“Excellent.” He placed the dishes on his plate. “Would you like a refill or something else to drink?” He nodded at Mike’s empty glass.
Mike shook his head.
“Just the bill, please.”
Dave left again.
Now was the time to leave, but Mike didn’t know how he would escape. He did feel as if this restaurant was keeping very close watch on him like a dangerous dog locked up in a cage. He knew if he didn’t act fast, Dave would reappear and then he really would be stuck. So he ran. Just as he left the booth, Dave emerged. He saw Mike sprint across the room and the chase began. Mike wasn’t very fit and Dave had powerful legs that were quickly gaining on him. Dave didn’t quit the chase even as Mike passed the doors and headed for the stairs. He looked behind him. Dave was closing in. He saw the manager leave the kitchen, arMs.. folded, just staring. No one cried out; all that was heard was the busy chattering of the mall and the running feet. Dave didn’t even stop when Mike descended the outside stairs. It seemed he wouldn’t give up. Mike had to lose him, but how? Where would he go? Dave was closing in as he jumped the last three steps. Mike had to make a quick decision. He chose the entrance to the subway. Dave didn’t stop. Mike rushed down the stone steps, through the doors, and into the hallway of the food court. Dave continued. Mike ran back to the mall, Dave followed. His eyes were serious, concentrated. He wasn’t going to let Mike leave his sight. Mike raced up the moving walkway. There was a small crowd blocking his path and Mike pushed his way through. Dave had just reached the beginning of the walkway. The crowd had given Mike time. He left the moving walkway and turned a hard left, passing the L.C.B.O.. He was heading to the washrooMs... Once passed the liquor store, he slowed down and turned around. He could hear shoes clapping the floor. Dave was close. Mike speed walked past A Buck or Two and turned right closing in on the men’s washroom. He opened the door, found a stall, locked hiMs..elf in, and waited. Silence filled the room. Five minutes went by and Mike heard nothing except the flushing of the urinals. He wondered if he had won. Had Dave given up or would he soon guess where Mike was? 20 minutes went by. Mike didn’t hear the door open. He waited another 5 minutes before he unlocked the door. He let out a long deep breath and left the washroom.