Definition of Madness (a Tempus Rock prompt short story)

He tried the cafe opposite this time. He’d dismissed it before because it was so busy and he needed to get a table outside. The sun was out again and with it came the people: tourists, people on lunch breaks and her.

Today, he’d gone back ten minutes earlier and managed to sneak onto a table for four before an approaching family. The father glowered at him as he spotted the unused seats but Mike didn’t care. The waitress reappeared and put a miniscule coffee cup in front of him. He dismissed her with a half-hearted smile and went back to staring across the square. This position wasn’t brilliant, a couple of concrete planters edged the cafes courtyard area with obscured his line of sight but thankfully he knew exactly where she would be coming from. It was the same every time. Everything was.

His eyes were fixed on a spot diagonally across from him. He knew there was another man watching the same spot in the office block opposite but he wouldn’t be an issue. Mike had gone up there an hour ago and locked the doors between him and the exit and disabled the lift. He wasn’t getting to the target before him. All Mike needed to do was keep her out of the line of the window. Thankfully the square was crowded. She was always in a crowd. It was a blessing and a curse. It meant he always had an exit strategy and could slip in amongst everyone else. But it did mean she could too. No matter how hard he had searched, he had never managed to pinpoint her down to a time and place that would have been secluded. She was a worthy target.

He checked his chronometer. It was linked to a central clock that worked across the timestreams, telling him when he was and the time back at base. It had faultless accuracy.

Ten seconds.

He watched. There a flash of blonde. She entered the square just as she did every time. He waited for the small man with a briefcase to stumble in front of her which caused her to sidestep. There it was; he spotted her instinctively reach to her hip. She knew this was a dangerous place for her so he knew it must have been an important meeting she was going to. All he needed to do was not lose her this time.

He glanced up at the window, seeing the tell-tale sign of the man in the office, his sights trained on her. He knew he wouldn’t make a move yet, he had until she moved just past the fountain in the middle. Mike slowed his breathing, trying to stay calm. It wasn’t the action that was stressing him out but the idea of going through this all again. His employer wanted to know what was happening at that meeting and Mike would have to replay this day until he got the intel, or he was taken out of the occasion. It had seemed like a simple job at the time; he hadn’t understood why everyone was making such a big deal. And then he actually tried to intercept the woman. This would be the fifteenth attempt.

He stood, ignoring the coffee and the family, already moving to pounce on his table. He kept his pace steady and even, not wanting to alert her to his motives. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and glanced at it, trying to blend in with all the other smartphone zombies not really paying attention to their surroundings. He closed in on her. He knew the route he needed to take, where she would walk, he’d seen it fourteen times.

He counted. Five more steps and he would intercept. Four, three. He glanced at the window. The light was gone. Something was wrong. He faltered, turned to her. She wasn’t there. This couldn’t be happening. It had happened this way for fourteen attempts. Someone had changed time. There was someone else. He spun on his heel, trying to get to the edge of the square. If someone else was involved he needed to get back to base and regroup.

A solid wall of a man was in his way. Mike mumbled an apology and tried to step round but the man moved with him. The man’s eyes were trained on him, a vague smile haunting his face.

“You,” Mike muttered. “Where is she?”

The man put his hand on his shoulder and guided him into the space next to him, moving him along with him as they moved out of the crowd.

“Now, what would you be wanting with the Minister anyway?” His voice was jovial but the undertones were impossible to miss. Mike did a quick assessment. The man was definitely armed forces trained, the arm round his shoulder may have looked gentle but the underlying grip was strong. If Mike moved, this man would have him pinned down in an instant. Slow realisation dawned on him and he swore.

“Oh yes, that’s me,” the man was grinning now, a hint of an accent coming through. Mike pulled but Agent While held firm. “As you were so desperate to meet with the Minister, shall we go and have a chat?”

Written in response to Putting My Feet in the Dirt’s August writing prompt no2.


14 thoughts on “Definition of Madness (a Tempus Rock prompt short story)

      1. Thank you, you’re very kind! I’ve been thinking of building up a few short stories in this world so hopefully I’ll have a few more up before long. Your prompt just screamed at me right away for this one 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hi Michelle! Hope you are ok. Just thought I’d let you know, you inspired me to put a page on the blog to collect links to all the Tempus Rock short stories so if you’re interested it’s all in one place now!

        Liked by 1 person

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