It had been so long since he had owned a mobile phone that Sleet actually jumped in his seat when its strident tones began blaring from his inside jacket pocket, resulting in a partial spillage of the cappuccino which had been midway between the table and his lips. He cursed out loud, attracting the attention of the nearby young waitress who rewarded him with the type of sideways look that he guessed was reserved for the slightly more eccentric patrons of Eric's Café. In addition, he received a glare from the only other customer occupying the outside terrace - an elderly gent wearing a trilby seated three tables away who was obviously unimpressed by the noisy interruption of his scrutiny of The Times newspaper.
He was momentarily undecided whether to attend to his now damp trousers or to silence the raucous strains of the theme from Mission Impossible which were emanating from his person. The latter course of action, he presumed, would be more likely to reduce the level of attention he was drawing to himself. He reached within his pocket and withdrew the slimline Nokia handset that Helen had purchased for him.
Who the hell could be calling him, anyway? he thought, nobody had his number yet. And then realisation dawned upon him - except, of course...
He raised the phone to his ear. "Hello, Helen," he said, resignedly.
"Is he there yet?" she asked in an excited whisper.
"There's no need to whisper, Helen. He's not going to hear you from where you are, is he? Mind you..."
"Sleet!" she scolded, "be serious, will you?"
"Okay. He's not here yet," he made another attempt to raise the mug to his mouth, successfully taking a sip of coffee this time, "but it's only five to two. If he's punctual, and I expect him to be, he'll be along in a few minutes."
"Unless," she conjectured, "he's already there and he has you under surveillance."
He took a deep sigh. "Helen, you're not making this any easier, you know. Can you stop trying to turn it into some kind of spy thriller? Which reminds me, thanks for the ring-tone, turned to full volume by the sounds of it - bloody well scared the shit out of me."
"That's just how it came," she replied, distinct merriment in her voice, "I can re-set it for you later, if you want me to."
"Yes, I want you to," he glanced up and down the street, recognised the figure of Perry walking briskly towards the café from the direction of The Seven Sisters. "He's here. I'll see you later." He didn't wait for a goodbye, simply slid the phone shut and popped it back into his pocket. He then picked up his serviette from the table before him and began dabbing at the wet patch on his lap. I bet Tom Cruise doesn't have these problems, he thought, as he gathered his wits for the upcoming encounter.
Perry, who was clad in a knee length grey overcoat as protection against the autumn day's bitter chill, scanned the cafe frontage as he approached and, due to the scarcity of patrons willing to brave the elements, his eyes quickly fell upon Sleet.