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Dave ST

IC: Casey - "Hear I Am"

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The shop had been open for only an hour or so and Casey had been up to her eyeballs in customers. The line was practically out into the street, which sucked because it was cold and wet outside. A few she recognized. The cute intern picking up the order for the morning at the law firm she used to work at (every morning that kinda stung a bit), the librarian girl who came through every morning like clockwork, and the grizzled, brooding guy who came in and got his black, every morning. He was always a charmer.

“$43.71,” Casey asked the intern. She was blonde and perky. Stacked in all the right places and it was pretty obvious why she was hired. After small talk, it was even more obvious why she was getting the coffee and not studying law. She paid and took her couple of coffee totes with her and headed out. No sooner did the cute blonde sway her way to the door a cup slammed on onto the counter.

“How hard is it to make a chai tea latte?” This bitch again. Every damn day... every damn day. Casey was as nice as a person could be, but if there was on evil thought she entertained it was this woman... this fucking woman right here. Mrs. Guthrie. The surliest, meanest, and most clueless old hag on the planet. She was pretty sure the woman drank the brew to make herself feel better for the twenty thousand Twinkies she was going to shovel into her poorly glossed grinder she a mouth, later. “I asked for honey. Honey. You know what honey is? It's the golden little liquid behind you dear, that says HONEY! I'm not paying for this.”

The radio played softly behind her as she chewed back a witty retort. "Hey folks. Deb here, and you're listening to Dawn of the Deb, the only radio show that's got your back, all day, every day. Looks like Casey is having a rough one out there this morning. This one's for you sweetie. Coffee Time, by Natalie Cole. Chin up, honey."

Her day was just starting... and it looked like it was going to be a long one.

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Finally the morning rush was over and Janny and Petra were watching the front while she did some office work. Barb, Barbara Cullen, had called and asked Casey to take care of things today. Henry, Barbs husband was sick and she wanted to stay home and tend to him. Casey told her to just take care of Henry that she had the shop under control. Which was about as far from the truth as could be and still not be a lie. Oh sure she had the shop under control at the moment but that was just the shiny front that world saw.  In the office the rotten truth was all laid bare before her.

The Full Pot was running on empty.

Barb and Henry had bought the place back in the early nineteen seventies. They had been in their twenties just out of collage and madly in love. They had met at the coffee shop while at university and both of them had worked there, it was as much a part of their romance as anything else and when the owner passed suddenly they had stepped in and taken it over as an act of love in a dirty dark world. The shop had thrived for many years it was the quintessential coffee shop, right down to the lunch counter with the fresh pies in the glass case and a blue plate special to die for. Stepping inot the Full Pot Coffee Shop was like walking into a time-warp right back to the late fifties or early sixties. But as with all things, time caught up.

By the nineties the Starbucks phenomena was in full swing and Barb and Henry were feeling the pinch. Serving breakfast and lunch and pot after pot of Folgers just wasn't cutting it so they renovated and modernized.

And never recovered. They couldn't compete with Starbucks they just didn't have the money or the branding. The changes alienated a great many of their long time customers and new ones just didn't replace them. By the mid 2000s they were struggling just barely keeping things afloat. That's when Casey had started working here part time when she was in school. She fell in love with the Cullens they sort of became the grand parents she never had. And the stories of the shops heyday in the seventies were enchanting.

When she had lost her legal firm job, the Cullen's had taken her back and in return she had made it her priority to make the Full Pot successful again. So here she was sitting in the office looking at the bills. She had deliveries coming today and payroll at the end of the week. And the books showed less than half what was going to be needed even if they did 100% business for the remainder of the week.

"What  the fuck am I going to do..." She muttered out loud. It wasn't her responsibility but she had to do something.

She had to save The Full Pot.

Somehow.

 

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"No!  No!  You're not listening to me!"  A gentleman customer shouted on his phone at some one, somewhere...  "I told you my date of birth.  It's April third, nineteen seventy one.  Four, three, seven, one.  Yes.  No!  That's not at all why I'm calling... Jesus, gimme someone who speaks English please.  I don't believe for a second your name is 'Tom' with a Pakistani accent that damn thick.  C'mon buddy, who are you trying to fool?"

Casey couldn't help but smirk at the conversation she was over hearing outside the office.  It was a brief moment of levity in the ocean of hopelessness she had in front of her when her sorrowful distracted stare was interrupted as Petra whipped around the doorway, catching and holding herself by one hand.  She swayed too and from gripping the frame.  "Hey, uh, Casey... there's a dude here to see you.  Said he wanted to talk to the owners... but, uh, well, y'know.  Looks kinda... bankerish."

Great, she thought.

Petra pointed him out, but it didn't seem necessary.  The guy was like six-two and had shoulders like he played for the NFL.  If this guy was a banker, he was the guy the bank sent to make sure you weren't late on payments.  He was handsome and his long black hair was in a loose ponytail at his shoulders to keep it out of his eyes.  Petra was right though, the guy looked like a business man of some sort.  Casey could spot a five thousand dollar suit when she saw one.

As she approached he noticed her and smiled, extending his hand.  "Hello, I'm Horatio Mourne, with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  You must be, Casey.  Casey Mason, yes?"

She raised an eyebrow.  "I'd like to believe that was a lucky guess."

He chuckled, letting go of her hand.  "No, no.  One of your customers, a grizzled guy, black coffee, he provided me with a," he paused, searching for the proper phrase as she noticed him pass a casual glance across her chest.  "Rather simplified description, but spot on, nonetheless.  Is there someplace we can talk?"

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"Well Mr... Mourne, was it? Do you mind showing me some ID?"  He might be handsome, thought Casey, but this is very unusual. She glanced over at Petra who was watching them while the tall man pulled a slim leather wallet from his coat pocket and extracted what looked like an authentic Metropolitan Museum of Art Id card, complete with picture and employee numbers.

Casey held the card and studied it, not that she would be able to tell if it were real or not, but if it was fake ... well that was just too much trouble to go through to fool her. Horatio Mourne, now that was not a name you saw every day, she glanced at him standing there patiently, what kind of parents name their kid Horatio in this day and age. She handed the card back to him and watched as he slipped back into the wallet and the wallet disappear back into the jacket. And how does someone named Horatio end up looking like him.

"Alright Mr. Mourne, we can talk in the office. Right this way." Casey said motioning him past her toward the office. As she followed him she gave a nod at Petra sending the girl back to work.

Hopefully.

 

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Casey was dreading the discussion in the office.  She felt like she was in trouble back in high school or something, and this was her office!  Speaking of high school, she wondered how her cousin was doing.  Gods only knew what kind of trouble she was getting into down in the Salem public school system.  She stepped into the office and paused, completely at a loss for words.  When she had left just a moment ago she had left behind a room filled with the very essence of chaos.  Papers were strewn all over, bills were haphazardly set about all over, payroll was scattered in between loose notes and reminders on Post-Its.  It was a shambles.

Not any more.

The desk was bare of any mess.  It was a simple metal affair, old (probably as old as the shop) stained and chipped in a few places, yet now here it was... the surface cleaned and polished, all the typical assortments of items (pencils, pens, name plate, calendar) all perfectly placed and in their proper holders or placements.  Files were all sorted and closed tightly within the few filing cabinets they had, bills were organized and sorted by date and the pay roll book, which was out on the desk (she'd been arguing with them to get a computer for the longest time, but they wouldn't budge) open and balanced showing they had forty three dollars and seventy one cents more than they thought they did!  And... was that Lycol and air freshener she smelled?

"Wow," Mr. Mourne snapped her from her confusion.  "Impressive.  You should see my office, it's a mess.  I've things everywhere, some days I can barely keep up."  He entered and didn't seem to notice that Casey looked like she had just walked into a waking dream.  He took a seat and crossed his legs, setting his briefcase on his knee to balance.  Apparently he felt like he'd need it here very soon.  "So, brass tacks of it Miss Mason, as Ive said, I'm with the MMA, and I've come on behalf of them to field you an offer.  In a few weeks I've a large exhibit that were hosting.  Forty one of New York's finest and most talented undiscovered artists, the catch is I'll have seventy one of the cities richest and most affluent citizens there as well, and I'd like to make an impression.  We're expecting a turn out of about three hundred people. I figured since I was headlining New York artists, why not headline New York businesses as well.  Have the catering done by local businesses, like yours."

He reached into his briefcase and after a few moments produced an outline of what he was proposing.  "That's the written meat and potatoes of it, it is a paying gig and since we're funded by the city and donations, it's usually a pretty above average rate," he smirked a bit devilishly.  "I think it would be an amazing way for your shop to and business to get out there to more people, and with it being a news worthy event, some great publicity for the coffee shop business.  I am on a bit of a time table, since all of this just got thrown on my desk about a day ago, so I do apologize if things are short notice.  I've had a ton of rejections this morning, so I understand if it'll prove difficult to arrange something in less than a week and coordinate with the MMA in only a couple more after that, but I do hope you'll give it some consideration.  Now, have you any questions for me?"

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Casey looked up from the desktop, she had a blank look on her face, her mind was in turmoil at odds with the orderly appearance of the room which should have been dressed in chaos. She didn't remember sitting down but obviously she had. She looked at Mr Mourne, then back at the desk and the office in general. She had only been outside for a minute not enough time for one of the other girls to straighten the mess that had been the office. Assuming any of them would have tried. The ledger was still open in front of her the  entry for forty three dollars and seventy one cents laughing at her.

That was a strange thought, how could a number laugh at her?

Mr Mourne gave a soft cough which snapped Casey's attention back to the really good looking guy sitting across the desk, at his broad shoulders and the long hair.

"Um...yeah." She grabbed the proposal with one hand and flipped the ledger closed. "Um...yeah," she repeated glancing at the paper but not really seeing it, "Let me look this over, um. I'm sorry I'm just a little distracted. Gimme a couple of hours to look this over and see what we can do to help you out. I agree it would be a boon for us, but at the same time I don't want to over extend.

If you will give me a number where I can reach you?" She took a pen ready to jot the number down.

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“Most certainly,” Mr. Mourne said with a smile as he opened his car holder and produced a business card for her. “My office number is on there, you'll most likely reach my assistant. Actually, here,” he popped off the cap of his pen and held it tightly in his lips as he scrawled on the back of the card.

“That's my cell, call or text, doesn't matter. It'll be faster than waiting for my assistant to get me the message.”

“It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Mason.” After the obligatory hand shake and departing smiles Mr. Mourne was gone from the shop and Casey as left to leaf through the proposal.

By her estimation, after all was said and done, her shop stood to profit by nearly twelve grand for a single evening and that was certainly something the business could use. Undoubtedly there was some excitement but also that pang of apprehension that went along with the possibility of something going wrong.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Casey sat down to review the information... not able to get the issue with the office out of her head. Who cleaned it? How did it get cleaned? Was it ever actually messy...?

“Aaaand, I'm back, listeners. Deb here again, and for all those out there, wheeling and dealing today, here's one for you. Taking you back to 93' with a little Wu-Tang, C.R.E.A.M..” What the hell kind of radio station in New York played this wide variety of music? One second it was rock, then hip-hop, then pop... Casey waved it out of her mind as she went back to work.

Spoiler

Move your day forward from here. Either doing more at the Full Pot or finishing up the day and heading (or arriving) at home.

 

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Casey plopped down onto her small sofa and after kicking off her shoes rested her feet on the over burdened coffee table.  The apartment was small and cheap, the furniture cheaper. The aforementioned coffee table was covered with old magazines and papers, mostly bills, but a few were legal papers from her law firm, former law firm (and yes she knew she could get in trouble if they knew she had kept them), that she just couldn't bring herself to toss out.

She closed her eyes for about two seconds. Then they opened and she sprang to her feet and started pacing. Today had been weird. First the radio playing songs that were weirdly autobiographical. Casey had changed the station twice but within a half hour the radio was back on the same weird station each time, with the DJ that never seemed to go home. Or shut up for that matter. Between the songs she was always talking and god if it hadn't seemed at times like she had been talking right to Casey. But none of the other crew would admit that they had changed the station and none of them admitted to cleaning out the office. And she knew that the hadn't. For one thing she had only been out of the office for a few minuts which was not enough time for anyone to have done that amount of work. And the other thing was, well none of them would have done anything like that unless they had been told to.Her kids had no initiative.

She stopped in mid pace. "Shit!" she had forgotten to call Mourne. She went to the little table by the door where she set her purse down and retrieved the card he had given her.

Horatio Mourne.

She thought about that name and the man she had met wearing that name. The physique that was displayed by the way his expensive suit had been cut, that long hair and...."Jesus Christ, I'm not a fucking teenager." She looked at the numbers on the back then turned the card and looked at the name embossed on the front. Horation Mourne. It was an English name and unusual in this day and age outside of CSI Miami and that movie with Gregory Peck from the last century. The last name Mourne, was Celtic. She had looked them up on google. It was habit.

The job was just too good to pass up but for some reason she hadn't called while she had been at the coffee shop. She had made up her mind by the time lunch had been over and had had every opportunity to call but she hadn't instead she had looked up the guys name on google, checked him out on LinkedIn and basically pry'd into his life like some crazy lawyer looking to build a case.

And she kept imagining that long black hair let loose from that pony tail, flowing over those shoulders...

She sat back down and was thumbing the phone number before that thought had even left her mind.

 

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She almost dropped her phone as the thunder of someone pounding on it startled her back into the 'now'.  The fist banging on her door didn't let up, "Casey!  Casey!  Open the door!"

It was Horatio, she recognized his voice.  He sounded scared, panicked even.  "Casey!  Please, God be in there... Casey answer the door, please!"

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Casey stared at the door and then the phone, seconds lost, then she stood and ran to the door. Old habits die hard and she looked through the peephole at the distorted face of Horatio Mourn.

She threw back the dead bolt and yanked the door open just as he was knocking again, throwing him off balance.

"Horatio, Mr Mourn, what is it? Are you alright?" She stared at him with concern.

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Mr. Mourne was a wreck.  He was sweating, his once tightly bound hair was now in a ragged pony tail with rogue hairs falling in sweaty strands.  His breathing was ragged he looked like he'd run a marathon in a two thousand dollar suit.

"Casey," he breathed heavily.  "Oh, thank God.  W-we need to go, now.  I don't have time to explain... please, you have to trust me."

He reached in suddenly and grabbed her writs, attempting to pull her from the apartment.

[Alertness] - The hallway seems... darker than usual.  Like all the lights have been dimmed.

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Casey pulls back hard trying to get out of Mr Mourn's grasp. "Hey Let go of me!"

She twists her arms and then kicks at his legs. "What the fuck do you think your doing! Are you on something?"

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Mourne pursed his lips, grunting in frustration at how difficult Casey was being.  He couldn't have expected anything less though, he didn't have time to explain anything and she probably wouldn't believe him if he did.  "Casey!  We don't have ti-"  He reached for her once more and she replied with another couple of kicks to keep him at bay.

Plumes of pitch black smoke (steam, mist?) began to creep silently across the threshold in eerie plumes.  Mourne ceased his assault and turned to face the doorway that, to his knowledge, was their only form of egress.  Instincts in the deepest, most primal portions of their minds told them to back away slowly... and they did.  The hallway now was nothing more than pitch black as the vapors of pitch continued to rile their way through her doorway.  They seemed to solidify into hands, claws, or tentacles that gripped the jamb and seemed to pull the roiling mass of nothing long it's intended course.  Casey looked on in horror, mingled with a metric fuck ton of confusion.

The mist crept in further, black and roiling, sucking the color from everything as it moved.  Everything it 'touched' grew grey and brittle.  Her walls cracked like brittle, dried, desert mud.  It sounded like a churning stomach as it pulled its impossible-to-guess mass through the door way.  Churning, bubbling, growling, all coming from what was essentially nothing.  It had no form, no mass, it was just... darkness and nothingness.  "Maaaassssoooonnn." It gurgled out in a deep, tone.

Mourne backed up, holding out his arms as if he was some sort of shield against this... thing.  "Casey, you need to run," he turned his head and his long, mangled hair whipped about.  "Now!"

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Insane panic gripped casey's heart and mind then suddenly a veil of clarity fell. Fight or flight kicked in. She stumbled back and grabbed one of the kitchen stools from the breakfast bar, spun and hurled it at the window filling the living room wall. The stool slammed through the cheap curtains and glass shattered and she started running toward it "Horatio! The fire escape!" She called out

She reached the window, pulled the curtains ripping them from the rods and glanced back to see if Horatio was coming. Her blood froze again as she heard the moan from the dark the moan that sounded like her name.

Spoiler

Will spend a WP if needed.

 

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Horatio was on her heels.  'Holding it at bay' really didn't seem like an option.  While certainly not built like a coward, Casey was pretty sure him turning tail and running with her was not going to be a blemish on his 'I met this hot guy the other day' record, if she lived to tell her friends about this.

Confident she wasn't leaving him behind, they began their exit from the apartment.  The roiling darkness didn't seem to to quick on it's... roiling, so Casey began hauling ass down the fire escape.  Mourne hit the window and reached for the fire escape railing, when his chest exploded.  His shirt thrust forward and tapered to a point.  Blood spewed from his mouth as his shirt ripped and a blackened tentacle, stiffened to a jagged point, plunging itself even further through his body, raising him into the air.  "Ru-" he gurgled.

Phantom hands and tentacles gripped the window pane, but instead of pulling it towards the window, the entire side of the building, brick and mortar, simply was pulled inward.  Dust and debris collapsed down upon her head as the rumbling of the collapse shattered and smashed into the iron bars and railings of the fire escape.  Were it no for the zig-zagging decent of her fire escape, she knew she would have been dead.  She couldn't help but scream and curse a few times as everything crashed down on top of her, but she didn't stop moving.

It was the creaking that gave her pause, she looked up to see the... whatever, wafting around the massive hole it'd left in her apartment building... it was now the entire size of where it had pulled the wall down, like it conformed and swallowed all life wherever it went.  The bolts of the escape, from the constant barrage of debris, were loosened and she cursed every word she knew as the fire escape unlatched itself and fell sideways towards the opposite building. It tilted and fell and the impact against the neighboring structure shook her loose from her both her grip and footing and she plummeted down to the alley below.

Her life was over.  In that span of a few moments that was all she considered.  The blackened mass was the last thing she saw it pulled Horatio into its 'body' and phantasmal hands all turned inward to rip him to pieces.  The stack of pallets she landed on didn't break her fall so much as her neck, and back.  Wood crunched and and bone and sinew tore and snapped as she lay on her back in the wet alleyway, her feet still poised up on the pallets.  "Maaasssooonnn." The darkness cried out for her.

Casey opened her eyes.  She was lying on her back in her living room, her feet poised up on the sofa as her phone blared that annoying ringer that was set as the default.  Frantically, fear still gripping her every thought she looked around... all was as it should be.

Just a dream.

She reached for her phone in an attempt to catch it before voice mail, when a sharp pain seared into her side and back.  With a cry of pain she reached for her injury.

Blood, and something hard... cold.

With a wince of pain she removed the object stuck in her back with a gory squishing sound.

A jagged, bent nail... like the kind used for pallets.

Spoiler

No WP needed.  Just a foreshadowing plot related dream.

Or was it...?

 

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The hydrogen peroxide stung as she dabbed at the small puncture. She had to contort to see what she was doing the phone sat on the bathroom sink counter, she could still see the missed call from her cable company. probably letting her know that her bill was overdue...again. Her hear had settled down but her mind was still in a confused haze.

She had been about to call Morn, a little shiver ran through her at the thought of what happened to him, that hadn't really happened.Then she had this hallucination? But if it was a hallucination, where did the nail come from.

She finish bandaging the wound and put her shirt back on, splashed some water on her face and looked at her reflection. What the hell is going on.. After drying her face she turned the water off picked up the phone and went back  into the living room. Every shadow in the corner made her look twice. She poured a glass of wine and downed it in one long swallow then hit the call button on the phone. Morns number was still dialed in.

It rang 5 times then went to voicemail. Casey's heart skipped a beat. When the Beep sounded  she spoke with a strong voice. "Mr Mourn, Horatio. I would like to meet with you tonight back at the Coffee House. It's 7:30 now I'm leaving for there immediately. Please come as soon as possible. And be careful."

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Hope seemed in as short supply as sanity this evening.  It had been nearly an hour and a half and still she paced back and forth.  The other baristas continued to give her concerned looks, but for the most part didn't bother her as she chewed nervously on the nail of her thumb.  Like New York coffee houses, The Full Pot was open pretty late most evenings.  The closing time was really a suggestion, providing the influx of customers at the hour was enough to justify the pay roll being used.  This was one of those evenings, where the place was (thankfully) packed with Tinder first dates, early drunks looking to sober up before the next party, and, as always the Pokemon Go late crowds who were gathered in a series of corner booths laughing and training their little mutant pets.

She'd considered leaving a few times.  The entire thing seemed absurd, in all honesty, but something was eating away at her, and nails don't magically appear in people's skin... do they?  The thought crossed her mind once more, to just give up on all this and go home and hope Mr. Mourne didn't think she was some sort of closet psycho and pull her from the art gala.  She'd known the guy all of what?  12 hours?  And here she was calling him and telling him to be careful and meet her in a coffee shop in New York after hours... she'd gone from Casey Mason, Barista to Jason Bourne, super spy.  She'd let out one final sigh and turned to the door when Horatio Mourne pushed it open and offered the baristas on duty a polite smile.  He hadn't seemed to notice Casey, yet.

He'd changed from his suit into something more casual.  Hiking boots, denim jeans and a solid blue t-shirt with a heavy, stylish leather jacket to fight off the evening chill.  His hair was still in a pony tail and thoroughly kempt as ever.  The barista pointed to Casey and he nodded to her and said something to the barista and tapped the counter before approaching her.  "Miss Mason," he offered her a smile but she didn't miss the awkward confusion in his tone.  "Is... everything okay?  You sounded a little rattled.  Sorry, I would have been here sooner, I had some business and they didn't permit phones on the premises.  Protection trade secrets and all that."

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Casey just looked at him for several seconds then she glanced outside through the plate glass front at the street. It was just starting to rain big fat drops hitting the glass, one, two, then two or three together then it started coming down in sheets. Mourn watched her looked outside then back at her. The barista brought him his drink and that seemed to wake Casey up.

“Let's sit.” She took his hand and led him to a booth instead of the office, she wasn't going in there that was where the weird had started she was sure of it.

“Miss Mason, Casey, Is everything alright?” Horatio asked after they sat facing each other..

Casey shook her head No then leaned onto the table getting as close to him as she could with him on the other side. “You know I'm a lawyer and I'm logical, analytical and fairly observant. I'm not prone to flights of fancy nor do I drink excessively or take drugs. So while I know what I am about to say to you sounds crazy. I'm not”

She sits back and looks around the Full Pot, looking for anything out of place, anyone paying more attention to Mourn and her than they should. For any shadows moving like they had a will of their own.

Abruptly she sits forward again “I had a dream or vision tonight.

It was after I got home, I was about to call you to accept the offer when you knocked on my door...” She relates the whole of her 'dream' to Horatio in quick detail “...and I woke up just as it got me. Right there on the couch just like … as if I had fell asleep and dreamed it all. But it seemed so real and I don't have dreams like that. So when I moved to grab my phone off the coffee table I felt a sharp pain and pulled that out of my back.” She tossed the nail still stained with dried blood on the table between them.

“Don't ask me why, but I needed to tell you.”

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"Well," Mr. Mourne smiled.  "That's not the worst pick line I've heard, but certainly up there on the strange meter."  Casey's look did not describer in the slightest bit as amused.  "Okay, sorry.  Casey, look, think of it from my perspective, that's one hell of a weird pill to swallow.  You're under a lot of stress lately, that much is obvious.  Maybe too much coffee... or not enough?  This isn't the movies, people don't have 'visions'.  You had a bad dream, and we just met today so I was still fresh in your mind, so I happened to be in it.  That's it.  You're going to be fine, just try to unwind and get some decent rest."

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Casey can't help but see her reflection in Mourn's eyes and the sympathetic look on his face. She closes her eyes for a second shaking hr head slightly. "God you must think I'm a fucking lunatic. And I don't blame you."

She takes a deep breath and lets it out glances around the coffee shop. "And I don't blame you. Look I am so sorry I bothered you tonight....I don't know maybe your right and I'm just stressing out over... everything."

She looks at her hands and the nail on the table top, maybe it was just stuck in the sofa, but then it would have had to have been there since before she had moved in.

"Again Mr Mourn, I am sorry to have bothered you and to have wasted your time asking you to come down here. I think maybe we need to pass on the catering job."

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"That's our call, Casey," Mr. Mourne said, sympathetically.  He sipped his coffee and pursed his lips to savor the taste.  Say you wanted about the place, they sure knew how to make great coffee here.  He sighed and looked her in the eyes.  "I understand you're having a really weird night, I get that.  I've had a few my self in my day.  Telling me what you told me took some courage, I gotta give you that, so I'm going to be honest in return."

He took another swallow of his java and set the cup down, spinning it with his finger tips, like nervous people often did.  "Miss Mason, Casey, I didn't select this place at random.  This is one of the last locally owned businesses we have here in Manhattan.  It has great people, great atmosphere, and it's something that stands for neighborhood pride with a ton of history in these four walls.  What's more, is that it's dying, Casey.  We both know that.  This place is one, maybe two missed bill payments from becoming broken and limp in the jaws of another Starbucks."

"My dad and I came in here all the time when I was a boy, never was much of a coffee drinker, but man, did I love the smell,"  He smiled and chuckled, perhaps lingering a memory. "Places like this have... an amazing amount of value.  To the people, to the city.  They start to have a life of their own after awhile, like Ol' Joe's Barber Shop a few blocks away.  There's a certain magic to them, where boys like me learned so much sitting in that chair, or sitting here with dad while he drank his coffee and I nursed a chocolate milk."

"People tell me you've done great things here, so far,"  he smiled at her, and there was certainly a sense of compassion behind it, like a silent 'thank you' for deeds he had no idea she'd even done.  "But we both know its not enough.  I can't force you to cater, but from one not-quite stranger to another: don't let a strange dream, a rough night, and an awkward moment between strangers snuff out a dream that's decades old.  This place doesn't mean a whole lot to a ton of people, but it means everything to just enough people that it's worth saving.  Just my two cents.  Why not get a decent night's rest, and give me a call tomorrow sometime.  If you feel the same way then, I understand, but for now, don't let the oddity of the dream or the stress influence your decision.  Okay?"

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Casey had been a lawyer, technically still was, maybe not a brilliant one but a good one. She knew how to read people, how to interpret reaction, how to cause reactions. And as she sat there staring at her coffee and the nail lying on the table, listening to Mr Mourn, Horatio, one part of her brain the inquiring, inquisitive litigator part wasn't hearing what it thought she should have been hearing.

Casey had just told this man, a man she had only met today and had in the middle of the night called up and begged for a meeting, told him a story that should have had him questioning if not her sanity, her suitability at the very least, to handle an important event such as the catering job.

But instead he was still wooing her so to speak, trying to convince that this was an important step in saving the coffee shop. His story had a ring of truth to it and she could hear the heartfelt if reserved emotion behind it, but why not at least mention that he had been a patron of the shop in the past  this afternoon. That would have gone along way to establishing a historical rapport. Something was nagging her and she couldn't even begin to fathom why or what. Maybe she was going crazy.

"Maybe your right Mr Mourn," She scooped up the nail and slipped it into her shirt pocket, then wrapped her hands around her coffee mug., "Maybe it's just the stress of the last few weeks. You definitely hit a few nails on the head. I'll take the rest of the night, get some sleep and think it over when my heads a little clearer and the sun is up.

Again I am sorry for dragging you out here for nothing. I'll call you tomorrow with an answer one way or the other."

"That sounds good and fair Casey," he took a last swallow of his coffee and sat the mug down as he stood, "I look forward to your call."

She stood as well and they said good night and she watched as Mourn left the shop returning the small wave that he gave as he passed the window outside. After a few moments she turned to Nancy the night manager, "I'm gonna be in my office just lock up when everything's done I'll let myself out."

Alone in her strangely immaculate office Casey Mason opened up her computer and began a much more comprehensive research project on a certain Mr. Horatio Mourn.

 

 

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The bitter chill of the New York streets at night greeted Horatio as kindly as it did all others.  He pulled his collar up and walked off down the street.  He was not but fifty yards when his smartphone dialed a number and he pressed it to his ear.  The call connected, but no one said a word of greeting.  "I've found one," he said.  "The dreams, the visions, it's all starting.  It's loose.  The time has come."

He looked back down the street at the coffee shop and sighed softly.  His expression marking that he didn't envy the rather normal Miss Mason and what was in store ahead of her.  He pressed the thumb sized red button on his screen.  "Weaver have mercy on us all."

Quietly he walked off into the night.

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