Colleagues in a Car

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Colleagues in a Car

Post by Robert Frazer on Wed 6 Feb 2013 - 22:13

Elio blinked and squinted as he emerged back into daylight. The mechanic's workshop behind him was well-lit, and the summer afternoon was no brighter, but nonetheless as much as light might seem to just be light the transition still jarred like the hooks on the edge of a carpet fitting. There was still some ineffable deviation between the natural and artificial that irritated the eye as a change of pitch would rattle the ear.

The more tangible sensations of the breeze against his cheek and the rumble and rasp of traffic on the street weighted Elio's attention and brought it back to the task in hand - he took out his mobile phone after a moment trying to recall the number (the Agency didn't like phone numbers being stored in memory in case the handsets were lost or stolen), he dialled.

"De Marchese, furniture removals" a businesslike voice announced.

"Mancini, it's Alboreto." Elio called out, pacing around the workshop forecourt has he spoke. "Sorry to disturb, but are you heading back to the compound now?"

"I'm on my way, yes. Is there a problem?" The voice sounded unusual. Not eagerness to get to grips with a new crisis, not even exasperation at heaping up another onerous burden, but... wary, guarded?

"No problems, no, but I wondered if I could ask a quick favour." Elio kept his own voice plain. "See, I've had to take my BMW to be serviced - I thought that I'd only be here a couple of hours but apparently it will have to stay overnight for a part and I'm stuck without transport - any chance you could swing by and pick me up? Don't worry if it's taking you out of your way--"

"No, no, not at all, no problem." Avise interjected, his tone changed completley and suddenly enthusiastic. "Where are you now? Send me the address and I'll put it on my sat-nav."

Curious, that. Did he want company?

"Thanks, Mancini. One moment, I'll text it to you." Elio ended the call, then lowered the phone and looked down on it. His fingers tapped through menus, but one slip of his thumb that may have twitched through technophobia, senility or conscience selected "Inbox" instead of "Compose Message".

ELIO HIGH PROBS THAT AVISE HAS HAD A DOMESTIC KEEP AN EYE ON HIM PLZ THX

Elio grimaced at Lorenzo's earlier message to him. The phone had buzzed in his pocket like something had crawled in there, and had provoked a similarly revulsed jolt. He had been recruited by the Social Welfare Agency partially because he could provide a weathered rock of experience to shield some of the more fragile handlers from the battering waves of their profession, yes, but it flattered Elio's dignity to claim that he wasn't a babysitter yet Avise could be as childish as some of the cyborgs when the mood suited him.

Not so much the teddy bears and tea parties, more the petulant and bratty adolescence.

Elio's phone buzzed again as Avise replied with a text message stating that he would arrive in half an hour. Elio slipped his phone away again and walked down the street looking for a café to pass the time in, moving along the lively street as a walker in the countryside might enjoy a path by the river.

*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*

Avise had given Elio a quick call to let him know that he was just around the corner, so Elio was already waiting on the pavement when the other handler pulled up to him. Elio couldn't help but regard Avise's car with something like bemusement - despite Lorenzo's discomfiting lack of specificity niggling away at him like a soldier not knowing where the shots were above the trench, the sight of Avise's diminutive turquiose hatchback helped to put him at ease. While Avise had only been a formal handler for a couple of months, in various capacities he had been around the Agency for much longer - when even Elio had cashed in his golden handcuffs to buy his BMW, it seemed bizarre that Avise still hadn't promoted himself beyond his Fiat Punto. Perhaps it was a rare expression of his alleged Christianity that had some actual substance behind the magpie glitz of gilt ceremony, that he modestly felt that he desired nothing beyond what would serve his needs... but then Elio had seen him stare at the Chief's Maserati with an avaricious lust of bated slaver, more akin to a dirty old man seizing up before a young teen.

Maybe Avise was just tight.

Elio put on a cheerful face and greeted Avise with thanks as he got into the car. Avise returned the greeting and waited until Elio had belted up properly before pulling out onto the road again.

"Is your car OK?" Avise asked with concern, as though he had heard that a relative was in the hospital.

"Just a problem with the differential, it's become misaligned and is pulling my steering off, they tell me that it shouldn't be anything too serious." Elio reassured him.

"They want to keep the car overnight for that?" Avise arched his eyebrows, re-evaluating Elio as one of the Agency's keen motorheads. "You're being taken for a ride, Alboreto, it's a quick fix." The eyebrows furrowed as the re-evaluation made him think and remember. "I thought you said that they were missing a part?"

"Oh, that's an electrical thing, my dashboard's completely unreadable." Elio hurriedly elaborated. Avise wasn't expecting any great deception (although he should have picked up on it - he was an intelligence agent now, it was his job) and accepted Elio's explanation with a nod, which led his head down to his own dashboard.

"Fancy some music?" Avise reached across and fiddled with the radio, which began to softly sing smooth soul.

"Aren't you listening to the match?" Elio was surprised. It was only a pre-season friendly but Roma had just signed that dancing-hot Brazilian striker and everyone was on tenterhooks to see if the eighty million euros was going to return an early dividend. Football was a safe harbour in a divided Italy - as infantile as Padania's tantrum-flailing obsession with violence was, even they had the wit to realise that any attempt to disrupt Serie A would result in northern separatists swinging from every lamp-post in much the same way that gladiators, considered to have forfeited their right to life, were crucified along the Via Appia.

"Naaaaah, not into soccer." Avise shrugged.

Elio couldn't help but emit a surprised grunt. He was pretty sure that all Italian soldiers had to declare their oath of fealty to the Republic with their hand on a strip of leather from the ball that had won the 1934 World Cup.

Avise glanced over at the sound. "Yeah, I know what you mean, but seriously - what's the point? Soccer's more bent than a used paperclip. There's too much money in it - it's not about skill, whoever bribes the local mafia the most is the one that wins the match." Avise shook his head to dismiss the flimsy light-footed prancers, and then patted the solid steering wheel with firm, physical approval. "Rugby's my game, that's a real sport."

Elio was tempted to ask whether it was Rugby League or Rugby Union that was the real sport, but held back... he didn't want to ask that question until he was wearing body armour and had had an opportunity to revise his will.

Avise suddenly perked up as the music track changed. "Oh, I love this one!" He turned up the volume as the intro planged into a whooping call to attention, and then he followed, in English:

I was the third brother of five,
Doin' what I had to do to survive,
I wouldn't say what I did was alright,
Tryin' t'break outtha ghetto was a day-to-day fight...


Elio laughed happily. Partially because Avise's English, God help him, sounded just like he was from a deli on Arthur Avenue, but also because his singing showed that he wasn't quite such a hopeless case after all. "Right on, brother." He chuckled.

But the praise only interrupted Avise's singing, as he looked genuinely confused by the remark. "Eh? What do you mean?"

"I mean it's good to see the message getting out, something to protest about." Elio gestured at Womack's hot throaty tones.

"What, protest?" Avise was incredulous. "'We shall overcome', syrupy rot like that? It's got nothing to do with that rubbish." A hint of indignation entered his voice as he wanted to protect his taste from being tarred by the association.

"But... it's famous." Now Elio was baffled, his earlier enthusiasm now becoming a plaintive entreaty for understanding, seeing the opportunity slide away. "He's in a slum."

"Yeah, but he's not stuck there," Avise countered, "it's aspirational. Hey brother, there's another way out - snorting that coke, shootin' that dope, man, you're coppin' out he's not slumping into it, he's using his wit and resources to make something better of himself." Avise turned his eyes back to the road, the hint of a pout on his lips. "That's how things should be." He finished, a little hurt.

Elio didn't reply, but just looked out of the window at Rome passing by. This part of town didn't look all that different from East London, when you came to think of it - the view from a car there and a car here, any distinguishing details blurred away through the motion.

Haarlem is the capital of every ghetto-town Avise sang.

He did have a tuneful voice.

Elio remembered the sheer awful amazement when they played "Born in the USA" during election season. A long time had passed since then, and many old certainties and confidences had crumbled... now all he knew was that somewhere, probably at the top of a tall building, there was a music producer sitting behind a desk. Laughing.


================================

...I've no idea if a misaligned differential would pull your steering off, but I do remember the line from The Italian Job.


Last edited by Robert Frazer on Wed 6 Feb 2013 - 23:05; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by Kiskaloo on Wed 6 Feb 2013 - 22:55

Brilliant, as always.

Are you planning a series of such stories? Or throwing the idea out there for others to pick up?


Last edited by Kiskaloo on Wed 6 Feb 2013 - 23:12; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by MP5 on Wed 6 Feb 2013 - 23:07

Brilliant job, Rob.

Also, a misaligned diff might throw off your steering in front-wheel drive car, but in a rear-wheel drive car like Elio's BMW, I don't think that's gonna be much of an issue.

I don't even know if it's possible for a diff to be misaligned. Could be just technobabble used in the movie.


Allison: Either way, Mr. Mancini's right. Mr. Alboreto is being taken for a ride.

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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by Robert Frazer on Thu 7 Feb 2013 - 6:41

Are you planning a series of such stories? Or throwing the idea out there for others to pick up?

This is an excerpt from my next planned story - I haven't written anything for a couple of months and this seemed like a self-contained segment that I could post just to get something out there after a long gap. I wasn't planning anything specific with the set-up, although now that you mention it it would be a useful scenario for working on pure character development, I may go back to it later.

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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by Alfisti on Thu 7 Feb 2013 - 6:59

Robert Frazer wrote:
Are you planning a series of such stories? Or throwing the idea out there for others to pick up?

This is an excerpt from my next planned story - I haven't written anything for a couple of months and this seemed like a self-contained segment that I could post just to get something out there after a long gap. I wasn't planning anything specific with the set-up, although now that you mention it it would be a useful scenario for working on pure character development, I may go back to it later.
*Prods Robert with the "keep writing" stick.*

Nicely written as always mate, more thoughts to come...

...though I'm interested that Avise refers to "football" as "soccer", I always thought that was an American/Australian thing: or is it a case of him showing his contempt for the sport?

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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by Robert Frazer on Thu 7 Feb 2013 - 7:12

Alfisti wrote:

...though I'm interested that Avise refers to "football" as "soccer", I always thought that was an American/Australian thing: or is it a case of him showing his contempt for the sport?

There's no especial meaning behind it, I'm afraid, just trying to be a bit more international with my terminology.

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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by Thescarredman on Thu 7 Feb 2013 - 8:32

Nice interplay. Each man has a little secret, and each man seems to understand the other not quite as well as he thought. This story will go places.
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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by taerKitty on Thu 7 Feb 2013 - 11:28

Good character study!

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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by Professor Voodoo on Tue 12 Feb 2013 - 6:50

Enjoyed that; the bit about Elio enjoying a few idle minutes walking the streets of Rome (as he waits for Avise to arrive) was particularly in charcter for him.

You utilized conversation much more than you usually do...is this an intentional step in that direction or just a scene that was dialogue heavy?
TheScarredMan wrote:Each man has a little secret, and each man seems to understand the other not quite as well as he thought.
Putting Avise & Elio together always makes for an awkward interplay...they're both on the same side and hold respect for their colleague's skills, but they are polar opposites on political & social issues. They tend to tip-toe around these topics until one of them blunders into the quicksand, as we saw Elio do here with the Bobby Womack song.


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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by tremec6speed on Tue 12 Feb 2013 - 20:05

Nice story Mr. Frazer, fun read. Smile
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Re: Colleagues in a Car

Post by Robert Frazer on Thu 14 Feb 2013 - 18:31

Thescarredman wrote:Each man has a little secret,
and each man seems to understand the other not quite as well as he
thought. This story will go places.

I intend the story to go places - this is an excerpt from a larger work, after all. Suffice to say, Avise's "domestic" precedes this scene. Elio's car really didn't need to stay overnight, but when Lorenzo asked him to check up on Avise he had to contrive a scenario where he could get some private time with the other handler and asked the garage to hold onto the car for the night, hence the guff about the differential and the wonky electrics.

Professor Voodoo wrote: Putting Avise & Elio together always makes for an awkward interplay...they're both on the same side and hold respect for their colleague's skills, but they are polar opposites on political & social issues. They tend to tip-toe around these topics until one of them blunders into the quicksand, as we saw Elio do here with the Bobby Womack song.

A deliberate reason for choosing that particular song - Avise likes the music as much as Elio would, but his different perspective means that he's taken a completely different interpretation of its message. Probably the wrong one, too.

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