Harold hurried from the van to the café, pushing open the door into the warmth of the interior. It smelled of buttered toast and fresh coffee, the sort of scents that could sell an overpriced house. It didn't matter that you knew the smell was a trick, it still made the unconscious association with safety and comfort.
The three occupants looked up as he came in. Of the police officers, one was eating a Caesar salad and the other, two slices of toast with marmalade and what looked like Bovril, but could easily be Marmite or worse. He gave Harold an upward nod. “All right? Mr Waterman, isn't it?”
Harold frowned. The rosy, full moon face was familiar but the name escaped him. He looked at the man's bade number but it didn't help. “I'm sorry. Officer--?”
“Brandsford. Mike Brandsford. We've met several times over the last few years, not that I'd expect you to remember. That's the whole point of wearing a uniform, isn't it? You become anonymous, just a part of the organisation, a cog in the wheel.”
“Yes, of course.” Harold shook his hand. “We've met somewhere recently, I think?”
“Doctor Fletcher's office. Our kids are the same age.”
“That's right.” Relief flooded through Harold as he placed the man in the setting. “Glue ear, wasn't it?”
“That's right. Poor little mite. Better now, though. How's your girl?”
“Fine. Didn't like the tetanus jab but forgot about it an hour later.”
“Tetanus? Nasty. Had she cut herself?”
“No. Bitten by a rat in the garden. Her own fault, really, She shouldn’t have resurrected it.”
“Shouldn't have what?” The officer frowned.
Harold mentally reviewed what he'd said. “Responded to it, I meant. Kids that age. So curious.”
“You can say that again. You should see our Michael. The things he puts up his nose!