“A large meat feast and Hawaiian,” Liam announced from the kitchen. He shoved the hot boxes over the counter with the order slip bearing the delivery address.
Eyeing the bit of paper, Annie and Rich both groaned.
“Now, now,” Liam tsked, good-naturedly. “Service with a smile.”
“I’ll wrestle you for it,” Rich offered.
Shaking her head, Annie held out her fist. “On three.”
Copying her, Rich raised his own fist, shook it thrice and kept it as rock.
“Bollocks!” Annie moaned, staring at her scissors. “Best out of three?”
“Oi! Some time before the pizzas are cold,” Liam ordered.
Rich gave her an infuriating smile and wiggled his fingers. “Good luck, Annie!” he said brightly.
Grabbing the boxes, she made her way for the bike. “Yeah, yeah,” she grumbled.
Jubilee Pizza had on staff four delivery persons. And all four unanimously agreed the Cardiff Tourist Board office was the worst account ever.
Just about every week, they’d get a call for a delivery at random, ungodly hours. Which would be fine. But more often than not, it would take a good 15 minutes of bell ringing to rouse anyone from the depths of the dilapidated building to accept the order.
Once, Annie had gone there with four large pepperonis at 1 in the morning and had rung the bell for a solid twenty minutes before coming back to Jubilee only to be sent back out five minutes later when the tourist board called, asking where the pizzas were.
On top of that, there was the matter of tipping. If they put it on credit, there was a 50/50 shot of getting a tip at all. If it was cash, you might be looking at the spare change. Carlo had told Annie that once he’d gone there and some cockney git had taken the order, shoving a handful of notes into his hand before slamming the door in his face. Only the notes hadn’t even covered the cost of the pizzas, and he’d had to ring for another five minutes to get the rest.
The only one who liked the tourist board was Liam, as they were steady clients. Everyone else tried to make themselves scarce whenever an order came in from them.
“What tourist office needs their workers to stay after midnight?” Carlo demanded.
“I bet you it’s a front for drug smuggling,” Nicola predicted. Nicola was in school for screenwriting and had a healthy imagination. “They’re probably making and shipping out tons of cutting edge cocaine from their lair.”
Porn making was Rich’s suggestion. “Like, the really good, nasty kind. The banned kind.”
Well whatever they were, Annie wished they’d tip better. Uni wasn’t exactly cheap.
It was pouring rain out, which did nothing to improve Annie’s mood. The pizzas were safe in the bike’s box, but by the time she pulled up to the tourist office, Annie was soaked through and through.
She stabbed the call button while the rain continued to pummel onto her. “Pizza,” she called into the intercom. She hoped it’d be the Asian woman taking them this time. Whenever anyone ever got something remotely resembling a tip, it usually came from her. She hunched over the boxes in her hand, trying to keep them from getting too wet. Already Annie told herself she’d wait five minutes and five minutes only. It was bloody pissing out, and nothing was worth catching pneumonia over. To her shock, the door swung open not two minutes after she buzzed, which broke the current fastest record of 8 minutes.
“Uh…pizza?” Annie said, a bit shell-shocked by the timeliness.
A guy in a suit whom Annie had never seen before took a look at her bedraggled appearance and quickly waved her through. Stepping in, Annie realized this was actually the first time she’d seen the inside of the office, despite the number of time she’d come to make a delivery.
“Sorry,” the suit apologized. “Didn’t realize it was raining quite so hard.”
Annie imagined it would be difficult to gauge the weather if one worked in an underground lair, making cocaine. Or possibly porn. Although he didn’t look like a drug smuggler or a porn baron. In fact, he actually looked like someone who might work at a tourist office.
“You new?” asked Annie, curiosity getting the better of her.
He gave her a polite smile. “Just started, actually.”
“Oh. Well…it’s 17 pounds fifty,” she replied, handing over the boxes.
Accepting them with one hand, the suit handed her a twenty and a ten with the other. She held the tenner back toward him. “The twenty’s enough,” she said.
“That’s for the delivery.”
Annie fought the urge to ask if he was pulling her leg. Instead she pocketed the bill before he could change his mind. “Thanks.”
“Actually, would you hold on a minute?” he asked.
She watched him disappear behind a beaded curtain with the pizzas. Left standing awkwardly in the middle of the office, Annie ran a hand through her wet hair and took a look at her surroundings. The office wasn’t particularly impressive. In fact, it was dead depressing and a little creepy. She wondered how much business they got, and started to reevaluate the serious possibility that the place was a front for something else. Thoughts of being kidnapped, forced onto heroin, and making sex tapes flittered, unheeded, through her mind.
Shivering, Annie took a mental inventory of what she had on her person that could be used as a weapon. The bike keys, maybe. She fingered them in her jeans pocket when the suit returned, now carrying what looked like a black body bag folded neatly in his arms. Annie gripped the keys and told herself to aim for the eyes.
“Here,” he offered. As if reading her defense class-oriented thoughts, he stood a good arm's length away from her and held out the black body bag, which Annie now realized was a raincoat.
Unfolding it, she saw it was a size too large for her, but it was sturdy and had a hood that would keep her dry. Or least, not let her get wetter. “Thanks,” she said, sincerely, shrugging it on. She had to roll up the sleeves, but it was comfortable enough. “I can bring it back tomorrow.”
“No bother. You can keep it.” He smiled that same polite smile. Moving past, he got the door for her. “Thanks for coming out in this.”
After that, it was always the suit (Ianto, as he’d introduced himself after the fifth delivery) who accepted the orders. He always answered after the first buzz, and whether it be by credit or cash, the tipping was good.
His appearance, however, did little to stem the rumor mill of what really went on in there. Rich had casually asked once after a midnight delivery, and Ianto had said something about everyone having to go over backlogged expense accounts.
“Oh, please. It’s drugs,” Nicola continued to insist. “They’ve just expanded now and got on new staff to make sure the police don’t catch on.”
Sitting around the small back room table, Annie shared an amused smile with Carlo over the gin rummy game the three of them were playing. It had been a slow night, which was good since one of the ovens in the kitchen had broken down.
“Nic, it’s a regular tourist office,” Annie defended, mildly. “Pamphlets, maps, the lot.”
“’Cause that’s what they want you to think.”
“Y’watch too much telly, Nicola,” Carlo stated, amused.
“’Course I do. It’s going to be my trade. But listen to you two. A suit and a little good tipping, and suddenly they’re alright. How gullible can you be?” Nicola demanded.
“What can I say?” shrugged Carlo, fanning out his dealt cards. “I’m easy.”
Annie actually suspected Carlo had a bit of a crush on Ianto. He never wore aftershave to work until Ianto had started at the tourist office.
A few hours later, Annie sat alone in the back room, trying to make some headway in her class readings now that both Nicola and Carlo were out on runs.
The kitchen bell rang. “Annie, two pepperoni feasts for the board!” Liam called. “Quick as you can,” he said. “They called for this awhile ago. Bloody oven. Here. It’s on credit.” He pushed the boxes and the slip of paper for a signature to her across the counter.
It was only when she was pulling the boxes out from the back of the bike that Annie saw the order included a tub of a cole slaw, which Liam hadn’t given her. She consulted her watch. She could bike back to Jubilee and return in probably fifteen minutes. But Liam had said the order was late as it was.
Considering her options for a moment, Annie tapped her fingers on the side of the bike box. Finally, she closed the lid after pulling out the pizzas. She’d drop off them first and just explain about the mistake. Ianto would understand. He was a nice guy.
For a member of a drug smuggling porn ring, Annie silently added, amused that she'd ever entertained the idea. Shaking her head, she pressed the buzzer. “Pizza.”