Mitchell got off the train at 0930. It was just a little early, but that made no difference to him.
Some folks had got out of their seat even before the train stopped and had moved down towards the carriage door.
Several, even before that, had stood up and retrieved their bags or adjusted their clothes. Some of the women had
applied fresh makeup and some men had put on coats. Once on the platform, everyone just disappeared. There was no
way Mitchell could see or recognise anyone from the train after one just minute. They scattered, some to the domestic
rail, some to town. They were replaced by many anonymous others, darting this way and that. By the look of their large
cases, some were headed for Sydney airport. By the time he reached the Opal gates not one of his fellow travellers could
be seen, yet there was a crush there, as if it was Yaroslavsky when the Trans-Siberian got in, or London Bridge on a weekday morning.
Mitchell navigated across the Grand Concourse. He wasn't in the mood for sitting. He'd been forced to do that for over 3 hours already.
He zigzagged between people, across the floor towards the toilets. There he chose a booth and changed into a cooler top. At the washbasins
he cast a look at himself in the marbled mirror. Older and greyer than he'd like to be. Some other men just spat into the wash basins and walked away.
He walked down the hill past Belmore park and its tents by the fence but no-one stirred there. At Campbell St, the lights were red and he stopped.
A few others did also, but most walkers just looked left and right and headed across the road, despite the 'ding' of the light rail. They were in a
hurry probably. He was not. From there, he walked up the Pitt St hill. He heard lots of voices but nowhere did he hear any English. All the travellers
were either UTS style students, or their partners or parents.
It was damp, and a bit quiet. Across in George St there was little happening, even Deli-France on the corner was quiet.
Mitchell looked into its window, but he didn't go in. He wasn't in the mood for croissant or a bagel. He wanted coffee.
Before passing by the Event Cinemas he could see Albion Lane. Ah what a memory that held. In a former life he'd ridden his
motorcycle into the city and parked it nearby, and bustled with friends downstairs and into its basement. It was La Guillotine
Restaurant. That place used to be in the middle of the lane and was plain but noisy. It was in amongst the underground pillars
of some building and served only omelettes and wine. He remembered the crash of the bench seats as several people stood together
and their calves all pushed back. He remembered the kitchen, a booth really. It was right in the middle of the room and covered
from floor to ceiling with egg cartons. The restaurant was gone now, and Korean food replaced it. It was gone from the middle of
Albion Lane anyway. Its ghost lingered still at the Sussex St end of the lane, with a red half umbrella door shade. It was
a-la-carte now and up-market, and employed French students.
Mitchell got to Bathurst St. Many people on the street were dressed in suits now, but most were without ties, or were in business
trousers and open-necked shirts, or polo shirts. Occasionally a flashy gent went cruising past, dressed in a dark suit but with narrow
pants, and often brown leather boots. He was being watched, but despite this, while he walked, his phone rang. It was his 'friend'
from the government. Did he make it? Was he in town? Did he know Cellini's in the QVB? Can we meet there? OK, later.
He went down George St too far and past the Hilton. He knew he'd have to come back. He turned into Market Street and along to the QT.
Coffee. He lingered there while he drank and looked at the bar stools each held up with fake women's legs. He didn't go up in the
lifts but he knew the deal. Depending on how many people were in that lift, so the music changed to match. A lonely song if you were
by yourself, a lover's tune for two and some obscure drinking song when there were lots of people. That wouldn't work in the elevator
of the Far East Academy he thought, there it was more like a famous Russian game, especially on the way down.
Out of the QT, past the red-headed door girl and into Market Street again. This time down to the corner and back up Pitt. He ventured into
the back door of the Hilton, through the revolving doors and over the shallow steps. In the foyer it was bustling. Concierges collecting cases,
valets parking cars and there were several airline cabin crew too, but these accounted for just some of the movement. Most activity came from
the cafe. Finely dressed house guests, and those who thought they ought to be, all with non-descript bags, sat and talked over the day's
business. He spotted Robin standing in the middle. A hulk. He somehow seemed to squeeze his muscle into a very black suit. His head was
completely bald, just some designer stubble and a swagger which gave away the secret of his gym work and his real profession. Mitchell
followed him up the stairs and behind the escalators, near where the business office used to be. There was a corridor and working coffee
machines there. There was also a low hidden table, away from the hustle. They sat down. Somehow they were attended to by a waitress who
appeared from nowhere. Mitchell said yes to another coffee. Robin talked about everything and nothing. Yes, there was work to do in the
Far East. Yes, there were things to sort out there, and Australian officials rarely visited anyway. Yes, what about September? Can he
work that into his plans? There's always the locals too. Mitchell just said he'd think on it.
Out the front door of the hotel, he could see the waiting doors in the sandstone building across the road, but he avoided them. Make the
friends wait he thought. Make them call him again. He had time and decided to venture down George, past Dymocks and Hunt. Procrastinating
now, as always, but he needed WiFi.
In Angel Place, the building looked so right, but is was a mistake. Once he was in the entry, Mitchell could see there was a resting
area up to the right, not quite on level 1 but not on the ground floor either, somewhere in-between. It was vacant too, except for a
sleeping man and one young woman who seemed to be listening to music through headphones and facing the other away. There were plenty
of vacant chairs and he easily found one, but there was no Wifi. That was his first mistake. The other was that the place held a DFAT
office. Was there a defence in being so close? Probably not, and it made him nervous.
He looked into Bentleys, dark, but the quail entree was good there. The Radisson was a sandstone exterior just like the old Planning
and Education buildings in Bridge St which were destined for the same treatment. A new interior, removing the twisting stair wells,
the sloping floors, and the green rails, but exteriors still of stone. Small mercies.
In the Marriott he found the connection he wanted. He sat on one of the soft leather couches and tapped into the free WiFi with his phone.
Provided you were roughly on time, and dressed right, and had a confident air, and made no offense and were ready to chat, you could do
anything anywhere. He and a colleague had once even eaten a lunch at a China Telecom banquet. They'd accepted gifts of flowers and
advertising material and fans too. They'd even had their photos taken with the CEO after her speech, like those who were actually
invited. After that, the Marriott was easy, and the WiFi was fast enough.
In this end of town the men were all in suits, and wore ties. The women were middle aged, grey haired and squeezed into black too.
All were towing a wheelie bag, except the ostentatious, who had their gowns in duffels. The 'friend' called again. Where are you?
Can you make it? Do you know where to be? Shortly.
Mitchell took a jagged route. He wanted to visit the Quay but couldn't make it. He headed first up Pitt, then across George and into
the station. Out onto Clarence. He resisted the temptation to check for followers in shop windows but he assumed anyway. Past
Machiavelli and up to the QVB. He went in the Northern door and quietly up the stairs. The Tea Room. The kept going up. No-one was
there. Two floors of shops no-one ever visited and a sets of toilets on each floor. Down again and he proceeded past the leather
workers. Eventually Cellini's. David, a name taken from a video game, was already there. The government friend. They talked. Who
came into the country? Could he have a copy of the list? When was he going to the Far East, who will he meet? David always chose
Cellini's and always arrived first. He always asked Mitchell to be the first to leave. Tiresome.