ELEVEN - Head To Head

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"What's the matter, Mister Hobson? Surprised I don't sleep in a coffin?"

"Heh." Hobson looked around Lyne's tiny hallway, struggling to fit. "A little."

Coming to meet the well-tailored Social Awesome owner, Hobson expected his second towering townhouse of the day, a skinny four-floored monster like the Vole property. Instead, he was whisked up in a lift so clean he daren't touch the sides, rising to a flat with nothing but shiny surfaces. Not even a rug as a comfortable pause. Well, at least he could be certain Lyne had a reflection.

The reception area behind the door was small, but soon morphed into a huge room. It was bigger than the Social Awesome office or Hobson's entire home, one wall occupied only by a gigantic window. Before entering this cushy building, Hobson resolved to be unimpressed, but this was luxury he'd only ever seen in films.

The evening was settling in by now, it was cold outside – not in here, obviously – and they were in the outskirts of Canary Wharf. The part of East London where the wealthy held off the young and trendy by pricing them out of the market. The view was amazing, as long as you liked modern architecture. Skinny towers, fat blocks, glass and brick, standing firm against the fingers of sunset. A thousand panes of glass, a few people working hard in suits behind them, a million lives. If Hobson lived here, he could work from a sofa facing the window with a pair of binoculars, sending Choi out for occasional sandwiches.

Anyway, Lyne was talking to him. "Drink, Mister Hobson?"

"Got a beer?"

"Of course."

"Go on then."

Lyne reached into his fridge and pulled out two cold bottles – it occurred to Hobson this host would always take the same as his guest, no matter what the depraved drink order. They moved over towards two leather chairs pointed at the middle-sized TV. These were the closest to softness in the room, but still glistened. Hobson sat down and almost sighed out loud from the comfort. Lyne settled into the chair across from him, curled his thin legs up and stared at Hobson from small, black eyes.

Hobson cracked his beer open, and gave a friendly nod in lieu of a toast. Decent brand of drink; not too common or too trendy. This guy knew what he was doing.

"So, Mister Lyne..."

"I think we can finally get down to first names, can't we?"

"Okay then, Edward." He forced Edward out, even though it didn't sound right. "What the hell happened? Why did the police grab you?"

"The same reason you treat me like a Bond villain, I suppose. Everyone hates someone who ignores the niceties of how things should be and just tries to make a living."

"So not because you've been knocking off your employees with a giant dog?"

"John, why would I bother? I can fire them, I've set up their contracts to make that easy. Having them killed draws attention."

When Lyne said John, Hobson noted, it sounded natural. "So you didn't have any business secrets you wanted hushed up? Nothing like that at all?"

Lyne's creepy smiling calm cracked and he looked away for a moment, gazing out over the sky. "So you heard we're not all we seem?"

"I gathered your company is some kind of halfarsed con-job and William Lane was considering outing you, if that's what you're fucking referring to."

"Yes."

"As if I didn't know it was all bullshit as soon as I heard the name Social Awesome. Was that why you were arrested? Someone pass that on to the cops, did they?"

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