This story is designed to stand alone, and there is no necessity to read the first two stories in the sequence of stories, but if you would like to, you can read THE CHRISTENING and FLYING PIZZA, here and here.
“This is a very detailed CV. You do realise that you are applying for the job of a pizza delivery driver?”
“Yes, I do. I just thought that you deserved the ‘full picture’. I thought you might like to know who I am. Obviously, I haven’t put everything in there, it would take years to read everything,” said the tall young man with the chrome helmet under his arm. He hoped that the pizza shop owner would not ask about the nine-month employment time gap.
“Do you have a car?”
“Can you handle multiple deliveries on a pushbike?”
“Yes, sir. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
Mike, the pizza shop owner, looked at the young man and marvelled at how long a long time seemed to the young.
Mike used to work ‘nine to five’ in an office in the city. Five days a week, home by seven, dinner and a few drinks, fall asleep in front of the telly. Rinse, repeat, with a bit of alcohol oblivion on the weekends. Rinse, repeat.
It didn’t feel like it at the time, but when the racks in the storage room collapsed and crushed Mike, it was the making of him.
Mike’s union (he was the only paid-up member in the office) went to bat for him and got him a huge settlement — including pain and suffering.
Part of the deal was that Mike would not come back to the office, which was okay with Mike.
It was never his dream, but when the local pizza shop went under (the third time a pizza shop had folded at that location), he took out a lease, which included all the fixtures and fitting.
Why Mike thought he could succeed where so many others had failed, was never explained.
Mike decided that the personal touch was required, so he obtained a list of all the property owners in the area — it was a long list. He personally invited each homeowner to sample his wares — handwritten invitations.
Mike remembered names and faces, and so his business grew — quite a bit faster than he initially thought.
Home deliveries were a must for a pizza shop to thrive. Mike’s delivery drivers were loyal and hard workers.
“The job doesn’t pay much, but our customers are generous tippers if you deliver promptly. I’ll give you a week’s trial — okay with you?”
“Yes, sir. Okay with me.”
For some reason (Mike had not been sleeping well lately) Mike didn’t notice the wings stuck to the young man’s leather jacket until he turned to walk away.
Nice gimmick, he thought. The customers will love it.
Christopher Dawson (he liked to be called Raphael) had taken the last nine months off work. His previous job working for Fallen Angel Pizza had ended badly.
He was, in effect, hiding out. Two potent forces were looking for him. One force was the state police, which wasn’t as big a problem as you might think. If needs be, Raphael could deal with that problem.
The other force was the one that worried him.
Like all good, well-structured stories, Raphael’s life had always had a subplot — sometimes more than one.
In reality, the subplots were the central narrative of his life. His role as a pizza delivery driver was a cover, as the spy world would have it.
Raphael wasn’t a James Bond, he was more of a Simon Templar. Damsels in distress were his forte.
In the old days, the name and address of a woman in danger would be delivered to him, and he would do his best to save her.
Free will was his biggest enemy. He could not force anyone to leave a dangerous environment. In fact, he wasn’t allowed to.
Raphael didn’t mind these restrictions — they added an impressive ‘degree of difficulty’ to what could have become a tedious job.
All this changed when a customer of Fallen Angel Pizza was murdered by her live-in lover.
This was one death too many for Raphael. He thought he had more time to convince her to leave. He was wrong.
What Raphael did next meant that he was now on his own — no support, no new names and addresses.
He was a little surprised that they hadn’t come for him. It would have been better if they had. Being cast adrift was infinitely worse.
Raphael had spent the last nine months living in an abandoned cottage by the ocean, waiting for a knock on the door.
When the knock didn’t come, he left his comfortable hideaway and decided to reenter his old life, albeit without his usual supports.
How hard can it be to find a woman who needs help? He thought.
His chrome helmet, with the wings riveted to the side, was gathering dust on a shelf near the front door. It glinted in the light every time he walked it. His bike was in the shed at the side of the house. The old wooden doors were no match for a determined thief, but when he went out to look at his reliable steed, it was just where he’d left it. A tiny spider had built repeated webs on the frame. There were new rust spots and a lot of dust, all of which was quickly repaired.
Raphael wheeled his bike out into the light and got to work.
Raphael’s trial week went by uneventfully. His new boss never officially told him he was employed, but Raphael knew he had a new home.
By week three, he noticed that many of the delivery dockets had his name scribbled on them. He overheard the girl who took the orders, “Raphael is very busy, if you want him to deliver your pizza, it will take a bit longer — okay then as long as you understand.”
By week five, Raphael was beginning to doubt his initial confidence about finding a ‘damsel’.
One delivery address kept popping up, but the door was always answered by a male. He was gruff but always tipped. Not generously, but tipped nonetheless.
These deliveries always left Raphael feeling uneasy.
The man who took delivery always had a beer in his hand, but so what? Lots of people drink beer after work and pizza seems to demand either red wine or beer.
The uncertainty of not knowing where to look was playing on Raphael’s confidence.
On dark days he considered going back to hiding out at the oceanside cottage. It was full of books, and there was enough wood in the shed to last several winters. He never needed to go out. Maybe he could write his memoirs?
The dark days passed, as they always do, and Raphael settled into a routine. He liked his boss and enjoyed his regular customers.
He was becoming quite a celebrity in his community. People would toot their horn when they saw him zooming along on his bike — chrome winged helmet, leather jacket (in all weathers) and pristine white wings fluttering in the breeze.
Raphael’s instinct about the ‘beer in hand’ customer, was spot on.
When a human interest article appeared in the local paper, it got picked up by the national daily.
Page five had an article about a seaside town with an unusual pizza delivery rider. The report had an action shot of Raphael riding his bike — gleaming helmet, wings and all.
“I think our murder suspect has surfaced Inspector,” said Sergeant Wilson holding a copy of the newspaper that someone had left in the lunchroom.
“Get your coat, Sergeant. It gets cold down by the ocean at this time of the year,” said Inspector McBride.