Nina’s face disappeared on the screen of the videophone. I was left looking at the dancing pole. The topless dancer had gone.
Nina’ asked a question. “Just how long were you thinking this short Iceland trip, which isn’t in the EU, if I recall correctly, might last? Just so I know what to pack for, you understand.”
“Oh, sure..Sure..Well…I don’t really know..Maybe..Forever?”
She let the silence draw long. To the point that I couldn’t tell what she might be about to reply. Then suddenly, she said, “Okay. Good. See you in a few hours. Joe.”
There’s a relief. I didn’t want to spend a couple of years in an ice cave by myself.
“Okay Nina. I will.” I was about to end the call when she appeared in front of the Vid’Screen. I could see the trace of water on her eyelashes. Tears. Laughter or sadness, I did not know.
“You wouldn’t think of standing me up now, Joe, would you?”
“Hey! No chance. I’ll see you soon. A guy would have to be either held captive or dead to stand you up Nina.”
She just nodded. And cut the Vid’Screen line.
Which was just as well.
Because in an hour from now I might be either one,
Ch 67 – Contingency planning.
No one had seemed very interested in my phone calls. Only the security officer who was there to stop anyone without authority to do so, from coming in here. And also to stop any of us leaving here, without someone very senior’s authority.
I scanned the room. Bixby was still talking with what I thought was a lawyer. She was making a lot of notes as he spoke. Writing furiously on a pad. Flipping the pages rapidly as he answered her questions. A question a page it seemed to be, from this distance.
An older man sat off to the side of them. He was probably mid fifties. Dressed far more casually than her, serious, charcoal grey business suit.
He wore tan coloured cord trousers and what looked like a Ralph Lauren Polo sweater. He also wore a Kangol badged, sand coloured beret, over his short cut, greying hair. A pair of round, wire spectacles gave him the look of a writer, or an artist or maybe a communist revolutionary. As this was the BBC, he was probably all three. He wasn’t saying anything. Just listening intently. The fingertips of his hands lightly touching, making a pyramid in front of him. Nodding along, but seemingly more in thought than agreement, as the other two spoke. I thought he might be the director or the editor. Wanting to listen in to see what visuals he would need to obtain.
And to study Lord Bixby as he told his story. So he would know roughly where the dramatic moments would fall as the interview progressed.
Vanessa was still sat in her part of the work area, that was just behind me. She was watching a Vid’Screen in the arm rest of the chair. One that flicked randomly through the studios here in BBC Ealing. It had been watching Question Time before. Then switched to the Newsnight studio, which was just setting up. It jumped from that to an editing suite. Showing the people working on their computers and editing screens.
Making the cuts and changes to a programme that was in post production.
I recognised the show. It was a popular daytime one. The editors were adding the opening monologue which had been recorded by the media’s preferred, and much in demand Historian, Dan Snow. The BBC had managed to snare him for yet another season, after long and difficult contract negotiations. Old man Starkey, and all his body of works, had long been consigned to the vault of un-presenters.
The familiar tone of Dan’s voice was being added over an opening long shot of a grand country house of Tudor vintage.
“Barnstaple Hall is a masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture and design. With its towering walls of glass. The famous glow of Blue slate stone and superb surrounding garden and parkland. It is a place of immense beauty and serial wonder.
Sir Samuel Hawkshead was the visionary force, and the money, behind the creation of this masterpiece, which was completed in 1598.
Built by skilled craftsman, using local blue veldt stone, under the instruction of Geoffrey Theoscott, master mason. The house was a mighty statement of new wealth. Political ambition and unashamed showmanship.
However. As it was financed from gold obtained from the sale of the sweet drug sugar. Obtained from the cane fields of the Caribbean. Where black African slaves were forced to toil for their white masters. So it is a fitting target for this week’s….!!
“Stately Homes under the Hammers”
One of the editors, cut the speech there. Another on a different screen ran the familiar opening titles of the show. A mass of young students, all with sledgehammers.
Running with a roar in from each side of the screen. Heading up the long pathway that led towards the focal point of the picture. The imposing low stone walled garden and the large, solid wooden door of the main house.
The BBC has said this might be the last series. Not because they weren’t willing to funnel more cash into the Snow industry’s bank accounts. But because there weren’t very many historic buildings remaining to be demolished.
When they had dynamited Highclere Castle, popularly known as Downton Abbey, in a Christmas special, it had had a worldwide audience in the hundred millions.
I scratched at the large scab that had formed on my ear. Then I stood and went over to Lady Vanessa.
She looked up from her screen as I rested the back of my legs against the desk she was seated at and I half sat there, facing her. She stared up at me with her wide, innocent looking, blue eyes. That were anything but. She was waiting for me say something. Instead I held out a hand and showed her the blood on the index finger.
“Oh!” she exclaimed? “Is that yours?”
“Yeah! I make it a rule to never shoot anyone else before midday. So it must be mine.”
It was a poor attempt to lighten the mood between us. But It was a stupid thing to say that just left her confused and cautious. I clarified it all for her.
“Do you have a tissue, or something?”
“Of course, Joe!” She reached down and lifted her handbag onto the desk. Began rummaging through the labyrinth of the interior.
She really was very easy to misdirect. She wasn’t used to the sort of subterfuge that were common skills I used all the time in my line of work. As I was using now.
There were stacks of serviettes, clearly visible, over by the coffee area. I could have got one from there on my own. Without need to bother her for one.
Perhaps she knew I wanted to ask her something. But didn’t want to come straight out with it. Or she was simply too well mannered to ask why I hadn’t fetched one myself.
I’d noticed that about her before. That well brought up manner she had. It would get her into trouble, one day.
Had already. She was in trouble now. A lot of trouble. Which was why I had half sat on the desk beside her. To ask her about it. At this final moment.
She handed me a white paper lipstick tissue from a pack and I thanked her. I folded it into smaller squares and used it to dab at my ear.
I saw her grimace as my hand moved the hair over the ear and left the wound visible.
“Does it hurt very much?” she asked gently.
“Only when I listen.”
I dabbed on for a bit and she watched. Eventually asking, “Would you like me to fetch someone? The BBC must have a nurse here, at the very least.”
“No, I’m fine. It just started up again, is all.”
It had started up as I’d worked the scab until it had bled enough to blood moisten my fingertips.
“Your voice still sounds very deep. Throaty. It’s actually quite sexy. In a Chris Hemsworth meets Kathleen Turner, kind of way,” she told me. “You should cultivate for the telephone. Would improve the services you dial, I’m sure.”
She smiled. But it wasn’t bright. She was too nervous. We were all about to go into the BBC studios to tell a tall tale. Her husband and she were instrumental in a plot to discredit Leave. A plot that implicated me in a fictitious murder. Whilst, most probably, another, real murder had taken place, under instructions from Sir Alan Stuart. Some vagrant crunched up inside an industrial compactor.
I’d had two attempts on my life in the last twenty four hours. She knew that one wrong word and she’d be facing a long trial, and possible imprisonment as an accessory. Her career would be over. Her husband, faced even graver charges.
And even if everyone believed everything she said, there was still a good chance her luxury, pampered, enjoyable life was over. And she’d be in hiding from the furious mobs of angry lefties, for helping to damage ReJoin.
Neither prospect was very appealing.
So I asked her. What I’d come over to ask her.
I shifted the bloodied handkerchief over my lips as I spoke.
“Why did you do it?” I whispered. “What on earth made you get involved in such a scheme?” I didn’t say anything more, out loud. This was hardly a secure area. This was the BBC’s waiting area for it’s most investigative programmes.
She didn’t answer for a while. Just sat there. Looking at me. The fingers of one hand tapping against the mouse mat.
Eventually she said, “Marmon..”
But I held up a finger to stop her. I opened her bag and saw the pack of make-up tissues on top of her gloves. I took one out and handed it to her.
“Wipe your lips as you talk,” I explained. “To disguise any speech recording.”
She put the paper up to her small mouth and continued on. The alarm still in her eyes.
I realised today hadn’t been a whole lot of fun for her either. What with me turning up. And the police and the others.
“Marmon. He had arranged it. With Sir Alan. I swear Joe. I didn’t know anything about it!”
Her voice had risen and I made a shushing sound from behind my mask of paper, until she lowered it.
I doubted we were being recorded. The BBC was very ‘rights conscious.’ But the CCTV set up they had here was quite capable of picking up speech and recording mouth movements. Best to be safe. I told her to continue.
“Marmon had been meeting with Sir Alan. I knew that. They had known each other since Marmon’s first days with Remain. Sir Alan is very influential. Everyone knows that.
I knew Marmon’s illness was getting worse. But he was still fully capable. He could write his speeches and his articles. And even when he became a little jumbled in his column..Well..it was The Guardian. So they are used to muddled thinking and nonsensical argument. No one noticed anything out of the ordinary.”
Her own journalistic ability had first spotted his errors in print. She was herself an editor. Comments such as ‘Millions die each year from Brexit related shortages of toilet rolls,’ would have made her professional brain wonder at the accuracy of his writings. Though, perhaps not. They were ReJoiners. They often reported as fact any old cobblers. As long if it was anti-Leave.
She had let the tissue fall. She really wasn’t very good at this clandestine business. I took it from her hand and pretended to dab the corners of her mouth.
“Oh Joe..I can’t explain it all. I mean..I had a vague feeling something was..not quite.
Not quite as it should be. But I really didn’t know. I wasn’t told anything.
When Marmon went missing, I was told to seek out yourself.”
“Who told you?” Dabbing the corners. She had on a pale pink lipstick that was coming away on the paper. Dawn Ghost.
I could see the label on the stick, in a pocket of her bag.
“Sir Alan told me. He had come over to ours. Said he had a meeting arranged with Marmon. But Marmon never showed up. And that he hadn’t attended the previous meeting either. I thought that’s where he was. At The Reform Club. He often stayed there. It was not unusual for him to be missing for two days. He usually called. Or I would call him on his mobile. But sometimes..Well, lately anyway. He forgot. And I had a big edition to do for the magazine. So I just. Well, I didn’t notice he was gone.
Does that sound so awful?”
It did. To me any way. But I’m not my brother’s keeper. Or even my sister’s. I knew the two of them had a strange relationship. A little removed from the everyday suburban cul-de-sac. He might stay away often. So might she. She might not have noticed him not being at home, because she hadn’t been there either.
“He didn’t answer his calls,” she continued. “And his tracker only showed up the Medi-Doc in his bathroom. I said to Alan that we needed to call the emergency services at once. Because of Marmon’s illness. But..oh Joe..I’m so foolish. You know how persuasive he is.”
She blinked rapidly as the first tears formed in her eyes. As I knew they would.
“Alan said that if anything bad had happened. Then the police would have alerted me already. That it was more likely Marmon was with some of his..his…other people.
Staying over perhaps.”
She suddenly looked up at me. Eyes searching mine. She had probably guessed I suspected he was a homosexual. Quickly she explained.
“It’s not what you think. It’s not a sexual thing. Not with him. He has friends. He.. He
..Well..he keeps them separate from me. I don’t know them. Not any of them. I never wanted too. Its..He’s ..Oh Joe!”
She decided to just blurt it out. Rip the band aid off quickly to shorten the pain.
“..He’s a Throner. That’s all. That’s all it is. He’s an Old GOT.”
It didn’t register at first. But then I understood.
I’d heard about them, of course. The privileged.
The Have GOTs.
Game of Thrones.
So, he was a Throner.
Lots of people in politics were Throners. There were whole societies for them. The intrigue and the power attracted them. And, of course, the fantasy element.
Most people kept it secret. That was also part of the attraction. It wasn’t easy to join the most popular societies. You had to be nominated. Had to be initiated. The membership fees were pretty substantial in the most favoured groups too.
There were all different sorts of Throners.
Some just played boardgames or video games. Others were into the whole reenactment ideal. Bedchambers and Bondage. Kingdoms and Kinkiness. Pikes and Princesses.
A change from nurses outfits and gimp masks. No real harm in it.
Though we had all heard of the homicide investigation the Met had set up a while back.
Supposedly some Throner MP’s had formed an ultra secret society. Only the most senior in their field could ever be members. Judges. Politicians. Vice Chancellors.
Bankers. Financiers. Royalty. Clerical. Celebrity.
The metropolitan police had heard a confession. The story was a society initiate had come to them. Come to them with a story of depravity. Perversion and murder.
Their ‘source.’ This initiate, had said that another novice recruit had told him in confidence, that they knew personally, of someone else. Who had revealed, or threatened to reveal, something that would hugely embarrass this particularly secret group of ThroneMasons.
So the Throners had burned her alive using a giant, brass, Dragon Head.
The Met were convinced they had uncovered a huge conspiracy and a secret society.
We, over at The Department, didn’t believe a word of it. Sounded to us like just another James O’Brien fantasy.
We already knew that some of our people had been called up. And asked, quite discretely, if they could examine a certain ‘Bedchamber of purpose.’ Of some Lord of the House of something or other. To make sure it was fully Health and Safety compliant.
That the ‘traps’ wouldn’t do any real harm and the cuffs wouldn’t chafe.
Very decent of them, really. The whole place got a clean bill of health. Our people recognised it as just Ice Maiden fantasy camp. For the very rich and powerful. That was all.
But The Met had asked for any witnesses to this supposed murder. That had immediately meant the papers were suddenly full of Swords and Sodomy stories.
Plenty came forward. Hearsay and conjecture were printed as fact. With just a few ‘could have.’ ‘Might have.’ ‘It was reported to us.’ and ‘If this was true, then,’ sprinkled throughout each lurid article.
That had, quite naturally, made anyone with any involvement in any of these Roleplaying groups, shut down and shut up.
Once the stories of perversion and deviancy, exaggerated for effect, were in the public domain, anyone who had belonged to one of these clubs, however innocent it may have been, would have had a huge stain on their reputation. It could potentially have been career ending for anyone’s reputation, if they had had even the slightest involvement in one of these groups.
The Police might conceivably put up a helicopter over their house at any moment. As the BBC camera crews rushed in searching for chain-mail and chastity belts.
Thinking back, I did now recall Lord Bixby had had a medieval sword in his office.
House Bixby perhaps?
“Alan said that if Marmon had had one of his illness fits. An ‘episode,’ while he was Throning. And he was discovered there. Then..It would all come out. That he was a role-player. One of the ..The robe wearing ones. I don’t really know what they do at those meets. I think he said he was some sort of Physik. A Doctor or potioneer or something.
But I know it’s harmless. And I didn’t mind. They enjoyed it. It was adult Harry Potter! Who was harmed? No One!”
She almost spat the last words. Infuriated at the injustice of it all. People poking about in your own, personal, private affairs. That were no concern of anyone else.
Welcome to our world, Vanessa. We feel like that every day. It should be no concern of your lot how many sugars I have in my tea. But you made laws, so that it is.
“Anyway,” she continued to explain, “He would be humiliated. Sir Alan said, for the good of ReJoin, that I should not use the authorities.” She shifted in her seat.
Dropped a hand onto her knee.
“The thing was, I had already made a tentative call to the police by then. To ask them about a missing person. They dismissed the enquiry, as you know. Sir Alan begged me not contact them again. To use a discreet, Private Investigator. One he could recommend.”
“He recommended me?” I asked her.
“Yes. Alan said to meet with you first. To see what I thought of you. He only advised that I tell you almost nothing about places Marmon might have been before he went missing. That you would find Marmon on your own.
He said you were formerly of The Department. And that was its own recommendation. He said not to tell you about Marmon’s ..activities..as, it was so very probable he would just turn up safe any minute. Alan said it was likely he’d simply got himself into a virtual difficulty with an Ice Lord or a ..a. .Hobbit..or a ..Dragon Witch or something. He’d be home soon enough. When they all realised how much time they’d all been playing. And then no-one would ever need to know about it.”
She reached into her bag for her cigarettes. She actually took the vapes out, before remembering where she was. At the health conscious BBC, and putting them away again.
I put a hand in her bag and searched for what I knew would be in there. A Lady wouldn’t be without them. I handed her the roll of mints. She took one and I also took one from the offered packet. Never hurts to have sweet breath. She dropped the packet back into her bag.
“So. Alan gave me your address. And showed me your web page. I read about you.
And then, I went along.”
A tear had slipped down one of her soft cheeks. I brushed it away for her.
“So when did you find out about what was actually going on? That Marmon wasn’t ‘Missing.’ He was hiding. And when did you find out about the attempt to swing the vote to ReJoin?”
Through a fake murder. A Jo Cox, public sympathy special. With the full wailing and weeping from the media. I had to admit, that despite all the inherent risks within it, it was still a very clever plan. That might just have worked. Might still work. If Lord Bixby decided he preferred ReJoin to Liberty. And began making up all kinds of plots and accusations in the interviews in just a few minutes time. He could be preparing to do that. He only needed three or four days for the vote to be done and into law. He could try and keep the plan going until then. If he was prepared for imprisonment when the real story all came out.
“It was after you left The Reform Club. I was going home. Sir Alan said he had something to tell me. But he wouldn’t say what. Said it was very grave. I thought he meant Marmon was injured or dead. Or in hospital. Something terrible had happened to him.
He wouldn’t say. So I drove home with him. And there, waiting at the door to greet me like a lost puppy, was Marmon.
I was overjoyed at first. That he was well and unharmed.. Then they told me what they had done. They told me the whole, awful thing.
Naturally I was horrified. I told them both how utterly foolish they had been. How much danger they had both put us all in.
Then there was great screaming match. I ..I can sometimes have a bit of a temper.”
She looked like I didn’t already know. She’d whacked me half a dozen times when she had been furious with me for punching out Sir Alan. I was doing her a favour with that.
She crossed her legs. Picked up a Biro and set it between her fingers. To feel the familiarity of the vape stick. She was missing the nicotine. Prison was going to be rough for her.
“Marmon was having a mini-fit,” she said, carrying on her tale. “I had to get him medicated. I knew that it was Sir Alan who was behind it all. That he’d used Marmon. And used Marmon’s illness, so that my poor husband couldn’t begin to see just what he had been getting himself into.
We all argued and fought. Alan trying to calm me. Marmon screaming that he had saved ReJoin. That he had ended Brexit.
Oh, Joe. I curse his JOBS. His James O’Brien Syndrome makes him such an easy to manipulate fool. He will believe almost anything he is told. As long as it is anti-Brexit. It is a well named disease.
I was just resolved with the pair of them. To at least warn you. But then the Vid’Screens started showing those tragic pictures of the basement. And all that blood.
The news said that Joe Malone was wanted for a suspected murder. At that point Sir Alan said we were all committed. If we stuck with it, then ReJoin would win the day.
And we would all be able to return to our lives as heroes. As soon as the vote was over. A few weeks at maximum. Then Marmon could reappear.
I just had to play the grieving widow for a few days. Talk up my poor, murdered husband’s desire for ReJoin. Set up a foundation to support the ideals he had believed in all his life.”
She looked directly at me now. A tear had fallen onto her white jacket and made a dark, wet stain. BBC wardrobe wouldn’t like that. Not easy to conceal on a white jacket.
“I did ask what would happen when you handed yourself in. What you would say. Sir Alan said that he had carefully chosen you. Because he didn’t want you to surface.
He wanted you to keep running, and disappear. He said once Marmon was ‘discovered’ in some NHS ward, with acute memory loss, then it would become obvious you were not a killer. And you could resurface. And he’d pay you to make sure you hadn’t suffered too much inconvenience.”
She bit her bottom lip as she said that. Realising I had been almost killed when I had gone down the steps to the basement to find the crushed body wearing Bixby’s watch.
“I’m sorry Joe. That was insensitive. I meant only..”
“That you’d have made sure to buy my silence.”
“Because it just seemed better that way. We were already committed. By the body in the basement. I thought it would be better to just continue on. That we’d all have a better chance by going along with the ruse to its conclusion.”
I let her pause. She would need eye-liner now. Luckily they had world class facilities right here on the premises.
“Though,” I said to Vanessa, “You changed your mind. When I appeared. At your house. You sided with me. Over Sir Alan. That’s why we are all here now.”
“What?” She seemed confused. It was a pretty simple question, I thought. A different BBC lawyer had come in. Was talking with Bixby again. The Editor/director was still there. hadn’t moved. Seemed transfixed by Bixby’s tale of tragedy. Could see an award for outstanding journalism if he pitched this correctly.
We would be going to interviews soon.
“Why did you side with me. Over Sir Alan Stuart?” I asked again.
“Oh..Well..You said you thought Sir Alan might be going to kill Marmon. To better help ReJoin. Marmon stays dead. You stay the killer. I’m a poor widow. I thought that …unappealing?”
“You thought you’d go against him? Defy his plans. Even though you knew what Sir Alan was capable of? What he was really capable of? Murder?”
“I didn’t know. Still don’t know, in fact. If he could really be a killer. It was just, a possibility I didn’t want to discover.”
I frowned at her. What did she mean she didn’t know if he could really be a killer?
“You do know.” I told her. Just putting my hand over my lips now. The tissue had fallen to bits, I had got it too wet and bloody.
“I do know what?” She asked me.
“You do know that Sir Alan is a cold bloodied killer. He tried to have me murdered by the police at the scene.”
She half smiled at me. At my silliness. “That wasn’t Alan, Joe. That was a lone wolf police officer. Gun happy. An accident, perhaps.”
I shifted so she was having to look into my eyes.
“And the security guard here.?” I enquired. “The one who was kneeling on my throat? What do you think that was. Who do you think was behind that?”
She looked genuinely surprised. She had no idea what I was talking about. He soft brow creased in puzzled wrinkles as she asked, “Behind what?”
“The assassination attempt. What else!” I wondered if perhaps she’d taken one of Bixby’s JoBBy pills. Made her suddenly as stupid as a Liberal Democrat Councillor.
“What are you talking about?” she asked.
“That security Guard, in the Lobby. Tyler. He almost killed me. I’m surprised you have forgotten. Seeing as it was you throwing things at him to get him off me.
Thanks by the way. You saved my life.”
I probably should have thanked her earlier. That would have been the proper etiquette.
“Joe,” she said. Still the surprise in her voice and the confusion in her eyes. “That was an accident. That guard just reacted badly to the alarm. He thought you were a terrorist. He was just trying to pin you down so you couldn’t detonate a suicide vest.
He wasn’t properly trained. That was all. No one was deliberately trying to murder you.”
Then her eyes suddenly widened. The pale blue of them flashing in realisation and her red lips widening in a surprised ‘O’ as it dawned on her. Forgetting to cover her mouth she just asked,
“You don’t think..I mean..” she looked around. Checking for lurking figures maybe?
“Do you think..That that man was attacking you…On purpose?”
The innocence was so wide in her eyes that I laughed a little. That turned into a proper deep belly laugh as she looked around the room again. For Ninja assassins.
“What’s so funny?” she asked. Which made me laugh harder and loud enough, for even the partially deaf Lord Bixby, and his lawyers, to turn to look over to us.
I think that was the moment that I forgave Vanessa Bixby any lingering malice I might have held for her. For what she had put me through. He childish frown and total lack of awareness of what the Hell had been going on, left me sure enough that she had been telling the truth. Or as near enough a version of it as would do. I laughed again, hard enough to make my bruised ribs ache. I could see her unsure of whether or not to move away from me.
“Lady Bixby,” I said. “Thank you.”
“For what?” She asked. Now more surprised than ever.
“For what you are about to do for me.”
“What’s that?” she whispered it. Still very uncertain about the sudden laughter at such a confessional time for her. I think I may have spoiled a moment.
I didn’t answer her. Asked instead, “May I please have another mint?”
Before she could reach into the bag, I put my own hand in and picked out the roll of mints. But then I fumbled them, dropping them back into the bag. I let out a small moan through gritted teeth.
“Just my arm.” I explained to the suddenly even more worried faced Vanessa. The muscles were taut and my fist had become tightly clenched.
“It’s going to need a long time resting before I can fully use it again.” I reached into the bag with my other good hand and fished back out the mints. I fumbled them. Got one onto the end, clear of the foil. Ready to flick one out of the pack into my mouth.
Like in that old Tic Tac advert, that that Puffin made back in the day. But when I tried that cool trick, the mint just fell on the floor.
“Here,” she said. Taking the pack from my hand and pushing a round mint out. She smiled as she dropped it into the open palm of my good hand. Being motherly. She had been like this with her husband. She made a good nurse.
I stood up from the edge of the desk and walked over to where Bixby was still talking with the lawyer looking person. As I got near a Production Assistant came into the room. She searched out Marmon. “About Five minutes, Lord Bixby.” She saw Vanessa seated in the office area. “About Five minutes, Lady Bixby.”
She looked at me. “Around Five minutes, sir.” And she left. Couldn’t remember my name. And she had no I-board to tell her. My fame was fading already.
I forgot about talking to Bixby for a moment and instead went over to the coffee area.
Stood in front of the table facing the silver urns and china cups. My back to the rest of the room. More importantly, the CCTV was just above and behind me. From this angle it wouldn’t be able to see that I had my clenched fists down on the table top, in front of me.
I opened them both.
One contained Lady Vanessa Bixby’s extra strong mint. Which I expertly flicked up and caught in my mouth.
The other, held Lady Bixby’s E-tags that I had lifted from her handbag a moment ago. The thin, hard plastic, electronic strip, that she had used for opening and starting her Mercedes Sportz.
A voice came from the doorway.
“Three minutes everyone. Have a last drink. We’ll be moving to studio, very soon.”
The PA again. The original Earphones lady. The other “Five minutes girl” had been wrong on the time.
I put the tags into my trouser pocket. Pushing them down deep. Picking up a handful of serviettes from the food bar and pushing them down after the tags. So they wouldn’t fly out of my pocket if I decided to forget about this broadcast.
And decided to make a run for it instead.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file