The Footstep Thief

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Chapter 11

For a while time lay forgotten. I busied myself on those tasks left behind by hands which flee with the coming of night. Somehow I managed to block from my mind all traces of the past week; the presence of Dom, the fact my bag had become a safe house for someone else’s research, every annoyance with the pristine Bradley and his clipboard. Gillian and her cruel game with her photos of a happiness I could never share failed to haunt me, as did my complete inability to make any headway on Dave’s rock puzzle. I managed to block out the complete fizzle of my life, ignoring how for as long as I could remember I’d achieved exactly nothing. The void stretched back far before Dave died. Even all thoughts of Jason had fled my empty mind.

It took both thunder and lightning to evict me from my depths. Somewhere around that time when tonight becomes tomorrow, sheets of lightening spread across the entire sky. Eventually a faint rumble made it to where I sat, but it took even longer for the soft rain to fall and dress the windows. This had been a week for storms, each one washing away a little more of Summer so Autumn could make her grand entrance.

I rubbed my eyes as the sky lurched from night to daylight and back again. My sleep had been so fractured during the day that each blink sent an ache stretching behind my eyeballs and into my brain, fading if – and only if – I kept my eyes closed. My head felt full of mud.

Beeps and buzzes filled the night around me, and the walls groaned in the dark. Only at my desk did I allow a soft arc of light. As the storm drifted softly over the building then faded away, I returned to mindlessly punching numbers into the computer, quietly thanking the gods for a job demanding no more thought from me than from an automaton. Even a fembot made more decisions than I did each night.

I’d learnt - not in those heady first days but definitely before the end of the first term - how universities were no longer designed for intellectual stimulus; not while studying there, and not now while working at one. So many things filled the university grounds: shops, colleges, bars, restaurants, lecture theatres. Every building had its own corridors leading to its own strange little rooms, or a stairwell shooting the unwary into the outside world in a totally unexpected spot. The mazes peppering these places proved infinite for, I’m sure, they kept changing. Wending my way back to my car along a different route of a morning, I was never quite sure if the next turn would deliver me to an empty courtyard or a quadrangle packed with students, even if I’d passed this way before. Maybe today I’d discover a hairdresser, or a bookshop, or perhaps even somewhere popular with those who sat in the sun with a cappuccino or soy latte while skipping lectures. I’d even found a cloister with a tower (complete with a fake bell, the peeling coming from a faithful recording). I passed shops for groceries and others for stationary; clothes shops, gyms, labs full of animals and greenhouses with strange crops.

Yet nowhere did I find a place reserved for thinking. As a rule, students simply absorbed whatever was thrust down before them, ready to regurgitate on demand. And – unspoken but soon learnt by all ­– never criticise the teaching. My year had done that, once, during a biochemistry class where the lecturer spoke and covered the three blackboards with formulae and equations with such rapidity that you either listened, or wrote; to do both defied Newtonian physics. Amongst my friends we’d assigned ourselves blackboards, dedicated to copying down everything written on them then sharing our notes so nothing would be missed. If we were lucky, understanding might come later; at worst, simple memory with repetition of the correct words in the correct order at the appropriate time. Yet when someone foolishly asked the lecturer to slow down for they hadn’t finished, he simply slid two of the boards out of view. The murmur of discontent which swept the room (augmented with some colourful language and the release of a few paper airplanes) led to a visit from the dean, sickened and ashamed by our childish behaviour.

Back at my alma mater and also here, in my new abode, many a stone lintel or stained glass window carried the inscription (in barely legible Roman script), cum laude - with honour. I was yet to find the words, in any dead language, that feeling entitled to honour or respect differs entirely to being honourable.

With the storm now a memory playing on the horizon, I sat with the light from my desk lamp playing across my hands. I half expected an unseen hand to fall from the darkness onto my shoulder. From one side of the room came the sound of mice spinning in their wheels (such a different noise to the rats scurrying through our roof back home). The lab creaked around me, as if one wall twitched here, then another shook itself in response. The more I sat, and listened, the more the sounds magnified to fill the darkness. As they filtered through my brain, I don’t know how I’d managed to sit here and ignore them not only for the past hours but for the past weeks. I’d never really noticed them before. Now each sound grasped at my attention, and without realising it my whole body tensed, waiting for the footstep in the empty corridor, followed by the laboured breathing as the heavy footsteps came ever closer. My only protection was the smell of paint still spewing forth from every black corner.

Plus, I could hear no ticking clock. In every horror movie – especially black and white horror movies - the ponderous ticking of a clock fills the emptiness before a loud footstep, or the creak of a door, could foretell impending doom.

The other ending, of course, to this slow creeping of relentless silence with its punctuations of hints and horrible possibilities was for two gunmen to burst through the door and explode into the room.

Down the corridor a door slammed. I shivered, suddenly cold. The sound carried no fear; only a slow, drawn-out creak, followed by a pause, then more creaking could unsettle me. Then would come the footsteps, followed by a pale face emerging from the darkness, complete with dark shadows beneath the eyes and cheekbones. I’d woven around me all the other elements of a horror classic: la femme tragique who has lost both family and lover, the return of her nemesis, a meddling friend, a ghost, even new characters who might become friends, or arch-villains, or heroes; a few more reels were needed to test their mettle and reveal their true character. Plus every shot was overlayed with an all-invasive sense of being watched, even judged. It increased with the minutes. Yet sitting here alone in the darkness, I felt nothing. That wall of ice which had shattered over me as Gillian announced my doom had not crushed but instead frozen me. I could no longer think, let alone feel. Not even fear.

For I had seen Dom, and everything had suddenly become a lot more complicated.

Fortunately, he hadn’t seen me. No one ever really noticed me. To Bradley I was but a soul to be saved, and Kayl – well, Kayl was a man who worked best with an audience. He’d chat to anyone foolish enough to work nights, and I just happened to be there. For Gillian I was but me a cog in her grand plan – was Dom somehow part of this? I doubted any of them understood just how glad I was to be invisible.

Ever since we were back at boarding school, Gillian’s life had swept around her with the exaggerated tragedies and triumphs of an opera diva. If a chorus of underlings died as she soaked up the floodlights, well, that was just part of the deal. After all, they’d had their few minutes of polite applause before the coming of the next act rendered them redundant. Besides, everyone knows the audience came for the magnificence of the main characters, not the insignificance of the small change Napoleon had once so readily spent on the battlefields of Europe.

So busy believing all the world jostled for illumination by the same spotlight, it never crossed Gillian’s mind some might prefer standing in the shadows. She remained ignorant to how people – such as myself – can walk here if not unseen, at least unnoticed, and should they so choose emerge on a completely different stage.

Standing in the shadows I could see what Gillian thought of me, what they all thought of me, for the words lay writ large on their faces. They despised me for feeling nothing. For showing nothing. For passing through the days as cold and as hard as all things despicable. I sat under my wall of ice, immutable, not even feeling my own hatred. Were I to let my thoughts, not to mention my emotions, enter the equation, I’d never balance it.

Dismissing my forebodings with a shake of my shoulders, I drained the remnants of a cold cup of tea. The same cold tea I’d been drinking for a year, while wearing the same clothes and watching the same movies.

Making my way through the stench of paint to the tea room, I took my Thai from the fridge and popped it in the microwave. Kayl’s offering I’d consumed on arrival, deciding Thai always tasted better when re-heated. As the bowl spun aimlessly inside the microwave I turned on my heel and headed back to my desk, thinking not so much of the wasted moments in my life, but the empty ones. At least the footsteps I left here were mine; no one would bother to steal them. Opening my bag, I pulled out my fresh mail and, after a moment or two of ferreting around, Steve’s USB. Pulling the Dean’s summons from its envelop, I replaced it with Steve’s missive, then resealed the envelope with a handy glue-stick.

Gathering up a few other bits of unwanted mail I hurried back to the tea- room, although all of the witching hours lay before me. My Thai still spun on its journey inside the microwave. I placed my pile of mail back in its pigeon hole and stepped back to judge my work. Just the right amount, I thought; a lone envelope would look too obvious, but too many might cause someone to ferret around to make some space when delivering new mail.

I flinched as the microwave sounded; the beeps were the exact pitch and frequency as the cardiac arrest alarm at the last hospital I’d worked, before Dave died. My stomach lurched at the sound, although it’d been over a year now since those days of rushing to what usually proved to be a stressful waste of time.

A big breath in, a big breath out; that was all so long ago. I took my snack out from the microwave. One thing about Thai food; it drowned out the smell of the paint. Lime and coriander and chilli accompanied me back to my desk, begging to be enjoyed before I should even think of returning to my work.

After satisfying myself with a few mouthfuls, I pulled Dave’s box across the desk and, opening it, looked at his collection yet again. Dave had put together such an eclectic assortment. Fool’s gold, a vial of saltpetre. Picking up a piece of amber I held it towards the desk lamp. Within the golden prison swam a gnat – or a terrifyingly large mosquito. I wondered about its true name. Mosquito maximus seemed unlikely. I needed to work out all these names – not that something so simple would give me the answer, but knowing them would be a starting point. I might even resort to Aunty Google, when I had the energy to wade through endless lists and pictures which never look like the real thing. But I should be able to whittle down the numbers first.

After another mouthful of curry, I picked up a stone I knew well. Limonite. I’d always loved the name. It came from the Greek for meadow. I loved the thought of something so common as to litter meadows and marshes could be used by the ancients not only for iron but also for the yellow ochre so beloved of the Cretans – or, should they roast it, more earthy colours such as red ochre or sienna. Names in themselves which bore the romance of faraway places.

Yet think as I might, eating my dinner all the while, I couldn’t work it out. The air-conditioning had so dried out my brain that the cogs of grey matter refused to spin. These stones and gems lying before me refused to fit into any pattern. I could see no reason for Jason being up here so recently, nor find even a simple answer to connect him with Gillian and Dom. Or even just Dom. I tried, but nothing came, not even an unbelievable conspiracy theory. Besides, I hated conspiracy theories, especially those involving people just not gifted enough to bring ridiculously convoluted plans to fruition.

What was it in the heavens up here? I hadn’t thought of Jason so much as I had these past weeks. His presence had wormed its way not only into my sleep but into so many of my waking thoughts. Running away had made everything worse. With a headache to add to my total boredom, I quailed just thinking about how I was going to get through the night.

Once more I stared at my watch. It’d been three hours since I’d thought of him.

Earlier in the evening I’d set up my laptop to one side of my desk, and now, dinner finished, I slipped in The African Queen to play out its story in the background as I returned to my numbers. Just as Hepburn and Bogart exchanged vows, and the German gunboat bore down on the sunken Queen, my pager beeped, jittering across the desk as it did so.

Just txtd Kayl 2 make u a java, Bradley, ran the message across the screen. How incredibly sweet of him, I thought, although the use of txtd as a past participle was dubious. From habit I looked at my wrist; my watch had finally clicked past three. Three am and I hadn’t left the lab, yet that magical hour lay beyond the half-way mark in my twelve hour shift, marking a time when all my hormones were either ebbing or flooding, leaving me feeling physically sick for simply being awake and trying to work. Still, I’d reached the turning point. One of the thrills of working twelve hour shifts was the way the start of a night could move so slowly, but it was now officially tomorrow, and soon dawn would come.

Putting Dave’s gems back in my bag, I left the lab without a second thought. What I was doing could so easily wait. They could always wait. Maybe I could write them on a scrap of paper.

Nambulite. The word came to me as I reached the door. That stone in the upper row of Dave’s collection was nambulite. A collector’s gem, from memory. No idea, though, of its meaning amongst all the other gems.

Neither creaking doors nor following footsteps haunted me en route to the hospital. No branches tapped against any window I passed. The only things of any potential were some scuff marks along the bottom of the walls, and worn-out carpet scraping against my feet.

In comparison to the lab and the other places I wandered of a night, the small hospital twinkled in the darkness. The railings along the wall were polished, and the lino floor, though old, was clean and free of dubious stains. Only the smell spoilt the effect. Stale air fresheners competed to mask the riper odours prevalent in any hospital.

Naturally I found Kayl with a hip resting on a desk, swinging his leg. A few of the other nurses had gathered beside him; indeed, a dozen or so had mustered near the desk. I didn’t realise so many worked here of a night. Not all seemed to be in uniform. On seeing me Kayl raised a languid hand, invitation enough for me to elbow my way through the throng. After shuffling along to make some room, Kayl pulled himself up to actually sit properly on the desk beside me, both his legs dangling. He seemed unable to keep them still. A few nurses more joined the fray; it seemed everyone had gathered to watch some guy struggle with a printer. Only on nights could changing paper become a spectator sport. I wondered if bets had been laid.

“What’s up?” I asked, wriggling a little to make myself more comfortable.

“Poor bugger’s been wrestling with the computer and printer now for over twenty minutes,” Kayl answered, checking his watch. “Of course, the intelligent thing to do would’ve been to call it quits and given up ages ago, but now just about the entire floor’s watching to see how long he’ll keep going. Plus a few have come from upstairs – they must be pretty bored. Anyway, the guy’s now gone beyond the point of giving up. If he stops now, think of all the time he’s wasted! Of course, we don’t really need any of it till daylight, but I think that is now beside the point. Coffee? Just got a text from Bradley that you’d be over.”

“Need you ask? Nice of Bradley to remind me, but what’s he doing awake at this hour?”

“Oh, silly, he’s not.” Kayl slithered off the desk. “He does the messages before he leaves work, then his computer sends them out at a pre-set time. Obviously, his computer’s not caught up in this kerfuffle.”

“That boy thinks of everything, doesn’t he,” I said. “Mind you, his timing proved impeccable. My head’s all a-fuzz. I’m half-way through some reports, and I simply can’t face them without caffeine.”

“Well, you just park your little butt here, and I’ll play mother.”

“Have to say, I’m impressed,” I added as Kayl walked away. “I’ve no idea how to do pre-programme to send a message.” The thought of Bradley sitting at his desk, pulling his clipboard to him to tick off each good deed for the day, came far too easily to mind.

“Neither did Bradley, till I showed him.”

My knight-errant of the coffee pot disappeared into a side room, and on an impulse I popped my feet onto a nearby chair and wiggled my toes. They felt hot and tired; if only I could take my off shoes and let them breathe. It dawned on me what I’d just said to Kayl, about needing caffeine. On my endless life of nights over the past year I’d drunk only ersatz rubbish, either from vending machines or paper sachets. I’d never taken the time to enjoy having something made for me, then sit filling the minutes with nothing-chat as I drank it. Such luxuries I’d never known. Come to think of it, I couldn’t really remember what I’d actually done in this past year, or the people I’d worked with. Only the emptiness of long corridors and vast rooms, and nothing inside me to fill them.

No one else spoke to me, although a few were chatting and joking amongst themselves. An authoritative voice suggested re-booting, some else mentioned stupidity and how re-booting had been tried a dozen times already, which then led to a flood of advice, all beginning with, “No, what you need is...”

We had become the audience to the great computer struggle. A woman paused on passing to join us. She was dressed like a cleaner, and carried a broom in one hand. After staring at the crowd for a moment she sat on the desk beside me. “You’re Sagittarian, aren’t you,” she said. It wasn’t really a question.

“Sorry?” I turned and looked properly at my new neighbour. I hadn’t seen her working here before. With a countenance weathered and wrinkled by too much sun and too many cigarettes, she looked frail enough for a falling mop to snap her frame in two.

“I can usually tell,” the woman said. “It’s obvious you’re an artist. The way you express yourself with your body.”

Too surprised to answer, I simply raised a surprised eyebrow; in return the woman gave me a smile of stained teeth.

“The way you dress, I mean,” she continued, almost simpering. “You use your body as a blank canvas.”

Without thinking, I shuffled a little way along the desk away from the woman. Her emaciated frame was reminiscent of TB, that romantic disease of flushed cheeks and delicate coughs into scented handkerchiefs. Chopin once covered the piano keys with blood while performing for royalty. I half expected the woman to kneel and kiss the hem of my jeans then loudly proclaim her scrofula cured ­– although that miracle remained the privilege of kings. Her yellowed fingers, however, suggested a more sinister disease fingering its way through her body.

My bones ached with cold, and I pulled my loyal cardigan tight as the ever-present mist of my thoughts swirled about me. Why couldn’t I think nice things about people, despite the proof of reality.

Kayl materialised with a couple of coffees. “Come along, Maggie,” he said. “Back to bed with you. It’s a bit late to be wandering around.” After putting both mugs down he took Maggie by the hand.

After first shooting Kayl a withering glance, Maggie surrendered and allowed herself to be led meekly away. Kayl reappeared a few moments later, and sat beside me on the desk, resting his feet on the chair beside mine.

“She’s a patient?” I asked. “I thought she was one of the cleaners. She wasn’t wearing pyjamas.”

Kayl smiled his lazy, lop-sided grin. “She never does. You need to watch out for her,” he added. “She’s a bit strange.”

“Like the rest of us are normal.” I took a sip of my coffee. The first sip was always the best. The sip long savoured, and so quickly gone.

Ingrid Bergman looked so elegant drinking coffee in Casablanca, thick Turkish coffee poured for her by that man who owned The Blue Parrot. Ingrid Bergman who wanted to stay with Rick but instead walked off with her husband into the rain as if it were the most natural thing in the world, as if she’d known this was how it would end all along – all the while elegantly dressed and beautifully poised. Never slouched into her seat, or standing round-shouldered for everyone to see. Somehow managing to travel across war-torn Europe with a string of hat-boxes and a collection of gloves in tow, as the world plunged into chaos and children starved.

Kayl smiled in reply and lent towards me. “I’ll tell you a secret,” he said. “That woman, Maggie. She’s Dom’s mother.”

“What?” I half slipped off the desk in my surprise.

He looked at my blank stare and grinned, before pulling some tissues from the box and dabbing at the spilt coffee on my shirt. “You have made a mess, darling. Maggie’s not his mother-mother, but his mother. His real mother. Not the woman who adopted him. His birth mother.” After handing me more tissues Kayl took a sip of his own coffee. “Knew I’d get there eventually.”

I kept staring at him. “I really don’t know what to say,” I finally said.

“Then don’t say anything,” Kayl answered. “Apparently she was a stunner in her youth. Which just goes to show how the drink and be merry type tend to end up drunk and alone.”

The two of us sat in silence as I wiped ineffectively at my stained shirt. Various thoughts bubbled through my brain, each one as thick and as heavy as petroleum. “Looks like no one’s in a hurry to get back to work,” I said after a while. My thoughts were definitely not working. Dom’s mother. Well, that at least explained why he was up here. No conspiracy theories there.

“Probably can’t. The wisdom of networking,” Kayl answered. “Which is why the guy’s down here. Apparently he’s been struggling with the computers somewhere else as well, all to no effect. Seems at least half the computers on the adjoining three floors are frozen.”

As I sipped my coffee, I listened to the ongoing suggestions from the various pundits, which had now degenerated into threats involving either an axe or a strong magnet.

“I’m sorry about Gillian,” Kayl said.

“What do you mean?”

“The way she barged in on you like that. The first hint you might be awake, and in she bolts in to torment you. Middle of bible study and all! If I hadn’t been in the kitchen I’d had stopped her. What a bitch.”

“Is that what Jesus would say?” I asked, grinning.

“Absolutely. How do you know her, anyway?”

“Oh, we went to school together. A long time ago.” I said nothing for a few moments. Kayl noticed more than I realised. I doubted Bradley had any idea Gillian ever left the lounge room. “I still don’t see the point of it,” I finally said. “I mean, why bother?”

“Why bother?” Kayl repeated, sounding almost astonished – a remarkable show of emotion, for him. “But that’s the whole point. To rub your nose in the fact she’d still friends with this wonderful Jason, and best buddies with his girl friend, and you’re not. Still, living your life through someone else’s photos is a bit pathetic.”

“You really don’t like her, do you,” I said, surprised he even cared.

“I just don’t trust her. Raising yourself up by grinding someone else underfoot isn’t the reason most people come to Bible Study.”

“What is?” I asked. “The reason people come?”

Kayl smiled. “To chase girls. Or boys. Whatever.”

I smiled in return. This was the Kayl I knew. “How’s the murder mystery going?” I asked.

“Well,” drawled Kayl, toying with his spoon, “I’ve given up on the Grey Nurse. So passé. But did you hear about all those desks that were stolen? I might be able to use that.”

“Stolen? What do you mean?” I stared over a few shoulders at the computer screen. It now showed a flat line; progress, but in the wrong direction. The repair man lay under the computer amidst a pile of cables.

“Didn’t you hear?” said Kayl as he ripped the top off some sugar and handed it to me – a bit late, considering my cup was half empty. “Over where those renovations are going on. A night or so ago some guys in came in and cleared out everything. Lots of people saw them, but naturally thought it all legit. Put the powers that be in quite a tizz.”

“Why on earth would you steal such old things?” I asked, remembering the men in their removal outfits rattling past me. Did that really happen on my first night this week? It seemed an eon ago.

“Simone over on Fifteen, well, she saw them at one stage, and thought nothing of it. Just thought Admin had arranged to have it done.” At this point Kayl hopped off the desk to start spinning in a newly vacated seat. “When she heard they’d been stolen, she went and told someone in senior management, only to be put through the wringer for not telling them sooner. Then it was passed higher up the line and poor Simone was hauled over the coals again for not ringing them in the middle of night to tell them. You can just imagine their response if she actually had.”

I just sipped my coffee, glad I hadn’t told anyone. I decided it best not to mention to Kayl I’d also been witness to the theft.

“Well,” drawled Kayl, “I was thinking that maybe one of those desks might have something in them. You know, some clue, or a secret from the past, a hint towards treasure, or a Nazi war crime, or something. Maybe a clue to the murderer’s identity. Who found it easier to steal all the desks, and then search them at his leisure. That way, no one would be suspicious. They’d just see it as a straight-forward robbery. I just need to decide what was in the desk.” Standing up, he lifted my feet from their resting spot on the chair, then sat down and rested my feet in his lap

“How about the clue’s hidden on one of the chairs instead?” I suggested, using my feet to give the seat a push to send Kayl spinning across the floor. “Everyone always goes for the desks.”

“Good point,” Kayl said, still spinning in circles as the two of us sipped our coffee. After a moment he looked at his watch. “Well, there goes a good thirty-five minutes wasted. Suppose I’d better get back to work. Hope you don’t have a heap of things to do.”

“I always do,” I said. “But, you know, I’ve decided that since the day team always leaves stuff for me, I suddenly have no qualms about leaving things for them.” I looked at my caffeine collaborator and grinned. “Only taken me a year for that flashing insight of wisdom.”

Kayl opened his mouth to answer but said nothing as the unknown hand finally fell on my shoulder. I turned and, like the Cheshire cat, the whistling Henryk had appeared beside me.

“I hate to interrupt,” Henryk said, “but I’ve popped a guy down in the treatment room. I found him wandering around outside – apparently he needs his blood taken.”

“Ooh, another drug trial victim!” Kayl said. He stood up. “Down in the treatment room you said? I’ll go and collect it. You just wait here a moment, Steph, and you can take it back to the lab.”

“Let me guess, a computer disaster,” Henryk said, surveying the gathering. “My bet’s on something almost trivial, and it’s taken down a whole system. Strange no one had thought to devise – or buy – something more efficient.”

“And let me guess,” I said, “the guy fixing it. A distant cousin?” Although Henryk’s hand had left my shoulder, I could still feel the strength of him. A strength lying hidden, unwilling to be disturbed.

Henryk merely smiled. “I don’t think so. But as all I can see of him is a pair of feet sticking out from under a desk, I can’t be too sure. I’d offer to help but I get the feeling he’s been inundated with more than enough suggestions.”

“I think you’d be killed should you try to suggest something, let alone fix the problem,” I said. Craning my neck, I looked over a few shoulders to see the computer screen was still blank.

I turned back but Henryk had gone, leaving only his Cheshire cat-grin.

This time I did jump.

“Ooh, Stephanie has a boyfriend,” purred Kayl in my ear, reappearing with a swathe of specimen bags in his hand.

“What?” I took the blood from him to try and hide my confusion. “Thanks for this, by the way. Wasn’t in the mood for jabbing anyone.”

“Not a problem. Besides, you look absolutely exhausted.”

I looked at the specimen bags in my hand. “Just how much blood did you take from the poor guy? And urine. You were very quick.”

“Oh, we had a few others in the fridge awaiting your leisure. Though they’d keep till morning, thought I may as well give them to you now. Seems half the patients here have been roped into some trial.” Kayl paused as he sat down next to me. “Now, who is he, by the way? The cleaner, I mean. I haven’t seen him around. Trust me, with a body like that, I’d have noticed.”

“Oh Kayl, why don’t you just shut up?” I drained the last of my coffee, although the cup was long empty.

“Don’t worry, darling, I won’t say a word.”

“There’s nothing to say a word about. I only met him a few days ago.”

“So why are you blushing? Besides, that’s never stopped me. But since you haven’t said anything about my ex, I’ll be true to my word. For once. But it’s going to be murder. So the minute something happens, you have to tell me.”

“Nothing’s going to happen,” I answered, reluctantly.

“Darling, you mightn’t have noticed, but I am a boy. Which means I know what boys want.” He smiled as he took my coffee cup from me. A smile which said different things to the whistling Henryk’s, but which also hung around long after Kayl had gone.

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