Last night, I went to bed thinking about Aggie and how things might progress from yesterday’s chapter. Interestingly enough, although I have, in the past, dreamed whole long chapters of books and transcribed them the next day, I fell asleep very quickly, and slept for an uninterrupted dreamless seven hours. That doesn’t happen often.
This morning, I am tempted to have a second espresso, before I’m on the radio at ten. I did have a double espresso when I met the children in London on Thursday, and my stomach protested. But I have fathomed the reason for this. On Wednesday evening, I ate too much rich food too quickly. The price of luxury, some might say. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree. My life is a conundrum, often, and I sometimes wish it was less so, because it would be nice not to have confusions littered around my veins and my brain.
I woke this morning thinking about how much smoke and mirrors doing the radio actually is. No-one can see what I’m doing when I speak, what I’m thinking when the music plays. No-one knows if what I’m saying is actually the truth. When I say I’m playing tracks from my vinyl LPs, I could actually be telling untruths, could just be playing songs I like but don’t actually own. That is not what I actually do. All the tunes I play on Saturdays, I actually own. I could pretend to be playing them from the actual vinyl, but I don’t. I do want to connect a turn table to the mixer at some point, but the study has already been taken over by so much broadcasting and IT gear that I’m doubtful it will ever happen. I need some tidiness in here, like I need in my brain. I can’t invent stories if there’s a mess around me or inside me. I used to think I wrote best if I had an internal conflict going on, but I’ve realised over the past few years that this is untrue, that it was merely a romantic illusion of how writers are (starving in a garret, drunk on red wine, burning the last piece of furniture to keep warm, scrawling on discarded paper found between window and window frames to stop the cold from coming into the room). All those distractions that kept me from writing good stuff in my youth. The middle ground is always the most fertile.
Our cats are deranged, to a greater or lesser extent. They queue at the French windows in the mornings when I come downstairs, and rush outside as soon as I open the door. There are two perfectly usable cat flaps, but they’re in the construction area right now. Once outside, one of them sprints to the bottom of the garden, where the shallow butler sink is (the frog sink as I call it) and drinks the dirty water in huge gulps, while the other doesn’t venture far but starts grazing the long grass that’s growing up between the paving stones, and then goes back inside and promptly regurgitates it all on the living room floor. Don’t ask me.
Another Saturday morning. Perhaps I will have that second espresso.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 90
‘Another lost soul like Cassandra was?’ Zav says.
Robert smiles, slowly, sadly. ‘Oh, no. I didn’t meet her till years later anyway. I was the lost soul crying out to be saved by here, and almost was.’
‘My poor boy,’ Martin says. ‘But she did save you.’ He nods at Marit. ‘And there’s the proof of it.’
Robert shakes his head whilst resting his hand on Marit’s right shoulder. ‘This lovely young woman, the spitting image of her mother, is only proof of how much I missed out on, not of how much I gained.’ He coughs. ‘Go back to your story, Martin, unless the assembled host is bored to death of it already.’
‘I don’t see how they could be bored,’ Martin says, looks at them all with the eyes of the trained and expert communicator, a quick grasping glance into their eyes. ‘I thought not,’ he says contentedly. ‘So I shall continue.’
Aggie sees it first. The glow on Martin’s white shirt. It blossoms into red in her mind. She grabs him, pulls him down under the table. ‘Down!’ she yells. A split second later there’s a crash and a plop as a bullet careens from nowhere through the window and smashes the glass of the picture behind where Martin was. They’re all under table now, Robert with his pork tenderloin in his hand, mustard sauce on his hand and around his face.
‘Waste not, want not,’ he says, and smiles maniacally at her.
They’re all under the table now. Aggie’s eyes, fast, take a snapshot of each. No red in real life. Another crash, another pop. Then silence.
‘The story wasn’t that bad,’ Martin says. ‘Outrageous.’ He brushes himself down, avoids the shards of glass behind him on the floor.
‘Is there a back way out of this place?’ Aggie says, blames herself for not checking it before they sat down.
‘Yes,’ Martin says. ‘We use it regularly when we stay later than we’re supposed to.’
‘Will they know?’
‘The guys in the trees out there?’ Robert says. ‘I don’t know. There’s no other option, though.’ He finishes the meat in his hand, wipes his hand and his face clean with the napkin, drops it onto the floor. My jacket and trousers will be a real mess after this. His hand reaches into his jacket, comes out with a gun. ‘Good job I’m prepared.’
Martin has a gun in his hand now, too. ‘No point having a gunfight at the front,’ he says. ‘We’d be sitting ducks. Damn that Valentine!’ He elbows Robert. ‘You should have let her kill him.’
Robert shrugs, takes a deep breath. ‘No point regretting it now.’
‘No,’ Aggie says. ‘Let’s deal with the present.’
‘I’m just glad we are the only ones here,’ Martin says. ‘Imagine the pandemonium otherwise.’
‘I’m surprised they’re prepared to draw so much attention to themselves,’ Martin says. ‘And how the hell am I meant to pay for a half-eaten dinner?’
‘They’ll just add it to your tab,’ Robert says.
‘Aren’t you just a little concerned about this?’ Marit says. ‘We’re in danger.’
‘Yes, yes, my dear,’ Martin says. ‘But it’s nothing we can’t cope with. We’ve done it before. That was going to be part of the story.’
‘This?’ Marit says.
‘No, no, you misunderstand me,’ Martin says. ‘We’ve had more gunfights in more corrals than you young people realise.’
‘Get to the back away from the windows,’ Aggie says. ‘No point trying to get out before we know exactly how many we’re up against.’
‘You mean there could be just one of them?’ Robert says.
‘Not impossible,’ Aggie says, starts crawling towards the bar which can’t be seen through the windows. ‘Come on.’
They crawl out from under the table. Another bullet embeds itself in the wall where they’d been sitting, through the pane shattered by the first shot.
‘Good work from whoever it is,’ Robert says.
Aggie grunts. They’re all behind the bar now. She gets to her feet. The place is deserted. ‘The staff must all be in the kitchen,’ she says. ‘Wait here, and I’ll go have a look see.’
‘You want to do this alone?’ Anna says, on her feet now, too, leans into Agie.
‘You can come with me if you want,’ Aggie says.
‘I want,’ Anna says. ‘I smell blood.’