The taste of this morning’s espresso is still in my mouth, the empty cup still out there on the garden table. My mind went a long way back when I was enjoying it this morning.
Every now and again, I remember, when M and I first started seeing each other, when I was her boss, and we kept the relationship secret because I wasn’t meant to be “fraternising with the troops,” so, being in charge of tech as well as of a whole troop of translators and abstractors, I created a secret text file that I put in a secret place on the office network that only the two of us could access. This way, we passed messages to each other without anyone else knowing about it. This was in the days before email. Hard to imagine that such times existed. I must still have a printout of that file somewhere, and the file itself must be somewhere on one of the multitude of old hard disks I have sitting in a box (actually in boxes) here in the study. Maybe I’ll find it one of these days. Maybe I’ll look for it one of these days. I always imagine I will have time for such things when I retire, just like I think I’ll have time to go through all the photos in boxes and drawers and trunks we have, knowing full well that such a slack time will probably never arrive.
The thought of the file came to mind because, years after the text file became redundant, after we’d got married, I met L from the US, the bromance I described to you some weeks ago, L, whom along with his wife, M and I met up with in London in April after not having seen them for years. L and I agreed that we’d start Zooming every Friday, and I was convinced that yesterday would be the first such Zoom. I got it wrong, of course, and was sitting at my desk a full 5 minutes before the appointed time – and a full five minutes after it – until I double-checked my DMs and noticed they don’t start until next week. Like I messaged L after that, I read some things too quickly, despite there being a note on my study wall telling me to slow down and read attentively. Right next to the 8 Lessons Of Therapy which I still haven’t amended to the 9 Lessons Of Therapy. That’s how it goes in my life – my mind jumps and skips from one thing to the next because it can’t stay still for very long. That’s not always a bad thing, but it begs the question of what could have been were I focused. To be honest, though, that’s not even a question worth asking.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 96
‘What do you suggest then, old friend?’ Martin says. ‘Hypnotherapy for our dear Aggie here?’
‘Not beyond the realms of possibility, Robert says.
‘Never.’ Aggie crosses her arms. ‘Anyway, we need to get rid of the mess next door before we do anything else.’
‘Why haven’t the police arrived yet?’ Marit says.
‘Because no-one called them?’ Katharina says.
‘Because they’re in Valentine’s pocket, probably, already, somehow,’ Robert says.
‘That means no-one’s safe here,’ Aggie says. ‘You’ll all have to come back to Norwich with me.’
‘I don’t think so,’ Robert says. ‘I’m not leaving my house, nor the Minster. And I have some composing to do.’
‘Don’t you care about your life?’ Marit says.
Robert shrugs. ‘And anyway, this is where Cassie will come back to.’
‘If she comes back,’ Zav says.
‘Ever the optimist,’ Robert says. ‘Thanks for the reality check.’ He sighs, would probably slap his forehead if he were younger. ‘WE should stick to Plan A. Aggie goes back to Norwich.’
‘With him and me,’ Anna says.
‘If that’s what you want,’ Robert says. ‘The rest of us will stay here and see what happens.’
‘Sitting ducks for Valentine and the police and whatever other troops he’s amassed here,’ Marit says.
‘Not exactly sitting ducks,’ Martin says. ‘We do have an inkling as to how he operates. And we’re not the main targets…’
‘That’s why the guy was going to shoot you.’
‘I just happened to be the first one he caught sight of,’ Martin says, pushes the issue away. ‘You’re his target, Aggie, not any of the others. There must be things you know that you don’t know, if you get my drift. And he’ll be after Cassandra as well. If we split into groups his attention will be divided, and no matter how many other people he has at his disposal, he’ll not be able to fight on at least three fronts at the same time.’
‘How do you know that?’ Marit says.
‘He always micro-managed,’ Robert says. ‘Meticulously. And, however counter-intuitive it sounds, that’s how he managed to build up his empire. Piece by small piece. The ground always prepared and the battles rehearsed over and over. The mental games. Each word planned and executed to perfection. That’s what he’s always been like. There is nothing spontaneous ab0ut him.’
‘So him looking harassed and rushing into the house last night, grabbing a suitcase and stuff, that was all a charade, and he knew exactly what he was doing? I can’t believe that.’ Aggie’s pacing now. ‘And if it was just a calculated move in his game, what’s his planned outcome?’
‘Well, the bloke outside for one,’ Zav says. ‘He’s following us somehow.’
‘Or he’s just calculated all possible outcomes and is following them through,’ Anna says.
‘But then he’ll already have been back to Norwich, or one of his troops anyway,’ Aggie says. ‘No point going back.’
‘You forget that you’ve already eliminated a significant number of his people,’ Robert says. ‘You’re such a modest young thing. He will not have calculated that you’ve got Anna on your side now, nor that you’d be so successful at turning your young man there.’ He points at Zav.
‘He’s not mine,’ Aggie says, bridles at the very idea.
‘You know what I mean. It’s a manner of speech,’ Robert says. ‘Nor will he have counted on the fact that you don’t actually kill people. And will those you haven’t killed stay loyal to him, or will they run for the hills?’
‘They’ll probably be bloody smudges on those hills,’ Aggie says. ‘If they all have similar devices.’
‘Eliminated either way,’ Martin says. ‘Another positive.’
‘That’s callous,’ Aggie says.
‘Realistic,’ Martin says. ‘All we have to do is work out if there’s a link between him and your mentor.’
‘And to work out whose memories are real,’ Anna says. ‘Aggie’s or mine.’
‘Right,’ Robert says. ‘I’m tired. We need to get this mess sorted out, and the back to mine for a night cap.’
‘You lot go,’ Martin says. ‘I’ll get this sorted. I’m sure my specialist cleaners can be here in minutes.’