Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 215

I was all set to go to bed at a sensible time last night, and then Jam the cat came into the house with something in her mouth. She’s never really caught anything before, not that she’s carried in, anyway. A and I tried to shoo her outside, but she went upstairs instead, and dropped her present onto my bedroom floor. A frog, very much alive. A one-eyed cat catching a very hoppy frog in the dark is a bit of a miracle. Anyway, A and I managed to get Jam out of the room, and then set about how best to get the frog back outside – bearing in mind we’re both a bit squeamish when it comes to hopping animals (me more than her, and I am even more scared of birds than of hopping things). In the end, I managed to drop a small cardboard box over the frog, slip another piece of cardboard underneath, and carry it out into the garden and down to the shallow butler sink at the bottom of the garden, which I’d refilled the day before. The frog launched itself happily into its own personal swimming pool. By this time, A and I were sweating profusely, adrenaline levels somewhere near the ceiling. I went to bed, couldn’t get to sleep, got up again, and read, and ended up not getting to sleep till 2am. So much for the sensible bed-time.

And now I’ve run out of words. A tired mind and body do not lend themselves to being creative, obviously. The wheels grind slowly, and the fear of change doesn’t help in any of this. We have established patterns we find it very difficult to escape from. Life was never meant to be comfortable, but that’s no reason not to hope that it would be, will be, can be.

I am writing this in between doing other things. More important things. Day job. Thinking. Spreadsheets. Planning. Work and home. With a bit of luck, the work on the house will be finished by the end of next week, and then we can actually sort the place out (and there are thousands of books still in two of the garden sheds, and shelving waiting to go back up in the garage for things that need to live in there – and then the office will no longer resemble a bomb site). I need sleep for all that, though, so I have some energy.

When I started therapy four years ago, I was diagnosed, in the first session, with attachment anxiety. I have mostly overcome that (and the doubts that come with it). That attachment anxiety came from my childhood. That diagnosis changed my life and our marriage. And here, now, with M away, I realise again that what I feel right now is not attachment anxiety, but the sense that a part of me is missing. We have become such a great team, two grown-up people having grown-up conversations, and the empty space in our bed is vast, and it’s my best friend not being here and sharing comfortable silences or ridiculous giggles or getting on each other’s nerves. That’s what it is to be married. This whole all-encompassing thing, even 31 years down the line. I feel my soul reaching out to her, along that connection we have always had.

It’s taken me a whole working day to write this. Aggie is not happy.



Aggie leans back in her seat, puts her head on the headrest, and closes her eyes for a short moment, too short a moment, and takes a deep breath. She’s weary. She sighs. ‘There was one of Valentine’s stooges in there. In pieces.’ She shakes her head. ‘No surprise there. He doesn’t value them very much.’

‘And you’re just going to leave a body in my house?’ Katharina says.

‘What would you expect me to do?’

‘Let me clean up.’

‘We’ve got more important things to do.’ Aggie puts the car into gear, and reverses off the drive. ‘He was in what I assume is your room, Marit. Did you keep a laptop in there?’

‘Yes. Why?’ Marit’s voice has some of its cocky edge back.

‘It’s gone. The charger cable was there, though.’

‘So you think Valentine was there with his now dead henchman?’

‘I can’t think what else could have happened.’ The car is rolling down the hill now, on the way to the maze that has to be negotiated to get to Aggie’s house near the cathedral. ‘Unless there was just another robot with the unfortunate who had instructions to kill him as soon as they found what they wanted.’

‘How did they get in without breaking the door open?’ Marit says.

‘Valentine can get in anywhere he wants,’ Aggie says.

‘And we thought we were safe,’ Katharina says.

‘You were, until all this started,’ Aggie says. ‘What was on your laptop, Marit?’ She stops to let another car glide past, turns right and then right again, starts the ascent of the hill, up towards Mousehold Heath.

‘Emails, some old uni stiff, work stuff. Social media.’ She stops. ‘Emails to Mum. Shit.’

‘No point panicking,’ Katharina says. ‘You haven’t emailed her recently, have you?’

‘No,’ Marit says. ‘She hardly ever emails me anyway. And she’s never really told me what she’s doing, or where.’

‘Well, she wouldn’t, would she?’ Aggie says. ‘So there’s not really anything on there that would allow them to get at her, or to find out where she is right now.’

‘Not that I know of.’

‘Valentine’s getting desperate. He must think there’s something on there. More fool him. He’s over-reaching himself.’ At the top of the hill, she turns left. Hardly any traffic. At least that’s something, she thinks with a grim smile. ‘I just can’t quite work out if he’s Putin’s puppet, or if Putin is his pet.’

‘Does it matter?’ Lilibet says.

‘Not really,’ Aggie says. ‘The ultimate outcome may be the same. Although, if Valentine is pulling the strings, this won’t stop at Ukraine.’

‘Do you think Mum knows?’ Marit says. ‘Or is she chasing Valentine and Putin all at once.’

‘To kill both, you mean?’ Aggie says.

‘If that’s what she’s planning,’ Marit says. ‘I never know with her.’

Aggie sees the vision she had of Cassie behind Putin’s desk, and shudders. ‘Probably both,’ she says. The traffic lights are red, and she impatiently runs her fingers round the steering wheel. ‘But I’ve no idea how. It’s an impossibility.’

‘Unless she’s not doing that at all, but helping Valentine instead, and just leading us all a merry dance,’ Katharina says.

‘What makes you say that?’

‘Even as a child she had this tendency to do what was least expected of her. And sometimes just for the sake of it.’

‘Are you saying this is just a game for her?’ Aggie says.

‘It wouldn’t surprise me,’ Katharina says just as the lights turn green.


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