Richard Pierce

Life

Day 254

Late to bed last night, too late, as usual, when A is working a late shift. I can’t get into the habit of going to bed as soon as she gets home (picked up by us, usually, because a cab would wipe out half her night’s earnings, and walking home is not an option). Late out of bed this morning as a result. Then discussion with Marty as to whether we on Radio Stradbroke should go back to normal programming or carry on with the loop of “respectful” music we’re playing right now (and have been since Thursday evening) or if we should start live broadcasts again but tone it down a bit (I’m guessing that applies particularly to me who plays very loud and disrespectful – to all and every one – music). As I write we still haven’t decided what to do. It’s a difficult balance, although out listenership of course is nowhere near that of national radio stations.

Then I tried to finish the job I’d started yesterday of clearing the garage, putting in at least halfway hardboard walls (Lord, that stuff is expensive although it’s cheaper than wood), seeing if Madge would start (which she did third time after M and I had spent half an hour trying to get the last of the four tyre valve caps off, and after M had spent an age very kindly washing her with water from one of the water butts), and taking her for a short spin. Then trying to get her into the garage – exhaust scraped on the concrete threshold, alarmingly so. So we pondered if we should mix up some of the spare cement and make the ramp into the garage longer and shallower. WE went for the more vicious approach – hacking bits off the concrete threshold. M took over from me fairly quickly, and it was quite frightening how much she enjoyed this job of destruction with heavy hammer (metal mallet, basically) and two chisels (one pointy and one sharp but with an edge). Hole in threshold done, Madge rolled into the garage with no problems.

And M managed to wash a load of clothes (I’m not allowed near the machine), bake two lemon breakfast cakes (like I had in Crete and which she’s been baking ever since), as well as a massive chocolate tray bake like she used to bake in Norway. I am, basically, married to a marvel.

 

AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 207

‘Yes, of course it’ll be easy,’ Aggie says Especially when you’re not taking any risks, she thinks. ‘Anything else I need to know?’

‘We’ll walk this time,’ Bill says. ‘Go get some doughnuts. Sneak out the backdoor.’

‘And then I’m on my own, right?’

‘You got it, kid,’ Marion says.

‘We might as well go now,’ Aggie says. ‘Take it slowly. Absorb the local colour and atmosphere.’

‘You English sure have a strange way of doing things,’ Marion says.

Aggie doesn’t bother correcting her. No point. She checks all her equipment again; gun, magazines, stiletto against calf, White House pass (she’s still puzzled by this, but then Cassie seems to have an in everywhere but just gets other people to use them). She nods to her self and gets up.

‘Happy?’ Marion says.

‘As happy as I’ll ever be,’ Aggie says, and just wants this all to be over. She walks to the front door. ‘I might as well go first. If there’s a shooter, I’ll be first in line.’

The other two don’t argue.

Aggie in intense combat mode. Stealth. Observation. Quick feet. The silence and emptiness outside are almost an anti-climax. She automatically turns right. This town is divided into square blocks. She knows where she’s going now.

‘How do you know where you’re going?’ Marion says, the hood of her hoodie back up over her head and half her face.

‘Just guessing. And I looked at a map on the plane, because I reckoned we’d end up at the White House.’

‘Well, Cassie certainly chose a bright one.’

Just like the Mentor did, Aggie thinks. Perhaps Cassie is the mentor. No, impossible. Or her successor. That’s a possibility. She walks along the straight silent street. It’s almost midnight, and there’s no much nightlife judging by this part of it. She tries not to get distracted by thoughts about her past again. She’ll know soon enough. Perhaps. She shrugs. It doesn’t really matter, none of this. As long as she gets back to Lily in one piece. That’s all she cares about now. She takes a left. The street widens. There’s more life here, but not much. That much is a relief. She coils up even more on the inside. The wide street, straight as a die. It’ll turn into Pennsylvania Avenue in a few hundred yards. Her muscles tighten and relax in a continuous cycle, getting her ready for a fight. She enjoys the feeling, much to her own concern and disgust sometimes. It makes her feel like a machine, and she doesn’t like it because she knows she isn’t a machine; she’s just well-trained flesh and blood, too well-trained. And the muscle memory is something she hopes she’ll learn to forget when all this is over, when she hopes her fighting days will be done once and for all, and she can get back to some sort of normal living.

The others say nothing. They’re just following her as if she was their leader.

Aggie slows down. ‘Do you actually need to come all the way to the doughnut place with me?’

‘We need to make sure you get in there,’ Bill says.

‘You mean you want to make sure I don’t just run away,’ Aggie says.

‘That’s about it,’ Marion says. ‘We’ve been let down by people before.’

‘Cassie’s people?’ Aggie says.

‘No.’

‘Well, there you are. I won’t let you down. Go back, and I’ll see you there when I’m done. You told me it would be simple. And I’m sure it will be. And I’ve got all the tools I need.’

‘We’ll go to the store with you,’ Marion says. ‘Keep our side of the bargain.’

Aggie shrugs. ‘Your plausible deniability shrinks with every step we take closer to the White House,’ she says. ‘And I’m sure you haven’t packed by bag with explosives when I wasn’t looking.’

Marion laughs. ‘Ok. Fine.’ She stops walking, and grabs Bill’s hand. ‘See you tomorrow.’

Aggie looks at her watch. Five minutes to midnight. ‘Yes. Tomorrow. Thanks for the tour.’ And for the second time in 24 hours, she quickens her steps and doesn’t look back.

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