Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 274

A newspaper columnist I much admire most of the time, Marina Hyde of The Guardian, has an article in today’s paper plugging her new book (a collection of her past twice-a-week columns), and she manages to encapsulate what I have been saying of these blogs for a long time: Maybe some columnists are out there imagining they’re writing the first draft of history, but I feel like I’m just sticking a pin in a moment. In fact, I often feel that if I wrote my column in the afternoon, it would say something completely different from whatever I’d ended up writing that morning. “Do you still think this, six years on?” “Oh my God – I probably didn’t even think it by teatime that day.” I’ve had great difficulty in explaining to some people that what I write here doesn’t represent my constant frame of mind; it’s just how I’m being at the time I write it, and I never bother looking back at previous days’ entries (except for checking the ending of the previous Aggie chapter). And most of the time I don’t even think about the consequences of what I write. What that makes me, I don’t know.

M is painting the kitchen. I’ve been ferrying paper for shredding to the garage which I’ve decided to make my shredding room, because paper dust in the office isn’t great. Keeping our minds busy, I suppose, especially mine right now. And A started work at 11 a.m. and doesn’t finish till 01:30 a.m. tomorrow (with a two-hour break at 16:00 ish – I can never remember the exact timing). We did have a moment when I drove her down there – I beeped the car horn for the rail strikers, and they waved back at us, and we waved back, and promptly burst into tears. A happy moment.

I can feel some retail therapy coming on. And I need to work out how to save a lot of electricity.

Later, much much later.

Retail therapy comprised two plastic crates for document storage, five pairs of socks for me, two work shirts for A, and the cheapest food I could find.

Side-tracked by going for a long slow walk along roads and paths that circumnavigate Mousehold Heath. The sun was shining, and the scent of yesterday’s rain clung to the plants and trees, and it was mild enough for me to take off my fourth layer. It felt immensely peaceful. And there was brass music drifting up the hill from down in the city centre. Glorious.

And side-tracked by Strictly. Johannes is such a beautiful man and dancer, but he’s unfortunately been paired with a woman who doesn’t seem to have soul or musicality, which is a great shame. Oh well, we can’t have everything. Let’s be thankful for what we do have.



‘You can’t,’ Marion says. ‘Not now. You’re walking into the lion’s den.’

‘I’ll run quietly.’

‘You know what I mean.’

‘I have to find out which one’s the real Valentine – ours or Cassie’s.’

‘Let her find out.’

‘She didn’t respond to my last message,’ Aggie says.

‘You think he has her?’

Aggie shrugs. ‘I don’t even know if I can trust her.’

‘We’ll deny we saw you this evening if you get caught,’ Bill says. ‘You know that, don’t you?’

‘You said that the first time round,’ Aggie says. ‘I had assumed that wouldn’t change.’

‘What if anyone sees you?’ Marion says.

‘No-one will,’ Aggie says. ‘I’m going to get my backpack. Give me a minute.’ She’s back before they can catch a breath. ‘I’ll be back.’

‘You hope,’ Marion says.

‘I know,’ Aggie says, and lets herself out. As soon as her feet touch the street, she adopts the gait she knows works, that look of total confidence, that almost slouch that somehow makes people entirely blank her, not even realise she’s walking amongst them. No that there’s anyone out in the streets, not that anyone would want to be walking towards the White House after the President has been assassinated, and World War III might just be about to break out. Her sense are on full alert, and she feels the tension inside her, not as a burden, not as fear, but just the readiness to do whatever she has to do to get back into the White House, and find Valentine, and somehow incapacitate him.

As she reaches Pennsylvania Avenue, the view that meets her is a chaos of blue lights, screaming helicopter engines and their rotors, bright lights and an armada of press vans, reporters and camera people, and police officers trying to hold them back from getting too close to the fence. And there’s something that’s more than just the murmur of a crows, it’s a primal scream almost, of one single question, of one single voice – how? She slips down the side road to the doughnut shop she left just over an hour ago. It’s in darkness now, the door all locked, and the lights all out, and Rochelle either at home or in police custody, or asleep somewhere else.

Aggie sidles up to the door, alive to anything and everything. She’s already slipped her picklock into her right hand, feeds it into the lock of the door, pushes it open and then closed behind her. One huge step across to the alarm box, disabled in a fraction of a second. She doesn’t even ask herself anymore how she learned to do all this with such ruthless efficiency. She locks the door now the alarm’s disabled, and finds her way through the blackness to the back door, no need to disguise what she’s doing with an unnecessary visit to the bathroom. She smiles at her own lack of sound. Just the way it should be. Just the way it always was. A picture flashes into her mind, a memory, of stalking the mentor, and scaring her witless by suddenly appearing behind her, although the old crone claimed not be have been surprised or scared. But Aggie had seen it in her eyes, and the woman never went anywhere again without security guards.

The yard is almost as dark as the shop, the only light coming from a sky illuminated by aircraft lights, and shrill with sirens and the drone of engines. Aggie can only imagine the madness in the White House right now, and the blood across the carpets in the Oval Office, and the despair and anger those close to the dead President must be feeling. And the fear the family of that poor girl must be feeling, unless, unless she had no family, just like all the others. That’s the way it must be. Aggie takes a dee breath of the cold air, holds her pass up against the card reader on the wall. But the light doesn’t change, and the door won’t open.

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