glanced straight up to my watching-place and nodded.
They wore full-face balaclavas, and heavy revolvers swung at their sides. They had bowler hats on top of the balaclavas, and instead of army-surplus jumpers and jeans they wore dazzling white suits of a beautiful cut.
When the men passed out of sight on their way to the front door I found myself in a kind of closet at the end of the first-floor landing. Elaine and the boys huddled behind me. I could hear the gunmen moving around downstairs. I was watching the top of the stairs from a keyhole in the closet door. Then there was a heavy, creaking tread and then one of the gunmen appeared. Just the one. ‘He’s killed the other guy,’ I remember thinking. Smoke was lifting in plumes from his handgun. Suddenly I was alone: Elaine and the boys had escaped. There had been some sort of tunnel or trapdoor, but it was no longer available; I would have to face the gunman on my own. With his free hand he took off his bowler and skimmed it, Oddjob style, across the landing. Then he gripped the hem of his balaclava and tugged, peeling it free, tossing his hair and baring his teeth in a dazzling smile. It was Adam. He was looking straight at me, as if he could see right through the keyhole, and he moved towards me in great clipping strides. I saw his hand reach for the doorknob as I scrambled back against the closet wall, and then a flash of white as the door was tugged free and I woke.
It was almost light. The bedroom, still unfamiliar after five months, took a moment to remember itself, to settle into its established contours. It’s OK , I thought. I’m all right. Then I heard a hiss, a slurping suck. Shallow breathing, close, right behind me in the room. Panic swelled and died, like boiling milk coming off the heat. I reached behind me and found a foot, a warm parcel of flesh which I gripped and squeezed. I laid the back of my forefinger against the sole, feeling the pudgy creased coolness . Glissade of the instep, the crust of eczema over his ankle. The foot moved and James inhaled noisily, settling down with little slurps of mastication.
I clattered downstairs to Floor 3. There was an understanding , our own floor being busier, that we could use the subs’ facilities. They hated it. They viewed us, not even as the enemy (we weren’t clever enough for that), but as salaried schoolkids whose mess they cleaned up. Their communal areas were full of snidey notices, tacked up like cards at an exhibit:
THE MICROWAVE IS NOW CLEAN. PLEASE LEAVE IT THAT WAY.
CLEAN ALL 6 SURFACES.
IN THE INTERESTS OF HYGIENE, PLEASE FLUSH THE TOILET AFTER USE.
This wasn’t internal Floor-3 housekeeping: you could tell these were directed at us, the interlopers. They probably wanted notices that read ‘FUCK OFF AND LEAVE US ALONE’, but this was the next best thing.
The coffee had done its job but I sat on, wallowing in my stink, feeling the blood prick and fizz along the backs of my legs. There was a frosted dormer at my back but I left it closed. Twice, the handle rattled and footsteps dwindled up the hall. When I was finished I took out my pen and subbed the notice over the cistern. I put a line through everything except ‘PLEASE FLUSH’. Then I left without flushing.
When I got back to my desk the phone was ringing.
‘Gerry, it’s Darren.’ The voice was languid, suave. ‘Darren Bryce.’
‘You think I know two Darrens?’
Bryce was a senior aide at Justice. Lyons’s bagman. That was quick , I thought. Does he know already? Is he in on it?
‘Peter’s in town,’ Bryce said. ‘He wonders if you’re free for lunch.’
‘He has to, what, negotiate for lunch now? He can’t pick up the phone?’
‘He’s tied up, Gerry. Busy busy. But he’s very keen to see you.’
I opened my desk drawer. The photograph was still there, under a couple of magazines.
‘Sure he is. So, what: the Townhouse?’
‘Yeah? Peter was thinking maybe the other