|Vast: A Novel
Ch. XXIV: Nemesis
by Nicolas Travers ©
Tuesday night and waking time on Wednesday are now fresh occasions for celebration. Colin takes Dorothy out to dinner at the Poissonnerie, a smart fish restaurant in Sloane Avenue, and treats her to caviar, which she inspects a little doubtfully, though she approves a plate of accompanying blinis, and then sole in a rich sauce, which slips down like a dream. They drink Chablis, and play at being rich, and he tells her about his interview, and a middle-aged couple at the next table, who had at first looked disapproving, are obviously listening, and plainly impressed - though he leaves out Victoria Smuggleigh's thoughts about hormone therapies.
They follow on with creme brulee, and drink a glass of Tokay, and make plans to rescue Prince and bring him to London, and afterwards they walk hand in hand to the Australian, a Sloaney pub that Colin has not set foot in for many, many years, and carry their glasses outside to stand on the pavement, and pretend not to notice how other customers are staring at them, as they sip at glasses of sweet golden Muscat, though Colin is sure that it will kill his head in the morning.
A cluster of smooth young men eye Colin with disdain, and attempt to attract Dorothy's interest. But she is very queenly, in a teenage sort of way, and ignores them, and they giggle together when a cut glass voice mutters bitterly that 'rich bastards can always afford the best talent'.
Afterwards they stroll back to Bayswater. It is a fair distance, but they have all the time in the world, and Kensington Gardens is a magic place of moonlight and shadows. Dorothy stays close, because it is now dark, and talks little - for it is a time to be companionable. But her hand is warm in his, and the night smiles on them, and they know that their own special world is waiting for them as they cross the Bayswater Road and head for the welcome of their big comfy bed. The gay young man waves from behind their hotel reception desk, and they whir up in the lift and trudge up the stairs to their nest, and they both know that they are going to pleasure each other, and expectation is a force driving them on as they undress each other and stand for a moment by the bed, and they want to pledge their devotion, but their bodies are too demanding, and they must be united, and they merge, and they are together.
Afterwards, when they are both temporarily sated, they lie, still united, and caress each other. Dorothy thinks she has found a very suitable flat, with a large sunny room, a neat little kitchen and a compact toilet and shower, at the top of a house just off Westbourne Grove, and has also nosed out a reasonably priced secondhand furniture shop at the far end of the Portobello Road.
But their minds are not really on furnishings.
"I'll have to get a new prescription for the pill." Dorothy advances the thought shyly, as though speaking to herself.
"You'll probably have to go back to school." Colin can read her thoughts, but is uncertain. He remembers the jealousy of the young men, and wonders - despite himself - how long he can hold on to a pretty girl young enough to be his daughter.
Dorothy giggles, and kisses him. "I'm grown-up now."
Colin makes a questioning sound.
"I've learned everything I'm ever going to learn from school."
"But what are you going to do?"
"I'm going to look after you."
"That won't keep you busy."
They are circling around each other, each waiting for the other to show a hand.
"I could come off the pill."
It is a declaration, and they both understand, and they hold each other close, because the time is not yet quite right, but they know that it soon will be, and they fall asleep nestled into each other.
Morning brings fresh embraces, and new smiles, and crisp croissants in Queensway, and Colin is joyous as the Bat Group lift spirits him upwards.
Twister is already busily at work, preparing for the Sultan's visit. He has just made a fresh pot of coffee, and sits back, beaming, as Colin describes his Home Office interview.
"She's a bit of all right, eh?" RichQuick's editor leers, at his most basic, and scratches his crotch.
Colin remembers a pair of blue eyes, and a clear, laughing voice, and wonders how it might be to make love to an Home Secretary. It is only a thought, but his mind promptly presents him with a vision of a trim naked body, set about with cushions, stretched out welcomingly on the floor of a large Whitehall office, and this daydream is such a deviant fantasy that he quashes it instantly. One day the Home Office may develop machines for reading minds, and dreadful penalties for sexual insolence.
He smiles, and settles down to transcribe his cassettes - the most boring job in the world. Wendy arrives, and he wonders whether new-found stardom will carry enough clout to translate into transcription. But she backs away, with her prettiest dimple, twitches her backside just a fraction to show that she intends to be wholly mistress of the situation, and busies herself opening letters.
The telephone rings, and she waves it at him. "Two men come to see you, in reception."
Colin frowns. He is just getting into the swing of things, and he doesn't want to be disturbed. "You go."
Wendy speaks to the telephone, and shakes her head. "They say they've come to see you specially."
Colin leaves his wordprocessor reluctantly. He has already jotted down a rough introduction and a backbone for his Home Office feature, and he wants to get his copy away. He takes the lift down to the Bat Group reception desk, scowling a little.
The two men are lounging on the reception area settee, their eyes hidden behind aviator shades. They spring to their feet as Colin comes out of the lift, and they are lithe and taut, a pair of panthers ready to pounce. Something about them is vaguely menacing, and the Bat Group receptionist is watching them with deep distrust.
The younger man extends a hand heavy with gold rings. "Mr Vast?" His tone is polite, but his outstretched hand is not a greeting.
Colin eyes him suspiciously.
"We've come to recover some lost property." The man smiles slightly, baring his teeth, and his expression is now wolfish.
"Lost property?" Colin is bewildered."
"A young lady, Miss Dorothy Sorrow, took a case from a friend of ours. He wants it back."
The man closes on Colin, forcing him to step back, and his companion moves to stand beside him, boxing Colin into a corner.
Colin feels his blood turn to ice. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Oh, we think you do." The man is now very close to Colin indeed, and Colin can smell the peppermint scent of his breath. "We think you know just where it is, and we think you'd be very wise to return it, because we care about your wellbeing."
His hand closes on Colin's shirt, and Colin is transfixed with terror.
"All right, all right." He is stuttering with his fear. "I'll get it for you."
Two more men have now come out of the lift. They are large men, bulls of men, and they watch silently.
The man holding Colin's shirt ignores them.
"No, Colin, we'll come with you. We wouldn't want you running away - our friend says his case is worth a great deal of readies."
One of the two newcomers walks past him to the reception desk, leaving his companion by the lift.
The girl looks up at the newcomer in bewilderment, and he smiles politely. "I'm looking for Mr. Colin Vast."
The girl gestures at Colin, still boxed into the corner, and the newcomer turns to face him, ignoring the two men with aviator shades.
The reception area is a still-life tableau. Colin has the eyes of a terrified rabbit cornered by a pair of ferrets, the two men with hidden eyes seem irritated at this interruption, and the receptionist is frozen into her seat.
The newcomer holds up a laminated card. "I'm a police officer. We've come to ask you a few questions."
The two men with hidden eyes stare at the newcomers, quiver, and release Colin as though he has suddenly become something very unpleasant indeed. They tear open the emergency exit door, and are suddenly gone, clattering away down the stairs. Colin stares at the newcomers, and turns very pale, and collapses.
Some time later, after he has been taken away, Twister is talking to Karim, who has flown into London to make preparations for the Sultan's arrival.
"Sad business." Karim shakes his head. "Very sad business."
"We'll cope." Twister shrugs. Unemployment is rife in Fleet Street, and good journalists are really quite cheap. "We've got a transcript of his interview, and an outline he roughed out. I'll polish it up personally."
"What will they do to him?"
Twister leers. "Probably give him a choice between twelve months and a pill."
"Really?" Karim looks shocked.
"Pilot scheme. He'll be flying the first plane." Twister prides himself on his sharp sense of humour, and he is pleased, because Colin was starting to become a bit too smart for his own good. "It'll be poetic justice - people who live by the sword, and all that."
Karim is patently lost.
"He mopped up this really pretty little girl, but she was under age, and he got mixed up in the drug scene." Twister leans back in his chair, and scratches his crotch, and wonders who will take over Dorothy. "Sex makes people do silly things, they can become obsessed. I suppose he wasn't getting enough at home, and wanted it so badly he was prepared to take risks."
He smiles a superior smile, because he has none of these problems. He has sold his shares in Bat Group, and he is rich, and wealth is a magic aphrodisiac.
"The word is that he'll be chemically neutered and locked up for a while, to see whether the treatment works. Then they'll let him go."
Karim is alarmed. "No more pretty girls?"
Twister leers again. "None. He won't know what to do with them."
Karim sighs. It is a shame, and a sad ending, because Vast promised to be very useful. But fate is fate, and the world must move on. He takes a deep breath, and starts to outline the Sultan's plans for developing the Bat Group, and the two men push Colin Vast out of their minds. For sex may be pleasing, and a pleasure, and a nice way to pass the time. But only wimps let it become an obsession.
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