A GREEN light flickered above the door. Henry had left almost two hours ago in his land rover. Nancy wished he had noticed Sheila’s errant keys; she wished he had not stopped her at the gates. Nancy’s self-belief and poise it seemed had breached Vince’s security system more effectively than an opportunist of the night. A two-beat buzz cut the air. Nancy retreated into the shadows at the top of the stairs.
Headlights drifted towards an arched window below. Strands of light stretched out in contortions. Her nerves did the same; she could feel them pulling at her inner skin. The headlights came to a stop. Disembodied in the dark, they etched into her vision. A low thrum pervaded but she could sense movement just outside.
Keys scratched into the door. A slither of light cut across the floor. The rhythmic hum seeped into the enclosure. Mock candles on the landing cast an amber glow over the foyer, but shadows shielded her from view. She retreated. A clicking tempo echoed against the walls. A draft lapped against her ankles. She sensed the door closing. She trained her vision upon the entry below and the sight burned into her.
The starched triangle of his shirt collar cleaved the centre of his dinner jacket; his trousers primly-creased at the shins, his brogues buffed to mirrors. His hair clipped and brylcreemed around a face of habitual condescension few could dislodge.
He had been cut down.
Vince’s aide, the driver she reckoned, wheeled Vince towards the stairlift. Crutches bobbed from the rear handles of Vince’s wheelchair. The driver, a stout, bald man in a raincoat and leather boots unhooked the crutches once he had parked Vince parallel with the Newell post. He offered the crutches to Vince. Vince seized them, unthankful. The driver wrung his hands as Vince attempted to straighten each crutch against the flanks of the wheelchair. The tip of one crutch clanked against the spindles. The driver lurched forwards to assist. Vince quickly straightened the crutch and grunted, ‘Get out.’
The driver backed off but continued to loiter at the desk.
Vince did not even look at him. ‘I said, get out!’
The driver reeled on one foot before pausing. He ambled for the door. Nancy could sense the driver’s discomfiture. He wanted to apologise or say something but no words would fit.
The bald man made his leave, pulling the door gently to. Vince leaned into his crutches. Alone in the foyer, Vince could now nurse his dignity without prying eyes. A car door made a report outside. The engine gassed up. The headlights at the window veered slowly away. Did Vince reserve his transits in the stairlift for his eyes only, she wondered? Did he equate being seen like this as being caught naked in public? Vince transferred his weight onto his crutches before lowering himself onto the chair of the stairlift. He slotted the ends of his crutches into a receptacle beside the seat, not bothering to belt up. He depressed a button which activated a motor. Nancy admired the elegant hum. The Vlot 2000 Tilt-in Mobility Stairlift certainly proved to be the finest of its kind. At this admission, however, Vince’s seat refused to budge from the foot of the stairs. He depressed the button again. Nancy revisited her admiration of this quiet motor. But in transferring the drive to the seat, it failed. The missing screws, she believed would remain in the front pouch of her satchel bag along with her beloved device and the mysterious E keys.
Nancy hoped he would flick out his mobile phone to get help –not only for him, but for herself. But no. For one who wore such pride, any act of humility did not seem possible. He unthreaded his crutches and lowered them onto the steps. And as predicted, he clambered from the seat of the stairlift without reaching for his phone.
Nancy watched gravely as Mr. Vincent Jonas, magnate and proprietor of the Nexus nightclub chain, heartbreaker of countless socialites and associate of A-listers got onto his hands and knees. His shiny brogues chafed the bottom riser. He cursed, she believed, an Italian vulgarity fottere.
He grappled at a riser above his head and pulled. Now Nancy could see the yields of his dumbbells. She praised him grudgingly with a still expression. Mr. Vincent Jonas was making progress up the stairs without mechanical assistance.