Vince’s other hand sought out the best spindle from which to grab onto. The immaculate creases of his suit were gathering a more wayward kind. Another grunt. Another brace. Another string of invective. The scene below propelled her into an unknown realm. A desire to laugh roiled with shame, distaste and pity. Was she cruel or kind? She couldn’t decide. The shadow in which she stood formed a junction of where each emotion ended and began. She was cruel and she could laugh; she was kind and could feel shame.
Mr. Vincent Jonas took a respite upon the middle section of the stairs. His brow glistened with sweat, his lower lip hung open admitting a gasp, ‘Oh, God.’ Without opening his eyes, he groped for the crutches at his sides. On by one, he fed them over the risers to a point above his head. Nancy could decipher a sort of rhythm in Vince’s movements: the clump of his bodyweight sliding over each riser, the clatter of his crutches, a series of snatching breaths and the chafing of fabric against wood. This sequence may shift but the rhythm remained much the same. Another clump. She was cruel, but wasn’t she entitled? She had seen Sheila’s form as Vince’s now, slumped upon the stairs, her body devoid of Vince’s animation.
He grunted again. ‘Oh, dear God.’
She was kind. She had to inflict this effort upon him. Let him grunt, let his knuckles whiten. This gratified her. The collar of her blouse encircled the base of her throat in rectitude. She had earned the right to watch him like this. She had grown adept at watching things she’d rather not see. Still, she didn’t like the way her pulse scuttled as he advanced. His lumbering form gathered menace. Mr. Vincent Jonas was determined when he chose.
His crutches levelled with the upper landing where Nancy stood. He didn’t see her. The downward force of each riser had untucked his shirt from his now canted waistband. His tie liberated from its pin fell loosely about his middle. He grappled at the upper Newell post, forcing his form upwards. His tie lapped against an engraving at the base. With his free hand, he snatched at both crutches with a harsh rap.
Her lips quivered: fear? Laughter? Neither. Her insides rebounded against her breastbone as though at sea. His right crutch did a little jive of its own accord as if objecting to the duty of propping Vince’s armpit. He grappled at the crossbar. The soles of his brogues buckled, his knees sagged. He reigned in the crutch and forced it to his will.
Well done, Mr. Jonas, she thought. Was she scoffing or being sincere? Nancy wasn’t sure.
And then as though she had spoken out loud, he turned and saw her. His already stony expression did not morph into shock or surprise, as might most people. The sight of a strange woman standing in the shadows did not perturb this self-made billionaire. He had seen it before, she believed; stalkers, spurned ex-lovers. Sensing something amiss, he turned to his right. The dressing at his throat shifted beneath his shirt collar. His crutches creaked as he shuffled to his bedroom door which permitted a view of what she had done.
That hooded leer came at her when he took her in, only this time from a sidelong aspect. ‘What the fuck are you doing here?’ His rasping tone dripped with menace. He alluded to her day’s work. ‘And what the fuck is this?’
Words tumbled away. Mr. Vincent Jonas was angry at this namesake of Mrs. Millie Clements of the weird little bungalow in Leighton Buzzard. Mr. Vincent Jonas was demanding an answer from this sneak of Glebe Hollow reared on jam sanies and milk. Because of her, scuff marks streaked this magnate’s jacket; ridges likening an Andean geographical map afflicted his shirt. Nancy guessed dozens of women would relish the sight before her. But this sort of revenge did not interest her. Nancy made a nervous little cough. ‘Like I said to you yesterday, Mr. Jonas, a bedroom is a bedroom. It is for sleeping in.’
Pomegranate rouged up from his collar. ‘Where’s my stuff?’ he spitfired.
‘In safe storage.’
Vince lugged at the knot of his tie in a bid to loosen it. ‘I think…’ he said with a harsh tug, ‘…that you…’ He pulled the knot loose. ‘…should get my things right now…’ The tie fell loose about his neck. ‘…and then I think you should put them back...’ He whipped his tie off. ‘…exactly where you found them.’ The task now done, he unpopped the top buttonhole of his shirt. He faced her squarely. ‘What do you reckon, Nora?’ His leer narrowed.
‘Don’t be like that, Mr. Jonas,’ she said quietly.
Vince’s gaze grew fixed. ‘You tampered with the stairlift.’
‘Yes,’ Nancy affirmed and lifted her chin. ‘I think you’ve earned yourself a restful night’s sleep. You’ve had a long day.’
Vince didn’t retort as expected. His dark blue eyes did a meaningful meander over her attire. He didn’t do so sneakily, but overtly, as an insult. Were her tights laddered; her shoes scuffed? He may try to buck her will, she wouldn’t look down. Only when he was done, did he breathe, ‘I’m not going in there.’
‘That’s a shame,’ Nancy uttered and could feel her colour rising.