Incapacitated he may be, Vince could still move the unbroken with exactitude. He rested his elbow against the balustrade without letting his crutch slip. He dipped his right hand into the breast pocket of his dinner jacket. Was he about to present his silver bottle-tops, she wondered? No. He tweezed out his mobile phone. The hollow at the base of her throat twitched against her top button. Vince’s flicked his index finger over the screen. Evidently, he had done with the small-talk. Blue ray rebounded against his face as the phone came to life. He paused, perhaps noticing Henry’s text message.
Nancy’s voice box stiffened into a rusty hinge. His finger loitered before making contact. His tip then embarked upon a slow and deliberate lentando she found conceited. Nancy’s satchel bag took a life of its own. Her hands still attached, the bag formed a perfect arc in the air, connecting with Vince’s right hand. A leathery clap echoed against the Tudor walls. The phone took flight from his palm, twirling as a rotor above Vince’s opulent candles and his nightclub shoots. Silicone clattered against a Cubist print on the opposite wall whereupon the phone plummeted. In hectic cartwheels, the phone connected with the tiles before coming to rest at the foot of his oak desk.
Amber constellations drifted past until her sights came to rest upon Vince’s lour. He had not followed the phone’s trajectory. Nancy cleared her throat. ‘I’m sorry, Mr. Jonas. I cannot let you do that.’
His expression did not change. ‘Who the hell are you?’
‘I told you.’ Nancy fingered the top button of her blouse. ‘My name is Nora. I’m a nurse.’
His lour remained yet shifted in tone as though in thought. She guessed the territory of the A-lister would encompass a trail of the aggrieved. But he had got it wrong. Any name he was likely to conjure from his lips would be wrong. He twisted on his crutches as though another thought occurred to him. His eyes latched onto each door between them.
‘They are all locked,’ she said.
His gaze came back to her. Shackled to his crutches he may be, Nancy didn’t fare her chances if she stepped too close. His eyelids hooded over in a wily look Nancy didn’t savour.
Vince seized the tops of his crutches. His face adopted a mask of tranquility as he cast his crutches aside. They fell with a clatter to the floor. His palms slapped the balustrade on their way down. A ganglion of tendons tremored on the backs of his hands. Sweat beaded his face as he fed the spindles through his grasp. The back of his jacket rode up, his knees buckled. A strangled grunt clawed up from his throat. Discomfited, Nancy shifted her sights to nearby framed photos – Vince attending the Brit Awards with moguls of the music industry; the opening of Vince’s leisure complex, Dreamland in Monte Carlo; charity dinner speeches with linchpins and pop icons. Vince had looked casual in an Armanai suit, chinos or a sweater. Irony had cavorted about his eyes, at times an incisor catching the light. Big names had shared his airspace, yet Vince commanded the floor.
A low gasp preceded silence. Nancy returned her gaze, unsettled by the contrast in reality. Here, Vince’s form appeared contorted, his face flushed. His right hand took a downward grope towards the seat of his trousers. A flattened palm massaged the back of his knees as he lowered his rump to the floor. His feet rocked from side to side as he did so. For the first time, she wondered at the injuries he had sustained in the crash. The right to ask did not feel hers; she dare not step closer. Instead she took a lofty tone. ‘There’s no need to play games with me, Mr. Jonas.’
Vince did not respond. Now seated and his hands liberated, he whipped off his jacket. Snorts gusted from his nostrils as he folded the sleeves of his jacket inwards, creating a bolster. He placed the cushion at the foot of his door. Without looking at her, he lowered his head and shifted onto his side. The manner in which he gazed at the lower panel of his door said he was done with her. He closed his eyes.
Nancy’s lips moved, verging on a question. She decided not to ask. His rebuff, like his exactitude earlier was precise and cut as a shard of glass. Still, she could hardly blame him. ‘Sweet dreams, Mr. Jonas,’ she simply said and stepped towards the head of the stairs. The cap of her right Oxford clipped one of Vince’s crutches. She paused and hoofed it against the skirting with a clack. He didn’t move. Vexation prickled the back of her throat, but wouldn’t let it show in her gait. Nancy descended each riser in a pendulous lope. Vince’s photos lodged in her mind; his self-possession, his glinting incisor, his effortless charm. Nancy didn’t have this gift. Vince could make the other feel on top of the world, but he could switch it off at will. Vince had never looked at her with that smile and she should be grateful. Vince had been cut down, but this ability remained.
Nancy picked up Vince’s mobile phone and put it in her coat pocket. Vince’s wheelchair caused her to pause. An alternative existence would see her fingers enfolding rubber grips like these as she had baths and hot dinners. Without looking up, she wheeled the thing through the access way into the surveillance room. She closed the door and backed the wheelchair against the panel. Brakes engaged with a click.
The composite image on the monitor continued to illuminate the recess. Kirkby Magnor station would be receiving the remote feed, but one Nora Clements would soon be expected on screen at this hour. Nancy depressed the star-shaped button. The red light came off.
Nancy slid her rump over the marble-topped table and fastened her coat. The thing had emitted a truculent grumble in transits of an inch until the base had frictioned across ten feet of floor to barricade off the surveillance room. Vince’s sweaty finger may still find its way to the green button but at small odds – and rightfully so. Still, she could barely stand to think of Vince’s form on the upper landing, rebuffing her and all her efforts with his inertia. She returned to the kitchen, palming Vince’s bronze keys. She inserted E2 with anticipation. The lock gave way. Grateful, she opened the back door and let herself out.
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