Nancy depressed the amber button which cut the call. Coffman’s snowy head remained on screen. Nancy screwed the cap of her flask and shoved it into her satchel bag. A steely plane brushed against her thigh. Nancy twirled round to see Vince’s wheelchair drifting from the door. Vince’s final salvo must have jolted the brakes and spurred the propelling force. Vexed, she seized the handles and pushed the wheelchair back in place. She surmised Vince not realising he had cleared the obstruction was making his way through the meeting room. Somewhere she could comprehend Vince’s rhythmic clack. Coffman’s snowy head remained on screen. Why doesn’t he buzz off?
She grabbed her bag. On a final thought, she checked the brakes of Vince’s chair. The bar was lowered but this offered no assurance the barricade would hold if Vince fancied another go at the door.
Nancy slid over the tabletop and took a route across the kitchen. Vince’s crutches clacked against the meeting room floor to her right. Nancy didn’t look. The lock obliged, the scent of wet leaves beckoned. The autumn air eddied around her ankles. Nancy decided to take a walk. She hoped Vince would too. The box hedge made neat oblongs against the skyline due to Henry’s tenacity yesterday. She paused at a secluded seat honed from granite overlooked by a replica of Rodin’s The Kiss. She wouldn’t be sitting here. Nancy passed a walkway fashioned from willow. A sunny day would spawn a profusion of sun dapples and a dreamy amble. She didn’t pass through. The manicured turf skimmed beneath her feet. Desiccated leaves scurried down the slope towards a copse overlooking a pond. The lawns gave way to the rough. Hillocks scuffed her heels; field grass whipped her calves. Bumpy terrain caused her feet to pitch and her knees to brace. The slope propelled her forwards. Exertion seeped through her collar in body heat. She unfastened her top button. On reaching the copse, she took her post next to the hawthorn hedge shielding Vince’s electrified fence. Beyond, farmer’s field provided fallow for what she thought were Shetlands. She nestled within the crook of an oak. Nancy wished for the thigh-deep grass, thigh-burning slopes and tricky footholds. She wanted the landscape to swallow her whole.
The grass behind her made a dry sough. She didn’t turn. Pressure converged at her breastbone in unpleasant anticipation. The breeze finally conveyed his laboured breaths. ‘My phone,’ his growl came, ‘my fuckin’ phone.’
Nancy twisted on her tailbone. Vince eyed her from the foot of an oak twenty feet behind her. Heavily propped by his crutches he appeared to be in mid-tumble. He head was lowered as a stalker of prey. ‘You have taken my phone, just like you have taken my TV, my drinks trolley, the contents of my cabinet, my wheelchair, my stairlift and my CT room. You have taken everything right down to my silk sheets!’
Gis a life, Nancy, what sort of gal would expect her mother to do without a tot? Slowly Nancy lowered her heels on the grass and faced him. ‘You need to go back to basics, Mr. Jonas.’
Vince’s chin jutted in truculence. His lips quivered. She appraised his rippling shirt, damp at the armpits and yellowed at the collar. He seemed to detect her scrutiny. ‘I expect you to return my kitchen table to its former position and I expect you to bring me back my wheelchair.’
‘You fell asleep in the landing, Mr. Jonas. You were drunk and you fell asleep.’
His tone submitted to a sibilant croak. ‘I have news for you, Nora. If I can walk to this point, I can walk to those gates. Once I am done with you here, I am going back inside to freshen up. I will then take a walk to the checkpoint. At some point of the day, one of my visitors will greet me there. I will then request that a call is issued to the station and have you removed.’
‘But not before you freshen up.’
His brows twitched.
‘You don’t want to go to the gates looking like that do you?’
Once again, Vince appeared to wisen up too quickly. His eyes grew intent before doing a deliberate wander over the open neck of her blouse. His eyes continued to make a downward track via each button of her coat until he reached the waistband of her skirt. His upper lip did a little incline on checking out her stockings. She couldn’t help herself. Her self-assured heels did a coltish shift over the grass. Shadows formed beneath his eyes as his flicked up to hers. He was laughing at her like on that night in the limo. An inner turmoil impeded her smile. ‘You will have a long wait, Mr. Jonas,’ she said. Nancy straightened up, squaring her heels. ‘You will be expecting no visitors today.’ She gave her coat pocket a little pat, alluding to his phone.
Nancy pulled the flanks of her coat together and made her way to the pond. ‘Have a nice walk, Mr. Jonas.’ She turned in time to see the shadows fade out beneath his eyes.
From here, Henry’s box hedge appeared small; Vince’s fortress bearing down atop a steep slope seemed miles away. Even in her sturdy heels, Nancy’s calves pulled like catgut. Nancy had wanted it this way. Vince could enter her watch post by the oaks, but may not be returning for some time. The advantage hers, Nancy could get busy in the surveillance room, turning her lie into the truth.