A mere minute seemed to pass before Vince’s door opened again. Amy emerged, her face purple. Gently she closed the door and daggered Nancy with that Cleopatra glare. ‘He says he will be down to take his treatment after breakfast.’
Nancy’s thumbs stopped twirling. Wild orchid revisited as Amy stepped past. Violet glinted from her doughnut bun before she presented her glower. ‘Nora Clements.’ Her expression fell still. ‘I can’t find anything about that name to substantiate the stuff you told me the other day. I don’t reckon you knew Mr. Fairchild and I don’t believe you helped him quit smoking.’
Nancy’s throat tightened. ‘I knew Mr. Fairchild.’
Amy snorted. ‘I’ve heard my share of bullshit from opportunists and blackmailers out for somethin’. I’ve just gotta figure out how you got your hands on those business cards.’
Nancy knit her lip.
‘Go give Mr. Jonas his treatment. I’ll be here to serve your medicine soon, Nora Clements, sooner than you think. You can bank on that.’ Amy slid her bag into the fold of her armpit and continued down the stairs. Before Nancy had reached the top, Amy had slipped from sight. Henry loitered at Vince’s desk but Nancy did not wish to encounter him. She backed herself into the utility room and peeked out of the window. Only once his denimmed figure had emerged from the back of Vince’s garage did she enter the foyer.
Amy’s convertible had gone. The gallery’s row of casements presented an aspect unfettered of vehicles. Cubist shapes of light and dark channeled her sights to the Edwardian door at the bottom of the gallery. Curious, she approached what appeared to be a sun-dappled fig tree on the other side of the glass.
Within a huge conservatory, black leather couches and a view across the copse hinted at design bent on music appreciation. Racks of LPs and CDs one day collectable accompanied the mandatory upload – thousands of albums, according to the teak music system with five-foot speakers. A favoured playlist informed Nancy that in spite of his passion for the new, Vince had a thing for the eighties, disco, soul, Motown and the female voice. Nancy pressed a button to be engulfed by Joan Armatrading’s Love and Affection. She killed the power feeling somewhat guilty. She forwarded the selection to find the evocative title, Hurts by Johnny Cash and played the first few bars. Someone had put a message within an album sleeve of Aretha’s, Lady Soul ‘to the Adonis of Notturno.’ Vince’s first taste of success, Nancy recalled: a model for men’s cologne before launching a brand of his own. He had then conceived Nexus nightclubs, beach resorts, hotels and a record label. Vince had grown notoriety for his playboy lifestyle which would appear to conclude with his engagement to Honor Palance, a bond-like female lead in action movies. The pap wagered on wedding bells before Vince dumped her, allegedly by text. He had dalliances with models, a diplomat’s daughter a baroness and countless respectable hopefuls.
That look, that sidelong leer.
Nancy closed the door to appraise the photos on his gallery wall: parties, yatchs, entourages, resorts. Leon toasted the viewer in one shot. A rare photo of Vince sitting alone arrested her. The lens seemed an intrusion to one who stared fiercely, his hair slicked back, his brows arched in condescension. Ruthless intelligence lurked behind that look; torment beyond his supremacy where few could get past. What did he think about when he was alone at night? A draught fondled her cheek. She glanced aside. Light from the foyer etched out his form, imposing yet encumbered by the crutches. Nancy lowered her gaze, abashed he had caught her looking at his picture. Sunlight shimmered on the wall as his crutches clunked. His shadow slid into view before stopping. She pinched her lip. ‘You don’t stay here much, do you, Mr. Jonas?’
His tone was quiet. ‘It’s where I entertain guests.’
Nancy made a retreat for the music room. His crutches started up behind her. Discomfiture coloured her cheeks to assume a casual pace, as speedy as casual could be. His tempo fell in with hers. Photos and casements glided past. Her Oxfords got smart, as though between duties. The fig tree neared ahead. His crutches creaked, his crutches clacked. Air caressed her knees and Vince leveled up. Light and shadow, light and shadow, as a passenger on a carriage. From casual to brisk, her toes arrowed ahead. To her left, she glimpsed his crossbar within his grasp. She knit her jaw and extended her palms to bounce against the glass at the end of the gallery. She twisted neatly to face him.
Vince stopped before her, his breaths steady and his pallor fresh, like the toothpaste on his breath. Nancy lifted her chin and realised defiance likened a prelude to a kiss. Her throat opened out and her pulse drew his eyes. Shackled to his crutches, he would have to explore her by mouth. Her top button fastened, he would have to taste both cotton and flesh. But he had the liberty to push his tongue beneath her collar and fill the depression at her throat.
Without taking his eyes from her pulse, he rested his crutches on the wall either side of her. He then planted his hands upon the doorframe to fence her in. Nancy kept her eyes on his; her fingernails pinching her palms. He leaned in. A fresh dressing enclosed his throat, which twitched when he spoke. ‘My legs,’ he uttered. ‘They don’t hurt so much…I can keep up with you.’
Nancy’s crisp tone wavered. ‘That’s good, Mr. Jonas. It shows what a good night’s sleep can do.’
His eyes hooded over. He gathered his crutches and retreated from her. Nancy kneaded her hands as Vince disappeared into the foyer. He would await her in the drawing room to receive a fresh dressing. She would cloak herself in nurse to cleanse his legs with the rigor he should now expect from her.