A spasm seized her epiglottis as though lemon juice had passed through. Silently, Nancy retracted from the door. She stifled a cough. With increased urgency, she retraced her steps back to the restaurant. The diners had become faceless blurs; the music, discordant. In a split second, Nancy mapped the clearest route out of here. She didn’t care if she jarred a table or scuffed a shoulder. Those glass doors would see her through before Leon or Vince spotted her. The view outside drifted towards her too slowly. Her throat throbbed with palpitations; her breaths became shallow. After ten paces, she extended her arms. She pushed against the glass and glided through.
And that’s when her oversight struck her. Her handbag. She’d left it in the limo along with her purse and mobile.
Without looking back, she darted towards the passenger door and knew an instant before touching the handle that the central locking had engaged.
‘Shit, shit, shit!’
Beneath the hiss of the drizzle, Dennis’s glass doors swished. Nancy gritted her teeth then forced her expression into a carefree smile. It was one of the hardest things she had ever had to do. She turned to see Leon clopping his way towards her. ‘Hey, Nancy.’ Bemusement skewed his smile. ‘What’s up?’
A raindrop flecked her eye, blurring Leon’s form. ‘I’m such a fool,’ she forged on and blinked the image clear.’ I had just got out of the car to…to get a little air when I realised I had left my bag in the car.’
To get a little air? Nancy instantly rued this line when the chill had already permeated her dress.
The skin at the bridge of Leon’s nose puckered up. ‘Well, that ain’t a wise thing to do, Nancy, especially on a might like this.’
Nancy gave a conceding blink. ‘No, no it’s not.’
Leon hesitated expecting Nancy to add something. Nancy firmly sealed up a gushing addendum that would do her no favours. Without taking his hand from his pocket, he pointed the fob and the limo’s lights flashed. The doors clunked.
Discomfiture stiffened her motions as she let herself in. Leon closed the door behind her and took up his post at the driver’s seat. The back of his neck was smooth, like burred leather; as blank as the expression she knew he now wore. She felt certain it was a well-honed look that gave him the advantage in any situation. Instead of inserting a disc, he emitted a soft, tuneless whistle.
Nancy sensed tautness in the air. ‘You were referring to me, weren’t you?’
Leon didn’t reply immediately. His whistling stopped. ‘What’s that?’
‘Earlier on, when you were discussing shares, you were talking about me.’
Leon ladled in his disarming bluesy lilt. ‘Now what would give you that idea?’
Nancy decided not to pursue the subject. Trust her to come out and say it. Nancy was good at that – say things, create an atmosphere, kill the mood. And to what end? She would probably never see Leon again.
He read her look. ‘Hey, don’t take it the wrong way.’
On glancing up, Nancy could see that Leon had adjusted his rearview mirror so that she could see his eyes. She afforded him a cool look. His eyes slackened in what she believed to be a punt at sincerity. ‘Look, there’s somethin’ you gotta understand about Mr. Jonas. He…he don’t live a normal life like you or I. Don’t be fooled by how laid back he seems; he ain’t one for sittin’ still. That’s the nature of the man that got him into this business. I know this ‘cause I oversee his diary. He does a lot of stuff behind the scenes and his schedule gets pretty harsh. Only trouble is, he needs some sort of light relief.’ Leon exhaled a regrouping sigh. ‘Look, what I’m trying’ to say is, it can be kinda a curse for him. Imagine it, twenty hours’ drill on each stretch. The day gets tedious. He needs a little…shall we say, recreation. It lightens the load.’
Nancy wondered if she had given herself away. Did he know what she had overheard earlier? On glancing away, she spotted Vince descending the steps of Dennis’s restaurant. She decided that Vince would win the bet – unanimously. She wouldn’t answer her phone, she wouldn’t take calls. She would sink to the bottom of Glebe Hollow. But she would have to make herself scarce at her job. Everyone would be looking at her, demanding from her, gossiping about her. But that wasn’t the worst part. The papers would find dirt, or someone would dish it out. No one must ever speak to her mother.
Cool air caressed her cheek as Vince opened the door and sat inside. Now carrying his coat over his arm, he placed it on the seat beside him. Leon had adjusted his rearview mirror to its previous angle. Only his tie could now be seen.