‘The serious sort,’ she replied, ‘the sort that adheres to a strict routine and puts up with no nonsense.’
Stu responded with a quizzical gaze. Nancy bit noisily into her toast which spurred a hearty chuckle. ‘I like you, Nora,’ he said. ‘I like you very much.’
What Mr. Cuban Heels didn’t get was that Nancy wasn’t joking.
Nancy pulled up in front of Vince’s gates at nine prompt. She idled the Punto and pointed her device. To the command of Millie, the gates, clicked, the gates whirred. Stately elms drifted by on her right; rippling lawns receded to her left. Vince’s mighty chapel door loomed ahead. Nancy parked on a space normally occupied by a Lamborghini. Her Punto required but half the surface area.
Nancy straightened her coat and made her approach. She paused before foraging in her pocket. The gates had closed behind her. The air fell still. Would Vince be waiting behind the door, she wondered? She inserted E1 key. Would he be watching her from the surveillance room, his finger resting on the green button? The lock disengaged. Would she find him seated in the meeting room, his face sly in the knowledge it was just a matter of time? Nancy pushed her way through. Silence descended upon her. She glanced about; the place appeared deserted. The stairlift remained at the foot of the Newell post; the access way remained closed.
Nancy took a stroll up the stairs and knew an instant before Vince’s slumped form drifted into view that he had not moved. In a blink, she could see Sheila lying there. Nancy approached. Scotch and sweat made a faint bouquet above him. Nancy’s Oxford depressed a floorboard near Vince’s head and found a squeak. She gratified in it. ‘Did you sleep well, Mr. Jonas?’ she asked.
The sight disappointed her. Pride had impeded his efforts and perhaps alcohol too. The twitch of his right thumb indicated a coming-to, albeit groggy. Nancy didn’t dwell to take in his rumpled clothes, his mouth ajar. The spectacle was nothing new. Nancy went down to complete the first task of the day. The star-shaped button now on override, Nancy reclined in the swivel seat within the surveillance room and rested her heels upon Vince’s wheelchair. She poured a flask of tea. The flavours of Vince’s food, like the comforts of his spare bedrooms would remain guessed at; as one employed here, she would not impose herself in that way.
Her coat pocket rippled against her thigh. Her fingers encountered a smooth edge whereupon a recollection flickered. She fished out Vince’s phone to encounter the bearded face of Mr. Bronwyn James. She ended the call and switched the phone off. Nancy savoured her second sip. Unsteady clunks started up from the landing. Nancy swiveled on her seat and placed her rump on the table top. A smart buzz stopped her. Above the monitor, an amber light flashed. Another buzz. Movement on the screen drew her eye. She neared.
Top left informed her a snowy-haired man in a black overcoat was standing outside Vince’s gates. Beside him, a blue Bentley ticked over. The man’s head dipped off-screen. Another buzz. Nancy gazed at the figure as a fox caught in headlights. Clunks above kept pace, or was Vince’s rump sliding down each riser? Snow Hair persisted. A third buzz. Nancy would have to blag her way out of this or Snow Hair could bring company next time. Her finger slid across the amber light and pressed. She coughed and neared her lips to the speaker. ‘Hello?’
Snow Hair’s head remained still. ‘Amy?’ A constrained tone, as though from a tight windpipe.
‘Amy, dearest, it’s Paul Coffman. The gates are not responding here. Is Vince not available?’
Dearest? ‘Paul, I’m so sorry, Mr. Jonas will not be taking callers today. He is receiving care.’
Coffman’s mouth drew down. ‘Oh,’ his gerbilly jowls pulled sideways. ‘Well, that’s rather unprecedented. I thought the consultant from the clinic was not due until two.’
The footfalls had stopped. The air fell still. ‘It’s not a consultant,’ Nancy informed him, ‘it’s a nurse.’
Coffman did not seem to take this in. ‘A nurse?’
‘Yes. Nurse Nora Clements. She’s very good.’
The handle of the access door rattled. Nancy’s stomach bounced against her diaphragm.
Coffman’s head continued to occupy the lower corner of the screen. ‘So when will he be free?’
The door was now oscillating against Vince’s wheelchair. Nancy replied smoothly, ‘next week.’
The rattling stopped. The door took a jolt. ‘Like I said,’ Nancy continued, ‘Mr. Jonas is under the nurse’s care and should not be disturbed.’
‘Coffman lowered his head to the speaker. ‘What’s that noise?’
Nancy could feel the vibration in her tailbone. ‘What noise?’
‘I don’t hear anything.’
The room fell silent. Nancy realised now was the time to make her move. ‘I’m so worry about all the inconvenience, Paul.’ Nancy tried to sound even. ‘Mr. Jonas will be in touch with you as soon as he is able to.’