Lime Tree Avenue had exhausted its supply of supercars for now. Nancy depressed the amber switch and spun in her seat. The shadows beneath his eyes had returned but without the irony. No muscle mobilized his face, no frown, no smirk. He simply watched her. Sweat speckled his sallow skin, his hair hugged his scalp. Nancy grew acutely aware of the table between them and feared it may be insufficient. But no. His crutches had become his shackles. He could not possibly scale this lofty plateau cut from marble. ‘You made it,’ she simply said. Below the tabletop, her fingers twirled.
Vince did not appear out of breath. She had not heard the clack. How long had he been standing there? Why hadn’t he called out during her discourse with one of his callers? The answer came immediately: because her finger would have slammed the amber switch before he could make sense. Vince made a slow retreat, such an act not his style. The kitchen darkened as the sunlight plunged behind cloud. Waiting her out would have achieved nothing, she realised; he had the ideal stakeout but she still commanded the surveillance area. She had done her best to make her lie into a truth and his powers to alert Kirkby Magnor station remained out of his reach.
But then he could still hobble down to the gates and wait for someone to greet him, like he said.
The buzzer rankled her. Nancy turned. The amber light flashed again. A tall black man in a taupe suit loomed over a white Mazda. Off screen, the right handlebar of Vince’s wheelchair no longer conjoined its shadow on the door panel. The buzz resounded. Her heart gave a sickening stutter. Nancy was certain Vince had noticed. She no longer saw any point in pushing the chair back into place. Vince was on his way through the meeting room to force his way in. Her actions seemed to time-lag behind her wishes.
Fingers clutched the grips too late as did her grapple for the door handle. The draught from the foyer offered no relief for her panic. The footplates of the wheelchair slammed against the panel. The shock tore into her shoulders. The footplates slashed through the doorway. She had expected to see his canted form beneath the stairs but a mere instant had passed. She wheeled the chair to Vince’s desk. The access way door clicked closed behind her. Once an armor, her outfit impeded her motions as a straightjacket. A clack no longer emerged from the meeting room but a thud. The pulsation informed her Vince had only one thing in mind. On the other side of the access way door, the amber light buzzed in a three-beat stutter. Her mouth bunched into a hard seam. The black man with the Mazda was still waiting.
Nancy had not viewed the passage of her surroundings from this height since the age of eight. The small of her back nestled against a bolster in the seat. Right thumb caressed a lever. She could override on manual if she wanted. The steel rims made easy reach of her palms. Footplates rendered her ankle muscles redundant. Her entire lower body became redundant. She took aim for the archway into the meeting room. No ticking of wheels made sneaking possible. Strands of her hair drifted in the breeze. How could she do this? She was wearing someone else’s clothes, using someone else’s toothbrush, comb, underwear – only much worse.
Beneath the seat, a motor whirred like the limo, silent, powerful. She nudged the lever right. The rear wheels clouted a bureau in the corner. She nudged the lever left. The cavernous room pivoted about her. Paintings by de Kooning, Chagall and Albers roiled into a blur. She pulled back. The arched windows drifted and came to rest on her right. Dead centre of the meeting room, Vince’s crutches had fallen still. Earlier he had watched without expression, yet borne from muscle tone. Now all tenor had vanished, his face slack in a mask of inertia. Nancy had come this far and now she could not go back. She scooted forwards and into self-loathing. ‘It’s rather comfortable.’ She scooted backwards, concluding with a pirouette. ‘Comfortable and convenient.’ She made a ninety-degree to face the doorway. ‘I could get used to this.’ And now to face front. ‘Is this what you want, Mr. Jonas?’ She made a ninety-degree to face the window. ‘To be stuck in something convenient for the rest of your life?’ The wheels made a reverse with a skid.
Vince hadn’t moved. The shadows on his face hardened. This CEO of Nexus Corporations had never expected to see the display before him. A decibel from silence, his voice strung syllables together as though one word. ‘Give-me-back-my-chair.’
The sound depressed her. She closed her eyes and nudged the lever. The wheelchair skidded forwards driving ripples through her hair. She counted to two. She stopped. Her sights confirmed a hand-width of airspace separated Vince’s right crutch from her arm-rest. A count of three would have driven his crutch from beneath him. As a malevolent child, she peered up to meet his glower. Sweat and cut grass leached from his shirt. She wrenched the lever to reverse, the chair scooted backwards. The moment her rear wheels knocked the bureau, the thud of his crutches resumed. Lumbering progress weighed with dogma, as heavy as her despair. His shoulders pitched, his feet dragged, his crutches slammed. As surely as the ebb and flow of the tides, he staggered through the archway. His thuds rang out against the walls of the foyer.