Vince’s form fell still. The head of his crutches vanished into the drapes of his shirt, pallid against his now burgundy complexion. His tone clipped her ears with economy. ‘You have no idea, Nora.’
Nancy’s fingers trembled over the lever. ‘Yes, I do, Mr. Jonas. More than you will ever know.’ Vince gaze remained resolute. He owned his self-denial and he could do what he liked with it. Nancy raised her fist for the door knob. ‘I could grant you access to this room, if I wanted Mr. Jonas. The police and all your payroll riffraff could barge in and give you back your scotch and your TV and your CT room and your phone and your wheelchair and your stupid silk sheets. But you will never walk again.’
Vince’s right crutch twitched. For the first time, his voice surrendered to rage. ‘That is my business, Nora! Not yours!’ The plaster at his throat quivered with the force.
Nancy twisted the knob and nudged the door. The wheelchair clunked against the panel. She reversed into the surveillance room. Her footplates clear, the door closed in front of her. Vince’s canted yet stanch form complete with unwavering lour slid from view. The green button sat at the corner of her vision. Her hands shook. She didn’t care if the black man with the Mazda burst through the main entrance. She didn’t care if the assigned police officer from Kirkby Magnor station read out her rights and cuffed her. She only cared about the white hot pulsar spinning within her gut. Lungs tightened, permitted but shallow sips of air. The four-image composite on the monitor screen told her no one now waited at Vince’s gates.
But Davenport had remarked that there appeared to be a communication fault. Nancy pushed the wheelchair aside and vertigo pulsed at her temples. Consistent with Vince’s other applications, this security system typified the pinnacle of design. All components ensconced within reinforced steel, no prying hands could tamper. She would bet that any breach in connection would spur an alarm – anything would spur an alarm. She foraged within a cabinet above to find funky gadgets; remote control swat helicopters, magnetic levitators; anything to while the hours of the surveillance staff. Plastic pieces toppled over the desk. Amidst the plastic detritus, a mini golf ball bobbed yet remained on the tee. She took to her seat. She strongly sensed Vince’s presence on the other side of the door. Was he gazing at her if not for the barrier? In here, time was arbitrary. He had her. She gave the ball a flick. Only after the third go did the tee relinquish the ball.
A zipped compartment within her satchel bag came in handy for small things like keys, change, gum. Nancy unpeeled the wrapper and stuck an oblong into her mouth. Spearmint spurred saliva overload. Her molars pummeled plasticity into the gum. A second put. This time the ball rolled to the fourth flick. She stuck another oblong into her mouth. The foyer on the other side remained quiet. Was he still there? She attempted a third put. The ball came to rest at the edge of the green. Golf proved not her forte after all. But she could chew. Chewing was something she did to deter people from approaching her. She ejected the gum via the tip of her tongue and pinched it between finger and thumb. Davenport’s communication fault would soon become a prophesy. She pressed the gum over the grid of holes next to the amber button. As though by magic the gum’s volume decreased by half. One piece of gum became forty-five morsels. Gum could fill the smallest space and liked to stay there.
With her thumb, she scraped the surplus and rolled that into a second ball. She pushed it into the seam around the star-shaped button. On doing so, override became automatic, and back again. Gum liked narrow gaps. Gum tended to mushroom out on the other side, creating a cushion for any object. This button now had a cushion that liked to stay there. Nancy may still have wasted two sticks of gum; how Vince keyed his chief code or alerted the station remained a mystery.
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