Four

“Don’t stare, you idiot.”

“Sorry.”

We are sitting in the window of an Italian restaurant opposite Briar’s hotel, which is swathed in police investigation tape. A dour doorman watches the police forenzic team plodding around in boiler suits.

“What are they looking for?”

“Clues?”

“To what?” Marina demands. “He went splat. He was pushed, it’s obvious. The question is; who pushed him?”

“Well, it wasn’t me. I was with a guy called Fred.”

“That’s great. That’s fucking great, Kit. I ask you to stick to him, and instead you’re with some guy called Fred whilst he’s being pushed from a fucking hotel window. Fucking great. Employee of the month. Buy yourself a Twix. I hope this Fred guy sucked your dick real good.”

“I’m sorry…”

“Great. You’re sorry. Fucking great. That’s helpful. Right now, the most important thing is that we don’t make ourselves into suspects.”

The waitress arrives with our food, her eyes drawn to Marina, who is radiating tension and stress.

“The carbonara?”

“That’s me,” I say quickly, smiling at her, thinking simultaneously that it is a lie; I am not in fact a creamy spagetti dish but a human man-boy.

She slides the steaming plate in front of me and places a ceaser salad in front of Marina. Her eyes linger on Marina; even in a spate of nervous anxiety she is exceptionally beautiful.

“Black pepper?”

“Please.”

“Anything else I can do for you?”

“Thanks, no,” Marina dismisses her firmly. The waitress bobs ascention and walks away, casting a wide-eyed look at Marina over her shoulder as she goes.

“She wants you,” I say.

“At a time like this you’re still thinking about sex?”

“I was just saying…”

“I don’t fuck waitresses,” says Marina. She looks out of the window, checks herself, takes a gulp of red wine. “I wish I hadn’t given up bloody smoking.”

“Um,” I say uncertainly, coiling spagetti around my fork. “If we’re being inconspicuous, is it such a good idea for us to be here?”

“We’re screwed either way. I needed to see for myself. And to show you what happens when you fuck things up. As you can see, he made quite a mess on the pavement.”

I swallow down the mouthful of food hastily, my stomach lurching.

“I can’t eat this.”

“You can,” Marina says in a low, threatening voice. “Stop drawing attention to us. Explain to me how you failed in this very simple assignment? Make it good.”

I coil another forkful of spaghetti, aware of her eyes glaring into me.

“We drank at lot,” I say steadily. “He wanted us to go back to his hotel room. I agreed. But we got separated on the way – I got lost on the tube…”

“You got lost on the tube?”

“Yes.”

“You got lost on the tube.”

“It’s still true.”

Her mouth is pursed, her eyebrows raised. She’s trying really hard not to smile.

I open my eyes as wide and puppyish as they’ll go, blinking pathetically at her, expression sorrowful and shamed.

She strokes my cheek with a sharp red fingernail.

“It’s lucky that you have other talents,” she sighs.

“I’m really sorry…”

“Enough of that. Not helpful. Now we start fixing the problem. More specifically, you start fixing it.”

She discretely slides something over the table towards me. I casually make it disappear into a pocket.

A plastic key card.

The sick feeling returns.

“Is that…?”

“Room 908,” Marina grins, her teeth white daggers. “Don’t let me down this time.”

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