19: You scumbag, you maggot

Kirsty and shane

“It was Christmas Eve, babe…”

In the dog house.

I was lying low in a coffee house on Bateman Street. Marina’s usually cool persona had become decidedly icy of late, so I was keeping out of her way as much as possible.

Don’t shoot the messenger, as the old adage suggested. Clearly no one had ever told Marina. It wasn’t my fault that her contacts hadn’t come good; yet I had been the one returning with the disappointing news, and thus the one on the receiving end of the stony glare.

Her eyes are sometimes glacial, like empty frozen holes…

Kirsty and Shane were having it out on the café’s stereo system. In a way I’d prefer it if Marina would just lose it and yell abuse for a change, rather than glower with such cold restraint.

No reply to my text to Fred. I couldn’t really blame him. It was many months since I’d responded to one of his. It wasn’t really fair of me to get in touch at all. But the thought of home-cooking and his cosy, chaotic flat had been suddenly alluring and I’d gone along with the whim.

The street outside was busy with last-minute shoppers laden with bags busting with gifts. All in rush to be with family and loved ones.

I took a gulp of tepid latte, sickly sweet with gingerbread syrup. A bad choice.

My phone vibrated insistently from an incoming call. For a moment I smiled, imaging an invitation from Fred to partake in mince pies and mulled wine, but no, it was, inevitably, Marina.

“Where the hell are you?”

“Just having a coffee.”

“Where?”

“Soho.”

“Good. Get back here quickly. I’ve sourced a new contact for the painting. I need you to go and speak to her.”

I sighed.

“What time?”

“There isn’t an appointment, darling. I’ve only just managed to get her address. She’s a slippery one, keeping herself under the radar. You just need to go there and charm her for me. You can still manage that much, I hope?”

“What, now?”

“No time like the present.”

“But, Marina,” I said hopelessly. “It’s Christmas Eve.”

“And you have better things to do?”

“No,” I admitted. “But she will. People do at this time of year.”

“This is business, Kit. I’m offering good money.”

“Even business people have Christmas plans, and a new contact won’t take kindly to having that special time invaded by a stranger.”

“What the fuck do I pay you for?”

“Honestly, Marina,” I insisted, “it would be better to wait until after Boxing Day. If I go today it could cause serious offence – hardly the best start to a new business relationship.”

Marina exhaled irritably as she mulled it over.

“Ok. The day after Boxing Day.”

“Great.”

“And you’d better not fuck it up this time.”

She hung up.

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