right,’ Eddie said.
I turned right very smartly. When Eddie came into the doorway, the Piper bottle, swung backhand, caught him on the jawbone. The Albanian time-bomb in his hand went off, no more than a door slam, the slug going Christ knows where. Eddie dropped the gun to nurse his face. I pulled him into the room by his shirt, spun him around and kicked him in the back of the right knee with an instep while wrenching him backwards by his hair. He hit the ground hard. I was about to give him a kick when a semblance of calm descended upon me. I spared him the grace note.
Eddie was moaning a great deal but he wasn’t going to die from the impact of the Piper. I dragged him off by the heels and locked him in the lavatory along the passage.
‘Mate,’ he said in a thick voice from behind the door, ‘mate, what’s your name?’
I said, ‘Mr Dollery, that was a very silly thing to do. Where’s the money?’
‘Mate, mate, just hold it, just one second…’
The freezer had been stocked for a two- or three-week stay, but all the recent catering had been by Colonel Sanders, McDonald’s and Dial-a-Dino. Dessert was from Colombia. There were dirty shirts and underpants all over the main bedroom and its bathroom. The mirror-fronted wall of cupboards held three suits, two tweedy sports jackets and several pairs of trousers on one side. On the other hung a nurse’s uniform, a Salvation Army Sally’s uniform, a meter maid’s uniform, and what appeared to be the parade dress of a female officer in the Waffen SS. With these went black underwear, some of it leather, and red suspender belts. My respect for Mrs Pick, florist and signatory to the house’s lease, deepened. By all accounts, she had a way with flowers too.
I was passing the lavatory on my way back from looking over the laundry when Eddie Dollery said, ‘Listen, mate, you want to be rich?’
He had excellent hearing. I stopped. ‘Mr Dollery,’ I said, ‘meeting people like you is riches enough for me.’
‘Cut that smart shit. Are you going to do it?’
His was not a proper vocabulary for someone who had been an accountant. ‘Don’t be paranoid,’ I said. ‘It’s that marching powder you’re putting up your nose.’
‘Oh, Jesus,’ said Eddie. ‘Give me a chance, will you?’
I went into the sitting room and telephoned Belvedere Investments, my temporary employer. Mr Wootton would return my call, said Mrs Davenport. She’d had twenty years as the receptionist for a specialist in sexually transmitted diseases before joining Wootton. J. Edgar Hoover knew fewer secrets.
I looked around some more while I waited. Then I sat down next to the phone and studied what I could see of Mabberley Court. Nothing moved except a curtain in the house opposite, a building so sterile and with surroundings so perfectly tended that it could have been the Tomb of the Unknown Suburbanites.
The phone rang.
‘Jack, my boy. Good news, I hope. Speak
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