Mike comes up trumps
Laura closed her eyes again as they drove across town, trying to push the images from her mind. She kept reminding herself of the Margrave’s wise words: something bad happened but it’s over, it’s not happening any more. Everything would be fine now.
Eventually the van stopped and Joseph turned off the engine. She opened her eyes and gave a start, shrinking back into her seat – peering in through the windscreen was a middle aged skinhead with a tattoo on his neck.
“It’s alright,” Joseph said quickly, “that’s Mike, he’s a friend of mine. He’s helping.”
He leaned across her and opened the passenger door. The window was still broken.
“Hi Mike, I wasn’t sure you’d be here yet. Where shall I go?”
Mike nodded at Joseph and glanced over again at Laura before replying, she looked like she’d seen a ghost.
“This is a fancy development you know, none of your rubbish. There’s an underground car park, or the bare bones of one at least. Drive down that slope over there and you’ll be out of sight. Col’s waiting, he’ll put you in the lift – doors don’t shut properly but the mechanism’s working okay.”
Colin met them in the basement, pointed out where to park and then guided them across the uneven ground to the lift. Laura stepped in first and leaned against the back wall without saying a word.
“Harry’s upstairs cleaning,” Colin said as the lift groaned into life with a lurch.
“Yeah. The boss told him to give the place a once over. There was dustsheets on the beds and that, but it was a bit grubby all the same.”
“Thanks.” Joseph didn’t know what else to say. He could just imagine Mike running an enormous finger across a dirty table top and handing out the Marigolds.
Harry was waiting for the lift when it arrived on the tenth floor, holding a bucket and cloth and looking slightly sheepish.
“All sorted Mr Singer,” he said, “you’ve got hot water and light in there now.”
“Do you want me here on the landing or downstairs?”
“There’s only the one lift plus those stairs at the end of the hall isn’t there?”
“Yes, this is the only way up that got finished.”
“Well downstairs at the bottom will be fine then.”
“Righto,” and Harry took his bucket into the lift.
Joseph led Laura into the show flat. Mike had come up trumps: not only would she be safe up here she would be reasonably comfortable too. The place was fully furnished, if in a rather gaudy Eurotrash style designed to appeal to those who had millions to spend on a pied-a-terre. The dressing of the flat for prospective purchasers had extended as far as linen on the beds and soft towels in the marble bathroom, and now it was all spick and span thanks to Harry’s valiant efforts.
Laura kicked off her sandals. They looked small and shabby on the expanse of bright cream carpet. She stood still in the middle of the floor and spoke at last.
“Did I hear him say hot water?”
Joseph opened a couple of doors. The first one led into the kitchen, but then he found the master bedroom and off that a luxurious bathroom complete with bottles of expensive looking potions. He fiddled with the unnecessarily complicated taps, opened one of the bottles and soon hot, bubbly water was filling the bath. Then he backed out of the room awkwardly, saying “there you are.”
Laura paused in the doorway, “I don’t think I said thank you.”
“For coming. For finding me.”
Joseph shrugged, what could he say? He changed the subject.
“I’ll see what there is in the kitchen,” he said, and left her to it.
There was plenty of shiny equipment in the equally shiny kitchen, a fancy coffee maker, a built in ice machine, but no sign of a kettle. Copper pans hung from a rack though, so at least he’d be able to make her a cup of tea on the hob, if he’d only thought to bring any teabags, milk or anything useful at all that is. He was just wondering whether he could ask Colin or Harry to fetch some when he heard a crash, then a muffled shout and another crash.
It was Laura.