The Swap

The Swap by Antony Moore

Book: The Swap by Antony Moore Read Free Book Online
Authors: Antony Moore
though he was wearing a suit and tie and his hair looked like it cost more to cut than Harvey had spent on his last holiday, the old Bleeder seemed once more present. 'They are compiling their evidence.'
    Was 'compiling' the right word? Harvey wasn't sure. 'You sound odd,' he said, and then rushed on, 'Or rather, not odd so much as troubled. You must be troubled. You've a lot to be troubled about really, I suppose. I sometimes wish someone would murder my parents, but of course in truth I'd be very . . . troubled.'
    'Yes. It has come as a shock.' For a moment the new Bleeder, the Charles as Harvey now thought of him, returned. 'It has been quite a shock.' And he sat down on the edge of the bed exactly as Steve had done. Harvey felt very differently about this new arrival in what was, when all was said and done, his personal space. He shifted a little further across the mattress.
    'I hear you had a fight.'
    'Um, yeah. Bit of one. Not really a fight as such, just a bit of a wrestling match, sort of thing. With Jeff Cooper.'
    'You were kissing his wife.'
    'Well, not kissing as such. Rather sort of . . .'
    'Wrestling?' The new Charles was back and smiling. 'You're obviously a bit of a wrestling fan.'
    'No, not really, I just . . . it's been a funny few days.'
    'Mmm. Yes it has.' Bleeder frowned for a moment. 'I wish to God I hadn't come down here. It's years since I was here and I don't know why I came back.'
    'No . . . God knows why any of us do. I guess one has to come back occasionally, but yeah, I can see how you might have preferred not to be here when this happened.' Harvey looked at him closely, but Bleeder just nodded.
    'Mmm? Yes. Yes, that's true. I wish I'd stayed in London. There isn't much point in going back . . .' Bleeder seemed to see something in the gold-rimmed mirror on the dressing table that worried him, for he shook his head and turned to face Harvey again.
    'My mother was not an easy woman,' he said suddenly.
    Well, of course, that wasn't what the rumours had always said about her, but Harvey didn't mention this. Instead, he simply shook his head and leaned across for the makeshift ashtray. His side spasmed again and he groaned. Bleeder seemed not to hear. 'In many ways we were distant from each other. She had problems, her mind was not right. It took me some time to realise that. And to get away from her, to really leave St Ives. Do you know, I think it took me years really.'
    'And now you're back,' Harvey added helpfully.
    'Yes. Yes, I'm back. But she's gone.' He paused for a long time. 'I want to know now,' he said suddenly. 'I think now I want to know everything.'
    Harvey had managed to light another cigarette from the collapsing butt of the first. This one was equally flat and with bits of tobacco falling out of the end. He felt panic rising in him.
    'You want to know?' he said. 'Want to know what? And anyway, why ask me? What am I to do with anything? I don't know anything.' He was glad Bleeder was not a policeman at this point, because even to his own ear he sounded guilty as hell.
    'You were there,' said Bleeder simply. 'So you must know.'
    'I was not. I don't know what you mean . . . how do you know I was there? Where were you? That's what I'd like to know: where were you?' Harvey could hear his own voice rising to a pitch of terror unlike anything he'd heard before. He had thought he knew himself, knew his voice, yet here in extremis was a stranger suddenly shouting from inside his head.
    At that point the door opened and Nurse Jessica returned. 'Feeling any better, are we?' she carolled sweetly. 'Steve said you were awake. He's rung your parents, H. He thought you could do with a lift home. Your dad is coming for you.'
    'Oh right, right, yeah.' Harvey called his voice back to itself, as though calling a ferret from a rabbit hole. Even as he said it, even as he forced the panic down by an act of will, he was able to feel a faint regret that his father was coming. Why couldn't he have been out? He

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