V 02 - Domino Men, The

V 02 - Domino Men, The by Barnes-Jonathan

Book: V 02 - Domino Men, The by Barnes-Jonathan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Barnes-Jonathan
do with me?” I asked.
    “They told us about your grandfather before it happened.  Then they told us who you are.”
    “Who are these people?  How do they know anything about me?”
    “I can’t say.  But God forgive me — we have no choice but to introduce you.”
    Steerforth wiped his lips on the back of his hand, making a slurpy smacking noise.  “Tomorrow’s truth time, Henry.  If I were you, I’d drink up.  Enjoy your last night of freedom.”  He took a drag on his cigarette before exhaling a thin gray stream of smoke.  He was the kind of man, I strongly suspected, who smoked not because he particularly liked the taste but because he still thought it was cool.  He winked at someone over by the bar — a skinny girl in tight black jeans.  “’Scuse me, gents.”  He got to his feet and swaggered over.  “A-level totty.”
    Jasper muttered something bitter under his breath, although I noticed that he never took his eyes off Steerforth.
    Suddenly I remembered and glanced down at my watch.  “Damn.”
    “What’s the matter?”
    “You mean apart from my grandfather’s house burning down?”
    Jasper nodded distractedly like this was the kind of thing which happened to him all the time.
    I bundled up my coat.  “I’m late.”
    “For what?”
    “For a date.”  It was the first time all day I’d felt like smiling.
    Before I could leave, Jasper grabbed my arm and held it tight.  “Come to the Eye first thing tomorrow.  The war hangs in the balance.”  He sank back in his seat and took a sip of his Baileys.  “You’d better go.  You don’t want to keep Abbey waiting.”
    I dashed for the door and ran into the train station, grateful to be free.  Only later did it occur to me to wonder precisely how it was that Jasper knew her name.
     
     
    She was waiting for me in Clapham, a part of the city whose façade of well-monied gentility only barely papered over its dirt and degradation.  When I emerged from the tube, a homeless man blundered past me, smelling strongly of feces.
    Abbey stood outside the Picturehouse, traces of irritation marring her beautiful face.  I must have looked a real state, as when she saw me her expression changed immediately to one of sympathy and concern.  She fussed over me, smoothing my hair, brushing down my jacket, picking charred flakes from my lapels.  “What’s happened to you?  You stink of smoke.”
    I wasn’t sure how much it was safe to tell her.  “I was at Granddad’s house.  There was an accident…  a fire.”
    “Oh, you poor thing.”  She kissed me chastely on my forehead.  “You have been in the wars.”
    “It’s complicated.”
    “Listen, we’ve missed the film.  You’re knackered.  Let’s go back to the flat.”
    I nodded my grateful assent.  “I’m so sorry about tonight.”
    “It’s OK.”  She grinned.  “You’ll have to make it up to me.”
     
     
    Three stops on the Northern line and we were home again.  Abbey made beans on toast and we sat together quietly, the atmosphere between us thick with the unspoken.
    “How was work?” I asked at last.
    “Same as usual,” she said.  “Bit boring.  Just a couple more rich people getting divorced.  I’m starting to think there’s got to be more to life.”
    “I know what you mean.”
    “Henry?”
    “Hmm?”
    “What’s happening to you?”
    I hesitated.  “I can’t say.  I’d love to tell you but I really can’t.”
    “If you ever need someone…”
    “Thanks.”
    She leant toward me and kissed me, long and lingeringly, on the lips.  I surprised myself by not being too tired to respond.
     
     
    “Abbey?” I said as we lay stretched out on the sofa, our hands entwined, our arms clasped together in tentative embrace.  “What would you say…  what your reaction be if I were to tell you that a secret civil war has been waged in this country for years?  What if I said that a little department in the civil service has been fighting tooth

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