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In Transit (Another excerpt of a novel in progress by Stephen Mitchell)
Anne Chilford-Oaks sat well in the back of the Jaguar saloon. Spencer
knew how to drive her after his many months in service and didn't hang
about in traffic cutting through the
nonsense without being unduly aggressive. His signature three knocks on
the front door had prompted a long, affectionate kiss and a fond gaze
from Jonathan as she made her way through the rear door of the Jaguar
that Spencer held open for her.
Later in the day, there would
be another knock, perhaps more insistent then Spencer's, and it would
fall to Jonathon to answer it and explain, yet again, that he was not
Jonathon Chilford-Oaks but Jonathon Potter. And the policeman--or
someone very much like a policeman--would have a long list of questions
that Jonathon would find even more irksome.
The drive into the
City was quick and uneventful. Anne walked briskly from the kerb and
into the edifice that corner-stoned the global economic community and
went left instead of right without attracting any unwanted attention.
Long walks and alternating taxis took her in a roundabout and meandering
fashion to the Brown's in Mayfair where she spent time redefining
herself as a redhead, single in every sense imaginable with a quick and
unpredictable disposition. All of her decisions had been made in less
then a second--no more than the qualifying differential between the
first two cars on a Formula One starting grid--yet they all had the
logic and certainty that characterize plans made months in advance.
Knowing is better then planning she had told Jonathon. He had smiled.
It seemed at first to Jonathon as though nothing had happened. Mrs.
Barry prepared a delicious meal of prime rib and mashed potatoes with
enough horseradish to take his mind off the Brussels sprouts and a very
good Pinot Noir that paired well with the meat. Later, in his study, he
sampled some of Mrs. Barry's flourless chocolate cake with a bit of
vanilla ice cream. As he set aside his plate, Jonathon took stock of his
surroundings and wondered if the leather bound books and the two
original oils and the desk--the desk Anne had insisted he deserved--were
the imprimatur of an affluent intellectual or a wealthy poseur. Since
he was neither one nor the other, it was an artificial environment
reminding him of an advertisement for a single malt Scotch. He looked
the part, even dressed the part. However hard he tried, he didn't find
himself convincing though he had tried more to please her than for his
own vanity. Surely an honest effort should merit an honest result.
The bedroom was nothing like that at the Brown's. There had been a
smoker recently and the air was redolent of transitional circumstances
and failed intentions. The man lying next to her had been decently
charming and just lonely enough to accept her company for the night
without feeling the need to ask too many questions. Neither had he felt
compelled to explain why his marriage had failed, which it surely had,
or that he truly loved his girlfriend in spite of having Anne into his
apartment for the night. He had accepted her as an inevitable, if
unexpected, reward for some good deed long forgotten. Anne thought to
herself, "The rhyme or reason of what comes our way commonly exacts a
price to pay--an admission of guilt more often than not. The good we've
done is seldom sought."
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