Episode Forty Four
Quinn detoured around a large woman who was bending over to examine one of the mannequins that displayed the lingerie. Quinn noted she seemed somewhat taken aback by the scantiness of the dummy’s panties and bra. As Quinn moved on, she noted the woman gave her a severe glance of disapproval. Yes, they’re made for me. So what?
She moved on eyeing the displays and racks to either side of her. It’s all coral and slime green. Isn’t there anything at all in a decent colour?
She stopped at a display of black brassieres. Better, but a tad overdone here. She thought of the woman and her disapproving look. Yes, these are the ones you want.
She moved on and turned left towards the whites. Two women were there talking.
‘She’s a bitch, you know.’
‘Tell me about it.’
‘I think she’s screwing Tom. And to think his wife tolerates his infidelity.’
‘How do you know?’
‘Well, Rachel tells me he’s hardly ever back before ten and then he gets all these mysterious texts that he’s unwilling to share with her. And no sex.’
‘Could be business.’
‘What? At a quarter to midnight?’
‘Well, Danny sometimes gets messages in the evening.’
‘But that’s different. He’s a banker.’
‘What does Tom do?’
‘Works in the City in some capacity or not…’ The speaker spotted Quinn. She gave Quinn an angry look. She grabbed her companion’s arm and nudged her head ever so slightly in Quinn’s direction. ‘We’d better talk about it later.’
The other woman matched eyes with Quinn. She too seemed very displeased with her. You should know I’m not particularly interested in your little piece of hot gossip. She then remembered Dancy and the late-night texts and calls he’d got. Had he been double timing her? The image of his face when she told him she was leaving floated into her mind. No, he doesn’t have the deviousness. She felt a slight tinge of guilt. He’d sent her a New Year’s message. She’d not replied. I don’t want to go back to you. It’s over. Finished. Living at home’s better than what you offered. Besides, Walter told me you’re in trouble at BlackRock. What did you do? *
Quinn watched the women move off before making for the rack.
‘May I be of assistance?’
Quinn turned to see a sales assistant standing a few feet behind her.
‘I was simply looking. I’m really after a new outfit for work.’
The assistant smiled. I bet they tell you to do that. ‘We have the best range of different types of bras. High-rise, balconette, push-ups, low cuts and plunges. Plunge bras are very popular at the moment.’
‘I’m sure they are.’ Just go away, will you?
‘May I say, it would be a good choice in your case.’
‘I’ll think about it.’ Go away. I’m not interested.
‘I’ll be here if you need any help.’ I’m leaving, and I won’t be coming back to ask you about what bra to buy even if I wanted one.
Quinn scuttled off towards the clothes section. She paused beside a display. A double-breasted blazer? Do I want to join a yachting club? She tried to imagine how those at Number Ten would react if she turned up wearing it. Mary would think I was being pretentious. And Morton? Thinking about the Head of the International Division made her mad. The creep has got under my skin. Gur. **
Quinn’s mobile vibrated. She fished it out of her pocket. It was a text from Clarissa. Sure, why not, meet her and her new fiancé Duane at Voltex’s Bar. I suppose I should meet the guy since I’m bound to be asked to be a bridesmaid. She tapped a reply. She scanned the clothes. Another time.
She made for the way out.
* See Episodes 31 and 37
** See Episode 14
* * *
Andrew slowly drove their rented Peugeot along the country lane. While nominally a two-way road, it was more suited to single file traffic. To either side, tall hedges, their brown leaves blocked off the fallow fields of the winter landscape, visible through the gates they passed at intervals. Here and there in the hedge were the grey trunks of trees whose bare branches pointed up into the cobalt sky. A low winter sun gave a brightness to the scenery, even the greys.
‘Your parents are lovely.’
Andrew momentarily took his eyes of the road to look at Jill. ‘They love you too.’ He quickly looked back as yet another blind corner loomed.
‘It’s very kind of them to offer to come down when the baby is born and help out.’
‘I think that’s what parents do. My mother was talking to me about their friends who have grandchildren. She just can’t wait to get stuck in.’
Jill rubbed at the bump. ‘She’ll be getting her wish in May.’ She giggled.
‘I know she’s delighted.’ Andrew turned the wheel at a particularly tight corner.
Andrew slammed on the brakes. The Peugeot ground to a halt a couple of metres away from a stationary car that blocked the road.
‘Glad I wasn’t speeding.’
‘They shouldn’t have stopped in the middle of the lane like that! We could’ve run right into them.’
He patted her thigh. ‘Take it easy.’
The door to the car, a Nissan, opened and a man go out and came over to them.
Andrew lowered his side window and leaned out. ‘Did you break down?’
‘Yeah, flat battery.’
Andrew noted the fifty-eight plates. ‘It’s quite new isn’t it. The battery shouldn’t just fail like that.’
‘It’s flat alright. The car won’t move an inch.’
‘Perhaps we can help you get it started. You wouldn’t have any jump leads by any chance?’
‘You don’t understand.’ He gestured at the Nissan. ‘It’s a Leaf.’
‘I think if we can start it, the engine can recharge the battery.’ Andrew smiled at the man. He switched off the Peugeot’s engine, unfastened his seatbelt, opened the driver’s door and got out. ‘It’s easy if you’ve got jump leads. Pushing is a lot harder.’
The mans scowled. ‘No. It wouldn’t do any good, anyhow.’
‘I’ve got a car going that way. Usually, it’s just getting it started that’s the problem.’
‘The problem’s the car’s electric. The battery, see? I need to charge it up.’
Andrew examined the car in detail. ‘It’s one of those new electric ones, then?’
‘Yes. I need a charging station. The satnav was leading me towards one when the battery ran out of juice.’
‘Where you heading to?’
‘But that’s miles away.’ Andrew pointed at the way the Nissan had come. ‘And it’s that way.’
‘Bloody hell. Don’t tell me it was sending me in the wrong direction.’
‘Looks much like it.’ Andrew examined the car again. ‘What are you going to do?’
‘I’ll have to get the garage to come and fetch me.’
‘Well, I think you should move it, so it doesn’t block the lane so much.’
‘Yeah, I suppose so.’ He scratched his head. ‘You wouldn’t mind helping me push it back a bit, so it can go against the side?’
‘Can’t see why not.’
Andrew went over to the Peugeot and leaned in. ‘I’m just going to help move the car and we’ll be on our way.’
‘Hurry up. With the engine off, I’m freezing.’
‘Won’t take long.’
Andrew went around the Nissan and examined the lane beyond. There was a slightly wider patch about fifty metres back. He pointed at the spot. ‘That would be a good place.’
‘Sure, if we can get it that far.’
‘There’s a bit of a slope, so once we get it moving, it should roll back well enough.’
‘Let’s do it, then. I don’t want a car coming around that bend and smashing into my new car.’
‘The next thing along here will be a tractor, most likely. They use these lanes a lot.’
The man went over to his Leaf, opened the door, fiddled around inside. The driver’s window slowly descended. He closed the door and putting his hand through the window adjusted the steering wheel. ‘Right ready.’
Andrew went over to the front of the car and leaned forward, hands on the bonnet. ‘So am I. You give the signal.’
‘Right. One. Two. Three. Heave.’
Andrew strained his muscles. At first the car refused to budge. Then it started rolling backwards, ever so slowly. He redoubled his efforts. The car picked up speed. Andrew stopped pushing. He watched as it began to glide back down the road. The driver was forced to trot along beside it, adjusting the steering to keep it going in the right direction.
The Nissan began to go faster.
Andrew raised his arms in alarm. ‘Put on the brake.’
There was a garbled shout from the man. The driver was trying to open the door. He had stopped guiding the car which now was heading towards one of the hedges. As Andrew watched, the man scrambled in headfirst just as the car veered across the lane, the open door catching in the hedgerow. There was a snapping sound followed by a thud as the rear of the car hit a tree. The door came off with a distinct wrenching sound.
Andrew sprinted down to the now entangled car. The driver was sprawled across the two front seats and looked as if he was unconscious. Andrew knocked loudly on the passenger’s window. The man gazed up at him.
‘Are you alright?’
‘Yeah. Think so. What happened?’
‘You lost control of the car. It’s gone into the hedge.’
‘Is it still blocking the road?’
Andrew quickly appraised the situation. ‘No.’
‘Well, that’s great then. You can be on your way.’
‘You sure you’re okay?’
‘Yeah, I’ll be fine.’
‘If you think so, then, we’ll be off.’
‘Have a pleasant journey.’
Andrew walked rapidly back to the Peugeot, got in, fastened his seatbelt and started the car.
‘It’s electric and the battery is flat.’
Andrew drove forward slowly to pass the Nissan. The man was now sitting up and finding the driver’s door was gone.
‘No, I mean it running into the side like that. And the door?’
‘He let go of the steering wheel.’
‘He doesn’t seem too upset about hitting the tree.’
‘He doesn’t know yet.’
‘He’s not going to be pleased with you when he finds out.’
‘I guess not.’