An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


He hit the kitchen first and made a pot of Earl Grey: didn't bother checking mail; in the door, first left - kitchen. He put the tray down on the desk and kicked off his shoes and that's when he noticed the answer phone blinking. Nobody had this number: plus it was unlisted; must be junk. He pressed the play button from an idle curiosity and sat down. There was a pause and then a strange "message". Someone was talking, you could hear breathing too, but not in any language he knew. He leant forward and replayed it. He replayed it twice before he twigged: it was being played backwards or rather the message was being spoken backwards. And only one person he knew had mastered that particular trick. A little digital trickery with the computer reversed the speech stream for him and he heard the unmistakable and cigarette husky voice of Petra. A voice from the past indeed ... must be 12 years or more ... he'd thought her dead ... obviously not ... "Eef you are whorking the Boris connection cherie meet me at the Prospect tonight at 10. Eef not I send you just a kiss".

He had loved Petra once. Had almost wrecked his marriage over her. They'd worked on what? ten, maybe twelve, cases together. Petra had been trained by "the institute" and she was good - eidetic memory, back speaking, code making and breaking - she had it all. He had never got to the bottom of how she had washed up here in London working for the factory - it was just somewhere you never went with Petra - her face would turn stony and her eyes would drain of all feeling - she would clam up, or else she would go on the attack - like he said - you just didn't go there - even in bed you didn't go there. His feelings warmed toward her, rekindled, just recalling some of their times together. Perhaps he loved her yet: for him at least love seldom died altogether.

Two hours later he drank off the last of the cold tea and stubbed out the last of his cigarettes - the ashtray nearly full. He was trying to imagine how time had treated her: trying to guess what she might have been doing between times. Facially she would not have changed much - she had always had great bones but that voluptuous body might have sagged or fattened - who could know? He hazarded that she had gone back to working for 'the institute" - might have been coerced - she wouldn't have gone willingly. But if she had information on Boris then it was worth schlepping over to the East End - despite having been born north of the river he seldom went that way anymore ... they treated him like a foreigner - a traitor almost. Who was he kidding - he had known since he first heard her breathing and then her voice that he would go - he couldn't pass up a chance like this.

He got up, dropped off the tea things in the kitchen, emptied the ashtray into an overflowing bin under the sink and kicked the cupboard door firmly closed on it. Bollocks to it, Denise was due in the following day to clean up. A slow relaxing bath was in order, if he was heading north he'd dress sharply. A drop of Dettol in the bath maybe. He opened another door and opened another pack of cigarettes - was that 2 today? - it wouldn't ever do to run out - and he never had. He padded across the hallway and began to run a bath. Half a cap of Dettol and 3 or 4 drops of lavender oil. Had she cut that wonderful hair, he wondered, now that she had turned 40? He hoped not.


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