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Page 10




keys at random and to his surprise the drawer slid open. His fingers were clumsy in the leather gloves, but he managed to grab a handful of notes. He walked quickly to the front door and out into the dark street. He had intended to walk to his car, but after a few steps he began running.

When he tried to open the car door he found that both his hands were full: the cash in his right hand and the empty squeezy bottle in his left. He tried to shove the money into his trouser pocket but it was difficult because of the gloves and some of the notes fluttered away from him. He got the car keys out, opened the driver's door and got in. He threw the squeezy bottle onto the passenger seat and started the engine. He looked in the rear-view mirror and saw he was still wearing the crash helmet, so he took it off and peeled off the balaclava. His hair and face were drenched in sweat; he hadn't realised how hot he had been in that balaclava. The cold air inside the car washed through him and he suddenly felt a sense of euphoric release, the way he sometimes felt after making love. He felt clean and strong.

He was very careful not to exceed the speed limit on the way home.



He got back before ten-thirty. The tv was still on; he could see flickering blue ghost images behind the gaps in the curtains as he parked on the driveway. It took him seventeen minutes to clear the car of all evidence. The crash helmet went back into its cardboard box and into the attic. The squeezy bottle was washed out with water and placed at the bottom of the outside bin. The balaclava was cut up into small pieces and burnt in an ashtray piece by piece, together with the money he had taken from the cash register. He kept a running total as he added each note to the flames: he burned two hundred and sixty-five pounds. Afterwards, he opened a window to disperse the smoke and threw the ashes onto the back lawn.

Then he changed his clothes and watched tv. It was mostly repeats, re-runs of American sit coms and Dad's Army. He wondered why he bothered to pay his tv licence.

At twenty past eleven, the phone rang. He let it ring five times, then picked up the receiver.

"Hello?" he said.

"Is that Mister Hoyle?"

"Yes, speaking."

"I'm sorry to disturb you at this late hour Mister Hoyle, but I'm afraid I have some bad news." The man's voice had just the right mixture of gentle apology and brisk professionalism. Whoever it was must have had a lot of practice at making phone calls like this.

"Bad news? What kind of bad news?"

"This is the Grainger General Hospital, Mister Hoyle. I'm afraid it's your wife Mister Hoyle, she's -"

"Anne? What's happened to her?"

"Your wife has been attacked at her work, Mister Hoyle. I'm afraid she's been quite badly injured."

"My God! Is she... how is she?"

"She's being treated for facial burns at the Hospital, Mister Hoyle."

"Is she going to be all right?"


 
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