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Page 5

She stopped and looked at him, concern on her face. "Is everything all right, David?"

"Yes, perfectly." He tightened his face with a smile. "I have to buy some groceries. I've just realised we don't have enough fresh vegetables for the rest of the week, and Anne won't have time to get any before her evening shift begins."

Yvonne nodded. "How's Anne getting on in her new job? It must be hard for you, for both of you I mean. You're just getting back from work of an evening and she's off to the off-licence. Still, I suppose a second income is a must nowadays, what with the cost of living these days. In fact, I was saying just the other day to my son-in-law, that the time was when -"

"Yes, yes, I agree," David said. "But she likes the work. Gets her out of the house, she says."

"Well, that's good," said Yvonne.

"Yes," he said.

The shops were busy. He had trouble finding a parking space, and spent almost twenty minutes driving round and round the streets until he spotted a car pulling away from the kerb and was able to park in its place.

It was an overcast day and he was glad he had put his raincoat on when he left the office. He walked over to Marks & Spencer. After the bustle and noise of the street, the store felt pleasantly calm and spacious. He went over to the clothing department and after a few minutes found what he was looking for.

When the sales girl took it from him, she glanced at him strangely. He felt the need to say something. "Not every day you sell one of those, is it?" he said.

The sales girl smiled politely.

"I need it for hill walking in the Highlands," he continued. "The snow never melts, you know. I always used to wonder who actually wears those things, apart from bank robbers or international terrorists. I bet you used to get bulk orders from Ireland, eh?"

"Every year," she smiled as she put the balaclava into a plastic bag. He handed her a ten pound note and received five pounds and one pence in change. The sales girl put the receipt into the bag with the balaclava.

"Thanks," he said as he took the bag.

"Goodbye," she said.

Outside the shop, he took the receipt out of the bag and dropped it into a wastepaper bin.

He glanced at his watch: one-fourteen. Plenty of time. He returned to the car and drove to the outskirts of town. There were plenty of parking spaces; he left the car round the corner from the shop he wanted.

Inside, second-hand car engine parts lay piled on top of each other on the shelves of the cramped shop. The shopkeeper was sitting behind the counter reading The News of the World. Lesbian Love Boat

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