A Wedding! Romance, dancing, new friends, old friends… Everyone loves a wedding! Terrifying corporations inventing new crimes and attempting to seduce increasing-implausible private detectives love a wedding! Sam Haine doesn’t love a wedding. But she may be starting to love a woman called Eris Cailleach.
“Don’t you two make a perfect couple?” The man who strolled up to them hid a hip injury in his pace. He was older than most of the other guests, and so was his money. His hair was the colour of ash and his eyes were not so much liquid as liquored. His smile crinkled at them, as natural as a dead pet, and Sam pulled herself tighter across her skeleton.
“Hello Robert,” said Eris. “Samantha, let me introduce you to one of our Heads of Personnel and the founder of the feast, Robert Gray…”
“Actually, we’ve met.”
Robert’s smile crumpled a little – like a man having a heart attack, but far, far away. He stared at Sam, but drew a blank.
“I was a blonde then, Robert, and you were going by the name Robert Graves. We spoke just after your final show…”
He recovered his poise and his pose. “Sam Haine?”
“In the flesh, and a delightful purple dress.”
“It is delightful,” murmured Eris, as if just noticing.
“Ms Haine, I heard you were in a Chinese jail.”
“An unhappy rumour. And I heard you were in an American one.”
“Gazundheit. Good behaviour?”
“The very best that money can buy,” blustered Gray Graves. “Well, this is a surprise. Eris, I had no idea we were expecting such an illustrious calibre of guest.”
Eris rolled her eyes. “Ms Haine is the guest of Paul Screwfly and his new girlfriend, Natalie Glass. Robert, that anonymous woman who suggested to the Washington PD that there was some question over the legitimacy of the materials you had been using to create your sculptures – that wouldn’t have been our new friend here, would it?”
“That had been my guess.”
“And now your guess is our guest.”
Sam read the reproach in Eris’s words. So, Clochapel was the kind of corporation to employ the disgraced Robert Graves. A couple of seconds ago there had been anonymity, now there was a cast and a conspiracy. Small world.
“I should be pushing off,” Robert said, and Sam noticed that this was a plea begged of his subordinate, broadcast on a frequency he expected only Eris capable of receiving. Eris read Sam’s recognition and smiled in silent, invisible exasperation at her boss’ plodding pantomime.
“I’ll be seeing you, Robert,” smiled Eris with perfection. They were alone again. “Well, that was embarrassing,” said the professional.
“I’m not embarrassed,” replied our amateur.
“Really? And you with such a reputation for empathy.”
(c) Ian Bird 2009