An innocent man, p.19
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       An Innocent Man, p.19

           Mark Z. Kammell
 
agent, to make the city smell fresh and clean every day? And the rats not liking it and trying to escape, but it interfered with their metabolism? Or some such lame excuse that seemed pretty suspicious at the time, especially when X came in and told everyone that the Department G initiative had been scrapped by the government because it would have been too expensive, and that anyone we thought might have worked there was in fact lying and was being sentenced for treason, except for Mark of course who was being given a big promotion which meant we would never see him again.

  And that was the last time anyone officially talked about Department G, though the rumours went wild, but, given that everyone had disappeared and no one really knew what to make of X at the time, they stayed very much underground. And now, positive confirmation that it existed and what’s more, I was going there! Another mental note, I would have to get James clearance, maybe not as high as mine, maybe level 3, I would talk to X in the morning about it; though come to think of it, I was Head of Security, I could probably decide things like that myself. I just started texting James when my phone started ringing… Sylvia? I wondered for a moment if she was phoning to congratulate me.

  Hey, honey.

  (Her voice, in reply, was distinctly cold). Sylvain. We’re not married anymore. I hated you calling that even when we were, so please don’t anymore. (A bad start, really, and it was only going to get worse).

  What’s up? (I continued, brightly).

  What’s up (in a really rather testy voice), is that Louise is in tears, she’s desperate about Mark, she was expecting you to be here, because you said you would.

  I really hate it when people emphasise particular words in order to make a point; it’s not like it isn’t clear enough as it is, but they feel that they have to rub it in, just to prove to you that yes, you are as bad as you think you may be, and I am going to make a point of it, just to clearly highlight the difference between us. She didn’t need to point out my weaknesses, they were clear enough and we’d been through them many times; what she was really doing was reiterating the huge gulf of morality, compassion and empathy that separated us, and by implication, her lack of desire to countenance a reconciliation. A clever woman, Sylvia, even for a quasi-vampire.

  I thought you’d have wanted to be a shoulder for her to cry on

  Ah. Sorry. Something came up. Shit. Shit. Shit. You’ve talked to her?

  I’m with her. Silence. Then a sigh. Listen, Sylvain. I didn’t just call to have a go at you, though God knows you deserve it. I thought I better tell you she’s called the police, and they’ve been over here.

  Ah. This really wasn’t good news. She calls the police and starts talking about Mark, and if they take her seriously, which they would, of course, because Mark’s a rich lawyer and he’s important and Louise can make anyone do anything she wants. Then they ask her who the last person was to see him, and she says it’s me, and then, before I know it, I’m implicated, and then I have to lie to the police, and even my job as Head of Security may not give me immunity from prosecution. In fact, what if X finds out about it and what if he changes his mind, and what if he does that before I’ve moved into the corner office and before I have had my business cards printed and before I have ordered by new black sports car, then all I would have had to show for all my efforts was the after effects of swallowing a strange pill, and, of course, maybe jail, if I had killed Mark, which was unlikely but which I definitely couldn’t rule out. I looked at my watch. 18:42.

  Did she tell them about me?

  What, about how you followed Mark? I think she may have mentioned it (Sylvia sounded sarcastic). Look. I just wanted to warn you. I think they may be on their way to see you.

  (The good mood that I’d got myself in since agreeing to meet Anna and then my surprise promotion evaporated, leaving me in something of a cold sweat). When? …

  How the hell should I know, Sylvain? Anyway, don’t worry, it’s not as if you have anything to hide is it. Except maybe you may want to hide that invisibility…

  (I interrupted her, deciding this once to let the question of its name go - although it did trigger a vague alarm about the whereabouts of the VDE – but I decided I would come back to that later). I’m coming over I blurted out.

  What?

  I’m coming over. I feel bad about Lou. Tell her I’ll be there in five minutes!

  I hung up and for the second time, rushed out of the house. I made a mental note to text Anna and say I may be a few minutes late, as I got in my car and headed over towards Lou’s house. My thinking was pretty simple – if I wasn’t in my apartment, the police wouldn’t be able to talk to me, and wouldn’t be able to start rummaging around in my things. I mean, they were hardly likely to break in, were they? It’s not like they had a warrant for my arrest or anything like that, and, fingers crossed, it wouldn’t come anywhere near that. No, I thought as I was driving over, the chances were that I hadn’t killed Mark, and even if I had, they would have to prove it, which was going to be pretty hard seeing as I was invisible half the time, and I couldn’t remember the other half. Flawed logic, you may be thinking, but it managed to rescue some remnants of the good mood I had been feeling earlier, and I was feeling good again when I pulled into Louise’s driveway and parked next to her huge black Mercedes.

  Who killed the big bad wolf?

  Time will explain. Louise sat in her living room, biting her nails, worry lines running across her face. She was bouncing up and down on her sofa next to Sylvia; I had never seen her so worried and not in control. It’s strange, I had always thought of them as an unmatched couple. When Mark had first announced his engagement (weeks after having met Louise, again out of character), his few friends had reacted with scepticism, expecting someone that reflected his own personality – petty, small minded, simplistic. That she proved to be witty, outgoing, bubbly even certainly took me by surprise, and I gave the relationship a year, maximum.

  And OK, so I was wildly inaccurate but my instinct was still right – they were mismatched, they didn’t complement each other like some couples who are opposites (as I had hoped that Sylvia and I had, clearly wrong again) - instead they rubbed against each other, frictions that they initially told each other, and themselves, we endearing, but as the novelty wore off, became just that, frictions, which caused their relationship to be full of tension and negativity. I do admit to initial surprise with Lou’s mood when she first told me that she suspected an affair, and I was wrong footed again now, and consequently I found myself trying to recover lost ground by showing greater concern and real focus in helping to solve the mystery of Mark. Admittedly, it didn’t start so well.

  What about calling his work?

  ( Lou didn’t even look up). Oh, thanks Sylvain, great idea. Why didn’t I think of that? Of course I called his work, I did that first thing this morning. This was going to be interesting.

  So, what did they say?

  (Glancing up at me). Nothing. They said they couldn’t tell me anything. I said well what does that mean, and they said he was unavailable. I asked did that mean he’d actually come in this morning, and they said they couldn’t tell me. Some fucking secretary. I said to him, I’m his wife, goddammit, tell me whether he’s in or not! He didn’t come home last night and I don’t know where he is! The little shit, I could hear him smirking over the phone, with his posh accent. He wouldn’t have sounded quite so calm if I had been there in front of him, ready to stick my fist down his little mummy’s boy throat…But the little shit, he just said, I’m sorry madam, I need to apply the appropriate protocol. Do you have authorisation access? I mean, seriously? That’s what he said? Do I have authorisation access to know if my husband turned up for work? So, yes, I did call his work. And no, I don’t know anything else.

  (I coughed). I don’t understand…? I thought Mark was just a corporate lawyer who …. What does…?”

  (Sylvia interrupted). Oh, grow up, Sylvain. Of course he’s not.

  But… he’s my oldest friend
.

  Clearly this was a lie and disproves the maxim around saying the truth instinctively, but I must admit I was a little hurt. Mark wasn’t what I thought he was? I had known him for such a long time and spent many nights in his house, but he had lied to me and even Sylvia knew, and it made me feel small and stupid, which wasn’t fair. Sylvia must have caught something in my expression because she said Look. I didn’t know either, Louise just filled me in. Apparently, he does some secret lawyer stuff which we can’t talk about and his job’s just a cover. Don’t get all stressed about it, hardly anyone knows.

  This was so unfair. But… I stammered, but, so do I and you know! I trust you all enough to tell you!

  And you know what happened? Sylvia laughed, that’s right, she just laughed and she said Yeah, that’s true but you tell everyone you meet that you do some hyper secret work and not to tell anyone because it’s secret. And you even go around telling everyone about the invisibility cloak, which, I mean, is really secret.

  It’s not an invisibility cloak…I started, but this seemed to stress Lou out. You see where this is going? Sometimes I really don’t understand people. If I hadn’t told Sylvia about what I did, or even Lou for that matter, then they would have started throwing
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