The coco pinchard boxset.., p.67
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.67

           Robert Bryndza
 
‘We’ve checked the whole of the United Kingdom database.’ She was watching me now, analysing me.

  ‘Oh, I know what it is. Coco is my nickname, my real name is… is… ’ But I couldn’t remember.

  ‘But I’m not getting anything for Pinchard either, is that a nickname too?’

  ‘No. I got re-married… I can’t remember that name either…’

  Nurse Julings regarded me for a moment and then left the cubicle.

  They’re going to section me. I thought. I’m what they call a Jane Doe, or more like a Jane D’oh. I laughed. It sounded weird and manic.

  And then like an angel Adam came through the curtain.

  ‘Coco!’ he said. He looked gorgeous, worried as hell, but gorgeous.

  ‘So, do you know this woman?’ asked Nurse Julings.

  ‘She’s my wife,’ he said grabbing my hand.

  ‘It’s Karen!’ I said, and then everything came back. ‘I’m Karen Rickard. I was born on the 14th June 1967, I live at 3 Steeplejack Mews in Marylebone, London.’

  The nurse wrote it down and went away again.

  ‘What happened?’ I asked Adam.

  ‘You collapsed in the car.’

  ‘Not me, you.’

  ‘They took me to the police station, and as I was being booked they realised their error. They brought me back to Hampton Court but you’d left.’

  The nurse came back with a bag filled with my clothes.

  ‘Right Mrs Rickard. Here are your things, and here is the doctor. A balding man in glasses came through the curtain.

  ‘Hello Mrs Rickard,’ he took my notes and flicked through.

  ‘Right. Geriatric mother found unconscious in a Ford Ka. Chronically dehydrated and hypoglycaemic. Blood pressure yo-yo-ing. Have we run the usual?’

  ‘Yes, when the patient was unconscious…’ said the Nurse.

  The doctor flicked through the thin sheets in the file. Adam smiled and squeezed my hand.

  ‘Mrs Rickard. You’re not looking after yourself, are you?’ said the doctor taking off his glasses.

  ‘He is,’ I said pointing to Adam.

  ‘You need to keep yourself calm, rested and hydrated. Now it’s a hot day out there, did you have water with you?’

  ‘No.’ I said in a small voice.

  ‘You need to remember there are two of you.’ Instinctively I looked at Adam.

  ‘He means the baby,’ said Adam in a soft voice.

  I was kept in for a couple more hours until they’d rehydrated me. Then we had to go back to the police station where our car was being kept.

  ‘If you could sign here Madam,’ said the same police officer who had arrested Adam. They were all very sheepish.

  I signed my name Coco Rickard.

  A police officer brought the car round to the front of the station.

  ‘Where to Mrs Rickard?’ Adam grinned.

  ‘Home,’ I said. ‘Our home.’

  Tuesday 10th April

  Adam’s boss Serena phoned early this morning. She has been trying to process Adam’s national insurance details for the payroll, but it’s coming up that he has a criminal record. Adam explained what had happened. Then came off the phone looking grey.

  ‘They can’t hire me while I have a record,’ he said.

  Agent Fergie is now #203,000

  Winetime #5

  Wednesday 11th April

  It’s going to be three months before Adam can start work. Even though they know a mistake has been made, it takes ages for all the computer payroll systems to update.

  Amazon, however, is updating every hour and Agent Fergie continues to fall… #215,000 and counting. I’m not even looking at anything else.

  Friday 13th April

  This morning Agent Fergie was #250,001. I could feel the book was slipping through my fingers, so I made one last ditch attempt and went to Angie’s house unannounced. She looked surprised to see me when she opened the door.

  ‘I can’t stop Cokes. I’m just about to leave for Battersea Dogs’ Home.’

  ‘Are you getting a dog?’ I asked.

  ‘No, Regina is doing some filming. She and Pippin are going to be on ‘The Dog Whisperer’. Pippin is getting some anger management training, and it’s great publicity.’

  ‘Just give me two minutes,’ I said firmly. Angie checked her watch.

  ‘Okay. Come up to my office.’

  I’d been practising a speech on the way over. I was prepared to give Angie an ultimatum: either she started engaging with me again, or I looked for representation elsewhere. I was just wondering whether I should choose a better word than ‘engage’ when we arrived in her office. Angie was dressed in a charcoal-grey suit, and a blood-red blouse. She pulled some equally red lipstick out and started applying it in her mirror.

  ‘Oh. We just got some of the first copies through of Agent Fergie,’ she said without taking her eyes off the mirror. ‘Is that what you’re here for?’

  ‘Yes. And no.’ I said. Chloe came in and said hi.

  ‘Chloe love, show Coco her book,’ said Angie. Chloe dragged a cardboard box over and got to work on the tape.

  ‘Angie, I need to talk about us,’ I said.

  ‘You make it sound like we’re dating...’

  Chloe got the box open.

  ‘Oh, that’s the new holocaust book,’ she said. She put a copy on the table beside me. It had a black and white cover, with an image of the barbed wire of Belsen. Splurged across the front was the quote:

  “I laughed and laughed and laughed,

  what an imagination this author has!”

  REGINA BATTENBERG.

  ‘What’s this?’ I asked pointing to the book.

  ‘I just took this woman on who wanted to have her diaries published…’ said Angie blotting her lipstick in the mirror.

  ‘No, the quote,’ I said tapping the cover. Angie put the lid on her lipstick and came over. Chloe got the other box open and pulled out a copy of Agent Fergie. It was hot pink with huge black lettering. It looked fab, but I immediately noticed that on the cover was written:

  “A harrowing account of a woman who survived the holocaust…”

  MARY BEARD.

  Angie perched her glasses on her nose.

  ‘Shit!’ she said going pale. ‘Shit! Chloe, what have you done?’

  ‘I must have got the files mixed up!’ said Chloe going equally pale. ‘These haven’t gone out to stores yet,’ she added ‘This is a limited first print run…’

  ‘But copies have gone out to two hundred fucking journalists!’ said Angie. I looked at the fear on her face.

  ‘Isn’t this basic stuff? These books are hardly similar!’ I said holding the two covers side by side.

  ‘You keep out of this Coco!’ said Angie

  ‘Keep out of this? Right that’s it. You need to sort this out and then you’re fired.’

  I stuffed as many books as I could in my bag. Angie was in shock.

  ‘What are you doing? Coco… you can’t take those.’

  ‘Yes I can. Thanks to your screw up I’ll probably have to put these on Ebay. At least one of us can make some money!’

  I tried to leave as elegantly as I could, but who can take a waddler seriously? I came home and told Adam.

  ‘Surely people will realise the mix-up?’ said Adam. My phone rang. It was a journalist.

  ‘Hi, Coco Pinchard? I’m Kelly Klass phoning for Dave Numan from the Daily Record…’ she said. ‘I’ve been asked to do some fact checking before we go to print.’

  ‘Is this about Agent Fergie?’ I said.

  ‘Yes. Would you be offended if I asked how old you are?’

  ‘I’m forty-four,’ I said.

  ‘And you’re pregnant?’

  ‘Yes.’

  ‘Look. I know people lie about their age, but if you survived the holocaust, you must be at least eighty. Could we compromise and put sixty-one?’

  I explained what was going on. She sounded quite excited and rang off.

 
‘You see Cokes, no publicity is bad publicity,’ said Adam.

  ‘As long as they don’t put that I’m eighty, or sixty-seven...’

  Wednesday 18th April

  Agent Fergie #263,000

  Winetime #2

  Nothing has run in the press about the quote mix-up. And there is nothing anywhere about Agent Fergie coming out tomorrow. I spent the morning online, Googling myself. Nothing. Then I made Adam come to the newsagent and we rifled through every magazine and newspaper on the stands until Clive, who runs the shop, got rather annoyed and asked if we were going to buy anything.

  ‘Look at the bigger picture,’ said Adam as we came out of the newsagent. ‘There is so much other great stuff happening in your life.’

  ‘Like what?’

  ‘Like what? You’re having our son!’

  ‘Yes… I’m sorry,’ I said. ‘I just thought this would be it. When I signed the deal for Agent Fergie, everyone seemed so excited, Angie, the publisher. So much time has passed and now things have got in the way, like Regina Battenberg.’

  ‘There will be other books Coco. I promise,’ said Adam. He put his arm round me and we walked home.

  Wednesday 18th April

  Agent Fergie Publication Day

  Adam woke me up with breakfast in bed, and a copy of Agent Fergie. He’d been round to Marylebone Station and bought it from WH Smith. I grilled him, asking how many copies there were on the shelf. Was my book point-of-sale?

  ‘What’s point-of-sale?’ asked Adam.

  ‘Was it by the till? Prominently placed?’

  ‘Um, it was sort of round next to the fridge with the drinks,’ he said.

  ‘So at the back of the shop… Was anyone else buying a copy?’

  ‘It was rush-hour Cokes,’ said Adam. He pulled out a pen and made me sign it for him.

  ‘I only get three kisses?’ He grinned blowing on the ink. I leaned over and drew three more. ‘That’s more like it,’ he said. ‘And I expect to receive them all throughout the day.’

  I was far too pre-occupied and reached for my Kindle. Agent Fergie had gone up to #105,003

  ‘Look there’s a review!’ said Adam pointing at the screen. The reviewer said that it’s brill and they loved it, and they had given it four stars. In fact the full review is:

  “It was brill & i loved it”

  ‘Your first review and it’s a goody,’ said Adam.

  ‘It’s bit short though,’ I said.

  ‘It’s a good review Coco…’

  ‘But it’s not very descriptive,’ I moaned. Adam sighed.

  ‘Jeez Coco. You exhaust me! Nothing is good enough. Can’t you just be happy? You’ve gone up a hundred and fifty thousand places in the chart, and it could be a one star….’

  ‘But there are still over a hundred thousand books selling better than mine…’ I sighed, and slathered my toast with marmalade.

  When Adam was in the shower I looked at the four star review again. It was written by someone called, “Joany123” I wondered if she was old or young? If she was the only person who had read Agent Fergie? Or if she fully understood my sense of humour..?

  I fired up my laptop and checked out her other Amazon reviews. A couple of weeks ago she had given five stars to a pair of thermal slippers, and five stars to Mr Tickle. So my writing is basically less enjoyable than a pair of thermal slippers and a Mr Men book.

  I wrote a comment on her review.

  “You should widen your reading. How can you compare comfy slippers with an award winning author?”

  Then I noticed my username had popped up underneath as: Coco Pinchard REAL NAME.

  Adam came back from the bathroom and told me to stop obsessing over the book. He ordered me to take a shower.

  ‘I’m taking you out for lunch,’ he said.

  An hour later he kicked the bathroom door open. The whole side of the doorjamb came away, showering splinters all over the floor.

  ‘What the hell are you doing?’ I screamed. I was sitting fully-clothed, on the bidet, with my laptop.

  ‘I thought you’d fainted,’ he said. ‘You weren’t answering my knocks!’

  ‘I’ve left a comment on that review, and my real name came up! I can’t work out how to delete it. It looks awful…’

  Adam grabbed the laptop and clicked about.

  ‘There it’s gone…’ he said. ‘Now. Shower. Lunch.’ He confiscated my laptop and left.

  We had a delicious lunch at the steak restaurant in Marylebone, but I rather spoiled it with my jitters and lack of focus. When we came home, I sat down at the kitchen island, and switched on my laptop. Agent Fergie had dropped one place to #105,004, but two more reviews had shown up. Both were one star. They’d taken my average rating down from 4 stars to 1.9 stars!

  ‘“I managed about four pages before I got bored of the predictability and started on something more entertaining. Woof,” said Adam reading over my shoulder. ‘How can Regina Battenberg’s dog Pippin write an Amazon review?’

  ‘How could he have read four pages before giving up?’ I countered.

  ‘And It’s an Amazon Verified purchase! Does Pippin have his own credit card? Can a dog have a credit card?’ asked Adam.

  ‘And she’s done another one in her own name! Is she even allowed? Her quote is on the front of the book!’ I cried incredulously. ‘“Badly written tosh, reads like a teenage girl’s school English project.” That bitch.’

  ‘Calm down Coco.’

  ‘Calm down! Why does she need to do this? She’s sold millions of books, she’s stolen Angie and she’s just out to destroy me for, for sport… Right, if she wants to play like this, so can I…’

  ‘What are you doing?’

  ‘I’m going to go on all the online forums I can, and I’m going to trash her and then I’m…’

  Adam closed my laptop.

  ‘You’re going to do nothing,’ he said slowly and calmly. ‘We’re going to switch off every electronic device in the house, we’re going to unplug the phones, and we’re going to have one sane relaxing afternoon.’

  ‘But!’

  ‘No buts. You can’t live like this Coco. Leave it, for one afternoon?’

  Adam switched off my laptop and confiscated it, along with my phone and my Kindle. I sat and took some deep breaths. I rubbed my hand over my bump and felt a shifting inside, I calmed down even more. Battenberg will never have what I have, I thought. A new baby.

  Adam came back, took my hand and led me to the living room. He sat me down on the sofa, then lit a fire, and put some music on.

  ‘I prescribe one very small but very good infusion of red wine,’ he said returning from the kitchen with a small glass each. I took a sip and we lay down together on the sofa, Rocco jumped up and nestled between our legs.

  I relaxed for the first time in ages. After we’d drunk our wine, I lay with Adam, my head on his firm chest listening to the warm thud of his heart, and his breathing. I fell into a deep sleep.

  When I woke, it was dark outside and the fire had died down to ash. Adam was sitting in a chair opposite bathed in the glow of my laptop.

  ‘Hey, you said no computers,’ I said groggily.

  ‘I think karma has rounded on Regina Battenberg,’ he said.

  ‘How?’ I asked. Adam came over and sat beside me. He had the SKY News website open. The headline read:

  POPULAR WINE CRITIC ACCUSED OF DENYING THE HOLOCAUST

  Regina Battenberg, bestselling author of Window Box Winemaking, More Window Box Winemaking, Even More Windowbox Winemaking and Winetime, was last night embroiled in an extraordinary controversy after a quote she provided for the humorous novel Agent Fergie was mistakenly printed on copies of WWII story, My Year in Belsen.

  Only a small number of copies were affected, and have since been withdrawn, but Battenberg’s reaction has caused alarm from her publisher. When contacted for comment she stated, ‘I left school at fourteen and have no knowledge of the Holocaust.’ When we informed her that we were journa
lists reporting for SKY News, she added, ‘You lot never print the truth! America probably didn’t land on the moon, and Hitler is probably still alive so how can we tell what is true?’

  The House of Randoms who publish the author has distanced itself from Battenberg, saying her comments are ‘misguided’ and ‘beggar belief in the 21st century’.

  Battenberg’s Agent, Angela Lansbury was unavailable for comment.

  ‘Serves her right!’ said Adam.

  I thought I’d feel elated, but I didn’t. I felt sad for Regina. I realised just how thick she is. She’s no more a holocaust denier than Adam and me but she has so many people around her saying how wonderful she is that she’s lost track of reality. I tried to phone Angie but her phone was permanently engaged.

  ‘Look!’ shouted Adam. ‘Agent Fergie has gone up to #199!’

  Thursday 19th April

  Adam shook me awake at nine o’clock this morning.

  ‘Coco! You’re number one. You’re fucking NUMBER ONE!’

  He thrust my Kindle in my face and I was number one! Agent Fergie is #1!

  We got up and did a little dance round the bedroom, me holding on to my bump as Adam held on to me.

  ‘Phone Angie,’ said Adam.

  Angie answered after a couple of rings. She sounded groggy and distant.

  ‘Angie! I’m number one! Agent Fergie is number one in the UK Kindle store!’

  She cleared her throat and said congratulations.

  ‘You don’t sound too excited?’ I said.

  ‘No, I am… That’s great babes… look I’m going away tomorrow.’

  ‘Away? Where?’

  ‘Thailand. I need a break, this Battenberg thing has exploded in my face… She’s fired me.’

  ‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ I said.

  ‘I was so close to signing her up to a huge media deal. God, I would have made millions… Then the stupid cow said those stupid things… I should have reacted quicker. Now no one wants to touch her… Three months’ work down the drain. And what am I? I’m Angela fucking Lansbury.’

 

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