The seymour tapes, p.24
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       The Seymour Tapes, p.24

           Tim Lott
 
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  An impulse thing. A woman thing. I’d had enough. I’d wanted to go and slap that woman’s face since it had all started. But I couldn’t, without giving the game away. Once Alex said she’d got away with murder, though, I had a weapon.

  When did this ‘impulse’ come over you?

  It was after Alex came home that Saturday, having seen Sherry Thomas, and decided he was going to put an end to it. He said as much in his video diary the next afternoon – and I watched it later that evening. Then I decided I wanted to see her the first chance I got. I couldn’t bear the thought of her thinking that she had got away with all this. It was a compulsion, if you like. To shame her. To punish her. And I wanted to find out what she knew about Mark and me. It was possible that she had spotted some detail Alex had missed, and would be able to expose us if she chose to. Although she never got round to doing that.

  I wonder why not.

  Maybe she really did love Alex. Though bludgeoning him to death was a funny way of showing it. Anyway, I sometimes think the murder, the tape sent to Guy and Victoria, wasn’t about Alex but about me. It was me she hated. Because I had what she didn’t.

  How did you find out who and where she was?

  It was easy. There was a business card in Alex’s miscellany file. I put two and two together. Sherry Thomas, managing director, Cyclops Surveillance Systems. And an address. Then I checked the telephone directory. Sherry is an unusual name. She was listed living a mile away from the shop. I was pretty sure I’d find her there.

  What was your plan?

  I didn’t have one. Other than revenge.

  You say you didn’t love Alex any more. You’d allowed the whole thing to continue when you could have stopped it. It seems a bit unfair to take revenge when you were complicit in the whole thing.

  Fairness has nothing to do with it. Property is property. Alex was mine, not hers. The kids were mine, the house was mine. And she was watching it all. As I’ve said before, she was a rapist.

  What did you feel when you saw her?

  The first thing I thought was, She’s not Alex’s type. One of those hard-bitten Americans. ‘How to Get A Husband in Thirty Days’, that sort of thing. I couldn’t imagine him going for her, I must say. Anyway, I wanted her to know who was boss. To give her a piece of my mind.

  What made you so sure she wouldn’t tell Alex?

  I wasn’t absolutely sure. But she was a murderer. If she did anything I didn’t want her to do, I’d go to the police.

  You manipulated her and put her under such pressure you knew she’d turn violent.

  No.

  You pulled the strings. She just wielded the weapon. You knew that Alex was about to call her. You stood next to him while he did it. You guessed she would threaten suicide. You knew Alex would want to go round there. You had a pretty good idea what might happen. And you let it, so you could have Pengelly, the pension, the kids, the serial rights to the story, whatever you wanted.

  How can you think that? I would never have done anything to harm Alex. I might have stopped loving him, but he was the father of my children. We were married for twenty-odd years. I just didn’t understand the rules of the game she was playing.

  Who won, by the way?

  I suppose Sherry would say that she did. Except that she’s dead, of course, which must sour the victory a little.

  Did you honestly think you could control someone you must have known was a psychopath? A killer? An unstable woman with a history of damage and disaster behind her?

  Yes. Because of the murder. Because she’d confessed to it. She knew that I could get her into deep trouble.

  Surely that should have put you on your guard. Surely then you must have realized that Alex was in danger.

  I swear I never thought she was going to hurt him!

  [Samantha breaks down, crying, and collapses on to the floor. I can do little other than put my arm round her shoulders and, in a pathetic gesture, she reaches out and takes my hand.]

  Haven’t I suffered enough for my stupidity? I’ve lost Alex. Mark’s gone. My family is in ruins. Guy and Victoria don’t ever want to talk to me again. Polly hardly sees her brother and sister. Only the four of us know about the tape. Won’t you return it to me? Please.

  I don’t know. I think you still need to convince me.

  In what way?

  In a legal, contractual and financial way.

  [There is a long pause.]

  I see what you mean.

  I hope so.

  I really did get you wrong, didn’t I?

  Perhaps you’re only good at criminals.

  Or perhaps I started believing your PR.

  Always a big mistake. Writers are no more noble than anyone else. Less so.

  All right. All bets are off. OK. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Those confessions you made, that I insisted on, you can edit them out.

  I don’t care about them.

  So, if you’re not after that… then – oh. I see.

  Do you?

  I don’t need a psychology degree to read your mind. OK. OK, then.

  OK then what?

  On behalf of the Seymour Institute, I will agree to forfeit the worldwide rights to the book. All profits from the book will go to you.

  I see. So you’ll manage to get by on Alex’s life-insurance policies. And your modest salary.

  You’ll get a fax from my lawyer this afternoon.

  [There is a long pause.]

  I’ll look forward to it.

  Right.

  Once the paperwork is done, you can come back here and pick up the tape. I’ll put in with it a sworn affidavit that no copies have been taken. And one last thing, Samantha.

  What’s that?

  I’d like the bank details of the Institute.

  Why?

  I’d like to make a donation.

  A donation?

  Because it’s a cause I wholeheartedly support.

  [She gives a forced smile and a resigned nod.]

  I’ll send you a form. Are you really going to leave all your confessions in the book, by the way?

  No.

  So much for your commitment to truth.

  I am committed to the truth. To my truth, anyway.

  Is that so?

  Absolutely.

  Then why?

  I’m taking out the confessions because they’re not true.

  Sorry?

  I made them all up. My uncle, my brother, the beating. All just stories. Stories, Samantha. My stock-in-trade. My living. My vocation, if you want to be solemn about it.

  I don’t believe you. Those stories were true. You were weeping. You were hurting.

  It doesn’t matter whether you believe me or not. It’s my book now. So I decide what the truth is. To put them in would be dishonest. And I’m not prepared to compromise my integrity, I’m afraid. As I told you right at the beginning. Goodbye, now. And thanks for your co-operation. It’s been invaluable.

  [Samantha Seymour walks slowly to the door, turns, makes a brief, obscene gesture, then goes out, slamming the door behind her.]

  The End

  I see you.

  I do not judge; I do not pass comment.

  I do not think; I do not reflect.

  I watch you from the moment of your birth to your last breath.

  I am in the hospital as I am in the graveyard.

  I watch you on the streets, on a twenty-four-hour loop. I watch you in the shops, in the car parks, in the cinema lobbies.

  I watch you in your car, using the bus lane. Exceeding by three miles the permitted speed limit. I watch you in the airport. I watch you as you fly through the air five miles above Earth.

  I capture you on the miniature camera on your videophone. I track you in the corridors of your schools. I see into every corner of your workplace.

  Nowadays, I have no limits.

  I watched when the author rang the publisher.

  This was time code ten days, three hours, ten minutes and twenty-
three seconds ago. He said that he would come to her office. He had uncovered some important new material.

  Two days, six hours and seventeen minutes after he made the call, I watched a woman leave the author’s office.

  She had straight, brown, highlighted, shoulder-length hair and wore casual, well-cut high-street clothes in dark blue and white. There was a small food stain on her lapel. She was smoking a Silk Cut Ultra cigarette.

  In her bag was a videotape. I watched her put it there.

  Just as I watched when she cried in front of the author.

  After that, she walked down the steps and into the street. She stopped. She wiped her eyes and smiled. She walked again. Her pace was faster. She looked behind her. She walked round a corner.

  I do not reflect on this, I do not judge it. I only observe it.

  I followed her round the corner. A man was waiting for her. He had carefully messy mid-length black hair and was clean-shaven. His skin was olive and he had a bold, almost Roman nose, and full, Cupid’s-bow lips.

  They embraced. Then she stood back.

  He smiled and cupped her stomach in his hands.

  I followed them as they walked down the street towards a coffee shop. They come here often. It’s on tape. I am there to stop the baristas pocketing change.

  I have been responsible for three dismissals and a caution.

  She ordered a cappuccino. He ordered a latte. With Nutra-sweet. He is on a diet. She likes slender men. She can’t stand it when they get overweight. Overweight and old.

  They order what they always do. It’s on tape.

  They laughed and joked. There was high background noise. My microphones could not pick up their conversation so I cannot know what they are saying.

  But I will find out.

  Sooner or later, everything will be revealed to me.

  She laughed and threw her head back. She kissed the man.

  I do not know what this means. I only watch.

  Unblinking.

  I watched the author again. Time code four days, one hour and seven minutes later.

  He was wearing a blue suit that he bought the previous day at time code 15.03 at Wodehouse in Kensington High Street for £275. I was there.

  It was a lousy suit. Or so the sales assistant said after the author had gone.

  He left his office. I followed him for most of the three miles he covered on foot to his publishers.

  He arrived time code thirty-five minutes and seventeen seconds later. His publisher greeted him. She wanted to hear about the progress of the book. She had had positive reactions from other executives at the publishing house. She was excited about the new revelations he had promised her.

  He told her that the new revelation was that the children had agreed to an interview.

  She asked what they said.

  He replied that they said they loved their father.

  She asked, What else?

  Nothing much, he said.

  Is that it? she said.

  Yes, he said.

  Then he blew his nose.

  She seemed disappointed.

  He placed a new manuscript on her desk.

  He told his publisher that the personal confessions the woman had forced out of him in the course of the interviewing had now been cut out.

  He told her that he had negotiated a new contract beneficial for himself and the publishers, and that his agent would be in touch regarding the terms.

  I do not know what the publisher thought. I cannot read minds. I can only watch.

  She argued with him. She said she thought he was committed to the truth. She wanted to know what the children really told him.

  She said she did not believe that the ‘new developments’ had turned out to be so slight. She said that he was not telling the truth.

  He argued with her. He said that he would take the book to a different publisher if she failed to agree. He said there was no such thing as the truth anyway.

  The publisher agreed to the cuts. I did not know about her motivation. I only watched and listened. They shook hands. He left. Did he looked uneasy? I cannot tell.

  *

  I watched a boy on his way to school. He was a tall, lanky boy, with high cheekbones, and floppy brown hair similar to that of his father. He displayed an almost perpetual expression of surliness and disappointment. He was with his friends, who were laughing and joking.

  But his face was serious.

  He made an excuse and broke away from the others.

  He disappeared down an alley, almost, but not quite, out of my range. For although I could not see him, I could hear him.

  If he was sobbing at a normal level, my microphones would not have been able to pick it up. But it was not a normal level: he was crying loudly. The remaining boys heard him and looked uncomfortable. They moved away.

  It was a private moment.

  Those are my special interest.

  The other boys moved swiftly on in the direction of the school, where they could no longer hear the noise.

  But I could.

  It continued for time code three minutes and seven seconds.

  I saw a girl stare at her mobile phone when it rang. She was not a pretty girl. She had a phoenix tattooed on the upper part of her right arm. I have seen her pause like this eleven times before. My lens is sometimes close enough to see the name display.

  Many times, recently, it has rung with the name display showing one word.

  ‘Mum’.

  She never answers. I watched her, as, once again, she switched off the phone.

  I was there when they gave that woman an autopsy. She blew her own head off with a gun.

  That was interesting.

  She didn’t look too good.

  But better than that man who got hit with a hammer.

  They were dead.

  This means nothing to me.

  I see you.

  Reading a book.

  Finishing the book.

  Closing the book.

  Thinking yourself

  Of course

  Unwatched.

 


 

  Tim Lott, The Seymour Tapes

 


 

 
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