My phone vibrates and I jump, startling a nearby flotilla of ducks, before I am plunged once more into the urgent world of Alaia.
“There’s been a third waxwork,” she announces.
“A full-body model this time,” glosses Evelyn’s voice in the background.
“A full-body model this time,” echoes Alaia.
Perhaps because of the lyrical space I was in while tuning in to Kim and Shigem, before it was trampled by all this drama, I find myself irresistibly inclined to be obstructive here. “I’m sorry, what kind of model was that?”
“A full-body one.”
“Oh well, in that case, yes—I saw it. Wasn’t it a stunner?”
“You saw it? How?”
“I kind of looked at it.”
There is a “patient” sound at the other end of the line.
“I was walking past,” I clarify, “and I saw it.”
“Aha. And you didn’t do anything?”
“Well, what did you want me to do, take it to bed?”
I hear a hint of clenched teeth, as she explains, “Shigem was in danger as a result of the first two waxworks.”
“Which your visit to Lucan seems to have taken care of now. And if this waxwork casts suspicion on Damian, then I’m sorry for him but he’s a big boy and can look after himself. He doesn’t warm my heart as much as Shigem does.”
“Oh, one has to talk so loudly and clearly. Jaymi, this doesn’t suggest Damian’s guilt, it suggests Pippa’s: this new wax model must be the figure Kim’s been seeing at Pippa’s, which means she sculpted it, which means she must have sculpted the other two heads, which means Shigem is off the hook for those two, which is great news. Evelyn and I just left phone messages for Shigem and Kim, saying this.”
Having seen at the start of her speech that she was about to describe the same path of reasoning that I beat out for myself earlier, I’ve been free, during the course of her delivery, not only to have a brand-new thought of my own but also to polish it into its most economical form, ready for delivery at the end of her speech: “So you think Shigem’s going to want to shop Pippa to Lucan?”
There’s a silence on the line. “Well, I don’t know … maybe you can tune in to a few people and investigate.”
“Yes; I’ve been doing virtual, vicarious sunbathing with Shigem and Kim, all afternoon, and plenty hot it was!”
I inspect my hands and arms, which are as pale as ever. “And I didn’t get a tan, but I had a lesson in love, Alaia—pure, simple love.”
“Well that’s all-important, of course.”
“Much more important than wax dummies. It was beautiful.”
“I’ve got it,” she says, her voice lowered and all business again. “Why don’t you tune in to Pippa again, to see what you can sniff out?”
In addition to my obstructiveness, I now feel oddly entitled to serve her up a serious note of bitchiness, and I do so: “I don’t know, I think I’m reluctant to intrude upon her privacy.”
“…All right. I’ll see you in the screening-room tonight. Oh, hold on,” and I hear Evelyn speaking in the background. “Evelyn says Rik has finished all the stuff he had to do for the Big Bang broadcast, quicker than expected, so why don’t we meet in the studio in one hour for a spokes-sheep session.”
“Fine for me. I’ll see you there.” And our miniature bitch-fest is cut short.
Then as soon as we have rung off, an uncomfortable truth begins to dawn on me: there was not enough time, between Kim’s use of opera-glasses and my discovering the model, for the naked Angel to have been transported from Pippa’s high-rise to Damian’s front path. Kim said he’d just been using the opera-glasses, a matter of seconds before calling me; then I found Angel a mere twenty minutes later, during which time I was tuning in to Pippa in her bedroom. If the model on the path were the figure Kim saw at Pippa’s window, then persons unknown would have had to be removing this model from her sitting room, just the other side of her bedroom wall, while I was doing that tune-in to her, without her or my hearing those persons or knowing they were removing it … which feels implausible. So whatever Kim saw in her window must still be right there—or elsewhere in her apartment. Furthermore, I realise I am the only one who’s in a position to know this: from Alaia’s call just now it is evident that she and Evelyn have not considered this possibility, not having been in a position to know how little time elapsed between the figure in the window and the figure on the path.
Who, or what, is still hiding in Pippa’s apartment?
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