I step down from the Casino ledge onto the beach and set off inland along the bank of Wesley Lake.
As I glance at her wide eyes now, however, this sorrow for her becomes softened by the feeling that this depression is simply part of the flesh-and-blood Pippa who sits beside me. There it is—and there she is, being herself. Her damage and sweetness, depression and whimsicality go together to make up a sad and beautiful package of Pippa-ness. Yesterday she was dressed in a white sweatshirt, today she’s dressed in a grey one, tomorrow she’ll be dressed in a sweatshirt of a different colour best known to her upon waking (or maybe even known by her already now, which might be a curious thing to investigate next time I tune in to her), and so she will carry on.
In fact, something about this whole scene makes me smile: it’s a subterfuge, because we’re really here in order for me to slip out of this room in a minute and go weaselling in her hallway, but it’s still rather sweet that we’re genuinely guiding her towards what we judge to be the most Pippa-friendly morsels of a real monster-event that she was hardly aware of. And even if this is a bit of a movie scene, Kim is playing the part he was cast for with great professionalism: I have no doubt of his sincerity when he specifies that one of his favourite bits was the eyes and lips of the flame girl, with lashes as long as constellations and brows sweeping across the sky.
So I nod to Kim, adopt a “just-going-down-the-corridor” manner and slip out, letting the sitting room door close gently behind me. I stand on the other side of it for a moment, letting my eyes adjust to the gloom. There ahead of me is the hallway—and a cold chill runs through me as I see a horrible figure halfway down it, staring right back at me, with arms rigidly at its sides and a spiky hairdo that’s both creepy and goofy.
I see the hairdo is really the leaves of a pot-plant sitting on a bookcase whose tall white side-end faces me, and the rigid arms are really black folder-ends that protrude to right and left of that tall white shape on two successive shelves … but it’s set the scene nicely, nonetheless.
I set off with a certain grimness down the long, dim, narrow space.
I glance into the kitchen door as I pass it, for the first time noticing an array of carving knives hanging on the wall, and several bulky old fridge-freezers…
I reach the bathroom and glance into it, knowing that within its shadows hangs the large blue toothbrush and then, half-hidden behind it, the smaller black toothbrush…
I pass the front door, glancing at the spy-hole through which Pippa peered so long in vain for her gentleman caller. (Did I just see the little spyhole-cover swing and slither around a bit, on its tiny hinge?)
Then I start to slow down, approaching her closed bedroom door ahead of me at the end of the corridor, because I know that very soon I shall spot the thing I do indeed now spot—the narrow door Kim described.
I slow right down, as I near it, then come to a halt just this side of it. I run my eyes comprehensively over it, skewering my gaze into the black crack that borders its tall rectangular outline. No light glimmers through the hinges, which are nearer to me. It is too dim in this hallway to see if there are any marks on the carpet, from movement in or out of the door. I cannot make out anything red and sticky on the handle … and there’s the large keyhole. I bend downward slowly, moving my face to a level with it. I’m not sure how wide the aperture within the keyhole is, so I narrow my eyes as I approach it with one eye, pushing aside thoughts of something long and sharp jabbing out of it without warning. By slow degrees I get close enough, and stay there motionless for long enough, to conclude that I am not going to be able to see or hear anything through the blackness of the keyhole.
What is it, sitting there right in front of me, that I can’t see through that little keyhole-shaped piece of blackness there?
A distant Alaia wails somewhere far down the hallway through the sitting room door, while I scrutinise. I straighten up, brace myself for the unexpected, and gently turn the handle…
Locked. I give a quiet knock. No reaction. “Hallo?” I murmur into the black crack. “Is there anybody in there? Please answer…”
I listen acutely for any vegetable Angel sigh, moan, grunt or shriek—but there is silence.
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