59 Theft three, and Alaia lands Angel in the shit

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"Well ... at first he laughed and said something dismissive about me being an out-of-touch bitch from Manhattan or something. Then he said I was talking bullshit—how could I know what he did at home? So I said that I wished he had lost the end of his tongue, as it would have been an appropriate price to pay for half-killing Angel like that—"

"Oh fuck," groans Evelyn.

"Then he became a lot quieter, and before long he just hung up on me."

Evelyn sighs. "Alaia ... Lucan will now assume Angel must have gossiped to you about their home life. How else would you know about the tongue?... He won't like that! He'll punish Angel for it. You've probably landed Angel in deeper shit than we saw tonight."

Alaia sinks to a chair. And so a war council begins, seeking what we can do in the way of damage control. Calling Lucan back right now is quickly ruled out by Evelyn as being likely to inflame any anger Lucan may already be venting on Angel. Yet we feel we have to do something, because the victimisation that I've just projected, though wrapped up with love, was great enough to cause concern for Angel's safety, even before Alaia's phone call—Lucan being not unaccustomed to murder, after all.

"I'm sorry to have brought us to this," says Alaia, "but I don't want anybody's death on my conscience: I think we have no choice but to show Lucan we've been spying on Angel."

Evelyn, Rik and I glance at one another. "We'd be risking the spokes-sheep deal with Jason," I say.

Alaia looks at me. "Yes, I'm sorry, Jaymi. But which is more important: the corporate sheep, or maybe saving a life?"

Oh, fuck it. "Thanks for putting it that way. Well, I suppose it's the second one."

"There you go. And the only way Lucan's going to believe it's our spying and not Angel's gossip that's to blame for me knowing about his tongue is if we give Lucan a copy of the Angel footage we just watched—then he'll see where I got it from."

"Can't we just tell him?" I ask.

"I wish Alaia was wrong here," says Evelyn, "but she's right: once Lucan thinks someone's guilty, he's hard to budge. We can't just tell him, we have to prove it. We need to show him the footage. We'd better give him a DVD of that Angel stuff."

Rik draws his breath in. "Giving that stuff out is so dodgy. We don't know where it might end up, and we all have confidentiality agreements with Jason ... except Alaia."

"So our jobs are kind of on the line here," says Evelyn.

"I sorry," says Alaia. "But we don't have any choice, do we?"

"Here's an idea," says Rik. "We could just ask Lucan to pop round here for tea and stickies, and have a peek at the footage, without taking a copy away with him."

Evelyn shakes her head. "Nice idea, but can you really see Lucan just 'popping round'? He's incapable of popping, trust me. We can't have him in here. For one thing, you don't want him seeing all this equipment. Don't forget he's running an operation. He may start seeing dollar signs here."

A warning thought stirs in me. "You said he wanted revenge against me because I may have lost him some face on the street," I address Evelyn. "Won't he want even more revenge, if he knows I've also been spying on him?"

Evelyn thinks carefully. "No. I know Lucan. It's funny but that's not really an issue. He's too vain—he'll think of it as starring in his own movie."

"But wouldn't he at least be sorry that his abuse of Angel had been uncovered?" asks Alaia.

Evelyn considers this, then shakes her head. "This is gonna sound strange, but he'd probably be OK with being seen to be abusing such a cute slave."

"Then wouldn't he still feel OK in that way," asks Alaia, "whatever the source of the leaked info? I mean, whether that source had been Angel or someone else or something else?"

"No," says Evelyn. "It wouldn't really be the information getting out, that Lucan would mind—it would be the fact that it was spread by Angel gossiping. 'Cos that would turn their power relationship around. Lucan's addicted to his power over Angel. Lucan's only been beaten once, by anybody—when he first met Jaymi and Jaymi took control of him—and he didn't like that. So there's no way in hell that he would like it, if he found out that Angel took any kind of control. So I really think we need to give Lucan a copy of the Angel tune-in." She looks at the clock. "Damn, where did the time go? It's too late to call him now. And I'm not knocking on his front door tonight, or even just putting a DVD through the letterbox—he'd probably hear something anyway and it would just be too late and strange. We'll give him a copy tomorrow morning. I just hope Angel will be all right tonight."

So, tired but resigned to it, Rik switches on a multiple-DVD-burner and starts burning discs. Yawning, he scribbles the names of the targets on the top of the discs as they emerge. "Are you two still coming upstairs for a while, when we're done in here?" he asks.

"Oh, sure," I say. I'd forgotten we had arranged this.

"Thanks Rik, but I'm going to pass," says Alaia. "I need to sleep. Plus I want to get up early and call Lucan about giving him the DVD. It's my job to do it, and I'd like to do it sooner rather than later."

"Early?" says Rik, turning off the DVD-burner. "Rather you than me." He crosses the studio to the door and holds it open for us. "That's fine, you get some sleep. Oh, don't forget the DVD—look in the pile by the burner there. There's a few copies of all the footage together, plus a few copies of each target by itself—I forget how many of which, but they're all labelled."

As Alaia looks through the discs, I gather my things. "I've got a Camberwell Carrot ready-rolled upstairs," says Evelyn.

"Sorted," says Rik, giving her a kiss on the lips and then a slap on the bottom. "What a woman."

Alaia seems to be taking a while by the DVD-burner, but she now has her disc at last and follows us out of the studio. Outside the door, the three of us say goodnight to her. While I follow Rik and Evelyn towards the back stairs, I look back over my shoulder to watch her receding quickly alone, in the opposite direction down the long dim corridor. Near the very end, she wheels around without warning, sees me watching her, doesn't smile, then wheels back around again and vanishes into the marble hallway, sending a chill up the back of my neck.

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For some nice reviews and interviews about The Imagination Thief, in The Guardian and elsewhere, see http://www.rohanquine.com/press-media/the-imagination-thief-reviews-media/

For a quick synopsis of it, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/synopsis-and-characters-list-the-imagination-thief/

For the 12 Films in The Imagination Thief, see http://www.rohanquine.com/video-books-films/12-films/

For the Audio-book version and the Video-book version of each of its 120 mini-chapters, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/audiobook-tumblr-wattpad/

For links to the retailers, see http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-ebook/ and http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-paperback/

And for its Amazon pages, see http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909 and http://www.amazon.com/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909

The Imagination Thief is about a web of secrets, triggered by the stealing and copying of people's imaginations and memories. It's about the magic that can be conjured up by images of people, in imagination or on film; the split between beauty and happiness in the world; and the allure of various kinds of power. It celebrates some of the most extreme possibilities of human imagination, personality and language, exploring the darkest and brightest flavours of beauty living in our minds.

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