89 Hunting the weasel

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89   Hunting the weasel

My mobile's alarm breaks in upon this idyll. Ten to three: I should set off for Pippa's, or I'll keep Kim waiting there. I step down from the Casino ledge onto the beach and set off inland along the bank of Wesley Lake. I reflect on what I've learned so far today from the spying homework assigned to me by Evelyn: Lucan now knows that Alaia kept her DVD misdelivery a secret from Evelyn, and Lucan is about to use this knowledge to force Alaia to do something for him. Which is not, unfortunately, a piece of homework I can hand back to the homework-assigner.

I find Kim waiting outside the high-rise. "I told Shigem I was just going for another walk," he says, "so I probably shouldn't stay too long here."

"OK." Pippa's buzzer buzzes, to let us in. "Where in Pippa's hallway is that narrow door?" I ask Kim while we are in the lift.

"Halfway between the front door and her bedroom."

She opens her door dressed in a grey sweatshirt with matching grey sweatpants and gestures us inside in a friendly but distracted manner. Soon Kim is sitting with her in front of her TV, flicking through the DVD menu to find some of the best and loudest bits. "Is the TV muted?" he asks.

"I always have the volume down on the TV. Low or silent."

"I think we need a bit of volume for this one," I say. "Alaia does contribute significantly to the mix."

"What does she do?" asks Pippa.

"She wails," says Kim, unmuting it.

So here we all are on her sofa, he and I flanking Pippa, as he picks out the bits of Sound & Vision he liked best. After a couple of minutes of Alaia's and my respective wailing and staring, Pippa's eyes open promisingly wide and glassy, and I see that Alaia and I have a new fan. Whether she'll be as hardcore a fan as Angel, I cannot predict, so very cloudy are her truths: her fandom may last no longer than these edited highlights Kim is showing her, and possibly not even that long. Still, if we can give her any pleasure, I'm happy for it. As I realised yesterday afternoon on my island, I do feel a real sorrow that she should have to bear such permanent depression. 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. (This interests me, as I'd have guessed he might prefer the monolithic slabs of grey longing as big as mountains and the skeleton of girders with the strength to march around the world. It just goes to show that even with these perceptive abilities, my understanding of the complexities of his mind goes only so far. Or perhaps it shows that Kim's understanding of the complexities of his own mind goes only so far, failing to achieve the greater clarity or objectivity that I can bring to bear upon it as an outsider? Then again, who am I to—but enough of this! I'm here at Pippa's for a reason.)

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.


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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