THIRTEEN - All Together Now

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"Just wear the damn earpiece, Choi. This is my only damn condition, I'll let you go in if you use the mike."

"No!"

They were standing in the small road turning leading into the square, after lunch on a blowy winter Thursday. Only two or three minutes' walk away was the Vole family home.

Pedestrians were side-glancing at their argument – a few recognised them and asked about the case. All were shooed away, but refused to disappear. Instead, they hovered at the top end of the road and watched.

Hobson nearly gave them a redirection they'd never forget, but Choi stopped him. It would spread all over Twitter and be bad for business, she said. So he stayed quiet, thinking about the people he'd like to spread all over Twitter.

Not to mention, Choi was providing plenty of heated debate already: "I didn't want you to come in the first place! I'll be fine; I'll just tell you what she says."

"Come on, look, it might be dangerous. Stick this in your ear, or I'll go to the meeting instead. Maybe tell Lettie you're locked in a sandwich shop toilet with the exploding shits."

"She wouldn't talk to you. She only wants to talk to me."

"I'm sure I could trick the tip out of her, but wouldn't it be better if you wore this black box and behaved yourself, eh?"

There was a silent spell, while Choi glared at him. Not giving an inch, he just held out his hand with the black box and accessories. Slowly, she arranged the wires around herself, clipped the mike inside her blouse, screwed the earpiece into place and gave one last evil look. He didn't react. Eventually, she turned into the square to knock on Lettie's door.

Sighing with relief, Hobson leaned against the wall, tuning his own earpiece in. Once he looked up from adjusting the dial, he realised a couple of his fans had crept closer.

Well, no pressure to be polite now she'd gone.

"Okay, show's over." He pointed back towards the busy main road. "Fuck off and get a real job. Some of us are trying to do something useful, rather than read about it on Twitter."

*****

As she crossed the square to Lettie's house, Angelina did her utmost to look cool, calm and collected.

She mounted the pavement without tripping up, avoided the foliage from the central garden, and noticed residents appearing at windows as she passed. Nonetheless, she kept on track.

Until she was facing the Vole house, wavering over whether to knock on the main door or the lower entrance into the basement. Was she meant to be bypassing Lettie's mum? Paralysed at the bottom of the steps, she felt oh-so-conscious of how this looked to Hobson and everyone else.

The front door swung open and there Violet Vole stood.

"Angie! You okay? Come on!"

Not hiding her relief, Angelina dashed up the steps until she reached Lettie. Now they were close, Angelina saw her pale skin, even more starkly white next to the red hair, and bloody, tired eyes.

"I'm fine. Are you alright? You sounded weird on the phone."

"I'm fine too. Come in." Lettie gestured behind her. "God knows who's watching out there."

Not reassured by her paranoia, Angelina slipped through the door into their hallway. It slammed hard behind her. The upstairs entrance hall of the Vole house was musty, old and felt thoroughly lived in. Family photos jostled for space with shoes, coats, keys and bags, yet it didn't feel cluttered or messy, just used.

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