117 That narrow door

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117   That narrow door

The next two hours with Alaia, whether chatting as we wander hand in hand or just sitting wordless in the sunlight together, are two of the most romantic hours I have ever spent in my life—excepting perhaps the ten-minute interruption of fevered legal jabbering with Bedford Pickering III on my mobile beside Sunset Lake in preparation for our imminent meeting with Marc. Then she and I return to the Metropolitan, in time for two o'clock.

It's a most satisfactory meeting, I'm glad to say, involving a three-way online video conference between us three, Bedford and the G.N.'s general counsel. Within forty-five minutes all remaining aspects of my and Alaia's rights in the two broadcasts are clarified and negotiated in general, subject to detailed imminent documentation.

After the conference call, Marc adds that Jason's assistant will be in touch with me soon, in connection with "any other rights that may be outstanding". Was that a conspiratorial twinkle in his eye, as he uttered this? I can't be sure; but if so, then it was the first and doubtless the last acknowledgement by him of the imagination-thieving. Either way, I emit no such twinkle of my own, whatsoever: I prefer to keep my dealings with him impeccably pristine, severe and above-board ... and anyway, I'm not about to start twinkling when we haven't even hashed all that stuff out yet.

As for this afternoon, we tell him, we'd rather not prolong our stay here unnecessarily, preferring to head home to New York and the real world again. Marc agrees and phones Evelyn to ask her to make the van ready for us now.

We all stand up and he looks me squarely in the eye. "Nice to do business with you, Jaymi!"

"And with you, Marc. Did we re-ignite a few radioactive ballroom scenes around the world, d'you think?"

He laughs aloud and nods. "I think we did," he answers. Then he lifts his hands, makes a circle by putting the end of one thumb against the end of the other thumb and the end of one index finger against the end of the other index finger, holds this circle in front of his face, centring just above his nose, and fixes me with the stare of that figure at the ballroom party: above the crowd, its eyes strangely one, like a great gold Cyclops three metres high, sprouting horns like a Baphomet's, its claws hanging down resting easy on the grey heads carpeting the ballroom, its heavy eye transfixing me—

"I shall never forget that, Marc," I reply. "That's how this whole thing began, and I can think of no more fitting way for it to conclude."

We shake hands, both inclining our heads a fraction in mutual respect, and I take my leave of him.

Having done likewise, Alaia follows me out of the office, into the marble hallway and upstairs, where she watches me pack up all my belongings quickly. Then she grabs her own bags from her room and we run back downstairs and slip out through the Metropolitan's inconspicuous door for the last time. Out on Asbury Avenue, Evelyn is waiting in her silver van. "You look just like you did when you picked me up on Forty-Third Street," I say.

"Marc says you're both leaving now!" she exclaims, and I see her noticing our hands holding each other. "Why?"

We climb in, slide the door shut and start to give her a quick summary of what's happened, while she drives. We haven't got far into the tale, before she parks outside Pippa's high-rise. "Carry on," she says. "I'll tell you why we're at Pippa's in a minute, but what happened next?" So I finish the tale as we sit in the parked van. "OK, we need to talk more about all this—with Rik too," she decides. "We can't just wash our hands and move on here. This is a bunch of serious juiciness to discuss!"

"You bet," says Alaia, "so let's fix a time for you and Rik to visit us in Manhattan: it's compulsory."

"All right, we'll do it." Evelyn peers at us in the rear-view mirror. "Especially now that you two—"

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