Episode 2

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She was home. Carmelita came to greet her. Carmelita was old, half blind, but very strong. "Let me help you Mrs Becher." She took Lavinia Becher from Antonio, and glared at the poor driver. "The bag!" Without apology, he stormed back to the car to recover its unholy cargo. He handed the bag to the maid, who carried both it and her employer up the stairs with apparent ease.

Carmelita sat her mistress up in bed, which was the usual drill. "Would you like to talk, or shall I just remove your clothes and lay you down?" "Where's Karl?" "I'll see if I can find him for you, Mrs Becher." "No." Lavinia pulled the bag up onto the bed beside her. "Please leave me alone for an hour Carmelita, and find out where Karl is. Then you can come back and tuck me in." "Yes Mrs Becher." The two women had a special relationship, but Carmelita knew by now, when not to question the lady of the house.

As soon as she had been left alone, Lavinia hungrily unzipped the bag. Her pulse quickened. It was stuffed with all of the drugs under the sun. She rummaged around like a child on Christmas morning. There was the ecstasy, which she liked; the cocaine, which she used to like but not anymore; and the cannabis, which was her guilty pleasure. The main prize was to be found in the darkest recesses, beneath everything else; the heroin. Over the years, she'd experimented with whatever was on offer, but these were her staples.

Her ritual, at these times, was to take everything out and put it on the bed. She didn't need to check the consignment against Michael's list; he was a trustworthy man. She just liked to look at it all, unsullied, before it got nibbled at, eaten into, and eventually devoured. Lots of immaculate little packages, so neatly prepared. Not everything in the bag was for her though. Some was for Karl, and some for their friends and parties. Her circle had come to rely upon her for this one thing. There was no point in them sourcing their own supply when Vina's man always provided produce of the highest quality, and so well presented.

She packed everything away again, into the bag, in case Karl were to come into her room. He considered her fetishisation of this regular event to be some kind of childish game. But then he would. She loved her husband dearly, but their individual attitudes towards their shared lifestyle-choice were not always aligned. Why aggravate him unnecessarily? She didn't really know what she was worrying about though, as Karl rarely entered her bedroom these days. To an impartial outsider, it might appear that this curious behaviour was nothing more than a manifestation of the excitement she felt at taking receipt of this latest prescription.

Lavinia Becher had not been sleeping very well of late, but now she was tired, and in the best possible way. What would she dream about tonight? Perhaps a time before all of this. Her childhood? No, not that far back. That glorious period in her twenties, when she had first met Karl and everything was so wonderfully new and thrilling. There was pleasure to be found at every turn back then; now she had become like some kind of crazed orienteer, running around all over the place having to seek it out.

...

She must have fallen asleep, as the next thing she knew was Carmelita shaking her gently and starting to unbutton her shirt. "Did you find him?" "He's in his rooms, Mrs Becher." "Is he with anyone?" "He must be, Mrs Becher. I could hear voices." He was probably gambling, playing poker or some other game. He had used to go out, all across London - all across Europe - to casinos and other such places, but since he had started experiencing the occasional unexpected blackout, it was more common for him to invite people to the house to play, sometimes even flying them in to the country at short notice.

Gambling was a way of life for Karl. It wasn't the risk that drew him to it; he had plenty of money all over the place, however much he lost. Even if he could lose everything, which seemed impossible, Lavinia had her own enormous wealth, and she would support him. Besides, she had no reason to doubt his assertions that he did, in fact, quite often come out on top. No, he never felt at risk gambling - quite the opposite - he felt safe. He felt safe when he was in control.

All the time Lavinia had been thinking about Karl and his gambling, Carmelita had been busying around, making the necessary arrangements to ensure her mistress enjoyed the best possible sleep she could, especially given the torrid night she had had.  Using the sports bag full of drugs as a pillow, Lavinia Becher finally laid down her head, and was tucked in - with a few soothing words from the maid - beneath luxurious satin bedsheets.  The blackout curtains were deployed - as the sun was coming up - and all was calm.

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