posted 8:58 AM
The Militant Guild of Rural Tailors Research Group
Sunday, February 01, 2009
posted 9:46 PM
The room-phone began to ring. It was a collage, something else Inchmale dubbed steampunk. A massive, nautical-looking handset of rubber-coated bronze rested in a leather-padded cradle atop a cubical box of brass-cornered rosewood. Its ring was mechanical, and tiny, as though you were hearing an old-fashioned bicycle-bell, far off down a quiet street. She stared hard, willing it to silence.
“Intense hysteria,” she said.
It continued to ring.
Three steps and her hand was on was it.
The handset was as absurdly heavy as ever.
“Coprophagia.” Briskly, as if announcing a busy department.
“Hollis,” he said, “hello.”
She looked down at the handset, heavy as an old hammer and nearly as battered. Its thick cord, luxuriously cased in woven burgundy silk, resting against her bare forearm.
She pictured herself driving the handset through brittle antique rosewood, crushing the aged electro-mechanical cricket within. Too late now; it had already fallen quiet.
“I saw Reg,” he said.
“I told him to ask you to call.”
“I didn’t,” she said.
“Good to hear your voice,” he said.
“A good night’s sleep, then,” heartily. “I’ll be by in the morning, for breakfast. We’re driving back tonight. Pamela and I.”
“Where are you?”
She saw herself taking an early cab to Paddington, the street in front of Cabinet utterly deserted. Catching the Heathrow Express. Flying somewhere. Another phone ringing, in another room. His voice.
“Norwegian black metal,” he said, flatly. She imagined Scandinavian folk-jewelry, then self-corrected: the musical genre. “Reg said I might find it interesting.”
Good for him, she thought. Inchmale’s sub-clinical level of sadism sometimes found a deserving target.
“I was planning on sleeping in,” she said, if only to be difficult. She knew now that it was going to be impossible to avoid him.
“Eleven then,” he said. “Looking forward to it.”
“Goodnight.” He hung up.
She put the handset down. Careful of the hidden cricket. Not its fault.
Nor even his, whatever he was.