~ Thursday March 4
“When I get home I shall write a book about this place...
if I ever do get home,” said Alice.
8:00 a.m. The next morning we were preparing to go into London when Nigel asked, “What will it take for you to be free of that awful Archer fellow?”
“Nothing short of getting a buyer for his Lizard Links fiasco. It's a half-started golf course property out in the Everglades. Leslie insists I sell it for him.”
“I think I might have heard of it.”
“How?” I asked.
“Umm... don't recall.” Nigel wandered off into the bedroom seemingly lost in thought.
I flossed my teeth as I walked the short distance from the bathroom to the bedroom. Before I could question Nigel further, I heard a squeak like metal against metal. I looked to the front door. The mail slot, a brass plate about three feet from the ground, was open. Two piercing gray eyes followed my movements. I froze. What the devil?
“Elizabeth, is that you?” I asked the mail slot.
And the mail slot answered me, “I see you there, Alice. I see you flossing your teeth.”
I might be having a nervous breakdown, I was overdue. “Elizabeth, what are you doing?”
“Open the door, Alice. I won’t hurt you,” the mail slot responded.
I leaped into the bedroom where Nigel was standing paler than milk.
“I’ll let her in. Let’s get this over with,” he whispered.
“No. I don’t want a scene. Plus, dear heart, I think she may be dangerous. She’s unbalanced or haven’t you noticed?” I whispered.
“LET ME IN. I KNOW YOU’RE BOTH IN THE BEDROOM.”
I inched the bedroom door closed. “Shall we outwait her? She’s got to be uncomfortable crouching down to reach the slot. She’ll leave soon or we could call the police?”
Nigel lay down on the bed. “Don’t do that, darling. It could send her completely off her onion. I would like to know how she got in. I will take this up with the building manager.”
“You do that,” I said, once again feeling trapped in a British farce.
I took out a copy of People magazine and worked my way through the latest celebrity adventures while the mail slot continued to call to me.
“Nigel, it’s been half an hour and she’s still there.”
Just then as if on cue, the mail slot started to bang. Bang, bang, bang. Elizabeth apparently decided this would be more annoying. It was.
“Let’s let her in and get it over with,” I said.
“No. I’ve never seen her act this way. It may not be safe. Let’s wait a bit longer.” His eyes were as big as the bags under them.
Two minutes later the banging stopped.
We peeked out the window and watched Elizabeth make her way to a little red Volkswagen.
“That car looks familiar. It was in Paris. Oops. She spotted us,” I said.
Elizabeth yelled back at our window. “I see you there, Nigel. With that American woman. I see you behind those middle class lace curtains. Lace curtains. How pathetic.” She jumped into her beetle and pulled under the window. “I’ll be back.” she yelled, waving her fist in the air.
9:00 a.m. “Ready to go to London?” Nigel asked as he tied the scarf under my chin. I stood on tip-toe and kissed him on his cheek.
We peeked out the mail slot, the coast was clear. He turned the locks and opened the front door. There at our feet sat a clock. It was a fairly ordinary mantle clock about ten inches high and twenty-four inches long.
I jumped back. “Is it a bomb?”
“I don’t think so, but stand back, darling,” he said quite matter-of-factly.
“Call the police,” I said, not accustomed to having clocks turn up on my doorstep unannounced.
“We can handle this, love. Fill the tub with water. Hurry.”
I did as I was told. “Must be one of those British things,” I muttered as the tub filled.
Nigel gingerly lifted the clock into the tub and submersed it. The clock bubbled to its demise.
We stood there watching. “It’s definitely not the right time,” I said to Nigel trying to be as nonchalant as I could be.
“That’s true, Love,” he said. He cocked his head as he studied the clock in the tub. “I believe I know this clock.”
“Good. I’d hate to think it was a strange clock we just drowned.”
“Darling, I believe this is a clock I had stored in Elizabeth’s attic.” He lifted the clock out of the water. “Well, we’ve killed enough time. Let’s go.”
Nigel put the clock in a plastic trash bag and knotted the end. We took it with us when we exited his flat. He pulled his door shut and double locked it. “How did that woman get in here?”
We dumped the dead clock in the community trash and headed to London. I watched the road signs zip by. They all meant distance between us and Elizabeth.
1:30 p.m. Nigel had a business meeting at the Hyde Park Hotel which gave me time to shop. I wandered around Harrods and bought a pretty little black dress at Harvey Nicols. I picked up nifty pumps at Charles Jourdan to replace the ones I lost in the Seine. Mission accomplished, I crossed Brompton and Knightsbridge to the Hyde Park Hotel. I was an hour early to meet my man.
I entered the lounge and spotted Nigel huddled over a table with a seedy looking man in a brown pinstripe suit, purple shirt and iridescent red tie. The stranger’s hair was dusted with what looked like talcum powder and his complexion was doughy.
“Petal, I’m surprised to see you so soon. Let me introduce you to Algernon Green.” He motioned to me as he spoke, “Algy, this is Alice Harte. She’s my guest from Miami.”
“Hello, Petal. Aren’t you a pretty little thing? What a lovely outfit.” Algy Green bowed releasing a poof of powder. He looked spooked, his nose wrinkled and his eyes narrowed. I had seen that look before. It was the women-have-no-business-in-business look.
“My name is not petal, and I am not little,” I said.
I looked down at the table as Nigel flipped their papers over. A familiar looking red file slipped out of the pile. Both men appeared uncomfortable as I settled into a chair. “You can call me Ms. Harte.”
“Well, Miss Harte, Nigel and I are discussing a big, confidential business deal. One that would only bore you.”
“Alice, please give me a few minutes more with Algernon. It’s a complicated deal we are working on.”
“Nigel, can I speak to you for a second?”
We stepped into the entryway and I squared off with my Brit.
“That red file you have on the table there, is that my Lizard Links file? I had that in my briefcase back in the states. Why is it here?”
“Sweetheart, you are not the only one to ever have had a red file. Would you have me embarrass myself by walking over there and showing you Algernon’s confidential file?”
“I have a bad feeling about that guy. Call it feminine intuition or whatever, but don’t do any business with that snarkie. Please.”
He laughed. “Not to worry darling. I don’t do business with Algy Green. I just humor him. He’s always on to some urgent deal or whatever. I just listen. What’s a “snarkie?”
“It’s a little shrimp-like creature that lays claim to anything it wants by barfing on it.”
Nigel chuckled. “Please don’t stare at Algernon’s ears. He is very self-conscious.”
I shook my head to line up that segue. “His ears?”
“Yes. He super glues his ears to his head because they stick out so terribly much.”
I was speechless.
“I’ll meet you in Harrod’s Food Hall in thirty minutes,” Nigel said as he scooted me away.
As I walked back to Harrods, I wondered if I was trying too hard to make this relationship work. I didn’t like the vibe I got from the little creep Algy Green.
An hour later Nigel and I were picking out smoked salmon and fish cakes from one of the seafood counters in the food court. “What’s with that guy, Green?” I asked.
“Algy’s harmless. He runs around trying to make deals that go no where. We all humor him.”
“There’s something untrustworthy about him.”
“Aside from his ears, I assume you are referring to the talcum powder?”
“I thought that’s what that was,” I said.
“It’s an eccentricity. Americans are rabid about shampooing everyday. Some Europeans prefer to use talcum instead of soap to clean their hair. Algy has a tendency to overdo it.”
That night we lay on Nigel’s dust ruffle sheets. I struggled not to tell him he’d gotten it all wrong with the sheets; I didn’t want to embarrass him. We played at making love, but the atmosphere wasn’t very romantic. I let Nigel stroke my head and I gently kissed his pale cheeks. I’m a noisy lover and the mail slot was too close for anything more than gentle touching. Nigel fell asleep. I listened to his quiet snore. You must love him, I told myself, otherwise you wouldn’t be here.
~ Friday March 5
There might be some sense in your knocking –
if we had the door between us.
8:00 a.m. The following morning I was tinkering in Nigel’s toy kitchen, making coffee when I heard a THUD outside the door. “There’s someone knocking.” I called to him.
We arrived at the door at the same time. Nigel threw it open and there sat a clock, almost identical to the drowned mantle clock.
“Stand back, darling” Nigel again swung into clock-drowning mode.
“Call the police.”
“No. We can handle this. It’s just another clock. Fill the tub with water. Hurry. Better to be safe.”
I ran to the tub, started the water and I laughed at myself.
“Okay. Here we go.” Nigel repeated the clock-dunk.