Emily tried to untwist the telephone cord that was tangled around her arm and finally, in frustration, just handed the receiver to Janet. She carefully raised Emily’s hand and unwound it, put it back and set the telephone on the sideboard. Then she came and sat down at the breakfast table. The two women didn’t look at each other. It was the silence of not knowing what to say and wanting the other woman to say it first. If there had been a clock, it would have ticked. If there had been an hourglass, they would have heard the sand fall. It was the longest eight seconds in human history. Finally, without moving, Janet looked over and caught Emily studiously “not” looking back, and in that silent apprehensive eye contact, the professional veneer collapsed and they were fifteen again, passing notes in Miss Cafferty’s chemistry class – and they giggled.
“Oh, for God’s sake, Magpie: spill it!”
“What? Nothing. He’s just a man I met in London.” Emily twirled her coffee cup.
“Of course, and you always invite the men you meet in London home for Christmas? This is what? One in a row?”
Emily could hear Janet rolling her eyes.
“Well, no — you know – he — uh – we – uh – we get along really well. I think he likes me.”
Janet nodded her head. “Could be? He tracked you down and threatened to call the police if you didn’t come to the telephone. Yeah, could be? Oh, come on! What’s he like?”
“He’s – uh – it’s hard to say. I’m not sure …. At first, you think he’s sort of not really there, but he has this way of … way of just being there. Just ….”
Emily spread her hands and lifted her shoulders. “Not big … just …”
Emily put her teeth together and shook her head slowly. “More.”
“More?” It was a statement and a question.
“I don’t know, Jans. He has this way of – uh – of getting everything to move around him, but not like he even means to do that. It just happens.” Emily tilted her head toward her friend. “And he was really sweet to me after the Russians cut off my finger.”
It caught Janet under the chin, and she snapped her head sideways. “WHAT?”
“Oh,” Emily paused and shifted her eyes, “You didn’t know.”
Janet exhaled and shook her head. Her eyes had completely lost their schoolgirl laughter. She waited.
“Uh – it’s nothing, really. I was doing some work for … evaluation work — for an insurance company … Well, not really an insurance company. It was … It’s complicated. It’s very complicated.”
“Russians?” Janet asked tentatively, “Like Russian gangsters? What have you gotten yourself into?”
“No, no, it’s not that way. Well, they were gangsters, I suppose. They turned out to be, anyway. But that’s the point. Sinclair is the one who fixed it. He stopped them and got me out of there.”
“After they cut off your finger! God Almighty, is he a criminal too?”
“No, no, he works for the insurance company.”
“The one you weren’t working for?”
Emily slumped back in her chair. Suddenly she was very tired. Everything was so complicated. She just didn’t have the energy to explain. “What did they say happened?”
“Billie said they told him you got your hand caught in a weaving machine. An accident. A bloody, stupid accident.” Janet’s voice was sharp with worry for her friend.
“Janet,” Emily reached over and touched her arm, “It’s over. Completely finished. I promise. And when I’m feeling better, I’ll tell you the whole story. I will. But right now, I’m just too tired.”
Janet hooded the doubt in her eyes.
“Do you have anything else in your book?”
“No, no. We’re done.” Janet said, without looking down.
“Alright, I’m going to go back to bed for a while.” Emily stood up. “You’re going to like Sinclair. I know you will.”
Janet forced a smile.
Halfway to the door, Emily turned around. Janet looked up. She moved her index finger back and forth and nodded solemnly. But she also made a mental note to tell Billie to keep an eye on this Dreyfus Sinclair – whoever he was.
Friday – Part 4