It was too late – there was nothing more he could do.
He had to find the tramp who had accused him of stealing his accommodation.
Buzz.. buzz.. BUZZ.. they were swarming again.
By the time Kelly had finished the bottle of champagne it was time to go.
Branen told her he had nowhere to stay and explained how much she needed to be walked home and how much he needed a cup of coffee.
She had a first floor flat above a deli which looked out over Old Compton Street.
“What do you do for a living?” she asked.
“I’ve got a smallholding.”
“What, in Soho?”
“Yeah sure, in the middle of the square.”
She closed the fridge door and leant back on it, “Why are you so secretive?”
In the warmth of Costas’ flat Branen started to thaw out.
He was tortured by the image of the contorted body being flung forward over him. He kept feeling the warm blood as it ran down his face and the taste as it crept into his mouth. He was at the kitchen table for an hour when Costas appeared from the bedroom, “What’s happening Ben.. what have you got yourself into?”
Friday the thirteenth had dawned and Costas felt uneasy.
Branen tried the door, noticing it swung both ways, he suspected like some of the guests, it also made it easier to eject unwanted customers.
Branen had hoped for a reply to the email, but by four o’clock in the morning he’d given up.
The figure was shadowy and Harry continued to stare intently at the screen trying to make out any movement, then he finally fell asleep where he sat.
Harry had put a four-hour tape into the VHS recorder before going to work; he wanted to keep an eye on Carrie’s flat.
It recorded until the tape ran out a couple of hours before he got home.
When Branen got back onto the street the man had vanished.
It was morning again. Another day for Harry to face.
It was cold and wet and the revelry and hubbub of Soho had dissipated with the arrival of dawn.
After the phone call Harry had not been able to get back to sleep; thirty-six hours without any sleep.
He lay back on the bed, soaked in perspiration, still dressed in the same clothes from the previous day. He watched the grey light creep up over the buildings. His brain was a quagmire of chaotic noise and buzzing. Nothing he could do would allow him any relief. His head was spinning and he wanted to vomit.
A breeze rustled through the branches of the eucalyptus tree that had stood for two lifetimes beside the stone farmhouse.
As the sun rose over the hill the light danced through the leaves and bounced a thousand shadows through the open shutters and onto the roughly plastered wall behind the bed.
The flickering sunlight moved down onto his face.
August had delivered the coup-de-grace, a hail storm, the like of which the locals could not recall in living memory. The dark storm clouds came up over the mountains like a rolling fog of burning oil. The tempest tore the vines from their stands and hammered the trees into submission.
He watched as his wine and olive harvest disappeared in a torrent of hail-stones that melted into the soil along with his income.
It was as though this last season was an omen.
It was Sunday evening and the Crisis Response Team was off duty.
Eventually the team leader located and deployed them. The team of two men and a woman, were in the bar of The Crown & Two Chairman within three hours of the Controller’s order. They were indistinguishable from the rest of the weekend punters in the pub. Sunday was the quietest night of the week in Soho and the evening crowd consisted mostly of early clubbers who wanted a few rippers before moving on when the pubs closed.
When they reached the flat their plan of action was determined. The woman went straight back down to the street door to inform the agent on guard, then brought him inside to seal the door. Meanwhile the other man rang the Controller to tell her what they had found, and while he was waiting for instructions drew the curtains and put on the light.
Photographs were taken and a forensic examination completed. Two hours later the flat had been cleaned.
In the early hours of the morning when the street was empty the body was brought down in a roll of carpet and loaded into the van.