The next time Marion and Claire met, Marion wasted no time in speaking her mind about Conrad.
‘I’m sorry, Claire, but let’s face it, your husband is a Cabal stooge. You say he’s a nice man, but how can he be? He’s intelligent enough to understand who he’s working for and what they’re really doing. So he’s in on it. He has to be!’
‘I don’t think that’s necessarily true, Marion,’ said Claire. ‘Not everyone is privy to all the facts, you know. The Cabal compartmentalises the people who work for them, so they only know about the bit they’re working on themselves, and don’t know how it fits together with everything else.’
‘In some areas that may be true. But not in the law. A lawyer has to research the facts. He’s bound to know.’
‘But a lawyer also has to be loyal to his clients,’ Claire pointed out, changing tack. ‘That’s how the system works. He has to be completely on their side. He has no choice.’
Claire was getting upset, but Marion hardly noticed – she was too intent on pushing her point home.
‘I’m sorry Claire, but you can’t let him off the hook like that. Lawyers do have a choice in the firms they work for, and the firms do have a choice in the clients they accept. And lawyers are not supposed to present evidence they know to be a lie. Such as saying that Roundup is perfectly safe, for example. Though of course, he wouldn’t say that, would he? Not to perjure his precious self. He’d talk about the evidence being inconclusive, and have a tame expert witness rambling on about just how inconclusive it was.
‘But however you wrap it up, it’s still a lie. And the point is, he knows it’s a lie. Come on, Claire, he may be a jerk but he’s not an idiot. He knows the score. I couldn’t prove it in a court of law, but I know it’s true and so do you.
‘Which means that all his income, all his wealth, this house, your clothes, these biscuits – everything! – it’s all a reward for assisting with the criminal oppression of the human race and the wrecking of the planet. That’s where it comes from, Claire. There’s blood on his hands. And it’s splattered on you, too. I’m sorry, Claire, but it’s true.’
‘What do you mean? How come it’s splattered on me? What am I supposed to have done?’
‘Claire, you sit there in your big house with your flash kitchen and your designer garden, wearing your silk dress and your cashmere cardi, and you say, “Nothing to do with me!” But you’re the beneficiary of it all! That’s why you can get up late and swan around meditating and sending healing to the earth, and playing with your crystals. It’s all paid for with blood money!’
The following evening Conrad said to Claire, ‘I’d like to invite a colleague to dinner this week, darling, is that okay?’
‘On his own?’
‘No, let’s ask a few other people too. Maybe Jeff and Shirley. And Ian and Gwen. But perhaps not Marion this time. Sorry, darling, but you know what she’s like. I don’t want her haranguing my colleague.’
‘Or embarrassing you, perhaps?’ said Claire.
‘Exactly,’ he replied, either missing the edge in her voice or choosing to ignore it. ‘Just this once, okay?’
The colleague – Oliver Wood – turned out to be young and handsome, with shiny black hair and an expensive suit. Claire took an instant dislike to him. He oozed insincerity, his smile barely covering a sneer.
Marion’s diatribe was still ringing in Claire’s ears. It had knocked her off balance, and because she was off-balance she hadn’t meditated, and because she hadn’t meditated she was still off-balance. And she was angry, though whether she was most angry with Marion, Conrad or herself she couldn’t have said. She just felt generally pissed off, and not about to take any truck from anybody. Which was an unusual state of mind for Claire, and not the best state of mind for the hostess of a dinner party.
And that’s why, over the cheese board, and after a little too much wine, she spoke to her guest as follows:
‘So what sort of law do you practise, Mr Wood?’
‘“Oliver”, please. I practise Contract Law, Mrs West.’
‘“Claire”, please. And who are your clients, Mr Wood? Anyone we know?’
‘Now Mrs West, you’re being a bit naughty, aren’t you? I couldn’t possibly divulge the identities of my clients, as I’m sure you’re well aware. Client confidentiality, you know.’
‘Is that right, Mr Wood? Conrad’s not so cagey about the identities of his clients. And anyway, you can see in the papers who’s representing who, so I can’t see that it’s such a big secret.’
‘Interesting,’ said Oliver Wood, smirking to himself.
Claire glanced at Conrad and saw him widen his eyes momentarily at her. So, he doesn’t want me dropping him in it with his nasty little colleague does he? Well, too bad. Cabal stooge.
‘And how do you spend your days, Mrs West?’
‘Well, Mr Wood, if you were to imagine someone retiring at thirty instead of at sixty, that’s basically me. I do pretty much whatever I like, plus a little light housework and other wifely duties.’
She glanced at Conrad again. He was staring at her intently, with concern. Which was hardly surprising, since she wasn’t behaving like her usual self at all. Too bad, she thought. Cabal stooge.
‘And may I ask what you do like, Mrs West? To spend your days doing, I mean. If that isn’t an intrusive question.’
It was an intrusive question, but his manner wasn’t the least bit apologetic.
‘Oh, you know,’ she said airily, ‘Gardening, painting, tap-dancing, rock-climbing, Indian mathematics and snake-charming. That sort of thing.’
‘Yes, I think so… And what do you do, Mr Wood? When not attending to your clients in a very confidential manner? What do you like to do with your free time?’
‘Free time, Mrs West? I don’t know the meaning of the word. Some of us have to work, you know – keep the wheels of the world turning.’
‘Which wheels would these be, Mr Wood? The wheels of commerce or the wheels that grind the faces of the poor? Oh silly me, they’re one and the same, aren’t they? But I’m sure you keep them well-oiled, anyway.’
‘Claire darling,’ interjected Conrad, ‘I think we need more coffee down this end. Would you mind?’
The following morning the phone rang too early, waking Claire and hurting her head.
‘Hi Claire, it’s Marion.’
‘Look, Claire, I’m sorry for going overboard the other day. It was uncalled-for. I got carried away, and I’m sorry.’
‘Oh, right… Okay, Marion.’
‘Are you alright? You sound awful.’
‘I feel awful. I drank too much last night and was rude to a colleague of Conrad’s. He was vile, but I shouldn’t have done it.’
‘So how rude were you?’
‘Really, really rude. Conrad wouldn’t speak to me afterwards.’
‘So it’s not all bad, then.’
‘It’s not funny. I’m ashamed of myself.’
‘Tell me more.’
‘Conrad’s working late tonight, so why don’t you come to an early supper? Come at seven, and I’ll tell you all about it.’
But in the event, Marion had to wait several months before she heard all about it.
At six forty-five Claire was tossing a salad in the kitchen when Conrad walked in the front door. She stopped in surprise, waiting for his greeting, but it didn’t come. Instead, he bolted the front door and ran upstairs, returning two minutes later with a suitcase and a briefcase, which he dropped onto the kitchen floor at her feet, while she stood there with her mouth open, salad tongs in hand. He turned off the hob and the oven, then strode through the downstairs rooms turning off lights.
Finally, he returned to the kitchen with Claire’s handbag and dropped it by the cases, removed the tongs from her hands and put them in the bowl, then took her by the shoulders and looked into her eyes.
‘No, I haven’t gone mad, darling. We have to leave, and leave now. By the back door. I’ve packed a few things; we don’t have time to pack anything else. We’re in serious danger. I’m sorry darling, but I need you to trust me now. Do you trust me?’
She looked into his eyes. Their expression was different from usual. Clear. Intense. Urgent.
But overwhelming every other consideration was the Inner Voice, which was loud – louder than it had ever been before. ‘Go with him, Claire! Go now!’
So she did.
Marion parked on the gravel and got out of the car, only to find the house in darkness. She rang the doorbell anyway, but there was no response. There was light round the back of the house, so she went to investigate, and was just in time to see a flying saucer lifting into the air, before zooming away at some colossal speed.
After staring at the sky for a minute or two, Marion realised it was a fruitless exercise, which she could do just as easily at home. So, still trembling from shock, she returned to her car and drove away.
And not a moment too soon, because shortly after that three black cars screeched to a halt on the gravel and disgorged a pack of burly men, who proceeded to break down the front door and search the interior of the house in a needlessly destructive manner.
Part 3 soon.
© Sue J Davis 2015
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