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Sam was constantly surprised by Scarlett.
Sometimes, when they were home alone she would disappear for what seemed like only a few minutes and reappear with a batch of scones.
“Where the hell did you learn to make scones?” he asked.
“At Finishing School”
“You have to be kidding.”
“The Finishing School I went to demanded that we knew how to cook as well as how to tell a drunk millionaire to fuck off without loosing our dignity.”
“Were there many occasions where a drunk millionaire needed chastising?”
“Once or twice, I was very attractive you know.”
“And very rich”. Sam could not help inserting that insight.
“Money had nothing to do with it. They lusted after my body, and rightly so.” Scarlett struck a pose to emphasise her point.
She had a point, actually she had several of them.
No longer a girl but a mature woman, she looked amazing with or without clothes. Incredibly, she didn’t have to work at it whereas Sam spent more than the occasional minute keeping his body in shape.
It was a habit he had learned from the days when a certain amount of strength and quick reflexes could mean the difference between reading the paper the next morning or being on it’s front page.
The scones were delicious, of course.
Sam was still curious.
“What else did they teach you at that Finishing School?”
“Lots of very cool stuff”. Scarlett thought about telling him some of the stories from her year in Rougemont in Switzerland but she wanted to maintain that air of mystery that young women were taught about back in those days, and besides, they had only been married for a little over a year and maintaining an air a mystery around a man who wrote about mystery for a living was difficult enough. If she had mentioned that Princess Diana had attended the same school it might have made Sam even more uncomfortable than he already was with the world she lived in.
Finally she wilted under his persistent stare. “I’ll tell you if you show me you your scars”.
“Oh, no you don’t, my mother left me those scares in her will, and she told me never to show them to anyone, especially nosey, rich women”.
“Oh, go on, just the small knife wound, and you have to tell me the story that goes with it.”
“You’ve heard that story and besides it’s nearly time for bed, you can see it then.”
“That’s all very well but you keep the lights on when I undress and you turn them off when you do.”
“Really, I’ve never noticed. Maybe it’s because I’m dazzled by your beauty.”
“Don’t come the malarky with me young man, show me that scar.”
Reluctantly he pulled his handmade shirt out of his waistband and exposed his left hip.
The scar was small but the making of it was near fatal.
He began the story in a low almost hushed tone.
“You know how in the movies William Powell gets shot but the bullet manages to miss all the major organs?”
“Yes, go on”. She was impatient and eager. She loved his stories, and she loved the way he told them.
“Well that’s not how it happens.” She didn’t interrupt this time so he continued.
“It started out as research for a book but the more I got into it, the more I didn’t like this bloke. He liked hurting people, especially women, and my mum always told me to stomp on people who hurt women.”
“What is it with you and your mum?” She interrupted him but he was used to it.
“Never you mind about my mum, she was a wise and insightful woman and she could bench press my father while singing the national anthem. She was quite annoyed when they changed the national anthem because it threw off her rhythm.”
“Enough about your mum, I want to hear about that scar.”
Scarlett’s world had not previously contained scars, and guns, and sheilas, and associated paraphernalia, until Sam had come along and she was secretly disappointed that he had given it all up to be with her. It was true that her family fortune was too much for one person to manage and she did need Sam’s help but his life before her was so exciting that at the very least she wanted to hear about it.
The only scar she could remember from before Sam was when the cook cut her finger and it took a long time to heal.
Not exactly a best seller in that story.
“So there was this bloke and your mum wanted you to stomp on him.” She was pretty wound up by now.
“Take it easy, my mum didn’t know this bloke and the whole ‘stomp on him’ was a bit of hyperbole, and why am I telling you this and why are you smiling at me. I fall for that every time don’t I?” He took a breath and dived back into the past.
He tried to leave out the boring bits [was it Hitchcock who said that drama was real life without the boring bits?]
“This bloke was no chump and he knew I had been following him so he led me down a dark alley. Well, it wasn’t that dark but it sounds better if I tell it that way.”
“Was it a bluestone alley or concrete?”
“Bluestone I think. What difference does it make? Stop interrupting!” He wasn’t really mad, he adored her enthusiasm in the same way that he adored the rest of her.
“As I was saying, he led me down this dark, damp, dank, dangerous alley and stuck a knife in me.”
“Oh, come on there must have been more to it that that!” Now she was annoyed.
“He was wearing a hat” he said with a smile.
Sam did not want to draw Scarlett too deeply into his former world partly because the word ‘former’ was not quite accurate. Sam’s former life seemed not to want to remain former.
In the year they had been married there had been several incidents that threatened to undo his retirement. People kept dangling enticing cases in front of him and after all, he was only human.
Detective Inspector Matt Blank from the Homicide squad was the worst offender.
The Cops would like you to believe that they don’t call in outside help on difficult cases but that’s a load bollocks.
D.I. Blank had used Sam many times in the past and in return Sam got to see stuff that most writers never saw which gave his books a compelling richness that no ordinary imagination could match.
Sam had an instinct for crime and his instincts had brought him close to death on more than one occasion.
The tiny knife wound on his hip was one of those times.
Scarlett saw Sam’s ‘former’ life through the eyes of someone who had been protected from a lot of the harsh realities of life.
She was no fool but she had never seen the life drain out of a person lying on the ground surrounded by litres of that sticky red fluid that movie makers never seem to get right.
The colour of blood is not like you see it in the movies and the amount that drains out of a person who has bled to death has to be seen to be believed.
All that is bad enough but then there’s the smell.
Copious amounts of blood gives off a sickly sweet metallic smell that is not replicated in everyday life. Paramedics, cops and nurses know that smell and Sam knew it as well.
That night in the alley he saw quite a lot of it and it all used to be inside him. Now it was trickling down between the century old bluestones and heading for an old cast iron drain.
The guy he was following simply turned around and plunged the knife into him.
Sam’s reflexes managed to move him sideways just enough so that the blade missed his large intestine but not quite enough to miss his skinny hips completely.
The blade hit the bone and that hurt but it also nicked an artery, he never did find out the name of the artery or the name of the bloke who kept pressure on the wound until the paramedics arrived.
By the time he was in the ambulance he didn’t much care what anyones name was and besides, he was lousy with names and he would probably have forgotten them anyway.
The anaesthetist told Sam his name, which was nice, it sounded like Nigel, which was nice, but it could have been Erving.
Not long after that Nigel/Erving gave him something and Sam saw a large black pool open up in front of him and he dived right in.
His dreams were confused and a little disturbing and at one stage Sam thought he saw a unicorn and he made a mental note never to mention that to anyone, he had a tough guy reputation to protect after all.