BY JAMES HADLEY CHASE
As I walked from Gloria’s flat to Charing Cross Station to
collect my suit-case, I worked out a plan of campaign.
That good night kss, plus the whisky, had hopped me up
as if I had swallowed a handful of Benzedrine tablets. I was
chock full of confidence that I could handle the situation now.
I was going to make fifty pounds a week! Ann would have to know about it, of course, but that could be taken care of
without hurting her. It was essential she shouldn’t be hurt.
I couldn’t understand why I had been such a damned fool as to
have lied to her. In my present mood, it now seemed ridiculous
not to have told her I couldn’t go to the movies with her
because I had an important business date.
I had to straighten that out as soon as I got home. It would mean telling her a few more lies, but that couldn’t be helped.
Then there was Gloria. I didn’t love her, of course, but I
was certainly infatuated with her. Men get infatuated with girls, I argued to myself, in spite of being genuinely in love with their wives. It happens every day of the week; it has always happened, and it will always happen. You pass through this life but once, I said to myself, and you would be a mug to miss such an opportunity. Gloria wants you to make love to her.
You want to make love to her. Of course it isn’t strictly playing the game with Ann, but men are doing that kind of thing every night, so why shouldn’t you? What the eye doesn’t see, the heart doesn’t grieve about. So long as Ann doesn’t find out, and I’ll take damned good care she doesn’t find out, where’s the harm?
Have an affair with Gloria, I said to myself, and then
finish with it. You’ll settle down with Ann all the better for getting Gloria out of your system. I didn’t kid myself that Gloria was in love with me: nothing like that. Love didn’t come into it.
This was a physical storm through which we were both
passing. Get it over, and there’d be nothing more to it.
I really believed what I was telling myself. So long as
Ann didn’t find out, all would be well. Go ahead, I thought,
don’t take any chances, but don’t miss this opportunity.
As I walked down Eagle Street, I felt het up and emotional about Ann. She was a good kid. No one better. I loved her more than anyone else in the world. This thing with Gloria wouldn’t make any difference to my feelings towards Ann. I’d get it over and out of my system.
The thing to do was to get it over as quickly as I could, and then forget about her. It
would be as easy as that.
The light was on in the bedroom when I pushed open the door. Ann was in bed, her hair about her shoulders, her eyes
serious and worried as she looked at me.
“Well, I’m back.”
I came into the room and closed the door.
“Did you enjoy the movie?”
“It was all right.”
I came to the foot of the bed and grinned at her. The
whisky was still hitting me, and I felt right on top of the world.
I’ll take that soared, worried look out of your eye in a
minute, darling, I said to myself. Wait ’til you hear what I’m going to tell you.
I saw her flinch.
“It’s late, Harry. Hadn’t you better get undressed?”
“I said I had a confession to make. Aren’t you curious?”
“What is it?”
I saw her hands clench into fists, and she quickly put
them under the sheet.
“Old Lewis didn’t call tonight: I was lying.”
She continued to stare at me for a long moment, then: “I
knew that, Harry.”
That jarred me. It spoilt my opening. I stared back at her.
“You knew? How did you know?”
“Does it matter? It was rather obvious, Harry. You’d
better get undressed.”
“Now look, you’re thinking things you have no right to
think. I only lied to you because I didn’t want to raise your hopes. I shouldn’t have done it, but I wasn’t sure if this offer was going to come off. I didn’t want you to be disappointed.”
She was still staring at me, still worried, but suddenly not
“I don’t know what you mean.”
I sat on the bed by her side.
“Of course you don’t ! Remember I told you I had to think
up an idea to get us out of this mess? Well, I thought of one.
There’s a company making television sets. As a matter of fact old Lewis mentioned the company to me when I was fixing his breakdown. He said they were looking for a West End Agency.
I decided to do something about it. I made inquiries and got
into touch with the right man. His name’s Ed Dix. You
remember when I went out yesterday afternoon to get those auto bulbs? Well, I went to see him. At first he didn’t seem interested, but I kept at him, and finally he said he would have to talk to his people, and he would phone me.
That was him phoning tonight when I said it was Lewis.” That’s what a lot of
whisky did to me.
The lies came so convincingly they almost convinced me. “He asked me to come over to his place right away. He still sounded doubtful, but I had an idea I could make him come down on my side. I couldn’t be sure, of course, so I didn’t tell you or Bill. I wanted to be absolutely sure before I broke the news.
Well, it’s in the bag, Ann, if he thinks the garage is big enough, and of course it is big enough. He’s coming to look at it on Monday, and I’m sure now I’ll clinch it. And listen, Ann, this is something big: it could really grow with any luck. He says I couldn’t make less than fifty pounds a week! Think of that ! Fifty a week! Why, d@mn it!
I’ll buy you a dozen pairs of slacks now: anything you like!”
She sat up, the scared, worried look gone, and her eyes
“Oh, Harry! You worried me so!”
I put my arm round her and pulled her close.
“I know I shouldn’t have lied to you, Ann, but how did I
know you would see through me? I thought I had you and Bill
properly fooled. If I had even guessed you didn’t believe I was going out to Lewis I would have told you the truth. D@mn it!
Why didn’t you tell me? Why pretend you believed me when
you didn’t? You’ve been thinking all kinds of nonsense, haven’t you?”
“I’m sorry, Harry. I really am sorry.”
“I think you should be, Ann. Not so long ago you were
saying we mustn’t lose faith in each other. Well, you couldn’t
have had much faith in me tonight.”
“Oh, Harry, forgive me. I was so worried. I did think . . .”
“Never mind what you thought.” I didn’t want to hear her
say she thought I was going to Gloria. “It’s all right now.
Monday, if we have any luck, I’m going to be the boss of an
agency that’ll pay fifty quid a week. Think of it!”
“This is the answer to my prayer,” she said, and threw
her arms round my neck. “I know you think I’m silly about this,
Harry, but God is being good to us. I prayed last night for us.
I prayed for us just now before you came in. I couldn’t believe anything could be badly wrong: not between you and me,
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