I looked away from the entrance of the bank solely for the reason of seeing what was making the tapping noise on the window of my car. Of course, it would be that girl I call my best friend.
"Harriet," I said after I'd rolled down the window. "What are you doing? I'm on duty."
"I know you are," she grinned, opening the door and climbing over me so she could sit in the passenger seat. "I saw your car so I came over to see if your cute business partner was with you but he obviously isn't so I thought I'd sit and wait for him with you."
I shook my head. "Harrie, the last thing Maximus needs is distractions like pretty girls trying to flirt with him. Besides, I'm not waiting for him."
"Oh." She frowned. "Well, can I wait with you anyway?"
"Yes. And you can help me work this code out." I showed her the note.
"Ooh! It's Johnny Depp!" she beamed. I turned it over and pushed it back into her hands. "I know that... what's that supposed to mean? Ohhh, is it like one of those things they gave you when you first joined to see if you were good enough?"
"Yes, Harrie," I lied. "In fact, that is exactly what it is."
"Oh my goodness I love these!" Harriet was very easily excited, all her childishness just gave her more enthusiasm. Plus, she was exceedingly good at solving riddles. That was how I actually met her. I had gone into Starbucks to solve the first test code Boss had given me. It had been a crossword with a hidden message in it. The cafe had been pretty empty that day so she'd helped me work out what all the words were, and then she's pointed out that it said "Well done Briony" in a diagonal line across the crossword.
"Right," I said. "Each word uses a different code, and if you don't work it out you won't know who the murderer is."
"OK!" she said brightly. She stared at it for a minute, then took out the pencil that was holding her hair up, letting it tumble onto her shoulders in ebony waves. She spent ten minutes scribbling underneath the note, muttering to herself the whole time. "All right, done," she finally announced. "Well, I can't get some of the words, but it says I know that you are - something - from the truth. You had all the - something, something, something - it. I know why you hid it. Something - were always - something, something. Do you know who I am yet? I'd bet this isn't so - something, oh wait, I know what it is - anonymous any more. What if - something, something, something, something- to them. That would be so much - some- oh wait - easier. Just a thought."
"Umm... I think I got that. Thanks." I had the dreading feeling that all Harriet's "somethings" were the most important parts of that message. But while Harrie had been code breaking, I had realised that there were only six people who knew where I lived: me, my brother, Harriet, Boss, Maximus, and my ex. Excluding me, these were the only five people who could have possibly pushed that note through my door.
"I'm sorry I only worked out like half the words." said Harriet. "It's a really hard code."
"No problem, I think it's hard too."
We watched people go in and out of the bank for a while, and Harrie chatted about her upcoming holiday to Florida with her sister and twin brothers. She seemed really excited about it, especially since I had told her about how good it was when I went with my brother, Luke.
"You've got a call," Harrie passed me my mobile.
"Hey," I answered it, knowing it was Max even though he had withheld his number for some reason. "Did you get anything?"
"Yes," he sounded very proud of himself, and I didn't know whether that should be treated as a good thing or a bad thing.
"So... what did you get?"
He proceeded to explain what he had done and exactly how he had done it. It did seem as though he hadn't done anything stupid or wreckless, or just generally Maximus-like. Well, it did until:
"I'm sorry," I interrupted him, "Can you just repeat that last bit?"
"Well, he said that if I was lying about you last night then he wouldn't let me in, so I told him yes, we'd been together for six months." Fair enough. "And he asked whether we'd... y'know... and I had to say yes to make it a believable story." Also acceptable. "So then he was all 'proof' so I panicked and told him that I found a... a test in your pyjama drawer."
Suddenly I saw the difference between the guy I called Maximus, and the guy I called Max. Max was an understanding, clever, kind, sympathetic young man. Maximus, on the other hand, was a stupid, flirtatious, irritating boy with no regard for other people. Right now, I was talking to Maximus.
"Maximus, you have no idea how mad I am at you right now," I told him through gritted teeth. "So you had better find a way of making this less bad than it is. Right now."
He hesistated, took a deep breath. "Well, he didn't ask for proof of that, and he said that you shouldn't ever find out that I joined. So you'll never have to see him again. And it's not like you're actually-"
"The only reason I'm not screaming at you, Maximus, is because Harriet is with me. Just get yourself the hell out of there and meet me at HQ in half an hour."
"OK. Sorry, Briony."
I didn't know what to say to that, because I had a huge urge to just accept the apology and forgive him and put it behind me, but that's not what I would normally do and I was still angry. In the end I just settled for an uncertain groan and then he put the phone down.