"Oh my god Briony, what the hell?" Harriet screamed down the phone so that I had to move it away from me to stop my eardrums from bursting.
I had finally given in and rung Harrie like she'd told me to, because the ceiling was really doing nothing for me. Her high pitched tones were the first thing I heard when she answered.
"Harrie, I'm really sorry, but I couldn't-"
"Briony McAnderson, I am outside your flat. Where the hell are you? Don't tell me you stayed at the guy's house! Oh my god, you didn't, did you? Oh my god, you did! Why, Briony? You don't just stay at some random guy's house who you-!"
I resisted the urge to match her pitch. "Harriet, I didn't have a one night stand."
"You what? What happened, did you just go home?"
"No... I was going to go with some creep, but..."
Harriet was getting impatient. Last time I didn't answer my phone it was because I'd just got the news about Joe. Harrie turned up at my flat then, too. "But..."
"But Max stopped me."
I sighed. "I don't know. I just woke up in his bed."
"YOU WOKE UP IN HIS BED?" Harrie made me worried for her voice box.
"No no no! Not like that! I had my clothes on and everything. He was sleeping on the sofa. And, Harrie, I need to ask you something."
"Go on..." Harrie waited, and then seemed to suddenly know what I was going to say and laughed. "Jesus, Briony, take him! God, I was wondering when you were gonna say something. Have you actually seen the way you act together? It's flirt-this, flirt-that. Even when you came into the Starbucks, you had that expression you did when you met ex. And y'know when I got in your car the other day to wait for him with you, you actually went bright red when I said "wait for him with you". It was hilarious! And you weren't really angry at him when you said you were, and-"
"All right, OK. I get it! You noticed, jeez!" I swore that next time I met a guy, I'd ask this freak of nature of a best friend if I liked him or not.
"Yes, I noticed! He likes you as well, you know."
"No... Harrie, he doesn't."
"Yes, Briony, he does."
"I swear he doesn't."
"The guy is crazy about you. Just ask him, I bet he'll avoid answering you. You have to say 'my friend Harriet thinks you fancy me' and he'll be all 'well... uh... I' and then you'll know!" she gushed.
"You're just saying that."
"You sound like a thirteen-year-old."
"Oh yeah, because you don't act ten years younger than that on a daily basis!"
Harriet's pout then was almost too imaginable. Then she gasped over-dramatically. "Hey, speak of the devil! Mission partner just almost crashed into me at lighting speed. I wonder what his problem is... oh, wait. He just stopped. I think he just came to apologise or something." A brief discussion could be heard in the background.
The ferocity of the next voice made the blood drain from my body. "Be ready." Max ordered. "I mean it." Then the sound of tyres screeching and an engine revving.
"Christ, what's with him?" Harrie asked, clearly extremely curious as to why Max was so angry.
And so I told her everything that had happened. I told her who the note was from, about the picture, and that Max knew about Joe. She listened patiently, and her back-channelling actually helped quite a lot. "... but I just hope he won't be able to find him," I finished.
Harrie made a noise of surprise. "What do you mean? You've been looking for him. Briony, he's everywhere. I can't help seeing the guy!"
Suddenly her rambling was of utmost importance. "What do you mean?"
"Are you telling me you haven't seen through his disguises? I mean, they're exceedingly good, but I thought you, of all people, would recognise him!"
I stopped pacing and sat down where I was. "Elaborate."
"Ah. You've got you detective head on now. Right, let's see. Bank the first time: it was him in a disguise. He walked into that strip club - complete with bleach-blonde-ness and suddenly with facial hair - just before mission partner and redhead walked out. Umm... Ooh! While we were waiting outside the bank the second time, he was sat on a bench nearby, but I thought you'd seen him. You must have, he was wearing skinny jeans and a green top, and he was listening to music with those huge headphones people have nowadays." Harrie took a breath and waited for me to respond.
I couldn't believe it. He'd been there the whole time. The whole damn time! And I hadn't seen! I could bet all my money that he'd been watching and waiting throughout the whole mission. We were never going to find him, because he had found us. The longer we looked, the less chance we had. It was an endless circle, which my ex had been leading us around and around. He was controlling the whole thing.
"Harrie," I said. "I'm going to have to go. I really need to tell Max."
"All right. Ring me tomorrow, 'kay?"
"Yeah, all right." Click.
Then I rang Max as fast as I could. He didn't answer. I tried three more times, and he didn't answer. I repeated my actions on his home phone, and he didn't answer.
In the end, I just texted him.
Stop looking. He's following you.
Now all I could do was wait... and wait... and wait...