Ellie poured herself another glass of brandy and drained it. Her free hand picked at a crack in the table-top, peeling back the crumbling, scratched veneer. The fridge hummed and the kitchen clock marked time with a loud and insistent ticking. The clock was a good one. It was large and well-made, out of place in this kitchen with its outdated units and cheap linoleum floor. I wondered if it had been a gift.
“Your son will be home soon,” I said, to prompt her to speak. “You tell me, or I’ll still be here when he gets back.”
“Christ,” she said in a voice dripping misery and bitterness. “You say you want to help! You’re just the same as all of them. Now you threaten me?”
“You came after me with a bat,” I said.
“You deserve it, and more. Look, I can tell you a bit, but then you have to go, and you tell no one, no one, it was me.”
“And you don’t come back. You leave us alone. You go anywhere near my son I swear to God I’ll murder you!”
“Fine,” I said again.
“It was me let them into the hotel. With that man, Mr. Sennet.” She stared down at her empty glass, turning it in the light. The surface was fogged by her fingerprints.
“I don’t know names. You don’t understand how things work here. I was told to expect something, that’s all. I have to do what they say or...It was the same one phoned me up and told me to get the vase. I had to fetch it and deliver it, that’s all. I barely even saw it except for about a half a minute before it was in a box.”
“I don’t understand how things work here,” I said slowly. “What do you mean, exactly?”
She shrugged, “If you stay you’ll find out. I wouldn’t stay if I was you. I would go...if...if I could. I just can’t.” Her mouth twisted and her eyes glistened, washed suddenly in tears. She swallowed and a shudder ran through her. “I just can’t.”
“But it wasn’t the person who phoned you who showed up with the body? This is a different person? Your contact? Who is it?”
“I’ve only ever heard a voice. No names. I told you I don’t know names!”
“Man or woman?”
“A man I think, but it’s hard to tell. It could be a woman with a deep voice. Christ, it’s not like it’s a conversation! It’s do this and do that and go here.”
“Ok, ok. Where did you take the vase?”
“You don’t want to go there,” she said. She laughed. “Crazy! You’d have to be insane. You go there...”
“Where’s that? Never mind, I’ll look at a map. The name Avogadro – does that mean anything to you?”
“Never heard of it,” she said angrily.
Liar, I thought. I didn’t say it, but I think she knew. She told me to get out, and this time I did.