Puppy is not happy about having her hair dried,  but she doesn't put up a struggle, and with it flowing around her shoulders it emphasises her looks.  She's not classically beautiful, but there's an inner glow about her that manifests in her smile and makes her radiant.  I think I can see some of the attraction she has for Red: what I thought was the thinness of starvation is only partly that.  She's thin down to muscle, not bone, she's lithe and surprisingly strong.  If she didn't want me drying her hair, I'd not have been able to force her.

Obviously she's creative too, part of the street, and that would tie in with the side of him that I've known.  I found that attractive, so can I be surprised that he likes that about Laika?  I'm still a little puzzled though, as Laika -- Puppy -- seems a little too detached from the world.  I thought Red would like someone who's slightly easier to talk to.  There must be something else that I don't know about.

We're ready in five, but the car still takes ten minutes to arrive, and Red paces about looking annoyed.  He washed his hands, but there's still paint under his nails.  I wonder if I should tell him, but then I look again at Laika, singing under her breath in what I think is Russian, and I decide that I don't understand these artistic, creative people well enough to interfere.

And then we're off, the car pulling out of the drive almost soundlessly, and the windows tinted to stop anyone seeing in.  I sit back in my seat and try to relax.  Laika is sat on the floor as though unaware that her gorgeous dress will be crumpled beyond salvation, and Red is perched on the edge of his seat, his hands clenching and unclenching, staring ahead intently.

This, I think, is what I wanted when I started the Rebel Voice.  I wanted to be there, changing the world, making it a better place.  I thought that I could start by creating a forum, somewhere for like-minded people to meet, exchange ideas, form plans, and act.  And I let myself down.  Instead of forming plans I formed agenda, instead of acting I orchestrated.  I became a manager instead of an activist.  I lived vicariously through my magazine, and let's face it, the circulation never got much above 250 downloads.  Somewhere along the line, like the good diplomat I am, I recanted and became a martinet.  I should be ashamed of myself.

And now Joel has offered me a chance to redeem myself, but I'm suspicious of his motives.  This the Joel I'd started to see just before we broke up, and this is the Joel who's the reason why I never got that upset about it.  This is the Joel who always has all the answers and none of the explanations.  He's not like a human being, he's like a chess grandmaster studying the board, and Red, Laika and I are merely pawns.

Well.  Now that I've read that document, perhaps Laika is a Bishop.  Ok, and Red is probably more of a Knight.  I guess it's just me who's the pawn, manipulated by Joel.  I'm back to being ashamed of myself.

Red suddenly shoots forwards, saying something sharply to the driver, his words a rapid staccato like machine-gun fire.  I remember Joel taking me to the firing range to teach me to use a gun, much like the one in my handbag, and showing me the other weapons.  The ones he described as a little more fun.  The car slows, turns a corner, and pulls in to the kerb in front of a pub.

It's called the Vermilion Quin, and there are two groups of men (and they're all men) standing out front.  One group look hungry, eyes shadowed and dark-circled, with stubble and beards, lean and eager-looking.  The others look similar but are wearing biker's leathers.

The sound of the door opening catches me by surprise and I turn to look.  Red is getting out of the car.

The End

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