There were no objections, no brilliant plans, no alternatives offered. There were no thoughts given, no words spoken, no accusations made. I still felt them though, the pressure of eyes upon me, the weight of expectation. And something else from Red, something I've felt before from other people. Something I think I've forgotten to remember. I pushed it away, smiled as brightly as a small child asking for money for ice-cream, and encouraged everyone to get started on their part of the plan.
Q disappeared behind his computer screen quickly enough, but at least part of that would be him not wanting to talk to me again, feeling betrayed that he's being left behind. Laika just disappeared, and I let her go this time. Red assured me that she'd be fine with his explanation, that she'd be happy kept away from the real plan. I can't help but wonder though, she's not stupid. Just... oh damn, it's not her is it? It's me. Labelling people when I should be listening to them. Let her go. Trust her to do the right thing. And throw away the label I've slapped on her, and try seeing her as another human being.
Red called the Mayor back. I didn't listen to the call, I know I'd not be able to keep quiet listening to that vile, odious man try to spin this whole fiasco as Grozny's doing. When Red comes into the room where I'm packing a small holdall I'd found in our stolen ambulance he walks quietly and looks slightly saddened.
"We're meeting him at the park by the docks," he says, making me jump. I turn to face him; his face half shadowed, half lit by the twilight through the window. "An hour's time."
"I know it," I say. "Dufresne Park. It's quite big, didn't he say where we'd meet in it?"
Red nods. "He said there's an old bandstand. There's a door in the base, painted blue. We're to meet outside that door."
I don't say anything for a few moments; Joel and I used to go to the old bandstand on Sundays for the view it gave across the bay. "I know the one," I say. "I can show you."
Red laughs, a sexy chuckle, and I realise that he must know the city better than I do, given that he's painted so much of it.
"Oh, well... well, you know what I mean." I say.
"You're easier to understand when I can't see your face," he says. "When I can see your face there's so little emotion, so much control. It's like looking at a ventriloquist's dummy, the voice is always coming from somewhere else."
I don't know whether to be hurt by that, so I shrug it off. "Gottle of Geer?" I say, holding up a thermos flask, and then putting in the holdall and zipping it shut.
"Oh don't be, coffee's much better. It's snowing again."
I look out the window and sure enough, soft feathery white flakes of snow are drifting slowly down again. "Let's get going then, it'll take us longer to get there in the snow. Have you been to the toilet?" I wink to show it's a joke, and to my relief he laughs.
"Yes, mummy! Who's driving then?"
"Q." It's a little mean, but I can't resist, and the look of shock on his face makes me break into delighted laughter. He lets me laugh for a few moments then shakes his head in mock disgust.
"I'll drive then, you're clearly far too cheerful to be trusted with an ambulance."
"No-one wants a happy looking paramedic climbing out of an ambulance. Can you imagine it, the paramedic grinning at you and saying, wow that looks like a nasty accident. This is just great, I love my job! Paramedics have to be solemn and worried-looking. Like funeral directors."
I give him a push, aiming for an undamaged spot. "Get going, you, and make sure you've got a coat. It's cold out there."
We park the ambulance under some trees near the car-park for Dufresne Park after a slow but uneventful drive. Red fusses, reversing several times until he's happy that the ambulance is both hidden from any casual passers-by and ready to drive out and into the car-park fast. Then we get out, and I check my watch. We have twenty minutes.
"Are we doing the right thing?"
He shrugs. "We're doing something, we have to. We can't just hide out in an aquarium until we smell of fish and then go and live with the mermaids."
I laugh a little, and as we start to walk the seriousness of the situation strikes me.
"He might have a gun."
"He might have men there and they might all have guns."
"And if that's the case...?"
"Then we think of something else. At gunpoint, so it had better be fast."
I don't think, I just do it, I pop up on my tiptoes and kiss him quickly, briefly, on the lips.
"Let's hope he's on the level then."
Red says nothing, and I know I shouldn't have kissed him, but we've been through too much together now for us to be shot to death by Wilkerson's firing squad without him knowing that he means something to me. Around us the snow continues to swirl, heavy wet flakes falling like broken angels.