Tuesday, 11 March 2008


The doorbell rang before I'd got even half-way down the bottle of gin. I had been sat on the chaise-longue with the black-and-white version of the Wizard of Oz on the DVD player, reminiscing about the only woman I'd never dared love. The sound on the film was turned down very low -- Judy Garland's voice sets my teeth on edge -- and the gin was very effectively bringing back memories of Miss Sapphire, so I wasn't very pleased to be interrupted.

It had been a bad day right from the start. I'd slipped in the shower first thing in the morning and banged my head on the wall, raising a large bruise on the side of my face. Trying to pull myself back up with my eyes full of water I had twisted the temperature dial and scalded myself. When I was finally out of the deathtrap of a bathroom, I got into the kitchen to find that a mouse had died in the kettle and the cat had died on the radiator. The stench from the cat meant that I didn't notice the mouse until I'd tasted the coffee. I left the house under-caffeinated and in a foul mood.

The day had not gone a lot better, but I knew it wouldn't be great anyway. I'm working undercover at the moment in a sweatshop in Camden so I spend 12 hours a day supervising imported children aged between 5 and 12 who are hand-sewing Bossy wallets, Gucchi handbags and marquee tents for weddings. The job would be easier if the kids weren't so damn servile; I get little chance at all to work my bad mood off by shouting at them or disciplining them. I'll be glad when we've found the little bastard who keeps shopping us to the police.

When the doorbell rang I had just remembered the time Miss Sapphire had whispered "You're my superman," in my ear and pushed me backwards off the platform into the car compacter. My life was flashing before my eyes again (it's happened so many times now that I know exactly where to fast-forward past the boring bits and where to hit the freeze-frame) and then the doorbell disturbed it all.

I answered the door ready to scream at whoever dared to disturb me during Happy Hour, and saw that it was the little girl from three doors over. She smiled at me, batted her eyelashes in a way that's just disturbing for an 8-year-old, and went into her tap-dancing routine.

She's only got one leg.

As she pogo'ed noisily up and down, counting time under her breath, something soft and fragile somewhere inside me gave way. I smiled encouragingly, and groped on the table in the hallway behind me. Most people would put the post on it when it arrived, or their car-keys when they came in. I keep my toolkit there.

I overpowered her easily and took her shoe off and hammered several nails into it, then put it back on her foot. Everytime she hopped, she'd drive the nails a little further into the shoe and thus into her foot. I pushed her back out of the door, bolted it, and went back to the gin.

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