Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Book of Miracles IV

I wanted to spy on Isabella Bonfontaine myself, but it was far too risky; she'd met me and was going to take me to find a Book of Miracles, and I didn't want to jeopardise that.  So I contented myself with telling James where to find her and to report back in every couple of hours, and tried to lose myself in work.
There were invoices to check, to file, and occasionally to pay; there were packages to open, packages to seal and send, and one rather odd-looking package that I sent back down to building security to have it scanned in case it was a bomb.  It turned out to be a rather overripe cheese that my office manager had ordered two weeks ago; it had apparently been held up in transit until it had reached the point where it could get out and make its own way to us.  When she opened it, albeit in the office's little kitchenette, the smell was so strong that I found myself wishing that security had exploded it instead.
"It's so evocative, isn't it!" exclaimed Mandy (the office manager), inhaling deeply and oblivious to the people turning green and running for the toilets behind her.
"Shouldn't you take that home and open it there?" I said, my voice a little muffled by the handkerchief covering my face.
"Oh no, I bought it for the office.  I thought we could have a cultural food evening, you know, after work on Friday maybe, we can all bring in food from different cultures and share them, and talk about them... that kind of thing!"
The office isn't particularly diverse; Mandy says that her mother is French, and Darren in the sales team is dating a Bolivian girl, but that's about it.  I thought about making a comment about the cheese providing all the culture we need, but Mandy's surprisingly sensitive to off-the-cuff remarks like that and I thought better of it.  Thankfully Skype chimed at that moment, allowing me to flee back to the office and talk to James.
"Awright, boss?"  James's face appeared on the tablet screen, far too close to the camera, so I could see every blackhead on his nose.
"James!" I said, genuinely pleased to see him for once.  "How's the tail?"
"She's grand, isn't she?  I've been following her around all morning, at least until she winked at me."
"She saw you?  You idiot, James!  You're supposed to be following us on Saturday as well, and now she knows what you look like!"
"Nah, it's alright, you can chill right out again, boss.  I'm in disguise, aren't I?"
"Are you?  You didn't mention a disguise."
"Yeah, course.  You can't follow someone around unless you're in disguise.  They'd get all suss otherwise, wouldn't they?"
"You'd think so, yes," I said.  "What disguise?"
"Right, so she started off at the fish market, and she bought some ice there, and then we went across town to New Covent Garden market and she spent a couple of hours with the flowers there.  Then she left there and went to the Vauxhall Bridge and stood staring at the river for a while.  Then she winked at me, and we went in a little to get a coffee–"
"James!"  Interrupting him in mid-flow can be tricky.  "James, what are you talking about?  Why are you telling me about fish and flowers and rivers?"
"That fancy woman you wanted me to follow, boss.  She's been doing all those things."
"I don't think so," I said.  "Isabella Bonfontaine is an antiquarian."
After a rather painful conversation, it transpired that James had been following a recent immigrée by the name of Isabelle Bloemfontain who was suffering the pangs of home-sickness, and that his disguise for the occasion had been a Hell's Angel.
"Right," I said, realising that when I got off Skype with him I would have to go back to the cheese, whose odour was starting to breach my office walls.  "Let's try again.  Isabella Bonfontaine, antiquarian tomorrow.  And no disguise, just stay well out of sight and watch what she does."
"Got you boss!"
I hung up and wondered what on earth I'd done in a previous life to end up with all this in this one.

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