Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Ninety seconds

There was a saying, Jeronica thought as she drove through London streets before dawn, that the city never sleeps.  Here in London you needed a capitalisation of course, it was the City that never sleeps.  She slowed as a traffic-light turned to red and three drunken boys crossed in front of her, two topless and one wearing a pair of gauzy white wings.  Probably students.  The lights changed, the amber light coming on and she depressed the accelerator, the black car gliding past them.  She half expected a cry of outrage; instead there was giggling.  But, her thought continued, it still wasn’t right.  There had been a writer, what was his name?  Damn.  Manguy would know.  But he had the right idea.  That which isn’t dead can lurk eternally, until after strange aeons even death must die.  Now THAT was the embodiment of the City.  Not exactly sleeping, just waiting for the right moment.
Hatton Gardens appeared on her left and disappeared just as fast; she took the roundabout without bothering to check for other traffic and was very slightly disappointed when there wasn’t even the bleat of the horn of a pathetic Ford Fiesta or Smart car.  The streets narrowed and tightened as she entered the City from the West but she didn’t slow down.  The car took corners with aplomb, the power steering making it seem effortless as she threaded a complex route.  Partly the office was genuinely difficult to get to, and partly the ever-present London roadworks turned the whole thing into an exercise in maze-running.  Finally she ignored a one-way sign and drove thirty metres the wrong way along a dead-end.  The founder of Data Analytics Marketetic Normalisations had had the sign put in as a joke and as a final test for anyone coming to the office.  No-one, to her certain knowledge, had passed the test yet.
The dark rectangle of the parking garage yawned, lights coming on along the sides as she drove the car in.  A little red light flashed on the dashboard, the transponder replying to a radio-frequency query and identifying her.  Bollards a little way inside slid down into recesses in the ground, and she drove past into a cthonic concrete cavern whose walls were patterned with water-stains.  London was a damp city.  There were two other cars in there already.  One she ignored: it was the founder’s car in pride of place, an electric-blue Bugatti under specially mounted spotlights.  The other, on the far side of the garage as an indication of status within the company, was a green Volkswagen: Margoyle’s car.  Jeronica’s lips pursed slightly: there was talk within the company that Margoyle was looking for promotion.  She turned her car; she was permitted to park on the same side as the Bugatti but no closer than five parking spaces.  Then she was parked, getting out of the car, and walking towards the lift to the main office.
Her office was on the eighth floor and the lift, utterly featureless inside – no buttons to press, no mirrors to preen in front of – identified her from her badge and delivered her there silently. The doors opened onto a beige-carpeted corridor with walls of frosted glass behind which lurked meeting rooms and offices. Further down it opened out into an open-plan area broken up by large potted plants and white-boards, and beyond that there was a small kitchen and the toilets. Jeronica had the office closest to the lift, and the door swung open as she approached. As she walked in her computer monitor woke up and turned on, and she hesitated for just a moment: all the screen showed was the number 90 in huge numerals.

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