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datatime: 2022-12-01 02:31:51 Author:LZvXinfQ

"She's not just 'a' pharmacist," she said. "She owns her own place. Half the medics in London recommend her. You're talking to a walking gold mine with a heart like a wet sponge."

We were out on the pavement, still in a group, half-waiting for a chance to cross the road, soon to break up and scatter. All talking, laughing, busy; except me.

I stopped struggling but the policemen didn't let go. They had no thought of chasing the boy. They were incongruously calling me "sir" while treating me with contempt, which if I'd been calm enough for reflection I would have considered fairly normal.

"But you've decided?"

With a sense of burning bridges I said, "To go ahead."

We were out on the pavement, still in a group, half-waiting for a chance to cross the road, soon to break up and scatter. All talking, laughing, busy; except me.

At the end of that splendid afternoon the whole party descended together to ground level and made its way to the exit; to the gate that opened onto the main road, and across that to the car park and to the covered walk that led to the station.

"How's your cartoonist?" he said genially. "Are we staking him, or are we not?"

I resisted with all my might. I didn't know they were policemen. I had eyes only for the boy: his eyes, his hands, his knife.

Dissdale's friends returned giggling to disrupt the incautious minute and shortly Gordon, Henry and Lorna crowded in. The whole party pressed out onto the balcony to watch the race, and because it was a time out of reality Burnt Marshmallow romped home by three lengths.

Henry and Gordon, undoubtedly the most sober of the party, were fiddling in their pockets for car keys and throwing their race cards into wastebins. Judith and Pen were talking to each other and Lorna was graciously unbending to Dissdale's friends. It seemed to be only I, with unoccupied eyes, who saw at all what was about to happen.

I had almost to guess at whom he was staring with such deadly purpose, and no time even to shout a warning. He moved across the pavement with stunning speed, the stab already on its upward travel.

"How's your cartoonist?" he said genially. "Are we staking him, or are we not?"

Calderjust ahead of me walked in front, the helmet curls bent kindly over Bettina, the strong voice thanking her and Dissdale for "a most enjoyable time." Dissdale himself, not only fully recovered but incoherent with joy as most of his doubles, trebles and accumulators had come up, patted Calder plumply on the shoulder and invited him over to "my place" for the weekend.

"How's your cartoonist?" he said genially. "Are we staking him, or are we not?"

"All right." Henry seemed unalarmed. "Keep me informed."

With a sense of burning bridges I said, "To go ahead."

He nodded and smoothly changed the subject. "Lorna and I have won quite a bit today. How about you?"

Both of his hands were under my chest and I could feel him trying to get space enough to up-end the knife. I pressed down onto him solidly with all my weight and in my mind I was saying "Don't do it, don't do it, you bloody fool"; and I was saying it for his sake, which seemed crazy to me at the time and even crazier in retrospect. He was trying to do me great harm and all I thought about was the trouble he'd be in if he succeeded.

Dissdale's friends returned giggling to disrupt the incautious minute and shortly Gordon, Henry and Lorna crowded in. The whole party pressed out onto the balcony to watch the race, and because it was a time out of reality Burnt Marshmallow romped home by three lengths.

I stopped struggling but the policemen didn't let go. They had no thought of chasing the boy. They were incongruously calling me "sir" while treating me with contempt, which if I'd been calm enough for reflection I would have considered fairly normal.

Dissdale's friends returned giggling to disrupt the incautious minute and shortly Gordon, Henry and Lorna crowded in. The whole party pressed out onto the balcony to watch the race, and because it was a time out of reality Burnt Marshmallow romped home by three lengths.

The boy comprehended the situation in a flash. He rolled over onto his feet, crouched for a split second like an athlete at the blocks and without lifting his head above waist-height slithered through the flow of the crowds still pouring out of the gates and disappeared out of sight inside the racecourse. Through there they would never find him. Through there he would escape to the cheaper rings and simply walk out of the lower gate.

Dissdale's friends returned giggling to disrupt the incautious minute and shortly Gordon, Henry and Lorna crowded in. The whole party pressed out onto the balcony to watch the race, and because it was a time out of reality Burnt Marshmallow romped home by three lengths.

After a pause I said, "Yes."

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