Harkness:Chapter Three

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Later that night I went to bed after midnight with an orchestra tuning inside my head, a touch of self-pity and romantic longing that you would call serene sentimentality.

There are childish desires for love. A clinging to life without responsibility we all have experienced. In adolescence or late middle age this can make even the most sensible infatuated and infected with love sickness. At any age in others it seems weak and at times a little pathetic. I was ill from it.

Sara was out of reach. My love acknowledged but left out to dry. As I saw it my life was poetically saddened and disturbed by recent troubling relationships. I could feel sorry for myself with self-righteousness unburdened by any upset which true feelings might uncover. After all, my feelings for Sara went back a long way, but of course by then I hardly knew who Sara had become since her time with Monroe.


Fortunately, in the main, I kept my emotions to myself and believed that no one knew about this plague of feelings I felt surrounded by. If pressed, I think I would have winced and sworn that those emotions only existed inside a fiction and then they were only exhaled with a saint’s dying wishes once a millennium. It was a poor joke and I knew I was the punch line.

Finally that night I did fall asleep, and dreamt of drinking warm Chardonnay in a damaged beachfront hotel in Miami. I had in years before once stayed at that hotel. Then it had no damage, the wine was cold and the Corporation had held a conference in the main hall.

In the dream I had a similar bedroom overlooking a wide track of yellow sand like a golden prayer blanket where people came to pray for youth and receive halos.

It was late and I was supposed to be down in the ballroom for dinner. I think I should have given a speech but my plane had been delayed out of a fog-swamped London. There was a yellow mist in the engines and this had delayed my flight. It made sense to everyone but my boss, who acted like one of the ballroom balloons, went bright red with anger when he saw me walk into the enormous room. There was a band playing but no one was dancing and dozens of tables were being cleared for coffee.

‘Where the fuck have you been?’ he shouted. The place went quiet though no one took any notice of us and then, as the beat changed, people started dancing and singing while the band played in a Reggae time.

Here was a boss from years, seemed like centuries, ago who had once made a pass at my wife at a dinner party, and later, at the same party, he did the same to me. Neither of us picked up the invitation, but we were both impressed by his democratic opportunism. In the dream I think I explained my delay.

‘You need a drink,’ he whispered as though it were a magic charm.

Now, whilst we drank warm wine, he told me his theory of corporate Renaissance power. He indicated around the room. Here were the cardinals, there the monsignors, bishops and high priests. The Jesuits and Franciscans were each represented. Then he explained who had the power of life and death. Monroe, I think, was Pope Julius II, the only one with the power of excommunication and for some reason now lost it became obvious that I was some outsider trying to bring a case and have it heard before the Pope.

Gradually, the ballroom became the lobby outside the Inns of Court and the wine turned red as the man up the street started waving a hand bell shouting my name. The nearer he came the louder I called Sara's name, and then I woke with a dry mouth, a thumping heart and the phone ringing beside the bed. The man with the bell said.

‘Hello Michael ... hello.’

‘Yes, hello. This is Michael ... Michael Davies...’ My head came out of the mist. My understanding began to clear and I realised I had a headache and needed the bathroom and that I was holding the phone.

‘Michael ... Charles, Charles Wright here,’ I probably mumbled agreement, ‘Michael, sorry to wake you. I know you only got back in the early hours.’

I did not trouble him with a correction and looked at the clock. It was three in the morning and I registered some surprise.


‘I know,’ he said, ‘you had better take a breath ... sorry Michael, but this is very bad news. Bill is dead ... He's dead, Michael.’ I can still hear the disbelief chiming in his voice. I think I said Christ, and he said yes.

‘Michael?’

‘Yes, still here,’ I said quietly. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Yes, but it is worse... he killed himself. He jumped from the Tower about two hours ago.’ GO owned part of what we then called the Tower, and back in those days, it was the largest and tallest office block on the Thames.

This time I just mumbled and shivered. There was another short image lit silence and Charles said quietly, ‘Michael, we need a statement for the police and press and they want someone to formally identify the body.’

‘Ok ... yes, ok ... did he leave anything ... a letter, a note, anything...’ Shock sent me into disbelief. ‘What ... are you sure about this Charles?’ I was bad. Even now years later I hear myself pulling rank. Charles could easily be wrong, although now I could not tell you of one instance. Still he seemed to take formality too far and I wondered what he had to hide.

‘I am sure, Michael, he is dead’. There was no mistaking the assurance of his voice.

‘I'm sorry, Charles... I'm just waking up ...Did he leave anything?’

‘The police did not say ... sorry Michael, I forgot to ask.’

‘You in the office?’

‘Yes.’
‘Does Gordon know?’
‘I was going to phone him next. Ok?’

‘Fine. Once you have phoned him call me back and stay there. I will be in.’

‘Shall I phone the police and ask about a note...’

‘No. Definitely not ... sorry but I will talk to them. You got the short straw Charles, start drafting a statement ... I will see you in an hour and tell them if they call again I will ... but don’t say anything else. I will identify the body this morning ... give me the police details ... names and numbers in a few minutes in the car... I'll be in once I have ... Does Sara know?’

‘I don't think so. They phoned security as soon as they realised it was Monroe and I was the one on standby, so they then called me. I got here a couple of minuets ago.’

‘Ok, I will call her... Speak to you in a few minutes. Do you know what you have to do? ... Charles, are you alright?’
‘It’s ok Michael. I was feeling spooked. This place at this time of the morning is really quiet. But I’m ok Ill see you soon.’
He reassured me about what he would do. I put the receiver down and blew a long breath. I sat up again and looked around the dull grey room. Through the window lights were still flickering on the river’s black water. I phoned Sara's number in Barnes and found myself breathing heavily again. The phone noises echoed, barking and crying back at me. I let it ring but no one answered and her answer service was switch off.

I saw Monroe’s face flash like neon lifted from my memory and around him it lit like a television screen. He was saying something at a meeting and he turned and winked at me with a conspiratorial smile. Inside I was lost and images crossed and re-crossed and flickered. I came and went back into half dream until again I realised that I was sitting up in bed. I got up and walked around the room and saw the lights across the river of offices and flats. They stared back at me prosaic and dull. They looked like old stone statues that had been hollowed out and lit from within. They were empty shells with a thousand ageing bulbs of electricity left hanging after everyone had gone.

Again I saw his face. It was at that lunch the day before and by the intensity on his face he was saying something important to him.

In my bedroom the phone rang. And then I remembered what Monroe had been saying. I picked up the phone.
It was Charles again and said Gordon was coming in to the office. He then gave me the police number and an address. It could have waited until I got to the office, but I took it anyway and it felt comforting to talk to him. Then I phoned security.

Gradually I washed, shaved, dressed and went out. The headache had cleared to a soft irritating mist behind my eyes but there was a darker shadow further back. Outside it was very dark the moon had gone down and as I got into my car I shivered.

Everything was separate, apart and individual. Everything was just itself there were no connections. I wondered how things happen. It felt as though cause and effect were random events that sometimes connected and that everything was just chance when they did. Except of course when you willed and made them happen. I still did not believe he could have jumped yet I now knew there was a suicide note.

‘Mysteries are acquaintances that could become friends’. I could not remember if I had read that or if Monroe had said it. What I did remember was Bill saying he wanted the book finished. That was the dream picture telling me persistently. ‘Finish the book Michael. Finish the book.’

The car engine hit with a cold air splutter and then immediately purred into life. German engineering understood cause and effect. A dead man’s ghost was controlling the ether, but pragmatism got me to work.

Charles and I wrote the press release and Sir Gordon Knight, Monroe’s deputy, came in red faced and worn around five thirty and read the piece without apparent recognition. ‘Why in God’s name do you think he did it ... unfortunate? Going to give everyone a lot of heartache. Michael, we have to give consideration to the share price. Monroe’s death will give it a hell of a knock. Better speak to our brokers.

He reread the press statement a couple of times, changed a paragraph and after making some phone calls approved the release.

I’ll use Monroe’s office... hum, do you think I should move in there temporarily to give a sense of continuity?’

‘The police have locked it,’ said Charles flatly. He did not raise his eyes from the script he was reading on a brightly-lit screen.

‘They need to check it for evidence,’ he added.

‘Yes, yes of course,’ he mumbled and swore quietly with a blow of breath. Then with a sharp attentiveness he gave me a straight look. We have never been close, and he said too loudly for the gathered few not to hear.

‘Well, Michael, at least you will be forgiven for not finishing that damn book. We will not need it now.’

He raised a smile and a sense of alms giving, but I was feeling worn and tired and did not share any camaraderie. I just grunted and picked up a ringing phone and he walked off, unsure, it seemed, as to where he was going.

Others had drifted in by the time Charles left to do the radio and television interviews. And as I went to Wapping police station, the place was crowded with people gathering for support. There was a shrouded poignancy that brought people together. Every few minutes someone would arrive with tea or coffee and tried to comfort one of Monroe’s PA’s, all three of whom were crying in a painfully deep way, as though all of this were their fault.

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