BY LUNCHTIME KATHY WAS reduced to the word-puzzle in the Sunday paper. Form words of three or more letters from the title of The Grubs’ latest hit single, "Claim to Dream." No proper names; target 130; include at least one 12-letter word.
She had begun the day with good intentions. There were plenty of things that could be done before she started her new job: letters that could be written, bills that could be paid, housework that could be done.
Mad, ram, mat, tic, model, modal, rot.
She felt like a stranger in her own flat, hardly having been in the place in the past fifteen months. For a year, while she had been on secondment to the County force at Edenham, she had let the place to a tenant. Then, when she returned to London, she had had to leave again almost immediately for the staff college at Bramshill, in preparation for her new posting at the Yard. The result was that all of the little changes that her tenant’s occupation had brought about were still there. The dining-table was in the wrong place, the curtain in the bedroom needed repairing, and his cigarette burn in the worktop of the small kitchen still glared like a fresh wound. Just to wash the whole place down would have been an act of reclamation, establishing that she was in charge again, and for an hour after breakfast she had plunged into the task, doing the easier bits—bathroom, kitchen, and windows—before running out of cleaners and sponges. She had turned to sorting an envelope of old papers, and come across things she was amazed that she still possessed: postcards, letters, fragments of the past. One piece in particular had stopped her dead, a forgotten scrawl, terse, imperious, on a scrap of pale blue notepaper. She’d given up at that point and made a cup of tea, overwhelmed by the feeling that she didn’t belong here.
Tea, lair, meat, rice, tame, idle.
The weather was partly to blame, a hot late-summer spell that everyone had felt obliged to take advantage of, so that when Kathy had walked down to the corner shop to buy the paper it had felt as if she was almost the last person left in London. The city seemed evacuated, the few people who remained were suspended, waiting for life to resume. On such a Sunday morning, even the music coming distantly from the Meat Loaf freak’s flat two floors below seemed to lack conviction.
Climate, micro, clear, air, clam, coma, melodic, time.
But mostly it was the unfamiliar sensation of having nothing to do. It had caught her off-guard and made her feel weak. Now she came to look at it, the paper seemed full of things designed to protect people from just this feeling, page after page of distractions and diversions to fill the awkward gaps between sleep and work. There were whole sections devoted to the problem—travel, sport, home improvements, the arts, gardening, food, entertainment, bridge, chess, crosswords. There was so much of it that you could occupy the day just reading about ways to occupy the day.
Everyone should have a hobby, the paper seemed to insist. Perhaps she should join something when she had settled in at the Yard. They were bound to have sports teams, social clubs. She turned the page and came to the personal columns. Better still, she could find a man, make a hobby of that.
Male, dream, date, admire, matador, idol, erotic, care, moral, laid, marital.
The words spun from her pen.
Lie, liar, immoral, malice, drama, rat, toad.
She shook herself and stood up. Clearly it was time to get out of the flat. Peter Greenaway’s latest was churning stomachs at the cinema down the road. If she bought a sandwich first and took a walk in the park, she could catch the second performance, so that it would almost be dark when she came out and could avoid feeling guilty about having wasted such a wonderful summer day, her last free day before she finally joined Brock’s team.
As she reached the door the phone rang and her heart gave a thump as she recognized the voice.
"Kathy! You’re back from Bramshill."
"Yes. Hello, Brock. It’s good to hear you. How’s your shoulder?"
"Absolutely fine now." It sounded as if he was on a car phone, his voice fading and strengthening. "I expect you’re busy, are you, just having got back?"
"Not really. I’m pretty much on top of everything." Kathy tried to sound convincing.
"Only, I know you don’t officially join us until tomorrow, Kathy, but I’ve just got word of something that looks like a job for us. A killing. A rather nasty one by the sound of it. I’m on my way there now. If you were interested . . ."
"Yes! What’s the address?"
"Petts Wood, South London—Kent."
"I know." She scribbled down the address he gave her, and as he went on, suggesting the best route for her to get there from North London, she wrote: Mortal, crime, team, armed?
When she put the phone down she took a deep breath and smiled to herself, feeling as if she’d just woken up from a deep sleep, although the twelve-letter word still eluded her.
Excerpted from All My Enemies by Barry Maitland.
Copyright © 1996 by Barry Maitland.
Published in September 2009 by St. Martin’s Press.
All rights reserved. This work is protected under copyright laws and reproduction is strictly prohibited. Permission to reproduce the material in any manner or medium must be secured from the Publisher.