فصل 05

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فصل 05

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Chapter five

Down at Hove

The grey waves sucked at the stony beach. The horizon was a misty blur. di@k walked along the seafront into a stiff, cold wind. Spray from the sea mixed with icy rain lashed his face. It was only three in the afternoon but the sky was already dark. Soon it would be evening, then night - another endless night to be spent alone.

He made his way unsteadily back to his small flat in George Square. The square was impressive. The grand Regency-style houses took up three sides of it; the fourth was open to the sea. A public garden occupied the centre. His flat was on the third floor. It comprised a living room, a bedroom, a study, a small kitchen which smelt of old cooking oil and a tiny bathroom with noisy plumbing. It was cramped and depressing. But it was anonymous, and it was cheap. di@k had rented it from a friend of his sister Maureen, soon after leaving Sally three months previously.

As autumn turned slowly to winter in Hove, di@ks despair grew deeper. The days were a succession of self-hatred, drinking and nightmare sleep. Each morning he woke at four, then struggled to find sleep again. By the time dawn came he had fallen into a deep slumber, and only woke again at eleven.

He got into the habit of taking lunch in a cheap Spanish restaurant, on the high street. They served an oily paella with a red house wine which tasted like anti-freeze fluid. The main attraction was the waitresses, who were young and attractive and obviously available for other services if required. He had only once invited one of them back to his sad flat. He decided not to repeat the experiment. s@x without commitment was not his style.

After lunch he would take his walk along the seafront, gloomy in its winter mood. The sea was always grey or brown, almost always rough and threatening. The sad hotels and boarding houses sulked in the winter light. Hove was a forlorn mixture of the genteel and the shabby; of retired civil servants and unemployed teenagers.

In the afternoons he tried to write. At first he had thought about writing his memoirs. He quickly realised that no-one would be interested in reading them. He then began writing poetry. It was intensely personal, it was confused - it was certainly not likely to be published. But, in some ways, it kept him from going mad.

In the evenings he would drink steadily until he fell into a deep sleep. More than once he woke in the middle of the night to find himself still slumped in his armchair. The days were a blur, lacking any focus, any purpose, anything to look forward to.

He rarely received anything through the post except advertisements and bills. But one morning he was surprised to find a letter with an Indian stamp on it. Sally had sent it on from Cambridge. He recognised the neat handwriting as Ramus.

Ramu (short for Ramanathan) had been his personal assistant in Madras; a sort of secretary, advisor and confidant rolled into one. He had also become a good friend.

Dear di@k,

I hope all is well with you and with family members also. I have been ivoriying a little because we have not been hearing from you for some time now. Suresh and others have been asking of you also. Please send us your news soon to relieve our worries.

I am fine but I have been transferred by Mr Mann to Registry. It seems he prefers someone recommended by Vish as an assistant. I wonder why? Otherwise things are running much the same way. The factory is doing well - but the Hosur factory project has been suspended: something to do with changing contractors - but management does not tell us what. There is a rumour that Vish is re-negotiating the contract with some other company. That will be interesting.

Will it not? People also say that Mr Lennox will soon be returning to London on promotion.

You remember Nagarajan in the Accounts department? You helped him out when his wife died. Well, he has also taken ‘early retirement’ and gone back to his hometown near Bangalore. He is a broken man.

All along I have suspected something but now I am sure. The reason you and Nagarajan were sent on early retirement is definitely some sort of plot of Vish and Molly. They somehow persuaded Lennox to get rid of you. How do I know this? I will tell you.

Number 1: Before you went to Delhi that last time, Molly had also gone. She said that she was on sick leave but I have found on the file the receipt for the air ticket. In Central Filing we can discover many things! I checked with Pal in the Delhi office and he remembers seeing her in Lennox’s office at about that time.

Number 2: I have also overheard some interesting conversations. One day I heard Vish threatening Nambiar in Accounts. ‘You do what I told you, or I’ll arrange for you to take early retirement too.’

On another occasion I overheard Molly telling one of her friends that Mr Mann was not like you - he knew how to behave himself. He had ‘learnt his lesson’ from what had happened to you, she said.

Number 3: I have also obtained a personal note from Lennox to Vish. Don’t ask me how I came by it. In Central Filing you can sometimes find things which ought to have been destroyed. Anyway, it is obviously about you. It agrees with Vish that ‘something has to be done urgently’ because you were getting too curious, especially about the Hosur factory project. I will show it to you one day if you wish.

What does all this mean? It means that they were all in it together. It means that they all wanted you out of the way. Maybe you can understand why but it is not yet clear to me. Anyway I thought you should know about it, in case you can make some sense of it. I hope I have done the correct thing by informing you of same.

I will write another letter when I hear from you. All your friends here join me in sending very sincere greetings to Sally and to your good self.

Yours,

Ramu.

The letter was dated 15 October, so it had taken some time to arrive. di@k made himself a cup of coffee and took it to the big window overlooking the square. It was raining, and a lone traffic warden sticking fines on parked cars was the only sign of human life.

di@k read the letter again, then re-read it. He sat reflecting on its contents, thinking back to the time of his ‘retirement’. He forgot to go out for lunch, and it was three in the afternoon before he got up from his desk. He grabbed his coat and went out for a long walk along the seafront.

He felt he was thinking more clearly than he had fo months. The letter had confirmed all of his suspicions and, as he walked, his thoughts were a mixture of happiness and anger. He was happy that he still had some friends back in India and angry that he was right about the connection between the Visvanathans and Lennox.

His thoughts then turned to revenge, and by the time he returned to the flat, his mind was made up: he would find out what lay behind the relationship between Lennox and the Visvanathans, and make it public.

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