from any thought of being able in fact to do what she wanted, I said 'Rosemary… all right. I'll try to do something.'

'He's got to win,' she said.

I said soothingly 'I don't see why he shouldn't.' She picked up unerringly the undertone I hadn't known would creep into my voice: the scepticism, the easy complacent tendency to discount her urgency as the fantasies of an excitable woman. I heard the nuances myself, and saw them uncomfortably through her eyes.

'My God, I've wasted my time coming here, haven't I?' she said bitterly, standing up. 'You're like all bloody men. You've got menopause on the brain.'

'That's not true. And I said I'd try.'

'Yes.' The word was a sneer. She was stoking up her own anger, indulging an inner need to explode. She practically threw her empty glass at me instead of handing it. I missed catching it, and it fell against the side of the coffee table, and broke.

She looked down at the glittering pieces and stuffed the jagged rage halfway back into its box.

'Sorry,' she said shortly.

'It doesn't matter.'

'Put it down to strain.'


'I'll have to go and see that film. George will ask…' She slid into her raincoat and moved jerkily towards the door, her whole body still trembling with tension. 'I shouldn't have come here. But I thought…'

'Rosemary,' I said flatly. 'I've said I'll try, and I will.'

'Nobody knows what it's like.'

I followed her into the hall, feeling her jangling desperation almost as if it were making actual disturbances in the air. She picked the black wig off the small table there and put it back on her head, tucking her own brown hair underneath with fierce unfriendly jabs, hating herself, her disguise and me: hating the visit, the lies to George, the seedy furtiveness of her actions. She painted on a fresh layer of the dark lipstick with unnecessary force, as if assaulting herself; tied the knot on the scarf with a savage jerk, and fumbled in her handbag for the tinted glasses.

'I changed in the lavatories at the tube station,' she said. 'It's all revolting. But I'm not having anyone see me leaving here. There are things going on. I know there are. And George is scared…'

She stood by my front door, waiting for me to open it; a thin elegant woman looking determinedly ugly. It came to me that no woman did that to herself without a need that made esteem an irrelevance. I'd done nothing to relieve her distress, and it was no good realising that it was because of knowing her too long in a different capacity. It was she who was subtly used to being in control, and I, from sixteen, who had respectfully followed her wishes. I thought that if tonight I had made her cry and given her warmth and contact and even a kiss, I could have done her more service; but the block was there, and couldn't be lightly dismantled.

'I shouldn't have come here,' she said. 'I see that now.' 'Do you want me… to take any action?'

A spasm twisted her face. 'Oh God… Yes I do. But I was stupid. Fooling myself. You're only a jockey… after all.'

I opened the door.

'I wish,' I said lightly, 'that I were.' She looked at me unseeingly, her mind already on her return journey, on her film, on her report of it to George.

'I'm not crazy,' she said.

She turned abruptly and walked away without a backward glance. I watched her turn towards the stairs and go without hesitating out of sight. With a continuing feeling of having been inadequate I shut the door and went back into the sitting room; and it seemed that the very air there too was restless from her intensity.

I bent down and picked up the larger pieces of broken glass, but there were too many sharp little splinters for total laziness, so I fetched dustpan and brush from the kitchen. Holding the dustpan could usefully be done left- handed. If I simply tried to bend backwards the real hand that wasn't there, the false fingers opened away from the thumb. If I sent the old message to bend my hand inwards, they closed. There was always about two seconds' delay between mental instruction and electrical reaction, and taking that interval into account had been the most difficult thing to learn.

The fingers could not of course feel when their grip was tight enough. The people who fitted the arm had told me that success was picking up eggs: and I'd broken a dozen or two in practising, at the beginning. Absentmindedness had since resulted in an exploding light bulb and crushed-flat cigarette packets and explained why I used the marvels of science less than I might.

I emptied the bits of glass into the dustbin and switched on the television again; but the comedy was over, and Rosemary came between me and a cops-and-robbers. With a sigh I switched off, and cooked my steak, and after I'd eaten it picked up the telephone to talk to Bobby Unwin, who worked for the Daily Planet.

'Information will cost you,' he said immediately, when he found who was on his line.

'Cost me what?' 'A spot of quid pro quo.'

'All right,' I said.

'What are you after, then?' 'Um,' I said. 'You wrote a long piece about George Caspar in your Saturday colour supplement a couple of months ago. Pages and pages of it.'

'That's right. Special feature. In-depth analysis of success. The Planet's doing a once-a-month series on high- flyers, tycoons, pop-stars, you name it. Putting them under the cliche microscope and coming up with a big yawn yawn expose of bugger all.'

'Are you horizontal?'

I said. There was a short silence followed by a stifled girlish giggle.

'You just take your intuitions to Siberia,' Bobby said.

'What made you think so?' 'Envy, I dare say.' But I'd really only been asking if he was alone, without making it sound important. 'Will you be at Kempton tomorrow?'

'I reckon.'

'Could you bring a copy of that magazine, and I'll buy you a bottle of your choice,'

'Oh boy, oh boy. You're on.'

His receiver went down without more ado, and I spent the rest of the evening reading the flat-racing form books of recent years, tracing the careers of Bethesda, Gleaner, Zingaloo and Tri-Nitro, and coming up with nothing at all.


I had fallen into a recent habit of lunching on Thursdays with my father-in-law. To be accurate, with my ex - father-in-law; Admiral (retired) Charles Roland, parent of my worst failure. To his daughter Jenny I had given whatever devotion I was capable of, and had withheld the only thing she eventually said she wanted, which was that I should stop riding in races.

We had been married for five years; two in happiness, two in discord, and one in bitterness; and now only the itching half-mended wounds remained. Those, and the friendship of her father, which I had come by with difficulty and now prized as the only treasure saved from the wreck. We met most weeks at noon in the upstairs bar of the Cavendish Hotel, where a pink gin for him and a whisky and water for me now stood on prim little mats beside a bowl of peanuts.

'Jenny will be at Aynsford this week-end,' he said.

Aynsford was his house in Oxfordshire. London on Thursdays was his business. He made the journey between the two in a Rolls.

'I'd be glad if you would come down,' he said.

I looked at the fine distinguished face and listened to the drawling noncommittal voice. A man of subtlety and charm who could blast through you like a laser if he felt the need. A man whose integrity I would trust to the gates of hell, and whose mercy, not an inch. I said carefully, without rancour, 'I am not coming to be sniped at.'

'She agreed that I should invite you.'

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