Chapter Five, Part Three
The alarm went off too early. Billy grunted, rolled over and checked the time. “Seven fucking forty five,” he mumbled under his breath, “and I think I’m still drunk from those cocktails.” He stumbled out of bed and into the jeans he had helpfully flung to the floor the night before. Underneath them was the torn off corner of a napkin and scrawled on that was a number.
“Mina,” he remembered, “it’s too soon to text her,” but as soon as the thought entered his head, he couldn’t get it out. He sat on the edge of his bed, phone in hand:
‘Hi, it’s Billy. Great to meet you last night. Sorry for the early morning text, I have a busy day ahead. We’ll have to catch up soon. Hope you’re ok x’
He was so unused to texting girls, or at least to texting girls he liked. Billy read the unsent message over and over. He checked the time: 08:05. Rushing out of the door he pushed send. It would have to do.
He pulled up outside the front door and waited.08:25. He had been instructed not to call or text when he got there, just to wait. From his pocket, his phone buzzed. An involuntary smile crept onto his lips as he realised it was Mina.
‘I wasn’t expecting you to text so soon, but I’m glad you did. What on earth are you up to today? I’ve just got the usual boring day behind my desk. When are you free to meet up then? x’
He didn’t have time to reply. As soon as he’d finished reading, the front door of number 29 opened and out stepped John Reynolds. He looked different to how Billy remembered, but that was probably because he was no longer covered in paint. In fact, Billy thought to himself, he looked very smart indeed. Suited and booted. Billy began to wonder if he was going to be spending the day chauffeuring two love birds around at all.
Silently, John climbed into the back of the cab. Silently, Billy pulled away and drove to the end of the road. If the journey could have continued silently Billy would have been more than happy for it to do so, but they were at a junction. Questions had to be asked,
“So,” Billy asked nervously, “where are we going?”
“To Minnow and Sons, the tailor, it’s just off New Bond Street. I need to be there at nine.”
“Nine?? Bloody hell, you haven’t left much time.”
“But we’ll get there?”
“Of course we’ll get there.” Billy was a lot of things, but he was never late even under the most difficult circumstances, and this was certainly going to be difficult, “it’s a good job I know plenty of back roads.”
John Edward Reynolds didn’t reply; he was busy on his phone. Billy got the feeling John was one of those silent customers. He didn’t mind. He didn’t imagine they’d have much in common anyway, except the two girls but he was trying not to think about either of them too much.
They got to Minnow and Sons at nine on the dot. John instructed Billy to wait outside, “I’ll be about 30 minutes. For god’s sake, don’t pick up any other passengers.”
“What?” Why…” Billy was about to ask why anyone would do such a thing, but John wasn’t listening.
“Oh, but you could pick me up a coffee, black, one sugar, and a croissant,” and he disappeared into the still closed shop.
“Who on earth does he think I am? His PA?”
Looking for a more suitable place to park, Billy got out his phone:
‘You’ll never guess what he’s got me doing? I’m on coffee duty! At least he gave me the money up front. I hope you’re day is going better than mine x’
The second text of the day and it was only 9am, he hoped he wasn’t being too keen. This wasn’t his usual style at all. Normally Billy would wait at least three days before contacting a girl and he would always call if he liked her even a little bit, then the next step was hers. Mina replied almost immediately. Billy thought better of texting her again, “I think I’d better play it cool,” he said to himself as he set out in search of a coffee shop.
By the time John emerged from the tailor’s, his coffee was cold. Billy would have offered to get him another one, but John didn’t seem to notice. John was silent as usual. Billy’s surprise at seeing a man leaving a tailor after an hour visit without a suit, or anything other than the briefcase he went in with, meant he could hardly say anything at all. By the time he did speak they were half way down the road,
“Where to now?”
“The Park Lane Hilton, I’ve got a meeting at 10. I’m late.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll be there in no time.”
John was on his phone again. As much as Billy knew it was rude, and as much as he always made an effort to ignore anything that happened in the back of his cab, he couldn’t withhold his curiosity and stop himself from listening to the conversation.
“Yes, it’s just as we thought,” John was talking quietly into his mobile, “No. I’ve checked it 20 times, it’s definitely happening to them too. It’s like an epidemic… Well Terry reckons he’s got a lead so I’m meeting him and some of the others now… We’ll get this under control.”
From his rear-view mirror, Billy saw John look up; he had caught him listening. They were both silent for a moment, neither knowing what to say,
“We’re just having a problem with a rival magazine stealing our stories,” John explained, “it’s a nightmare. All of our exclusives are getting out. We need to find out where the leak is coming from.”
Billy just nodded and wondered what all that had to do with a tailor, but maybe that was something else. “He’s going on like he’s a spy or something,” Billy thought to himself as he pulled up outside the hotel, “what a strange man. All this secrecy for a fashion magazine? Ridiculous!”
“I’ll probably be a couple of hours,” John said as he stepped out of the taxi, “I’ll call you when I’m done. Don’t go too far. Oh,” shouted as he walked away, “and that coffee was cold.”
Billy sat in the car and stared out of the window. “What an odd couple of weeks this has been,” he thought to himself, “I need to get away, London is a crazy place full of crazy people who take themselves too seriously. God.” He reached under his seat and pulled out his camera, “I’ve not even taken any photos for days.” His mind wondered onto Mina and how gorgeous she’d looked last night; he had been surprised she wasn’t a model, he would love to photograph her. He pulled out his phone and re-read her last message:
‘My day’s just started, but it’s already great. The office arsehole is out for the whole day. Perfect. The guy your driving round must be his brother or something. If you’re free tomorrow, maybe I could cheer you up xx’
“Two kisses this time,” Billy smiled, “and if only she knew that the office arsehole and my passenger were one and the same.” Billy felt as though he needed a change, his life had become something he never wanted it to be: predictable. Predictable apart from the events of the past few days at least.
Sat in the cab, camera in hand, staring at the grey front of the Park Lane Hilton a vision of Billy’s father, Harrison Van Boesekom, appeared in front of his eyes,
“You’re wasting your time William. You’ll never become anything if you carry on like this,” it was a speech Billy was familiar with, “Why don’t you try to make something of your life, like your brothers? They’re both top surgeons. I know you’re not as bright as them, but you do have some brains. Use them for god’s sake. What good is running off to London going to do? You’re just going to become a nobody. You’ll shame our good name.”
Billy began to wonder if he had become a nobody, if he had ever been anything else. But he knew his photographs were good, and he knew he was doing what he had to do to be a success. All he needed now was a great set of pictures, something to make him stand out from all of the others. “And now,” he thought, “I’ve found my muse.”
‘There are too many arseholes in London but I’m sure you could cheer me up. How about I take you for dinner? Shall we say 7.30 Covent Garden? And wear something nice, I have an idea xx’