After a few moments of panic spawned by concerns over spilt tea frying the the laptop, which I hastily power down by pulling the battery, the implications of Carol Reid's letter start to permeate my mind. I've dealt with agents. before and I've seen both sides of them, the obsequious grasping after a cash cow and the supercilious dismissal dished out to hopefuls. To say they're not my favourite people would be underestimating the level of my contempt by a factor analogous to describing the residents' of Mai Lai's encounter with the US army as, unfortunate. My immediate concern is the non existence of Cassandra Wheatfield, the cynicism that had given rise to her and her companions, had not been so thorough as to prompt me to consider the implications should any of their submission actually be accepted. Sure I had a vague plan that I could place myself as some sort of intermediary that I hadn't really though but now the short comings of my perfunctory attention to those details where coming home, especially in the light of the publisher's request for a meeting. The other aspect of the letter that was causing me concern was the seemingly irregular manner in which Reid had made the submission for review to the publisher, whose identity she'd carefully withheld in her letter. I admit I've no real insight on how these dealing are handled. I suppose Reid could have been scraping the barrel to garner interest from this publisher and in desperation fell back on Cassandra submission, not a scenario that holds much conviction for me, a mystery that's will need further inquiry.
For a few moments I consider staying in and mulling over the situation but I decide I might tackle the problems more effectively after I've cleared my thoughts and decide to make my way to the snooker club. I grab my coat and sunglasses. My intense photophopbia makes the low winter sun particularly uncomfortable and the snooker club lies to the south, so shades are a must even on a November Sunday morning. My dependence on such eye wear arouses the amusement of the occasional prick who decides the sight of someone in shades in winter is too good an opportunity for ridicule to pass up. In my younger days I've left more than one them regretting their ignorance, nursing a blood sodden nose on an impromptu trip to casualty or depositing their last meal on the pavement after I've delivered a swift massage to their solar plexus with my fist. I'm a bit cooler now, not that I don't still feel the urge to deliver the odd swift lesson in street etiquette, it's just that I'm a bit warier of the consequences of giving my not inconsiderable temper free reign.
Outside a slight breeze has picked up, stirring the leaves that the street sweeper's missed, not enough to give them flight as they're still a bit sticky from the rain. I get to the end of my road and stop at the curb, to wait for the cars to pass, only they're not there. I don't know how long exactly I've lived here, more than a couple of decades and I've never managed to negotiate the junction at the end of my road with out stopping for traffic. This phenomenon has been a constant since I've lived here, doesn't matter if I'm out at 3:00 am trying to walk off insomnia or its a Xmas day visit to the graveyard. If there's only one car on the road in the entire country it'll be here to make to stop at this junction. There a child on the side of the road, a toddler no more than four or five, he's with grandma it looks like. He chuckles as he sees me, no doubt he's party to the circumstances that have caused habit to make me pause for traffic that isn't there. He waves, his carefree amusement at life strires my spirit, I smile spontaneously and return his wave, something which causes the witch accompanying him a certain consternation. Can't have the joy the children give the world freely dished to strangers I suppose, have to guard it jealously like a spiteful miser. She tugs his arm and admonishes him, "Why are you waving at strangers?" she spits her poison into his ear with her nectar coated tongue. Now I'm the one who feels sick enough to leave his breakfast on the pavement, ecch.
I climb the old viaduct to get a view of the river on my journey, the weed growing between the discarded sleepers and ballast is only the bit greenery left round her too. It's a favorite with dog walkers, who can't be bothered to scoop the poop, so you need to watch your feet. There's a few of 'em ahead, stationary, something in the river has caught their attention. They're strangers to me but one of them accosts me, a woman walking a pointer: "Do you know what's happening?"
"Sorry?" I reply.
"There are men water just there." she gesticulates towards towards the water, and I follow her finger. The glint of the sun on water is too much for me to see any detail but I just make a few animated figures after a while.
"Dunno, perhaps there's been an accident with a boat or something last night." The scene doesn't hold the same compelling interest for me as the dog walkers, maybe because my sight of it isn't as refined as theirs, so I leave them to it and bother with my own concerns.
It's not long before I reach the snooker club, the club lies under the viaduct, the building occupies one of the spans. There was a stop here too on the old railway so it's easy to climb the old stairway, which makes the viaduct a convenient route to the club. It's not till I get in the club that my curiosity about the stranger resurfaces. It takes a while for me to get used to light in club after my walk on the viaduct but I can't see any one in the main hall who looks out of place. There are just a few people here today on the snooker tables, mostly punters, one or two players too but it's not that busy. I'm not here for snooker though, so I make my way swiftly to the back after I've deposited my coat on one of the pegs, it's safe to that here as long you keep old Billy happy, he's the guy who look after the place. I'm here for the nine ball tables. I used to play the old game with red balls but that was another life. I make my way past the snooker tables but it's obvious that my arrival has aroused some interest. No one speaks to me directly but I'm about half way through the snooker hall when I hear it, one of the punters whispers none too quitely to one of his companions, "Cassie Belmont"