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anyway. Shall I catch the train? Only take me a few hours to get back to London.
 No, you don t have to do that, your work down there...
 Doesn t matter. I ll tell them it s an emergency. If you d like me to come.
 Yes, I really would like you to come, but you don t have to rush, don t cause yourself
problems. I look ghastly. Horrific.
 You shouldn t talk about yourself like that. I ll go down to the station and call you from
there. Won t be long mate.
Bringing him back was as easy as that. An hour later I struggled upstairs and sat in the
office reading the newspaper, waiting for him to arrive. A dozen times I heard the front door
open and looked up full of hope, only to be disappointed by the sound of one of the guests
making his way upstairs. At last there was a loud knock and his voice called down the hall:
 Darren, Mark, anyone about?
Darren answered from the kitchen:  He s in the office.
Tom came and stood in the doorway.  What are you doing in here?
 Ooorph, look at you. You should be in bed.
 How have you been?
 Don t worry about me. He helped me to my feet.  Can you walk all right?
 Hobble. I can hobble. We each put an arm around the other, and moved in a four-legged
shuffle to the top of the basement stairs.
 All right, you can hang on to me but stay behind me, we don t want you falling down
One effect of the assault was that my work on the Dunblane Spa project came to an end.
Some figure work already in hand could be finished on the computer at Goodmans Hotel and
relayed via the internet to Vincent s office. My multicoloured wounds were a good excuse to
drop out of the face to face meetings arranged for the coming weeks with the US client.
Vincent, typically, was kind and considerate. He said he hoped we might work together on
another project in the future, that anyway we would be seeing each other socially before long,
and that if I needed help he could send one of his people down to the hotel for an hour or
two, though with Darren, Tom and the garden centre staff nearby there was no need for me to
take up the offer.
The ugliness of my injuries was not the sole reason for quitting the project. With the end of
the tax year looming there was plenty of paperwork for me to do at the hotel, and I wanted
time with Tom to re-establish the old feeling of closeness we had known before our break-up.
I skulked around in the background keeping out of sight of the guests as far as possible, and at
the garden centre everyone followed the manager s lead in making a fuss of me. He felt
responsible for the mugging, and sent over three huge flower arrangements for the hotel with
a card signed by all the staff. A well intentioned lady from the local Victim Support Group
rang to offer sympathy and asked if she could do anything, but of Jamie and the two thugs
who had attacked me we heard nothing more.
Tom rang his employer in Portsmouth with a story about having to stay at home because
his mother was seriously ill. Within a few days he was working for local householders again.
The old reassuring routines of our lives reasserted themselves, although having come so close
to permanent break-up we were very careful to be considerate towards one other. My sense of
having been wronged by him had completely gone. If he had hurt me by keeping his past a
secret, my putting the  phone down on him when he rang from Portsmouth with those
pompous dismissive words  I have nothing at all to say to you must have hurt him; and on my
part the hurt had been intentional.
He showed no sign of resentment, and was as helpful as ever with fixing things in the
hotel. When Darren mentioned a patch of damp in the little bathroom under the roof, he
went up to investigate and concluded that rain-water was seeping in. The pain in my leg had
more or less gone by then and we took a step ladder and some tools up so that he could look
for the leak from inside the loft. He hauled himself up through the hatch and I handed up a
torch, trying to protect my eyes from the falling smuts. A trap door led out onto the flat roof
above the bathroom and when he opened it daylight came streaming into the roof space.
 Come and have a look, he called down.
Always nervous of ladders, I climbed another step up and peered into the loft. A layer of
black dust coated the fibre-glass insulation between the joists.  Shouldn t you be wearing a
face mask?
 Come on, he said, ignoring my question, forcefully grasping my left arm and pulling me
upwards, giving me no choice but to scramble after him, using my free hand to grab joists and
rafters to steady myself.  What about my leg?
 You ll be all right. He gripped my hand firmly to help steady me and guided me towards
the hatch.  Come and look over here, you can see for miles. Stand on the joists, not the
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