Chapter One : The Future

Untitled document
Adrian Mourby,
Seren Press Ltd
Hardcover - 4th March, 2004
List Price: 12.99
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Chapter One : The Future

Please don't ask my generation to forgive, says the old man.

Sure, there is a time for reconciliation. He stands up, his shoulders bent in a permanent arch of defiance. But only after I am dead.

He takes his newspaper, this old man in n open-necked shirt and jacket. He does not express his thanks for the coffee, this man. Neither does he offer to shake hands. And Bill knows better than to proffer. The old man does not touch others. Bill has noticed this. The old man's friends make allowances. His family makes allowance too. Presumably his wife learned to love him in her own way. Or his way. He is one of the Nizolim, this man. A Survivor, and allowance is always made for Survivors. With what can we reproach those whom humanity sought to destroy? After all we are humanity. It is us the old man holds responsible for his suffering and for the suffering of an entire race.

They wont have long to wait, he continues in a tone that prods the world with sour reproach. And Bill feels himself beginning to lose the admiration he wishes to feel for his guest. This Nizolim, he reminds Bill too much of his father in law. His ex-father in law. Like others of his generation Lev Davidov considers himself a living rebuke to the naive and ignorant. To the world in fact. In him curdles the obscenity of genocide, the even greater obscenity of survival and the final obscenity of people like Bill Wheeler, his host, relatively young, relatively fit and born into a time -and parentage- where humanity does not seek to obliterate you.

Measure yourself against me, says the old mans stooped spine and hollow cheeks. Measure yourself against me and you will all be found wanting.

Bill cant help wishing the old bugger would go. Those who suffer deserve our compassion but Davidov would tax the patience of his maker. It takes him an age to stand up and retrieve his copy of Yediot Aharonot. Not because he is frail but because he expects the world - and God - to wait. Bill now knows every fold in the old mans neck, every melanoma on his weather-beaten skin and each of the thousand creases round his eyes that have given this remarkable Survivor the semblance of a cruel old iguana.

Yes, measure yourself against me, say the old mans lizard eyes And no-one departs from my side without shame.

And Bill finds himself once again remembering the man who was once his father in law. As Davidov prepares to leave Bill recalls how even before their divorce Tamsins father had been unable to forgive, before their marriage even. Tamsins father could not forgive. Anyone. For anything. He too held the world responsible for a unique atrocity .

Why do I let myself in for this? Bill asks himself. Standing now out of politeness. He no longer attended Walken family parties in Swiss Cottage but he seemed to come to Israel every year and ask those who spoke for the Survivors generation the same set of questions.

Because Im paid to. That was the answer. Paid even though the answer invariably proves the same.

No, not now. Not in our life time, say Survivors

And the country listens to them for they had built the country. This was so.Had they not sacrificed everything for the country? Who would disrespect them now?

I am an old man, says Lev Davidov, his newspaper rolled like a baton. You shouldnt have long to wait!. Bill raises his hands as if to show there is no contention between them.

Im a journalist,  he explains. I really dont ask these questions to persuade you. This isnt my cause.

But the old man is giving no quarter. He smiles his lizard smile and nods his head once more as if to say I would not expect you to be capable of having a cause of your own. What have you and your sort done with your lives? You have lived. Nothing more. You have not survived.

There were times when Bill hated coming to Israel. The same old interviews with the same old Jews : liberals, musicians, politicians, rabbis and old vipers like Davidov who seemed to hold the world in contempt. It was true that Bills paper would ask for the views of the Nizolim to be reduced to little more than a paragraph but that did not mean that they dismissed his suffering. Bill Wheeler was here to write about the future of music in Israel, not the martyrdom of Chaim Levi Davidov. Was there, since the Holocaust, only one subject deserving to be written about? True Theodor Adorno had said that after Auschwitz there could be no more poetry. But surely journalism was still possible?

Did Davidov really want life to stop out of respect for those who did not survive? Maybe. Or maybe it was out of contempt for those who never had a number tattooed on their wrist?

The old man was already gone, taking his grievance along Tel Avivs Herbert Samuel Esplanade. Bill had known that he would not enjoy meeting Davidov again but his New York editor had wanted him to re-interview the same people hed spoken to two years ago. Had they changed their opinions? Had they hell. Nothing would change in Israel. Politicians would still strike poses, the liberals would still defer to snakes like Davidov and the snakes would carry their venom to the grave. Bill knew it was folly to place himself in the firing line of such a man. He had done so because, in the end, he was paid to do so and because doing so took him round the world. His was a better job than most. The check out girl in a hypermarket gets in the line of fire from time to time. At least when Bill Wheeler got mauled it was usually several time zones from home.

He regarded the beach from his roadside seat at the cafe and then signalled to pay. The sun had already fallen low enough to cast an incandescent orange glow around the youthful bodies playing ball games between the marina and Aquarium. Bill could not help but derive an animal pleasure from the energy and sheer physical grace of those who had come to the shore that evening. The New Israel. Far less European. Far less angry. Yet how far beneath the skin of those tanned, muscular men and women lurked that same black seam of suffering that disfigured people like Davidov and Bills father in law? Maybe Michael Walken had been playful before European history began its grim subdivisions. Male and female : different queues. Parents and children : different queues. Dysentery and Zyklon B. Dead and dying. Different queues. All filing silently into the final darkness.

Tamsin had not been like that. Tamsin had believed in the future when they met. But then they were each others the future. Maybe the brightness in her eyes was the light shining from a future she could foresee, a future to which she clung. We move towards the light, Bill thought because love renews us. Didnt Davidov say that he had been engaged to be married when his family was denounced, arrested and subtly subdivided down to extinction in Poland? In whose eyes had Chaim Levi Davidov once seen the light shining? And whose eyes did he carry in his heart until the SS finally divided Davidov from his humanity and left him scrabbling like an animal for survival in the last dark months before liberation? Bill knew such stories. Tamsin had known many more. All her family were Survivors or descended from Survivors. Old people who had caught a last glimpse of their children as they were led away to extinction. Middle-aged people who still remembered their parents last words, telling them to have courage. Yet she had been able to put the past aside, at least when they met. How could a woman like Tamsin dwell on the past when the unborn future cried out in her? The future that was Bill and their many children, each one shining in her eyes.

Bill had delighted in that idea. He was excited by the idea of Tamsin being pregnant with their first born until he came to think of the future as more boys for Tamsins father to circumcise. Bill had found himself dreading the idea of anyone claiming the right to mutilate his child. Tamsin had always told him that shed want their children to grow up aware of the Jewish inheritance but Bill had never thought this through and Tamsin had been very relaxed about religious matters when they met. She hardly observed the Sabbath. Naively Bill thought a Jewish inheritance meant one or two services (which he tended to like) and the occasional meal with Tamsins noisy extended family (which he liked less) He hadnt thought of circumcision. While she slept, noisy, huge and inaccessible Bill lay awake trying to think of a way in which he could broach the subject. He never did. But then Reah was born and Bill loved Reah. He was happy to see his daughter welcomed by that noisy argumentative gaggle of women who were Tamsins nearest relatives, even though they saw no role for him. He felt happy that Reah was Jewish. It suited her. His children could be anything : Muslim, Taoist or tree worshipper as far as he was concerned. Just as long as no one snipped bits of skin off them. It was primitive Bill admitted, both what was done in the name of the tribe and the extent to which he reacted against it but in the event Bill and Tamsin Wheeler had no other children and Bill was glad now that he had never had to do battle with Mr.Walken and Tamsin, and all her sisters, over the preservation of a foreskin. Particularly Old Man Walken. He was no easy man to argue with. Like Davidov Michael Walken believed that life had taken everything from him except the moral highground and that he had no intention of surrendering, ever.

The bodies of Tel Avivs younger generation kept Bill distracted until he had collected his change and was about to leave. He thought of wandering down to the shore, of circling those young sybarites. Their skin attracted him. He wondered if passing by them would recall his ex-wifes skin, that wonderful skin that had so delighted him when first he saw the light in her eyes that spoke of their future together.

Bill calculated a tip and supposed that now it was time to go. Part of him would have been content just to sit and rest. To sit and not even see what he was looking at. To take time out of time. For a moment he realised again how deeply tired he was. Then he rose. He had to act, to move on. And at that moment a voice intercepted him.

Mr. Wheeler? It was an unwelcome voice. Doubly so given that Bill had just decided that closer proximity to a sea of young nubile bodies was the appropriate antidote for this past half hour with Davidov.

Mr Wheeler, the journalist?

When Bill followed the voice he saw a fat man in early middle-age and a white suit. He also saw a young woman with thick dark Levantine hair that reminded him of his daughters.

I have been called worse, said Bill and he extended his hand.

Do you have a moment to meet someone who wishes to meet you? the woman asked, her eyes bright, her smile intoxicating.

Bill reflected ruefully that young women on their own never asked him that kind of question.

Im due back at my hotel, he told the couple.

This will only take a few minutes, said her companion. His accent suggested he could be German or American, it was difficult to tell. He had yellow hair, this man. It was plastered across his head. Not blond but an unhealthy nicotine yellow, as if smoked that colour. Like kippers. He also leaned heavily on a stick, this man. Now that Bill looked more closely, it seemed the young woman was actually supporting him.

They drove a little way to the old town of Jaffa which lies to the south of that long sequence of hotels that is Tel Aviv. The young woman took the wheel, the nicotine man - who had not introduced himself - had squeezed in alongside her. Bill sat in the back and watched beach life fly past. He knew something of the ways in which people kidnap journalists and this was not one of them. He had not been sandwiched between two minders. At any traffic light he could simply open the car door and step out.

Bills hosts did not speak to him and he resisted the temptation to ask them where he was going or whom he was going to meet.

The journey to Jaffa took only a few minutes but turning through the oncoming traffic into the old town took longer. Getting the fat man out of the car and on to the sidewalk took longer still. As he straightened up the man accepted a paper tissue from the womans shoulder bag and mopped his face with it.

In here! He lifted a finger from his stick. This podgy imperious gesture was intended to propel them into a small mosque-like restaurant on Mifraz Schlomo that overlooked the bay. The fat mans tone had suddenly become one of irritation, as if he had grown tired of Bills obtuseness about their destination but once inside he seemed to cheer up. He spoke to the waitresses with great warmth as if he were a benevolent regular or even, perhaps, the patron. He also expressed exaggerated delight at the table on the terrace to which he and Bill were shown. Bill had been so busy watching all this bogus bonhomie that he hadnt noticed the woman with the gorgeous hair disappear. Wasnt it just his luck to be left with the fat wheezing bastard?

Sit down! Sit down! cried Bills host as he reached round to find somewhere to rest his stick. Isnt this a glorious view? he asked. Bill did not sit down but he did take in the view. The sea below them, the few stumps of rock which were all that remained of the island on which Andromeda was chained before her rescue by Perseus. If you believed that kind of thing. Several militias over several generations and numerous occupations had blown apart her prison in target practice. All that remained were those blackened stumps.

I thought I was meeting someone here, Bill pointed out.

So you are, said the man. Please. Do sit down.

You? Bill asked without surprise.

The fat man gestured to the chair opposite him.

We could have talked where we met, Bill took a chair. Why the cloak and dagger?

You wont regret it, said the fat man and he caught the arm of a passing waitress.

Can we have a bottle of that special Reserve, the Binyami. No? And two glasses please.

Bill sat back with his arms folded. Until this man was ready to speak there was clearly no point in objecting further. They both of them regarded Tel Avivs skyscraper hotels for a moment, the pink glow of Opera Towers dwarfing everything else, . Then the fat man turned his attention back to Bill. He smiled.

Martin Katz. He offered his hand. Bill noticed that in Katzs tongue the Christian name sounded much more German. Almost German but not quite. Maybe Katz was American of German or Austrian parentage.

How do you do, said Bill.

And you are the famous arts journalist, Bill Wheeler.

Im not famous, said Bill.

But you write for famous papers all round the world, Katz protested. This was not flattery. He clearly wanted to be sure hed got the right man.

When they want me, said Bill.

People trust you.

Those who employ me do, Bill replied.

Well I have for you the story of the century, said Katz with another smile. His was not a good smile. Not the conspiratorial smile between two fellows but a greedy smile. A phoney smile. The smile of a wolf who can see rich pickings ahead but who pretends to this particular piggy that his interest lies only in getting him better insurance against all occurrences of huffing and puffing in the neighbourhood. Bill didnt like the porcine role that was being forced upon him.

Ah, excellent! cried Katz as the wine made its way over. Now we can drink a toast to your great success.

What success? asked Bill as Katz filled the glasses.

The story I am going to give you. Tell me what are you in Israel for?

Bill hesitated. He disliked the way Katz was playing this self-appointed role of master of ceremonies. And he particularly objected to fulfilling the function of Martin Katzs audience. Twenty minutes ago, Bill thought, I might have been wandering the beaches of Tel Aviv, drinking in the beautiful bodies, singing praises to the future. Instead I am regretting the present and the only thing for drinking is local booze.

I imagine you know why Im here, said Bill. Thats why you chose to contact me.

Too true, said Katz with a gulp. The man was already half way through his first glass. That is why I am here too. The Wagner Question. When is the music of one of the greatest composers of the 19th century going to be heard in Israel? I read you in The New York Times last year. Or maybe the year before. We are now in the 21st century and yet still Wagner is not forgiven for associations that his music had under the Nazis. The Philharmonic want to perform Wagner, New Israeli Opera wants to give its Ring -because every international company wants to give its Ring- but they dare not, nobody dares play Wagner, not even the radio stations, because to do so will upset too many people alive in Israel today.

It will happen one day, said Bill and he stole a glimpse out to sea again. Yet as he did so Bill caught sight of Katz seeming to shake his head. The irritating gesture of a man who wishes you to understand that he understands better. Bill turned back and saw the fat mans relish in having regained Bills attention with such a paltry device. Katz paused to top up their glasses.


The two men regarded each other.

To your story, said Katz, raising his glass.

What story? Bill asked.

What would you say if I told you I had a piece of paper that would ensure Wagner is never heard in Israel. Maybe not anywhere in the world. Ever again!

Bill found himself smiling. Now he knew this was all nonsense but he was amused by the hubris. Somehow Katzs belief that he had access to such an unlikely story made Bill warm to him. The fat man was no longer an egoist with yellowing hair. His egotism was childlike. He had made a naive miscalculation.

No piece of paper could do that, he replied. Katz shrugged, playing his game. He wasnt going to argue with Bill. He was going to retreat into the superior oh-so-worldly wise silence of those who knew better.

Bill drank some more of his wine.

What is it? A love letter from Wagner to Adolf Hitler?

Wagner died six years before Hitler was born, said Katz.

I know that, thought Bill. Or at least I could have known it if Id looked it up.

He put down his glass.

Quite, he bluffed. Nothing can touch Wagner directly. Its all by association. His wife quite liked Hitler, his sons wife Winifred was mad about him, the Wagners at Bayreuth were the nearest thing Hitler had to a family. And the Reich used his music as the sound track to world domination. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth for those who suffered under the Nazis. Of course it does. But as the years go by that association gets consigned further and further to the past. And in time Wagner will be performed in Israel. We all know it. Barenboims tried already. Even the Survivors acknowledge it will happen one day.

Katz shook his wise head again. Bill really wished he wouldnt do that

It aint necessarily so.

Please, said Bill. Can we stop these games? Ive got a meeting at ... he looked at his watch. Actually it was for any time from now onwards although Phee had said she would almost definitely be late.

What would you say if I showed you a letter that could blow the whole Wagner industry out of the water? said Katz.People, important people, wish to buy this letter. to suppress it. Now would that be a story, eh?

As the waitress passed he took her arm again and asked for a second bottle.

It was over an hour later that Bill checked back outside and took a look up and down Mifraz Schlomo. The Mediterranean twilight was dimming now to a point where street lights would be needed. The air was moist, crickets were beginning their evening din. A lot more than an hour or two seemed to have passed since Bill Wheeler first met the dubious Mr. Katz. Of Katzs hired car and hired driver there was, of course, no sign. Katz himself was drunk now and insisting they go on to a casino. Bill felt he had not had such a wasted evening for many years. He was half tempted to abandon Katz in the tiny restaurant but any such plans were at that very moment being denied him. As Bill turned back down the mosques short flight of steps he met his host being gently ejected by two waiters, one of whom was suggesting that someone should pay the fat mans bill.

Do you have any money? Bill asked Katz, but the man was almost asleep on his feet. With bad grace Bill settled the cheque himself and asked one of the waiters to find him a taxi.

Where is your hotel? he asked Katz as the waiters placed their burden against a lamp post for safe-keeping. Where do you live?

Katz mumbled something.

He said the Marriott, said the waiter.

Marriott Hotel? Bill asked. He wasnt convinced the waiter had heard properly. The young man was eager, as indeed Bill was, just to get shot of Martin Katz. Now they were joined by the driver of a white taxi who appeared from nowhere, shook hands with the waiters and then began speaking to one of them in earnest.

Esrim, said the young waiter, turning to Bill. He wants twenty.

To the Marriott? Bill asked.

No, twenty is for him, said the waiter. Marriotts on the meter, maybe ten.

Bill understood. The driver wanted an upfront payment in case Katz failed to respect the backseat. He wasnt entirely surprised.

Have you got any money? Bill asked Katz again. The fat man took Bills hand in his own.

We are going to make our fortune, he smiled. This prophecy was the sum total of Mr. Katzs contribution to their evening out.

OK, said Bill. No money.

Bill put Katz in the back and sat up front with the driver. He was paying an extra twenty. No reason why he should splattered by Katz as well.

As the street lights ticked by back to Tel Aviv Bill thought back over one of the least productive interviews of his life.

It turned out that Mr. Katz, a man of no fixed abode and even less integrity, was claiming to have in his possession a letter that he would not show to anyone but which he insisted could do a lot of damage to the reputation of Richard Wagner. Katz wouldnt say who the letter was from. Or to. He wouldnt say how he came by it, when he came by it or even when it was written. If indeed it was written at all and not just a figment of Katzs addled imagination. In fact it turned out that all Katz wanted Bill to know was that the letter existed and that he, Martin Katz, had placed three copies of it in three safety deposit boxes somewhere in Switzerland.

Every week as long as I log on to my personal computer the location of those deposit boxes remains a secret but if for any reason I do not log on, if anything should happen to me, then an e.mail will be sent to you -and to two other famous journalists- telling where you can pick up your copies.

Where is the original kept? Bill asked. Katz had gazed at the bottle in front of him.

Ah! he chuckled. Thats the clever bit. Im not going to have my room turned upside down! You see one of those copies is the original.

Which one? asked Bill deciding that Katz was probably making most of this up as he went along. Katz thought again and then gave out an explosive laugh.

I dont know! He looked at Bill as if he expected that he too would find this uproariously funny. I dont know! The original could go to you, Bill Wheeler. It could go to ... He paused. Anyone of a number of famous internatural (SIC) journalists. Who knows who it could be!

You realise this story - if it is a story at all - doesnt stand up unless we have the original letter so it can be verified.

Oh stop being so serious, Katz grumbled and he tried to pour them each another drink but ended up watering the table.

Bill knew that he was rarely the life and soul of any party but an evening with Martin Katz would kill off anyones joie de vivre. It was all nonsense. And yet he failed to see any purpose to it. Why had Katz gone to such lengths to lead him towards a story that could not be told?

You know I cant write anything about this until I get sight of the original, Bill reminded him.

Well maybe I dont want you to get sighting the original, Katz suddenly snarled. Maybe I dont want to end up dead in a hotel room just so you can see a stupid letter.

Bill was thrown.

Who said anything about ending up dead? he asked, putting down his glass

You are my insurance,Katz was gazing at the bottle again. They know that if anything happens to me, you get the letter.

So that was it.


This wasnt about a story at all. It was all about a fat man called Katz using Bill to warn off person or persons unknown, person or persons unreal in all likelihood. Martin Katz, for whatever reason, wanted Bill to be in a position to publish this letter so that knowledge of Bills involvement would deter anyone who meant Katz harm. It was pure cloak and dagger stuff and Bill didnt believe a word of it. The only thing that puzzled him still was why Katz had gone to such lengths to try and convince him. And, presumably, these other journalists. What was in it for him? Looking at the obese sleeping bullfrog on the back seat Bill didnt believe he was going to get an answer to that - or any other question - tonight.

They pulled up outside the Marriott, its lights warm, its apron a beacon of calm good sense and electric lighting in a world that had grown tawdry and foolish that evening. Getting Katz out of the cab wasnt easy. The driver left it to Bill and one of the doormen.

I believe this gentleman is staying with you, Bill explained. Katz, half in and half out of the taxi, struggled into life at this point and began fishing noisily in his pockets.

No problem. I have a room key, he announced as a sheaf of hotel stationery cascaded out of his breast pocket and on to the floor of the cab. Bill picked up a sheet, saw that it was headed Hilton Continental and decided that they had just had a wasted journey.

It took a further twenty minutes and several more shekels on the meter before Katz was successfully delivered and out of Bills life for good. Bills last sight of him was that of a large white-suited figure slumped over a baggage trolley beneath the hotel awning, with two doormen gazing balefully down, wondering what to do. He had not bothered asking about any contribution to their evening. This was just one of those nights you wrote off. Maybe it would make a good story to tell Phee, assuming she were still around.

Bill had met Phee in the long queue at passport control. She seemed to be some kind of management consultant over from London, here to lead a three day brain-storming session in Tel Aviv. It had taken a further half an hour for the two of them to clear the airport by which time Phee and Bill had established they were staying in the same hotel and Bill had invited her for a drink the following evening. He didnt hold high hopes for their date. He couldnt even remember Phees surname in fact but she was attractive and intelligent and he met very few women these days. As the taxi finally pulled up in front of Bills hotel he found himself wondering whether Phee would find the tale of his night with Martin Katz funny or appalling. Tamsin would have helped him laugh about it. Since Tamsin he had known some women who might have been outraged on his behalf and others who might have laughed as his ex-wife did. What Bill dreaded was the kind of blank response that told you this whole anecdote - and probably the rest of the evening too - had been a mistake.

The driver was leaning into the back of his cab checking to see whether Katz had indeed done the damage for which Bill had paid up front.

OK? Bill asked.

Thirty-two, said the man as he surfaced. You owe me twelve.

Oh come on, said Bill. Theres nothing wrong with the cab, is there?

Twenty and twelve for the journey, the man replied implacably.

Id like a receipt please,  said Bill, conceding.

As he entered the hotel Bill glimpsed over to where in the best of all possible worlds an auburn management consultant with a highly unusual name and a highly developed passion for journalists would be waiting by at reception. Shed be smiling and, with luck, be more glamorous than hed remembered. Even better, her presence at the desk would save him the bother of having to recall the rest of her name and asking the clerk to ring up to her room. But, before the glass doors had slid noisily shut behind him, Bill found hed been rejoined by that annoying little taxi driver.

I really hope youre not after a tip, he thought darkly.

You left these, said the man, handing over what seemed to be a wad of Hilton Continental stationery. Now that was impressive. Hed even made a point of checking underneath the seats before setting off in search of another fare.

Well at least I will not be without a souvenir of Martin Katz, thought Bill as he thanked the man and took his place in the queue for reception. Ahead he could see a note in his pigeon hole. From long years travelling Bill always harboured high hopes of the pigeon hole. Once upon a time he used to have faxes from Tamsin rolled up and waiting for him. There was another woman who used to fax him in foreign hotels too. She, for all her faults, had been remarkable at tracking him down. Hed even had notes from her when he had no idea she knew his whereabouts. And once or twice when Bill had been away for a long time hed had faxes from Reah too which her mother had let her send. These days he didnt expect anyone from work to contact him via paper. The technology of mobile phones and e.mail had moved so rapidly that the fax had all but been superseded.

You have a note for me, Bill pointed out as the clerk, a slight young man with pixie ears, came free. Room one-eleven.

One moment sir, clicked the pixie.

And I need to call someone in another of the rooms, said Bill but before he had finished speaking he noticed the piece of paper now delivered to his hands was signed Phee

Bill -

Sorry well have to call off for this evening. Heavy day and another tomorrow! 9pm. Gone to bed now. Hope you had a great evening.

Bill folded the piece of paper tightly and swore quietly. If he were honest with himself he hadnt had a chance in hell of ending up in bed with a management consultant who called herself Phee but he would liked to have had the chance to discover that in person. And to be honest he would have liked to have had some real conversation too. He took the stairs. What point in taking the lift when he was only going to his own room?

It was only when he got to the door of Room 111 and was fumbling for his key card that Bill realised he still had all the Hilton sheaves stuffed under his arm. He must have looked a curious sight in the reception he thought. What kind of kleptomaniac steals that which was given away for free then trails it from one hotel to the next? Despite himself Bill laughed as he looked around for a bin to throw the stuff. There was only a tall brass sand cigarette tray in the corridor so in the end Bill took Katzs booty into 111 and binned the sheaf in the bathroom bucket as he passed.

Some days, he thought. Some days just dont work. Some days are seconds. Bits of time that didnt come off Gods production line quite right but that doesnt stop him visting them on us.

He kicked the sofa glumly and decided to have a drink. The Divine Bastard worked to tight deadlines, Bill thought. Every day another day. Inevitably some of them were going to be substandard. He looked at the minibar, squatting under the TV, smug with its hidden array of overpriced luxuries. He was cautious about drinking on his own. Living by himself had put Bill on his guard. He knew hed already helped Katz through quite a lot of wine. But a whisky or two wouldnt do too much harm, he supposed. It might help settle the seething irritation within.

Bill paced the room and then pulled the curtains shut. He was still angry at the day for sending him Davidov and Katz. And at himself for coping badly with both. All he wanted to do now was switch off the anger, let it go. But this was like the arguments he used to have with Tamsin. It could take hours for the rage to seep away, hours until Bill was able to un-poison his heart. He used to go for long walks during that time, tire himself out if possible, burn up the bile. Then hed come back and Reah would run out to greet him and everything would be OK again. Picking her up in his arms Bill could believe once more in the future and when you believe in the future the past hardly matters. The great thing about the past, after all, is that it is past.

But in the absence of his daughter - and because he felt unwilling to stir outside for a walk along the beach - Bill decided J&B and ice was probably the answer. He really wished he read more. This would be a good time to lose oneself in a book. But hed travelled light. Too light. Bill broke the tab on his minibar and decided not to even check how much theyd hiked up the prices.

The spirit in the water spoke to him after two sips. Bill had had a girlfriend some years back who meditated every morning and who used to speak of centring her being by listening to her own breath. That was what Bill always felt he got from whisky. Some benign demon in the alcohol reached his stomach and then spread. He felt it move like calming hands across his abdomen and suddenly all was still. It was as if this magic water had stemmed the tide of energy which he had been wasting in fragmented fury. Be still, said the spirit. It did not speak like the voice that told Moses Be still and know that I am God It simply told him to stop. Better still it enabled him to stop. To be still. It possessed him.

Bill sat for a moment wondering whether there was any point in putting on the television. Then he remembered he knew there was no point in putting it on. The debate in his head was merely whether or not he was going to give in to a joyless temptation which would mean wasting what remained of the evening in front of either CNN or some age-old BBC comedy repeat. He took another sip of whisky and then remembered something else. Something he hadnt even been aware of when it happened but that he now knew. When he threw the Katz detritus into his bathroom bin there was more than hotel stationery amongst that pile of papers. His hand had known that at the time. The package was far too bulky. His hand had known it but Bill had been sufficiently chewed up by rage to miss what his hand was telling him, to miss what his armpit had been telling him all the time he was struggling to open the door to Room 111.

It was curious but quite, quite clear in his mind now.

All Bill had to do was walk back to the bathroom and retrieve whatever had landed in the bin with such an inappropriate thump. Obviously it wouldnt be Katzs stupid letter. It probably wouldnt even be the key to that safety deposit box. It might be Katzs wallet of course. Maybe Bill would find out who Martin Katz really was before returning his wallet - minus half the cost of this evenings entertainment - to its owner. Bill liked to believe he had scruples even when rifling someones pocket book.

He found himself unwilling to get up, the spirit in the whisky reminded him that deep inside him dwelt a need to sit and rest forever. Hed been told that at the beach too. Time to take time out. Once again Bill realised how deeply, desperately tired he was. But he had to act, to move on. Bill rose.

It was a small padded envelope of the size that might be used to send an audio cassette through the post. It had the look of something that may be have been opened and resealed several times already and yet there was no writing on it. The only clue to its origin was the opaque adhesive tape that held it together. Bill knew this was not of a kind he recognised. Not English, not American in all probability. Bill took out a pocket knife that he kept on his belt and snipped through the seal in the spirit of true journalistic enquiry. He expected a cassette to fall out when he shook the package but nothing did. He put in his fingers to see what plums might come tumbling down but no. Something gnawed at him that spoke of unresolved significance. He might do well not to probe any further with this. But it was, as ever, too late.

A small plastic bag was tucked inside. As Bill withdrew it he saw within the bag some folded paper. And before he even opened the bag Bill knew. Martin Katz was not lying about the letter. He may have lied about many things. Certainly he had lied about keeping the original in one of three safety deposit boxes. This was the original. A letter on two folded sheets of paper. Whatever it said, whenever it was written, and by whom, this was the letter that was supposed to destroy one of the greatest composers Europe had ever known.


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