Kaptain's Blog

The writings and musings of The Kaptain

Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Number One Under Heaven (32)

Inside her handbag Kate’s cell-phone began vibrating, unnoticed. Its urgent quivering went undetected while, spellbound, she allowed herself to be entertained by the vulgarity of the conversation she was having with her new Australian girlfriends. The air was blue with crude sex jokes as they nibbled their way through a plateful of crab cakes at Niporn’s Palace, Sunny Cape’s obligatory Thai restaurant. Kate was grateful for the company of these women, for whom, up till now, she had had little time. It was good to be able to chat idly, without having to think of the problems she was having with Blake, and their failing marriage. For the past couple of hours Kate had enjoyed the luxury of an escape, and nothing at present was going to jolt her from her reverie. These Canton Air widows may be coarse, she thought to herself. But they’re bloody funny… and they certainly know how to have a good time…

The vibrations in her bag would not cease, however – demanding her attention through their persistent, repetitive tremors. Blissfully unaware of the earth shattering news that was to come, Kate eventually noticed the pulsating of the device when her thigh brushed against the bag in which it fidgeted. Briefly, she rummaged around inside, before locating it. She looked at the display. Seventeen missed calls. Seventeen? Punching in her password – t-o-m-m-y – she then sighed while pressing the ‘enter’ button, promising herself to restore it to the original s-o-p-h-i-e as soon as possible. Once more she pressed ‘enter’, an action which now led her to a screen detailing her missed calls. All seventeen were from the same, unrecognised number – the first four digits of which indicated, however, that it was from somewhere within the Cape. Kate thumbed the green ‘call’ button, to return the call. Over the din, she thought she could pick out the word ‘school’. “What?” she asked, screwing up her eyes as she rose from her seat to walk a few paces away from the raucous laughter that had flared up again. “Say again? I can’t hear you!” “Sophie…” It sounded like someone said ‘Sophie’… “…regret… inform… missing…” Missing her? Of course I’m missing her. “Missing… around noon, local time… every effort… locate…”


Did someone just say that her Sophie was missing?

It finally coalesced within the grey matter of her mind. Kate was staring absently somewhere off into the distance as one of the Canton Air widows then approached her. “What’s up, doll?” With a look of incredulity written across her face, she continued to stare vacantly ahead, saying nothing in reply. “What’s the problem, darlin’?” The woman took her arm, shaking it gently, to no effect. Then swinging around quickly to face the others, she yelled: “Oi! Girls! Shut the fuck up a minute! I think we’ve got a problem here!” A hush began to fall as she swivelled back around to look once more at Kate, who now stood rigid with fear. “Are you OK, doll?” the woman repeated her initial question. “Come on, love. You’ve got to tell me. What did they say when you just made that call?” “I… I’m… not sure,” replied Kate, slowly shaking her head. “I don’t know… Can you call them back? Ask them?” Kate’s cell-phone slipped out of her hand and on to the floor, with a crack. Her mind was already beginning to shut down, to deny what she had just heard. She felt numb: an overwhelming sense of guilt that if what she thought she had heard were true, then she had not been there for Sophie when it mattered.

And then, as she realised there was almost certainly nothing she could do, Kate began to enter into shock…

Blake was having a blinder by the time the complimentary deep-fried toffee bananas arrived. Not only had he captivated the JAL stewardesses – who he insisted were to retain this moniker, despite their having revealed themselves to be tourists from Taiwan – but he had also managed to produce fits of laughter from the staff of what, ordinarily, was a staid, family-run restaurant. For Blake had decided that an impromptu, a capella rendition of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ was the antidote to the quiet misery he presumptuously determined his fellow diners were, up until this moment, suffering. And as he arrived at the O Mama Mia Mama Mias, stood rather precariously on his chair, the whole restaurant was conducting his performance and preparing to join in when he reached the part where Beelzebub has a devil put aside for

…for Blake, it then turned out, as he toppled unconscious once more, this time from the lofty height of his chair, felled by some neural lumberjack in a slow-motion arc, to land head first on the carpeted floor, his entire system crashing yet again. Zzzzzppp! He felt a few slaps to his face as his mentor brought him round, and then, much worse, a tone of cold finality in John’s voice: “Buddy, I’m not sure I can go on doing this,” his friend was telling him, with some justification. “Now if you’re OK, I think I’d better get back to work.” Blake was in no condition to reason, one way or the other, simply grunting in response while trying to refocus on the JAL girls, who were already paying their bill in order to make a quick exit. Lifted by a pair of waiters he watched as John’s back then also disappeared through the door. They propped him back on his chair while inspecting his head, before applying a bag of ice to the larger of the two lobes on his now lopsided forehead. “Fuckin’ done it again, ain’t I?” he managed to slur, while falling once more into a semi-conscious slumber.

Two hours later, Blake woke in front of a goldfish tank to the welcome of a monumental headache. The movement of the black, white and orange objects made him giddy, causing him to retch. Apparently, the waiters had taken pity on him and carried him to their restroom, where they stretched him out, allowing him to sleep it off for a while. He felt sick and weak, like a puppy that had enthusiastically devoured a whole tub of lard. There was one, solitary idea that now formed in his mind. Elle… Must get to Elle… Elle’s place… It was his one chance of a sympathetic audience, he believed. Prayed. Reaching into his pocket, he fumbled around for his cell-phone, without success. Must’ve lost it, then, he half-mumbled, forgetting completely his earlier exchange with John. “Fuck!”

posted by Kirk at 1:40 am  

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