It's Friday, and I've finished for the week.
Just crossed the 90,000 word count with Creeper's Cottage. That's twenty thousand words added in the past ten days, excluding weekends.
This week has been wonderful. I really feel connected to the story again, and I can finally see the end approaching. It's been one of those easy weeks where the characters have taken control and the action has flowed. The only moment of hardship was a touch of performance fright in the bedroom. Two of the main characters finally get it together. The last sex scene in the book, and it's been brewing for so long there's enormous pressure to make it good.
I think it's something I will have to revise in the edit, but it holds together for now.
After so long building up to an ending and worrying I won't get there, I'm now afraid that it's all about to happen too fast.
Still, I've clocked off and I have lots of things in my schedule for the weekend and the beginning of next week. I'm sure I'll figure it out on Monday.
As always, rough and unedited:
Evermore rose as Oskar entered, extending a hand at the end of which he found a cool, firm handshake. The man had changed since the day his church arrived. His dress seemed more elaborate, more expensive, yet also dated, as though attending a fancy dress ball. Oskar untangled himself from the lace sleeve and sat in the chair indicated.
“So, Mr. Dziedzic, you are an acquaintance of the lovely Miss Łucja Kosmaczewski?”
Oskar did not like the way he said lovely. It sounded like the sort of empty flattery rich men paid to people they hadn't given a second thought to all week. He knew Evermore’s type. There were enough of them in Poland.
“Yes, yes.” Oskar said, putting on his widest grin and pulling his chin inward. It was his stupid Pole impression, the one he used with his neighbours. The British, they looked at you one of two ways. When they thought you were clever, you were a threat, stealing their jobs and fucking their women. When they thought you were stupid, you were just an annoyance, someone to grumble about and occasionally swear at. He didn’t want Evermore to think he was smart.
“Well, it is delightful to make your acquaintance. Łucja tells me you are also a proficient of the building trade?”
“Yes, yes. For me, I was builder,” he said, shovelling on his accent so thickly he could barely understand himself. “Now, I rent house to builders, and me, I take easy life.”
“Easy, indeed.” Evermore sat back, his arms resting along those of the chair. His body appeared relaxed, but Oskar could see the intensity in his eyes. “So, what do you think of my grand scheme, Mr. Dziedzic? Do you approve?”
Oskar said that he approved very much. He complimented Lord Evermore on the size of his estate, his community spirit for opening it to the public, then fed him some bullshit line about running a landscape gardening business on the side.
“Many, many good workers,” he said, pulling in his chin and beaming. “Much experience with big house like yours. Cut grass, clean pond, grow flower. Whatever you need.”
“How fortuitous, we have recently lost a gardener.”
Oskar pulled a business card from his pocket. He’d had them specially made for the occasion. Years ago, before the UOP and the fall of the People’s Republic, back in the days of the communist regime, Oskar had worked for Esbecja, the Polish secret service. In those days he’d been good-looking, half a ton lighter with a thick mop of hair the colour of krówki. Women came easy to him, and he could charm his way through any door. Due to the disappointment of genetics, Oskar had been a man whose physical appeal had faded fast. In his youth he’d harboured dreams of being on the big screen, but when the Esbecja disbanded in 1989, he took the more realistic route into private security. It was through this line of work that he learned more about reading people than any of the jobs he’d undertaken in counter-espionage. When he could no longer get what he wanted with a simple smile, that’s when he had truly learnt to read people.
Because Oskar had spent so much of his career smiling, he always began with the smiles of others. Something about Evermore’s didn’t look right.
“So, you tell me,” Oskar said, trying to buy more time for Łucja, “how do you want garden to look for big day? You have old house, maybe you want old trees to go with it?”
“We do need two yew trees transported from Gumbleston.”
“Say no more, say no more. I get man to do it. How big the tree?”
Oskar was only half lying. If there was money involved, he could certainly find a man. About a year ago he’d met a Polish tree surgeon in a bar. Someone would know how to get hold of him.
As Evermore came to the end of his description, he changed the subject.
“I would appreciate it if you could take care of that. Now please, more about yourself. How did you come to England’s green shores?”
That’s when he knew it was time to leave. Not because he hadn’t thought up an entire backstory about a sick relative in Ashcourt, not having the money to get home, and, by the time he’d earned it, realising he’d adopted this country with its cold weather and warm beer. All of that was on the tip of his tongue, ready to weave a convincing yarn. No, it was that smile again. It hadn’t changed with the topic of conversation. Evermore had smiled at him just the same whilst talking about yew trees as he had when first greeting him, and whilst asking about his past. It was fałszywy uśmiech – a false smile.
In 1987, two years before he left the service, he’d been on a mission in Elbląg, a city to the far north. An Esbecja agent was suspected of selling secrets to the Americans, and surveillance suggested he was preparing to flee the country. Oskar and three fellow spooks had descended on the agent’s house, but when they got there, only his wife was home.
They decided to send Oskar in, so as not to cause her to panic. After all, he was the one with the handsome sweep of hair and the smile women went wild for. He’d be able to charm her into telling them where her husband was hiding.
She took him into the kitchen and made him a cup of tea. He told her he was a colleague of her husband's with some important, top-secret information to pass on. She told him that she hadn’t seen him in days and didn’t know when he would return. They sat and chatted about small things, the inconsequential minutia of day-to-day life.
She smiled at him the entire time.
It wasn’t until he felt the cold metal of the shotgun against the back of his head that he realised what that smile meant.
That smile was shorthand for you’re fucked.
If precisely translated, it meant: You’ve come here to con me, and I’ll sit here and pretend to be conned, whilst all the while I’m conning you.
She had simply been a distraction, pretending to play along with his game whilst her husband snuck up behind him. He would have blown Oskar’s brains out if it wasn’t for an exceedingly lucky shot by Piotr through the kitchen window. For nights afterwards he’d wake in a cold sweat, that woman’s smile sliding before his eyes.
Whereas Oskar was fairly certain Stanlake wasn’t about to creep up behind him with a shotgun, he felt that same sense of misdirection.
“Anyway,” he said, completing an abridged version of his fake life. “I must not talk all day. You have plenty things to do.”