‘I can’t help it. I can’t think straight when I’m near you.’ She slid her hand down his boxers. ‘I’ll pay you back as soon as possible. I promise.’
‘Here.’ Ed reached over for a business card, and took a step backwards. ‘That’s the name of the company. And do this. I promise it’ll help. Can’t have you feeling hemmed in!’
He smothered the warning voice in his head. His faux cheer bounced off the apartment walls.
Ed answered almost all of her emails afterwards. He was cheerful, non-committal. He said how good it was to have spent time with someone who understood how weird it was just to have got out of a serious relationship, how important it was to spend time by yourself. She didn’t answer that one. Oddly, she said nothing specific about the product launch or that the stock had gone through the roof. She would have made more than £100,000. Perhaps she was busy sticking pins into a picture of him. Perhaps she had lost the cheque. Perhaps she was in Guadeloupe. Every time he thought about what he had done his stomach lurched. He tried not to think about it.
He changed his mobile-phone number, telling himself it was an accident that he forgot to let her know. Eventually her emails tailed off. Two months passed. He took Ronan on a couple of nights out and they moaned about the Suits; Ed listened to Ronan as he weighed up the pros and cons of the not-for-profit soup girl and felt he’d learned a valuable lesson. Or dodged a bullet. He wasn’t sure which.
And then, two weeks after the SFAX launch, he had been lying down in the creatives’ room, idly throwing a foam ball at the ceiling and listening to Ronan discuss how best to solve a glitch in the payment software when Sidney, the finance director, had walked in and he had suddenly understood that there were far worse problems you could create for yourself than overly clingy girlfriends.
A short pause.
‘That’s how you answer a phone call? Seriously? At what age exactly are you going to acquire some social skills?’
‘Hi, Gemma.’ Ed sighed, and swung his leg over the bed so that he was seated.
‘You said you were going to call. A week ago. So I thought, you know, that you must be trapped under a large piece of furniture.’
He looked around the bedroom. At the suit jacket that hung over the chair. At the clock, which told him it was a quarter past seven. He rubbed the back of his neck. ‘Yeah. Well. Things came up.’
‘I called your work. They said you were at home. Are you ill?’
‘No, I’m not ill, just … working on something.’
‘So does that mean you’ll have some time to come and see Dad?’
He closed his eyes. ‘I’m kind of busy right now.’
Her silence was weighty. He pictured his sister at the other end of the line, her jaw set, her eyes raised to Heaven.
‘He’s asking for you. He’s been asking for you for ages.’
‘I will come, Gem. Just … I’m … I’m out of town. I have some stuff to sort out.’
‘We all have stuff to sort out. Just call him, okay? Even if you can’t actually get into one of your eighteen luxury cars to visit. Call him. He’s been moved to Victoria Ward. They’ll pass the phone to him if you call.’
He thought she was about to ring off, but she didn’t. He heard a small sigh.
‘I’m pretty tired, Ed. My supervisors are not being very helpful about me taking time off. So I’m having to go up there every weekend. Mum’s just about holding it together. I could really, really do with a bit of back-up here.’
He felt a pang of guilt. His sister was not a complainer. ‘I’ve told you I’ll try and get there.’
‘You said that last week. Look, you could drive there in four hours.’
‘I’m not in London.’
‘Where are you?’
He looked out of the window at the darkening sky. ‘The south coast.’
‘You’re on holiday?’
‘Not holiday. It’s complicated.’
‘It can’t be that complicated. You have zero commitments.’
‘Yeah. Thanks for reminding me.’
‘Oh, come on. It’s your company. You get to make the rules, right? Just grant yourself an extra two weeks’ holiday. Be the Kim Jong-un of your company. Dictate!’
Another long silence.
‘You’re being weird,’ she said finally.
Ed took a deep breath before he spoke. ‘I’ll sort something. I promise.’
‘Okay. And ring Mum.’
There was a click as the line went dead.
Ed stared at the phone for a moment, then dialled his lawyer’s office. The phone went straight through to the answering machine.
The investigating officers had pulled out every drawer in the apartment. They hadn’t tossed it all out, like they did in the movies, but had gone through it methodically, wearing gloves, checking between the folds of T-shirts, going through every file. Both his laptops had been removed, his memory sticks and his two phones. He had had to sign for it all, as if this was being done for his own benefit. ‘Get out of town, Ed,’ his lawyer had told him. ‘Just go and try not to think too much. I’ll call you if I need you to come in.’
They had searched this place too, apparently. There was so little stuff here it had taken them less than an hour.