An odd thing occurs after an explosion. The sound of the detonation is so loud that those nearby experience a temporary loss of hearing. All is silence, followed by a ringing in the ears. As the waitress announced, in a loud voice suitable for a determined auctioneer, that my card had been denied, I experienced temporary hearing loss. This was an explosion and I was a helpless yet fashionable passerby. All was silence. Lips were moving. Diners were busy attacking food with their cutlery. Martinis were being stirred, not shaken, which, I might add, is the proper way. I could not hear a sound.
Then the ringing came through. Subtle at first, it steadily grew. It grew like a crescendo until suddenly I could hear the bells of Saint-Paul’s marking the hour in the distance and Ypres’s monotone voice. She was reassuring the waitress that I only needed a moment to process the information through.
Shocked though I was, I maintained a calm allure. I was all composure when I interrogated the waitress.
“Are you sure? Perhaps your device is faulty,” I casually dropped, checking my fingernails.
“I am positive, madam.”
“Could you please check again? There must be a mistake. I am on a solid financial footing. You see I am an independent woman. I do not mean to boast, but I am comfortable enough to employ a top of the line lady’s assistant. The one with the decidedly stern face of a captain at sea sitting opposite me.”
The waitress gave a careful nod to Ypres.
“I am afraid the problem is not on my side. Your card has been denied for lack of funds.”
“There must be a misunderstanding. Perhaps an accounting fault with your financial apparatus. You see, as well as having a handsome allowance from my Uncle Edward, I have a strong cash flow from my conundrum consultancy. I am also an author. Have you read A Mayfair Conundrum by any chance?”
“Is that the one with the dog that eats its owner?”
“No, it is not. You must read it. It is a highly successful book. How many copies of A Mayfair Conundrum have sold, Ypres? You can stick to the nearest thousand, no need for precision into the single digits.”
Ypres came up with the required statistic in a flash.
“You see,” I resumed nonchalantly at the waitress, “I have sold five thousand copies, which I gather is an honourable number for a debut book, as it were. Granted, Ypres probably only gave me the figures for England. Once you add up the rest of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, the United States, and I assume the odd German translation, the numbers are much higher. Aren’t they, Ypres?”
Ypres cleared her throat.
“Actually, Vasa, A Mayfair Conundrum has sold five copies in total. This includes the two volumes you purchased for…”
I interrupted Ypres. Obviously she was delirious. As I gave her a mild variation of the stink eye, the waitress insisted on pressing the matter of the check. She was rather frank in her approach.
“Are you going to pay?”
“Absolutely. I simply do not have ready cash on me right now. Perhaps I could come back this afternoon?”
“I’m sorry, madam. We have a new policy. We no longer do that. A few weeks ago some sort of umbrella insurer came in with his short-skirted daughters, or so he claimed they were his daughters. Anyway, he jumped on the bill. His name started with a ‘v’. Vapid, I think?”
“Vasa,” Ypres chimed in.
“That’s it, Edward Vasa! Do you know him?”
The conservation was going nowhere and giving me a headache. I informed Ypres and asked for an aspirin.
“Perhaps you would like to take it with some water in the ladies room.”
“I’m perfectly capable of taking it here, Ypres. If only our waitress would simply refill my glass of water.” I shot the waitress a look reminiscent of the one chatelaines reserve for tradesmen trudging on their new carpets. Ypres insisted. I scurried into the ladies.
I ingested the aspirin Ypres gave me. I was touching up my lipstick, thinking of how to get out of this situation, when Ypres showed up as I was mid bottom lip. She had a knife in her hand.
Of course, when a salmon-faced acquaintance, no matter how composed, shows up with a knife and an air of determination one starts asking questions. Questions soon lead to nerves when the acquaintance in person starts to approach you. Nerves evaporate and give way to screams when the knife, no doubt used to a tranquil existence of cutting through the odd pie or vegetable, is raised.
“It is the only way.”
I shut my eyes and braced for impact. This, I was convinced, was the end.
In those fleeting instants I imagined what a cruel loss to the world I would be. The fashion world would be beside itself at the loss of an icon. The literary world would morn a titan. A special edition of Vogue would be rushed to the printers for circulation. Sorrow would fill the Commonwealth. The citizens of London, deflated by grief, would unite in a heartfelt demand that a sculpted likeness be installed in Trafalgar Square. My graceful cadaver would be entombed in Westminster Abbey amid the tears of the many and the jealous rage of the few. My casket, Dior, of course, would be gently ushered to the cold ground as Adele debuted an original composition in my honour.
I was just debating whether it was best to be entombed next to Isaac Newton or Charles Darwin when I opened my eyes and realised Ypres was no longer before me. I was all in one piece. I turned round to see her busy using the knife she held in her hand on a door marked with a warning sign. With the twist of a wrist she unlocked it and revealed a stairwell.
“I believe this should discreetly lead us to street level. Carter Lane I believe.”
I removed a speck of dust from my sleeve before addressing Ypres.
“You know, Ypres, in future it would help if you shared your plans with me. Communication is important. Especially when knives are involved. Also, I could not help but notice that you had a slight grin on your face as you approached me with that knife. The inattentive observer would probably not have noticed it, being about three millimetres high, but I did.”
I heard footsteps coming from the restaurant’s dining room. “Right ho, that’s our cue.” Ypres and I (or is it Ypres and me?) ran down the staircase in a rapid yet artful way. Of course, being ladies, we closed the door behind us.
Chapter IV will be published Monday, 3 October 2016, at 12:00 EST 17:00 GMT. Vasa and Ypres’s first full-length adventure, Vasa and Ypres: A Mayfair Conundrum, is available on Amazon. If you enjoy Vasa and Ypres, please share on social media. Vasa and Ypres is on Twitter. You can also join over 1110 WordPress followers.