Your Loss, pt. 11

1940's airport

The beginning of the story

One day in London turned into Petra and Robert replaying the good parts of Niagara Falls. The first two days were spent fasting, and nearly dehydrating, in their hotel room. On the third day Petra and Robert ventured out, finding their way to a restaurant, and then to a racetrack, somewhere Petra could place a bet. It could have been anywhere, but Robert did love the horses. They got his heart racing in a way that nothing else could with the exception of the roulette table. Petra went along with it without much to say. She could live without gambling for once– the entire escapade a gamble, whether they lived or died, together or alone.

 

But there was another facet to this shiny gem called London  that appealed to her–Petra in an outrageous new hat with an ostrich feather, and a new dress that showed off her legs in spectator pumps. She was in her element and it cheered her up, temporarily putting out of her head that she was nearly murdered by her husband 4 days ago. She felt pretty and admired, and she made Robert look good in public. She did not look at anyone but him and stood close, holding onto his arm.

He left her on the fourth race to place a bet and she realized that it was her first moment alone since Monaco. She felt vulnerable and it surprised her. She smoked from her ostentatious-ly long cigarette filter and watched the ponies run. When Robert returned, his lips were at her ear, trying to tell her something that she could barely hear for the crowd.

“…saw me….two dollar line….Shifty….now….go now…”
Petra put all the pieces together and turned to leave with Robert without another word, holding his arm fast and tripping off after him, heels clicking along cement, then polished wood, then asphalt, hailing a taxi and taking off. When she started to speak in the cab he put a finger to her lips and she waited. He wouldn’t trust even the driver.

At the hotel, he took her arm near her elbow and guided her into the lobby, whispering to her to fake illness. She would not have to try hard to look pale. She was frightened they wouldn’t make it out of London. Shifty was Charles’ right arm. He would know very soon where to find them. Perhaps not the hotel yet, but all of England was not big enough for them to hide in. It was just a matter of time.

In the room, Robert packed two bags quickly, one for each of them. They would go without checking out of the hotel, being sure not to leave anything with a name on it. At the last moment, Petra scooped up Robert’s engraved cigarette case and pocketed it, then followed him out into the corridor. Soon they were in the lobby, then to the street, then on their way to the airport with more questions than answers. The running was exhilarating in a way that she had felt with Charles when they were running from the law, and beating it. She had never expected to feel that way with Robert. She always considered him too easy of a mark, easy to dupe, and easy to let go of. Now, everything was changed. Now she thought about a possibility of a life with him. It never occurred to her that the excitement was all due to her, to Charles and their selfish lives. She never considered that living with a man like Robert would be markedly peaceful and a good deal slower than this wild chase they were in the middle of.

Robert looked up at the board and considered which was smarter–to get out of London as fast as possible, or to wait until they could fly without a hop, and not take a chance at another destination where Perkins could find them. His thoughts were twisted. Women could mess up the smartest man, and make him question everything, even what suit he was wearing. In this case, in a suit that couldn’t be more rumpled, he couldn’t stop thinking about New York, and waiting for the moment when she went to buy a pack of cigarettes and did not come back.

There was a non-stop flight from London to Rio de Janeiro. From there they could go on to Buenos Aires, as soon as he was sure it was safe. He had a friend there. Robert looked over his shoulder. He looked at the board. His eyes settled on Petra. She was very quiet. Could she be afraid? This was new. “There is a flight to Lisbon in the morning,” he said.

Petra nodded and took his hand. It was easy to let him run this. It was new to trust someone. But she didn’t have his skills to travel on the fly. Friends had always helped her before. And Perkins, of course. It was his skills they had to keep in mind as they ran fast and far.

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