He closed his eyes. See? he told Bunny. No gun. But Bunny was bored as usual, urging him to have his pleasure and leave her in peace, so instead he addressed the Bench, a thing he hadn't done for thirty years:
My Lord, it is my pleasant duty to advise the Court that the matter of Winser versus Hoban has been amicably resolved. Winser accepts that he was mistaken in suggesting that Hoban brandished a gun during a site conference in the southern Turkish hills. Hoban in return has provided a full and satisfactory explanation of his actions...
And after that, out of habit or respect, he addressed his chairman, managing director and Svengali for the last twenty years, the eponymous founder and creator of the House of Single, the one and only Tiger Single himself:
It's Winser here, Tiger. Very well indeed, thank you, sit, and how about your good self? Delighted to hear it. Yes, I think I can say that everything is exactly as you wisely predicted, and the response to date has been entirely satisfactory. Only one small thing -- water under the bridge now -- not a breakpoint -- our client's man Hoban gave the impression of drawing a gun on me. Nothing in it, all a fantasy, but one does like to be forewarned...
Even when he opened his eyes and saw the gun exactly where it had been before, and Hoban's childlike eyes contemplating him down its barrel, and his child's hairless forefinger crooked round the trigger, Winser did not abandon the remnants of his legal position. Very well, this gun exists as an object, but not as a gun. It is a joke gun. An amusing, harmless, practical joke. Hoban purchased it for his small son. It is a facsimile of a gun, and Hoban, in order to introduce some light relief into what for a young man has no doubt been a lengthy and tedious negotiation, is flourishing it as a prank. Through numb lips, Winser contrived a species of jaunty smile in keeping with his newest theory.
"Well, that's a persuasive argument, I must say, Mr. Hoban," he declared bravely. "What do you want me to do? Waive our fee?"
But in reply he heard only a hammering of coffin makers, which he hastily converted to the clatter of builders in the little tourist port across the bay as they fixed shutters and roof tiles and pipes in a last-minute rush to make ready for the season after playing backgammon all winter. In his longing for normality, Winser savored the smells of paint stripper, blowtorches, fish cooking on charcoal, the spices of street vendors, and all the other lovely and less lovely scents of Mediterranean Turkey. Hoban barked something in Russian to his colleagues. Winser heard a scramble of feet behind him but dared not turn his head. Hands yanked his jacket from his back, others explored his body, armpits, ribs, spine, groin. Memories of more acceptable hands provided no solace as those of his assailants groped their way downward to his calves and ankles, searching for a secret weapon. Winser had never carried a weapon in his life, secret or otherwise, unless it was his cherrywood walking stick to fend off rabid dogs and sex maniacs when he was taking a turn on Hampstead Heath to admire the lady joggers.
Reluctantly he remembered Hoban's too many hangers-on. Seduced by the gun, he had briefly imagined it was just Hoban and himself alone here on the hilltop, face-to-face and nobody in earshot, a situation any lawyer expects to use to his advantage. He now conceded that ever since they had left Istanbul, Hoban had been attended by a gaggle of unappetizing advisers. A Signor d'Emilio and a Monsieur François had joined them on their departure from Istanbul airport, coats over their shoulders, no arms showing. Winser had cared for neither man. Two more undesirables had been waiting for them at Dalaman, equipped with their own hearse-black Land Rover and driver. From Germany, Hoban had explained, introducing the pair, though not by name. From Germany they might be, but in Winser's hearing they spoke only Turkish and they wore the undertaker suits of country Turks on business.
Copyright © 1999 by David Cornwell. Reproduced with permission of the publisher.
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