The three suitcases he had packed that morning stood ready in the hall. Royal stared down at them, for a moment hoping that they belonged to someone else. The cases had never been used, and the prominent part they would soon play in his personal Dunkirk only rubbed in the humiliation.
Royal had gone to immense care in the choice of wall surfaces, now covered by thousands of aerosolled obscenities. It was stupid of him, perhaps, but it was difficult not to take them personally, particularly as he was only too aware of his neighbours’ hostility towards him — the chromium cane and white Alsatian were no longer theatrical props.
Curious to see how she was getting on with her packing, Royal walked into his wife’s bedroom. Two wardrobe trunks, and a selection of small and large suitcases, jewellery boxes and vanity cases lay open on the floor and dressing-table like a luggage store display. Anne was packing, or unpacking, one of the cases in front of the dressing-table mirror.
“Anne, we’re _leaving_ . . .” “At last — and why has no one called the police? Or complained to the owners?” “We are the owners.” Royal turned his head away from her, his smile of affection stiffening.
As the first tenant, and owner of the best and highest apartment, he felt himself to be lord of the manor — borrowing a phrase he disliked from Anne’s rule book.
The effect of all this on his neighbours interested Royal, and particularly on those mavericks such as Richard Wilder, who would set out to climb Everest equipped with nothing more than a sense of irritation that the mountain was larger than himself”
Anne waited while he stood in the deserted corridor. There was a continuous sullen murmur from the lower levels carried up the elevator shafts. She pointed to Royal’s three suitcases. “Is that all you’re taking?”
The 10th-floor swimming-pool was a half-empty pit of yellowing water and floating debris. One of the squash courts had been locked, and the other three were filled with garbage and broken classroom furniture.
In the absence of the manager — still lying in a state of mental collapse in his ground-floor apartment — his dwindling staff of two (the wives of a dubbing-mixer on the 2nd floor and a first violinist on the 3rd) sat stoically at their desks in the entrance lobby, oblivious of the deterioration going on apace over their heads.
“Anne — are you coming or going?” Royal asked. “We hardly stand a chance of making it tonight.” Anne gestured helplessly at the half-filled cases. “It’s the air-conditioning — I can’t think.” “You won’t get out now even if you want to,” Jane told her. “We’re marooned here, as far as I can see. All the elevators have been commandeered by other floors.”
Royal noticed that the plug of her bedside telephone had been pulled from its socket, and the cable neatly wrapped around the receiver. As he walked around the apartment before going to search for the dog, he saw that the three other external telephones, in the hall, drawing-room and kitchen, had also been disconnected. Royal realized why they had received no outside calls during the previous week, and felt a distinct sense of security at knowing that they would receive none in the future. Already he guessed that, for all their expressed intentions, they would not be leaving either the following morning or any other.