The three passengers who stepped out with Wilder vanished among the barricades that lined the dimly lit corridors.
Each night Wilder slept through the few hours before dawn slumped in an armchair partly embedded in the barricade. He would hear her moving tirelessly around him, adding a small piece of furniture she had found somewhere, three books, a single gramophone record, her jewellery box.
Once Wilder woke to find that she had incorporated part of his left leg. Often it would take him half an hour to dig his way out of the apartment.
“Dicky, I know why you came to rescue me . . .” Mrs Hillman followed him around the barricade, still holding Wilder’s arm. “Will you punish them?”
This was another of their games. “Rescue” she visualized primarily in terms of making “them” — that is, all the residents in the high-rise below the 17th floor — eat humble pie and prostrate themselves in an endless line outside her front door.
Nodding eagerly at the prospect of revenge, Mrs Hillman reached into the barricade and pulled at a black metal pipe. As it emerged, Wilder saw that it was the barrel of a shotgun. Surprised, Wilder took the weapon from her hands. She was smiling encouragingly, as if expecting Wilder to go out into the corridor at that very moment and shoot someone dead.
At two o’clock Wilder left the Hillmans’ apartment and set about stirring up his neighbours. The men crouched together, clubs and spears in hand, hip-flasks of whisky pooled at their feet. The torch-beams illuminated the garbage-sacks piled high around them, a visible museum of their leavings. Wilder sat in the centre of the group, outlining his plans for another foraging expedition to the floors above.
Now that he was alone Wilder felt confident of his progress. His hunger was overlaid by his feelings of triumph at having climbed more than half-way up the high-rise. From the windows the ground below was barely visible, part of a world he had left behind. Somewhere above him, Anthony Royal was strutting about with his white Alsatian, unaware that he would soon be in for a surprise.
He gazed up amiably at the startled woman who stumbled into the kitchen and tripped across his legs. As she stared down at him, one hand nervously to her throat, Wilder remembered that she had once been called Charlotte Melville. The name had now detached itself from her, like an athlete’s tie-on numeral blown away in a gust of wind.
The first time he struck her, cuffing her to the bedroom floor, he tried to record her gasp, but the reel had jammed. He freed it carefully, bent down and slapped her again, only stopping when he had recorded her now deliberate cries to his satisfaction. He enjoyed terrorizing her, taping down her exaggerated but nonetheless frightened gasps.
Usually none of them would have replied to an outsider, but now they gathered in a group around the two policemen. Wilder wondered if they were going to give the game away, but although he could not hear them, he was certain that he knew what they were saying. Clearly they were pacifying the policemen, reassuring them that everything was in order, despite the garbage and broken bottles scattered around the building.
Man, I was wondering what had happened to the chapters, and I realized I just wasn’t checking on twitter, waiting for them on tumblr! I’m so sorry I haven’t been commenting! But I’m going to go through them now and make sure to leave comments on every one! As usual, you’re doing a fantastic job, and capturing the atmosphere perfectly!