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Stephen Collicoat

Charles Peterson was insistent. 'You must come to lunch with me,' he boomed down the phone. 'I've found this fantastic little place in Richmond. Brilliant cooking.'

'I'm not sure I'll be free,' Pat Hanrahan countered doubtfully.

'Of course you're free,' Petersen laughed. 'I've already checked with your secretary. Your next appointment's at three. Plenty of time for us to check out ''Fusion".'


'The place I'm taking you. For Heaven's sake Pat, pay attention. Sometimes I don't know why I bother. It's a great spot. Just opened to rave reviews. You must have read about it.'

'No. I missed that,' Pat replied dryly.

'Toby Mackinnon. Surely, the name means something to you?' Hearing only silence he persisted. 'Brilliant cook. Served in some of the best places in Sydney. You name it: 'Rockpool', 'Bather's Pavilion', 'Red Lantern'. Now
he's set up his own place in Melbourne. Third week he's open. First two weeks you couldn't get in. Queue a mile long. Now there's a few spare tables. A bit more civilised than all snouts in the trough. I can't believe you don't know any of this.'

'You're the foodie. Not me.'

'That's certainly true. In a city world famous for its eateries, you never go out to lunch. Believe me, mine is the best offer you'll get all day.'

Sensing Pat was still reluctant, he added slyly, 'Besides, we can discuss the Persimmon account.' Pat and Charles both worked for large firms. Charles was a partner in one of the major city accountancy firms, while Pat was a senior officer at an internationally renowned audit company. Charles helped prepare the balance sheets for the giant rural conglomerate Persimmon Holdings while Pat audited the accounts. Both men respected each other as professionals. While they would never be close friends, and indeed strictly shouldn't be given their need to be professionally independent, Charles believed Pat was a shrivelled old stick and saw it as his personal mission
to occasionally lift him out of himself. 'What's that old joke,' he was fond of saying. 'An auditor's someone who found he couldn't hack the excitement of being an accountant. You and I have dull professions. We owe it to ourselves to plunge into life outside work.'

Mention of their mutual client did the trick and shortly after noon, the two men stood outside Charles' office in Queen Street looking for a cab. 'It's getting more hectic each day,' Charles grumbled, looking up and down the crowded street. 'Look, here's one. No, bugger it, that's been taken. Ah, got one! Come here, my little beauty.'

He paused, his hand on the door handle. 'That's odd. That woman. See the one I mean? Quite a stunner. She's waving at us. Wouldn't be for me, worst luck. Must be someone you know.'

'No, let's go,' Pat replied shortly.

'But you haven't even looked.'

'Do you blokes want a taxi or not?' the driver demanded. 'I'll cop a fine if I stay here double parked.' As though in noisy agreement a chorus of horns rose from the cars blocked behind.

'Okay, keep your hair on sport,' Charles said clambering into the cab, followed by Pat. The taxi lurched off angrily. Charles squirmed around looking out the rear window. 'Look, she's still there. Still waving. Are you sure you didn't know her?'

'Can we talk about something else?'

25 minutes later, Charles dabbed his mouth with the linen serviette. 'That was delicious,' he sighed. 'How was your appetiser?'


While Pat had seemed tense in the taxi, his mood had relaxed. 'Now for the main course,' Charles said. He paused, his wineglass halfway to his lips, looking over Pat's shoulder. 'Well, that's odd,' he said.


'The woman that was waving to you before has just come in. The waiter's given her a table by herself.'

There was no mistaking Pat's annoyance. 'Damn,' he cursed. 'She must have followed us in another taxi. Been hanging around outside watching.'

'But who is this woman?'

'Hold on,' Pat said reluctantly, pushing back from the table. 'I'll sort it out.' He walked across to the woman who looked up with an anxious smile. Pat leant over and began softly talking to her. He drew a chair up to her table and took her hand, speaking in a soft and persuasive voice. There was no mistaking his tenderness, yet there was also an air of sadness about the couple. After a while, the woman who had said little stood up, kissed his cheek and walked out of the restaurant. Pat followed and Charles saw him hailing a taxi. The woman got into the taxi and left. Pat returned to his table, but didn't offer an explanation. Although he was pleasant, Pat seemed distracted and Charles was secretly relieved when the lunch finished.

At around 6.30 that evening, Charles was in his office when the Managing Partner, Stewart Appleford walked in. 'Working late again?' Stewart asked, sitting down.

'No, this is an early night. I'm finishing off now.'

'How did your lunch with Pat Hanrahan go? Does he have any problems with the Persimmon accounts?'

'Not really. You know what an old woman he is. Every year he's on my case looking for the final figures and every year I remind him that their accounts people have difficulty getting all the data from the many branches. Pat's niggling and my hosing him down is an annual ritual.'

'So we're on track for the Board meeting on the 14th?

'Absolutely.' Charles smiled. 'Tell me, you know Pat better than I. Is he having an affair?'

Stewart laughed. 'Pat? You must be joking. What an extraordinary suggestion! He adores his wife. What made you say that?'

Charles explained his two sightings of the woman. Stewart asked him to describe her. Then he nodded in relief. 'Oh, that's Joy, Pat's wife.'

'His wife?' Charles was astonished. 'Then why on earth did he try to ignore her when he saw her and then sent her away in the restaurant? Surely, it would have been easier to introduce her. She looked charming.'

Stewart appeared uncomfortable. He went across and shut the door before returning to his seat. 'Pat had a good reason not to introduce Joy,' Stewart said. 'Look, I hate talking about someone's personal life. May I ask you to never tell anyone what I'm going to say?'

'You know I'm not a gossip,' Charles bristled.

'Yes, yes I know, but this is a bit embarrassing. Pat tries as much as he can to keep Joy in the background. He was protecting you as well as himself today.'

'Protecting me from his wife? That's weird.'

'Not really. Joy is, how can I put it, unstable. Well, it's actually much more than that. She's a very disturbed woman.'

'She looked perfectly normal to me. I envy him having such a beautiful partner. Pat's the last person I would have imagined with a class act like that.'

'Well, he understands her very well and they love each other, though she must often be hell to live with.'

'What's her problem?'

'There's a term for it: BPD- Borderline Personality Disorder. I know it sounds like psychobabble, but it's a very real and horrible condition. Most of the time, the victim is perfectly normal, even charming, but suffers unpredictable moods of suicidal depression or uncontrollable rage.

'I heard on the grapevine that Joy and Pat went to a restaurant some years ago. It was a very nice place run by some Italians I know. The couple seemed really happy and relaxed. Joy asked the waiter to explain some item on the menu. He bent over and Joy started up and bit off his ear.'

'What a horrible thing to do!' Charles shuddered. 'Why would she do that?'

Stewart shrugged, 'Who can tell? There's often no rational explanation. Something triggers off a reaction and she instantly turns violent. Medication doesn't seem to help, because most of the time the victim is sane.'

'And the waiter? Poor bastard!'

He was rushed to St. Vincents where they were able to sew his ear back on. As you can imagine, he wanted to sue for assault but was finally talked out it. It cost Pat a packet to hush it up. That wasn't the only case, but you
get the drift.

'I was at dinner with them once. It was a very pleasant meal, but then Joy took it into her head that I was flirting with her, and began abusing me with the filthiest language you've ever heard. She was like a demon. In fact, it's thought that in the past a number of people "possessed by the Devil" were probably suffering from BPD. The next day, Joy apologised to me. She was really ashamed. I said everything was fine, but I haven't been to their house since and I never will. So please, never mention this to anyone else and I'd rather we didn't talk about Joy again.'

At the same time the two men were discussing them, Pat and Joy were relaxing over drinks in their lounge room. The older Pat grew, the more he detested the constriction of a suit and tie. Charles would have been astonished to
see Pat in his faded T-shirt and pull-on slacks smiling as he settled down on the couch with Joy. She handed him a frosted drink. 'Your martini, Mr. Bond,' she purred. 'As requested: shaken, not stirred.' Pat sipped the drink. 'Perfect!' he sighed.

It was one of a thousand funny, sentimental and, to an outsider quite absurd, rituals that long and happily married couples develop.

'How was your lunch?' she asked. 'The menu looked wonderful, or rather what
I saw of it before you hustled me out.'

'Actually, I found it a bit rich. I've slight indigestion. I'm sorry about today, but as I said, it was a business meeting.'

'I know. I'm only teasing. I know why you didn't want to introduce me, but I have been good for a long while, haven't I? Business is business and I never interfere.'

Pat wondered if she had already forgotten that she insisted he get another secretary after meeting Rosemary Barrow one day at the office. A far older and less attractive replacement had finally been found and Rosemary was now working for another executive. Unfortunately, the replacement was not nearly as efficient as the original, but the tension of keeping Rosemary, who he liked but to whom he wasn't in the slightest attracted, would have been

'So what did you do when you got home?'

'Actually, I had a bit of a cry.'

'I see.' Pat said bleakly.

'You know what I'm like. Sometimes, I feel so empty is as though I'm the only person still alive on Earth. I tell myself I have so many blessings, but it doesn't seem to help. Anyway,' she said smiling bravely. 'That was then. I'm fine now as you can see. Would you like another drink?'

'Oh, that reminds me.' Pat stood up and went into the bedroom. He came back bearing a bottle.

'French champagne! Mo?t. My favorite. I'll put it in the freezer for a quick chill. What's the occasion?'

'Just to say I love you.'

'You're not up to anything are you?'

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