Dan’s heart sank when he saw Max on Wednesday morning. Until now the German had always looked smart, despite all his problems, but now his clothes were crumpled, stubble was starting to shade his chin, and his hair was uncombed.
“Poor man,” thought Dan. “That afternoon off didn’t help him relax at all. Should I tell him to stay at home for the rest of the week too?”
He walked over towards Max’s desk and asked, “Max, are you sure you’re up to working today?”
Max looked up at him, and Dan was surprised to see a determined twinkle in his eyes, one that hadn’t been there since this business had started.
“Yes, my friend. My troubles are now over.”
“Over? What do you mean?”
“It’s hard to explain, but I won’t be worrying about that Diane any more.”
“But how can you be sure?”
“I can’t explain, but I am sure.”
“You don’t look it.”
“I know, but it’s nothing. There weren’t any mirrors there…” Max’s voice trailed off.
Dan shrugged. Maybe work would be better for Max than sitting in an empty house. “Ok, but no more silly mistakes on the manifests. Right?”
“Don’t worry,” smiled Max.
Dan continued to keep an eye on Max through the day, but there were no obvious problems. Max knew Dan was doing it, of course, but he didn’t let it bother him. He was too happy that he’d finally managed to solve his problems with Diane. He couldn’t imagine what had possessed him to make such a strange deal with her, and he felt uncomfortable about what had happened between them the night before. But at least she had promised not to interfere any more.
How was he going to tell Becky though? She wouldn’t believe the truth about Diane, and she mustn’t know what had happened between the two of them last night. It wasn’t until he was standing on the train home that Max decided what to do.
He’d phone Becky, of course – he had been meaning to phone her all this time, but with all the confusion he had let it slip his mind. He’d phone Becky, and tell her that there’d been no sign of Diane in all that time. Maybe that would make Becky feel safe enough to return home?
He wished he still had his mobile so he could call her straight away, but he’d got rid of it after Diane had kept on making calls to it, back in the spring. Now he’d be able to get another one without any worries. He smiled to himself as he walked from the station to his house.
He let himself in, and through habit almost started up the stairs to get changed. No, that could wait – although he knew he needed it – first he’d phone Becky and tell her the good news. He went into the living room picked up the phone.
“Hello, Jim? It’s Max here… Yes, I’m fine. And you?… Is Becky there? Thanks.”
A few seconds later her voice came on the line. “Max, how are you? How’s everything there?”
“Everything’s fine, Becky. What about you?”
“Oh, I’d been so worried when you didn’t phone. But you’re sure everything’s Ok?”
“Ja. That’s what I’m phoning to tell you. You can come…” He stopped suddenly as the living room door opened and a familiar, but invisible, figure strolled in.
“Nein. Not now.”
“What was that?” asked Becky.
Max didn’t reply. He was too stunned, staring at Diane who was parading around in a pair of faded orange jeans, and a baggy grey sweatshirt. There was something familiar about them.
“What about my clothes? And why did…?”
“Er, you can come to collect them, but not now. At the weekend.”
“Ok, but you said…”
Becky was cut off as Diane’s sleeve reached towards the telephone cradle, which was moved down beneath unseen fingers.
“Don’t waste your time trying to explain things. She wouldn’t believe the truth anyway, and she’d know if you were lying.”
“How did you get in here?” asked Max.
“Please, I’ve been coming and going for months. You must have noticed, by now.”
“But the door was locked.”
“I had a key copied ages ago. I kept it hidden in my mouth on my way over here. That way no-one got suspicious when they see it floating through the air. ”
“But what are you doing here, anyway? We had a deal, remember?”
but just because I can’t love you any more, doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.”
“Friends?” Max tried to imagine inviting her to a party or a barbecue, and turning it into a freak show. He shook his head.
When he looked up again, the clothes were walking past him again, heading for the kitchen door. Looking at her from behind, Max couldn’t help notice that they fitted Diane much better than they had Becky. In fact, Becky hadn’t worn those items for some time, and they were now a little bit too small for her. But they fitted Diane perfectly, which made Max think what an attractive figure she would have had if she’d been visible.
No! He shouldn’t have been thinking like that. There could never be anything attractive about this unnatural, unreal woman, could there? He had to remember that, no matter what else happened. Unfortunately the woman in question was very much real, and entering his kitchen.
Max reluctantly got out of his chair and started to follow her. There was no way he’d risk letting her out of – he smiled, despite himself – out of his sight.
Continue to chapter seven