Leave Means Leave Episode 12

Just one more to go after this…

The abused really are easy meat, but still I can never resist one. They’re so grateful for the attention, so thankful to have a companion who’s been through the same thing. All you need is a sympathetic yet slightly wounded expression – I only have to think about my childhood and up it comes – and there you are. Just worm your way into the ex-partner’s confidence, tell him you’ll get her back and you can play for as long as you like.

My therapist says I’m like a cat with a mouse, and I guess I do like the play more than the kill. Afterwards they’re no fun any more, but you can draw out the agony for as long as you like. I didn’t have to hold Anna prisoner – though I had taken the precaution of locking both doors – I just had to talk to her. It’s like making bread, the stage where you knock it back, except that instead of leaving the dough to rise again you knock it back some more and keep knocking until there’s nothing left, no yeast, no self-confidence, no will even to get up and walk out of the door. I had no doubt I could do it, even though she had a new-found confidence which in spite of my efforts, I had so far failed to dent. This shortcoming had to be rectified, and soon. So I began. ‘You think they took you on here for your ability?’ I said. ‘I heard one of them talking about you. Poor Anna, she was saying, it’s such a pity she’s only a makeweight. But we have to do something about the gender balance.’

Of course she didn’t believe me. Her tutor had given her a good report, etc etc. Well of course he did, I said, he wants you in the department. But not for your brains, doofus! He wants you there because they’ve been ticked off about not recruiting enough women. Last year they rejected all but one of the female candidates and got their knuckles thoroughly rapped. I could see she was rattled, so I twisted the knife. Anyway, I said, I think he fancies you. Oh, I’m sure he hasn’t made a move yet, but wait till you get your feet properly under the table. He will then.

Of course at that she got up and tried to leave, but as I said I’d locked both doors. No good screaming, I said, there’s no-one out here. I’m the only person staying in this block and outside there’s only the bins. But scream if you like, I don’t mind.

She paced up and down for a bit, then sat with her arms folded. I was only just getting started; my next line of attack was the subject itself. I don’t know squat about physics but like I say, I can talk the talk so I started in with some subtle questioning. She knew her stuff; the trick would be to make her doubt what she knew. He’d laid the ground-work, all I had to do was build on it. Introduce doubt. After a while she grew silent and I could see it was working so I gave her a sympathetic smile and got up to make some more tea. This time I added biscuits as well; it’s hard work being the good cop as well as the bad cop but it’s always the most effective way.

‘If you’re trying to get me to go back to him,’ she said, ‘you’re wasting your time.’

Him? I said, I don’t give a toss about him. He can go to hell for all I care. Anyway, last I heard he was up on a charge of assaulting a minor. He’s bad news Anna – you should stay away from him.

‘So what do you want?’ Her voice was a bit trembly now: good.

Nothing, I said, just to talk. Biscuit?

I could tell she wanted one and sure enough she took it, dunked and ate it and then did the same with two more. She must be hungry.


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