A train carriage.
Agent Marshall sits opposite Emerald. They are alone.
EMERALD What did you do when you arrived?
MARSHALL I went for a walk around the town.
MARSHALL Down the main street.
EMERALD The main street?
MARSHALL Le Rue St. Vincent
EMERALD How far did you walk?
MARSHALL As far as the local aquatics museum.
MARSHALL Unfortunately the main exhibition was closed due to maintenance so I went and had a coffee in the neighbouring cafe. Espresso.
EMERALD Excellent. Then what?
MARSHALL I wandered over to a local market. I’d heard they take place every Thursday and Saturday.
EMERALD Did you buy anything?
MARSHALL Yes. A cheese.
EMERALD Which one?
MARSHALL It was a Gloucester.
EMERALD In northern France?
MARSHAL It was a Gruyere.
MARSHALL It came wrapped in wax paper by hand and sealed with the customary wax stamp of the cheesemonger.
EMERALD What was the stamp?
MARSHALL Two lions. Eating cheese?
MARSHALL It was two lions climbing a pear tree. The town is renowned for having two fortified naval ports and for its succulent juicy pears. The lions wore crowns to indicate that the local grocers collective was once hired by Royal Appointment under King Charles II.
EMERALD Good. Very good. Did you meet anyone in town?
MARSHALL Yes. A girl. 21. She was German. A student on holiday. We shared a taxi back from town. It was late afternoon and there weren’t many taxis. Plus it looked like it might rain.
EMERALD Did it?
MARSHALL No, it hasn’t rained in the region for 61 days. She said she was travelling to get over a relationship. Her ex boyfriend is studying furniture design in Dusseldorf. They’d been together for three years but he chose to call an end to it in order to concentrate on his studies. She was an English student and had recently decided to move to London for her final year. She has a cousin who lives in Tufnell Park. They’re not that close but the cousin owes her family a favour after his mother had a nervous breakdown when he was young and he was taken in by Elise’s family along with his two sisters.
MARSHALL Elise. That’s her name. They stayed with Elise’s family for six months before social services could relocate them. Now he’s a London resident and has extended an invite of hospitality to her. She plans to live there for three months, or until she secures work teaching English and can afford her own rent. But not before her Interrailing pass has expired, which it does in five weeks. She was staying at the Place De Lise Hotel about twenty minutes’ drive out of town.
EMERALD Did you stay there with her?
MARSHALL I was tempted but unfortunately she’s not real.
Emerald raises her eyebrows.
MARSHALL When I arrived back at my own hotel I ordered room service. Seared calf’s liver with dauphinoise potatoes and a fennel jus. Followed by fruit salad. Plus a large glass of 2008 Sancerre and a bottle of sparkling mineral water. I studied maps of the local area and read the newspaper. I watched a current affairs programme, much of which I didn’t understand, checked my emails and went to bed. I was asleep by 11.20 and spoke to no-one save the hotel staff all evening.
EMERALD And in the morning?
MARSHALL Are you serious?
MARSHALL Continental breakfast.
EMERALD Consisting of?
MARSHALL One croissant with apricot jam. Two cups of coffee.
EMERALD That’s it?
MARSHALL And a cigarette. I wasn’t hungry. I finished at 8.10am. Returned to my room. Packed. Checked out 8.30. Took a taxi to the train station. Passed the old town hall on the way. Driver told me it had been decommissioned six years ago and all departments had been moved to a new building by a local architect who’d recently enjoyed international success. His name escapes me. There was a petition to keep the old building in use but the change went ahead nonetheless.
EMERALD And you understood all that?
MARSHALL I’d already read the story in a tourism pamphlet the previous day. Certain keywords tipped me off that he was offering the same anecdote.
MARSHALL I pissed several times and passed solids just once.
EMERALD Grow up Marshall.
MARSHALL Due respect Em. I’ve been doing this longer than you.
EMERALD Long enough to skip prep?
MARSHALL Long enough to know what I’m doing.
EMERALD You’ve never dealt with him.
MARSHALL I’ve dealt with similar.
EMERALD No you haven’t.
MARSHALL He’s a warlord. They’re all the same.
EMERALD No. They don’t all have Asperger’s. And before you ask, yes, it makes a difference.
MARSHALL They’re all crazy.
EMERALD You think this is ridiculous? This is nothing. We’ve barely started. You know who we sent in before you?
EMERALD Agent Heaver. Yes. Word is he claimed to have taken a local bus route that had stopped running the month prior to his arrival.
MARSHALL I thought you lost comms with him?
EMERALD We did, right then. Two days later we received his hands in the post.
EMERALD It’s prudent to assume he knows everything about you before you walk into the room.
MARSHALL That I’m an agent?
EMERALD Preferably everything but that.
Emerald hands Marshall a bulky newspaper.
EMERALD You’ll be armed with this and this only.
Marshall takes a peek.
MARSHALL Point four five Beretta.
EMERALD Which you will volunteer. Volunteer, Marshall, to one of the men stood at the entrance.
EMERALD Little tip. Keep your hands where the room can see them. Look at him but don’t maintain eye contact for too long. When you’re not talking, which should be most of the time, roll your tongue like this.
Emerald sticks her tongue out and rolls it.
EMERALD And place it against the roof of your mouth. It’ll give you something to focus on. If he asks for anything you’ve not rehearsed, make a conscious effort to move your eyes to the left. You’ll do it naturally when remembering details.
MARSHALL Even if they are made up.
EMERALD Exactly. If you claim you can’t remember something more than twice, everyone in the room will get nervous. Including you.
MARSHALL Hence the travelogue.
EMERALD He’s a unique individual. And ruthless.
Emerald looks out the window.
EMERALD We’re almost here. I’ll leave first by the far exit. My pick up is over the other side of the station. Wait for thirty seconds, then gather your things and leave. Oh, and Marshall.
MARSHALL Yes Emerald?
EMERALD If he grins or licks his teeth. Get out any way you can.
MARSHALL Bear that in mind. Thanks.
EMERALD Best of luck.
MARSHALL Won’t need it. See you in eight months.
EMERALD I hope so.