Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Ghost by Robert Harris (Simon & Schuster 2007)

I opened the envelope and took out the photocopies of Lang’s membership card and the articles about the London elections. I slid them across to her. She crossed her legs at the ankles, leaned forward to read, and I found myself staring into the surprisingly deep and shadowy valley of her cleavage.

“Well, there’s no arguing with that,” she said, putting the membership card to one side. “That’s his signature, all right.” She tapped the report on the canvassers in 1977. “And I recognize some of these faces. I must have been off that night, or campaigning with a different group. Otherwise I would have been in the picture with him.” She looked up. “What else have you got there?”

There didn’t seem much point in hiding anything, so I passed over the whole package. She inspected the name and address, and then the postmark, and then glanced across at me. “What was Mike up to, then?”

She opened the neck of the envelope and held it apart with her thumb and forefinger, and peered inside cautiously, as if there might be something in the padded interior that could bite her. Then she upended it and tipped the contents out over the table. I watched her intently, as she sorted through the photographs and programs, studied her pale, clever face for any clue as to why this might have been so important to McAra. I saw the hard lines soften as she picked out a photograph of Lang in his striped blazer on a dappled riverbank.

“Oh, look at him,” she said. “Isn’t he pretty?” She held it up next to her cheek.

“Irresistible,” I said.

She inspected the picture more closely. “My God, look at them. Look at his hair. It was another world, wasn’t it? I mean, what was happening while this was being taken? Vietnam. The cold war. The first miners’ strike in Britain since 1926. The military coup in Chile. And what do they do? They get a bottle of champagne and they go punting!”

“I’ll drink to that.”