I say nothing. Simply stare at him.
‘Now which newspaper do you choose to disgrace him?’
He is serious. He is actually going to ruin the career and life of an innocent man to make a point. I shake my head. ‘I’m not going to be part of this.’
‘What about the Guardian? Perhaps you’d like more than one newspaper to run the story? And a television channel? BBC? Or all of them?’
And suddenly my brain kicks in. He is bluffing. ‘The BBC. I want the story to be run by the BBC,’ I say. Surely he cannot have influence in the British Broadcasting Corporation!
But he smiles confidently. ‘Done.’
I shouldn’t have spoken. Now he knows he has me.
‘When the story breaks tomorrow you will understand the extent of my reach. I will do the same to my son. Here are the pictures that will grace the world media if you refuse to be reasonable.’
I realize that he has been holding an envelope all this time. He takes two steps towards me and throws it on the coffee table and it slides towards across and stops in front of me. He is so close now I notice his eyes. Eyes are usually called the windows of the soul, but in his case the windows are closed, or there is no soul to look out of them. There is not even a pencil of light from the empty interior.
I grasp the envelope with unsteady fingers. Photographs of me. With my hair tousled, my lips parted, my legs wide open. The photographs are clear and graphic. I look at them. The photos of that night when I taunted Blake into hurting me are so horrible I cannot go on. They do not reflect what really happened. They look like rape of the worst kind. I do not need to get to the end. I put them carefully back into the envelope and slide them back along the table top. My face is not flaming with embarrassment; it is numb with shock.
‘No, keep them for your album,’ he says.
Like a puppet I pull them back towards me.
‘There are videotapes too of you and…other women. I’m afraid my son was rather indiscriminate when you left him the last time. They will be released a few days later on the Internet as supporting evidence. My son will become a common criminal. A sexual predator.’
I need to think. I am blank. My foe is too great. ‘What happens if I agree?’
‘You get to choose a leafy English suburb or if you prefer even another country. Perhaps you’d like to live in the sun.’ I shake my head. ‘No, well you get to choose. Somewhere like Weybridge, perhaps?’
‘What will happen to Blake?’
‘Absolutely nothing. He will mourn for you…for a while, then he will marry Victoria and have a family, and life will be good again.’
‘What if he comes looking for me?’
‘He won’t know where to look. You will be fitted with a totally new identity. You’ll have to give up your friends, of course. But you will make new ones, better ones.’
‘Why are you going to so much trouble to keep me away from him?’
Something flashes in his eyes. So quickly it is almost as if in my numbed state I have imagined it. But it makes my skin go cold. It is not as simple as he makes it out to be. There is more. Much more.
I clasp my freezing cold hands together. For a moment neither of us speaks.
‘There is another thing you must consider. My father was a banker, I am a banker, and my son will be a banker. ‘
‘What do you mean?’
‘May I see my grandson?’
I understand immediately and the fear of before is nothing compared to this. Oh God! He is referring to what he did to his son. He is implying that that is what Blake will do to Sorab.
‘Blake will never do that to his son.’
‘It is our way. If you choose to live in our world, then you must abide by our rules.’
I don’t want this man anywhere near my baby. ‘He is asleep,’ I push through frozen lips.
‘I will not wake him up. Just a quick peek,’ he says with a sick, lizard smile.
Outmaneuvered I begin to walk stiffly towards the door. He follows me into Sorab’s room. Protectively, I stand next to the crib. He stops a foot away from the crib and nods as if satisfied. Of what I do not know and do not ask. He turns away and I follow him, weak with relief, to the front door.
‘Look out for the newspapers tomorrow morning. I will be in touch later in the day.’ He opens the door.
He turns slightly towards me. ‘Yes?’
‘Who is Cronus?’
He turns fully towards me, and smiles. At that moment the strangest thing happens. Into those dead eyes climbs something. The most inquisitive look that you ever saw, an interest more avidly probing than you could ever have thought possible in those leaden eyes. It is as if it is no longer even the same man. A cold claw grips my insides.
‘When you do your little Internet searches find the shrouded one under the name of El,’ he says and opening the door exits the apartment.
I do not walk, I run to my laptop to type El into Google’s search engine.
El, I learn, is a deity dating back to Phoenician times. He is meant to be the father of mankind and all creatures. He is the gray-bearded ancient one, full of wisdom. The bull is symbolic to him. El is distinguished from all the other gods as being the supreme god, or, in a monotheistic sense, ‘God’.
Through the ages he is listed at the head of many pantheons. He is the Father God among the Canaanites. In Hebrew text El becomes a generic name for any god, including Baal, Moloch, and Yahweh. Finally late in the text I come across the reference to Cronus.
Apparently it was the custom of the ancients during great crisis for the ruler of a city or nation to avert common ruin by sacrificing the most beloved of their children to the avenging demons; and those who are thus given up are sacrificed with mystic rites, arrayed in royal apparel and sacrificed on an altar. Those that follow this path are called the sons of El.
El the articles points out is the root word for elite.
I type in El and Cronus and learn that el cronus is a sex toy for men.
I type in Saturn and El and I find out that El is another name for Saturn. And Saturn is interchangeable with Cronus.
I sit back. To avert common ruin these men give the most beloved of their children as a sacrifice to their great god El. Did it mean what I thought it meant? That Blake’s father would willingly sacrifice his son in exchange for more power?
I hear someone at the door and quickly click out of the pages I am on. I go to the door warily, but it is only Blake.
‘Hi,’ he says. He looks normal.