LA MAISON DU DÉLICE

PAUL HAWORTH



SEVEN


Darkness gathered.

The unnerving light of an approaching storm. This kind of weather made me wish I could go back to bed, put on headphones and blast Placebo - or a 20-minute Dead & Company jam - anything to get lost, hide, transport myself to a better place.

I gazed out of the bedroom window, experiencing a knotted uncertainty. This was it. What I’d been waiting for. But now things felt...ominous.

The woman walked her Chinese Crested again. Its appearance never failed to unsettle. They toured the perimeter of the grounds and passed a sign which read NO GAMES ALLOWED in French, German and Italian. Ridiculous notice. It was the saddest patch of grass, without flowers or water feature or bench or tree. No games would ever be played there.

Time to get dressed.

Snug briefs. Followed by socks: blue over-the-calf cotton lisle socks.

All my socks come from the Paris sock maker Mes Chaussettes Rouge. Bespoke socks might sound frivolous but answer me this: throughout the years, has your experience of socks been one of compromise and niggling dissatisfaction? Then why not invest in socks made to your exact specifications? Mes Chaussettes Rouge supply a fabric suited to your skin and body temperature, tailored to your calf size, with the precise tension you desire. The sensation truly is transformative. Socks and underwear are the bedrock of an outfit - if they feel uncomfortable, it throws everything else off. People will notice. They won’t know what they’re noticing, but they will notice.

I buttoned up a shirt. Made my tie. A sombre blue for the occasion. Once again, I deferred putting on the suit.

I sat at the end of the bed (a trouserless man in socks: is there a more impotent image?) and gazed back outside over the grounds. There was never much to spy on in the other towers. No nookie, no murder. None of the rooms had balconies and most residents kept their blinds drawn.

The woman waited while her dog squatted to crap. I watched it do its business and couldn’t help but interpret its expression as haughty, arrogant, even proud. Do posh dogs know they are posh?

The woman picked up its mess. She was holding a baggy of poop when the Right Honourable Sir Rufus Higgs QC KGB KCVO OBE KG arrived.

He was in his late-60s, but there was nothing doddery or frail about him. Sir Rufus was hale. He resembled killer, hero, villain - someone that never lost. As usual, he had on his court gowns. Completely unnecessary and illegible outside Britain, but they lent him a sinister bearing: the way they billowed as he crossed the yard was positively vampirish.

He was trailed by underlings. They marched in single file: disciplined, stern, sombre and cruel.

Behind this impeccable troupe, my man, Joep, tripping to keep up. He had on a yellow plastic rain poncho. I couldn’t bear to look.

Time for the suit.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. Under artificial lighting, cheap/generic black suits appear green. In order to avoid this embarrassment (and have one over on my cheaply-attired enemies), I had Roland ship out one of my Gieves & Hawkes suits. It was in fact midnight blue. However, under the vulgar fluorescents of the courtroom, I was the only one there wearing a truly black suit. A private revenge but one that provided a sliver of dignity.

The touch of its wool took me back. Back to the fitting room at 1 Savile Row. The satisfaction of seeing my measurements chalked up during the first visit. A fitting for alterations, and then a final visit to collect my love.

The trousers and jacket slid on. It really was a second skin. One would expect no less from Savile Row tailoring. Made by Davide, a craftsperson of such knowledge, technique and pride, the results could never carry any flaws.

Knock knock knock.

Joep entered pulling his poncho over his head and went straight for the bathroom. He remained there some time.

Despite Joep being, to all intents and purposes, useless, I maintained more than a glimmer of hope that things wouldn’t end badly. I knew we would not win but I’d get out of this place. (Surely that much was certain?) However, something inside me did falter - it could have just been the unsettling weather but I felt off.

Joep exited the bathroom, dabbing his brow with a handkerchief. We left the apartment in silence. Joep took the stairs, I entered the lift. I pushed the green button. I studied my reflection in the mirror: I wished it was a stronger, braver Patric I saw. Even the suit seemed ill-fitting. I tried to smooth the shoulders but it was as if it knew. Just as one wouldn’t admire a corpse in a good suit, it was impossible to ignore or disguise the fallen being disguised in the fine tailoring.

The light was extinguished.

He had aged so terribly.

All was lost.

The door opened on the ground floor, where La Maison du Délice had a courtroom.



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