Sarah’s Diary 26th May 2006
Sarah Ledger awoke slowly.
An alarm clock was bleeping in the darkness – a tinny familiar bleep. Squinting at her surroundings she made out a duvet, an IKEA bookcase and an antique dog lying curled in a basket.
Where the hell am I?
The threadbare dressing gown on the bedstead bore a bleach stain.
Slowly the fog began to lift. She was at home, in Stanwix.
Her heart pounded as she took in the luminescent figures on the face of the clock; a bizarre message in shimmering shapes. The little hand was pointing to the six and the big hand was pointing to the nine. What the hell could this mean? Ledger had little doubt. Her extensive knowledge of telling the time had made her an expert on deciphering the cryptic messages on the dials of timepieces. It was morning. It was a quarter to seven. It was time to get up.
In the bathroom she gazed tiredly in the mirror. The woman staring back at her was a stranger – tousled and weary. You need some breakfast Sarah.
Descending the 13 stairs of her semi-detached house, she wondered if anyone else on her estate realised that thirteen was the exact number required by building regulations to get from upstairs to downstairs and that there was absolutely no sinister reason at all for this uncanny coincidence. She decided to keep the information to herself.
Having opened the door she stood inside the living room: her eyes stopped short on an unexpected object lying on the table. Quickly she picked it up. Scrawled across the paper in ballpoint pen was the message ‘Do you fancy going to see The Da Vinci Code? Ring 01228525586 to see if you can book tickets!’ Ledger had long been familiar with the ancient series of 26 runes – the alphabet – which could be transformed and rearranged into sequences – words – which, in the right hands could convey so much information. She often wondered if anyone realised that 26 was twice thirteen, twice the number of stairs in her house; twice the number in attendance at The Last Supper.
For a moment Ledger thought that the ringing in her ears was a sign of her incipient madness, but it slowly dawned upon her that it was the chimes of the doorbell. She turned and in a series of swift, deft movements unlocked the door and opened it. Before her stood a young man, a haunting certainty in his stance. Dressed casually he was attractive and looked to be about thirty. His thick hair fell to his shoulders; he radiated a striking personal confidence.
To Ledger’s surprise, the man extended a polite hand. ‘Bonjour Madame Ledger. I am Agent Pierre Neveu. I am to be your impossibly gorgeous Anglo-French sidekick for the remainder of the column. We will develop an unlikely tension sexuelle – sexual tension – and will leave your readers in a pleasing state of uncertainty as to whether or not we get it on after the column is finished. I will say things en francais – in French – for no specific reason and then I will unnecessarily translate what I have just said for the benefit of your readers.’
Ledger took his warm hand in hers and found herself momentarily fixed in his strong gaze. His eyes were olive-green – incisive and clear. ‘Please excuse the interruption,’ Pierre continued ‘but I have deciphered the numeric code.’
Ledger felt a pulse of excitement. He broke the code?
‘I wanted to warn you, Madame. It’s un plaisantaire numerique – a numerical joke. This is the one of the most famous numerical sequences in Carlisle 0-1-2-2-8-5-2-5-5-8-6 it is the telephone number of the Londsale Cinema and everyone knows…’
‘…everyone knows …’ interjected Ledger nodding slowly, her shock thawing and the warmth of understanding flowing through her veins ‘that the Londsale closed at the end of March and the only remaining independent cinema in Carlisle is the City Cinema in Mary Street.’
‘Exactement – exactly.’ nodded Neveu in triumph. Ledger was already moving towards the thick yellow volume that lay on the windowsill. Skillfully thumbing through it, she wasted no time canning the finely printed pages to find the correct decryption. Moments later she punched them into the plastic keypad. The voice at the other end of the line sounded chillingly close; ‘City Cinema?’
When she had finished, she turned to Pierre, a knowing smile on her lips. ‘It is done. Our quest is at an end. I’ll be at the City Cinema at 7.30. There will be a spare seat next to me.’
‘Is that an invitation? You presume too much. Mme Ledger.’
She cringed at how it had sounded. ‘What I meant was ..’
‘I’d never go and see the Da Vinci Code. It’s bollocks.’