it was a cat-and-mouse game between the lovers. In his poetry, TH referred to his mistress as ‘a magnificent leopard’ in his set of poems to her, called ‘Capriccio’. I’ve used this for the title of my novel. Each chapter refers to one of these 20 poems. The excerpt above is from an earlier draft of “Capriccio”, in which I introduced each ne chapter with a brief quote from “The Capriccio Poems”. The present novel still follows the Capriccio sequence, but alas, to comply with copyright laws, it cannot include the pertinent lines of these dark and powerful poems.
‘What he wanted
Was the gold, black-lettered pelt
Of the leopard of Ein-Gedi.’
from ‘Folktale’ by Ted Hughes
Is this supposed to be his way of making a date with me? Does he think I’m going to jump to his tune? The arrogance! Forget it… Esther crumpled Larry’s’ note, first carefully extracting the shiny blade of grass and putting it into the vase on her desk, which always contained a few fresh blooms. Today they were pansies, deep orange and gold.
Yet after all, hadn’t he accepted her challenge, picked up the gauntlet she’d thrown like dice at a casino? Looking at her name scrawled on the envelope, Mrs. E. Buchanan, her face flushed. The unknown was drawing her towards its secrets, and she could only go forward.
The new cream phone on her desk rang. ‘Yes, Lily,” she said into the receiver.
“Mrs Buchanan, there’s a Mr. Wall who wants to discuss a contract with you.” Mr. Wall? She had no client with that name.
“Put him through please, Lily” she said.
“Did you get my note?” It was unmistakably Larry’s voice on the line.
“Just now,” she replied, then didn’t know what to say.
“So – is the third of July, in the afternoon, a suitable time for me to call? I have an hour or so between appointments in London that day.”
Esther thought quickly. Was she being “fitted in” between his more important appointments? Pride urged her to refuse, if only to play for time. After a pause, she heard herself say, “ Yes, I could get away around three, just for a short time.”
There was a sigh, followed by silence, on the other end of the phone. To break it Esther said “But why Mr. Wall?”
Larry chuckled, “Oh, it’s my pseudonym. I’m the fly on the wall, wherever you are, don’t you know?’
A reader’s comment : This extract crackles with the sexual tension of what might be a dangerous liaison; the hunter and the hunted. What I like is that the reader is drawn into your story, and that we are forced to think and rethink what the extract foretells.