what he was

‘Who’s that in the photo?’
‘He saved my life.’
‘How d’you mean? Is he a doctor?’
‘No. He values things. I can’t remember what it’s called now. Begins with A’
‘Auctioneer?’
‘No.’
‘Actuary?’
‘No.’
‘So – how did he save your life?’
‘I collapsed in the street. He just happened to be walking past. He picked me up, and he took me to his home. And he kept me there for years. Wouldn’t let me work. He took care of everything. Yes – he was a great man. I think other men were frightened of him. It was the way he’d look at them. Very direct.’
‘How old were you at that point?’
‘I can’t remember. Thirty or so. I’d had a baby. But nobody knew what can happen to you when you’ve just had a baby. Not like now.’
‘What happened to the baby?’
‘It went to the orphanage. And that was another thing nobody knew about. Orphanages.’
Cheryl curls her lip, then takes another draw on the cigar she’s smoking, her yellowing face momentarily lost behind a cloud of smoke.
‘Assessor,’ she says. ‘That’s what he was.’

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