Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Jerusalem 7 - Cleveland Way


Chapter 6 hereChapter 8 here

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I

It couldn’t have been any longer than an hour when she shook him awake. There’d been noises downstairs and they’d sounded official.

He returned to the land of the sentient and thought it through, hearing them too – they clearly couldn’t afford to take the chance. ‘We have to go.’

She had both bags with her, already zipped; he asked if she could reprogramme their door card for Room 304, further down the corridor, which he felt certain wasn’t occupied and would give them access to the rear of the property, where officials might not expect them to escape to.

He watched her dexterous fingers working with the little gunmetal grey box from her pack, the muscles in her neck straining as she gulped from time to time. He was thinking on those fingers and she knew he was. She put their card against the metal and her box against that.

Would using the reprogrammed card register downstairs?   Not immediately - it would be logged and could be accessed at some time.  They'd need to get out fairly soon afterwards.

About a minute later she flashed him a smile, they slipped out of their rooms with their belongings and she used the key on 304.

He’d prepaid the night and they hadn’t had to leave their false passports - the desk had checked their details. Unfortunately, they only had the snacks from their bags to eat.

They heard a din near the old door and cries of, ‘They’ve gone,’ as someone ran up the corridor, trying every door handle.

A man’s voice called back to someone, ‘Negative.’

The desk clerk pointed out that all the doors had electronic access anyway. Then she added, ‘The man doesn’t fit your description either – he was taller than your suspect and the girl was taller too.’

‘And yet your own guests seem to have disappeared.’

‘They may have slipped out; I was doing accounts for about 20 minutes. The view’s nice from our place.’

‘OK, love, if they comeback, you’ll give us a buzz straight away?’

‘Of course, immediately they return.’

Hugh and Julia had listened to every word. The woman had lied outright and that guff about going for a walk – what, in this rain? Now, there was a turn up for the books - he wondered if it would have fooled the police and how they could recompense the woman.

He asked Julia if she could do the window. Negative. Central system, controlled elsewhere.

‘We’ll have to either put the woman out or else pay her. Let’s go.’

The reception wasn’t directly visible from the road so Hugh fronted her and thanked her for protecting them upstairs. The woman nodded and asked outright, ‘Did you abduct this child?’

By way of answer, he stepped aside and went over to some brochures. Julia stepped forward and showed her passport again, hardly a child, wouldn’t the woman say? The woman used sign language while Hugh was still looking away, as if inviting Julia to tell her now if she was in trouble. Julia just said, ‘It’s all fine and thank you for caring.’

She called Hugh back and he asked the lady if she’d seen the news some time back about a group of terrorists who looked not unlike them.

She brought out a leaflet from below the desk and blanched as she laid it in front of them. Hugh nodded and asked, ‘Lady, do we look like terrorists? What terrorism have we done beyond expose corruption?’

The woman had to admit the validity of this. ‘Then why are your faces on this?’

‘Because the people who issued that are corrupt. Do you remember a Section Sophie-Fleury on the continent some years back?’

She’d heard of them. ‘Weren’t they named after some girl who was mutilated in France?’

‘Yes we were,’ admitted Hugh. ‘She was killed by these same people.’

‘Well I never. You’re meant to be desperadoes trying to destroy the fabric of society. Some sort of anarcho-communists.’

‘Actually, I’m one of the former PM’s security chiefs, even now. You do know he's alive, don't you and in exile.  Do you believe he did the things they say he did?’

‘I don’t hold much with politicians but ... well, no.’

‘He’s waiting to return and we’re his agents.’

‘Love a duck.’

‘What you actually did tonight, without knowing it, was aid the former Prime Minister who is still legally elected to his seat. We call him the current Prime Minister.’

‘What can I do? How can I help?’

‘We need to get to some form of transport to go north. A truck stop, a transport caf.’

‘Mmmm. On the A169? There’s one place above Whitby and they usually head north. Mike can drop you there and come back. Let me call him. Do you need some food?’

‘Do we ever.’

‘Come in the back here and get out of sight. I’ll be back presently.’

It was about ten minutes they waited, he paid for the food, thanked her profusely, left a mammoth tip which he insisted on and Julia thanked her too.

‘Anything else, love? No? OK.’

She hurried him out to the back yard, introduced them to her husband and told him everything, while they marked time, waiting for it to be told. The man nodded, clearly onside.

.o0o.

At the roadhouse, they were in a bus shelter about fifty feet further along and were taking  in the scene through the rain soaked perspex.

There was one semi which seemed to be pointing north and the driver was inside the caf, making out with the girl behind the counter.

Julia nudged him and pointed out that he’d only tied every second strap near the back.  She realized and he followed that this meant they could climb in at a pinch , something they couldn’t have been done if all straps were done.

That suggested it was going to be a shorthaul, maybe not even to a major city and the chances were too fortuitous not to do this.  They were already heading for the road side of the truck.

They scrambled in and hid behind a large carton each.

The driver came out, rechecked his tarp in a cursory way, actually stopped to look at the strap but the rain bucketed down again and he ran for the cabin.

The next thing they heard was the truck starting up, going into gear, the airbrakes being released and the vehicle hitting the highway.

The rollicking motion of the transport lulled them into a sense of peace and they sat, back to back between the boxes, hearing the rain really pelting down on the tarpaulin now.

III

Emma was out of sorts and Sophie was giving all the comfort she could. She was the arms, the soft word, two strong women but one quite vulnerable at this moment.

The day had worn on without incident and now came the question of the night. Emma took her turn in the bathroom and climbed into her bed in her pyjamas. Sophie took her turn in the bathroom and, satisfied, came back to her bed, looked over at Emma looking at her, grinned and climbed in beside her.

Being the taller, stronger and more direct, she quickly took Emma into her arms and they decided to talk. Emma began. ‘Who is the traitre?’

‘Could be more than one. I’m not sure of Julia. Could have been Doug all along. I don’t think Frank was – there was something serious and earnest with him – but he might be now, if he’s alive. You think it’s me, don’t you?’

‘I can't see how.   You’re behaviour towards Hugh, Sophie – I ... er ... can’t see how. It had to be Julia, Frank or Doug.’

‘I was cleared of those personalities but who knows if there were any left?   I told Hugh there might be one or two - I think Sophie might dominate them now.’

‘That's not conclusive, Sophie.’

‘All I can say is that I’m sure I'm not guilty this time.’

Emma considered this.  She wanted to believe it was Julia but somehow couldn’t see how it could have been.  On the other hand, though Frank knew of the holding point, he didn’t know of Julia’s pick-up point and so the enemy had had to get to her before she departed.

Perhaps Julia had been astute enough to realize Frank would spill the beans - their system assumed it but there were too many ifs and buts in this.

Why the distress message from Julia? Perhaps she’d never sent one and didn’t know anything of what had subsequently gone on.   She put that to Sophie.

‘Possible.  Hugh will find out once he meets her, I’m sure.  Frank sang, they put out the distress call on her behalf, Doug came and that was that.’

‘Why did Doug go?’

‘I’ve been going over and over that in my head.  He thought it was urgent, he was nervous and wanted to get away very quickly.’

‘To get to Julia or to escape you?’

Sophie sighed. ‘If it was me, Emma, you’d be in danger now. I’m loyal to Hugh as you know and you’re part of him.’

‘The whole thing is horrible.’

‘Everything about those people is horrible.   Look, we can’t solve this problem now so let’s relax and give each other some comfort.   All right?’

IV

The truckie stopped at another roadhouse and Hugh judged it might be near Guisborough – there seemed little need for him to stop again so soon. He returned not two minutes later, shuffled around the vehicle, clearly in a hurry to get out of the rain, he tied their strap a little tighter and made for the cab.

Now they heard him stop and come back in their direction at a brisk pace. He went past them and tied another strap further down. Then, satisfied, he returned to his cab and the deep-throated engine roared into life, they were in gear and heading out onto the main road again.

He turned to her. ‘How wet are you?’

‘A bit.  My feet are cold.’  She was certainly shivering.

He checked one of the boxes and suppressed a laugh. Coats and cheap ones at that.   Other cases had underwear, toys, skirts - ho hum, it was clear for which megacomplex this lot was headed.

Knowing there was a weighbridge which would probably come up towards the door, he checked his watch, asked her to help him get clothing from two of the boxes and they made a bed and pillow.

‘Take off your shoes and socks, lie side-on and open your jacket.’

She did, he placed the long coat he’d found over her upper body and then set to work massaging some feeling back into her toes, then tucked another coat around her feet.

Taking the one he’d put aside for himself and slipping it over his shoulders, he undid his jacket and shirt and lay down with her, pressing his chest against hers. If she was bemused, she didn’t show it – she was shivering too much for that.

‘You sleep,’ he suggested, ‘I’ll keep watch and then I’ll wake you when we get closer to the jump off point. Some time later, I’ll sleep and you’ll stop me snoring, OK?’

She smiled, well aware of that and drifted off into a slumber of sorts.   He'd been forcing himself not to but now he kissed her hair.   Unseen by him, she smiled and drifted off.

.o0o.

The semi slowed down but not at the weighbridge - they were still out of town.

Then they realized it was a hitchhiker he’d stopped for.  They got up and swiftly replaced the contents of the boxes, took one last look, scrambled down and huddled behind the semi’s load, the driver put the vehicle into gear and the instant he started to pull back onto the road, they dived for the roadside bushes, bags and all.

The only thing he could think of, this drab night, was to head cross country to the coastal walkway and see where that led.

.o0o.

The squelch underfoot and mud every single step was tiring but they kept at it and knew that, with a couple of breaks on the way, they’d probably hit the Cleveland Way by dawn.

Drizzly? Yes but they were rugged up sufficiently, they were in light boots and that was the best they could hope for. Hugh knew of a kiosk where breakfast might be available although it was now out of season.

.o0o.

Morning might as well have never broken, it was so sickly and the sun had about as much power as a run-down battery.   They'd stopped countless times and by the end were propping each other up.

The walkway by the cliff was in good nick - some fairly serious walkers were already moving along it; the two of them already looked the part themselves in their muddy boots and backpacks.

Joining the path moving away from the city, he was determined to keep going until she needed sustenance but she was just as determined and he realized she was never going to stop.

She was an interesting study that way, Julia.   Electronics was a sedentary pursuit, yet she was more than capable, matching him step for step here.   Willow slender, tallish, those legs had strength even so, she had a whipcord type of strength and that golden brown hair hung down either side of her face, the wisps almost reaching her waist.  Her blue eyes and cheeky smile set off her face.   Maybe not classic beauty but her body cried out to be held.

It would be interesting to see how she’d have kept up with Rory.  

Every time now that they came within view of other walkers heading towards the city, they went off track and admired some piece of scenery, too far away to chat with any fellow walkers.

.o0o.

Eventually they came to something promising – an indentation in the terrain, maybe a river. It was a ravine running down to the water, with a parking area and some sort of kiosk a bit further up the broken bitumen track. They had rations from last evening but she’d seen the kiosk too.

Hugh told her to stay out of sight, he was going in to reconnoitre.

‘No,’ she countermanded. ‘If there’s a police bulletin out, they’ll be after you, not me. You stay hidden.’

‘Keep your gloves on when touching anything solid, including the plate but take one glove off to eat with. Don’t get into too much conversation.’

She nodded, emerged from the thicket and entered the kiosk. There was a news bulletin on the wall mounted TV about the abductor but that girl had apparently been found safe and sound, so that was one pressure less.

She watched the bulletin for a while, sipping a coffee at a table. The programme was full of the wild weather, the economic situation and then the crime report. An earnest looking officer on the box, spick and span in his blue uniform, was citing the day’s crimes, complete with mugshots. Hugh and she didn’t feature in any, which puzzled her.

The waitress came over to clear up the coffee things. ‘So where you headed, love?’

‘Fell Beck.’

The woman seemed dubious. ‘That’s forty minutes from here on foot. Have you come far?’

‘Only from the weighbridge. It’s a bit complex. I had a fight with my sister about her boyfriend – she says I was trying to take him but I didn’t do anything. She was still going on about it this morning so I walked out and phoned him to come and get me but he was going to Sandburn and I said take me but he said that would only prove what Sally said so he dropped me off at the weighbridge and I said pick me up here but he said no, Fell Foss is better because no one will see us there.’

‘Right, love, you don’t need to explain to me.’

‘No, it’s all right with you. A stranger’s … well ... a stranger's different somehow.’

‘I know what you mean. How old are you, dear?’

‘Twenty three.’

‘You look younger.’

‘Thank you.’

'You're not from around here, are you? You needn't explain. He’s not open this time of year up’t Fell Foss - we usually have all the passing trade so this friend of yours is right about that. Maybe you should take a few things with you.’

‘Yes, of course. To answer your question - I'm from down south, Guildford but my parents emigrated here.’ She ordered a range of delicacies and pleased the woman no end by choosing the very cakes she’d home-baked that morning.

‘There you go, love – I just hope he turns up. Tell you what, here’s our phone number,’ she was scribbling on the back of an order docket, ‘and if you get into any bother, my Tom could come and fetch you, like.’

‘Oh, I wouldn’t want to –’

‘Nonsense, here’s the number - you obviously have your cell phone on you. By the way, what’s your name, if it’s not a rude question?’

‘Christine,’ she replied and took her leave, with many thanks.

.o0o.

About a kilometre along the path she stopped by a wooden bench and waited. Hugh was to have doubled back over the top in an arc, giving the kiosk a wide berth. He now dropped down via the path bench and off they went, with her reporting the conversation along the way.

The next step was to reach that kiosk, as they had to phone after a reasonable time had elapsed and she might be asked questions about the place.

.o0o.

It really had been a good forty minutes walk away and there were some cars there, which seemed to be coming down the slip road, observing that the kiosk was shut and then turning and going.  Hugh memorized one of the registrations, in case it was needed in the phone call.

Obviously she couldn’t phone on her own mobile so they thought about a car which had stopped on the gravel area, door open, with a girl in the passenger seat, feet outstretched on the ground. Her boyfriend was driving. It was a risk Julia would have to take so she approached, showing her mobile, saying her battery was flat.

The girl understood but it was her boyfriend with the mobile and he now handed it across with some remarks about her being out alone, to which she said that she was being picked up soon.

She made the call, said all was well and the two talking in the background added verisimilitude. She gave the mobile back and thanked them both, heading back down to the walkway. Hugh had gone some distance on then doubled back slowly, so he’d pass for the one Julia was to meet, at a pinch.

The young man had it in mind to follow her but the girlfriend had other ideas and they were arguing; he did follow behind Julia some way but then seemed to give it away.

Now they faced the difficult task of putting in half a day in the local area because a cursory glance at the ‘closed for winter’ kiosk had shown Julia it was the ideal accommodation for that night. The only thing against it was that it might also be the haven for local derelicts - they’d check that later.

A short way down the track, they laid out their little picnic on a bench and ate heartily. One portion each was left for the evening and one each for next morning. The kiosk apparently had an external tap.

Sitting on a grassy glade below the pathway, shielded by a clump of bushes from the path above, Hugh lay back and fell asleep. She was to shake him if he broke into snoring.

She shook him often.

V

Emma and Sophie allowed themselves half an hour in a spaghetti bar on the outskirts. Hugh would have been furious but as it was a chance thing, a spur of the moment decision, they risked the half hour. They went up for their large super specials and wine but still Emma was quite down.

Through the door came Rory, explaining that Janine was heading for her holding point.   Neither Julia nor Frank and not even Doug knew of that spot – only Hugh and Janine.

.o0o.

Fifteen minutes into the time they'd given themselves, three men came through the door, Sophie saw the scenario instantly, threw herself at Emma but it was too late; they were aiming at another table but one stray bullet ripped into Emma's leg and one into Rory’s left arm, Sophie took the three of them out rapidly, most likely because they’d never in a million years been expecting armed customers but that hardly helped the four at the table next to them slumped in grotesque poses and quite, quite dead, the owner rushed from the back room, took in the scene and started barking instructions in Italian to the waitresses who were getting up from the floor behind the counter and they ran out to do whatever.

The man came swiftly over to Emma, nodded and though she probably shouldn’t have been moved, lifted her under her arms and dragged her into the kitchen. She was breathing but the leg was a mess.

Sophie was attending to Rory's arm in the kitchen and he now told both that he'd take Emma to a man he knew, a retired doctor - these wounds needed the bullets removing and R&R, nothing much more. Sophie was to make it to Janine, he now gave her some privileged information, which only he could have known, to tell Janine, Emma gave her a code on top of that, Sophie looked for a minute, kissed Emma's cheek and escaped through the back door.

Two Italians came through to the kitchen from the yard carrying a door of all things, an interior door which was wet and rotting, probably having been left out in the weather. They spoke rapidly, looked at Emma, then at the door and the owner, nodded and lifted her on, tipped it to get through the doorway, they moved quickly to the back gate, thence into the back of a beige delivery van.

On the way, Rory sat with her in the back and could do almost nothing but he gave what reassurance he could and it seemed Emma understood some of the Italian being spoken in front, her eyes started to close and he knew he had to keep talking to her, to keep her awake.

The blood was oozing over her clothing, not gushing but it needed attention.

.o0o.

The drive went on and on until eventually they pulled into a driveway and ran the car down to the end, near the garage. A man came out and swiftly took a look at the leg.

‘She’s not critical, she's safe here - you too. Let's get her inside.'

In something out of a novel, the only place they could have stayed was in the attic - this house being of the high A frame roof style, it had plenty of room. The issue was hygiene and cold up but as the warmth from below rose to the ceiling, this was perhaps the best option all round.

Getting Emma up there was quite a job, what with Rory's arm and with the man being 74 years of age, so he said. They did eventually make it, a makeshift bed was laid down and she lay on that, on an airbed used for camping. Rory would spend the rest of the day and evening making everything as comfortable as possible.

VI

Evening fell with a particularly sickening thud on the Cleveland Way and the general atmosphere was damp and unpleasant. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, security-wise.

A number of cars did come down the slip road but none remained long. More than one female voice was heard to whine that they should just go back to the pub, presumably the all-nighter with the videoscreen.

They waited another hour, then went round the back, looked at the padlock, the way it was positioned, Julia being the master-lockpicker, she soon had it open, they went inside and it had indeed been sealed up for winter - no sustenance of any kind visible.

In a back room was a single rickety sofa with an old blanket over it.

In a wood-veneer cupboard, its door half hanging off, they found old curtains which supposedly the owner had had plans to put up but seemed to have decided against. They had food and shelter; also the kiosk was by no means cold, though a trifle musty.

There was nowhere else in the kiosk, save the counter itself and that was too highly visible from outside.

She mocked him. 'It's your lucky day again, isn't it?'

'How could I have known this?'

'Maybe but you were still hoping against hope I'd ask you to keep me warm.'  

'You use the loo first,' he said.

.o0o.

The sofa had been intended as a fold out bed for one but it was about one and a half places wide, enough for them.   They used the dusty blanket as an underlay, took out their spare clothing and made it all cushioned, draped one curtain over that and tucked it in, leaving the other curtain as a sheet and their coats as coats as the duvet.

She cut the palaver by saying: ‘Only underwear, then let’s get under.’

He didn’t know which he feared more – his feelings for her now or the honey trap he suspected it was.  He climbed under and as she was perfectly aware, there was no way to lie there and not have arms around each other.  She found the place for her spare leg and arm.

‘Tell me about this Christine thing.’

‘Christine? That’s the nickname my parents called me. They thought of naming me Kristina, you see and well …’

He didn’t speak and she was anxious. ‘You don’t like that name?’

He almost purred, ‘Tvoya' imya – ochen krasi’va, Yulia. Ti tak’zhe o’chyen krasi’va, Mi’laya.’

She started, ‘You know Russian?’

‘Nimnosh’ka. Spokoin’ay no’chi, Yu’lia.’

She looked at him with new eyes and felt secure, so secure she dropped off to sleep.

This was unfortunate because it allowed him thought.  He dared to brush back her hair with his fingers and before he knew it, he’d lightly touched her cheek with his lips.  ‘Spokoinay nochi,’ he whispered again.  Then he kissed her again.

She smiled and he felt her body relax into sleep.

VII

In Biriatou, it was another fine day outside when they were awakened by the buzzer, Jean-Claude glanced from the bedroom window at the patio and recognized the man immediately, one of his colleagues from the surete in bygone days but more importantly, one of those he’d been told to expect. There appeared to be just him.

He donned his robe, went downstairs, switched on the coffee machine and went to the door. Now, anyone could have broken in, the door was so thin so the point of the code exchange was more in the nature of mutual reassurance than anything else, he undid the locks and Nicolas came through, they embraced and went to the bar stools.

Nicolas began the narrative of the situation in Paris, no more grim than they’d expected and no less either. He had no idea about places such as Fontainebleau but they’d better be resigned to the fact that any place formerly owned or frequented by Section members had been well turned over and was staked out, pending a possible return of the wanderers.

Jean-Claude nodded but he was still dismayed, dismayed at the finality of the report. Nicolas added though, ‘That’s not to say we couldn’t plan to distract them while you two slipped in for a brief time but the whole thing would be fraught.’

Geneviève appeared, dressed and poured herself some coffee, offering to top up Nicolas’s; Jean-Claude did the introductions and Genie realized she’d not met this one before. There was silence until she asked, ‘Well?’

By way of reply, Jean-Claude asked Nicolas, ‘What are the realistic chances of going to Fontainebleau?’

‘Possible but quite difficult.’

‘And Paris?’

‘Out of the question.’

Geneviève hardly dared hope. ‘How could we travel incognito?’

‘There are checkpoints everywhere, on every toll road, on most minor roads, at the entrance to all towns – there are guard boxes at the city limits of each village. If you were both rivetted into place under the tray so you could breathe, that would get you to a changeover point where we’d have to take you out with difficulty and then put you in a second vehicle, a van but all this would cost.’ Jean-Claude waved that away. ‘You can dismiss this, Jean-Claude but all assets of the terrorists have been seized and you would have trouble coming up with the remuneration.’

‘I still have two friends who look after the bulk of my funds.’

‘If you mean Marcel Lefebvre, he is head of le Ministère de l'Agriculture et de la Pêche in the current administration although some hold that he is no natural friend of the president. He would have had to have given up any assets he held on your behalf and that of any other enemies of the state.’

‘Enemies of the state – mon Dieu!’

‘Look, it can be done but you must realize the new situation. You might have some friends left and your funds may be safe in some hands but you still must access them, make contact. These men and women who will help you are not doing it for the country – this is a private matter for you and your wife.’

They both saw that.

VIII

In the morning, in the kiosk, they folded and put the curtains away, rearranged the blanket on the sofa, sat down and had the last portions of food, took the refuse, locked the door behind them again and stepped down to the clifftop pathway.

.o0o.

Still travelling away from town, they stopped for a break just a kilometre further on. There was a waist high stone wall and a field the other side, with grazing sheep. Throwing their gear over, she vaulted the wall and he heaved himself across. He sat up with his back against the stone wall; she sat up against him, her head on his padded shoulder.

‘You’re uncomfortable, aren’t you?’ she asked and he knew it wasn't the ground she was referring to.

To his total silence, she turned and knelt, looking straight at him.  She sat across him, running finger tips down his cheek, then put a kiss on his forehead.

‘Now then, you two, you’re teaching my sheep bad habits.’

She climbed off, he scrambled to his feet and addressed the man. ‘Sorry, sir, is this your land?’

‘It is and I’m wondering what you and the young lady are doing here at such an hour?  Is this your father, lass?’   When neither could think what to say, the farmer added, ‘because you don’t look a day over 18.’

Hugh winced, completely at a loss. The farmer peered at him for some time, then at Julia. ‘Maybe it’s time you were both moving along, don’t you think?’

Clearly he was at a loss too.

Without another word, they threw their belongings back onto the path and clambered over. Dusting themselves down, they made their way along the walkway, it rose and then dipped some distance on.

She laughed and spun round on her toes, saw he wasn’t laughing and fell in beside him.

They pushed the pace now but it was actually unnecessary because their pick-up was at a designated time near the coast next morning and they were only twenty-five miles from there now.

She took his arm and stopped him. 'You're going too fast.   Hugh, you have to stop this faux remorse stuff - you think it somehow atones for what you've done, what you’ve let me do but it doesn't impress me and it certainly wouldn't impress her.  You’re hopeless, you have no way to resist a girl, you fell for every unfair trick I pulled and I think you really were trying not to.  I got you to care for me, serve me, do as I wanted.  But I want you to know that even while you did that on the first night to me, I knew you were a gentleman.  A naughty one, a hopeless one with women but I felt safe with you.'

He sighed and smiled.  ‘Thank you, Julia.  Emma was the one coming up here and she changed her vote from her to me.’

‘Really?  That’s interesting.  Who else was with her?  No, forget that, I know you can’t say.’

‘Someone she didn’t want me with.’

‘Yet she allowed you to come to me.  What, thinking you’d be more a gentleman than with her?’

‘I don’t know, Julia.  Women are strange.’  She grinned. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘You’re a cuddly Winnie the Pooh, you know that?  I could get you to do anything.’

‘Is that an achievement?  Is it necessary to throw your power in my face?  Can’t it be something nice, not power?’

‘This is what we have ... Hugh ... to get what we need.  Our talent gets us our jobs but there are other things we need too.’

He looked at her, in not all that friendly a way, she took one step forward and her lips smacked, she was passive.

‘S***,’ he said, and kissed her hard and deep, arms going around her, her arms went to his shoulders, then slid around his neck, so slender and light.  After some time, one of her hands casually dropped and laid itself over his hardness, kneading it, those slender fingers, he took the hand off, stepped back, she had that look of expectancy, he put her hand back up on his shoulder and moved in for the kiss again, now she moved right in and rotated herself over his thing, starting the tongues at the other end.

Then she slowly withdrew and stepped back, away from him, out of range, looking straight through his eyes, unblinking.  He took a step forward and she took one back.  Light on her feet, light.  He leant against the wall and looked down at the wetness seeping through, the utter fool he’d made of himself.

She moved in beside him, taking his hand and kissing it, then placing her hand the other side of his cheek and moving it her way.  She kissed his cheek, then his lips, then let go and lay back against the wall beside him.

‘I’m really sorry, Hugh.  Checkmate wouldn’t you say?’

When he didn’t answer, she came around in front of him, facing him, one leg either side, bent over and lifted his chin.  She placed a very gentle kiss.  ‘We’d better keep going, we have to find somewhere to sleep tonight.’

She stood up and took his hand, lifting him off the wall.  They kept walking.  In silence.  He glanced across and she was as calm as calm, settled, almost happy.

The path now moved left, out to the edge of the cliff, they stopped and looked out over the North Sea, the angry greyness down there. 

‘Where did Miss Ice go?’ he asked.  She smiled and it was a touching smile. She knew that.  

.o0o.

The question of the night’s lodgings was playing on his mind and she was showing signs of tiring, tough cookie though she was.  He was aching and creaking something awful and a weariness was creeping into his lower legs and feet. The good thing was that every step was one in the right direction, geographically.

It had to be soon - but where?   Another B&B?   Another kiosk?   Risk sleeping rough?

The dusk wasn’t far off, the dampness was appearing and it didn’t look a palatable prospect at all. They walked past a section of wall, on the other side of which was a shed, an old wooden shed. 

He lifted himself up a moment, took a look, then they moved on.

‘That could be our digs tonight. Not great but it will do.   Let’s walk on a bit further and see if there’s anything better.’

.o0o.

There wasn’t, so they went back, got over the fence, the lock was a doddle, it was basically just tools inside, not even hay but there was hessian piled up under a bench - it would see them through to the morning.

She went to the door and looked, thought about it, rummaged in her pack for the pencil light torch and her bag of tricks, went to the other end of the barn and her eyes looked over the window.   She beckoned him over to give her a lift up and through she scrambled, he had an idea what she was doing.

A minute later, she was back and got through herself this time, locking the window behind her.   'I jammed one of the rods in the lock - it won't open.   It gives us time.   Do you think you could get through there when we have to go?'

'In an emergency, I can get through anywhere.   The broken lock's enough - he'll think it's rusted, no one's been here for a while, he'll go for a crowbar or try the window.   If we keep down in this corner, he might give it away.'

'I don't think anyone's going to come here at this hour now.  I take it we use the grille in the corner as a loo.’

‘You go first.’

He then took his turn and returned, put the paper back in the pack and she’d arranged the bed with much of the hessian and the coats.

Suddenly, she asked how much time they had.

'We’re collected at 05:00, three miles obliquely downhill and over the fields and walls. Different pick-up point to earlier but still one of ours. We’ll have go separately and stick to the sides of fields.   I'll tell you exactly where and how, just before we go.’

‘Five hours sleep, one to get ready?’

He looked at his watch. ‘Yes.  Sounds good.’  He climbed under after her and there they were again, like last night.  Only this time, it had moved on, hadn’t it?  There was no clothing for a start and the toes of her feet were already moving over his upper feet.

She breathed, 'Do it now, do it, Hugh.   Now.  I want to leave this island with you on my body.'

‘Why?’ he breathed back.

‘I want. That's all. It’s necessary to remember this time later – when we’re not together any more.  You’ve already betrayed Emma, so will you compound that by leaving the one you are doing it with deeply unhappy?’

Those slender fingers he’d watched at work on the locks were now manipulating something else inside his pants and he just went OTT.  Far from pulling away, her hand bathed in it, taking some out and daubing herself, her lips too, then going back for more.  He was paralysed, mesmerized.

‘Stop me, Julia.’

'Stop yourself.'

IX

The awkwardness of the position Jean-Claude and Geneviève found themselves in, wedged in, rivetted in like that, was as nothing compared to the thirst which gripped after the first four hours, with the van showing no signs of doing anything more than slowing down for towns, stopping at checkpoints, pulling on to the main road again.

Fontainebleau was coming at a price and Geneviève reflected that she might just be getting too old for this sort of thing after all. She’d cast her eyes around the forest, take in the Lodge, touch something and then leave it forever, satisfied. Yes, that’s how she’d do it and she’d not trouble Jean-Claude again on the matter. She’d allow herself to fall into him now and that would be that.

The van now slowed and pulled over, they felt the nearside wheels go into something softer, the handbrake went on and someone got out on the passenger side. They thought they could make out conversation in the distance – that might have been right on schedule, it might not have been. It probably was. Soon there’d be a clammering and the rivets would be drilled out, they’d stretch and change vehicles. Yes, here it was. Two people had jumped up into the tray and Marcel called to them, ‘Geneviève, Jean-Claude, ca va?’

‘There’ve been better days,’ he answered. ‘Where are we?’

‘Brinon-sur-Sauldre.’

‘That close?’ Geneviève was overjoyed.

‘Geneviève,’ said Marcel, ‘all is not well. We can get you not far from la Chapelle-la-Reine, your friend Nicolette’s home but we can’t get you all the way. For a start, the farm has disintegrated and secondly, there are troops in place both near the property and at some distance, even on the hill we’d take you to. The best we can do is take you to Jacqueville, you’d be able to see over the general area in the distance, if the haze is not too bad.’

‘Could you rivet us back in and then just drive close to the Lodge and tell us later where exactly we’d gone?’

Marcel sighed. ‘We could, Geneviève but the risk is too great for both of you and you’d not know when you were there.’

‘I’d know.’

Jean-Claude asked, ‘Could this utility we’re in go through?’

‘Non, it’s from the south – why would it go to Fontainebleau? There’d be enough suspicion to stop you and they would be thorough. They found a son and daughter three weeks ago trying to re-establish contact and no one’s heard of them since. The only real choice is to get out now, change vehicles, go through the rivets again at Jacqueville and at least you’d have seen the area.’

They all heard Geneviève sobbing. ‘It’s iniquitous. I just want to see my home. It’s all right, Marcel, I don’t mean you.’

‘Genie.’

‘I’m fine, Jean-Claude. All right, let it be so.’  She soaked up as much of the atmosphere as she could, then turned and nodded.

The bolting in began again , Geneviève first. The noise was appalling because it was accompanied by the vibration of the whole frame but soon enough it was over. The van hit the B road and it was less than smooth below.

X

They'd made their separate ways to the pickup point, he only saw Julia as she emerged from the trees on the other side of the clearing, the chopper was hovering just above ground level, the fifteen minutes wait was over and he saw her running hell for leather towards it.

She scrambled on board quickly, helped by the two crew members, he was a tad slower, a hail of gunfire rang out from the bushes, silenced in the same second by fire from the copter but Hugh was on the ground, not responding to their calls to get on board.

They peered down, swore, took the stretcher from the wall, jumped down, rolled him onto it and huffed and puffed until he was onboard, hauled themselves up, the door closed and the helicopter lifted off.

She was on her knees beside him, calling his name.

XI

The group at the long table in the new PM’s office was elated. Robert Jamieson was holding forth. ‘And you know, the woman wasn’t even our doing. Some gangland war and the target was at the next table. What luck, eh?’

‘But she’s dead?’ asked the unidentified woman.

‘Alas, dear lady, no. Jensen must be though. The report said he didn't look too well. We can only hope.’


‘We’re in touch with all the hospitals,' added D, 'but they’d be crazy to take her to one of them. It’s possible they’ll have her out of the country by now but I suspect she may still be within our borders. We’re being vigilant.’


Chapter 6 hereChapter 8 here

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