Chapter 8 here … Chapter 10 here
Julia didn't bother clearing the bodies but frisked him, taking the sensitive data, plus his communication devices, the boat was veering wildly now, she took the wheel, throttled back, checked the chart, ascertained their current position, opened the throttle again and that occupied the next forty minutes.
The form of a woman now silently appeared in the rear doorway of the wheelhouse, there was a loud crack, Julia sagged to her knees and then her dead body collapsed to the floor.
The silent woman now throttled right back, frisked Julia, removed all incriminating devices and data, made the sign of the cross, checked the chart and swung the boat back onto Rory's original course.
Sophie heard the Prime Minister groan, she rushed out, took in the scene, grabbed the brandy and poured two, urged him to come to the armchair to sit, which he did, he took the glass and knocked it back, she poured him another.
Sophie stared into space, impassively. In Julia's case, she'd had an inkling this would end in tragedy but Rory ... so alive ... so ... vibrant ... that was very hard to take. 'They succeeded first?'
The PM looked at her and. 'It seems Julia just pulled out the pistol and gunned Rory down, in the coachhouse, in cold blood, then turned her gun on the crew.'
Sophie nodded and her eyes narrowed. 'Fit of passion, clinical?'
'Oh, decidedly coldblooded - quite professional in fact.'
'They hadn't done that to her, you know. I'd have known that. They didn't have her under their control.'
'What are you driving at?'
‘They had her blackmailed it seems to me. I believe she wouldn’t have killed Hugh and she was crazy for him but it could easily have been to get Hugh and Emma captured that she spared both. But this doesn’t look like it. If she kills Rory, then she’s coming home with intelligence on us. We’ll never know whether she was one of their hit people or whether she was blackmailed.'
'R shot Julia. She'd been hiding out in the engine bay, she'd heard someone rummaging about but no one came in there. The three of them were meant to meet with their contact not all that far from Stranraer.'
'So ... what's happening with R?'
'She's coming here, Sophie. You're a delight to me, you really are and you've been exactly the right person in the right place at the right time but look at me - think what I need in my latter years.'
She smiled, quite relieved but more so for him. She'd have stayed with him, looking after him till the end, for the very simple reason that she felt great affection, there was nothing else she'd prefer to be doing in her current mental state and he needed her.
Freed now from the consequences, she went round to his chair, lowered her face and put a kiss on his lips. 'I hope you'll both be very, very happy.'
'I have to win her first.'
'Oh, I don't think that's going to be all that much of an issue.'
'You say all the right things, don't you?' He grinned. 'You do realize I'm going to have that kiss framed and hung up on the wall, over my desk.'
'I think R might have an opinion.'
'Time for bed, Sophie ... and thanks.'
Emma walked into the Big Room next morning, having spent a restless night in her hut.
The thing was that she was alone, utterly alone. The PM had Sophie up here at the house, those two were over in Britain, Hugh was still comatose and though she spent hours each day with him, they were one way conversations. True they kept her this side of breakdown, those 'conversations' but there was no one else to share her feelings with, no one to talk things out with.
'Come in, come in,' the Prime Minister cried, pressing the buzzer and ordering a coffee. 'Come and rest yourself over here.'
She was bemused by this but did as she was bid, her crutches leaning against the chair.
The coffee came through, with some sweetmeats, they sat and he poured. Now she saw the change in his demeanour and began to be very frightened.
'I'm afraid I have to tell you, Emma that neither Rory nor Julia is coming back. She shot him and she was in turn shot by R. I'm so very sorry.' He hung his head.
She struggled to stand up, swayed and cried, 'No! No! No! No! No!' She picked up one crutch and shoved it under her arm, carrying the other and hobbled rapidly to the steps, he went to the desk and buzzed the two on duty, asking them to keep their distance but to watch her. If she went to Sophie's hut, then they could return to the Big House.
Sophie had heard the kerfuffle of Emma's motion towards her own hut, then the change of direction and now here she was.
Emma moved to the bed quickly, threw the crutches down and collapsed onto it.
'Don't say harsh things to me - please.'
'I won't. I have an idea how you feel.'
'I'm chagrined. Why? Why did she do it?'
'I've been trying to work that out. I told the Prime Minister I didn't feel they'd done to her what they did to me. If she had been made to work for them, it could have been for any reason - something held over her head about her family, even something stupid like a theft from a shop as a teenager - could have been any reason, Emma.’
‘I think she was one of them, a professional.’
‘Did ... er ... someone say that?
‘It was a most professional hit. He never suffered.’
Emma buried her face in the bedding.
It was approaching Christmas and R had appeared a week back.
Sophie had been right - the two were eminently suited. She was an elegant lady, a bit reserved in some ways, more than efficient and she knew him very well from the past. There was obviously quite a history between the two and Sophie wasn't interested in pursuing that one.
Hugh had shown signs of recovery, according to the medicos, they'd bring him out of it shortly before New Year and the rest would be known after that. The body had taken its own time, one could have said but it had repaired itself, with a bit of help. The prognosis was that he'd be physically able, if the nerves were all in order. They appeared to be but they'd seen strange turns once a patient was conscious again.
It went without saying that there'd be no shocks delivered to him in the short term.
Emma found herself impatient to have him back again. Rory, curiously, had faded. Perhaps because she’d also known it was not on - perhaps that's why it had faded and now she felt more at one with herself. The biggest question was going to be the day she told Hugh. She was going to tell it all at once, not in graphic detail but he was going to know what had happened.
She was going to accept the consequences and not fight it when he gravitated towards Sophie. It wasn't that she loved him the less but that she now loved him the more and felt he had every right to take his leave. She hoped against hope that he wouldn't.
This island now - it was as safe as they had been for some time, they had weaponry which would make the natives quake if they knew the half of it. It hadn't been stolen - it belonged to the forces represented on the island, British forces in British uniforms, loyal to the Prime Minister who currently resided on this island. Various governments recognized this administration as the legitimate one - admittedly Russia and China - and that had been enough to stay the hand of Jamieson at this time.
It was useful to the Russians and Chinese.
So here they were.
R was well aware that the two women who had once taken care of things had now been supplanted by her. She didn't pull rank and tried to work in with them but truth was - she was the one doing those things now and this put the two ladies in an unenviable position.
For his part, the Prime Minister saw it as less of a problem. Mara did not cross responsibilities with R who was more clerical/administrative and he’d already spoken with Sophie. Still ...
'If you don't mind, I'd like R to tell you her story because you've been asked to accept this, Sophie.
The missile took out not only the grand hall but the entire top two floors of the building. It accounted for three innocents in the process and that can never be forgotten but it also took out Robert Jamieson and half his cabinet - the bad half, we might say.
Naturally he'll be replaced but not for some time because he was really quite special to his masters - quite excessive and determined to root out resistance or treachery to himself.
This put R in great danger. R?'
‘You see, I really was one of them at the beginning. Robert Jamieson planted me inside and everything was communicated to him.’ She took a sip of coffee. ‘To answer the obvious question, no I wasn’t awake to him. He was charming, erudite, a gentleman with me and I never saw his other side, mainly because I was never much near him. He kept up the charade near me.
It was one day when I went near his door and heard him talking to some others. It was awful and I started keeping my eyes and ears open after that. If the way he’d been talking was anything to go by, that might have been my own fate at any time. I gave him some successes and some near misses – their team arriving a fraction after you’d gone, that sort of thing. I had to give them some successes.’
‘That must have been stressful,’ commented Emma.
‘I’m not a particularly nice person, Emma and that certainly helped allay suspicion, not just with Jamieson but with some of the more virulent members of his staff. On balance, I hope I’ve done right.’
‘May I ask a question? You say you gave them some successes. Do you mean when we were travelling around Europe as Section Sophie-Fleury?'
'I knew of your Section. No, this was later, after you became the Citadel.'
Do you think they’ll hit the island?’
‘Undoubtedly. At least, the old crew would have. I believe there weren’t many left after the missile hit, as the Prime Minister has said.’
‘Why all the killing?' asked Emma. 'Why the instability, people chasing other people to torture them and kill them, why does nation attack nation, why don’t people just get on with their prosperity where they are and let the rest of the world do as it wants?’
‘Scarcity of resources, grass is always greener and that other factor you know about very well – sheer malevolence and the desire to promote misery, simply for misery’s sake.’
‘Do you have a name?'
'Do you like churches, Emma?'
‘Well, yes, to visit for the architecture.’
‘Are you intrigued by churches where the cruciform plan was never completed?’ She saw that that had gone over Emma's head but not Sophie's.
'Is that really your name?' asked Sophie.
‘Has the missile crippled the state?’ asked Emma, quietly determining to broach the cryptic name game with Sophie later.
‘Of course not – these people were never the state. There is no state anymore, don’t you realize that? There’s a global chain of command and global money source – not rock solid, of course because all want to be the chiefs and none wish to be the Indians and we have to fan these unhealthy rivalries if we’re to have any chance but still.’
‘Did the Citadel have a traitor?’ enquired Sophie, Emma looked at her and then at R.
‘There was one lady killed in that Temple you’d be familiar with, both of you. She did an enormous amount of damage before she was through - your Rosa Carrington.’
The PM chipped in. ‘That’s why, in the days of the Citadel, we were falling down everywhere, that’s why the coup was so smooth, that’s why Hugh is like he is, that’s why, Emma, Chris Jones happened. She knew the codes, she knew your modus operandi, your weaknesses, Hugh's, she knew how to fan the flames – in short, she knew the lot.’
Emma had suspected Rosa, of course, as had Hugh, so it was no great surprise to hear this. ‘And she was working for them all along, I suppose.’
‘No,' cut in the Prime Minister, 'they were all working for her. She had a humble position in the Citadel but she was actually a matriarch from one of the top five families in the land. And now it's time for me to also remind you, as I mentioned obliquely once before, that I was at one time one of them, I’d done unspeakable things before I could turn away from that path. However, it never crossed my mind to ever check Mrs. Carrington's antecedents, beyond what was officially traceable of course.’
‘Was Hugh - er - one of you?’ asked Sophie.
‘No. Never. He was indirectly approached a number of times, of course, even after he took up his position but he was deemed too unstable, too unreliable for their purposes and they do believe he is this Albus.’
‘So what now?'
'We have contingency plans, for what they’re worth and we’ll sever a few tentacles before we go. It won’t happen until they regroup, appoint new people at the top, under the control of the families, of course and then it will happen. We have work to do.’
‘They’ll attack the island?’ asked Emma.
‘Tsunami or something similar,’ replied the PM, ‘cataclysmic shift in the earth’s plates – induced of course. Probably take out most of the south Asian coastline as well. They did it once, they’ll do it again.’
‘And where will we be?’ asked Emma.
‘Hopefully far away. The PM changed the topic. ‘R and I are to marry.'
Sophie looked blankly and Emma grinned. 'Well, well, congratulations.' Sophie recovered and added hers.
R spoke. 'I'm well aware how vital you were in the house, Sophie and I'm truly sorry but this is a long term partnership we're talking about here. Also, I don't think we have terribly much time left on this island.'
When Sophie appeared for breakfast, the table was laid, the Prime Minister was at his desk, speaking with two officers from Jujun Island, he saw her and called her over, introduced her to Major James Peters, 45, communications head honcho for the island and his offsider, Lieutenant Stephen Andrews, 29.
They were invited for breakfast, R appeared, quite understated and demure on this occasion and the finding out about each other began. Peters was about Sophie's height, he obviously trained, hair was receding and greying and he had a wicked smile which caught you unawares. He'd done this and that in his time - played sport, run with the lads, imbibed a bit too much at the pub and was well regarded by the men - judging by Lieutenant Andrews anyway.
Andrews was the catch - about 187 cm, broad-shouldered, had played rugby for his district as flanker, was unassuming and a little shy, truth be told. He had that soft smile and he was looking straight at Sophie the whole time, though trying to disguise it and even that was sweet.
Sophie told her tale and made it as gruesome as she could, R looked at the ceiling and sighed, Peters grinned, Andrews was shocked.
They ate up and Sophie suggested she'd go to see Hugh. Would the officers wait for her? She went and did her necessaries, came back, attired for the beach and with a matting rug under her arm, R had packed a hamper, which she took and the three departed, heading down the path to the hospital.
They walked either side of her and just before the hospital entrance, she suddenly whispered to Peters, 'Give me five minutes please.' He nodded. To Andrews, she looked into his eyes and said, 'It was a pleasure meeting you, Lieutenant.'
'Stephen. When I'm over on the island, I'll look you up. I've actually a tactical matter to discuss with the Major just now, if you don't mind,' she said in her sweetest voice.
He saluted and headed for the proas at the river, one which would take him back over to his barracks. Sophie glanced at the Major, handed him the hamper and the rug and went in to Hugh. Ignoring the chair, she knelt on the floor and touched his hand, placing hers inside it. She kissed his cheek but if it had registered inside him, he'd not indicated. She looked down and kissed the cheek again, then got up and went out to Peters.
'Are you going back to the island yourself, Major?'
'You don't need to speak to me like that. I'm not in the army, you know.'
'How would you like me to speak?' he smiled.
'Call me Sophie and I'll call you James.'
'Er ... Sophie, let me stop you right there -'
'No, let me stop you right there. What you have to say to me, say it on the beach please.'
He gazed at her, turned down the path and she walked beside him, her long legs and panther feet padding along silently - feline Sophie. When they reached the beach, she spread out the matting, doubling as a picnic rug, took out some nibbles and a drink each.
'Er ... Sophie, at what point will you allow me to speak?'
'I'm married. You were meant to fall for the Lieutenant - I was only there on business.'
'You think I don't know the one they had in mind?'
‘Ah, it’s like that, is it?’
'As I'm trying to get Emma to take her husband back, I'm hardly likely to be trying to take someone else's husband.'
'Good, as long as we understand one another.'
‘But you’re not married. I do check these things, you know. Not only that, you’re not getting on well with your girlfriend.’
She got up and slipped her sari from her shoulders, letting it hit the sand. She had her most modest pair of knickers on but that was all. 'I swim in these,' she said. 'Will you join me?'
There was no point denying that her breasts, glistening under that sun, were captivating, she saw him going hard and remained demure.
'I ... I can't. You know that. I have to go.' He got up, she put out one hand, fingers downturned and this appeal to his gallantry scored. He took the fingers, lightly raised them to his lips, looking into her eyes all the while, said thanks again and just as he was about to turn for the proas, she said, quietly, 'I swim here at 19:00.'
He nodded to her and departed.
She went for her swim.
On the way back up to the Big House, she dropped in on Hugh again and there was Emma, sitting on the chair beside the bed, holding Hugh's hand as well. Sophie knelt down beside her and kissed her behind the ear, down to her neck and as her head involuntarily, she found a pair of lips.
'Sophie, I can't. I'm confused enough already.'
'Then you're going to be even more confused. I'd like you to do something for me, Emma, something I really need your help with. I know, after the things I said, that I'm not your favourite person but this could be a most significant moment for both of us. Please say you will.'
'You haven't told me what it is yet,' but she smiled as she said it.
'Adventure, Emma, at 19:00. At that time, I'll be swimming at the beach, in the shallows and I'd like you to be there too. We must take some wine.'
'Wine, to swim?'
'Trust me,' she smiled, conspiratorially and Emma was in, hook, line and sinker. Sophie departed and went to her beach.
She had to make a decision and she could wreck a person’s life here. If you know someone has a weakness, say a weakness for alcohol, do you invite them to an alcohol party? That’s very nasty.
On the other hand, she thought she’d like to help Emma, be the person she needed in this time of loneliness, to repay her a little for the help they’d given her. But she didn’t know what to advise, couldn’t know until she knew how Emma reacted in a social situation. Well all right, with a man. If she saw that, she could then save Emma from that and have a heart to heart, put things off until Hugh awoke.
She had to admit there was another reason. She wanted to test the fidelity of James Peters. But what if Emma succumbed? She, Sophie, would just have to deal with that one as it came.
With supper at the Big House done and the plates and bowls cleared away, nothing was said when Sophie went to her room, to emerge a few minutes later - she'd squared it with R and R didn't like the assignation one bit.
She had no idea about Emma.
Emma excused herself and made to return to her hut, this evening the Big Hut would belong to the PM and his betrothed.
Sophie took wine and nibbles in the hamper, plus the mat and disappeared. She'd agreed to look in on Hugh sometime in the evening.
At the water's edge, she laid down the mat and makings, dropped her robe, only this time she was fully unclad and had shaven. She waded silently into the water and stood up to halfway up her thighs, her naked upper half making her appear as one of those river nymphs, if not a river sprite. Her fair hair cascaded down her back, hair she'd spent all afternoon getting ready.
It was 19:10 and she wasn't worried.
At 19:20 - from behind a tree in the darkness, a man appeared, clad in trunks and he slipped into the water but she called out as softly as she could, 'Wait, James - you can't swim here in bathing costume. It makes me self-conscious. After all, look at me.'
He was doing just that and now he waded to the shore, dropped his trunks and waded back again, as hard as a rock. The moment he reached her, she moved up close, they began to kiss, she raised her knee, which he held up, she reached down and guided him in.
He was like a bull and after twelve minutes or so, went over the top, pulling out. She took him by the hand and led him to the shore. 'James, this is Emma.'
To say he was shocked was an understatement and he was most uneasy. What his feeling was when Emma stood up from the mat, went down on her knees and took him in her mouth had him bewildered. There hadn’t been the slightest preliminaries, he now saw the crutches, knew her story, knew her husband and he was out of there.
He gently pushed her shoulders away, picking up his shorts, he hopped, stepped and jumped his way towards the proa, dressing as he went.
Emma asked, 'Why him?'
'He was nice. Didn't you think so?'
'Yes. And he's not married? He seemed that way when he ran away.'
'He's not married, I told you. He was lying, I found out. His first wife divorced him over the constant travelling, the military life, so the story goes. I think there was a different reason.'
There was silence and Emma felt it keenly. 'Look, Sophie, maybe I'll leave it. I think there could be trouble if he tells anyone.'
‘Oh, he will, I’m sure of it. I thought whether to introduce you –’
‘You wanted to see if I’d stay true to Hugh.’
‘That was one of the things.’
‘And if he’d refuse me.’
‘That too. So, Emma, you didn’t stay true to Hugh.’
She sat back against a clump of rushes on a small dune. ‘I wouldn’t have let him have me.’
‘But fellating him is still faithful?’
‘Hugh did that to me while he was with Nicolette.’
Sophie expelled air in a low whistle. ‘My goodness, Emma, and these are the people who brought me out of my troubles. Can you hear yourself?’
‘Why invite me then? You’re just as bad.’
‘You’re married. You don’t seem to have that in your head. I’m not, any man is out there.’
‘And the man I married is no longer the same thing.’
‘He’s coming out of it, Emma, by New Year. You can’t wait until then or you want to do as much fellating as you can before then? And what are you going to do now, have you thought of that? All the men on that island over thee will know you’re good for what the English call a blow job. This is the reputation you give yourself and you make Hugh the one they all laugh at.’
Emma reached for her crutches and tried to get up to go.
‘Where are you going?’ asked Sophie.
‘Back to my hut.’
‘You can’t. There’ll be a proa of men at your hut tonight.’
‘Do you say I don’t know them?’
She looked blankly at the other woman and then buried her face in her hands.
In a more kindly way, Sophie said, ‘You do have a problem with men, with sex.’ She immediately put her arm around her to show she hadn’t meant that as a criticism.
Emma rested a hand on top of hers. ‘I ... do ... need things. If Hugh was here, I’d be fine.’
‘Until a Chris Jones came along?’
She pushed Sophie off. ‘What is it with you?’
Sophie didn’t immediately answer. She turned face down to the sand, resting her weight on her elbows. ‘You both helped me. I want to help you. You have no one. I want for everyone to be happy. I tested James out tonight because I am looking for a man, not your Hugh. I would have Hugh if you were not married to him but you are, Emma. If he comes out of this coma and is all right again, do you really want that Hugh or did it go too far for you both?’
‘I don’t know, Sophie, I don’t know. I have nowhere to turn. I always did have and now I have to not do this, do that, I have to make decisions which were easy before. And society is not what we remember – well, I remember –’
‘No, I remember too ... before.’
‘I think what I’m saying is we have new rules now, we have a new life.’
‘In which there is no marriage? I’m not married, I want to know about this.’
‘Marriage was good for a very long time, for most of the time.’
‘I think that right now you must make a decision. The first decision at least is that you must sleep at the Big House tonight. The second is that you must tell the Prime Minister what you did tonight. Do you not understand that it will be all over the base by tomorrow.’
‘No, I don’t believe it.’
‘Believe it,’ said a voice from the rushes. Stepping down to the beach was the last person, aside from Hugh, she wanted to meet at this time. ‘You don’t have to tell me anything, Emma, if you don’t wish, in which case I’ll go for a walk with Sophie and ask her. R can over to the other island.’
She was trapped. ‘I had oral sex with him.’
‘Major Peters? Hmmm. Grapevine says he hasn’t told anyone yet. He has a girlfriend, you see.’
‘You told me he was unattached, Sophie!’
‘I said he was unmarried.’
‘Mon dieu, and I am. That’s how this seems.’
‘Is it more important how it seems or that some covenant has been broken? Some natural law?’
It did start to dawn on her. Possibly it was the first time it had since they’d been man and wife. The Prime Minister could not afford to take chances and besides, he was getting a bit impatient with this self-indulgent version of Emma.
‘Mrs. Jensen,’ that sent shock waves through her, ‘everyone wants to be as fair as possible in your own trauma and that of your husband but we must now start to act in a way that the officers, men and women will look up to. I need to tell you both now that we think an attack imminent, much earlier than anticipated – we still have information coming back to us.
We’ll be going to three different places – and this is confidential now – one of those places will be under the leadership of the Jensens. Therefore, I need Hugh awake and back to 60 or 70 percent as soon as possible and I need you for that job. You or Sophie. I’m afraid we cannot afford the self-indulgence of will you or won’t you anymore. We’re speaking about life or death for many people.
Come up to the Big House tonight and think it through. Then – and I’m going to ask this as a special favour, Emma – let things be until Hugh is out of it. No one can make you stay with a man who is different, I do agree that that would be grounds for starting over but as things stand now, you are married and there is a chance he will come out of it and be fine. I think we have about a month until the attack, minimum – these things take planning. We’re in that time frame though.
Will you do this? Will you at least come up to the Big House tonight?’
She nodded, Sophie promised to bring up her things from her hut.
The evening before New Year's Eve, 2010
They brought Hugh out of it, he was functioning and yet he wasn't functioning.
As he opened his eyes and adjusted to the light, he looked around, saw Emma sitting there, his hand in hers, he smiled what appeared to be a smile of recognition and then stared into space, the hand lost its feel, its human vibrancy.
The medics rushed over and here was the first difficulty with the island hospital. The PM had done a grand job spiriting out the cream of the staff from his own private hospital in Hampshire plus much of their equipment, at enormous cost but there were limits. Their electricity was generated by engine and fed two places - the Big House and the hospital - that part was all right.
What wasn't all right was no little embellishments - specialists in neural damage, for example. There were only so many medical staff one could bring to an island home like this. Though many had training in neurology, as army doctors would be expected to have, they weren't neurologists per se. So the diagnosis was going to be sound but not conclusive.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how one saw it, it now slowly became clear what had happened with him was at least retrograde amnesia and who knew yet if it might also involve anterograde as well.
There was a round table discussion on whether to induce the coma again but it was felt that he was physically fine and readouts indicated he was mentally operating normally, except for this one issue. They couldn't know the duration of the relapse and had now to decide.
They went for leaving him out of it, reasoning that back in it, they had no way to know when to bring him out again but out of it, they could monitor it better and run tests to narrow and define the exact condition.
Emma was gutted - for that fleeting moment, she'd recognized and had been recognized with joy and that had been enough. All the words, all the angst - it died in that fraction of a second.
And yet, here he was again ... well ... like a zombie ... not understanding, not recognizing, functioning fine in other ways, according to them but not in this one crucial way.
It was bizarre. And there beside him, she felt dirty inside.
She visited in the late afternoon and took his hand again, he turned to look at her, saw a smiling face and smiled back; she said, 'Hello Hugh, welcome back.' To his puzzled but largely unconcerned nod, she added, 'I'm Emma.' And for good measure, 'Your wife.'
'My wife - ah. I know you. I saw you and knew you. Memory's still a bit rusty.'
'Speeee ... ch is OK.'
'Hugh, don't look at me that way.'
'I'm sorry, I was forgetting my mannnnn ... ers. My wife, eh? I obviously have good taste - has anyone ever told me that?'
The tears were welling in her eyes. 'Many people, on many occasions,' she smiled.
'Forgive me but your name ... it's temporarily -'
Sudden recognition, then it was gone. 'I do know you, I'm sure of that and I know we were close. I know this for myself, I mean - not just because you're holding my hand and you've told me you were my wife.'
The medics who'd been standing to one side were relieved - they'd give Emma another five minutes.
'How do you feel, Hugh? I mean, it's a silly question because you've lost your memory and we have a lot of work to do but in general - how do you feel?'
'He did an internal check with his mind. 'Seems fine. Nothing broken, nothing in pain. Question of time, I suppose. Emma,' he rolled the word around on his tongue and liked the sound of it, 'I can strategize a lot, I can work things out. I know I'm in a hospital, have amnesia – they tell me this - was probably unconscious, it's warm outside so we're in a hot country - it's not like our heat, you're at my bedside so you obviously care for me and that means I must care for you because you seem the type to care for me if I care for you. So it appears I care ... and you do too.'
Tears welled again as she stroked his hand. 'However, I get the impression that not all was well with us and you're being very brave. Perhaps that's to save me from being stressed in this first conversation. Perhaps it's better that way. I'm a little tired but not too bad - I see they're making moves to come forward, so they obviously wish you to go but I don't want you to go. I get this feeling that you were my life but I know you have to go for now. Perhaps I can sleep for a while, if that's part of their plan.' He indicated the medics. 'Were they good?' he asked, in a low voice.
'The best. They were the best.'
He smiled. 'That's good. Do you think you will come back to see me soon?'
She squeezed his hand more than she should have, he winced, she said sorry, he then said, 'Not to worry - I like your touch, hard or soft. You really are the most beautiful woman, you know that? And I really married you?' He chuckled, to which she nodded her head. 'Well, at least I get some things right. Do you regret being married to me?'
She burst into tears, he reached for a handkerchief but of course, there was none, she took a fold of the sari and dabbed her eyes, he regretted the question. 'Sorry, that's just me - blurting out whatever comes into my mind.'
'No Hugh, I don't regret the husband I have with me now. I don't regret the one I had before our troubles. I think it's all going to be fine. You rest now, all right. Please - for me?'
She stood, leaned over and kissed him on the lips. He responded and seemed to be responding in a manner learned, as if they'd kissed before which, naturally, he knew they must have done.
It was late in the day in her room in the Big House when Emma suddenly realized something.
In her preoccupation with him, she'd forgotten Sophie, the Prime Minister and all the others. Suddenly, she understood that she wanted to vet their visits to him, especially Sophie's.
Knowing Hugh would be awake again in the evening, it was now getting on for that time but what if Sophie had gone there of her own volition? How would Hugh react to her? She'd wanted to prepare him for Sophie, to make it clear that Sophie was just a friend of theirs.
She donned her sari and sandals and hobbled down to the hospital at a rate of knots on her sticks.
Her worst fears were realized as the very person came out, just as she was going in. 'I have to ask you, Sophie, what passed between you?'
'Ask Hugh. He doesn't remember the past, except as told by us but he does remember what's been happening since he awoke - he told me about your meeting earlier. Ask Hugh, Emma, not me.' She headed down the path to the river.
Emma went in and he was in fine form, propped up in the bed but puzzled. She kissed him and he warmed to her kiss, placing his hands on her shoulders, he looked into her eyes and said, 'Welcome back, beautiful lady. I didn't quite get the full ... impact of that kiss just now ... would you try it again?'
'You're incorrigible.' She spoke the word in French and now showed him what a kiss could be.
When she sat down in the chair at last and gazed at him, he was in his element. That old jauntiness was back - it was just that he couldn't remember things.
'Tell me what happened with Sophie,' she asked.
'Sophie. Right. I'd woken up, they'd attended to me,' he indicated the medics, 'and they are good people, aren't they?' She nodded, a trifle impatiently. 'She came straight up and kissed me ... on the lips too.' Emma was furious. 'She said, 'Hello, Hugh. I'm Sophie ... your friend.' Now I know, Emma, that friends do certain things but not a kiss like that. I'm not complaining, mind - but I had to conclude that I'd been naughty with her - perhaps in the recent past.' His face clouded over. 'Maybe that's why you spoke of the husband you have now and the one you had 'before the troubles'. Perhaps the troubles were with Sophie and me.'
Here was her golden opportunity to stitch Sophie up for good and yet she couldn't do it. When it came down to it, she just couldn't.
With a gulp, unable to believe herself, she answered, 'No, it wasn't you and Sophie. You and she haven't done anything like that - before a few minutes ago anyway. I'm quite annoyed with her because she doesn't have this right.
The trouble you detected - it was between you and me. We had issues between us in the last days before you were shot. You were on a mission - this is an army base you're now on - and you were sent to England. The enemy shot you in the back, just as you were boarding a helicopter to come back here.'
He was listening intently, so she carried on. She told him about the Citadel, about their roles, about how they were a team, about how they'd had to separate when he went north to rescue an agent - she didn't specify who and he didn't ask - she told him about Section Sophie-Fleury and how they'd all met up at the chapel and married.
'Well who's this Sophie then?'
She told him about Thirteen, about her kidnapping and rehabilitation, about both their roles, about how Sophie now cared for both of them, that she was a very good friend.
'So really, she shouldn't have done that, as you say.'
'I'm glad you understand that, Hugh.'
'Then if you say that, it must have been difficult for you. I imagine you'd have many admirers.' She shot him a glance of wariness but he seemed oblivious and pressed on. 'I'd like to know two things.'
'Do you see yourself as my wife in the future and if so, why? I'm entertaining hopes that you'll remain as my wife, you see and will love me as I'll love you but I'm ready now to be told something different - that you have someone else you're making love to.'
'Soph -' She cursed herself the instant she'd said it because he went into that immediate emotional control she knew so well - he was going to let her tell her whole life story.
'No, she didn't tell me. I surmised it and you've just confirmed there is someone. My attitude is that people have to want the person they’re with, no point otherwise. Look, if you love him and I'm going to be like this, then perhaps you'd better go to him.'
She was paralysed at the turn the conversation had taken. He was too quick by half, made too many assumptions. She gathered her thoughts and decided truth was best.
'There was the first part, when we met, Hugh, when everything was so lovely. We came together and I'll tell you about that one day, tomorrow perhaps, not now if you don't mind ... and then something happened.
We went to Britain and we formed that Citadel and people were trying to pull us apart - it was their job to do that because we were dangerous to them, as a team. But things became bad in the country and we left for this island.
Then there was your shooting when we went back there, mine too. They also shot a man called Rory.'
'Rory, Rory - I recall the name.'
'He and I were hidden in an attic, convalescing and at one stage, it became intimate.' She gulped and decided to risk all - this was the best chance, while he was still hot for her. 'He didn't penetrate me but I did fall in love with him.'
‘You say ‘didn’t penetrate’ -why say that? You mean there was nothing physical.’
‘I said we were intimate.’
'Fine, fine. You thought about a life with him?'
'For a short time, yes, I thought of it. But in the end, no, I wouldn't have left you. The trouble is, you might have left me.'
She was appalled by the question. 'I'm willing to say that I was perhaps a bit unfair when I wasn't the centre of your - heart.'
'Ah, so I went with another woman, yes?'
'No, it wasn't that. We just misunderstood each other. Then you came awake here this morning and remembered me ... with love ... that's when my doubts cleared away.'
‘I don’t really see the issue then. I see that it must have been bad for you with me like a ... well, a zombie –’ She dissolved into tears again. ‘Emma, I don’t know when something will upset you or not. I’ll learn what not to say but at this moment, I’m not sure.’ She nodded and dabbed her eyes. ‘But if there was this Rory and you thought no, not really and there has been no one else in recent memory, then it would seem it’s possible for us again, no?
She decided to leave the topic of Nikki for another day. She wasn’t sure if she’d ever mention James Peters but knew she must, as someone on that island would say something and she didn’t want it coming to him that way.
This had been most successful, all in all and she'd seen off Sophie. Now she wanted him back at the hut with her, to start the long road back.
Chapter 8 here … Chapter 10 here