No point going back to the office, I’ll head off to see him. Helena opened the lobby door and entered, followed by Sam, closing it behind him; a large bunch of narcissi was sitting there in the hall, with a card. She didn’t really need to read it, but couldn’t help herself, ‘Thanks for all you’ve done, from the new John.’ That threw her, she could have sworn it was from him; she took them upstairs and let Sam into the flat.
“Will you be alright here? Get yourself cleaned up, something to eat, you must be starving, just don’t answer the door or phone as you’re not here, right? I’ll be back later.”
He stuttered his assent as she was already heading back out to catch a cab, carrying that little card. It couldn’t be anyone else, what did he mean by the ‘new John’? Was it some new game to keep him amused in hospital? How was she going to explain about Sam’s adventures, what they had found on the stick, why she had delayed telling him? Would he be furious?
You should have thought of that earlier, the impact on his trust in you… Well, was it worth it?
She was ushered into his room after some confusion, the guards purporting that no one called Henry was there. Fortunately, Elaine had left a message for her to be allowed in.
“John is it today?”
He was smiling now, “Sorry, I’m told I’ve been reborn, new identity, the lot. Say goodbye to Henry, he died apparently, to no one’s great loss.”
She chuckled; he was indeed well on the road to recovery.
“I don’t know, I think I’ll miss Henry, not sure about John yet.”
She sat beside him, craning forward as his voice dropped to a murmur, staring into her eyes, holding them steadily.
“I’ve a confession to make; I was never really Henry either. I just never got around to telling you, but I think I owe it to you.”
“I wish I could say I was shocked, but I can’t, nothing much about you surprises me these days. Are the other things you told me about yourself true, her for instance?”
“Sorry. It just becomes a habit, you stop thinking about it. Henry was just my service name after a previous episode.”
“So, what should I call you now, really, I mean, when we’re alone?”
He told her.
“How apt, and I much prefer it.”
There, you see, he’s opening up to you, bit by bit, don’t blow it now. She embraced him.
“I’m sorry, I’m not sure you like that, but I needed it after today.”
He was smiling. “Sometimes you’re too much, you know. So, what’s happened to ruin your day?”
She told him; the data on the stick, the research, the estate, the annotated plans of sites in central London, Sam’s reconnaissance, his need to fight his way out, the subsequent news reports.
He lay there, staring at her thoughtfully as if seeing her anew; she really was quite exceptional, he had been so right about that, new dimensions kept being revealed. She was looking nervous now, scared of him, of what he might say.
“Helena,” his voice was level, calm, but not cold, “what possessed you… to put yourself in danger like that, without telling me first? Do you know the risk you were both taking, without any back up? I should be furious…”
“I’m sorry, it just got out of control, but we didn’t want to let things slip with you being in here and the others encamped at home. Sam’ll need you to speak for him, make things right at home. I’m sure he hasn’t told me everything that happened, but he’s earned it, near thirty of them on his own. Please say you’re not angry, I couldn’t bear it.”
Stop playing the weak woman, don’t lose his respect.
But it’s true, I couldn’t.
“I don’t think I can ever be truly angry with you, but sometimes you frighten me with your willingness to take risks you don’t comprehend. I lost her; I’m not going to lose you. You must promise me, no more risks like that?”
Her new tears were those of happiness at what he had said, who he had compared her to. In his consternation at her reaction, he didn’t press her to promise.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
She stilled his lips with her fingers, smiling through her tears.
“Hush; that was probably the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, I just want to enjoy it for a minute or two, please?”
Anyone surveying the room through the security camera on the wall would have seen two mature adults, a battered male patient and an elegant younger woman gazing at one another, one hand clasped in another, statue still. They wouldn’t have detected the unspoken communication wrapping its bonds ever more tightly around them, binding them ever closer together.
She broke away first, much to her own surprise. “Will you help Sam?”
“I want to speak to him first though. I’m worried he’s crossed a line, may not be the only one. I know things happen in the heat of the moment, intense stress and fear… He’s so young and inexperienced. What you say he did in those woods, it’s almost unbelievable, not just the courage, but the detachment, the ice-cold nerve, the concentration. I just want to make sure it’s not something else, something that would disqualify him. You mentioned that young girl they found in that house, they’ve grown close, hardly surprising. I just hope that’s the explanation.”
He took a breath and adjusted his position in the bed.
“The authorities are all over it now, you certainly stirred up a hornet’s nest, hurt them hard, and the diplomats won’t be happy, very embarrassing. I’ll find out more from my colleagues later. These plans of central London and some stations you say? It’s pretty obvious what they were intending. Hopefully what Sam started the authorities can finish, but can you post a copy of the stick anonymously to Chief Inspector Andy Bowson at New Scotland Yard. It’s beyond our resources to do anything else at present. Leave no trace, nothing, wear gloves, that sort of thing, please?”
She nodded, silenced by the sweeping tide of relief washing through her.
“Now what have you brought me, something special I hope?”
“What do you mean? Did you want something?”
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t tease you, but I’m so bored here, I need to get out. My rehab’s started fine; I won’t need a bone graft apparently. I’m as tough as old boots according to the consultant. But I need to be out and about, doing things, keeping you on the rails for a start, that’s probably a full-time job in itself.”
There’s only one way you can do that. Don’t think it; it’s not on the table. Yet.
“Give me a date, what they say you need, I’ll get it set up at home. You’re still coming, aren’t you?”
“I don’t have any choice, do I?” He was almost laughing, “Lord knows what mischief you’ll get into without me looking over your shoulder. I’ll ask them and let you know; what would I do without you?”
She was soaring now, her spirit rising up and out through the window, into the shining blue, over the river and away, wheeling and dipping, borne upwards by the warm draughts of contentment promised and sighted.
“Says the man in the hospital bed; pot and kettle I think. Anyway, I’d better go, make sure Sam’s ok, work out what to do with his tools.”
Her farewell kiss was far too close to his mouth, but he couldn’t pull away.
© 1642again 2018