Am I dreaming?
She recalled going into the light. So this is death? I thought I’d be frightened.
Afarin was talking to the Angle of Death, in the appearance of a Greyfriars monk and he was beautiful, a young face framed by a cowl. She knew that this sublime and serene apparition was the Archangel Michael carrying the souls of all the deceased to heaven. In this role Michael descends at the hour of death, and gives each soul the chance to redeem itself before passing; He is viewed as the angelic model for the virtues of the spiritual warrior, with the conflict against evil at times viewed as the battle within. She had no idea how she knew this and she was bereft.
I want to be with James. I killed him with my wickedness.
You didn’t kill him. It was his time.
I want to be with him in death.
The Archangel thought for a long time, with all of her deeds and misdeeds swirling through her unconcious mind. He bowed his head and then looked at her.
You can’t, Afarin. It is not yet your time. You have many things left to achieve. To love somebody and bring your three children into your world and most importantly, redeem your soul.
I can’t bear the responsibility. How will I redeem my soul after all the evil things I have done?
Death smiled. You will discover your path and one day, you will be fulfilled and happy in a state of grace. But first you must rid your soul of the hate that is destroying you.
She went back to the operating theatre and saw the trauma surgeon fixing her shattered ribs while the theatre nurse aspirated the wound. There were IV tubes, a chest drain and she had been intubated and connected to a ventilator. So much blood… So much pain. Please let me die… Afarin screamed as she went back into her body.
“She’s not fully under,” The thoracic surgeon said to the anesthetist.
Tell me about it! She was screaming to herself, as she felt the instruments inside her chest.
“I daren’t give her any more. It took all my time to get her under.”
“She has a small lung nodule, probable pre-cancerous and caused by heavy smoking. See it? I might as well remove it for biopsy, but it’s probably the last of this woman’s worries. I can only marvel at how she has managed to survive up to now. My God she’s tough.”
“The vascular surgeon is standing by to repair the arm.”
The thoracic surgeon shook his head, “We have other priorities keeping her alive. There’s nothing below the elbow, probably barely enough to form a stump for a prosthesis.”
She was put in an induced coma, her unconsciousness swirling between the two domains, but the archangel never returned. When she came out of the coma she would constantly ask a question to herself: Why was death the Archangel Michael? Why not an Imam or a Quadi?
She hardly remembered the beginning of the rehabilitation process in the Nairobi hospital and the flight with the medical team back to Birmingham. They had operated again to stabilize her ribs and moved her to Surrey and this place.
Once this had been a home where broken and battered Spitfire, Hurricane and Blenheim aircrews had convalesced in 1940, it’s peaceful grounds guarding those young men from the freezing cold and the twisting terror of the Battle of Britain, until they were well enough to go back to their squadrons. Some never would. Even German aircrew could sit side-by-side with their enemy and once recovered, go into the system as a Kriegie.
The really badly burned ones, the ones who had had gallons of burning fuel dumped on their faces and laps, the really lucky ones who had clawed their way out of a spinning and burning fighter. Those lucky men who survived a burning parachute, ended up just down the road at East Grinstead for the saline baths, tube pedicles and skin grafts, performed by the pioneering surgeon, Archibald McIndoe.
She sat under a chestnut tree in the grounds and looked at the imposing red-brick façade of the Centre. She was leaning against the bole of the tree, her legs drawn up in pain, pain from a limb that had been amputated in Nairobi, several months ago. She had begged the night staff for more powerful painkillers but one of the nurses decided it was time for some tough love. He had taken her into the television room so that she didn’t wake the other patients.
At first, Afarin had been in a side, private room, away from the other military patients. The rehabilitation staff soon realised that on her own, she was moping and wallowing in self-pity so she was moved into a shared ward, both male and female, although there were many, many more men in the rehabilitation centre (white male privilege).
It was 02:00 and he sat her down and sat a couple of chairs away, “Right, Sergeant Khan it’s time we had a chat, the nurse said sternly, “And don’t you dare light up. Your right lung is fucked and the physios are spending a lot of time and effort to increase your lung capacity.
“Now you may have the doctors running round after every whim and I know you regard yourself as a bit special. I don’t want to know where and why you were shot, but here you are. You’re just another patient and the way you’ve been behaving, I’ll be glad to see your arse disappearing down the drive. You owe your life to someone who made the right choice between the delicate balance of staying and playing and scooping and running. It’s lucky for you that he knew enough of the former to get you to a hospital within the treatment timelines. But are you grateful? Are you fuck! Oh poor little me. I’m in constant pain and I’m a cripple, half a woman. Who will want to look at me now?
“You’re pathetic! There are boys in this centre, that’s right, boys who are triple amputees, because they chose to put their foot in the wrong part of Afghanistan. Do you know what happens to someone who steps on an IED, Afarin? I do because I was a trauma nurse on a MERT team. Apart from the sonic wave that can disrupt internal organs, everybody close to the explosion gets covered with a fine, red mist. That red mist is formed by an aerosol of blood and tissue and can you guess what else, Afarin? Some of these boys will never again know how or what it’s like to make love to someone. The Taliban have taken that away from them. When some of those boys look at you, it’s a wonder that they don’t punch you in the fucking face, if they could.
“Do you know where your pain is?” He leaned forward and gently placed his hand on her head, “It’s in here. Your brain is imagining the pain because you have no nerve endings below your elbow. They’ve gone.”
She looked at him as though he had slapped her. In fact the truth was worse. She sobbed.
“Don’t you fucking dare start crying, you selfish bitch. I was a patient here once. There are only just a finite number of screaming boys you can deal with. Trying to put in a line into a screaming body, still conscious and feeling all of the pain, in some hellish, blood-spattered shithole in the Cuds, before it tips you over the edge. But this place gave me a second chance and I decided that this fantastic place is where I wanted to serve. You’ve lost less than half an arm and now your tits are a bit lopsided. Some of these boys have lost everything.”
He sat back and looked at her, “Yes I know I’ve probably overstepped the mark and you can report me if you want to. Fine. But please stop feeling sorry for yourself and think what you can achieve. You’re still relatively young and I’ve seen the way some of the boys look at your arse in the gym. Focus on the positives.”
He stood up and she said: “You’ve made me angry, Paul.”
“I don’t give a shit.”
“Because you’re right. I’m angry with myself.”
He smiled, “Go back to bed, Afarin.”
Under the chestnut tree, the leaves were turning. It was always the chestnuts first. The ground was strewn with empty conker husks. I’ll never play conkers again. Shut up! You’ve never played conkers in your life, the boys in the primary school wouldn’t let you, coz you were a girl.
Yes they were racists.
No they weren’t. You were a girl who had developed rather too quickly and they were still children. It was rather disconcerting for them to see that a girl in their class had turned into a dead heat in a Zeppelin race. And then your mother had made you wear that stupid veil, so you didn’t make eleven-year-olds deranged with lust, while they just wanted to play conkers.
She thought of Paul and smiled to herself. He may have been as gay as a Christmas tree, but he knew everything about her. She became distracted, watching a marine wheel himself down the path to where she was sitting. He had come from the gym because his olive green singlet was dark with sweat. She marvelled at the sheen of muscles in his arms. She avoided looking at the stumps of his legs
“You’ve got a visitor. Back at the main house.”
“Who is it?”
“Fucked if I know.”
She stood up and brushed the debris from her tracksuit bottoms.
“Guess what?” The Marine said. She shrugged. “I get my first fitting for my new legs tomorrow.”
Afarin grinned, “That’s really great, Bootneck.”
“When are you getting yours?”
“When NASA have finished building it.”
“Will it have a claw and pincers, you being a Crab?”
“No. Just a nuclear powered rampant rabbit.”
He laughed and watched her walk towards the house. Paul had been right about her arse.
One of the civilian admin staff showed her into a meeting room and he was there, standing by the window, just as she had remembered him. She couldn’t help herself and with a cry of joy ran towards him and embraced him warmly. He hugged her back with a joy tinged with grief and guilt.
“Oh Alan,” She finally said refusing to let him go, “I thought you’d given up on me.”
And despite what Paul had said, she started to cry.
“Don’t be stupid, Afarin. It’s you I’ve thought of constantly during the months I sent you into Somalia. You have every reason to hate me.”
And despite their very diverse backgrounds, he had come to love her as a father loved a difficult and wayward daughter, just as much as she loved him as the father she had never had, the one who encouraged and nurtured her difference. For fourteen years he had used her remarkable talents and it had been his decision that had almost resulted in her death. Now he had come to tell her that she was no further use to them, that she couldn’t do the job anymore. But she knew that. Afarin pulled him towards the chairs and they sat down.
“I guess that this is the end of the road, Alan.”
He looked away, out of the window.
“If I know too much and they want to kill me, please may it be you who does it. Painlessly please.”
He stared at her, “Stop this nonsense, Afarin. If we wanted rid of you, you would never have left Kenya. I want you to feel as though you’ve retired with an immediate Civil Service and Armed Forces disability pension, so you’ll never have to work again if you don’t want to. But I think you still have much to offer and we’ll speak again once you’ve been fitted for a prosthetic arm. I may have a job for you to consider, a proper job.”
He delved in his attaché case and pulled out a brown envelope with “EMBARGOED” on the flap, “In the meantime, read this. It’s a report the government and Civil Service are sitting on and has notes concerning a charity that is undergoing some difficulties at this time. The two are inter-related and may be uncomfortable reading for you. Make no decisions at the moment until we’ve discussed this again. Please be careful of the contents. They are of an extremely delicate nature and are very sensitive. I shouldn’t have the copy at all, but it was passed to me by someone in our sister service. Jean-Claude sends his regards by-the-way.”
She didn’t need to ask but knew that the service was MI5, “Alan, would you like a cup of coffee? Keep the report in your case until you leave. I promise I’ll read it.”
She disappeared and returned with two mugs on a tray, carried awkwardly with her good arm and resting on the right arm’s stump, “I’ve spilled some, I’m afraid. Fucking useless arm… Oh sorry, you don’t like me swearing, do you?”
He sipped the mug and grimaced.
“Do you want some sugar?”
“Afarin. What I want most of all is for you to find happiness. If only the people in this country knew of how courageous men and women like you are, and the ways you protect them, they would be astonished.”
“No, Alan, the vast majority of them wouldn’t give a shit, as long as they can have their cheap holidays in the sun once or twice a year, watch Britain’s Got Talent on a Saturday and be able to buy cheap booze in a supermarket. They need nothing but want everything. They have no God, just the new religion of the NHS to make them better after a lifetime of abusing themselves, too lazy to walk half-a-mile to buy their booze and fags.
“I had my chance at happiness but was too much of a coward to take it. I have learned living with men like them, that they’re not “special” in any way. They have the same fears, anxiety, hang-ups and faults just like everyone. The only difference is their training and courage. They and to an extent, I have certain skills that someone has recognised and the state has exploited. There’s nothing new about that. The Spartans and the Romans did it. There were the Forlorn Hopes of the English Civil War, the trench bombers in World War One and the SOE agents in the second. Even though I know your mob had little time for SOE. Too amateurish. Leave it to the professionals.
“I loved those men, because of their foibles rather than despite them. And three I have loved with a longing. One of them chased the girl in me away. Oooh he was so dangerous and appealing for all that. But I could never have settled down with him. We would have torn each other apart.
“And then there was James,” Another tear ran down her face, “Dear sweet James. We fell in love when I had pneumonia in Iraq. He looked after me, kept me warm with his body heat and even cleaned me up when I pissed myself. He was scared all the time, but it was his coping with iron will, bravado and bravery that kept both of us going. And he survived being shot, only to be killed in a car crash. Bastard life!”
“You don’t still hold Cécile Hammond responsible for James’s death, do you?”
“No, Alan. I did hate her for a while and I still often think she used us for revenge. I was drawn to her. I suppose that was what made me angry.”
“Did you know that the Navigator those animals tortured and murdered and Cécile were lovers?”
Afarin’s eyes were wide with shocked surprise, “No I didn’t. No wonder I was drawn to her. Where is she now?”
“The state tried to drive her mad, but she held out until her uncle got her out of the secure mental unit she was being held in. She’s married now with a child. Married to a man.”
“Oh God, really? Do I know him?”
“Her close protection officer. Phillips.”
She laughed, “It was obvious really. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.”
They were silent for a while until Alan spoke again, “You said there were three. Who was the other one?”
“His name was… Is Guy Jarvis. He was in Afghanistan when I first met him. Safe and kind with a gentleness. Women were attracted to him, me included but I went for the danger instead of the kind gentleness. I met him again a few years later in Iraq and was determined to tell him how I felt, but he disappeared and I made do with the danger again. The last time I saw him was in the hospital ward of HMS Ocean, when we had to get out of Libya in a hurry. A guy called Edge saved us. Guy had been shot in both legs, but I still think he survived. Could you trace him for me please, Alan? I want to make up for all the years we wasted, although he probably won’t want to look at me now.”
“Stop it! I will try. Where will you be staying?”
“In my place in Wiltshire.”
“And what will you do if I’m able to find him again? He might not want to be found.”
“I’ll go and speak to him and tell him how I feel. If he has a new life with someone else, then I’ll back away and consider the job you’ve found for me.”
He nodded, “Right. In the meantime, work with your prosthesis, not against them and I’ll be back when I’ve some news for you. Remember, Afarin, keep that report safe.”
He stood up and kissed her on the forehead.
“Thank you for visiting me, Alan. You have made my day.”
“And you mine. And Afarin, I’m so very, very sorry I put you in harm’s way.”
Alan Bartlett drove up the narrow road towards her ex-married quarter. She had bought it for a song in the mid-2000s and since the expansion of Swindon and the new high-tech industries, it was worth a fortune. It was of American layout and design with a large, open plan downstairs, a mezzanine floor and two large bedrooms and a bathroom at the rear. She had been working in her home office that was on the mezzanine floor, where she could sit and read if sleep was illusive, as it often was. She heard the car on the drive and draped a hijab over her hair and shoulders and back. This was somewhat incongruous as she was only wearing shorts and a singlet. Its real purpose was to hide the fighting knife and sheath she always wore in the small of her back.
He stared at her in surprise when she opened the door and said, “Oh I’m sorry, Afarin. I didn’t realise you weren’t dressed. I’ll wait in the car.”
“Don’t be silly, Alan. Come in. I’ll put something decent on. I’ve already had a shave, shower and a… Well you get the picture. Have a seat.”
As she was upstairs, hopefully putting on something slightly less distracting, he looked round the house, with a touch of sadness. It was so minimalistic with no personal possessions after years of living out of a bergen. He almost thought it had been a waste of a life, but then remembered the things she had done in the service of her country.
When she came back downstairs she was wearing a pair of jeans and a casual jacket. She had elected to wear the aesthetic prosthesis with a more limited function, rather than the bionic claw that was frankly disconcerting. She handed him the report he had given her in Headley Court.
“You read it?”
“Four times. I am disgusted.”
“We should talk over a meal,” he suggested.
She looked anxiously at the kitchen, “OK, Alan, but I should warn you my cooking’s pretty dire.”
He remembered the coffee she made in the rehabilitation centre and inwardly shuddered, “I thought we’d go out and have a spot of lunch. There’s the Crown Inn at Broad Hinton, if you don’t mind eating in a pub”
“As long as you don’t try and get me tipsy, Alan. There are some very nosey neighbours. I half expected them to get a petition together when I moved in, in case I caused the cost of the properties round here to plummet.”
He looked shocked at the suggestion, “You don’t drink anyway.”
She smiled and grabbed the house and car keys, “Do you want me to drive. I’ve got this fantastic knob on the steering wheel, I can clip my hand into.”
“No. I’ve got to go back to London this afternoon.”
The pub was a large, rambling inn with white external walls, a black roof and a vast beer garden. The interior was with a wooden floor and they found a tucked-away alcove to eat. She sat against the wall where she could observe the door and the dining room’s interior. The inn was quite busy and the distinguished man in his black suit and his Asian companion caused some surprised looks. She ordered the fish with an elderflower cordial and he went for a pie, gravy and a small glass of red wine. The waitress almost dropped her order pad when she realised the young woman had an artificial arm. Afarin looked sadly at Alan.
“It still hurts, you know.”
“What? When stupid people do certain things? She meant nothing by it you know. They can’t help it.”
“No, Alan. My arm hurts, even though it’s no longer there.”
He sipped his wine, really not knowing what to say to her.
“Have you spoken with anyone about it?”
“Yes and they said it would pass. It hasn’t.”
Bartlett suddenly remembered something he had once read. “Next time you feel the pain, look in a mirror at your amputation stump to convince the brain the limb is no longer there.”
“Will it work?”
“It’s worth a try.”
They kept the conversation light-hearted during the meal and enjoyed each other’s company.
“My wife would kill me if she could see me enjoying pie, gravy and chips.”
Afarin rested her head in her good hand and looked at him with an amused smile, “What’s your wife like, Alan?”
“I love her, but then again I’m biased. She’s kind and patient, although I sometimes annoy her.”
“You’re very kind as well, Alan. After all, you don’t have to be here as you’re no longer my handler,” She sighed almost wistfully, “I often wonder what it must be like to be married.”
“I have some news for you on that front, once we’ve discussed the report. Would you like a pudding?”
“No thank you. I’m stuffed. Just a coffee please.”
The waitress came to take their plates and he asked for two coffees. After they came, he put his elbows on the table and leaned forward, “You’ve read it. You can see why they have embargoed the report. They will never publish it in full.”
“If they were to publish it. There would be civil war in this country and I don’t think that I’m over-stating this. There would be tens of thousands dead and like all of these things, blameless people such as me would be swept up with it. But there are very few in the Muslim community that are blameless. I knew it was going on, even as a child. The women knew, the Sikh community knew, but they fought back when their daughters were pimped and raped. This is no sporadic outbreak. It is systemic and goes on with the full knowledge of local government, the NHS, the judiciary, the police and politicians.”
“It’s beyond belief.”
“No, Alan. It’s beyond humanity. I have done some mathematics regarding the Muslim population of this country, using Rotherham as a baseline. The town has an unremarkable number of Muslims and yet 1,400 young girls were raped, brutalised and some murdered. They were not “groomed.” They were subjected to systematic abuse for years and the police, the local council, courts and social workers did nothing. In fact the police actively colluded with the abusers according to the Jay enquiry. I’ve extrapolated the raw figures to include all towns with a greater than ten per-cent Muslim population. I deliberately avoided using the London boroughs, because they would skew the figures too much. If my calculations are correct, admittedly I’m no great mathematician, around sixty per-cent of Muslim males in this country, between the ages of eighteen and fifty have been involved with this kind of disgusting activity. No, Alan, there wouldn’t be recriminations, there would be deaths, horrible civil war and the emergence of a real dictatorship, not the Far Right bollocks concocted by the media, politicians and the police. And the media, police and politicians would be in the firing line. They will have pushed the indigenous population to this.”
“So you can see why the report will never receive full publication.”
He could sense her anger.
“I have put my life on the line for these bastards.” She held up her prosthetic arm, “And I have ended up with this because of them, I murdered a little girl because of them! Because…”
She put her head down and Bartlett said gently: “I read your report when you came back. There was nothing else you could have done. It was a terrible decision, but you did what was best for that poor child. Stop tearing yourself apart. What else could you have done?”
He was glad she didn’t start crying. An affluent looking middle-aged man with an attractive Asian companion had already attracted some interest from the pub’s punters.
“Drink your coffee before it goes cold, Afarin. There is nothing else you or I can do
She regarded him coolly, “Why on earth did you give me the report to read, Alan? You must have known how I would react, particularly after my, or rather your work with your sister service in Doncaster.”
“I honestly don’t really know. I was rather hoping it would give you some impetus to working for that charity. They are currently facing difficulties with obstruction and intimidation. I don’t think that would bother you so much.”
She smiled and it seemed slightly sinister to him, “Remember that it is about the young girls, not your personal war. Keep feelings out of it.”
“And I get to recruit who I need?”
“Within reason, and no mission creep.”
“No, Alan. Let me see how it goes. Ease myself in gently.” And then I’ll cry havoc and let slip the dogs of fucking war.
“When you’re sure contact me by text message, then I’ll ring you that evening. In the meantime, I managed to find out what you asked me for,” He pushed an envelope across the table to her, “I didn’t even need to leave the office. He lives in Abergavenny. His address is in the notes. He works in Sterling Lines as a civilian in the armoury.”
“But is he married? Does he have any children?”
“He is not married according to the records. But I didn’t have him tailed, so that’s rather up to you to find out, but it has been eight years since you last saw him”
She stared at the innocuous envelope, “Thank you so much, Alan. I… Suddenly I’m terrified.”
“I hope you find true happiness, Afarin. I had better run you home and get back. Remember, contact me whatever you decide to do.”
Jarvis had moved back into his flat in Aberystwyth with a war pension, small in comparison to the pensions the scumbag politicians awarded themselves. Hafwen had gone. She had left many years before, no angry words or recrimination, but she was looking for a normal life and stability, that he had neither the inclination nor the certainty to fulfil it. It was the fact she had become frightened of him that he found the most upsetting. He had met her once in 2019 in the car park of a local supermarket, putting a toddler into a trolley seat.
“Hello, Hafwen. I see you’ve been busy,” He bent down to say hello to the child and smiled. The toddler giggled and looked away shyly, “He is a beautiful little boy and a handful I bet.”
Their meeting was tinged with sadness and it felt like she was almost apologising for finding happiness without him.
“Hello, Guy. There’s another on the way. Look, Guy. I really am so very sorry, but I needed something you couldn’t give me.”
He stopped her with one of his smiles that portrayed sadness as well as warmth, “It’s I who should be sorry. I put too much into being a soldier and neglected the things that I’ve come to realise were so important. Your little boy is wonderful. You and his dad must be so happy.”
A tear ran down her face, “I just wish it had been you, Guy.”
“You were right. A lifetime of soldiering and all I’ve got to show for it is a limp and a withered leg. I should have had different priorities.” He didn’t tell her about the constant pain that only oblivion found in a bottle could help.
He waved as she drove away and realised that his loneliness was a crushing burden. There had been plenty of opportunities, but he had seen the misery that marriage and a family had caused Wayne. And he thought about Deja who had chased the boy in him away. And Penny Morris smiling down at him in a hot hotel room in Sierra Leone, the ceiling fan stirring the turgid air, gently moving her hair and the rattle of helicopters going over the top of the building. He could have tried to find her, to at least make some effort, after all, she had told him where she worked, even the ward. But he had been too much of a coward, too selfish to make the attempt.
And there had been Bluma, but she hadn’t left him. She visited nearly every night, a grotesque parody of a woman, alive but burned raw and black and even in his dreams the smell was revolting. He had begged a God he didn’t believe in, to make the nightmares stop. But this was a cruel God who wanted to punish Jarvis for all of those deaths, for the little girl bleeding from her mouth and ears, cuddling a dead cat and he had killed them, “FIRE IN THE HOLE.”
One person could have brought him happiness, but she was gone. He had been too much of a coward to really tell her how he felt, but Henry Morrison had the courage and good luck to him. But perhaps she had realised that despite his attraction and danger, he wasn’t for her. Two people had allowed her to slip through their fingers and now it was too late. They knew she was often close by, but moved in different circles and different missions. He thought about the drug-induced coma and swore that she had been in the ICU with him, holding his hand. But it was the drugs. That alone. She would have had no interest in him now. Almost a cripple who drank to shut out the physical and mental pain. A functioning alcoholic? Ridiculous! It never affected his work, he was always on time, but at the weekends he would watch the clock move agonisingly slowly to the afternoon so he could crack open the bottle. An alcoholic? Don’t be stupid. You’d never find me slumped on a park bench, sitting in a pool of my own piss. His chance had gone and frankly he didn’t deserve happiness, because when all was said and done, he was a murderer A child killer.
“So you had no time to issue a warning?”
“Get fucking real, Boss.”
She had been watching his flat for two days. On the Friday he had gone to work, so she waited back at his flat. Cars hanging around Sterling Lines tend to attract police attention, so again she waited until he returned at four. He didn’t go out or receive any visitors that night and she felt her hopes rising. She got her head down for a couple of hours in a cheap hotel, before resuming her watch on the Saturday.
He got up at around eight and she watched him make and eat breakfast and then followed him to a large, supermarket, where she discretely shadowed him around the shop. Apart from the staples, he did seem to be buying a lot of alcohol. Perhaps he was going to have a party. It saddened her to see the way he was limping and he seemed slow and awkward in his movements. She followed at a distance, as he pushed the trolley back to his car, she finally plucked up the courage and quickened her step. Oh God, what will I say to him?
Then he stopped, not at his car, but to talk to a young woman with a child and Afarin sobbed with grief. She saw the way he looked at the woman and crouched down to speak to the child. They may not have been living together, but this woman was obviously very dear to him. She was in no doubt. He loved this woman and that was his child. It was obvious the way he looked at them and she turned away, her heart broken. Empty and bitter as the cud, Afarin Khan drove back towards Wiltshire and her empty, soulless house. Her uncanny ability to observe and read a situation had deserted her and her future happiness lay in tatters because she had believed what she wanted to believe. They could have saved each other and she had let the opportunity slip through her fingers.
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