Chapter 1: Chapter 1
The street is crowded with cops. Olrik keeps his eyes trained forward as Fred threads the Bentley through the crowded street.
“You’ll find useful items in the bag, sir.” Fred is also looking straight ahead, calm but alert. If all goes well he will deposit his dangerous charge in Brighton in a few hours. If anything at all goes wrong he will be in jail, probably for a very long time. His employer didn’t give many details, but he was very, very clear on that point.
Without looking, Olrik pulls a large paper shopping bag to his lap. Of course Delaney would think of everything. Right on top there’s a light grey felt fedora and a pair of tinted glasses. He puts them on and checks his reflection in the rearview mirror. He looks like hell, but in an unobtrusive way. Good. It’s too much to expect a complete kit, but he finds the basics, plus a notebook and pen. He can’t very well change while they drive, but he removes Soprianski’s shoes, now smashed flat at the heel, and tries the black brogues. Perfect.
“We’ll stop somewhere once we’re out of all this commotion, Sir.”
“Take your time, Fred.” In fact, Olrik cannot wait to get rid of these stolen clothes. Knowing they’ve spent time on Soprianski’s worthless skin makes him sick, but he wills himself to be still. At least Fred isn’t adding to his tension. The driver is a young man, but seems very steady, almost stolid. His square frame matches his solid demeanor. Olrik imagines that’s he’s ex-military or an ex-convict, perhaps both. Delaney tends to rehabilitate people from the edges of society, people a lot closer to the straight world than Olrik has ever stepped.
Taking the cue from his passenger, Fred takes a circuitous route, meandering through East Dulwich. He swings by Dulwich Park and comes to a stop in the lot by College Road. There are only a few other vehicles in the area, none currently occupied. Fred gets out and leans casually agains the car, sheltering the window from view. He lights a cigarette, and by the time he the time he finishes Olrik has managed to wrestle himself into his new clothes. Hearing the door open, Fred takes a second cigarette out of the pack and hands it over. His passenger looks much better. The new grey suit is a bit baggy but the trousers break correctly and the sleeves hit the wrists about right. The tan trench coat covers most of it anyway. Fred waits until the man has enjoyed his first cigarette in months before speaking.
“Be sure to leave a list of whatever we can get you, sir. Mr. Delaney was very firm on that point.”
“I will. I’ll also have a task for you later on.” They stand in silence for a minute. It’s a decent day for mid-March. Some of the trees are already greening up and the clouds skimming by don’t obscure much of the sky. It would be nice to take a long walk through the woods, maybe get a bit lost, but Fred is on the clock. They leave the park and head towards the A23 in silence.
When they’re within a few miles of The Grand, the phone number Olrik has been trying to think of the entire drive comes to him. He scrawls it down quickly along with a few instructions. As Fred pulls up to the front, Olrik hands him two sheets of notepaper. One is a list of supplies, the other just a name and number.
“Call this number on your way back and read the message exactly. You should get an answer right away, but keep trying until you do, preferably from different phones. The answer you want is “will do.” Anything else means, you’ve got the wrong person. Don’t engage.”
“Got it.” Fred gets out to open the door and signals the bellman. Olrik wraps himself up in the coat and obscures the lower half of his face with the scarf.
“Any luggage, sir?”
“Luggage will follow. Would you mind watching the car while I get Mr. Cooper here checked in?”
Cooper. Not an alias he’s used before, but easy to remember. He should have asked for these details earlier. Damn these memory lapses. He shoots Fred a questioning look.
“Paul Cooper of New York City. Banker, ” Fred keeps his voice low. “You came to London and had the misfortune to get influenza, hence the need to recover. Your luggage has disappeared mysteriously.”
American then. That’s not a problem, he can do American. “Mr. Cooper has had quite the run of bad luck.” He coughs and steadies himself against Fred’s arm, getting into character.Fred merely nods. The front desk has been expecting them and check-in goes remarkably smoothly. “Mr. Cooper” might look a bit seedy but he has one of best sea view rooms, one week paid in advance, earning him a place in the chief clerk’s heart of hearts. With everything in order Fred is eager to leave.
“Do you need anything else, Mr. Cooper?”
Olrik turns and removes the tinted glasses. “Everything seems fine, thank you, Fred. Be sure to drive safely, and let me know when you get home.”Let me know when the job is done, you mean.
Fred nods. “I’ll be sure to do that.” He watches as “Cooper” reaches the elevator. Reassuring himself that the sheets of paper are safely tucked in his breast pocket, Fred drives away as quickly as he can. He’s worked for Mr. Delaney for five years and rarely has a simple job left him feeling so chilled. He’ll make the damned call, turn over the list, and get a bottle of whiskey for company tonight. Good luck to “Cooper” whoever he might be. May they never meet again.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
Olrik locks and bolts the door behind him. The room is, of course, beautiful, a poem in blue, white, and grey to match the full view of the ocean from the balcony. The only discordant note is a pair of truly hideous green and gold plaid pajamas laid out on the double bed. There’s also a letter on hotel stationery explaining that a number of items of items have been added to his bill as per Delaney’s request, including the unfortunate pajamas. So sorry there wasn’t a more suitable pair available. Do please let us know how we can be of help. It’s signed P.C. Tunley; the concierge, presumably.
Olrik sits on the bed and stares at the note. It’s too ridiculous. This morning he was a prisoner who owned nothing. Now he is positively rich, with a new suit, hat, and a pair of gaudy pajamas to his name. Oh, he mustn’t forget his beautiful new pen and paper! He paces around the room to see what other treasures he can find. Cigarettes, a cheap souvenir lighter, and three books on the nightstand: Ring for Jeeves; The Worldly Philosophers; A Kiss Before Dying. The buyer must have been trying for variety. The table in the sitting area bears today’s newspapers and an envelope with his - well, Cooper’s - name on it. It contains twenty pounds in coins and notes. Ah, good. Olrik isn’t a generous man out of the goodness of his heart, but he wants to make a good impression on the staff. He briefly considers upgrading to one of the suites, but that would be too flashy. His persona is upper-middle class, not princely.
The bathroom is as big as a prison cell. In addition to the normal linens and toiletries he finds a new toothbrush still in the package, tooth powder, shaving cream, pomade, and a small leather case containing every grooming tool a man could want. Ah, the luxury of being able to cut one’s own toenails! Olrik laughs, harsh as a crow. It’s almost painful, but he keeps laughing until he’s spent. He shaves off his distinctive mustache and laughs again. It’s amazing what a difference it makes.
Truth be told, the events of the day have worn him out. Olrik steps on to the balcony for a long, slow smoke as he watches the sunset. When the light is gone he goes back inside, locks the doors, and seals all the blinds and curtains. He orders his dinner and writes a note in block letters directing the receiver to install the cheapest available unit to Miss Lily’s Sing’s restaurant, charge to account. He seals the envelope and addresses it to Home Fires Furnace in London. As far as he knows the proprietor makes a decent living selling and installing actual furnaces. Arson is just a sideline to pay for public schools and like luxuries.
A nun-like young woman brings his dinner on a trolley and stoically accepts a half-crown and his request to post the letter. Back-to-back wars have forced many changes: women are in every workplace, industry is geared up, rationing and shortages have taken their toll. Aware of the latter, he tucks into his meal expecting bland belly fodder, but the chef has managed to make much of fresh fish and local vegetables served with a very pleasant half bottle of wine. It goes to his head in a way he hasn’t experienced since adolescence, perhaps became he only managed to finish half his meal.
Olrik doesn’t remember much of his confinement at Bedlam, which is just as well. As rough as he feels, he’s not really crippled. He’s horribly out of condition, of course, but they apparently fed and watered him, moved his limbs and whatnot. Soprianski no doubt viewed him as a prize specimen, a guinea pig, Septimus without the outright sadism. The doctor doesn’t deserve death, exactly, but he does wish he had beaten him a little more. That smug face begs for a smashing.
Olrik is musing on his list of enemies when the phone rings. It’s Delaney, calling from a pub, judging by the background noise. Fred’s call went through, luggage is on its way. Delaney has reserved a room for himself and his wife for the weekend, just a break from the city to enjoy the spring weather. They can talk more then. Olrik is genuinely grateful and says so.
“If you need anything else let me know, preferably by 8 a.m.” Delaney responds, raising his voice above the pub racket.
“I will. Oh, wait. When did Fred get through on the call?”
“Four o’clock. Is that important?”“
Not in any way you want to know about, but by the end of the week you’ll get two bills in the name of Mr. Adams. Pay them discreetly.”
“Very good. I’ll see you in a few days.”
Olrik hangs up, exhilarated. Four o’clock is plenty early for the work to begin. By tomorrow afternoon Scotland Yard will be dealing with at least three witnesses who will swear they saw someone fitting Olrik’s description around Norwich and Great Yarmouth. The cops are likely already operating on the assumption that he’ll head for the continent, and they love anything that confirms their biases. No doubt all the ports will be staked out, but he doesn’t expect to encounter any bobbies at this resort.
The thought of a celebratory brandy is very tempting, but no, not yet. Instead, Olrik disposes of the trolley, puts the “do not disturb” sign on the door, and locks up. Right now his priorities are health and revenge, and he won’t be able to do either without a bit of discipline. He carefully hangs up his clothes and fills the tub for a good soak and scrub until even the phantom remnants of hospital smell have been banished. The hideous pajamas prove to be very comfortable and roomy enough for him to do some isometric stretches. Goddamn, but he is weak and sore. Olrik sits on the bed, eyes closed, and breaths deeply, willing away the rage and frustration that fill him every time he thinks of Evangely and Lily and what they’ve done to him. Explosions of rage are something Olrik has been prone to his entire life, as far as he recall. Rage can be useful, but it must be tempered into a tool. Nobody has ever described Olrik as placid, but he has learned to keep anger from dominating his mind by adapting some self-control techniques he picked up in Tibet. He breathes slowly and deeply and pictures falling snow. He thinks of an iceberg, from pointed tip to the hidden mass. He imagines his enemies cold in unmarked graves, sinking, dissolving. Ahhhhh. Much better. He turns his thoughts inward, observing himself recovering, growing stronger. He visualizes a forest ravaged with fire, but sprouting green with seeds that can only be activated by intense heat.
Thirty minutes later he is calm and focussed. Olrik starts to read The Worldly Philosophers. It’s too interesting to put him to sleep, so instead he puts a bookmark at the start of Chapter 3 and turns out the light to wind down. Tomorrow will be his first full day of freedom in years and he must be ready.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
He’s trying to make his way through wreckage when machine gun fire comes out of nowhere. He hits the dirt and inches up cautiously. For some reason he can’t make any progress no matter how hard he pushes. He looks up slightly and sees a menacing shape. Wait. It’s a lamp. Olrik stretches out to turn it on and check the time: 5:15. Five hours of sleep isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. A rattling at the window tells him that there’s heavy wind and rain. There isn’t anything productive to do until he can get more information from Delaney and a walk is out of the question. He is idly contemplating where Evangely might have run off to when light hits his face. Somehow, it’s after nine o’clock and he’s actually rested.
Olrik rouses himself slowly and opens the curtain to reveal a brilliant spring day. The storm seems to have swept everything clean and fresh. He itches to go outside, but Delaney’s care package should be here soon. He orders a light breakfast and does a fraction of his normal morning exercises. At this rate it will be a month before he can do a pushup. He’s going to have to work on that. By the time he’s finished eating and dressing it’s almost 11, but still no sign of luggage. He needs to get the hell out. He takes a few minutes to get in character and collect his cash and notebook. “Mr. Cooper” has a hesitating manner and an educated, neutral American accent copied precisely from Edward R. Murrow. He tells the front desk to put any deliveries in the room without unpacking them, and yes, they may tidy up while he’s out.
It’s mild enough to go without a coat, but he carries it under his arm for camouflage. Olrik walks west along the beach as far as the path will follow, then turns around. He turns into town to explore for a while, taking some time to look in a few antique shops and buy a ham sandwich and a chocolate bar. When he does return, he is greeted by a middle-aged woman, all in black, who introduce herself as Penelope Tunley. Ah, the pajamas buyer. Mrs. Tunley informs him that there’s been delivery to his room, and hands him her card in case he needs anything. She would have made a fine supply officer, he reflects with amusement.
Nearly springing into the room, Olrik tosses his package on the dresser. He is stunned to see two large, perfectly ordinary leather suitcases on fine quality. They’re his very own cases, bought years ago, only slightly worn, keys tied to the handles. Inside are shoes and clothes he recognizes, plus two heavy envelopes. There’s also a brand new garment bag with two suits and a trench coat he hasn’t seen since he last left England for Egypt. It takes several minutes for Olrik to puzzle it out. He had assumed, not unreasonably, that the block of flats he bought in the fat years of smuggling had been sold or confiscated. Apparently not. Delaney must have shut the place up and stored his possessions somewhere. He opens the heavier envelope and dumps the contents on the coffee table. There’s a U.S. passport in Paul Henry Cooper’s name that looks absolutely genuine. The birthdate is April 1, 1920, easy to remember and fairly accurate. Mr. Cooper also has business cards and a New York State driver’s license. Delaney must have created this identify well in advance, perhaps when Olrik was in Bedlam. Amazing. The rest of the papers appear to be business documents. Olrik opens the second, lighter envelope. It’s all press clippings and notes on loose paper, mostly pertaining to the events in Egypt and what the press refers to a The Yellow Mark affair. Excellent. He woke up this morning aching for work and now he has it.
Olrik stacks the papers and puts the clothes away according to his own rules for folding and hanging. It amounts to a very respectable wardrobe complete with a pair of his own cufflinks, a new wallet, and three of the new, thinner ties. He’ll have to get a new watch and cigarette holder. He’s left a trail of lost watches halfway around the world and, aside from a gold timepiece kept in a vault far away, he doesn’t much care about them. The holder is special though. He’ll make do with the cheap one to avoid staining his fingers, but getting his old one back is one of the thing he must do before leaving England. It’s an annoyance, but fortunately Scotland Yard is good at keeping inventory and it isn’t like he hasn’t broken into their files before.
With everything arranged, Olrik settles himself in the sitting area and skims through the clippings. He is grimly amused to read accounts of how he terrorized England as The Yellow Mark. There are far fewer clippings concerning Evangely’s use of the Septimus Ray, certainly nothing about the alien presence. MI5 has done a good job of obfuscating those events which are being chalked up to mass hysteria set off by film projections, possibly the work of a hostile power. Evangely does get mentioned in the press, but only as a missing person. Lady Rowena is also missing, at least according to a section of a gossip column someone has thoughtfully underlined. The rumor is that she’s gone abroad in the company of an older gentleman. How much of this is on the level? Maybe they really did get away, or maybe they’re rotting away in a secret cell somewhere. Neither is the type to give up, so the options are dead, captive, continuing the experiments in the UK, or working abroad. Olrik starts a fresh page in his notebook for questions to research on the pair.
The next few clippings are in French with attached notes in Delaney’s own handwriting. To no great surprise, the gang was captured in Egypt. Sharkey and Razul escaped custody in Cairo but while Razul has yet to turn up, Sharkey is within reach. Six months ago he got himself arrested for brawling and is now in Leeds prison. Delaney notes that the so-called brawl was more likely part of freelance bill collecting and that Sharkey had the presence to use false ID. The lawyer has a few acidic comments on inefficiencies within the British penal system but adds that they have saved Sharkey from being correctly identified.
“I have arranged for a female visitor posing as a friend of Mr. Sharkey’s to deliver a message. He will be pleased to hear of your improved health and will no doubt look forward to meeting in person in the near future.”
Well, this is a promising development. Sharkey isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer but he’s a wonderful asset on a rampage. How he is looking forward to introducing his former bodyguard to Evangely. Leeds is a Victorian mess with plenty of corruptible staff. Springing Sharkey will be a lark.
Suddenly exhausted, Olrik eats half of the sandwich and a bite of chocolate. He can’t manage more, but everything tastes so damned good when you’ve been living on pablum for months. Maybe he should have Evangely’s teeth removed some time soon. It wouldn’t be sufficient, of course, but it would be a step in the right direction.
After a half hour of rest, he tackles the less interesting stack of papers. Olrik likes money as much as the next career criminal, but he doesn’t know a lot about it, in the sense that he’s never had to manage money like a normal person. After the war, Delaney had helped him buy and renovate a block of flats, twelve units and a penthouse. The idea was to have a legal source of income under an identify with no crime attached. Contrary to his expectations, it hasn’t been shut up, but rather rented steadily since then, except for the top floor which is reserved for his use. As “Alexander Templeton” Olrik has been paying a manager, paying cleaners and tradesmen, paying his taxes, and he’s done well anyway. The rents have been constant and Delaney seems have invested the money well. The income and expenses seem to have been laid out very clearly and carefully, and it looks like the occasional lump sums Olrik managed to send from abroad were well-laundered, but Olrik still doesn’t have the answer he’s looking for.
Ah, there it is, at the very bottom of the pile. Templeton’s passport and passbook indicating a bank balance of two thousand pounds, with two hundred in cash and a handwritten summation tucked inside: average annual rental income and expenses (including Delaney’s substantial fees), investments, interest, dividends, and strategy. Delaney has paid down the mortgage on the building significantly and put a big chunk of the profit in government bonds, which is ironic enough, and an array of very conservative stocks, tilted towards technology, petroleum, and energy. It’s a diversified portfolio in the sense that Olrik’s money is tied up in the welfare of several countries he has actively opposed. It’s rather galling, a feeling eased by the fact that Delaney has made him rich. It’s not mad dictator money, but it could support a single man respectably for four or five years. At least that’s what Delaney has written at the bottom of the page. Olrik is amused. Of course, Delaney would prefer him to settle down somewhere, anywhere, preferably far away, but money isn’t for living on, it’s for weapons, henchmen, travel, and as much high living as one can manage once work is done. Long-range thinking is for the Delaneys of the world.
Still, good to know that the lawyer has looked after his interests, even when the world thought him dead. Olrik rearranges the papers and turns on the wireless. He locks the files in one of the empty suitcases and sets out some water and the rest of his food. As he’s finishing off the chocolate something on the news catches his attention. He’s been spotted! Witnesses are claiming to have seen him 180 miles to the northeast of where he’s currently sitting. The announcer speculates that the “infamous adventurer” may be headed to the continent via Cromer or Yarmouth. No doubt Scotland Yard will catch him first. Well, let them try.
It looks like there’s going to be a fine sunset, so Olrik assembles his “Cooper” outfit and heads downstairs. The desk clerk is pleased to suggest a few places of interests and gives directions to the nearest cinema. He recommends a film called Beat the Devil, which seems appropriate enough. Olrik steps into the golden light, the whole evening ahead of him.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Of course, nothing goes smoothly. Within an hour of waking Olrik has to admit that all that walking and working was overdoing it. Or perhaps it was the film and the late supper, or perhaps, it was the brandy he’d allowed himself afterwards. Whatever the case, the fatigue and muscle pain this morning is almost overwhelming. He takes two aspirin and does his isometrics very slowly, reflecting on his exact physical state. If he doesn’t show rapid improvement he may have to somehow find a doctor capable of understanding his case. So frustrating! Without health he can’t pursue his revenge, but taking time to recuperate will give his enemies even more of a head start.
In a gloomy mood, he decides to take a book and break his fast downstairs in the restaurant. He doesn’t even have to fake Cooper’s wincing, hesitating step all that much. He must look like hell too, because the waiter, who looks to be his own age, treats him like a frail old man. Fine, he’ll play the part. Tea rather than coffee, and something easy on the stomach, whatever the cook thinks best. This turns out to be a plain omelet with toast and a compote made of dried and canned fruit. It’s very good, but he leaves most of it on the plate. His fellow diners appear to be mostly business travelers with a few couples on holiday. He overhears a middle-aged man review a travel itinerary to his wife for what is clearly the twentieth time. They’re expecting to be in Majorca by the weekend.
Olrik is momentarily disoriented. Weekend? Today is… Thursday, that’s right. Thursday, March 18. Delaney is coming tomorrow, bringing his wife, Andrea. Alicia? Something like that. Knowing Delaney he won’t arrive until late Friday evening - heaven forbid he leave the office early - which means no real meeting until Saturday morning at the earliest. What to do until then? He finishes his tea and checks for messages at the front desk. Nothing.
Olrik tucks his book into his pocket and decides to get some exercise while he frets and calculates. He takes it a bit easier this time, resting and stretching discreetly from time to time. It’s breezy and cool, the kind of weather that a healthier man might find invigorating. There are a few mad bastards bathing in the ocean. He watches them until resentment propels him off the bench down the beach. He walks slowly and deliberately, considering his options. Perhaps he should set up a temporary lair in Leeds, spring Sharkey and plan from there. Or perhaps he should put out feelers for a big job. By now many of his contacts will know he’s alive? Of course, they’ll also know all about Septimus and Bedlam and all the rest of it. He curses and kicks a stray rock in his path. It bounces along nicely until it jams in the spokes of a wheelchair. God dammit.
In full Cooper mode, Olrik apologizes to the nurse and helps her remove the stone. How could he forget himself like that. Idiot! She’s very polite about it, of course, but not friendly. Olrik takes a closer look and realizes that she’s not actually a nurse, just a plainly dressed woman of about 30. The man in the chair isn’t much older. He’s missing both legs below the knee and has a burn scar on his face. A veteran of one of the recent wars, no question.
“So sorry. Do enjoy the rest of your walk.” He tips his hat at the couple. She mutters something gracious and grudging. The man says nothing, but reaches for his wife’s hand. She squeezes back, lightly, and gives the chair a starting push.
Olrik watches them for a minute, then turns decisively towards town. At the first phone box he finds dials one of the few numbers he has memorized and leaves a message for Delaney without leaving a name. Delaney’s office staff must be accustomed to this kind of thing, because never say anything but some variation on “will do.” He heads back down to the beach and retraces the path to the hotel. The temperature has only risen a degree or two but there are many more bathers. Curious, he navigates the cobbles down to the water’s edge and dips his hand in the ocean. Bloody cold, but not unbearable. He leaves his hand in for the count of 30 before he starts to feel foolish. What is he trying to prove? Unlike the poor bastard in the wheelchair his body is whole, if broken down. His mind is… broken? Cracked? Certainly damaged. This is the reality, the only question is how much damage has he taken, and how to mitigate it. Problem, solution.
With the hotel in sight, Olrik makes a bet with himself: if Delaney has already responded to his request he will follow three pieces of unwelcome advice from either the lawyer or the doctor. If not, he will throw one reckless act in the lawyer’s face and watch it fall. He loses. The clerk intercepts him as soon as he enters the lobby. Mr. Cooper’s secretary has called and there will be a physician at his hotel room at 3 p.m., if that’s quite convenient. Is there anything else they can do? Olrik is tempted to order the man to refuse admission to anyone vaguely medical and send up a bottle of gin.Two bottles. Instead he smiles tersely and requests ice water and some soup with crackers. Even that will probably be too much.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
Even before Evangeley and Septimus Olrik hadn’t cared much for doctors. Blessed with an exceptional constitution, he’s never had to develop a relationship with a physician.The few times he’s needed stitches or a bone set or a bullet removed, the practitioner has been the village hack or whatever the military or prison system has seen fit to furnish. Some of them have been competent, others have reeked of booze or been little more than bloodletters. What can a doctor do in his case anyway? It’s not like he can tell the full truth or submit to surgery or a long course of treatment. He has places to go, people to punish.
He’s pacing a little too furiously when a knock at the door pulls him out of his own thoughts. Ten minutes early, dammit. It’s too late to flee the scene. Fine. You can put up with anything for an hour. He opens the door and is surprised to see a short, middle- aged woman carrying an oversized leather bag.
“Yes. You’re the doctor?”
“Rosemary Dvorak,” she answers, extending her hand. “I’m a pediatric neurologist, but don’t worry, I’ve worked with plenty of adults.”
Bemused, Olrik shakes Dvorak’s hand and ushers her into the room. He puts her age at about 45, maybe younger. She makes no effort to hide her years, whatever they are; no makeup, plain, brown tweed suit, short, unpolished nails, no wedding ring. Her face is pleasant enough, with small, intelligent features and round black eyes crinkled at the corners.
“How did my lawyer come to ask you for assistance?”
“I’m a friend of Angela’s. She raises money for one of my pet causes.”
Angela? Oh yes, the new wife.
“I was in Worthing visiting my sister. Tom asked me to do him a favor. Shall we get to it?”
Dvorak directs him to change into a robe or skivvies and fill a specimen bottle. When he come out of the bathroom she’s laid out the tools of her trade. She draws two vials of blood and takes his vitals.
“Blood pressure is a little low. That’s not a bad thing. Heart rate good, pulse could be stronger.”
For all her plainness, Dvorak has a lovely voice, low and soothing. She asks him about his symptoms and recent traumas. He tells her about the past year, substituting influenza for whatever the alien presence did to him, a mob kidnapping for the science kidnapping, and a head injury for all the things he doesn’t remember. She tells him to look this way and that, point here and there, walk, balance, point, turn, react. She listens to his heart and his lungs, taps his knee with a mallet, and flexes his hands and feet. She’s by far the most professional and thorough health professional Olrik has ever dealt with, certainly as professional as any man and considerably more gentle, probably from working with children, he supposes.
“Did you serve in the war?”
“Yes, but I didn’t sustain any serious injuries.”
“Mmm. But explosions? Crashes? Close exposure to gunfire?”
“Yes on all three. Not uncommon.”
“You saw people die.”
He hesitates. “Also not uncommon.”
“Don’t I know it. I served in Belgium, just off the front lines. Treated soldiers and civilians, lots of children. War does terrible things to the human mind. We expect young men to watch all hell break loose for years then come back and work on the farm or in the office as if nothing had happened. I’ve seen children struck mute by what they’ve seen. Of course, they normally recover more quickly than adults, which is why I do what I do.”
Dvorak concludes her examinations and tells him he can put his clothes back on.
When he returns she’s busily writing on a legal pad. After a few minutes she tears off two pages of large, clear, black script.
“You don’t strike me as a particularly compliant patient, but here’s my advice. When you get back to the states you should check yourself into a clinic and have a full workup. I can’t give you a diagnosis at this point but you have definite trauma symptoms - delayed reactions, memory problems, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite. No surprise after what you’ve been through. Luckily for you, you seem to have generally good health, you’re still fairly young, and you seem to be on the mend in spite of yourself. Give your body and mind time to heal and don’t add any more strain.”
She hands Olrik the pages and pulls out a prescription pad. “I’ll call Tom if there’s anything untoward in the samples, but I don’t think we’ll find anything. I’m giving you a prescription for a mild sedative. Use it only when you really have to. This one is for clinical strength vitamin D. Spend at least ten minutes a day outside unless the weather is truly dreadful. Take the supplements for two weeks.”
“One last thing. I’m going to teach you an exercise to help you relax. Do this twenty times a day if you have to.”
Dvorak then has him tense and relax his muscles working from the feet up. He feels a bit silly doing it, but has to admit that it does feel a little better.
She nods, shakes his hand again, and turns to go, but before she gets to the door she interrupts herself, rifles through the bag again. “I normally have my assistant do this part. “ She hands him a card. “If you have questions or need help, give me a call. I mean that.”
He thanks her and watches her walks briskly away, trying to think of anything he urgently needs to know. Not that his mind works that quickly these days. With a stifled sigh he sits down to read her notes. She’s ordered her directions by topic: food, sleep, mental focus, fitness, emotions. Most of the advice would be pretty easy to follow: spread meals out over the day, nutritionally dense food (she gives a few examples), one alcoholic beverage a day, with dinner, not at bedtime. She makes a big point of telling him to stop whatever he’s doing well before he gets too tired, or cold, or emotionally upset. Easy to say. She suggests getting a book of crossword puzzles or something similar and reading as much as he can stand. Actually that might be good, not crossword puzzles, but chess problems. Yes, indeed.
Of course, Dvorak also suggests that he speak openly with family and friends and seek out an analyst who specializes in psychological damage associated with trauma. She’s even written down a few medical schools that can help. He will emphatically not be taking this advice, but will instead pursue his own form of therapy. Sing, Evangely, and Lady Rowena will all learn what Septimus learned. It will be too late for them as well.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
The next morning is definitely better. Mrs. Tunley was very receptive to his new meal requirements and pleased to order his prescriptions, perhaps aided by the heavy envelop he’d given her to make up for any trouble. As someone prone to skipping meals when busy and making up for it later, he finds this annoying, but last night he managed to almost finish both tiny dinners, and this morning’s single egg on toast is sitting well. Olrik makes a mental note to tell Delaney to give a contribution to whatever Dvorak’s pet cause is, in addition to her fee. What an expensive holiday this is turning out to be.
He’ll be able to directly complain to the lawyer later today, with any luck. They have an uneasy running joke about the wide-ranging, frequently bizarre expenses charged to his account, and the lawyer’s exorbitant fees, which they both know full well are restrained, reasonable, and eminently deserved. For this reason, Olrik sticks close to the hotel, strolling around the perimeter, taking frequent breaks. He reads more of The Worldly Philosophers, engaged to the point of penciling notes in the margins. After second lunch he obtains a battered but complete chess set and sets it up in the concours to lure competitors. He ends up beating an accountant from Leatherhead, a hard-won but decisive battle. It should have been easier.
Olrik is hopefully resetting the board again when he spots a familiar lanky figure near the front doors. He hastily packs up the set and heads to the front desk in order to “meet” his lawyer. Delaney is with blonde woman about 28. Her extremely fair coloring is by far her best point. Like her husband, Angela Delaney is very tall and very thin, with a somewhat pointed chin, a beaky nose, and wide-set intelligent blue eyes. Good lord, Olrik thinks, their children will be giraffes. He waits patiently as the couple checks in, eyes on the clerk, waiting his turn to return the chess set. Delaney finishes registering and meets his eyes.
"Yes? Do I know you?” Hesitating speech, Murrow accent, look over the tinted lenses a bit.
Delaney names his law firm. “January meeting? In London.”
“Oh, of course. I remember now. Do forgive me, I’ve not been myself lately.”
With an almost absurd degree of pride, Delaney introduces his bride of seven months. Angela has a refined accent and beautiful manners. She inquires after his presence in Brighton and seems genuinely concerned when he admits that his poor health has made a rest necessary.
“Oh, Tommy, we must ask Mr. Cooper to have dinner with us. If that’s not too much trouble for you. I understand if you’re too tired, of course.”
What a useful woman! Olrik allows himself to be talked into having dinner with the couple. He watches them follow the porter to their rooms, noting that Angela’s cadet blue suit and grey coat are of exquisite quality and tailoring, but not new. She has or had money but is too much of a lady to show off. The marriage appears to have done Delaney a lot of good, at least as far as appearances go. He's less scarecrow, more secretary bird.
At dinner he learns that Angela is the third daughter of an eminent lawyer from a long line of eminent lawyers, some of whom bear titles and have served in Parliament, not the boss’s daughter, but rather the daughter of the boss’s oldest and dearest friend. She has the practiced conversational style of someone who has hosted a thousand boring dinners. The talk is light and easy: books (she recommends Daphne du Maurier), films (she hated Beat the Devil), current events and the like. Delaney explains that his wife is very busy with the Red Rose Society, which provides relief to veterans with continuing medical needs. Ah, so this is the cause Dr. Dvorak mentioned. Angela actually started the society but has taken a behind-the-scenes role, preferring to deal with money and policy rather than people. As he had expected, she turns out to be both educated and clever, but to his surprise she spends much of the evening subtly heaping praise on her husband. Delaney, in turn, glows with pride at his wife’s side. Interesting. It makes sense to him that Delaney would choose a smart wife who could help him professionally. It makes sense that a plain woman close to thirty would marry out of her class. What’s harder to understand is that they seem to adore each other. Odd, Olrik thinks, but stranger things have happened, as he knows all too well. Let’s see where they are in five years.
When Angela leaves to powder her nose, Delaney gazes after her for so long that Olrik starts to laugh rather maliciously.
“You know nothing of romance,” the lawyer sniffs, although he’s not really annoyed.
“Of course not. For what it’s worth, I think you chose very well, and that is all I will say on the subject.”
“That’s all I would accept,” Delaney takes a sip of wine. “Tomorrow my dear wife will probably go shopping in the afternoon and come back with nothing. I’ll beg off and spend the time going over things with you. I’m still waiting for more information but there are several points of interest I wish to discuss.”
They rise as Angela returns to the table. She has two pieces of news for them. The first is that the concierge recommends the apple tart for dessert. The second is that there are several antique and furniture shops she would like to inspect and it would be a great favor to her if Mr. Cooper could distract her husband for an hour or two tomorrow afternoon. She really is the most useful woman.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
When Olrik wakes up Saturday morning it’s still dark, but he’s hyper alert and raring to go. Be careful. When you feel well you overdo it, and then you pay.
On the other hand, if you have energy use it.
He dresses warmly and strolls the grounds. The setting moon is at about 95%. Waning gibbous. There are just enough clouds for a fine sunrise. The raucous gulls and drab little shorebirds are busy long before another human being shows up, but at first light the mad bathers show up, shouting and splashing. He watches for a moment before going in for coffee.
Given that Delaney is here supposedly holidaying with his wife, Olrik makes no effort to seek him out. Instead he goes through his morning routine very slowly, keeping to his room with the day’s papers. No stories about his escape from Bethlem, but there’s been a bad fire in Limehouse, with a restaurant completely destroyed and several neighboring buildings badly damaged. Minor casualties only, which is fine. This is just a message.
At one o’clock he gets a call from Delaney. Would Mr. Cooper care to join him at the Victoria Lounge for a drink?
This is the test, Olrik thinks. Delaney has proven himself to be competent and forward thinking many times in the past, but last night he was suspiciously restrained and enigmatic. Either Delaney is overestimating his own abilities, or, well, or he isn’t and has something truly huge.
They order a pint of lager each. Olrik would prefer gin, but that’s a little much at this stage. After one sip, Delaney looks about the room, rather theatrically, and lays a thick pasteboard folder on the table between them.
“Before I proceed with my recommendations, please take a look at the photographs and confirm that this is the person whom you seek.”
Olrik picks up the stack of pictures and flips through them. Evangely walking into an office. Evangely getting into a car. Evangely at the barber. Evangely at the door of a rather shabby house. He says nothing.
“I see by your face that our efforts were successful.” Delaney could not look more smug if he studied at it for a year.
“Thank you. I was close to certain, but I hate to be premature. He’s in Halifax, working in a busy, but not terribly profitable general practice clinic while he waits for his cohorts to fund more experiments. His office and home addresses are there, with a partial account of his activities and visitors for the past month.”
Olrik has to admit that this is pretty good. Halifax. That’s practically within reach of Leeds, if his recalls his geography correctly. How very convenient.
“How did you come to accomplish this miracle?” he asks in a slightly sarcastic tone which Delaney ignores. There was a time when he doubted himself, but the last remnants of that trait vanished when Angela came into his life.
“Hmm. I suppose it goes back to when the strange ‘hallucinations’ started appearing in London. I recognized similarities to your troubles with Septimus, so was naturally on alert for a call. I have a few people in Scotland Yard on a kind of unofficial payroll for the sake of a number of clients, and soon found out why you were unable to contact me, and the names of those responsible for your… situation. Naturally, I hired investigators with an eye to new medical practices or sales of existing practices, changes in staff. We narrowed it down to three possibilities just before you checked yourself out of the hospital. Two days ago I was, as I’ve said, very nearly sure.”
“And Lady Rowena?”
“As of one week ago, in international waters, on the yacht of one Andre Perrodo.”
“Race car driver and raging drunk, but same family, same money. She either has or is about to discover that young Andre is on a shorter leash that she had hoped, and will no doubt cast her lure somewhere else soon.”
Olrik closes the folder with a snap. Now he has something to chew on.
“This is good, Tom. You are approaching worthiness of your outrageous fees. Oh, before I forget, slice off fifty pounds of my account for your wife’s charity.”
“Ah, then you were pleased with Dr. Dvorak?"
“She was fine. Practical. I’m actually doing several of the things she told me to do.”
“Then she’s a miracle worker. I thought you might prefer her to a man in a white coat.”
“Mmm. Tell me. Does she share a house with a woman of her own age devoted to dogs and sturdy shoes?”
“A cat and tweed jackets. I’ve never been one to care what people do behind their curtains.”
“Nor have I.” Olrik smiles, remembering one of the odder adventures of his youth. “In fact, I once assisted a similar couple acquire a pair of children.” He watches for the lawyer’s reaction, which is gratifyingly horrified.
“Good god, are you confessing something to me?”
“Not kidnapping, you idiot. They gave me shelter, I gave them kids.”
Delaney shakes his head and laughs in relief. “You should write a book some day.”
“Too unbelievable for fiction. So what else do you have for me?” He expects the answer to be ‘nothing’ but wants to keep the lawyer on his toes.
“I’ve taken the liberty of renting a country house just outside Morley. It’s a little closer to Leeds than Halifax, but quite convenient to both. It’s in the name of Mr. Cooper, fully furnished and quite secure. Of course, you’ll need to get yourself there.”
“Not a problem.”
“No, because there’s a black Morris Minor in an Edwards Street garage with your name on it. Mr. Cooper’s name, that is.”
Olrik is quite unable to comment for the count of ten. He was wrong. It was possible for Delaney to look smugger
“You son of a bitch.”
“At your service.” The lawyer raises his glass in a mocking toast.
Olrik drains his own glass and stands up, the folder clutched to his chest. “I need to check out and get on the road. How do I get to the Morley house?”
“Now hold on a moment…”
“I’ve been holding on for months. He could get away.”
“No, he won’t, and you know it. Look, get the car by all means, but don’t leave just yet. Not tonight. Do you want to drive all night in your condition?”
Olrik thinks about it. He could make it. Could. He’d be a wreck though. There are things he could set up from here in the way of jail breaks and armaments, things his lawyer doesn’t need to know about.
Delaney is watching him very keenly, worried.
“It’s fine, Tom. I’m not going to do anything crazy.”
“Good. Look, Angela will be back in another half hour or so. We’ll get the car, have some dinner, get a good night’s rest.”
“No, no. You’ve done everything you can. More, actually. Spend time with your wife. Spend some of my money on her. I have plenty to keep me busy, and I promise not to leave until Monday morning on one condition.”
“Oh, I can scarcely wait.”
Olrik has been flirting with this idea for days. The time to act has come.
“Come swimming with me. Dawn. Monday morning.”
Chapter 8: Epilogue
Delaney looks ridiculous in his ratty grey bathrobe and black shoes, a sight Olrik will treasure for years to come. It’s a cool morning with a brisk wind that raises gooseflesh. Olrik drops his hotel robe, anchors it to the beach with a rock, and races into the waves. Delaney is close behind him, complaining all the way. Olrik plunges into the ocean, gasps in shock, and throws himself under. His heart races as he surfaces and floats on his back. Overhead the gulls scream and the sky turns to flame.