فصل 02

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فصل 02

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Chapter two

Anna

That night Alan was moved to another hospital, where they would fit him with an artificial leg. Jane went with him and slept in a visitor’s room there. In the morning she bought a newspaper. She was right about the police. ‘They’ve got them, Dad!’ she said. ‘Read this!’

Police yesterday arrested two Irishmen who they think put a bomb in the Queen’s coach last week. The police said, ‘Last week the coach went to a factory in south London to have new wheels fitted, and we believe the bomb was placed in the coach there. The two Irishmen worked at this factory, and two days before the bombing, they went on holiday to Ireland. We think the bomb had a clock in it, which was meant to explode at eleven o’clock outside Parliament. Luckily for the Queen, the bomb exploded after she had left the coach.’

Alan Cole put the newspaper down slowly. He looked pleased. ‘Thank God for that,’ he said.

‘But why did they want the bomb to explode outside Parliament?’ Jane asked. ‘The Queen was in the coach for twenty minutes - why not blow the coach up earlier?’

‘I don’t know. Perhaps they wanted good pictures on TV,’ Alan said. ‘It was lucky for the Queen. But not lucky for me, or for the poor people who were killed.’

‘No.’ Jane put her hand on her father’s, and remembered those minutes outside Parliament. The American man using his video camera, and the woman with red-brown hair shaking her camera angrily. Then… she shut her eyes, and saw the smoke, and the horse screaming, and the blood and bodies everywhere…

What kind of people could do that?

‘I suppose the terrorists watched it on TV,’ she said. ‘They were in Ireland when the bomb exploded.’

‘I expect they did,’ Alan said. ‘I expect they were laughing as people died. But I’m pleased the police have caught them. Now perhaps they’ll leave me alone.’

‘Who? The police? Dad, what do you mean?’

Alan sighed. ‘Well, yesterday they came to ask me about the night before the bombing. I went back to the Mews at about ten o’clock that night, you know, to look at a horse with a bad leg. I often do that. They asked if I saw anything strange, or looked at the coach.’

‘And what did you tell them?’

Alan looked angry. ‘What do you think, Janie? Of course I saw nothing strange! I was looking at the horse, not the coach. And we were only there half an hour.’

‘We, Dad?’ Jane asked. ‘Was someone with you?’

Alan hesitated. ‘Well, yes… a lady friend of mine, Anna. You haven’t met her, Janie, but I’ve told her about you. She’s nice, you’ll like her. She sometimes comes to see the horses with me.’

Jane felt embarrassed. After her mother had died four years ago, Jane had lived at home with her father. Once, he had brought a woman home to the house, but Jane had had a terrible argument with her, and the woman had left. There had been no other women, until Jane left home to go to university. Now…?

Well, her father was an adult, of course he could have women friends. But Jane hated it. She had loved her mother too much. And she loved her father too.

‘What kind of a woman is she?’ she asked angrily.

He’s my father, she thought - I don’t want another woman taking him away from me.

‘Tall. Pretty. Red-brown hair. She likes horses and… films. We go to the cinema a lot.’

‘Is she in love with you?’

‘Well… perhaps, Janie, I don’t know. I’ve only known her a few weeks. You’ll like her, Janie, she’s good fun.’

Jane was still angry, she couldn’t stop herself. ‘Then why isn’t she here? Why hasn’t she come to visit you?’

Now Alan looked embarrassed. ‘Well, I was going to ask you, Janie… she doesn’t have a phone, you see, and… perhaps she thinks I’m dead, like the others. God knows what she’ll think of a man with one leg, but I do want to see her… so I’ve written this letter. Could you post it for me, Janie? Please.’

Jane took the letter and read the address. Anna Barry, 14 Bowater Gardens, London NEll.

‘Dad, your name was in the newspapers. This woman can read, can’t she? She must know you’re alive.’

‘Yes, but… perhaps she doesn’t know which hospital. I don’t know. Janie, please - don’t be difficult.’

‘Have you told the police about this woman, Dad?’

‘Not yet.’

‘Why not? They’ll ask her questions, won’t they?’

Alan sighed. ‘Yes, I suppose so. I warned her about that in the letter. Perhaps that’s why she hasn’t come. You see… it’s a bit difficult, Janie. Anna has a husband… and so it will be embarrassing for her if he finds out about us. Perhaps the police will want to ask her husband questions, too, and then there’ll be all kinds of trouble.’

‘I see,’ Jane said. She felt miserable. My own father, she thought, is in love with a married woman. Then she saw the tears in his eyes, and his tired white face; and felt angry with herself, not him. Why, she thought, shouldn’t my father fall in love? It happens to everyone, and you can’t always choose the best person. Now he’s here with only one leg and I’m angry with him. I’m his daughter, I should help him! Perhaps this Anna really is a nice woman, with a cruel husband.

She smiled, and said, ‘I’m sorry, Dad. Of course I’ll post your letter. But… isn’t it a hit dangerous, sending a letter? Her husband could read it.’

‘No, it’s OK. Bowater Gardens is just where she’s living at the moment. It isn’t her home. I don’t know where her husband lives. I don’t want to know.’ He smiled and took her hand. ‘She’s a lovely woman, Janie, really she is. You’ll like her if you meet her, you know.’

Outside the hospital, Jane walked slowly down the street. She felt sad, and a little lonely. I wish my mother was still alive, she thought. I wish Mum was alive now, sitting with Dad in the hospital. I don’t want all these problems. Why does Dad need another woman?

Oh Mum, why did you die? I need someone to talk to.

She took the letter out of her pocket and looked at it. I wonder what this Anna Barry is like, she thought. Perhaps she is nice, like Dad says. Perhaps I could talk to her. Perhaps she really does love Dad; perhaps she can help me look after him.

But why hasn’t she come to see him?

She looked at the address again. 14 Bowater Gardens, London NE11. That wasn’t far from her own student flat.

Why not take the letter myself? she thought. Then, if this Anna opens the door, I can talk to her myself. If I meet her, at least I’ll find out what she’s like.

Jane put the letter in her bag and walked quickly to the underground station. Am I full of anger, she wondered, or hope?

14 Bowater Gardens was an old house in a quiet street in north London. Jane took the letter out of her bag, and rang the bell. Nothing happened.

Damn! she thought. She rang again. Still no answer. She tried the door, but it was locked. So she put the letter through the letter-box and turned away. Then she stopped.

I’ve come all this way to meet this woman, Jane thought, and I want to know what she’s like. She’s important to my father, so she’s important to me. I’ll wait.

As she stood there, a woman came out of the next-door house. She had grey hair and the kind of face that enjoys watching the neighbours and talking about them.

‘They’ve gone; there’s no use waiting,’ the woman said.

‘I saw you ring the bell so I came to tell you.’

‘Are you sure?’ Jane said. ‘I was looking for Anna.’

‘The girl with red hair? That’s right, she did live here, but she moved out with her boyfriend two days ago. It was the morning of that terrible bomb - that’s why I remember it. The house is empty now. I had a look through the windows, and they’ve taken everything.’

Boyfriend! So Anna had another lover, Jane thought. Not just Dad. My poor, poor father!

‘Did you know them well?’ the woman asked.

‘No, not really,’ Jane said. ‘I just wanted to…’

‘They were only here about three months,’ the woman went on. ‘They weren’t very friendly. Never said good morning or anything like that. They were Irish, I think. Well, he was. There’s a lot of Irish around here.’

Jane began to move away from the door, and the woman added, helpfully, ‘Perhaps your friend will write to you.’

‘Yes. Perhaps.’ Jane smiled at her and walked sadly down the street.

So that was the kind of woman Anna was. She probably never loved my father at all, Jane thought. How am I going to tell him? Poor Dad! Perhaps I’ll just say that I posted the letter, and not tell him that I came to the house and found out about her.

But Jane wasn’t very good at lying, and she didn’t want to look at her father’s sad eyes and tired white face. Let him hope for a few more hours, she thought. I’ll go home now and tell him something tomorrow.

She hadn’t been back to her flat since the bombing. She loved having her own home. It was only one big bedroom really, with a small bathroom and a kitchen. But it was her own place; she could do what she liked there.

She shut the door, then took off her coat and threw it on the bed. Then she heard the bathroom door slowly open behind her. She jumped round, her heart beating fast with fear, and saw a woman standing in the doorway!

‘Who the hell are you?’ she screamed. A thief, she thought. Jane had learned judo from her father; she knew what to do. She grabbed the woman’s arm and threw her towards the bed. But as the woman fell, she grabbed Jane’s hair, pulling it forwards, to stop herself from falling. Jane screamed, and pushed a hand into the woman’s face, harder and harder until her hair was free. Then she hit the woman in the face and the woman fell to the floor. Jane stepped back, looked at her, and saw…

A man coming out of the kitchen. He had cold grey eyes and a thin hard smile and worst of all he had a gun in his hand. He said, ‘Don’t.’

Jane stood still, shaking. ‘Don’t what?’

‘Move. Or talk. Don’t do anything.’ The little black hole in the end of the gun watched her, like a cold eye.

The woman got up off the floor, pulled Jane onto a chair, and tied her hands behind her. Then Jane remembered that there were people in the other flats, and opened her mouth to scream. The man hit her in the face.

‘Don’t even think about it,’ he said. He took a long piece of cloth out of his pocket and tied it twice round her head, covering her mouth and the lower part of her face. Jane felt her body shaking with fear. Who were these people? What did they want with her? She stared at the man’s cold hard face, the woman’s blue eyes and red-brown hair. She thought she had seen the woman before. But where?

The woman tied Jane’s legs to the chair. The little black eye of the gun was only a few centimetres from her face. The man watched her and smiled. ‘Just sit still and be sensible, little girl,’ he said. ‘Then perhaps you’ll live a few hours longer.’

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