77.3 Thursday morning Billy Killins and his young companion were seated at opposite sides of the plane, clear to Chicago.
77.4 He wondered how he would manage to escape alone on a side trip to Scotland. Jill might want to be with her dad for a while.
77.5 Billy felt for his phone in his sportcoat pocket. Damn annoying that he couldn’t use it yet. The man beside him glanced sideways.
77.6 Billy noted his brief smile, that he held a book about financial investing in his left hand, and that his wedding ring was gold.
77.7 Then a kind sleep came and Billy dreamed the rest of his way to Chicago. He awoke thinking of Natasha and feeling anxious.
77.8 Later, in the airport, he could see that Jill already looked tired. “You gotta sleep,” he said as they walked to the next gate.
77.9 He clicked into his messages as he moved. “I tried!” she said. She switched her backpack to the other shoulder and walked faster.
78.0 Suddenly Billy realized she was crying. He stopped short and turned to her.“Sweetheart, what? Do you regret coming?”
78.1 She finally answered. “I’m really scared Billy. I’m scared about my dad I guess. I want him to be okay.”
78.2 “You are not alone!” he said. He smiled at her and winked. “Let’s grab a cocoa before we go up again,” he said.
78.3 Jill nodded and wiped her eyes. “You are the best Billy,” she said. But he was already reading an email from Iris.
78.4 “Billy I know Natasha called you. Remember what she said. Stay out of woods. ARE there woods in London?” –Iris
78.5 He typed her a note. But then there was a direct message on Twitter from @martcrkshnk, the mystery person who wanted to talk.
78.6 “Happy to meet with you. Keep me updated. – Mart”
78.7 Billy smiled. He really felt like a character in a mystery novel. The airport cocoa led to a sandwich too and both were pretty good.
78.8 Laura sat in an armchair in the corner of Adam’s hospital room. His bed was empty—he was out to another test, some kind of scan.
78.9 Iris had written that Jill would arrive in the morning, traveling with someone named Billy. Laura wasn’t so comfortable with that.
79.0 She felt Iris sometimes had funny ideas and she resolved to send Billy on his way if he seemed at all questionable.
79.1 Then she and Adam would accompany Jill home. Not that Adam knew anything about any of this. Jill’s visit would be a nice surprise.
79.2 Laura knew Adam would not lose his temper when he saw his beloved daughter. And Jill could convince him to fly home too.
79.3 But there was something else. Maybe it was the tranquilizers they were giving him, but Adam was not always lucid. It frightened her.
79.4 “Tell Brennen I’ll be right back,” he’d said, as they wheeled him out of the room for the next test. Laura wondered, “Brennen who?”
79.5 She pulled Adam’s cell phone out of her handbag. She had been meaning for a while now to spend some time exploring his email.
79.6 There was that name, on a new letter. “This Mexican trail is weak but I’m looking in the right place.- Brennen”
79.7 So, Adam had secret friends. What trail? Who was this person? She frowned and felt angry, then justified.
79.8 “What have you found so far?” she wrote back. Then she giggled. It felt like passing notes in algebra class.
79.9 In two minutes she got a response. “Big money and maybe a lab.” Laura gasped. She thought about this. Big money sounded good.
80.0 “I could use some money,” she wrote back. “Tell Mart,” was the quick reply. Laura looked through more of Adam’s old email.
80.1 There was nothing from “Mart.” Then she went to the Twitter app and found @martcrkshnk in the direct messages.
80.2 His messages were not clear. Meetings. Some sort of file of information. She wrote back. “Need money.”
80.3 This was kind of fun. But what could it all mean? Then a young man wheeled Adam back to his bed.
80.4 Laura waited. She had put the phone back into her handbag. Adam looked tired. She got up to go. “I want out of here,” Adam said.
80.5 His eyes were closed. “Sure Adam,” Laura said. She buttoned her coat and thought about restaurants. “Pretty soon.”<
[I think Laura needs to go somewhere muddy, very rapidly]
[She’s really messing life up for Adam.]
[we all have our callings–]
[OK, so we have a scene in a hospital with Laura, Jill, Adam, Billy, Mart. You are going to write this?? I can’t wait]
[oh but it’s YOUR turn]
[Love the Mexican connection BTW. Just what I needed]
[No no, I have several very important scenes in Carlisle and Livingston. The London end is all yours…]
[Though I may intervene, of course… And what’s all this about turns?]
[That hospital scene…it could be very long. Does Billy know Laura BTW?]
[I suggested turns because it sounded easier for ME. ]
[No Laura doesn’t know Billy. And if you can intervene then maybe we should really share the scene…]
[you a line, me a line–]
[Adam is pretty sick. Maybe they all meet at a funeral?]
[You brought all these people to London (unasked) and you expect me to help you out, line by line?]
[Honestly, where’s your pride? Look on it as an exercise in dialogue management (going to be fun sorting out all ” ..” on Twitter)]
[I’ll just get on with my nice quiet time in Carlisle. Need to rack up the young love bit – Euan is not responding well, despite single bed]
[And I BET you duck it and go back to that useless Zach.]
[Why yes, line by line. Where is your sense of chivalry?]
[“Dialogue management” sounds like herding sheep.]
[The single bed did not escape my notice. A delicate and immensely important scene is certainly pending. Need help?]
[I have observed that we don’t do well establishing wagers.]
c10.7 Janice returned to find the Professor and Euan sitting at the wood table, sharing some homemade concoction from an unmarked bottle.
c10.8 Euan looked up.“Where have you been?” he asked petulantly. Janice said, “You aren’t my mother.” She plunked down on a hard chair.
c10.9 Quietly Harald gathered a mug from his cupboard and poured her a share from the bottle. “Here’s to you, Stuart,” Janice thought.
c11.0 Then she took a drink of the dark red liquid. She expected it to be too sweet, but it wasn’t. “Blackberry,” the Professor said.
c11.1 “From my cousin down south. Every Christmas.” It wasn’t bad. And clearly it was precious to the old man. “Thank you,” Janice said.
c11.2 She drank again, & the strong wine began to warm her. The horrible mud & cold of the day started to slip away. Euan was still gloom.
c11.3 She gave him an impulsive little kick under the table. He looked up in shock. Suddenly this all seemed funny to Janice.
c11.4 She laughed as quietly as she could. Oddly, Euan blushed. The professor looked pleased, & poured a bit more wine.<
[Honestly! I KNEW you wouldn’t have the courage. OK, I’ll start….]
80.6 Friday. Mart was the first to arrive. He had climbed off the BA flight from Boston at 6.35 am and made his way to central London.
80.7 He took a cab to the Boston & Global Office in Cheapside. He had e-mailed them the previous evening, but there was no one much around.
[FYI! visiting hours start at 2:00…You see I have been researching this!]
80.8 He dumped his bags, and rang the Whittington…..
[Just what in tarnation do you think I’m writing about!!!]
80.9 He explained as carefully as he could that he was an old friend of one of their patients, and he was only in London for a few hours.
81.0 Could they maybe make an exception to their visiting hours policy, and let him pay a quick visit? He expected resistance, and got it.
[Tarnation? Who knew you knew ‘tarnation…”]
81.1 But Mart was persistent, and could be charming when he wished. He got himself put through to the ward sister….
[You’re distracting me. I looked up ‘tarnation’ specially, as something that might be familiar in the colonies]
[I’ve only got 30 minutes before a meeting, and I want to get this done]
[Very Mark Twain.]
81.2 He explained he had seen Adam’s old mother only yesterday, and needed to tell her about her son.
81.3 He had no idea whether Adam’s mother was still alive. He’d square that with Laura in due course. At least Laura would still be asleep.
81.4 He did not need Laura butting in when he was trying to speak to Adam. Then he actually listened to the what the nurse was saying.
81.5 “He’s not conscious at the moment.” Not conscious! What the hell had happened to Adam? “But we might let you see him for five minutes.”
81.6 It was all Mart needed. On the way to the hospital, he wondered what on earth Brennen was playing at, and what he and Adam knew.
81.7 When he was shown to Adam’s cubicle, he was shocked. Adam was deathly white, brow beaded with sweat. He was breathing loudly and deeply.
[YOU ARE KILLING ADAM!]
[my god it’s Fluffy all over again…]
[You were the one who mentioned funerals….]
81.9 “My God,” said Mart, “is he going to die?”
“We think we have him stablised for the moment.”
“Does he ever wake?”
“Now and again.
82.0 “But he doesn’t make much sense when he does. I’ll leave you together. Five minutes. No more. It’s irregular enough as it is.”
82.1 When they were alone, Mart leant forward. He gripped Adam’s wrist hard. “Adam, listen, it’s Mart. I need you awake. Now.” Adam stirred.
82.2 Mart twisted the skin on Adam’s wrist. “Stoppit Mart, that hurts,” mumbled the unconscious man.
“Adam. Wake up. I need you awake.”
82.3 Adam’s eyes flicked open. They stared at the ceiling. “Adam, it’s Mart. What’s the most important thing you haven’t told me?”
82.4 There was no response. Mart gripped Adam’s ear lobe and pinched hard. “Adam, tell me. What’s important?”
“Someone big in Mexico…”
82.5 “Coming over…do a deal. Don’t know more.” the voice was slurred.
“Adam! There must be more. Tell me!” But Adam was gone again.
82.6 He was deeply unconscious once more. Mart sighed. That was all he was going to get. He got to his feet and found the nurse.
82.7 “I’d like to thank you for letting me have time with my friend. I may delay my business and come back at the proper time this afternoon.
82.8 I should like to see his wife. Will she be in, do you think?”
“I’m sure she will. And I believe his daughter is coming, his wife said.
82.9 “And someone called Mr Killins. Would you know him? It’s just that Mrs Oat seemed unsure.” Mart dredged up a smile from somewhere.
83.0 “Sure I know him. Mr Killins is a fine man.”
What a strange coincidence, thought Mart, as he left to find some breakfast.
83.1 He’d be sure to be there. Maybe he might catch Billy Killins alone. He wondered how he ought to play the scene. It wouldn’t be easy.<
83.2 When Jill left the plane and turned on her phone there was a text from Laura. She read it as she and Billy moved through the airport.
83.3 “I will be waiting for you at the Hilton, Upper Street. You can’t visit the hospital until 2:00. Let me know when to expect you.”
83.4 “We can’t visit him until 2 o’clock!” Jill said to Billy as they walked to the customs line with their shoulder bags.
83.5 “She’s waiting, at her hotel,” she added. The line moved slowly but then they were out and free.“Breakfast,” Billy said, & Jill nodded.
83.6 Laura sat in her hotel room early on Friday morning, drinking coffee. She hated waiting.
83.7 This hotel was new to her. Closer to the hospital but not to much else. Lately she was remembering a hotel she loved in Paris.
83.8 Some people actually lived in that hotel, for months at a time. She would like that. A charming place, with incredible food close by.
83.9 Her cell phone rang. The hospital. “Mrs. Oat, your husband has taken a turn. I think you better get down here. He has become delirious.”
84.0 “Oh I know,” Laura said. She didn’t like being beckoned in this way. “But Mrs. Oat, he’s bad—slipping in and out of consciousness.”
84.1 Laura put down the phone & went to dress. Something somber…the navy blue skirt. And a demure white blouse, a tailored jacket…
84.2 There was a text from Jill. “Here and on our way over. Be there soon.” Laura quickly wrote a message back.
84.3 “Your father is worse. Meet me at the hospital instead.” She thought she sent the message but, in her rush the click failed.
84.4 The hotel service drove her the short trip to the hospital. As she walked through the entrance she passed a dark-haired man leaving.
[Looks like we are going to have to deal with Friday timeline hour by hour. What time is it now, roughly?]
[how can I manage this intricately intertwined plot-age with such questions?]
84.5 He was typing on his phone as he walked and excused himself for bumping into her. A self-absorbed American. It was embarrassing.
[it’s important. If that’s Mart walking out, then we need to check it. It’s just about OK I think. You write, I’ll watch the clock]
84.6 Inside the hospital, her handbag beeped. She pulled out her phone but it was the other one, the one that belonged to Adam.
84.7 “Have suitcase full of bills. When can I bring it?” From “Mart.” Laura sat down to think in one of the foyer chairs.
84.8 “I want you to give the money to my wife, Laura,” she wrote. “Where can she meet you?” She waited. There was no response.
[I don’t understand. Why is Mart texting an unconscious Adam. Something very DEEP happening. I can tell]
84.9 Jill & Billy entered the Hilton Hotel around 10:00. Jill glanced around. “It’s very ‘Mom’,” she said. They approached the desk.
85.0 Laura’s room was called but no answer. Jill sent a text. Nothing. Billy inquired about possible room reservations.
85.1 “Why yes,” the desk clerk said. “We have a room for Miss Oat, next door to Mrs. Oat. And a room for you Mr. Killins. Second floor.
85.2 Jill looked at the reservations screen. “But the other rooms are on the first floor,” she said. “Yes,” the clerk said. “As requested.”
85.3 Billy smiled. “Up we go,” he said, and he handed her the key card to her door. They went to both rooms in turn and left bags.
85.4 Then they came back downstairs and sat together on a big green couch and waited. Finally there was a call from Laura.
85.5 “Where are you?” Laura cried. “But Mom,” Jill said. “We’re here, at the hotel.” “No no, get to the hospital—I think he’s dying!”
85.6 Mart sat on a bench drinking coffee. Now it was clear that Laura had crossed bounds. And how could the Killins link be coincidental?
85.7 He drew his phone from an inside pocket and sent Billy another direct message. “How about noon at St John’s Tavern on Junction Road?”
[I don’t think the Hilton Islington is ‘very Mom’ at all. Plus it only has two floors (from the photos) And its horrid pink/red, not green.]
[just being picky]
[someone has to be]
[but we can sort all that. Keep going. I’m entranced]
[They don’t show the green couch. And that’s an old photo, now the hotel is taller…OK I found you a coffeeshop– find me a tall hotel.]
[Wouldn’t it be easier just to book Billy into a poky single room on the second floor?]
[I moved him. If he hates the room it’s your fault.]
85.8 But Billy and Jill were entering the hospital. Laura came down to meet them. After a quick hug she took Jill’s hand & headed away.
85.9 “What about Billy?“ Jill said, looking back as they walked away from him. “Only two visitors & really it’s off hours,” Laura said.
86.0 “Lovely to meet you!” Billy called after them. Then he took a deep breath and moseyed outside with his cigarette case.
[sometimes we say ‘moseyed’ here in the colonies…]
86.1 He checked his phone and found Mart’s invitation. But Jill came first. He wrote back. “Crisis at the hospital. Back in touch later.”
86.2 Mart leaned back on the bench. No surprise. He knew when he was torturing Adam earlier that his health situation had gone sideways.
86.3 Now he needed to sort this mess. Laura had information, or at least she had Adam’s cell phone. –Adam always swore she knew nothing.
86.4 Obviously that had changed. And how did Billy Killins get into this picture? Mart did an online search on his phone.
86.5 It said that Killins lived in Newport. That’s when he remembered meeting that old woman, the one Evie worked for.
86.6 Or pretended to work for. Her name was Oat too. Somehow he missed that at the time.
86.7 He called Evie Lane’s number but there was no answer. He wrote back to Billy. “I’m in the neighborhood. Give me your first free minute.”
86.7.1 At times Mart wished he had never given up smoking. But Martha had insisted. Nothing about his health. She just didn’t like the smell.
86.7.2 He liked benches. Even in a scrubby park like this one, benches gave you time to think. There was Scotland. There was Mexico.
86.8 There was the drug the office were worried about. Then there was Mr Killins and his book. And Laura, a mercenary, brainless kitten.
86.9 There was something else. Mart tried to remember what it was against the fog of jet-lag and bad coffee. Something in the paper.
87.0 Something about young people who had gone missing because of Mr Killins. What the hell had they to do with anything?
87.1 So, he had several strands in his hand. Evie. He’d half written her off, but Adam’s words had brought her back into play.
87.2 She’d been tasked to watch Blue, because the office thought Blue had connections deep in the Mexican drug scene. And now Adam.
87.3 ‘Someone big from Mexico – coming over to do a deal.’ The link was there, but he needed Evie to make it clear for him.
87.4 Brennan was onto it, but wouldn’t have the background. So where, exactly, was Evie Lane? Mart dropped the strand and picked another.
87.5 A murder in Scotland. He didn’t have enough information there. Seemed random, gruesome, but linked somehow to Mr Killins and his book.
87.6 And possibly to this drug, about which the office would tell him little. Why Scotland? It was hardly the drug capital of the world.
87.7 Mart dropped that strand and picked up a third. MKULTRA. An unpleasant, covert operation in the 70s and 80s to influence people…
87.8 …..through drugs, among other things. Search for chemical methods of opening up people’s minds. In the past, as the office had said.
87.9 Things slowly began to fall into place for Mart. He still couldn’t understand why Scotland though. Mr Killins might enlighten him.
88.0 His phone beeped. Mart smiled. He enjoyed coincidence. It was indeed a text from Billy. ‘Have maybe 30 mins free. Where are u?”
88.1 ‘On a bench,’ Mart replied. ‘Come and join me. Did I read somewhere you smoked? Good.'<
[Is Cupcake going to show up soon?]
[That was retaliation for calling Laura a kitten– an insult to cats.]
[No. She’s in the mail (not literally)]
[I looked for a more appropriate epithet, but there wasn’t one]
[At least it was polite. This is going along like a nice roller coaster.]
[I finished transcribing my bit. I hope I didn’t miss any comments. I shortened the hotel– used a wrecking ball, quite a lot of rubble.]