Paul Dellit has written some excellent political articles for The AIMN, so it came as some surprise that he is better known for his screenplay writing. Thomas Keneally, in a recent review of one of Paul’s screenplays I wrote: “I liked your screenplay and plot very much” and went on to describe it as “a very interesting and well-wrought script”. This particular screenplay – a spy thriller set in 1992 involving a MI5 mission directed at uncovering the source of stolen Russian radioactive material – has been turned into a novella (with input from Mr Keneally) and prior to publishing in hard copy has been offered to The AIMN.
We have been pleased to ‘publish’ Paul’s novella.
Today we offer Part 12 – the final installment – (picking up where we left off from in Part 11).
Chapter 5 (continued)
Oliver leaves the café and walks over to Emma in her car. He knocks on her window. She winds it down. He asks: “Are you alright for this?”
Oliver hands a two-way radio to her. “I’ll wait in the bus and follow you.”
Emma winds her window up without replying.
A car drives through Castello Dei Martiri and turns off on the road to the orphanage. Emma starts her car and follows and Oliver follows in the bus. Before they get to the orphanage, Emma stops her car and waits for Oliver in the bus to catch up. He stops the bus and she walks up to it. Oliver opens its front door. Emma speaks to him. “It might be better if you drive up to the orphanage as if you’re a tourist bus who’s lost his way and in need of directions. Wait here until the head of the orphanage has entered and has had time to settle in. I’ll follow you when I think you have had time to gain entrance. Have your gun ready and leave the front door open for me.”
Oliver drives off in the bus and, arriving at the orphanage, gets out and walks up to the front door and pulls the bell ringer. The front door is opened by a very large lay brother, clearly intellectually challenged. Oliver speaks to him in Italian. “I have lost my way, Reverend Brother. Will you be able to give me directions?”
The Reverend Brother, without speaking, motions to Oliver to come in. Oliver pretends to close the door but holds the handle so that it makes the sound of closing but does not close and is left slightly ajar. The Reverend Brother then motions to Oliver to follow him. Oliver follows, drawing his gun, silencer attached, and holding it behind his back. As they approach a large double door, there is the sound of a man shouting, followed by the sound of a cane striking flesh, followed by the sound of a child crying out with pain. The Reverend Brother opens the double doors to reveal a dining hall with eight men sitting at a refectory table about to begin their lunch. There is a young boy standing on a chair with the back of the smock he is wearing pulled up over his head, revealing upon his naked body the welt marks of the current beating and the scars of earlier beatings. Sitting facing each other at the table at the end closest to Oliver are two older men dressed in expensively tailored, well pressed black clerical street suits and clerical collars. At other end of the table, at its head, is a younger middle aged man, in a less impressive clerical street suit, who appears to be the head of the orphanage. Ranged on either side of the table, between the men in clerical street suits at either end, are five monks in rough monastic cassocks. A sixth monk, holding the cane, is standing beside the young boy on the chair. All the adults in the room turn to look at Oliver as he walks in.
The head of the orphanage screams at the Reverend Brother who has led Oliver to them: “Giovanni!! You idiot!! Why bring this man in here! Why did you not tell him to wait in the entrance hall! You fool!!” The man sitting to Oliver’s immediate left, Cardinal Juric, seems a little peeved. “How can we help you, sir?”
Oliver produces the gun from behind his back. All of the men at the table and the monk holding the cane are clearly shocked by this development.
Oliver speaks in a soft voice: “Young boy. You can get down from the chair now. Will it be alright with you if you leave with Giovanni so that he can look after you?”
“Yes it will be alright.”
“Giovanni, will you please take the young boy and look after him. You with the cane – you come here! Bring the cane.”
Giovanni helps the young boy down from the chair. The young boy takes his hand and they begin to walk slowly out of the dining hall. The monk with the cane stands his ground, clearly with no intention of moving from beside the chair on which the young boy previously stood. As the young boy reaches the door of the dining hall, he turns and calls out to Oliver. “He is Fra Adolfo.”
“Thank you.” He addresses Adolfo: “You do not move, Fra Adolfo?”
“I will not move. You will not shoot me!”
Oliver fires a shot which passes close by the hand with which Adolfo holds the cane. Adolfo is shocked by this and drops the cane.
“Bad shot, but I never miss twice.”
Adolfo’s demeanour changes from defiance to fear and he begins to walk towards Oliver. The rest of the men are clearly fearful.
“Pick up the cane, Adolfo.”
Adolfo walks back slowly, picks up the cane and walks up to Oliver. He gives the cane to Oliver.
“Take off your cassock.”
“No sir, please. Marcello is a very bad boy. You don’t understand how hard it is to maintain discipline with these urchins.”
Oliver speaks with calm deliberation: “Take off your cassock now, and the rest of your clothes, or I will shoot you. I will shoot you so that you will not die straight away. You will die in extreme pain!”
Adolfo takes off his cassock and the rest of his clothes and holds them in front of himself.
“Drop your clothes, turn around, and bend over the end of the table between their Eminences.”
Cardinal Juric comes to Adolfo’s defence. “Is this necessary, sir? Fra Adolfo was perhaps a little vigorous with his punishment, but he does have a point. Discipline is very . . .”
Oliver lashes the Cardinal’s face with the cane. He reels back from his chair and falls to the floor, crying out in pain, blood beginning to drip from the wound.
“You were not invited to speak, Your Eminence. I must maintain discipline. You understand the importance of discipline. And . . .” Oliver pauses and shakes his head before continuing: “you do not have permission to leave the table. Please sit.”
Cardinal Juric hesitates.
“Sit now! or there will be more! You, Adolfo! – bend over the table between their Eminences! I have that right – you two are bishops at least, if not cardinals?
Cardinal Juric looks down without responding. Adolfo bends over the end of the table as instructed and places his hands over his buttocks.
Oliver speaks again to Adolfo in measured tones. “Stretch your hands out in front of you.”
Adolfo slowly takes his hands from behind him and stretches them out in front of him. Oliver runs the muzzle of the gun over Adolfo’s back and down to the cheeks of his buttocks.
“You feel that Adolfo? If you move, I will place a bullet into your anus. Do you understand, Adolfo?”
Adolfo replies fearfully: “Yes.”
Oliver begins to cane Adolfo across his buttocks and back. As each slash of the cane breaks his fine, pale skin and bites deeply into his soft flesh, Adolfo cries out in pain. After the cane finds its mark for the sixth time, Adolfo urinates uncontrollably. Oliver stops beating him, throws the cane away and addresses the room: “Anyone who does not do what they are told, when they are told, will be shot, dead – which means, you mortal sinners, you will go straight to hell!”
Emma enters the dining hall with her gun drawn and walks up to Oliver, all the time observing the terror-struck diners, and asks him: “Where are we up to?”
“The gentleman bending over the table was beating a small boy with a cane when I entered. It was necessary to redress the power structure and instil some discipline.”
“I see. Do you think that has been achieved?”
“I do. So now we need the duct tape.”
“It’s in the car. Here are the keys. I think you should get it, don’t you?”
Oliver returns to the dining hall with the duct tape. The young boy and Giovanni have returned to the dining hall to observe what is happening. Oliver picks up a cutlery knife, the only knife on the table, but it is too blunt to cut the tape. Marcello sees this and runs over to the sideboard where there is a bread knife, picks it up and runs over to Oliver and gives it to him. Oliver smiles and thanks him. Oliver then motions to everyone seated at the table to stand up. Adolfo has returned to his place at the table and is wearing his cassock again.
Oliver addresses the room. “Now, you will all turn your chairs around and sit down again with your hands behind your backs.”
There are murmurings of discontent in the background as Cardinal Juric nervously speaks up: “What are you going to do? We have not done anything to you. We have not harmed you in any way. Why are you doing this?”
“What is your name?”
“I am a priest of the Catholic Church.”
“Oh, I think you sell yourself short. I think you enjoy a much higher rank than priest, though all bishops are priests, and all cardinals are bishops. I think that’s right, isn’t it, Your Eminence? Now, you obviously outrank that other guy opposite, because you do all the talking and he is obviously deferential to you, so, given what I know, I’d say you are a cardinal. Maybe he’s a bishop. Now let me see – yes, I think I feel the inspiration of Holy Spirit upon me . . . and it’s telling me you are a member of the Curia.” Oliver turns on Juric and demands in a menacing tone: “Tell me your name, or I’ll deal with you again.”
“I am Ante Juric.”
“Would that be Cardinal Ante Juric?”
“A member of the Curia?”
“My guess is your Croatian father named you after Ante Pavelic, head of Croatia during the Second World War – one of the most animalistic of the Nazis, a man who kept a basket of human eyes in his office, a man who exceeded, even, the depravity of the SS to the point that they sought to rein him in. And a man who was dressed as a priest by the Vatican so he could escape down the Vatican Rat Lines to South America. You are well named, Cardinal Ante Juric – except that you exercise your depravity on children. You steal their sense of self-worth, their dignity. You ruin their lives . . . for your pleasure!” Oliver calms himself. “Enough of this chitchat. Reverend Brother, may I call you Giovanni – can you help us please?
The young boy speaks up. “He is Giovanni, but he does not speak. He will help you and I will help you. They call me Marcello.”
“Thank you. First I will bind their hands behind them with this duct tape. Marcello, can you cut of strips of tape this long.” Oliver holds up a length of tape he has cut off the roll to show him then turns to Marcello to suggest: “Perhaps Giovanni can hold the roll up for you while you cut of pieces and hand them to me.”
The nine clergymen seated on reversed chairs with their chests against the backs of the chairs, duct tape binding their hands behind them, covering their mouths, binding their legs to the back legs of their chairs, and encircling their upper bodies and the backs of the chairs so that they are securely attached to them. The suit coats and waistcoats of the three men in clerical suits have been removed. Oliver, Emma, Marcello and Giovanni are sitting on two benches in the corner of the room, Emma on one bench with her arm around Marcello’s shoulder, Oliver and Giovanni on the other bench facing them.
Emma looks with great kindness in her eyes as she ask Marcello: “How old are you, Marcello?”
“My real name is Ahmet. I am ten years old.”
“Can you tell us how you live here, what they do to you, what they make you do?
“What will you do with them? What will happen to us when you go?”
Oliver replies: “If you like, we can take you all away from here to a very nice place where nice nurses and doctors will take care of you and gentle teachers can teach you and you will have a nice place to play and you can go on trips to the beach and have nice holidays. Would you like that?”
“We must all be together, all of us. Okay?”
“Every one of you. We would not leave anyone behind.”
“Even Pesha? They don’t like Pesha because he becomes very angry. The other children don’t like Pesha, but he can’t help it.”
“Of course Pesha. We must help Pesha not to be angry.”
“What will we have to eat?”
“What would you like to eat?”
“We would like to eat what my mother used to cook.”
Oliver smiles and attempts to allay Ahmet’s concerns: “I promise you, Ahmet, if you want, we will take you to every place where they cook food like your mother used to cook, and when we find someone who can cook that food, and when you approve, we will make sure that we cook that food back home, your new home. But we must make sure that all the children can have the food they like too.”
“I know they will like my mother’s food.”
Emma wishes to bring Ahmet to the question she had asked: “Ahmet, we want to care for all the children and we want to make sure that we do not do or say anything that might upset them. It would help us to know what would have happened today if we did not arrive and tie these men up. Can you tell us, from when you woke up this morning, what happened, and what would have happened this afternoon and tonight if we did not come here?”
“You know Adolfo, he wakes me up. I must wake the others up and . . .”
Ahmet begins his account while the others listen. Tears begin forming in the eyes of both Oliver and Emma; they struggle to keep their emotions under control so that Ahmet can continue uninterrupted. Ahmet’s demeanour remains matter-of-fact throughout, his eyes occasionally widening with flashes of anger when he needs to emphasise a point. Giovanni sits staring into the distance, expressionless. When Ahmet’s story comes to an end, Emma draws him to her and kisses his head. Silent tears are running down her cheeks. She asks as calmly as she can: “Can you take me to the children? I think it would be good to show them that these bad men cannot hurt them anymore. Do you think it would be good for them so see these men tied up like this, or do you think it might upset them?”
“I will go first to talk to them. I will tell them that you are a kind lady and want to care for them. I will tell them that the man beat Adolfo because Adolfo beat me. Then I come to take you to see them, but only you. If they see a big man, they will be scared. When you are kind to them, then when they see you are the friend of the big man, they will be not so scared of him.”
“You are a very wise young man, Ahmet. My name is Oliver, but it is hard to say, so you can call me Ollie.”
“And my name is Emma. I have a simple name.”
Oliver winks at Ahmet. “Simple name for a simple girl.”
Ahmet at first looks puzzled at what Oliver has said and what he means by it. Then he begins to see that Oliver is joking and he begins to smile. Emma puts her hands on her hips and feigns a cross expression and shakes her head. Ahmet points first at Oliver then at Emma and then begins to laugh. He turns and runs off quickly.
He returns soon after, timidly followed by a group of little boys and girls, mostly boys, apparently between the ages of five and nine, all dressed in smocks, huddled together. Ahmet motions to them impatiently to come into the room. He coaxes them to gather together in the corner of the room. He speaks to them in their own languages. He is smiling. He puts on a kind of show for them with the intention of putting them at their ease. He walks over to the sideboard, picks up a carafe of wine, walks over to stand beside Cardinal Juric, climbs up on his knee then stands up on the table and walks along the table, tipping the wine over the nine bound men. The children are horrified as first, but when Ahmet has emptied the carafe, he does a cheeky, mocking dance in front of the bound men, which makes one child begin to laugh, and then they all gradually laugh more and more heartily. Emma calls to Ahmet to come to her and she walks over to the table and lifts him down to the ground.
“You are very good for the children, Ahmet. You are a natural leader. Do you know what that means?”
“Yes, I know.”
Oliver walks over to join Emma and Ahmet.
Emma places her hand on Ahmet’s shoulder. “We have a bus here for you and all the children to take you all, including Pesha, to a nice place where you can be looked after and cared for and fed, and all those other good things. We want all the people in the world to see how bad these men have been to you so that they can never be bad to children again and they will go to gaol. Some people will come here in a little while and they will want to take pictures and make movies of all these bad men and all the children and where they kept you. When they come here they will take pictures of all the children first. They will not take pictures of their faces. Then we will take you all to the bus. Oliver will drive the bus because I do not know how to drive a bus, but I will drive a car in front of the bus to lead the way. Ahmet, can you tell all of this to the children? Do you think they will be okay with this?
Ahmet replies with a cheeky smile: “Of course. I am a natural leader.”
Emma smiles broadly and Oliver laughs out loud, and says: “You are indeed, Ahmet, you are indeed.”
Ahmet’s smile dissolves into tears. He begins to cry uncontrollably. Emma drops to her knees and draws him to her and hugs him. Oliver squats down to place his hand on Ahmet’s back. Kissing him again, she whispers: “It’s all over now, sweetheart. It’s all over now. You are safe now.”
There is the sound of sirens and then a convoy of police cars driving into the yard in front of the orphanage. Oliver and Emma race to the windows and see that the orphanage is effectively surrounded by Carabinieri. Emma rushes to her car which is parked close to the front door of the orphanage, retrieves the two way radio, and rushes back inside. She calls Jimmy. “Jimmy. Carabinieri everywhere. Stay by the two way. Don’t come up yet. I’ll call you, okay.”
Emma rushes back into the dining hall. As she does, the Carabinieri begin making announcements from a police loudhailer in Italian: “We have the place surrounded and there can be no escape. If you release the hostages, no harm will come to you.”
Oliver opens a window and calls out in Italian: “We do not have hostages. We have detained a group of criminals engaged in crime. We do not intend to harm them or anyone. We have film of these criminals committing their crimes. Please wait there. We will bring a TV to the verandah and run one of the films for you. After you see this film, we want your agreement to take these men into custody.”
The loudhailer responds: “We give you five minutes to produce the TV and show the film.”
Oliver and Giovanni follow Ahmet to the room where the films are edited and copies made and stored. Oliver places a VHS tape into a VHS player slot at the base of a TV. He begins to play the tape. “Shit! That’s enough! Okay, Giovanni, we carry the TV and, Ahmet, can you carry that extension cord and set up a table on the verandah so we can show this tape to the Carabinieri.”
As the tape plays on the TV set up on the verandah, the volume turned up loud, the senior officer carrying the loudhailer walks forward to get a better look. He begins to shake his head. He looks shocked. He becomes emotional. Oliver and Emma are standing beside the TV. They are waiting for him to compose himself so that they can begin to discuss what is to happen to the bound men.
While discussions between the Carabinieri officer and Oliver and Emma are in progress, in the dining hall Ahmet is attempting to stab one of the monks in the back with a cutlery knife. He is unsuccessful because the cutlery knife has a blunt point and cannot penetrate the course material of the monk’s cassock. He then runs back to the cutlery draw and takes out a fork and then tries to stab one of the monks with that. Giovanni walks over to him and uses the breadknife to cut through the cassock so that Ahmet can stick the fork into the back of the monk. He makes no effort to avoid cutting the backs of the monks as he does so. Ahmet stabs each monk in the back with a fork but on each occasion it penetrates to the length of tines only. He and Giovanni then repeat the exercise with Cardinal Juric, the bishop and the head of the orphanage. Ahmet then runs to a corner of the room where there is a long-handled broom. We see him climb up on the knee of the grimacing Cardinal Juric to get onto the table. He has the long-handled broom with him. Each of the bound men grimaces with the pain of having a fork partially inserted in his back. Ahmet stands on the table and, looking down on Cardinal Juric, screams in Italian: “Look at me!”, and then in a calm deliberate voice, continues: “My . . name . . is . . Ahmet!”
Ahmet places the head of the broom against the throat of Cardinal Juric and gives it a sudden push so that the chair to which he is bound tips over backward. The fork partially inserted into his back is driven in to its full length. Cardinal Juric looks back at Ahmet with a look of indescribable pain, horror and fear of the afterlife.
Ahmet walks along the table to the next bound man and proclaims: ‘My name is Ahmet’ and pushes the broom suddenly against his throat so that he suffers the same fate as the Cardinal. He continues with this until all of the seated clergy lie dying on the floor in pools of blood, fearing the fate that awaits their immortal souls.
With their negotiations complete, Oliver and Emma leading the senior Carabinieri officer into the dining hall. They are stunned at the sight. Ahmet is sitting on the table, cross-legged. Giovanni is leaning with his both hands on the table and looks up as they enter. He smiles. He has the breadknife in his right hand. Grinning, he makes the motion of stabbing. The Carabinieri officer rushes forward and lifts up the body and chair of the Cardinal to the upright position and observes with horror the end of the handle of the fork protruding from his blood-soaked shirt. Emma and Oliver rush to lift the others to the upright position; and sensing that Ahmet’s involvement in the deaths of these nine men, they move close to the table where he is sitting. Oliver lifts him down and the leads him away to the far corner of the room.
Oliver asks: “What happened? Where are the children?”
Ahmet looks up at Oliver, blank-faced, afraid that the slightest expression might convey his guilt. Oliver places his hand on Ahmet’s Oliver and says reassuringly: “Don’t worry. We’ll sort something out.”
Oliver motions to Emma and the two of them walk over to the Carabinieri officer who is standing near the entrance door of the dining hall. Oliver begins conversing with him in Italian and Emma joins in.
Oliver begins to lay out his hypothetical view of the matter for the Carabinieri officer’s consideration: “We’re with a large contingent of international media people. You might have seen them in Castello Dei Martiri. Somebody got a tip-off about what was going on here, and I got roped in to drive a bus to ferry the kids away to safety. They were beating that kid over there when I walked in. I pulled a gun on them and then my colleague here walked in . . .” Oliver continues the account of the suffering to which the children have been subjected at the hands of the dead clergy. “. . . and when we were showing you the tape, apparently Giovanni lost the plot. He has some kind of mental disorder and a very low IQ. They used him as their drudge and they whipped him when he got it wrong. So he saw his chance when his persecutors were tied up and stabbed them. That kid got the other kids and took them to the kitchen to keep them out of harm’s way. They were grabbing some food and waiting by the back door so they could run if things got out of hand. I had told them that I would take them to safety in that bus.”
“Maybe. Maybe. . . . Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s not. But we have nine dead bodies, one of them a Cardinal, a member of the Curia – I know of him – and a bishop, and the others.
“Whatever happens from this point on, I think what we would all want is natural justice to prevail. We know that whatever happens, Giovanni will not be held responsible and he will be placed in care. I can guarantee that I will pay for his proper care. We know that that kid has been through hell in this place – all of the kids have, but especially him. He took most of the beatings and he bravely tried to protect the others and keep their spirits up. We don’t want to put that kid or any of them through any more. We want them cared for and rehabilitated and given the best chance at a happy life we can give them.”
“So you are going to pay for Giovanni? And are you going to pay for the care of the children too?”
“Yes, I am.”
“You must be a very rich man . . . what is your name?”
“Saint Francis. I am a very rich man but I am happy to give my money away whenever I see a good cause. For example, you look like a married man to me; you must have children; you look like a good man; you must want the best education for your children. How much do you think it would cost to give your children the best education you can think of?”
“Even if I have ten kids I want to send to private boarding schools in Switzerland, we cannot fix this. Not with these dead people. I got a tip-off that someone had come here to take hostages and that there could be some very important people here. Then we have him here.” He gestures towards the body of Cardinal Juric. “With all this paedophile business. This is a big scandal. There will be a very high-level investigation when a Curia Cardinal is one of the paedophiles.”
“So what if, for the record, he wasn’t involved, but came here because he had had a tipoff that this place was used as a paedophile bordello and he came here to investigate. There is a retreat up the road called San Giovanni Bosco. That’s where the clientele for this place stay. I’m sure you will find all the witnesses you want to say that that’s the reason Cardinal Juric and his mate over there were here – to investigate and put things right. You could get a couple of them to say they came down here later on to see how things were going and found the dead bodies as we found them.”
“But how do we explain the dead bodies?”
“The perpetrator had long gone by the time you got here. You speculate that it could be some deranged ex-inmate of this place come back to wreak his revenge, and the good Cardinal and his mate got innocently caught up in it all and they become martyrs and heroes of the day. You are vigorously following all leads to catch the perpetrator. Now, I am sure, if you search the room of the head of the orphanage – that guy over there who was sitting at the end of the table – you will find a set of tapes where you see the faces of all the important people who visited this place, in the act. That guy was surely going to have a backup plan to make sure he didn’t have to carry the can if the purpose of this place was ever exposed. There are secret cameras in all the rooms. I checked.”
“And the press? And the children? And what about the two of you?”
“I have arranged for an accredited representative of a French childcare agency to be with the press in Castello. She will come with me on the bus. She has all the documentation with her for us to be able to take the children from Italy to France to a rehabilitation centre we have set up for them. They are not Italian citizens. They are refugees. As for the press, we have a two-way radio. We will brief them on the Cardinal and his mate being the good guys who came here to close the operation down; alas, they got killed by a person or persons unknown like the others. You can give them your speculation about the deranged former inmate. That should get them going.”
The Carabinieri officer pauses reflectively, seeming to see some merit in Oliver’s reconstruction of events. He is about to say something when Oliver speaks. “Can you come with me to the bus? I want you to see that it is acceptable for the children, and while we are walking, perhaps you can suggest the amount it might take to educate your children, in US dollars. I have some of those with me.
Oliver leads the Carabinieri officer out to the bus, and a few moments later, the Carabinieri officer tucks an envelope into his coat pocket then walks over to his men.
Emma and Oliver assemble the children and lead them onto the bus. After they are all loaded on, Oliver and Emma stand beside the bus. She looks at him with admiration. “You cut your teeth on this in Malaysia, didn’t you – smoothing things over after a disaster. You are a very resourceful man, Oliver. You handled that so well.”
“If you want to see Thierry, I can take them to their new home. I have Mademoiselle Petite with us. She probably knows more about what to do with these kids than the both of us put together.”
“I have the address. I’ll see you there in a day or two.” She pauses and with tears in her eyes asks: “Can we kiss goodbye? . . . I mean ‘au revoir’.”
They kiss. Oliver is about to say something, but Emma pulls away from his embrace and runs to her car, crying. Oliver watches her with a look of despair in his eyes.
Oliver is driving the bus with Ahmet sitting on the seat nearest him. The children are all sitting noiselessly, looking timidly at the passing scenery. Mademoiselle Petite is sitting at the back of the bus, reading.
Oliver asks Ahmet: “Do you know if the children like to sing?”
“I don’t know.”
“Would you like to learn a song and teach the children – to pass the time? You could translate it into their languages and they could each sing in their own language. It wouldn’t matter as long as they keep to the same tune. Would you like to do that?
Ahmet smiles and replies: “Yes, I would like to.”
“Okay. This is a song my grandmother used to sing to me at night to cheer me up. I will sing the words in English and you practice in your language and then translate. So, here goes, first line:
‘I’m letting in the sunshine’”
Ahmet follows Oliver’s lead for each of the following lines of the song ‘Letting in the Sunshine’, a popular song with dance bands, circa 1933. Oliver continues:
“‘I’m letting in the sunshine
It’s shining everywhere
I’m letting in the sunshine
For both of us to share
I’m opening the window
For summer’s in the air
I’m letting in the sunshine
For both of us to share
Can’t you see that all the dull days and grey skies are over?
Can’t you see that we’ll be living from now on in clover?
The lovely little sunbeams
Are dancing everywhere
I’m letting in the sunshine
For both of us to share.’”
The children eventually get the hang of the game and all begin singing the same tune, each singing the lyrics in their own language. The different words clashing and jangling as they sing becomes a great source of amusement and they begin to laugh, probably for the first time in many years. Oliver sits at the steering wheel, singing in English, smiling, though with the weight of melancholy thoughts of Emma and what might have been betrayed in his glistening eyes.
SOUTH OF FRANCE
Three months later
A number of children, originally from the Italian ‘orphanage’, are playing on the front lawn of a holiday resort. A car is parked in the front driveway of the resort adjacent to its entrance and a man and woman in their sixties are standing at its front door. A young female member of staff, a teacher, opens the front door to see who has rung the front door bell. The front doorbell is infrequently rung, except by the children playing a prank upon her, or by a tourist who has lost his way. She opens the door abruptly, ready to scold a child or deal with a lost tourist. Instead, she finds at the front door an elderly couple who are apparently where they intend to be. The woman visitor speaks in English with a slight German accent: “Good afternoon. We would like to see Mr. Oliver Pymm, please.”
Her husband introduces them: “Mungo and Clara Dalrymple.”
The young teacher opens the front door wider and invites them into the entrance hall. She motions to a couch by the wall: “Would you mind waiting here and I will get him for you.”
Clara Dalrymple replies: “Thank you.”
Oliver walks down the staircase which leads to the entrance hall of the resort and greets his two visitors: “Good afternoon. Oliver Pymm. How can I help you?”
“Mungo Dalrymple. My wife Clara.”
Clara adds, “We are Emma’s parents.”
Oliver pauses before inviting them to join him for further discussions.
“Oh, well, would you like to come in and sit down . . . in our sitting room. Please, follow me.”
Clara sits beside Mungo on a comfortable sofa. There is a coffee table in front of them. Oliver is sitting in an armchair opposite them. There is an awkward pause before he motions to stand up.
“Oh, I’m sorry. Can I get you a tea or coffee, or something stronger? I think I am going to have something stronger.”
Mungo replies: “Perhaps a scotch?”
Clara smiles and says: “A sherry for me, please.”
Oliver gets up and walks over to the drinks’ cabinet in the corner of the room. He takes a key ring, with a number of keys on it, out of his pocket and unlocks the drinks’ cabinet. The room is silent except for the jangle of keys and the sound of the drinks’ cabinet being unlocked. Oliver holds up a large key ring full of keys and explains: “Kids. Have to keep it locked.”
There is silence again, except for the clink of glass against glass as Oliver brings glasses and bottles to the table. It takes two trips. He brings wine for himself. Smiling a little self-consciously, he breaks the ice.
“Well, I haven’t seen or heard from Emma for . . .”
Clara interrupts: “We know, Oliver – may we call you by your . . .”
Oliver is quick to assure them: “Yes of course, please, and do you mind if I do too, I mean . . .”
Mungo reciprocates: “Of course, Oliver, of course.”
Clara smiles warmly at Oliver and continues as if she has not heard anything that Oliver and Mungo have said since they last spoke.
“We feel we know you so well . . . and we are very happy to be here . . . with all you are doing for these children. Do you think you might be able to take us around to see more of what you have made here . . . later perhaps?”
“Of course. It would be my pleasure. But I can’t take much credit for it. I’ve been writing while the professionals have been doing all the caring. I think the kids see me as some kind of silly uncle. I’ll be gone in another couple of weeks, not permanently of course. I’ll turn up from time to time, like silly uncles do.”
Clara’s demeanour changes to a more serious aspect.
“Oliver, do you mind if I speak to you in a very direct manner? I am sure you are wondering why we are here, and I think you are a man who would appreciate directness.”
“I would appreciate directness. Yes. Please continue.”
“The first question you must have is: ‘Why hasn’t Emma contacted you herself?’ ‘Why has she sent her parents?’ Well, there are two answers: the first is she is afraid; and the second is she asked my advice and I said we should come here. Oh, and there is also that she has not been able to contact you until now.”
“But why is she afraid? . . . I’m sorry. Please continue.”
“Yes, it is very unlike her to be afraid. That is not her way. And it is very unusual for her to want my advice. She usually talks to her father. They are alike. They think in similar ways.”
Clara looks at Mungo for acceptance of what she has just said and he nods.
“But she wanted to talk to me. She said I would understand because, she said, we are alike in some ways – you and I are alike.” She smiles warmly at Oliver.
“But she could just simply pick up the phone if there was something troubling about seeing me in person.”
“She wanted me to talk to you first.”
“But why? I mean no disrespect. We have only just met, and we obviously have a good rapport, but why does she need an intermediary?”
“It is very difficult for her. She said it was because you and I are alike, so I might know better how to approach you.”
Oliver smiles. “Do you think I really am someone so . . . ?”
Clara interrupts: “Of course not. No. No, it was because Emma said that I would be able to make the correct plan for how to handle the situation. She said I always make plans to deal with situations, just like you do.” She smiles. “She said that I also tend to drift away from the point of a conversation with little side observations . . .”
Mungo seems to take great pleasure in affirming: “Yes, now that is true.”
Clara pats Mungo on the hand.
“Yes, that is the old family joke. And Emma said you do the same. Do you really do those things too, Oliver?”
“I’m afraid I do.”
“Oh no! Don’t be afraid! It is sensible to make up a plan first if you want to succeed. And also, you know Oliver, we do not drift away. I do not think it is drifting. Sometimes, conversations can become so predictable, so boring. We have very active minds, don’t we, Oliver.” And she adds, smiling broadly: “We need something extra to amuse ourselves along the way.”
“Precisely. I hadn’t thought it through the way you have, but you are right.”
And now with an ironic smile, he continues, “And – I never thought it would ever be me uttering these words – but can we get back to why Emma needs you to talk to me before she does?”
“She telephoned to ask me what to do, can I advise her on the approach we should take, and I suggested that I talk to you first. You see, Oliver, she is afraid to see you. She is afraid of how you will react.”
“Of how I will react to what?”
“Her big problem is she is in love and she is out of her depth. She has never been in love before, not in this very deep way, and she doesn’t know how to handle the situation. And she is afraid she has hurt you so much.”
Mungo shuffles to his feet, looking a little put out.
“Mind if I take a walk around the grounds?”
Oliver looks up to assure him of the freedom of the place.
“Please. Wander where you like. From the hill behind us you can see the sea.”
When Mungo has left, Clara speaks confidentially.
“I think he is a little jealous to think of his daughter being romantically involved.”
“You know, now that we have met, Clara, I realize there is something about the women of your family and me. I’ve known you for all of five minutes and suddenly we are having this discussion . . . as if we’ve been close friends for years. Do you mind if I sit by you?”
Clara smiles and pats the seat beside her and Oliver joins her.
“Please don’t feel bad. Emma shouldn’t feel bad, or guilty in any way – not in the least.” And he attempts to smile as he continues: “I love Emma. Even though our time together was very brief – very intense – very intense situations – but in spite of all that was going on, all the confusion, there was one thing very profoundly clear to me: I love her more deeply than . . . I know how to put into words. And we were close, very close, but . . . I also know that she was with Thierry for much longer, and I accept that she is still in love with him. I understand why they parted – and why they are now reunited. She needn’t be afraid of anything. I would like to see her again to clear the air, so she knows there is no reason for her to feel bad about anything. This is just part of life, as I have learned, and I will get on with it. I really don’t want her to feel bad about anything, or anyone. I want her to be really happy.”
Oliver looks away, obviously upset but in control of his emotions.
“Yes, you have a way when you speak. I’m sure you have many other ways, too. But I am afraid I have started at the wrong end. What you do not know is that Emma has been working undercover since you last saw her. Julian insisted. There were so many things to deal with after the deaths at the orphanage. I do not know anything about her undercover work, but I do know that she has been working as a journalist again – under the name she has always used: E. H. Magdalene – her College at Cambridge. When she has to work undercover, her father and I sometimes provide some text to her ghost-writer and sometimes some old photographs from our collections. We used to travel around the Mediterranean and other parts of Europe during our summer holidays when the children were young, and we still do sometimes. They use a ghost-writer to keep publishing articles under her name while she is undercover, you see. But this time, while she was working undercover, she made time to write an article herself. It was entitled ‘Bespoke Assassins’.
“I have that article! It was the one, of all that articles and media coverage about the orphanage, that I thought was the most insightful, of the most lasting importance. It addressed the high incidence of paedophilia within the Catholic Church. It suggested links between the Church’s unhealthy obsession with repressing normal sexual activity and the way that that may inhibit normal sexual development. It suggested that the doctrines of the Catholic Church may be a significant factor in the high incidence of child abuse within the Church. . . . So she was the author! Good on her!”
“I believe she consulted a child psychologist when she was researching the article.”
“Yes, as I recall, it referenced the psychological effects of sexual repression on pre-adolescents. It said that it could prevent some of them from achieving sexual maturity – as I recall, some of the more impressionable young Catholic boys under the sway of the Church’s sexually repressive doctrines could develop a sexual attraction for children instead of adults. Consequently, when they grow up their sexual appetites can only be satisfied if they become sexual predators. And where better for a sexual predator to acquire the power and the opportunities, and the support they need to cover their tracks, than as a man of the cloth? The Catholic Church, the article contended, was producing, among its clergy, tailor-made assassins of the lives of children – hence the title of the article: ‘Bespoke Assassins’.”
Oliver pauses reflectively before continuing
“Well, once again, I am really pleased to hear that Emma was the author. I wished I had written it myself.”
He looks up at Clara and smiles reassuringly.
“So, Clara, please tell Emma that I wish her every happiness in life. If there is anything I can ever do to help her in any way, she should not think twice before contacting me. Tell her that I will always love her and that is why I really want her to be happy, to follow her heart . . . if it is with Thierry or whoever it may be.”
“Yes, she knew you would guess she had left you for Thierry. That is why she was so afraid she had hurt you so much. It was Julian who told her she must allow you to continue to think that but not contact you. And she had to agree with him. Otherwise you might have tried to find her. Or you might try to help her. Or you might bring yourself into danger.”
Clara pauses, annoyed with herself.
“Oh, I am not being clear at all, am I? Oliver, she is in love with you! And now that I have met you, I am not surprised you are the one for her, even after such a short time.”
“Oh . . . I . . .” He is overwhelmed and, shaking his head, asks: “You mean she loves me? You mean she loves me?”
Clara takes his hand in both of hers and speaks in a gentle voice.
“Of course she loves you, Oliver.”
She replies reassuringly: “It is without doubt.”
Oliver, smiling, a bit choked up, regains his composure.
“Hah! So she needed you to help her get down from the tiger.”
“Oh!” Clara is taken by surprise by this comment and laughs heartily.
“So she told you that story! She was such a handful as a child!”
His eyes glistening and with a beaming smile, he responds: “She is such a handful now!”
They both laugh knowingly.
Not long after sunrise, Emma stands at the front door of the resort ringing the front door bell. A sleepy member of staff in her pyjamas opens the door.
Emma silently opens Oliver’s bedroom door. He is asleep. She takes off her clothes and gets into bed beside him. He wakes up. He looks at her with sleepy surprise. She is smiling at him with a look of love and vulnerability.
“Mummy phoned me.”
Oliver reaches over to her with his free arm and speaks with a sleepy voice. “I love Mummy.”
A telephone rings. It is picked up by Emma. “Well, hallo Julian. It is good to hear your voice. Where are you?
“At home, South of France, with Millie. What have you two been up to?”
“Holidaying. Sailing the Mediterranean and calling in at ports on a whim. It has been just what the doctor ordered.”
“And what are the two of you up to now? What’s on your agenda?”
“Oliver has started a charity for war orphans. And I’m getting back into photojournalism of a sort – with Oliver. We are going to write a travel book together. He still puts in an appearance at his bank from time to time to keep an eye on things. His ‘magnum opus’ about investing in emerging Eastern Bloc economies seems to have been a hit within its intended market – brought a lot of kudos to his Bank.”
“Is Oliver there?”
“Yes. I’ll get him if you like.”
She calls to Oliver who joins them.
“Can you put me on speakerphone?”
She presses a button and replaces the receiver.
“I suppose Emm had been filling you in about our Mediterranean odyssey.”
“Indeed. The purpose for my call, aside from catching up and complaining that the two of you have yet to spend any time with Millie and me, as per my invitation, is to invite you to dine – at John Flaye’s country seat. You will both, no doubt, remember Harry Glenister.”
Oliver replies: “A lovely chap, quiet, unassuming.”
“Just so. He wants to have dinner with the two of you at John Flaye’s. Harry is in my old chair.”
Emma enquires: “And Marcel”
“Ah, the young Glasely is back in his hole, never to be heard from again, it seems.”
Emma continues: “And the purpose of this dinner?”
“Harry wants your help. Essentially intelligence gathering, but there is the possibility of an element of risk.”
Oliver repeats: “The possibility of an element of risk.”
“Yes, it seems so.”
Oliver muses: “We will be dining at John Flaye’s country seat in winter. There will be a log fire in the library. It brings back memories, Julian. Emma was very cruel to me in front of a log fire in the library of John Flaye’s country seat.”
“I was trying to keep you out of harm’s way, as I recall – and you argued with me and we went to bed, separately, as I recall.”
“You’re not suggesting that there may have been the possibility of alternative sleeping arrangements on our first evening together.”
“As a farewell gesture . . . perhaps . . .”
Julian interrupts: “Do I need to be here for this?”
Oliver replies: “Do you have the date for our dinner?
“Two weeks from now – the 27th. Arrive mid-afternoon. Okay?
Emma replies: “Fine, Julian, and I will talk to Millie about paying you a visit. Please give her our love.”
“Okay, well, goodbye, to the two of you.”
Emma presses the button to end the call and asks, “Now, what’s all this nonsense about me being cruel to you?”
“You were always cruel to me when we were on our mission, even when we made love for the first time.”
“How can you say that?! Didn’t I initiate you getting your leg over?”
“And then complained about my performance, for god sake, because it was too good!!!”
“I think it was the fault of all that adrenalin we had to deal with.”
“There is the possibility of the element of risk in our new assignment – which translates into an atmosphere of constant adrenalin.”
“It does. How did that unfold, in the safe house?”
“Do you mean when you used the imperative mood – not an exclamation but an order?”
“Yes, that’s the one. What did I say . . .”
“You said . . .”
“. . .”
“. . .”
“. . .”
“. . . Oliver!”
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