Monday, 18 November 2013

NaNoWriMo Day 18 Word Count 1909

Phillip had heard back from France. The report of the activities of the boys had initially not surprised him, but the accurate description of the woman and man who were asleep in the safe house on the day of their disappearance (including a rough sketch) had utterly confused him.

He had accused Melissa of being with Paul both in his attitude and treatment towards her and the thoughts in his head and initially the information that he held confirmed this belief, before the impossibility of the situation had occurred to him.

He read the documents through several times and flicked back and forth between them. At the end of the day he took the papers home with them and continued perusing them over and over before the fire. There were five sides of fine handwriting and the sketch, but the reading and re-reading kept him occupied for hours.

Finally dropping the pages, he stared into the fire over steepled fingers and tried to calculate the possibilities. He'd already known of a double of the young man who died. Discovering the disappearance of the captive and the bewildering presence of another dead ringer for Melissa would have led him to suppose some impossible set of circumstances where a pair of twins were working both sides of the Napoleonic wars. The presence of Paul's doppelgänger in a situation where, as far as all information indicated, he was a chance newcomer to the web of intrigue in which Melissa had enmeshed herself, made it even less likely.

Now he was focussed on calculating the most direct and rapid paths between the two known points of Melissa and her companion. His best, most optimistic results still insisted it was impossible for her to have reached that place in France from her exit to the balcony at the ball, even if everything had been meticulously arranged to fall in her favour. From the description supplied, she had been on horseback for at least a part of the journey.

His other concern, of course, was why she had been there in the first place? What could she possibly have achieved by following her “boys” to France? She merely arrived, sent them on their way and then departed herself.

Beyond that, the multitude of mysterious disappearances were a little too much for him. Firstly, she disappeared from London society, as had Paul. Then, the French prisoner had disappeared within a day of the doppelgänger being witnessed at the safe house. Then, both Michael and James who had been witnessed communicating with the prisoner had disappeared temporarily and reappeared near the coast, inexplicably quickly and without being witnessed passing along any of the major routes.

Of the possible solutions he thought of, one involved a massive conspiracy of look a likes, and the other suggested some new method of travelling at extremely high speed without being witnessed, the high speed travel seemed more logical. But even so, why was her presence necessary? They'd kept tabs on Michael and James their entire way to the safe house and a good part of the return journey had been witnessed. If she was able to move people quickly, why were they travelling so slowly?

He went back and forth for hours in his mind until at last he gave up. He slept dreamlessly and returned to work the next day to place the bewildering information in front of his superiors without suggestion or explanation. All, bar one, were sufficiently intelligent to calculate for themselves the impossibility of what was suggested by the evidence and all, like he, had been silenced whilst they tried to resolve the problem.

Only one, Lord Wellsley, was moved to pull him to one side and ask in undertones if this travel was a possible reason for the lady's belief that the man must be rescued and not assassinated. Phillip had considered this option too, but he still couldn't resolve the point of her presence. It was, surprisingly, the one member of Staff who had needed the data points explained to him in great detail to understand why they eren't immediately arresting the mystery woman as a suspected spy who gave them the clue.

Among his many questions was one that no-one else thought of. “These whelps were seen giving the Frenchie prisoner something! Well, what was it? They collected nothing on the journey, so either the woman gave it to them, or they had it all along. We saw everything of theirs. What was it they gave him?”

Phillip had been looking out of the window trying to mask his irritation when this speech began and the man was almost two thirds of the way through it before he realised the importance of it. At this point his head turned slowly almost of it's own accord and his jaw dropped as he observed the bloated, reddened features that topped the person of a man who was only on the staff because he was one of the Prince Regent's closest friends.

All other heads in the room turned to Phillip. He recovered from his stupefaction and turned to the gentleman in charge who had no need to wait for his request and merely waved him out of the room with an instruction to prepare a full report when his investigation was completed. In Phillip's absence the other gentlemen gradually disbanded.

Phillip himself had dived out of the government offices and made his way to Melissa's home in some haste. He arrived on her doorstep at the same time as Sir Francis Carlisle and the two gentlemen spent the next half hour civilly indicating to the other that they would each appreciate it if they could have some time to speak to the lady in private. Melissa was oblivious to both men's attitudes. She had been anticipating Phillip's visit and now it came, it was something of an anticlimax. Sir Francis was everything she had expected; urbane, charming, flirtatious and still devilishly attractive, but Phillip was utterly unfathomable. There was nothing in his attitude to suggest any of their historical friction and nothing to give her the impression that he may have changed his mind about her or have any personal interest. Instead he was detached and … not in any way above his company or supercilious, but certainly abstracted. His comments were witty and relevant but his eyes were abstracted and: having felt the focus those unfathomable depths could bring to bear upon her, she felt the absence of that stare now.

After the half hour prescribed by social dictates, both men took their leave. Phillip returned within fifteen minutes and she could not prevent the welcoming smile when she saw him again.

He repsonded by bowing with grace over her hand and returned to the seat he had occupied in his vist a few minutes earlier. He suavely apologised for his unexpected return but had forgotten a personal belonging he wished to retrieve. She smiled and accepted the excuse that they had both known to be utterly fabricated. She waited for his follow up and then, when it came, was stunned.

He smoothly described the story of the recent occurrences in France exactly as he knew it had happened. Those points he was unsure of, he didn't refer to and instead glossed over them. He was very clear on one point; he identified the female as her with absolute certainty and calm and built the whole story referring to her.

“On this date, your friends sailed for France. They arrived two days later and travelled to my safe house where they remained. You attended a ball in the Peterborough's house, at which you and I spoke. After a discussion on the balcony with another young friend, you and he left hastily. You met up with your friends in my safe house two days later and gave them something to deliver to the prisoner who my men were attempting to assassinate. They delivered it while you remained at the safe house. Later you returned to England and your young companions returned to the yacht and sailed back to England; your friends finally arrived back here two days ago and you have since seen them.”

When his tale was told, he leaned back in his chair and looked at her. She paused, unsure of his point, then enquired: “And what is it you want to know?”

“What did you take them?”

“I'm not telling you that.”

“Ah.”

“Ah?”

He smiled. There was silence and he watched her for a few minutes as she realised she had made a mistake but was unable to identify exactly what it was. Eventually she gave up, dropped her chin into her hand and rested for a moment before observing him and asking quite frankly, what her mistake had been.

He retained his smile but it became a touch less satisfied and a touch more respectful. He pointed out to her the impossibility of her travel times by any means known to the government and its agencies. All he'd had to do, he pointed out, was get her confirmation that she had been in the places he had supposed her to be. She flushed slightly and remained silent.

“What was it? The object that you realised they needed and travelled to France for?”

Her silence continued. She wasn't sulking or negative, simply silent. Her reluctance to confide in him wasn't resentful, it was simply the difficulty inherent in telling the truth without surrendering the device for the English government to take as their own. They now knew for sure that she had a means of travelling that would move her rapidly across the country but, thanks to the various faffing around in towns and cities they didn't know it was instantaneous travel. She needed some time to seek advice on realistic time travel estimates, so she could establish how far from reality her journeys were.

The chance that she would be allowed to do that was miniscule to say the least. Phillip would not give her the time or space to regroup, he knew the best way to get the truth was to prevent her from speaking about anything else. She had to either think fast, stall him, or distract him. Possibly all of the above.

She rose and paced around the room gazing into the fire. She sought answers in the flickering flames as had become her habit and found none. There was never an answer there, but the rhythmic flickering spoke to something primeval within her and she found it soothing none the less. She braced her arms against the mantlepiece and felt the tension drain out of her.


He rose and walked over to her. The relaxation of her shoulders had not passed his attention and he read it as surrender; prompting him to move alongside her and speak in low, urgent tones close to her ear. Sadly for his intentions: that was one of her most sensitive spots and she felt his voice vibrating through her into the core of her being. Startled by the sudden intimacy she turned her face gradually towards his. Her eyes were naturally on a level with his jawline and she raided her eyes up to his. They stood in a frozen tableau for two seconds that seemed to stretch into eternity before her eyes dropped to her lips and then she moved forwards to kiss him.