The car honked its horn repeatedly and I heard shouting as people who had recently left the church looked on in horror. I ran for all I was worth and yet still felt like I was in treacle. Running downhill in reality, I could feel the momentum begin to overtake me as I passed the runaway vehicle. The child was still happily oblivious but I saw the flap of a man's coat ahead of me.
Too late too late tooolate...
The child was scooped up. Foyle kept moving but he knew he'd lost too much speed to avoid a collision. In the instant I saw his face before he turned away, I knew he had made peace with the fact that he had traded his life for hers.
I was almost flying; running so fast I couldn't have stopped if I'd tried. Without thinking, I leapt off the kerb just ahead of the car and careened into Foyle in a momentum-laded rugby tackle that would have made all of Wales proud. I hung on like grim death to the fabric of his coat and prayed.
For a long moment I felt as if we were suspended in mid air, not breathing, not seeing, or hearing anything, just held in time and space while the universe turned. It was almost peaceful.
In a rush of sound and fury, reality caught up and we hit the ground very hard. My left shoulder took the brunt of it, but my head hit the pavement and my ears rang. Startled blue eyes above me revealed shock and the incomprehension of the fact that they were still alive. Hands tore urgently at us as bystanders pulled us apart to see if we were all right and the sound of a child crying lustily was music to my ears.
Sam rushed to her husband and child as quickly as she was able. The last thing she needed at six months pregnant was to find herself a widow.
In all the fuss around Christopher, Sam and their daughter, it was relatively easy to move aside and let everyone get on with it. The car had crashed into the steps leading to number ten and twelve; the stone had survived better than the car, and the driver better than both, although he looked to me like he'd broken his nose. I tried to put my left hand out to push myself up, but nearly passed out at the pain in my shoulder. I think it must have dislocated; I hope to heaven it's not broken.
I managed to get to my feet and figure out which direction I was facing. I dared not look back at the still-intact family, just in case I locked eyes with a far too perceptive detective. I felt sick with relief, excess adrenaline and shock. Did I mention the pain? Someone tried to stop me moving away, but I kept going, even though I heard Christopher – Foyle – call out for me to wait. I must have smiled and said all the right things to the crowd because I managed to get away and up to the garden where I'd stashed my case.
I grabbed it with my good arm and headed for Alexander Park.
At least this time I wouldn't have to crawl through the hedge.
"She's asleep at last, poor thing's worn out – with all the excitement of daddy and the flying lady. Doesn't give tuppence about the accident."
Sam sighed heavily.
"Are you sure you're all right?"
Foyle looked up from his favourite armchair and allowed a tinge of fond exasperation to colour his tone.
"My dear Sam, we have been over this several times already. I am fine. You are the one who should be sitting down. We've all had a shock today, but all's well that ends well."
Sam didn't look convinced, but she allowed herself to be mollified and sank down onto the sofa. Absently she took up her knitting and continued the little sleeve for a matinee jacket.
"That's easy for you to say, I had to watch it all unfold, knowing that there was nothing I could do. If it hadn't been for the mystery woman..."
Foyle frowned. The mystery woman. The mystery red-head, no less.
"Yes, without her intervention it could have been quite a different story."
"I just wish she had stayed and let us thank her. How odd of her to rush off, don't you think? Why didn't she stay?"
Foyle regarded the gently swirling amber-coloured drink in his tumbler – Sam had earlier pressed the Scotch into his hand without a word - and asked himself the same question.
"I don't know, I'm simply grateful that she did."
Sam allowed her knitting to fall to what remained of her lap.
"Absolutely. I just wanted to...thank her..."
Her voice wobbled at the end of her sentence. Quickly placing his drink on the table, Foyle was beside her in a moment, despite his bruised and sore body. He gathered her in his arms, giving her time to recover. Since having their first child, sleeping so innocently unaware upstairs, Sam's stiff upper lip had developed a soft spot or two. He didn't mind at all, but she didn't like to appear weak. He reached into a pocket and retrieved a handkerchief, pressing it into her hand. She accepted it and gave him a watery grin.
"I'll get makeup all over it."
"Never mind, it will wash."
Foyle hesitated, suddenly reminded of a similar conversation with Lily.
Lily, who was a natural redhead. He recalled as if it were yesterday the moment he searched for a bump after she banged her head under the stairs. The titian glint on the strands of hair closest to her scalp. Without guilt he also recalled the afternoon that they had spent together – while a woman might dye the hair on her head, they did not, in his admittedly limited experience, dye hair elsewhere on their body.
Sam, attuned to him, noticed his distraction.
"What is it?"
Foyle brought his focus back to the present and smiled reassuringly.
"Nothing, nothing at all. I just had a thought about how we might go about finding my rescuer."
Sam sat up straight, intrigued.
"Mmm. Will you be all right if I go out for a short while?"
He was just as attuned to her, and he suppressed a smile at the conflict on her face. She wanted to come with him, but knew that she had to stay.
"You'll be careful?"
"Of course. I shouldn't be too long."
Sam followed him into the hall and waited while he donned his outdoor things. She smoothed his scarf affectionately, then kissed him.
"If you find her, give her my thanks too."
Mike looked up from his computer and frowned at the Chief of the department standing in the doorway.
"Umm, nothing that can't wait a few minutes, if necessary."
The gruff tone indicated trouble ahead even if he hadn't jerked his head, indicating a desire for privacy.
With a building sense of unease, Mike followed the Chief to his office. The latter cut to the chase.
"There was an unauthorised field trip last night."
His obvious surprise seemed oddly to calm the Chief.
"Someone overrode the safety protocols and left here at 01:57 last night. Do you know anything about it?"
With an increasing sense of foreboding, Mike shook his head.
"No, no I don't..." he shook his head, genuinely puzzled. "...hang on; why didn't the trip show up in this morning's logs?"
The Chief looked at his desk and straightened a couple of things as if they were suddenly quite important.
"That's not your business at the moment -"
"The hell it isn't! If someone is messing with the equipment then we have a security breach and everything could be compromised. I'll get a system check started and then-"
Mike had half turned for the door but the Chief's next words stopped him cold.
"They used Lily's keycard."
"How's that even possible? She's not on active duty, her card should be disabled while she's..."
His voice trailed off.
I need to go back.
The Chief didn't seem to notice his distraction.
"It's already being looked into. Apparently the security scans were disabled at the same time. A routine maintenance glitch, if they are to be believed."
So they didn't know that it was Lily using her own card.
"Do we know where or when?"
"No. They scrambled the programming selection. Wherever they've gone, I don't think they planned on coming back. Not unless someone else knows exactly where and when they need Retrieval."
Mike's stomach contracted into a cold hard lump. Lily wasn't coming back.
He thought he was about to throw up on the Chief's floor, but gritted his teeth until the wave passed. He didn't trust himself to speak, but fortunately the Chief wasn't finished.
"All field trips are suspended until the system check is finished. Take some personal time; go home and be with your wife and son, you might as well take advantage of the rest."
Mike nodded and left with alacrity.
But he didn't go home, he returned to his desk and checked carefully to see if Lily had left him any clue as to what she had done. He was cursing himself silently – Lily had taken the news that Foyle died so badly, he should have known that she would try something this monumentally fracking stupid. He was also furious with her. She had chosen to sacrifice her family – him – and their future, to save a man that had been dead for years.
His fingers trembled with both anger and fear as he looked up the date of Foyle's death.
Oh fracking hell!
It was the date that had become true after the first field trip, before they discovered the Divergence.
Mike slumped back in his chair, staring at the screen in dismay.
Lily had done it. She'd changed it back and died doing it.
I hope it was fracking worth it.
Foyle had no real idea where the mystery woman had gone, but instinct drove him to the park where he had last seen her before.
Why not call her by her name, if 'Lily' was indeed her real name.
He had been intimate with her, emotionally and physically, and the woman who saved his life and that of his daughter, was familiar to him. His body remembered her; that one glimpse of her startled eyes had told him the truth even if he had been unable to take it in at the time.
His pace increased with the thought that she could already be gone again. His only comfort was that somehow she had survived when he knew that she had died right in front of him.
He entered the park as if simply having a constitutional around the Spring flower beds. The light rain that still had not let up kept the children away, and there were only a few people with leashed dogs some distance away from the entrance. Casually, as if he had no concerns in the least, Foyle walked along the path, but he was scanning the grass either side of the path for any sign that the wet grass had been disturbed.
It took a few minutes, but when he reached the bend in the path that was at the closest point to the trees, he saw the tell-tale scuff marks of recent use on the grass. After a careful glance around ensured he wouldn't be observed, Foyle made his way quickly into the tree line where he was immediately hidden from sight.
He remained still for a moment and listened intently. There was no sound other than the infrequent pat of raindrops on the overhead leaf canopy. It was drier underfoot and darker under the trees, which made it more difficult to track anything, but not impossible. The birds were quiet, which made him believe his quarry was not far away.
He moved with care through the undergrowth, ducking occasionally as he used the path probably beaten by numerous young feet playing hide-and-seek. His eyes adjusted to the green gloom and he could see more easily. A twig snapped up ahead and sounded unnaturally loud in the quiet. Foyle moved off to the right and circled back to try to get ahead of – hopefully – Lily.
A fleeting glimpse of movement to his left was the only warning he got as a suitcase swung at his head. He only just managed to dive out of its way, his 'oof' of surprise as he hit the ground matched by one of pain from his assailant as they fell on top of him. His arms automatically grasped the struggling figure trying to get up.
The struggling ceased abruptly.
"You were expecting someone else?"
Mike gave up at work and returned home, but there was no comfort there. The house felt too empty and quiet without Lily and Jonathan bringing the place to life.
He knew he ought to contact Grammas and collect Jonathan, but he couldn't face explaining why Lily wouldn't ever be coming home just yet. He hadn't even accepted it himself, so how could he explain..?
How could Lily do this to them? He had no doubts at all about the strength of her love for family, he saw it every day in her eyes, felt it every day in her touch. He was convinced that if there was a way to tell him what she had done, where she needed him to find her, she would have done it.
He went upstairs to their bedroom and stood looking down at the messy bed that he'd left only a few hours ago. He took the note Lily had left from the bedside table and re-read it.
Errands to run sweetie, back soon as I can, kiss J for me, love you soooooo much! L xxxx
Even that must have been a lie, lulling him into a false sense of security. He thought he'd talked her out of the stupid notion to go back and rescue a dead man. He screwed the note up in fury and threw it across the room.
It wasn't enough.
Both agonised and livid, he swept his arm across the bedside table, dashing his water glass, lamp, alarm and the trinket box to the floor, uncaring whether the water soaked the rug or anything else.
Damn this house and curse her for wanting to live here. Why couldn't she just let him go?
That was the really sad part - he actually understood. If it were Lily, and he had to save her, if he possibly could, wouldn't he do everything – anything – in his power to get her back?
But she was supposed to feel that way about him, not Foyle. They were soulmates, he knew it and so did she.
Mike crawled onto the bed and pulled Lily's pillow into his face. He perfume engulfed him, sparking memories so vivid they were painful in intensity. Lily, laughing, crying, having their baby, making love, cooking, arguing, everything, a kaleidoscope of colour and love.
He mumbled into the pillow as he lay there, half out of his mind and lost in his misery.