Tyrell felt as if he was processing things at half-speed as he watched the person sitting next to Phillip take off her bear head.
Joanna turned to him and said, ‘I’m sorry it had to be this way Tyrell.’
‘What the fuck is going on Joanna?’ he shouted in Swedish.
‘Now, now, in English please, so we can all understand,’ Phillip tutted, and the group laughed.
‘Joanna has been the key to our entire plan,’ he continued.
At this, Tyrell broke. ‘Please, can you just explain what the hell is going on?’ he begged, with tears in his eyes.
‘Oh, Joanna’s been a wonderful addition to our team, haven’t you darling?’ he smiled a slimy, fox-like grin at Joanna, who gave a forced smile in return.
‘Thirteen years ago I met with one of our associates in Norway. It seemed he shared my vision of the future, and agreed that we needed a man on the inside. I told him that we had our eye on a brilliant young programmer in Sweden. He told me he had a way of getting him on board. See, it wasn’t enough to get him working for us, we needed someone else who would be able to keep him from straying from our plan, who could gently guide him into making the right decisions. What’s that expression, behind every great man is a great woman? Well, he said he happened to know a great woman; his lovely daughter Joanna. It was a match made in heaven, so we made it so. Joanna was given her instructions, compensated generously, and the rest, as they say, is history!’
‘It turns out she has a true gift for manipulation, especially where you are concerned. She encouraged you when you needed it, sacrificed without question to protect you, and rejected you at the point when she knew it would push you into the final stage of our plan. And best of all, just as we wanted, she kept you under the illusion that you were making your own decisions, that you had free will.’
At this revelation Tyrell’s resolve broke. He stumbled into his seat and gripped the edges of the table with white-knuckled hands.
Seeing his distress, Joanna interrupted, ‘Phillip, I’d like a moment alone with my husband.’
‘Now Joanna, that wasn’t-‘
‘I don’t give a shit what we discussed, you will do what I ask!’ she hissed venomously.
‘As you wish,’ Phillip conceded.
Joanna beckoned to Tyrell and he followed her into an adjoining room.
As soon as the door was closed Tyrell gripped her hands desperately. ‘Joanna, please tell me what’s going on. None of this makes any sense,’ he reverted back to his native tongue.
‘I’m so sorry that you’ve been blindsided like this. I had hoped that my clues would give you some hint of my involvement, but sadly not. This was handled all wrong, I’m very disappointed with Phillip.’
‘I thought they were obvious! The birthday card you obviously figured out, or at least Elliot did. The ‘happy birthday’ was supposed to symbolize the dawn of your new life. I thought it was poetic, but you know that was never my strong suit,’ she laughed sadly. Tyrell didn’t.
‘What did you think of the bear?’
Tears filled Tyrell's eyes, and he cleared his throat to try and regain his composure. ‘I thought whoever was holding you captive was telling me I would never see our son again.’
‘Well I suppose that’s effective enough. But you were supposed to realise that it had come from me. I wanted you to believe I was rejecting you as the father of our child, that you had no place in our family. That you had failed me and the ultimatum I gave you.’
Tyrell held back a sob. ‘Why were you so determined to break my heart Joanna?’ he whispered.
‘Because I wanted you to hate me! I wanted you to move on. It wasn’t fair to give you hope. I didn’t think they were going to let me see you again, at least not this soon. It was better that you be realistic about our future.’
‘But I don't understand the note. Why not just tell me what was happening, instead of filling it with more threats and misdirection? Of course I wouldn't realise the bear was from you when the note made it look like it wasn't!'
‘What note Tyrell?’
‘The one inside the bear, with your wedding ring tied to it!’ he shouted angrily.
‘I didn’t put a note inside the bear, that would have been against the rules.’
Tyrell’s head spun with confusion, but he knew had to try and focus right now.
‘What rules? I thought you were behind this!’
‘Oh Tyrell, there is so much going on that you don’t even understand. My situation is more complex than you realise. I have had rules to follow just as much as you have,’ she sighed.
‘Phillip liked my idea to send you clues. He thought it would be fun to toy with you, and that fear would stop you from doing anything rash. But I wasn’t allowed to risk giving anything away. I hoped I’d been clever enough, that you might find the hidden meaning in the clues. I wanted you to suspect I was involved. You weren’t supposed to find out like this,’ she finished sadly.
Tyrell bowed his head, and Joanna rested a hand on his cheek. Tyrell snapped his head back so fast he felt as if his neck might break. He could have sworn he saw a flash of hurt cross Joanna’s face.
‘Why did you do it Joanna? Why did you trick me into this life with you?’
‘Tyrell, you know what my life was like before we met. My father saw it as a way of securing me the best possible future. At the time I didn’t see another way out.’
He looked so devastated as he asked his next question that Joanna’s heart broke for him. ‘Why did you have my baby?’
Joanna bowed her head, ‘I gave up thirteen years of my life for this Tyrell. I needed to get something out of this arrangement too,’ she whispered.
‘Did you ever love me?’ he asked shakily.
‘I grew to love you, of course I did. I care deeply for you Tyrell, please don’t doubt that.’
He barked out a harsh laugh.
‘Please believe me,’ she begged.
‘I’m not sure I can.’
‘Did you figure out the balloons?’ she asked him softly.
Tyrell shook his head numbly, as he continued to battle to keep his tears at bay.
‘Do you remember the first birthday you celebrated when we were together?’ He nodded. ‘I asked you what your best birthday had been, and you told me about the time when you were eight years old, and your father filled your bedroom with balloons. You said nothing in your life up until that point had been so magical. It was probably the first time I’d seen you look truly happy, and I think it was the moment I started love you.’
Her eyes started to fill with tears, ‘I could finally see the little boy that lived inside this damaged man, the little glimmer of happiness that life forced you to lock away deep inside you.’
Her words had stripped away the last of his control, and he was crying now. Joanna tentatively moved to wrap her arms around him. This time, he didn’t stop her, and she enveloped him in a gentle hug, whispering words of comfort in his ear as she did so.
She eventually pulled away. ‘We don’t have much time.’
‘What will happen to you now?’
‘I’ve played my part and I can go on and live my life now. I pray that you will do the same Tyrell.’
‘Will I ever see my son?’
Joanna smiled, ‘Of course you will. I’ve been telling him all about you, and what a great father you will be. I will call you soon, and we will make arrangements. I promise.’
He nodded, seemingly reassured, but still looked uncertain about something.
Instinctively, Joanna took his hand and said gently, ‘you will be a good father. You’re a good man Tyrell, life has just forced you down some strange paths. You’ve always been so full of fear and doubt, and I never fully understood why. I think it hardened you and led you to make bad decisions, but fear is not all you are – you’re so much stronger than that. I remember the kind, shy man I met thirteen years ago, the one that was so full of promise. I know he’s still inside you. I hope that you can finally be free of your troubles Tyrell, you always did yourself such a disservice by letting your demons define you.’
Tyrell stood in shock; he wasn’t accustomed to hearing such kind words about himself. It was everything he’d needed to hear for such a long time and he shook with relief. Overwhelmed, he bent down to place a small kiss on Joanna’s lips. She opened her eyes with surprise, but quickly reciprocated. It was tender and loving, but without agenda or expectations. It was a thank you and farewell, but nothing more.
One of the men in suits came in to tell them their time was up. He took Tyrell by the arm and started to guide him back towards the door.
‘Tyrell,’ Joanna called out, and he turned. ‘I called him Otto. After your father.’ Tyrell smiled at her sadly, and she softly blew him a kiss.
Back in the large room, Phillip addressed Tyrell once more.
‘I trust you have a clearer understanding of why we did what we did.’
Tyrell said nothing.
‘We are very sorry you and Joanna had to sacrifice what you did, but please know that we appreciate your service. You are free to go, and will never need to hear from us again as long as you protect the secrets you have learned today. I trust you have made the necessary arrangements with Joanna, but where the rest of us are concerned you are to never seek us out. Don’t come looking for us, and we won’t have to come looking for you.’
Tyrell turned to leave on unsteady legs. People were talking to him, but he couldn’t comprehend the words they were saying. He couldn’t even make out what language they were speaking.
As he was about to pull open the door though, Phillip’s deep voice cut through the fog in his mind.
‘Be well, friend.’
Tyrell staggered through the door and stumbled down the hallway towards Elliot.
Elliot jumped up in alarm at the sight of him, and reached out to grab his arm.
Tyrell could hear Elliot asking him something, but he just couldn’t understand what he was saying. He tried to say something back, but couldn’t make himself form the right words.
He hoped that Elliot could sense that he needed to get out of the building, and quickly, as he felt nausea building up inside him.
Elliot got him safely outside the main door before he fell to his knees and vomited violently. Elliot rubbed his back and shushed him gently, completely terrified by this point by what might have happened to him.
When Tyrell recovered, Elliot gently guided him back to the car.
‘Back to Mr Wellick’s please,’ Elliot commanded, and the driver nodded.
‘As you wish, sir.’
Tyrell was doing his best to sit with his head between his knees, and Elliot squeezed his hand, no longer caring what the driver thought. After an excruciatingly long drive they pulled up outside Tyrell’s house, and Elliot carefully got him inside. The exertion had left Tyrell breathless, and he leant against the wall panting. Elliot helped him take some deep breaths, and managed to get him upstairs and onto the bed.
He was still concerned that Tyrell didn’t seem to understand him, and was having trouble speaking as well. Since getting inside he’d started shivering too, and was icy cold to the touch. Was this what happened when a person was in shock? Elliot tried to remember the first aid course he’d been sent on when he’d started at Allsafe.
He wrapped the covers around Tyrell and rubbed vigorously, in an attempt to warm him up.
‘Tyrell, please, come on,’ he held him gently by the chin in an attempt to make eye-contact with him. Tyrell stared at him with glassy, unseeing eyes, before squeezing them shut and covering his mouth, as if trying to fight another wave of nausea. Elliot was certain this wasn’t down to drugs this time; what Tyrell was experiencing appeared to be an emotional response. Elliot was becoming increasingly frantic, desperate for the smallest acknowledgement from Tyrell.
He dashed across the room to grab the waste basket in case Tyrell was sick. While he was on the other side of the room Tyrell started to get up off the bed.
‘Tyrell, wait!’ Elliot shouted, but Tyrell ignored him and started to make his way shakily to the door.
Elliot started to run back to help him, but he was too late; Tyrell collapsed, dropping to the floor like a weighted sack.