Paul was still beating himself up when Brian came back after half an hour and reported that the American friend had already been found in Naomi’s room, and that he had managed not to have him thrown out. Naomi was still sedated, her parents had been notified and would arrive within the hour.
When Paul heard that, he was out of the room in a flash, leaving Brian to trail after him and clear up debris. He skidded to a halt at the door of Naomi’s room to catch his breath and think. Then he went in.
Naomi was as pale as Marcus, who was pushed against the wall opposite the bed, keeping very still, apparently not breathing. Paul nodded at him and decided that if Marcus had wanted to kill him, he would have come for him first. Then he went looking for an un-hurt part of Naomi that he could touch.
He was still stroking her cheek when the door opened, and Naomi’s parents were shown in by a nurse. Naomi’s mother was even smaller than her daughter and had the same unruly dark curls, which she wore cut short. She was in tears, and her husband had his arm around her, trying to comfort her. He was quite tall, Paul noticed, and his eyes – the same intense colour as his daughter’s – were full of sorrow. He wore a dark suit and a priest’s collar; there was an air of natural authority around him. Paul stepped back from the bed and self-consciously started to introduce himself, but was cut short by Naomi’s father who simply pointed to the door. Marcus and Paul left at once.
On their way out they heard the doctor placating the parents, assuring them that by now they were positive there were no lasting physical injuries. They were just keeping her sedated to give her time to heal.
In front of the door they were cornered by an eager-looking young nurse with a clip-board, who shoved a form at them and said: “In cases like these, we encourage friends and family to donate blood while waiting.” She looked at them encouragingly, an efficient smile pasted on her face.
Marcus’s eyes almost popped, and he was struggling to say something to the nurse who was shamelessly ogling the handsome young man.
Paul was quicker. He simply pushed Marcus along in the direction of his room. He pointed to his brace and stated that he himself was a patient as well, and his friend couldn’t be expected to help because he was severely anaemic. The nurse started commiserating but did not get any further reaction from them.
They barely made it into Paul’s room before cracking up. “‘Severely anaemic’”, Marcus chuckled, “that is one highly interesting way of describing my condition.”
When the floor nurse came to enquire into the source of all the noise and merriment twenty minutes later, they were still helpless with laughter.
“You certainly seem to be getting better,“ she stated in her strictest tone. “Detective Usher, Ms. Downey’s father wishes to speak to you for a moment; you might want to adapt your demeanour!”
They calmed down with an effort.
Naomi’s father asked Paul if Scotland Yard would need any further information from Naomi or if they could take her to Dorset with them as soon as the doctors agreed.
Paul gave his assent to that proposal, saying that as he had been there for huge parts of the action himself, he could give all evidence that was needed to convict the criminals. By the time the whole thing came to a trial, he hoped Naomi would be back in London.
When he received thanks from Naomi’s father though, he said he was sorry, but actually he was the one who’d gotten her into trouble in the first place, Marcus was to be thanked for getting her out. Thus the father’s gratitude was directed where it belonged and he could start feeling miserable once more.
Marcus looked at Paul as if he was out of his mind and let his hand be shaken briefly.
“Are you one of her students?” her father asked interestedly.
“Sort of,“ Marcus obfuscated, “I know her from Oxford. I’m older than I look,“ he added when he saw the other man’s sceptical look.
“Well, be sure to come and see us while she’s down there. My wife and I would be pleased to have you. Good bye.”
“I can’t go to Dorset. It’s on the coast, lots of sun. Her father is a bleeding priest!” Marcus started panicking as soon as the older man had left. “You go! They’ll love you down there too.” He looked as if he was about to push Paul all the way to Dorset right now.
Paul shook his head. So fighting another indestructible monster or turning from a pool of blood was not a problem for Marcus, but the thought of visiting Naomi’s parents had him scared stiff. “Calm down, no one is harassing you. I’ll go and see her if she wants me to, and I’ll tell her you came to the hospital, which you said you couldn’t do before…” he smirked at Marcus: “So, no vampires at the vicarage then?”
“If you feel any inclination to prolong your stay here, I’ll be glad to oblige!” Marcus threatened, but Paul saw his eyes were still smiling. “She’s going to be all right?”
“I hope so. Physically at least. I’m worried about the rest. That was one hell of a horrible experience! Can you rethink your idea of leaving us alone after this? It seems we might need some help sometimes.”
Marcus calmed down again. “Might do. By the way, that impossible person whom you gave my phone number to…”
“Tom Clark, yes”, now Paul was curious at Marcus’s righteous indignation.
“He called me again today and asked if ‘my buddy and I would consider working for the agency, good benefits included’.” All the arrogance of Marcus’s upper-class upbringing was in his words. “He even had the audacity of offering ‘good career breaks’.”
“So, are you thinking about moving to Langley for training then?” Sparks were dancing in Paul’s eyes. That would definitely be a new one for the Americans.
“Absolutely not!” Marcus was disgusted. “Wherever did he get the ridiculous idea I would even consider that? I told him no for Philippe, too, and added if he felt at all suicidal, he could try to ask Philippe himself.”
“Why are you so sure your friend would decline this” – he imitated Tom’s Southern drawl – “very generous offer?”
“Philippe has been fighting in every anti-colonial independence movement in Africa for the last sixty years. His politics are shockingly left-wing. How do you think he feels about joining the CIA?”
“If you put it that way”, Paul said, “then I’m sure you were right about his views.” He became serious once more. “There’s one more thing though, I’d have to ask Philippe about if that could be managed.”
Marcus knew what he meant at once. “Buyden?”
Paul nodded. “Did he let him get away? The police couldn’t find any trace of him.”
“They didn’t know what to look for,“ Marcus said quietly. “Philippe has about as much love for the French Foreign Legion as he has for the CIA, and he’s been after Buyden for a long time. He burned him.”
“Burned him?” Paul was surprised.
“It’s the only way.” Marcus looked uncomfortable. “He’s gone. Naomi’s absolutely safe from him.”
Another thing was nagging Paul. “What makes you ‘Philippe’s white African’? Buyden seemed to know you once he’d gotten your name.”
Marcus shook his head at the question. “Please, Paul, you don’t want to know that.”
He sounded final, and Paul decided not to ask further, realising that however much Marcus told him, he would never tell him the whole truth. “By the way, the French lady keeps asking about you, I’m told.”
“Any chance of her getting out?” Marcus asked interestedly.
“’fraid not, though I might be tempted to try.”
Marcus looked at him to gauge if this offer was serious. Then he said: “No, you’re too good a man for that.”
“Thanks. I’m not sure I deserve that.”
Suddenly Marcus got up. “Sorry, old chap. I really have to get out of this place…at once.” He rushed out of the room without turning back, a hand clapped to his mouth. Paul hoped no one would get in his way.