A young nun shepherded Valentina away and Patsy dropped her head on Anna’s shoulder.
“She’s dying, you know.”
“I didn’t, though it explains what was puzzling me. By my calculations she is only about sixty. But looking at her.”
Patsy swiped a tired hand over her eyes to the great detriment of her make-up and sniffed inelegantly.
“Bone cancer. In its final stages. She’s quite prepared to die. It’s just leaving her son. Shit Anna, it breaks your heart.”
Anna opened her arms and hugged her friend, before dredging up a handkerchief and doing her best with the ruin of Patsy’s carefully applied make-up.
“C’mon Pats. Let’s go bookend Rod. He’s kind of comforting when you are blue.”
“True. He is.”
The two women held hands like children as they crossed to where Rod sat on a huge sofa. He looked up from his phone and smiled.
“Good news girls. There’s a chopper on its way. Even if I have to stay here and sort the bomb fallout, I reckon you two need to go home. Come and sit down now.”
They sat either side of him and he draped an arm around each of them. Patsy sighed.
“It’s been a bit of a day…”
Rod dropped a affectionate kiss on the top of her blonde head.
“I reckon it has.”
After that there seemed to be very little to say so they sat quietly. Anna thought Patsy might be dozing until her friend spoke in a little thread of a voice.
“Rod. Why am I feeling so guilty about shooting that man? I mean, if I hadn’t got good and angry he was prepared to kill Valentina, and us, and then blame us for her death. So why am I halfway to being sick about it?”
When Rod answered, his voice seemed even deeper than ever, and he spoke without any of his usual humour.
“You are experiencing what all decent human beings feel the first time they encounter extreme violence. It’s reaction. Anna will be feeling much the same even though it was you pulled the trigger. My advice is just sit quiet and try if you can doze a bit.”
Anna thought he was talking rubbish, but found herself suddenly unaccountably tired so she rested her head on his obliging chest and just let herself drift.
The next thing she was aware of was the sound of a familiar voice.
“Wake up love, it’s time to go home.”
She opened her eyes to see Sam smiling down at her.
“Sam. How did you…”
“Came on a helicopter. Me and Jim thought you two might be pleased to see us.”
Anna hurled herself into his arms. He received her with evident pleasure and buried his face in her hair.
“Don’t frighten me like that again. Please. When they said the Range Rover had been car bombed I thought my heart would stop.”
“We were in here when the car went up.”
“I know love. But it made me realise that you were dealing with people who didn’t care who they killed.”
“I guess that is true. But Pats had it worse.”
“Yeah. Rod called and said she needed Jim.”
Anna turned her head to see Patsy all but extinguished by Jim’s huge embrace.
“Yeah. She did. And I got you as a bonus.”
Rod stretched until his joints cracked.
“It’s a good job you men turned up. I was getting serious backache acting as a double pillow.”
Patsy snaked out a hand and boxed his ears, at which he grinned delightedly.
Jim lifted his head and grinned at his brother.
“Shall we go home, bro?”
‘The Cracksman Code’ will be available as a complete book later this year. Keep an eye out for a new Sunday Serial coming next week!