3-14: Gabriella

gabriella white

Chapter 3-13 here Chapter 3-15 here




‘Yes.’ There was something in his manner, the way he just stood there, which now piqued her curiosity.

‘It’s not just because of the danger I was putting us all in, nor was it just loyalty to you … nor just love … nor just the baby.’

‘Go on.’

‘It’s just as cynical as anything I’ve done, as self-centred.’

‘Really, you admit this?’

‘It’s two things together. I don’t wish to lose you, not in your head, not in your mind, not in your soul, I can’t stand when you look at me without respect – that’s what starts it … and then I think that I’d rather be someone I could admire myself. A memory came back you see … someone called Philippe and something I said to this Genie who keeps going in and out of my mind.’


‘You see, I said to you when I came out of that coma that I didn’t seem a particularly nice person and I see signs that I’m not … and I don’t wish to be that person. I want at least some self-respect, which isn’t really to do with you alone, or Sophie, although it’s a bit to do with our child.’

‘It’s not fear that I will become preoccupied with our child?’

‘Yes, it’s partly that … actually, it’s a lot that really. I just thought two days ago that it was not a good thing, I didn’t want it. It’s not good for that lady either.’


‘Yes. I thought of going back at the end of the five days and telling her I couldn’t, rather than not turn up, but then I thought that that would not help – it’s not fear she could change my mind but more that it could do no good.’

‘You want me to go instead and tell her.’

‘Yes and no. Yes because it would then show the village that justice had been done and it would show what our group thinks is right and wrong. But no because it is unmanly. I think I’ll leave that to you now and you take some days to think it over.’

She just gazed at him. Then: ‘Come over here.’


March, 2012

A young man checked his shock of fairish red hair in the mirror and as his eyes stared back at him, he wondered about himself.

He’d entered upon his public life not long ago, with pronouncements on the growing crisis in the middle-east and what he’d had to say, in one so young, appeared to make eminent sense.

He was also coming to terms with the paparazzi but enough was enough for one day and so here he was, missing his younger brother and pondering how to put in the evening. There were the girls, of course, but they merely passed the time. He had no great regard for girls as a species and the girl whom the nation thought his true love had been married in a mega-spectacle, the world was eating out of their hands, she loved hi to bits but still he was troubled.

He’d seen and read it all – all the commentaries, all the speculation, even the scurrilous articles about his hybrid antecedents; even his grandparents had got in on the act, tracing his lineage back to an ancient tribe. He looked more closely at the eyes in the mirror.

No, there was nothing untoward there – just another young man making his way in the world, working in the Air Force, mixing, clubbing, partying, the usual sort of thing – well, less of the latter more recently. The unpleasant world scene was hardly his concern, was it? And yet he’d put a simple plan to them today, they could take it or leave it.

His driver turned the Bentley into the grounds of Glastonbury.


Nicolette, Sophie and Hugh were called to Har Megiddon.

Three sedans pulled up at the lower end of their road and the drivers simply waited. Nikki and Sophie, along with a bag of paraphernalia, entered the first sedan, the Shayk entered the second and Hugh the last.

Then came the winding, long passage down the hill, coming out onto a small yet broad ridge, where was waiting a metallic-burnt-gold, airconditioned Volvo S80. Hugh was directed to the front, Mowafak Tarif and the females went to the rear.

The car made its way onto the main route heading for the Via Maris and they were able to observe the Esdraelon Valley in greater detail, Mount Carmel behind them, Megiddo over by the horizon, Mount Tabor – they were impressed by the fertility of the valley – the endless cropped land, the low lying settlements here and there around the edge, the lake just north of Megiddo, the slight haziness of the atmosphere, partially obscuring Mount Tabor.

Hugh felt they were highly exposed here – exposed to the sea on their left behind them, exposed to anything and anyone sweeping down this broad, flat plain from the Yezrael Valley proper, further back, and equally exposed to the elements above.

Nikki suddenly came out with a comment he might have made. ‘I can’t see, Shaykh Tarif, how they’re going to get 200 million into this valley, large though it is.’

The Shaykh barely moved a muscle in his face before replying. ‘Mme Jensen, there is some question over that figure.’

‘Is the figure hugely exaggerated?’

‘The story has put an extra zero or two on the end, most people believe.’

‘But you believe otherwise?’

‘How many people do you think there are in China and India, Madame?’

‘So, it’s true after all.’

‘Time will tell.’

Hugh, who’d been listening to this exchange, looked out of his darkened window at the valley whooshing by and wondered about it all. Some birds, disturbed by the approaching vehicle, fluttered and squawked into the air, then airily landed again once the vehicle had passed.


Eventually they arrived at the same gate as last time and they swiftly made their way inside, down the same passageway with the red earthen walls, along the wooden walkway, to the same ante-room and to the same interminable waiting.

The Oracle of Megiddon, as Hugh had taken to thinking of her, in lieu of her real name which he had no intention of asking, appeared after about twenty minutes, clad in robes of burnt sienna. With all seated, and after the five minutes of protocol greetings, she began in the characteristic fashion she’d taken on at the end of their last encounter, answering a question before it had been asked.

‘Missiles are today being launched from the Gaza, the Golan and the West Bank. The conflagration will begin. You were to be arrested on a pretext and taken for questioning. We cannot allow their particular form of questioning as you are destined for other things.’

‘Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak.’

‘As you say, Albus.’

Nikki caught her breath and began to see the lie of the land.

‘Also safe under this hill. They followed on thirty minutes after you, but separately. They’ll go on a little journey tomorrow, sightseeing only.’

‘Any idea –’ began Hugh but he was cut short.

‘Yes, of course. It will be a cataclysm but not the final one. From this will come peace overtures by one who will step in and offer to stop this ‘warring madness’, to bring all parties to the table. He will be equally acceptable to both Muslims and Jews at first, but not to the Christians, with their apocalyptic vision; their marginalized numbers though will count for little and the Papacy will be silent again, as well as the Patriarchs.’

‘So the Da Vinci code was right,’ stated Nikki.

‘Look at the author’s name. Those who can see, may see,’ answered the Oracle. The woman paused, took in the company and especially the little child in Sophie’s womb and in Nikki’s. ‘There lies the world,’ she nodded.

Hugh asked, ‘Why will the Muslims break with this person?’

The Oracle smiled again. ‘You asked the correct question and perhaps the answer has also suggested itself to you.’

‘Something in scripture does not ring true.’

She inclined her head and then announced, ‘You will both be attended to and will lack for nothing.’

She now made certain remarks about the two parturient women and how that was coming along.

With that she rose, the customary farewells were completed and she swept out of the ante-room. Some obviously service-level girls now came, directed them to their quarters and brought linen.

The quarters were sumptuous by their standards and by those of their Druze hosts and yet they were also functional. All that rich colouring, woven rugs and awnings and yet all there really was, in the cavernous space, was a double four-poster bed, four cushioned stools and a dresser. Around a rock, at the far end, was the washing tub and shelf.

‘What’s the Christian view of these times?’ asked Sophie.

‘It’s a bit complicated. The theory goes that as we approach the true end times, not the ones falsely believed to be so along the way, we’ll know it because of certain things happening. Firstly, there’ll be a ‘falling away’. This refers to lawlessness, children turning on parents, debauchery, all that sort of thing.

I think this starts the Tribulation, which lasts seven years but no one knows if that’s seven man years or what. It gets worse and worse as it goes on. Halfway through that, the antichrist enters the newly built Temple in Jerusalem, which suggests to me that the Muslims have been defeated. Up till now, he has posed as the friend of Israel but once inside the inner sanctum of the Temple, he now desecrates it in something called ‘the abomination of desolation’.

No one really knows what it’s about and some think it might already have happened in 70 AD or perhaps when Caligula desecrated the Temple. People who believe that are called preterists.

After the antichrist does this and declares himself, the real tribulation occurs – murder, torture, rape, pillage, with all good people wiped off the face of the earth, dying in horrible ways – that sort of thing.’

‘Thanks, Hugh,’ put in Nikki.

‘Somewhere along the line, the Messiah appears and saves the believers.’


Rockets continued to rain down on selected Israeli cities, which meant that they failed to rain down on the Plain of Megiddo, apart from the stray missile which had embedded itself in the side of the mound and taken out a sizeable chunk of archaeological history.


Shaykh Tarif appeared, mid-morning, as if from nowhere and asked Hugh to accompany him. Nikki and Sophie nodded and off the two men went back along the walkway, back through the gate and into the Hyundai waiting below.

They didn’t go far, pulling up at a roped off area and at the appearance of the Shaykh, a way was cleared and they both found themselves in a sort of rickety wooden lift contraption which was then pulled up the face of the rock, up to the indentation left by the missile.

They stepped out gingerly and made their way along the rubbly surface, Hugh admiring the goat like agility of the old man, fearing each step of his own would be his last.

They saw the remains of the shell which the harder inner stone had contained and shrapnel had fallen to the ledge. Tarif immediately pointed out to Hugh one particular piece sticking out from a fissure in the rock.

It had writing on it and Hugh looked at it closely. ‘That’s not possible,’ he breathed, examining it even more closely. ‘I see.’

The Shayk directed him to another piece, which only confirmed the first.

Hugh shook his head. ‘I’d always suspected it was so – they had to get their expertise from somewhere but to see it with my own eyes is still a shock, I can tell you.’

‘Since when did you suspect?’

‘Since Beslan. It was too slick an operation altogether. It makes the whole business absolutely pointless, doesn’t it? It’s organized. The agenda unfolds and sooner or later – they come for us.’

The old man did not demur but indicated for Hugh to follow him back down. Once again in the anteroom, the Oracle came through and joined them. ‘Well, Albus?’

‘No real surprise. Sickening to have one’s manic ravings confirmed though.’

‘Yes he will, in a manner of speaking,’ she answered the next question and he wasn’t at all sure whether or not to ask it now.

‘The accident to the Prince – he’ll die?’

‘Train,’ and to the next question, ‘at the May Day festivities.’


‘What’s the point?’ he answered her own question to him as to whether he’d go there to witness the recovery in the hospital. ‘The moment we step foot in the country, they’ll take us. We’re on the most wanted list.’

‘No, no one will lay a hand on you. You’ll have diplomatic documentation. They have a time and a place to take you, I intimated as much.’

To his next question, she pre-replied, ‘The eyes, the mannerisms. Don’t concentrate on the physical features. By the time the message has been delivered, it will be too late for them.’

Nikki and Sophie were having a problem following this. ‘Sophie Magdalena?’ he asked the woman. ‘And if she – she’ll be safe? Good.’

It had been like a telepathic telephone conversation, the Oracle had cranked up the process and almost burnt him out. ‘Oh, one last –’

But the audience had concluded.


Hugh translated back in their room.

‘Nikki, you and I are going on a plane journey to Britain. Sophie will stay here. Over there, we’ll meet up with a lady who will take us to a hospital where ordinary people, not doctors, will be trying to bring a VIP back to life. Whether he actually died or not is apparently a moot point. There’ll be some skulduggery in all this and our job is to confront the one who comes alive. Clear?’

Sophie asked, ‘How come you were able to communicate with the Oracle and we couldn’t?’

He stopped and thought. ‘I just could.’

‘Do you think there’s anything in this supernatural stuff that’s starting to go on? I know they all believed in it in Germany.’

‘How can I know? I have a basic belief as most do. I do know that this place here, this region, seems to be at a crossroads. It’s obviously a strategic crossroads, militarily and as a trade crossover but it also seems to have something mystical about it, don’t you think? It seems to be very, very important to some mighty powerful people and somehow, we find ourselves here too.

Where Nikki and I come in or why you’re called Magdalena and what significance you have will no doubt become clear. I get the feeling, Sophie, that everyone has a different version of the same story – the three monotheistic religions have their own interpretations and the enemy only clouds the issue for his own purposes. It’s very ancient and we seem to be in the middle of somebody else’s war.’


April, 2012

The Northern European sky was misty in the morning, while it drizzled intermittently throughout the day. It had still not properly thawed but the signs of spring were in the air.

The young man with the golden hair was uneasy. He’d been having dreams of his departed grandmother, he hadn’t been sleeping well.

All he’d ever wanted was a normal life and yet he was aware that there was a manifest destiny awaiting him. Things were altering with him. He’d lost his temper the other day with his brother and yet he’d always been known for his calmness in a crisis.

It was almost as if the protective veil of family and friends was being inexorably drawn back and he was being forced to confront a dark and gloomy world alone.

He saw people groaning in that world, sweating, labouring, smoke belching from chimney stacks, machines incessantly producing, producing. It was a world without joy and yet he inhabited a crystal palace, high on a mountain, through which he could see it all.

But now a trickle of blood had appeared on that crystal wall and it was spreading.

He desperately wanted to confide in someone but there was no one – he’d driven them all away. Well, not literally but in his own mind he had. The routine of public engagements was now oppressive – a hospital here, a new community centre there. He was expected to be the life of the party with his easy smile and kind gesture but it was all too much. All too much.

Perhaps he needed a break.

Maybe take her with him and hole out somewhere in the Swiss Alps for some time. Sanity would slowly return.

He realized he couldn’t do that just yet. He was meant to visit Scotland and consecrate something or other at Rosslyn, then fly to Paris and celebrate Noel at Notre Dame. But straight after that, immediately after that, he was taking some leave and spending the New Year at Dominic’s, on Pilatus.

He already felt better. A little. Well actually, no he didn’t.

From his panelled window, he now saw the street lights come on down below and as the night fell, he drew the drapes and went to fix himself a drink. His aide came through and handed him the evening list – just one visitor and a surprising one at that. No matter, he’d hear out what the other had to say.

The priest was shown through to the drawing room and asked to wait. So many mirrors in this room, the man mused; so much finery, the old masters on the walls, the gilt edged frames, the Persian rug, the painted friezes above. He sat down gingerly on the rickety chair and then his host came through, pausing first to observe him, then approaching with extended hand.

‘Monsignor Fiore,’ was the greeting.

‘Your Excellency,’ was the reply but the priest had obviously not brushed up on his protocol. No matter.

‘And what brings a Cardinal of the Catholic Church to my door at this hour?’

‘The Holy Father is, as you’d no doubt be aware, in failing health. He has been so for some months.’ To the inclined head he continued, ‘We feel it can only be a matter of time.’

‘His Excellency’ was obviously waiting for the Cardinal to come to the point, which he now did. ‘There are those who would wish to hasten the process within the Vatican and the question is why. We know who. We’re all aware of that. But the question is why now?

I had a visit from a teenage girl, called Marian, who claimed to have had visions. Very disturbing visions. Most of these visions concerned the demise of the Holy Father but one concerned a certain person in the holy land, in Jerusalem. Another vision concerned a disaster in Britain which is yet to occur. This and the one concerning the Holy Father’s bed chamber are the two which greatly disturb the child.’

‘Do you think, Monsignor, that you might come to the point.’

‘You are scheduled to travel to Britain for the May Day festivities, am I correct?’

‘The winter service at Rosslyn and then on to Notre Dame – yes.’

‘Don’t go.’

‘Why ever not?’ the other laughed out loud.

‘You might go there as one person but come back as another.’

‘You’ll have to do better than that, Monsignor.’

‘Look at the names on this petition, Your Excellency. Are they familiar to you?’

‘You’ve done a lot of work before visiting me this evening.’

‘There’s a lot at stake.’

‘But why are they so concerned about a simple scheduled visit to Scotland? I’m travelling virtually every week somewhere or other and no one has been in the least concerned up till now.’

‘You must have felt certain things happening within yourself, Your Excellency in the last few months.’

‘How would you know about that?’

‘Tell me it’s not so.’ The younger man was silent. ‘Good, that shows you are still yourself at this point. Don’t go. It’s not necessary. One of the other members of the family can go in your place. Plead illness. Go for a rest to a spa or anywhere which takes your fancy. Don’t go to Britain and don’t inaugurate the new Intercity 135. We urgently entreat you, for your sake and for the sake of the world.’

The young man shuffled uneasily. ‘Isn’t that way over the top?’

‘I’m sorry?’

‘Isn’t that too over-dramatic?’

‘No.’ Well at least this priest was direct. ‘No, it is a certainty that disaster will follow you. And after you, comes the Holy Father. Don’t go. Or postpone it to the New Year. Anything.’

‘You’ve come a long way to tell me that, Monsignor.’

‘From the ends of the earth is not far enough in this matter.’

‘All right, Father. I promise I’ll pay it some heed but I can’t give you a categorical promise I won’t go. You see – I’m expected.’

‘Yes, you’re very much expected. That’s what has to be prevented.’

‘Fine, Father. Leave it with me. Thank you so much for coming this evening and alerting me to this.’

He rose and the audience was at an end. After the Cardinal had departed, he glanced down at the list of names and rang for his aide. ‘Check out every one of these names and find out all you can about them. I’m going to need that information before long.’


The two gangers knew what they had to do.

It could never be put down to them – it was always going to be that 245 kph was far too fast for the track at that bend, the restraining bolts on that piece of track had corroded and the trumpeted new Intercity 135, carrying its European royalty on its maiden journey, would separate, miraculously saving the three rear carriages, which would grind to a halt two hundred yards or so up the track.

The engine and front two carriages would by then have also miraculously recovered and regained the rails, to eventually come to a halt some distance on from the rear carriages.

A lucky escape for all bar one passenger, who would have been flung from the front carriage.

This was what the smallish, well dressed man with the RP accent had told them in the shadow of the chapel. He’d explained it all three times and they’d understood it thoroughly.

Except there was something they hadn’t liked about that little man.


April 30th, 2012

The sky was fairly clear, as three helicopters landed on grassy terraces in Scotland, one hundred and forty miles from each other.

The first had no sooner landed than a greeting party had bent down and approached, one opened the door and the golden haired man stepped out, bent down himself and they all made for the stately castle entrance in the distance across the lawn. The cupola, the turrets on the towers, the ivy, all made the residence an inviting place to stay.

The second landed on the terrace of the white-walled hotel, the Carstairs Arms, Nicolette and Hugh alighted with two others and made their way inside. Some minutes later, all details having been taken care of, the aides departed.

A third landed on Gretna Green and Hugh had not been told about this particular personage. He need not have worried though – the woman was simply there to ensure a job was done, nothing more, nothing less. All three sides now embarked on their respective agendas.

The only one who might have raised certain objections, had he known, was the golden haired man.


On the morning of May 1st, they went down to breakfast, took a tray, grabbed muesli, fruit compote, milk, coffee, eggs, tomatoes and toast and took them to a table, the view through the window picturesque.

Nikki now had her usual issue sitting comfortably in a confined space, she smiled as she finally achieved ‘sittingability’.

The only other guest was a woman who seemed continental to Hugh and she also appeared to be alone. Hugh nodded to her, she nodded in return, he was suddenly fully mindful that he was flirting, the lady smiled as if she’d seen that he had seen.

She now came over to their table.

‘Michael Archer,’ Hugh introduced himself. ‘and this is Gabriella. How do you do?’

The woman was amused, ‘Fine names. What if I told you my name was also Gabriella – Gabriella White?’
‘Then I’d say that at least one of us has a sense of humour.’

‘Let those be our names for now.’

‘Auspicious day.’


‘Will you prevent us?’

‘On the contrary. But first, you are to tell each other the truth. You have not yet fully done that … neither of you.’

Gabriella now did an extraordinary thing, not even asking permission – she touched Nikki’s womb. At least, that’s how Nikki saw it. Gabriella then went back, finished her coffee, paid and departed.

When asked, Nikki said, ‘I feel strange, good in a way, I just have a feeling inside which is good down there. When do we have to leave, Bebe?’

‘There’s a private clinic fifty miles north of Edinburgh, where our shift as hospital orderlies will begin at 16:00, in the Coburg Wing. Our train is the 13:15 from Carstairs Junction. That gives us three hours and no one will throw us out of this cafe in that time, as long as we keep buying coffee.’

‘I don’t want any more.’

‘Then I’ll buy for myself.’

‘Get me one too please, Bebe.’


Sam, Miri, Nick and Susannah were up early for their journey.

They were to drive across the plain with Samih and wife Farida to Mt. Tabor where there was a man who wanted things delivered to the Shaykh. It was thought they might enjoy the trip as there was nothing really for them cooped up under the hill.

They were collected at the hill at 09:45, the light green Toyota contending with buses and tourists.


The house was in a cluster on the hill and now they had a view of the valley from the other side. Susannah felt it looked much the same really.

A new type of rocket, the Chorni Voron, screamed over the hill and embedded itself in the valley, exploding but apparently not damaging anyone.


About 15:20, it was time to depart to go back and the slow wind down the hillside began, through clusters of houses which could not really be collectively termed villages, over some rough dirt patches which would be hell in wet weather and thus down towards the valley.

The driver of a tourist bus behind them was aggressively honking his horn and gesticulating; they suddenly realized he was having problems with his brakes. Samih knew the next layby was not for another quarter of a kilometre and the man was now almost upon them.

The bus clipped the rear bumper of the Toyota, which span onto some loose gravel and the momentum took them over the edge, they rolled three times and hit a tree seventy metres down the hill, in the middle of the passenger side.


‘You first, Hugh.’

They were in their room in the hotel again, allowed one more hour before they had to go.

‘She jogged my memory,’ said he, ‘at least about certain details. I remember things now, how they happened and I think that was what I was meant to tell you. I think you have things to tell me too.’

‘Who was she – that woman, I mean?’

‘I thought you knew that.’

‘She’s not … of the enemy … of the Seven?’

‘The opposite, I believe. If she is what I think she is, then I have no choice but to obey and tell you what I can remember. It’s about Julia again.’

‘Ah. I’m listening.’

‘For a start, Julia’s story was thin – how she’d got up there, how Frank and Doug had both come to grief – and she was too keen to jump to the next step. Various things gave her away and my guilt was that I knew all that but still wanted her badly.’

She sighed. ‘Yes yes, go on.’

‘I wanted her even before I left you and Sophie.’ He now told her about the back of the transport, about being inside her in the kiosk when they slept and he’d kept coming, he told her all. ‘She engineered it but I knew she had and made no attempt to escape it.’ He explained about the effect of her height and how his thing was always close to her entrance and he knew what Julia was trying on.

‘I suspected that – get to the denouement.’

On the last night, she and I made love with no limits.’

‘Meaning that by then you’d fallen hopelessly in love with her. You’d only go that far if you were crazy for someone. And were you going to leave me?’

‘Never. She picked up on that, she said I didn’t fear her as one of the enemy but as a true love.’

Nikki sighed. ‘I see it all. You feared you would not be able to tell her to go once you were both back on the island.’

‘Worse. I knew I’d have to betray her love.’

Nikki was stunned, nauseated. ‘You were going to kill the girl you loved?’

‘No no, not that. She’d stand trial back on the island. Thing was, she knew I knew, she knew I had to do that, had no choice.’

‘So she had to let them have a try at killing you, to keep that mad love alive in her mind. Maybe there was self-preservation in there too but I think the love had overtaken that. No wonder she went mad, no wonder she killed Rory.’

‘I think there was another reason she killed Rory – that she’d discovered something which did send her over the edge. You see, she knew we – her and me – were both completely out of order doing what we had done, falling like that too, there was no coming back from what we’d done, so she had to find someone to blame – you. And she had to find some reason to blame you.’

‘Ah, I do see.’

‘And Nikki, darling girl … she did find it,’ he said quietly.

‘What do you mean?’ she asked sharply.

Now it was his turn to go over and extract words written by another. He took out his organizer, extracted a folded sheet, came back and handed it to her.

She read it and collapsed to the bed, sobbing and when he tried to hold her, she shook him off.

He tried a second time and she didn’t push him away but she was desperately upset.

Eventually she managed, ‘How? How could you stay with me, knowing that? And having that sheet of paper in your organizer?’

‘I’d forgotten that sheet, this woman today, I think, reminded me or maybe it’s just memory coming back. For awhile I thought Julia had taken it from Rory’s pack back on the island, the night they departed I’d have said, but of course, if you read it, that was not possible – she must have taken it after, perhaps when she went through his bag after she’d killed him. R gave it to me and just said it had been on her, that she had thought long and hard whether to give it to me, she probably thought I’d have it out with you, I’m not sure it was a malevolent act. I think she thought it was the best time – right at the start. But then I forgot it until now.’

‘I wouldn’t have,’ she sobbed, ‘I would never have left you after Germany. I wrote it while I was in that attic. You see, he had done it that the first time and yes, those thoughts were on my mind – your star was low at that time, as you say sometimes, I did know you wanted Julia, I knew it even before you went north, I was furious, upset.’


‘But that’s still no reason to leave you – it’s that I was shot, in shock, you had faded, he was there and he had done it that first time, invited by me. I swear to you, Hugh, once we were back on that island, there was no way I’d have left you. You see, I needed a justification for what I was going to do a second time. If that justification was that I was leaving you, then I could always change my mind later. And like Michel, he was not loving, not a gentleman, I was his piece of meat.’

‘I know that, Moineau, in my heart I knew it from when R gave it to me and I read it.’

‘Why are people so foolish?’

‘I think we desperately want some things. You had me already, you’d been mine a long time and yet there were two negatives – I was fine for you most of the time as a partner but there was that attitude of mine, which all those women reinforced, that I thought myself some sort of Adonis … some sort of Rory.’  She said not a word. ‘You knew you were a catch, a beauty that men wanted, you wanted someone of his calibre to want you as his woman, you felt you deserved that.  You wanted an exciting, dashing man.’

‘That’s horrible.’


‘No, it’s horrible because it is so.  Go on, Bebe, go on.  And Hugh, I might as well tell it all – there was a third time, he began a third, not me this time, i didn’t … and I stopped him. It was like … Michel.

I saw then that in his eyes, I wasn’t even in his range any more – too old, somebody else’s woman that he could secretly do things with because I was so easy to persuade because you persuade me I’m this femme-fatale, even now.  You might have spoken about not wanting to be such a man – well, I speak now of not wanting to be that woman. And yet there he was in my bed, I’d invited him and … well … there it was.’

‘We can’t control our feelings, darling girl, sometimes we suddenly find ourselves in something we wanted but then we know we must not.  Let’s leave that topic, it causes us both distress. Let’s talk about Major Peters.’

She gasped. ‘This is a total nightmare, I want to die.’

‘Why? Am I not holding you? Do you not feel love in my touch? Do you not remember those tapes with Francine?’

‘Oh my goodness, you’re going to now talk of that?  Why do you still accept me?  Tell me, tell me.’

‘Both of us have forgotten the fundamental reason we’re even together, something from that first afternoon -’


‘But there’s one more thing. For me, whenever you lie beside me, whenever you walk into this room, when I walk in and you’re there, whenever you talk, it sends a thrill through me – tu m’excites, même maintenant.’ [1]

‘Vraiment, c’est la vérité?’

‘C’est la vérité.’

She decided. ‘I’m going to tell you now about Major Peters, I was shocked when Sophie brought him over and it all happened in about five seconds. Sophie told him to kiss me on the cheek, to see if he’d try the group thing, he’d already been having strong sex with Sophie, and Bebe, his thing, his thing – I couldn’t move, couldn’t run, just the sight of it moving in below me and then he was there – the official story never says that – yes I did pull away from him and so my public reputation has been saved, because it all hit me at once, the whole situation with us, with everything else, I was almost hysterical.’

He waited a few moments. ‘You do realize that all of that sort of thing must now be over. Do you want it to be over, because I’ve just remembered something else and I’d love to do it with you now.’

‘Yes, I don’t know, I’m close to a breakdown.’

‘Then I’d better do it quickly – it’s a nice thing.’  Her relief was palpable.  ‘I think that this is the time, now.  It’s also in my organizer, let me get it.

It was two sheets of paper this time, he handed her one. ‘They’re the same, it’s a song, the part in brackets, parentheses – that’s your bit you sing -’

‘Sing? At this time?’

‘Very much at this time – will you do it while I sing the main part to you?’

She was shaking her head from side to side in wonderment but then realized and said, ‘That means yes – yes of course I will. The part in brackets, yes?’

‘Yes, but it goes this way – in the parts where there are no brackets, you hum quietly to the tune, then when the brackets come, sing that part – you can change it a little to fit the metre, and when it says ‘save’ in the brackets – that means you should sing the whole line ‘save the last dance for me’, but quietly.  Also ‘yes’ means the whole of that line, but also quietly.  Shall we try the first line of the second part?’   He coughed and began:

‘Oh, I know (oh, I know)
That the music’s fine, like sparkling wine, go and have your fun (yes I know, oh I know).’ ’

She was great at it, he said so, she said she had the idea.

‘Then, after the song, I’ll give you the background [I wrote it on a third sheet of paper] because it modifies everything the song says, it’s very important you let me show you the background after the song, all right?’

‘All right.’

He began and the sight of him crooning nearly broke her up, but it wasn’t half bad she conceded – they could sing duets for a living.  Plus he had sung for her once before – she’d tell him about that one day.

‘You can dance
Every dance with the guy that gives you the eye and let him hold you tight
And you can smile
Every smile for the man who held your hand beneath the pale moonlight
But don’t forget who’s taking you home
And in whose arms you’re gonna be
So darlin’
Save the last dance for me, h-mmmm

Oh, I know (oh, I know)
That the music’s fine, like sparkling wine, go and have your fun (yes I know, oh, I know)
Laugh and sing (yes, I know)
But while we’re apart don’t give your heart to anyone (yes, I know)
But don’t forget who’s taking you home
And in whose arms you’re gonna be
So darlin’ [save]
Save the last dance for me

Oh, don’t you know I love you so?
Can’t you feel it when we touch?
I will never, ever let you go
Oh, I love you oh-so much, yeah-oh-yeah

You can dance (you can dance)
Go and carry on till the night is gone and it’s time to go (yes, you can dance)
If he asks (you can dance)
If you’re all alone, can he take you home, you must tell him no (yes)
’Cause don’t forget who’s taking you home
And in whose arms you’re gonna be
So darlin’ [save]
Save the last dance for me

Oh, don’t you know I love you so?
Can’t you feel it when we touch?
I will never, ever let you go
Eh, I love you oh-so-much, eh, yeah

You can dance (you can dance)
Go and carry on till the night is gone and it’s time to go (you can dance)
If he asks (you can dance)
If you’re all alone, can he take you home, you must tell him no (yes)
’Cause don’t forget who’s taking you home
And in whose arms you’re gonna be
[Oh] So darlin’ [save]
Save the last dance for me

Eh-e-eh, Save the last dance for me, oh-yeah
Save the last dance for me, m-mmm
Save the last dance for me.’ [2]

She burst into tears, he rushed across and held her.  ‘I don’t need to dance with anyone else, I can’t even dance.’

‘Remember I need to tell you about the background to the song.  Read this.’  He went to the organizer and extracted a sheet, handing it to her:

‘ ‘Save the Last Dance for Me’ is the title of a popular song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, first recorded in 1960 by The Drifters, with Ben E. King on lead vocals.  In the song, the narrator tells his lover she is free to mingle and socialize throughout the evening, but to make sure to save him the dance at the end of the night.

During an interview on Elvis Costello’s show Spectacle, Lou Reed, who worked with Pomus, said the song was written on the day of Pomus’s wedding while the wheelchair-bound groom watched his bride dancing with their guests.

Pomus had polio and at times used crutches to get around. His wife, Willi Burke, however, was a Broadway actress and dancer. The song gives his perspective of telling his wife to have fun dancing, but reminds her who will be taking her home and ‘in whose arms you’re gonna be.’

The single was produced by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two noted American music producers who at the time had an apprentice relationship with a then-unknown Phil Spector. Damita Jo had a hit with one of the answer songs of this era called ‘I’ll Save The Last Dance For You.’ ’

She was stunned, handing the sheet back, he put out a hand for the lyrics and she held on to them, she wanted them to sing it once more. And then they were going to sing it with Sophie.

‘You’re sure?’

‘Well, I haven’t thought out that last bit yet but maybe.’

They sang it again and this time swayed about the room together. There were ears who were listening to that, plus whatever sensory equipment Gabriella possessed and yes – she now appeared.

‘Good, I can tell you that all on that topic has now been said, you can both move forward. Plus I love the song but no, don’t ask me to sing it.

Now you must make your minds up about who you believe I am. Hugh has already understood it, you, Lailah, have not yet got to that point. It is also clear to you both that you have been selected for a task, but whose task, what task? You will reflect on this – it takes some people a very long time to accept it. My disappearing like this might help you accept it though, Lailah.’

She smiled a kindly smile and was not there anymore.

‘Tell me I didn’t just see that, Hugh.’

‘You did see it.’

‘What is she?’

‘She’s some sort of facilitator, a connector, she brings people together to do things, she was also a comfort to me just now after what I told you.’

‘Me too. It’s a bit worrying all of this. We are going into danger we don’t know and an impossible person like this is our protector?’

‘Seems that way.’

‘Hugh, we haven’t spoken of forgiveness yet, we’ve only spoken of getting things talked out. Can you forgive me?’

‘If you can, yes of course.’

Gabriella reappeared and spoke. ‘Good, now you can concentrate on the task ahead, I’ll not interrupt you again this night, nor even tell you what Lailah means.’

She actually smiled and then was gone again.


The evening of May 1st, 2012

The two gangers finished the line repair work just north of the A68 junction; they sauntered back to their hut and tucked into their ploughman’s lunches.

The young man and other distinguished guests now flew to Carstairs for the largely ceremonial final leg to Edinburgh and were now warmly greeted by new GNER chief Raymond Green; they moved into the first carriage behind the engine.

The new ATP controlled system put the train in motion and soon it had reached the early cruise speed of 180 kph. Then, as pre-dinner cocktails were served in the well-lit carriage, the speed gradually built up to the famed 240 kph, still an hour and fifty minutes short of Edinburgh Waverley.

Dinner completed by 20:45, as per schedule, the young man was invited to observe the train’s automated line corrective system in the driver’s cabin and was led through the connecting gangway joining the two monocoque structures.

Suddenly, amid the cacophony, the front carriage leapt fifty centimetres into the air, the variable traction technology hauled the remainder over the broken piece of rail which ‘read’ the abnormal surface and retracted the wheels at the critical moment, the carriages automatically divided and the rear of the train managed to find its own way to come to rest, the driver switched to manual and brought the front carriages to rest two hundred metres further on and all was back to normal.

It was a resounding recovery, except for one detail. The Prince had disappeared.

Within fifteen minutes, the carriages had been surrounded by security, the local police keeping early bystanders back behind the hastily strung out ribbon barriers but all attention was directed two hundred and fifty metres back along the track.

The lifeless body of the prince was loaded into a helicopter as swiftly as possible then, in the helicopter, the paramedics determined that life had ceased at the point of impact – 21:03, May1st, 2012.



At the time of writing this, I’d found a song about angels while looking for another song [at the end of the next chapter] about when someone loses someone close. And in the comments thread, there was a comment by … guess who … yes, a Gabriele.

This is Damita Jo’s answering song.

Chapter 3-13 here Chapter 3-15 here




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