This is the thirtieth part of a fiction serial, in 757 words.
That evening, I spent a lot of time going through my notes. It seemed Helen was getting close to the end of her story now, so I began writing them up in some semblance of order. Then I made sure the camera was fully charged and had a new memory card, ready for the next day. Next morning, I had a light breakfast before returning to my room to go through all the papers I had copied. I was convinced that they were all genuine, one hundred percent. When I approached her door later, she opened it before I knocked. Once again very presentable, she seemed to be in a very good mood.
“In you come, Martin. I am keen to get on and tell you what happened when I got back to England”.
As usual, she drank vodka and smoked as I set up.
“Nicola and I were the only two people on the RAF flight to Brize Norton. There was no passport control or immigration check, and our baggage went through as diplomatic. Inside the aircraft, I was amazed that nobody elese was in the medium-sized passenger jet, and suspected that they didn’t want me to be seen by any other staff who might normally fly home using that service. Less than four hours later we landed, and when we walked down the steps our bags were ready for collection. There was a fancy-looking car waiting at the edge of the runway, and a well-dressed man standing next to it. He approached and shook my hand, saying ‘Welcome home, Helen, I am John Holdsworth’. Another one of course, not my one. He was close to fifty, politely spoken, and so obviously security service. I got in the back of the car with him and Nicola put my canvas holdall on the front seat then walked in the direction of the airport buildings, wheeling her small case. She didn’t say goodbye, didn’t even look at me. Then we left for London, and I soon found myself travelling eastbound on the A40”.
Helen stopped for a moment, and she seemed to be deciding whether or not to add something.
“Holdsworth didn’t say much at first, and I sat gawping at the changed surroundings. So many cars, so much new housing. And as we got closer to London, the amount of high-rise developments took my breath away. Once we were held up by gridlocked traffic in the suburbs, Holdsworth became chatty. He spoke about things that would be new to me. When I had left England, we were not in the EU. Now I was back, we were on the verge of trying to get out of it. Decimal currency would be new to me, as would multi-channel colour television, buses and tube trains no longer taking cash, and so much more that I would have to get used to. One thing I had forgotten was how much warmer it was, and when I tried to open the car window, I couldn’t find a handle. He smiled, and told the driver to switch on the air-conditioning. In seconds, i could feel the cold air refreshing me. I wasn’t allowed to smoke in the car, and that was making me edgy. Then when Holdworth told me that I was going to be debriefed for six weeks, I got plain angry. Pause there, Martin, I need something to eat”.
She had obviously been out that morning, as she came back from the kitchen with two large pork pies still in the shop’s bag. After muching her way through one, she carried on.
“Once we were at Paddington, I started to recognise some streets. But there was a huge new hospital, and many more tower blocks and skyscrapers. London felt closed in and oppressive, so different to when I had lived there. We turned off before Baker Street, and I could tell we were going north. Twenty minutes later, the driver turned into a quiet road near Swiss Cottage, and stopped the car outside a double-fronted house with tall gates across the driveway. The gates opened by themselves, and we walked from the car to the front door. It was already open, and a stern-looking woman was standing there. Holdsworth introduced her to me as Mrs Lee, then without another word, he turned and walked back to the car. I followed the woman inside into a large hallway, and she turned and said ‘Welcome, Miss Renton. This will be your temporary home’. ”
Helen paused at that point, and ate the second pork pie.