The navy had choppered most of the media contingent to a local airfield from which one of its C130 Hercules transport planes could deliver them back to Singapore. Sarah and Terry checked their
Although relieved to be back on dry ground, Sarah’s overall anxiety had not diminished. She still had to deal with her own kind. She felt like the fox on an English hunt, with hundreds of extra eyes watching for her make a move.
“I think we should stick to our original plan,” Terry argued without much enthusiasm. “Whoever’s watching us will know where we’re staying. We could go somewhere else, but someone could still bug our rooms easily enough if they want to find out what we know and what we tell anyone else, especially Dan.”
“And they could do that at Dan’s end too, right?” Sarah added.
Terry brought his gaze back from its slow journey through the almost empty car park and the battered buildings beyond. He turned it back towards her and found she was also gazing off into the middle distance. “You’re not as dumb as you sometimes look, are you, girl?” he said.
“Come on, Terry, what’s the worst we’re up against? The US Navy, or even the CIA, or some other spook outfit? What could they want from us? What do we have of value? What do they know that we don’t?”
Terry must have been thinking the same thoughts because he had his answer ready. “We may have a tenuous connection between you and the ‘angel of mercy’ by way of a 12-year-old girl on a tiny island in the Indian Ocean.”
“And that’s it?” Sarah said in exasperation.
Terry played it cool, his Ying to her Yang. “Unless you’re hiding something from me, yes. That’s it.”
Sarah wasn’t mollified. “No, I don’t buy that,” she argued. “They already know about what happened on the island, and now they’ve seen whatever you had on your hard drive. We’re missing something. How can we find out what it is?”
Terry wiped his brow again, refolded his handkerchief and wiped again. “There’s a phone over there.” He pointed to an ancient call box against the wall of the terminal. “Why not spend the last of your local shekels on a call to CBS in Singapore. Have a chat to your mate Joel.”
His idea made sense, but somehow it jarred inside her head. “Surely they would have covered that by now,” she reasoned aloud.
“Probably, but it won’t hurt to check. Is it the same voice? Does he remember your name? You didn’t get a name of the female Doberman acting as his call girl?”
The heat was getting to her, and she took the bait. “That’s his producer, Terry! But yes, I get the idea. Should we do it from here or wait till we get to Singapore?”
Ten minutes later he joined her at the call box and passed her a piece of paper. “I’ll go back inside. If nothing else, it’ll keep them guessing if we split up.”
Sarah quickly keyed in the number. Sure enough, she heard, “Good Morning. You have reached CBS News. If you know the extension number of the person you wish to speak to…”
Oh, damn, these bloody machines.
“…or press zero for the operator.”
She waited, in company with the inevitable canned music. “Good Morning, you are speaking with Natalie. How may I help you?”
“Hi, Natalie,” said Sarah, putting on her best American accent. “Please connect me with Joel Cunningham.”
“I’m sorry ma’am, Mr. Cunningham is not available. We expect him back this afternoon. Could somebody else help you?” The operator was both polite and efficient.
Oh, glory. What now?
“Could you then connect me with his producer? I’m sorry, I don’t know her name.”
“Mr. Cunningham’s producer is Mr. James Durrell.” Natalie added a slight emphasis on the ‘Mr’. “Please wait, and I will connect you now.”
“Thank you.” More canned cantata.
“Good Morning, James Durrell speaking. How may I…” Beep, beep, beep.
Damn, not enough money. The call was gone. Perhaps it was for the best. I wouldn’t have known what to say to him anyway.
Sarah hung up and wandered slowly back to find Terry and told him what had happened.
“So Cunningham exists,” he said, thoughtfully. “But he’s away today. That could be kosher, especially if he worked last night. The producer being male doesn’t prove anything either. Although, it leaves the door open for doubt. No, girl. I think I’m with you. Something smells fishy in all this, and I don’t particularly like the smell of fish.”
“I’m glad I’m not the only one,” she said.
* * * * * * *
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Changi International is a beautiful and well-designed airport, but Sarah and Terry had little time, or desire, to reflect on its many pleasing attributes. They were hot and tired, and more than a little worried since they were unloaded from the C130. Sarah was not at all sure she wanted to go home just yet. Something inside told her she was onto something important. But Dan Williams may not see it that way. That’s why she wanted to talk to him in relative peace and quiet. There was also the issue of their safety. Were they really at risk? If so, from who—or what?
After what seemed like an age, they were
As the two of them stood outside waiting, Terry leaned over and bought a copy of the Straits Times and scanned the headlines. Sure enough, they were about the Angel of Mercy.
“Look, Sarah. There’s even a question mark over our island.”
She leaned forward and took the paper, so she could study the map. “You’re right; that’s our island. But no details, just a question mark. I wonder if that’s enough to satisfy people. I mean there are all these other places. Look, even Myanmar. How did that get past the censors?”
They climbed into the next available cab and gave instructions to the driver before settling into the back seat. Sarah breathed out some of her tension and replaced it with some well-conditioned air. But something was nagging her to have another look at Terry’s newspaper. She leaned over and picked it up off the seat between them. Terry may have noticed, but said nothing, preferring to admire the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Sarah looked again at the map on the front page. She could see no real pattern. They were just isolated places, like her island.
Then her eyes froze as she looked at the place where the angel had appeared in southwest Thailand. She nudged Terry in the ribs with her elbow. “Look,” she said pointing to the map with one hand and shaking the paper with the other.
Terry turned and leaned across to obey. “Girl, you’re not making it easy,” he said lightly.
“What am I supposed to be looking at?” he asked. It was a reasonable question.
“You know how I said last night I kept dreaming of Hamish and me on holiday at a beach in Thailand a couple of years ago?” she asked.
“Well, of all the beach communities in Thailand, our friendly angel just happened to turn up at that one.”
“Really?” Terry wasn’t sure which way she wanted him to respond. Beyond that, he wasn’t quite sure whether to be sincere or sarcastic. He
“Look,” she pointed to the map again. “He was there last night. That’s when I was having my dream.” Sarah didn’t know whether to be excited or cynical either. This was
“Think about it.” Sarah could feel her excitement building again as she went on. “First the girl with the necklace, then the dream, now this.” She shook the newspaper at him as if to reinforce her argument. “It’s a trail of breadcrumbs for us to follow. We should stay around and follow them.”
It didn’t have the desired effect. Terry stretched as much of himself as he could back against the seat and looked across to see her slightly flushed and wide-eyed. He’d seen it before. He knew it wasn’t from the temperature or the climate. “Follow it
“I wish I knew, Terry. I’m so confused. It was bad enough just having a sense of being involved with these … ‘happenings’. And people
His voice of reason calmed her. “Perhaps we should just get some sleep,” it said. “I could say you look like you need some, but that might be unwise. I doubt there are any ‘safety regulations’ that mean you can’t leave the phone off the hook tonight. Then, if you want, we can ring Dan. So what if someone’s listening? Who really cares?”
It was her turn to rest back into her seat, close her eyes, and try to stretch her back into a different shape. As she did so, she could feel the effects of the adrenaline gently subside. “I hate to admit it, but you’re right. I didn’t get much sleep last night, and I could sure use some now. Whadda ya reckon, Big Fella? Gonna treat me to a decent dinner first?”
“Why not, O fair princess?” He bowed in mock gallantry. They nestled into a comfortable silence, disturbed only by their own thoughts, none of which they were willing to share.
As they approached the hotel, Sarah could see other taxis discharging familiar faces. Are they the ones watching us? Who cares. I’m not going to go through life worrying about what they or anyone else thinks of me. Anyway, the whole story has moved on.
* * * * * * *
Sarah had taken the phone off the hook. Terry had arranged to take any calls, and he would wake her only if they were really important. No men in white suits woke her up. But the night still had its challenges. Sarah had another dream.
It revealed people in a windswept desert. They seemed to have no home, no food
She awoke with a start, perspiration pouring off her. But it had nothing to do with the room’s temperature. She got up to get a drink of cold water, but having poured it, she remembered the people in her dream. They don’t have anything like this. She felt an acute sense of shame and guilt. But what can I do? I’m hardly responsible for the state of the world, am I?
She lay back down in the dark, thinking about the dream. Perhaps this angel of mercy should be looking after them too. Why does the world react with such speed and generosity in one place to one event, but ignore another? Politics? Is suffering any less in one place than another? Maybe one was caused by men, and the other wasn’t. Tsunamis don’t invite people to take sides, but Darfur does, Iraq does. And when people take sides, other people get trapped in the middle. People no one cares about enough. Oh, God, it’s depressing.
She pictured the scene in her mind again. They desperately need the Angel. But what if he showed up? What would I do then? What would it mean? Sarah sat up with a start and took a gulp of the cold water. Woah … If I was getting some sort of forewarning, then I’d know where he was before anyone else did.
Sarah let the thought percolate through her rational faculties. They didn’t like it. The whole idea was bizarre. Things like that only happen on TV or in the movies. That’s X-Files stuff. I’m a normal,
Sleep wasn’t an option. Her brain was wide awake and making sure the rest of her came along for the ride. She swallowed another mouthful of water and didn’t feel as guilty this time. I wonder why? Then she reached over to the nightstand, picked up the TV remote, and pressed the power button. Almost immediately, a picture obediently appeared on
Huh, same old garbage as back home. She sat there, mindlessly channel surfing to see if anything at all was worthy of keeping her company for a while. Game shows, old movies, sport
Her dream. The same people, the same poverty, the same flies crawling across the same children. She saw no sign of the angel, just another story about more strife, more broken promises, more lies, more greed
She flicked the channel changer again. More advertisements, shopping channels, another
But nothing could satisfy her need for distraction from the realities of a world she had never been to, and one she certainly had no wish to see close up. Eventually, she gave up and lay down again, only to be assailed once more by the memory of her dream. It was the exact scene I saw when I turned on the news. That scene would have been on only once, and I just happened to hit the channel at that very specific moment. How weird is that? Maybe I was imagining it? I must have been.
Sarah lay there for what seemed like hours. All she wanted was sleep. But that sleep refused to come for quite some time.
* * * * * * *
The knock on the door woke her. She looked at the ghostly green numbers on the bedside clock, 9:27. A second knock followed, this one a little more insistent.
“You awake yet, girl?” asked Terry. They were supposed to meet for breakfast, but she had obviously slept through.
Sarah prised herself off the bed and wrapped one of the hotel robes around herself. “Coming, Terry,” she called. Without pausing to look in the mirror, she headed for the door, but then stopped and threw the bag with her clean clothes into the bathroom. She checked the peephole. Sure enough, it was Terry. Sarah took off the safety chain and opened the door. Having done so, she scampered into the bathroom. We may have been through a lot together, but a girl still has to have some pride.
“Sorry about this,” she called from the safety of the bathroom. “I’ll be with you in a couple of minutes.”
“You had another bad night, girl?” he asked perceptively.
“You might say that,” she admitted. “But I’m a lot better now, thanks. What time do we have to be out of here?”
“I’ve asked to let us hold onto the rooms for another couple of hours, and they’re happy with that. But our plane doesn’t leave until nearly 8:30 tonight, so we’ll have to vacate. They’ll store our bags, though. They’re very obliging.”
“That’s great. Why not make us some coffee, Terry? I’ll try not to be too long.”
“You got it.”
That man really is a saint. Sarah allowed herself to appreciate that until the first burst of the shower’s water hit her. The pressure took her by surprise, stinging her limp limbs and battered body back to life. It took more than a few minutes, but
“Thanks, Terry. I really need this.”
She slumped into one of the two chairs and allowed the hot liquid to drive
Terry remained upright. He looked as if he had been awake for hours. “So is it to be breakfast downstairs, or do you want to check out what the city has to offer?”
Sarah knew the dream had unsettled her enough to limit her enthusiasm for sightseeing or shopping. She wanted to process a few things. “I’m happy to take things easy,” she replied. “A decent brunch downstairs should hold me together until our flight.”
She noticed Terry was carrying the local newspaper, so she innocently asked, “Anything new happening in the world?”
Terry shrugged as if new things rarely happened in his world. He took another swig before answering her. “Much the same. But you might be interested to know our friendly angel has popped up in Africa for a change. According to this, he.…”
Sarah didn’t move. She remained perfectly still on the outside, but it was all different on the inside as she interrupted him. “Don’t tell me, Terry. Darfur?”
He was surprised at her tone, even more so by the look on her face. “How did you know? Did you sit up all night watching TV or something?”
“No,” she said, closing her eyes, only to see the
Terry looked concerned. He walked across and sat down opposite her. “What is it, girl? What’s going on in there?”
Sarah trembled slightly as she replied. “I think I’m cracking up, Terry. I had another dream. I saw starving kids covered in flies. No one could do anything. I saw their mothers, empty of milk, empty of hope. I could see them dying, Terry. It was so real I could smell it. And then I woke up.”
Terry knew enough to say nothing. He just nodded, but Sarah didn’t notice.
“And then I turned on the TV and what did I see? A background piece on world events. I saw the same dream being re-played on that very screen, Terry. The same people and the same place. That’s how I knew it was Darfur. I can remember wondering why the world would turn its back on Darfur while it’s all hands to the pumps out here? I can remember thinking at least people are doing something here. But no one’s doing anything there.”
She opened her eyes and straightened up herself slightly as if interviewing him. “Why doesn’t the angel give them a break?” she demanded. “Surely their need is just as great.”
After a long pause, Terry answered. “And now you find he
She allowed the interrogator to slip back into her box and her whole
Terry turned to see her looking apprehensive, even a little frightened. “I don’t know, girl,” he said. “After what you said yesterday about the dream of the beach in Thailand and now this… What did you say last night? A trail of breadcrumbs? It’s like you are tuned in to this guy.”
“But what if I don’t want to be tuned in to him?” she snapped. Then, the softer Sarah continued. “What if I just want things to go back to the way they were before? Just me being me—no weird stuff, no Dana Scully, no X-Files, no paranormal, no psycho stuff. Just me being me.” It came out like a child’s plea for understanding mixed with a cry for help.
Terry stood up and walked across to the window, allowed himself another mouthful of coffee before responding. “I hate to say it, girl,” he said as he looked out onto the city beyond, “but you know I would jump at a chance to see what’s really happening here. This is one hell of a story. Maybe I should say one heaven of a story. I don’t know. But you’re on the inside track here. You’re one step ahead of the hounds. What happened to Sarah Long,
Sarah didn’t reply straight away.
He looked back from the view he was admiring. Her tone was unexpectedly decisive. Had she made a decision?
“I need food. Let’s go eat and see if we can make some sense of this.”
“You got it, girl. After you.” He stooped to scoop up his travel bag from where he’d dropped it on the bed, and together they headed for the door.
* * * * * * *
Not much later they were happily munching their way through a sizable breakfast, surrounded by a few other late risers. Terry refused to talk about the angel again until they had almost finished.
“Before I woke you up, I watched a panel of experts on CNN. You know, the people who know everything and disagree with other people who also know everything. What a charade. No one has a clue who the guy is. There could be a whole bunch of them showing up in different places. And they don’t know why he—or they—do it. Although, it seems a safe bet that it’s a compassion thing. He simply appears, walks around, speaks to people in their own language, and then he just leaves. He asks for nothing and doesn’t seem to expect anything. And all manner of people
Sarah and Terry went into planning mode and looked like a couple of conspirators intent on protecting some secret.
“Let’s say you’re right,” she said. “If this is even half the story that it seems to be, then what’s our next step? I mean, this guy isn’t giving me advance notice of what he’s up to. I certainly have no idea where he will turn up next. What can I do to connect with him?”
Terry gave yet another familiar shrug as he leaned over and took some butter to spread on his virgin toast. “Half the world has to be asking that question. The other half have never heard of him. I doubt any of the people he healed has heard the news. It’s not like they’re on the lookout for him or waiting to take his photo, so they can sell it to the highest bidder.”
“Yeah,” Sarah agreed, sipping some decent coffee for a change. She’d been thinking similar thoughts. “Or what if someone caught him on tape, you know, doing his thing? What would that be worth?”
“But,” added Terry the pragmatist while also adding a great deal of honey to his toast, “exciting as that prospect might be, we haven’t any sort of plan for how to track him down. So tell me, what does Sarah Long know that no one else knows?”
Sarah allowed her thoughts to go back over recent events for the hundredth time. That suited Terry, who rapidly devoured his piece of toast and began to assemble another.
As Sarah watched him, she wondered, not for the first time, how someone with such an appetite never seemed to put on any weight. She shook herself back to focusing on his question. “It’s not so much
“By the way, where is that necklace?” Terry asked.
“In my bag, upstairs, why?”
Terry put on his serious face. “It’s just a passing thought, but we shouldn’t ignore anything. The necklace has something to do with the angel. I don’t know any more than that, and maybe we need to consider all options.”
“I’m not getting you, Terry,”
Terry’s face softened into a smile, inviting her to reciprocate. She did. More toast disappeared. “I’m not getting me either,” he said. “But you have the necklace, and you are having these dreams. I’m suggesting we shouldn’t rule out the possibility of a connection just yet.”
Sarah’s smile began to fade.
“Me too,” he said. “I don’t know anything about dreams and psychic connections, and I don’t know who I should ask. For all I know, we could get into all sorts of trouble by asking the wrong people. And don’t ask me who the wrong people are.”
“That makes a lot of sense,” she said. “I mean it doesn’t, but it
“Strange as it may sound, I know exactly what you mean.” Terry paused before returning to his original subject. “You’ve had two different dreams, right?”
Sarah nodded, curious about where he was heading.
“But they were different in one sense,” he continued. “You had the first dream nearly a day after the angel had done his thing. And it was at a place that was familiar to you.” She nodded again. “But your second dream coincided with his actions at a location unfamiliar to you, which you were woken up to confirm.”
“I’ve never been to Africa,” Sarah agreed. “But the waking up must be significant. What are the chances of me accidentally tuning into that channel to see that picture? The odds don’t bear thinking about it.”
This time Terry nodded before he continued to develop his point. “Next difference: the level of
Sarah fought desperately to keep the picture of the dying children out of her mind. “Tough doesn’t even begin to describe it,” she said quietly.
Terry poured them some more coffee to give her a moment to get past the memory before changing direction. Then he casually added, “So tell me this, if you were looking for some sort of pattern here, what would you expect the next dream to be like?”
“What an odd question.” It was an avenue Sarah hadn’t considered at all.
He tried the coffee, she didn’t. She was too busy trying to figure out an answer.
“Well, why not?” he argued casually. “We have nothing else to go on, right? It’s only a question. And we don’t have to do anything with the answer, do we?”
“Okay,” she agreed, even though she was a long way from being convinced. “You’re right, again. Let’s assume I’m the only one with the dreams—and the necklace, which may or may not have any connection to the dreams. Tonight I will need to dream something like on previous nights, which might show me where the angel will turn up the following day.”
Terry nodded in agreement. “That’s what I’m thinking too.”
Sarah began to see possibilities, and those possibilities were bringing her back to life again. This was more like conspirators in action, sparking off each other. “And, seeing as we’ll be sleeping on the plane tonight, I’ll make sure I have the necklace with me and not leave it in my main luggage.”
Terry nodded again. “I would agree—if we go on the plane tonight.”
His statement surprised her. “What do you mean if we go on the plane tonight?”
Terry left her question alone for a few seconds to see if she might be tempted into answering it herself. When she didn’t, he said, “I was wondering where the best place is if we wanted to go in almost any direction in a hurry. If we’re right, we might get only a few hours’ warning of his next appearance. It’s a long way to most places from downtown Wellington, or worse still, from 35,000 feet and going in the wrong direction.”
Sarah still needed reassurance. “You think we really could be right … about the dreams?” she asked.
Terry wasn’t fazed for a moment. “I really don’t know, girl. But it’s a long way to come back if we are right, isn’t it?”
Sarah felt the increasing pressure of the situation crowding in around her. This should be simple, but it wasn’t. She started to grasp for excuses. “But it could be anywhere—Thailand one day, Africa the next. This guy must have a private jet.”
“I somehow doubt that. Private jets need airfields, and he’d need connecting transport to get to and from, as well as flight plans. They leave an easy trail to follow, and I’m sure plenty of people are looking for one.”
“So how does he get about then?”
“One of a great number of very interesting questions that I’m sure you would like to ask him—or them?”
She was running out of excuses, which was making her more defensive still. “But would Dan agree to it? I mean what have we really got to go on?”
Terry was reading her like a comic strip. He saw her
More challenges for her to worry about. “So what if they do? Is that a problem for us?”
Terry didn’t slow down. He was pushing forward, not accepting her attempts to delay or avoid coming to a decision. “I assume so,” he said. “If it wasn’t a problem, why would they hide what they’re up to? Why steal a copy of what’s on my hard drive? Why go through what looks like the
She sighed, exasperated, but still wanting answers. “Like you, Terry, I just don’t know,” she said. “But if we’re going to stay on, we’ll need to talk to Dan pretty soon. What sort of story do we need to cook up? What do you reckon it would take for him to agree to our
It was as close to
“It’s probably best to go close to the truth,” he began. “You know, you think you have a lead on the angel, but you don’t want to talk about it on an open telephone line. You’ve worked for him long enough for him to trust you, even if it’s only for a few more days. Come on, it’s not like we’re running off on a dirty weekend.”
She grinned. She was on the way up and out again. It made her feel good, and she let it show. But it wasn’t total surrender just yet. “How long should we think about staying? I mean what if I don’t have any dreams tonight or tomorrow night? How many days before we just call it quits?” she asked.
“I don’t know. Perhaps another 48 hours? If nothing by then, we can pack it in, go home, and say we’re sorry that we got it wrong. Surely he can’t get too wound up over two days. But, knowing Dan, anything is possible.”
“What’s the worst he can do?” Terry loved the sound of her sparkle returning. “He can say no, and we’ll go home as planned. And if I dream about something, then we can talk to him in person. If he still doesn’t want to run with it, there’s not a lot we can do.” She looked down at his empty plate littered with empty packets of butter and spreads. “Are you finished?”
“Almost,” he said as he reached down for his coffee cup, which he then raised only enough to dispatch the contents to a better place. “And a lot better for it,” he added.
Sarah was already preparing mentally for the call to their boss. “We’ll need to ring soon, given the time difference. I think I’ll go upstairs and do it now while my courage level is up, and I don’t have to think about it for too long.”
“Good idea. I’ll go and see if the rooms are available for another night, and if there are any seats on the flight two days from now. Who knows,” he grinned, “we might just get lucky.”
“Right,” she said. A decision made. Terry could see she was well and truly back on song, with her familiar confidence showing through again.
“I’ll see you upstairs in a few minutes.”