A Croatian Adventure – Episode 41


But Mel hadn’t heard him, and by the time he got into the hall, she’d already let in two uniformed policemen.

That was the last thing Greg needed, even though he had a strong suspicion why they were here. He must get rid of them; he didn’t want them sniffing round.

“Good afternoon, officers. What do you want?” Greg asked sharply.

“We want to talk to Mrs Yurcich.”

“What for?” Mel asked.

“Is she here?” The policeman persisted, glaring at them both.

“She’s –” Mel began, but Greg stopped her. She mustn’t betray that Hiroko was upstairs.

“Not here,” he finished the sentence.

Mel stayed cool. He’d give her credit for that. She’d picked up immediately on his unease from the frown on her face, and she was obviously confused that he’d lied.

“Where is she?” the policeman asked.

“She’s gone out.”

“Where?”

“With her husband.”

Mel’s eyes bored into Greg. Mel would have seen Makso leave in his posh car, speeding away on his own. She knew Hiroko was upstairs with baby Ivo. Everything about the glance she shot Greg said, “Why are you lying?”

Suddenly, from upstairs came the sound of the baby crying.

“Isn’t that Mrs Yurcich’s baby?” the policeman asked, stepping further into the hallway.

There was a movement upstairs. Greg knew he must stay calm.

“Yes.”

“Then Mrs Yurcich is likely to be with him, isn’t she?” The two policemen brushed past Greg and took the stairs two at a time.

Mel, looking alarmed, pursued them.

“Excuse me, what authority do you officers have for going up there?”

Greg sped up. This was one occasion he didn’t mind Mel’s assertiveness. She always had protected Hiroko and even uniformed men weren’t going to stop her. Greg just hoped that Makso’s wife had managed to make herself scarce.

They arrived in the bedroom, and there was baby Ivo, crying his head off, alone.

“Who is looking after this child?” the policeman asked, suspicion clear in his piercing gaze.

“Miss Sanderson,” Greg said, looking at Mel and willing her with all his might to give the right answer. “Aren’t you, Mel?”

There was an uncomfortable silence which Mel filled by picking up the red-eyed baby and calming him in her arms.

Greg held his breath, waiting for Mel’s answer, his fists balled at his side, while the policemen turned with their backs to the window and stared him out.

Mel stood next to him, facing the balcony. She looked from him to the policemen and back again.

She hesitated, obviously torn between telling a lie to the police and protecting Hiroko.

Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, Greg heard her speak.

“Yes, of course I am.”

Relief spread through his veins like a tot of whisky. Then his anxiety rose again like mercury in a thermometer, for there, outside the window, across from the pool, he spotted the small dark shape of Hiroko hidden behind the laurel bushes, watching everything going on.

He turned to look at Mel and by the slight raising of her eyebrow he realised she, too, had caught a glimpse of Makso’s wife.

Greg bit his lip. Hiroko mustn’t reveal herself; none of this must escalate. Any hint of the police being around would scare Makso and might jeopardise the operation this evening.

Uncharacteristically, Greg was frozen. He needed to get the police out and away well before Makso’s return.

He knew, too, he’d have to try to explain some of what this was all about to Mel once the police were gone. Mel wasn’t the sort to be kept in the dark for long, yet the more people who knew what was going on the more risky it was.

It would be dangerous for her to know too much. His was a tricky balancing act.

The baby started to cry again.

“He’s terribly hot,” Mel said to the policemen. “You’ve frightened him by storming upstairs like that. I’m going to take him outside in the fresh air.”

Without so much as a goodbye, she marched past the policemen and down the stairs. Greg had to admire her pluck.

They weren’t out of the woods yet, though. What if the police decided to search the grounds? What if they scared Hiroko out of her hiding place? That would be a disaster.

The poor woman lived in a state of anxiety as it was, and people did unwise things when stressed – he’d seen it enough times on the battlefield.

The sound of the baby crying at the top of his voice grated on them all.

The two policemen went down and stood in the hall, their faces pained with the noise, as a message came through on their radio which they struggled to hear.

Greg saw Mel taking the baby into the kitchen, near the back door. In the seconds the policemen were preoccupied, Greg glanced into the garden and saw Hiroko had disappeared. She was under such strain, he feared for her.

He walked over to Mel.

“Go and find Hiroko,” he whispered. “She’ll be terrified for the baby.”

lucycrichton

Fiction Team’s Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 150 years of 'Friend' fiction!