A Croatian Adventure – Episode 42

“What on earth is going on?” she hissed.

“I’ll tell you, but not now. Please find Hiroko and take the baby to her.”

Mel flared her nostrils. She was a force to be reckoned with, but she headed out to the pool area, calming the screaming baby, all the while looking around for Hiroko while Greg went back inside.

“We have an emergency call we must go to.” The policeman resignedly hooked his radio back on to his jacket. “But we will be back. Tell Mr and Mrs Yurcich we were here today and get Mrs Yurcich to phone the station immediately when she returns.”

“Of course,” Greg replied, all polite compliance, his pulse ticking fast at his temple.

With that they were gone. He watched until the police car was safely off in a cloud of dry Croatian dust, then he slammed the door and ran out into the garden.

Neither Mel nor Hiroko were anywhere to be seen.

“Mel?” Greg called. “Mrs Yurcich?”

Whatever happened he must find them and calm the situation down before Makso returned. Makso must never know the police had been sniffing around.

He hoped to goodness Hiroko hadn’t run out on the road somewhere she would be seen. He shot out and looked hastily up and down. Thankfully all was quiet.

She must have gone out of the garden and into the fields. The worst thing would be if Hiroko went down towards the cove, and worse still if she had led Mel down there. That really would jeopardise things.

Everything down there would be highly charged getting ready for this evening. It would be a secret hive of activity: things being packed, boats being loaded in the cave so no-one would see.

He set off down one of the dust paths. There, caught in one of the bushes, Greg saw a blue knitted bootee. He picked it off and stuffed it in his pocket. For once he wished the baby was crying, but if Mel was walking, looking for Hiroko with the baby in her arms, the motion was probably soothing him.

Greg ran as fast as he could, stumbling and catching his foot on a stone, but he kept on, determined not to be thwarted at this late stage.

Finally he saw the two women. Mel had caught up with Hiroko and the two of them sat in the dust under a tree, Hiroko weeping inconsolably, hugging baby Ivo to her, rocking him back and forth.

Greg ran to join them.

“Is she OK?”

“Yes, I think so,” Mel replied, “now that she has Ivo back. What’s going on here, Greg? I lied in front of those policemen, and it’s all your fault.

“I can’t understand what Hiroko’s saying; she’s so distressed, she won’t speak in English.

“What on earth was all that about? I only helped to shield Hiroko because I can’t imagine for a minute she’s done anything wrong. Look at her – she’s terrified. This is all really weird. Is Makso mixed up in something dodgy?”

Greg knelt down and put his hand on Hiroko’s.

“You’d better tell her, Mrs Yurcich.” Then his tone became softer. “Hiroko. She’s defended you; she has a right to know. Neither of us want to see you hurt.”

Hiroko’s sobbing died down. Ivo was slumbering in her arms, his little face peaceful after all the activity. She clutched his tiny foot where his bootee had fallen off.

Hiroko finally spoke.

“Tell her what?”

Greg shook his head.

“Come on, Hiroko. There’s no point in pretending any more, I know your secret.”

“How can you?” Hiroko looked vanquished.

“I’ve spent a lot of time overseas. I knew you weren’t Japanese from the beginning, I knew you were Vietnamese. You nearly got caught out at Makso’s party. Someone told me you couldn’t converse with that Japanese businessman.

“You’ve been an illegal alien from the time you first set foot in Croatia, haven’t you? That’s why the police want to interview you.”

“It’s true. I have tried to dupe you all.”

A tear squeezed out of her eye and rolled down her cheek. Hiroko bowed her head.

“What are you going to do? I couldn’t bear to be without my baby. Whatever happens, don’t part me from him. ”

She grasped Greg’s hand and held it tight.

“Please, be kind, for the sake of the baby. Are you going to turn me in?”

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor 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 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!