I BELIEVE I am your son.”
The words seemed to hang in the air. Time stopped. People froze. Kate seemed to be looking at a tableau, staring at a photograph, the scene imprinted in her mind. Had she heard right?
Kate saw Delia’s hand still in Michael’s. She saw the colour drain from her face. Then the tableau came to life as she staggered a little. Nesbo and Kate both made small movements towards her.
Michael’s face, too, was pale. He reached out his left hand to take Delia’s arm to steady her. They were looking intently at each other and Kate suddenly realised why Michael’s eyes had seemed so familiar.
Delia’s lips moved but made no sound.
“Michael?” she said faintly.
“Yes.” Michael’s voice was husky. “The name you gave me.”
Delia was nodding, her eyes never leaving Michael’s. She lifted her left hand and gently touched his face. A tear slowly trickled down her cheek.
Kate didn’t know what to do. Nesbo intervened. He moved swiftly and put his arm around Delia.
“Look here, young man, I don’t know what this is about, but it obviously needs sorting out. Likely it’s some kind of mistake. You’ve mistaken the lady for someone else.”
Michael began to protest, but Nesbo cut him short.
“I don’t doubt you believe what you say, but we need to sit down and get it sorted. Delia, come and sit down.”
Delia turned to him.
“I would have told you, Leopold. I would,” she pleaded.
“Yes, yes,” he said impatiently. He turned to Kate. “Miss Flynn, go across the road to the White Stag. I know the landlord. Tell him I want a private room. We can’t talk here.”
Kate nodded and turned to go.
“And some tea,” Nesbo called after her. “Some sweet tea.”
Kate hurried out of the theatre, her heart thumping. Delia, Michael’s mother? Then a sudden thought struck her. What was her part in this meeting? Had Michael deliberately sought her out as a means to an end? To find out things about Delia? Not fate, but careful intent could have brought her and Michael together.
No! She couldn’t believe that. She was in love with him. Her brain teeming with unanswered questions, she stepped into the lounge bar of the hotel.
Fortunately it was quiet, with only two or three people in the room, and she saw the landlord behind the bar. She quickly passed Nesbo’s request on to him and a few minutes later she was sitting in a small private dining-room with plush chairs.
It was quiet. The tick-tock of a clock in a mahogany case broke the silence. Then the landlord hurried in with a tray of glasses, a carafe of water and a bottle of brandy.
“Tell Mr Nesbo the tea will be here directly. Ah, here he is now.”
Kate stood up to greet them as they came into the room, Delia holding Nesbo’s arm. Nesbo quickly closed the door and they sat at the table.
“Now, then,” Nesbo said, “the first thing we need, I think, is a drop of brandy. I think you’ve given us all a shock, young man.”
He opened the bottle and poured four glasses. He gave the first to Delia.
“Sip that. It might put some colour back into your cheeks.”
“I’d prefer tea,” Delia said, but dutifully sipped the amber liquor.
Kate noticed a slight tremor in Michael’s hand as he raised the glass to his lips.
“Right, Mr Cavendish.” Nesbo stared hard at him. “You’d best explain yourself.”
Delia put a hand on his arm.
“No, Leo, let me. I need to tell you, and especially Michael, about the past.”
Kate made a move to leave but Delia quickly stopped her.
“No, Kate, please stay. As a woman you’ll understand.”
For a moment Delia closed her eyes, perhaps to look back into the past. When she began her voice was low but clear.