A Race Against Time – Episode 07

George admitted to Elswita that he had had a similar conversation with the police.

“They tried to make out the same to me,” he said. “I put pressure on them.”

“Put pressure on the police? How?”

George watched as Elswita blinked back her confusion. She was terribly pretty and had a way of gazing at him as if she was looking into his heart. It made him want to reach out and touch her hand, her shoulder, her cheek.

He put that foolishness from his mind. When he’d attempted to hold her hand outside Christian’s room she’d eased hers from his – rather deliberately.

“I told them who my father was, and that he would be very distressed if it transpired they were not doing their job properly. I felt quite ashamed doing it, but it had to be done. I’m not that type of person.”

Elswita smiled at him.

“I know you’re not, George. Go on, what else did you say?”

“Then I told them Sir Henry was on his way to Edinburgh and that he was a formidable man. He’d want the severest punishment for whoever is responsible.

“I still don’t trust them. They seem to think we’re a bunch of rich layabouts.”

“We’ll just have to keep our eyes open,” Elswita said. “Maybe ask a few questions ourselves.”

George shook his head.

“I’m not sure it would be a good idea, Elswita.”

Elswita blinked in a way that suddenly made George want to kiss her.

* * * *

In truth, Elswita didn’t have a clue where to start. She wasn’t a detective. She wasn’t a sleuth. She didn’t intend to do anything dangerous and she didn’t intend to confront anyone except Christian, whom she was sure was hiding something from her. She would start with him.

She and Christian were close friends now, despite them only knowing each other for a few months. She had opened up to him, and it was about time he opened up to her.

She knew there was more to Christian than his gay abandon and his propensity to live a life of fun, because she’d sensed moments of melancholy in him. She’d seen him when he was low. And she’d seen his reaction to his cousin, Edward.

Like Grandma used to say, “Yuh can’t stan’ in de road and see de leak in somebody else house.”

So, unless she got close to Christian – and she intended to get very, very close – she would not know the true nature of his problems.

After her lectures, and the day after speaking to George, she visited Christian at the hospital. Elswita took a deep breath before she knocked on the door.

“Come in,” came a woman’s voice.

A nurse was plumping Christian’s pillows. He looked better than he had the day before.

“Oh, Elswita,” he said. “How lovely to see you. This is Nurse Lilly. Lilly is a marvel, an angel, a bright star in a dark sky!”

“Mr Grenfell-Darling, you will tire yourself out with such announcements.”

“But Lilly, I am feeling so much better today.”

“So you keep telling me.” She looked across at Elswita. “Don’t stay too long. He needs to rest, despite what he says. He’s already had too many visitors.”

“You are such a spoilsport, Lilly.”

Lilly left with a smile.

“I am so pleased you’re feeling better,” Elswita said.

“Much, much better,” Christian agreed. “Of course, there is still the pain, but in myself I feel as if I could rule the world! Look, the sun is shining. I’m still alive. My friends have been supportive.

“Even Margaret came to see me today. She wept all over me and asked me to forgive her. The only thing I need to complete my recovery is a good swig of brandy.”

“George said you’d asked for your flask.”

“He refused. I suppose it’s no good asking you?”

“No,” Elswita said. She clasped her hands in front of her. “Christian, I haven’t come here to play with you. You must know that an investigation is being carried out.”

“Oh, I do! The police have spoken to me. He was a big man in rather dour attire. I will never understand why detectives look so drab.”

“Because they have more to do than preen,” she said, which made Christian laugh. But Elswita wasn’t laughing. “I’ve come to ask you a question, Christian, and I want you to be honest with me.”

“You look serious, Elswita. Should I be scared?” The smile faded from his lips. He cocked his head and looked at her quizzically.

Elswita stepped to his bedside.

“You told me once that you had a weakness. You’ve never elaborated. I want you to tell me what that weakness is.”

Christian leaned back in his pillow and groaned.

“Oh, Elswita,” he said. “And I was just beginning to feel so much better.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.