After that first time I rarely saw Mr. Donaldson, or Delcie come to that. The after-effects of the dengue had left my bones aching and my eyes sore. Tired most of the time, and I couldn’t concentrate on the book that Delcie brought from the House.
Bossy Beatriz got on my nerves — so much so that over the next few days I resolved to discharge myself. Especially when I was moved from ICU into a less than clean general ward crammed full of sick men — most of whom spent the whole day prostrate on mats praying to Allah.
I suppose my illness contributed to my uncharitable mood towards my fellow sufferers, but I felt restless wondering whether I’d see Eko again. My nights were filled with swirling shadows, and that night I had a visitation...
Do you recognise me?
My eyes — I can’t see you very well.
I’m Jane, remember?
It’s been a long time, but now I’ve found you at last.
Angelique showed me.
Angelique? Where is she? What did she show you?
They’re calling for me. I must go now, but I’ll be back.
Wait...Jane — Jane...
Another shadowy shape came into focus...She’s gone.
I blinked at the spectre. Where? Who are you?
Your mind was open. I came in.
I don’t know you.
I need help.
Another shape swilled across my vision.
Papa! Close your mind.
You must close down now, Papa. Now.
Tell it to go.
I don’t want you to leave me.
Papa! Say it.
The spectre was quarrelling. No, he can help me.
I summoned up a greater power. Go away, I can’t help you...
...I shuddered awake, sweating like a stuck pig. Beatriz was shaking my shoulder.
‘You were making a lot of noise. Bad dream?’
I wiped a hand across my brow. ‘Fever…’
She nodded. From my tray she filled a cup with water and dropped in a couple of fizzy aspirins.
‘Here,’ she said, holding out the cup. ‘Drink this.’
‘Yes you do. Patients are trying to sleep.’
I wasn’t up to doing anything more than trying to glare at her through blurry eyes, so I gulped down the drink, turned over, and buried my head in the pillow.
But I couldn’t sleep.
What was happening to me?
A puzzle that remained unresolved until the first chinks of light heralded the call to prayer. And then I knew — or rather deduced — that the dengue affected my mind, possibly opening up a conduit to the spiritual world.
And I needed to learn how to use it.
Or be plagued with unwelcome visitors like that demon.
I sat up in bed. Jane? Why did her spirit visit me? I was soon to find out when a tired-looking Delcie, dressed in a modest white smock and a head scarf, burst into the ward.
Tears were streaming down her cheeks as she sank into my bedside chair. Her red-rimmed eyes bulged out of their sockets, and her body shook.
She stared right through me before whimpering like a wounded animal, ‘It’s Jane. She…she’s gone.’
Oh bloody hell. ‘W-what,’ I managed. ‘What happened?’
‘She never came out of her coma. Two weeks — she was fighting all the way — but her body was too weak…the cancer went into her bloodstream.’ Delcie bent down, head in hands. ‘What am I going to do, now, Richard? What am I going to do?’
I don’t think she needed me to speak, only to listen, and I couldn’t have answered anyway. We sat there in a vacuum of silence; the wall of noise from outside never penetrated our thoughts.
Until she spoke.
‘I must call Mary,’ she said. ‘She’ll be devastated.’
Mary? I closed my eyes and my mind went back to that remarkable day at Cheltenham...
…We had been strolling along a paved path — both intoxicated and carefree — close to the college walls on one side and a staggered row of trees on the other that led to a chain-linked fence at the grounds’ boundary. Here it was shadowy and quiet — away from the crowds. Mary tugged at my arm, pointed to an opening in the wall.
‘Look, Dickie, the door’s open. Come on, let’s take a peep inside.’
A gust of cool air made me shiver; I shook my head trying to clear my mind as we sought shelter in a small storage room. A lawnmower and long-handled brushes stood against the far wall. A stand-alone wooden shelf unit was filled with a carton of six-inch nails and pieces of garden equipment. Other than that the room was empty. A weak beam of sunlight filtered through a grimy window, above. When Mary closed the door behind us, we were in shadow — she pressed up against me.
She wriggled her hips. ‘Fancy a quickie, Dickie?’
I felt her heat; a bead of sweat filtered out on my brow. ‘We should be getting back. Delcie will be…’
Her finger tips sealed my lips, and then moved downwards to my zip, her eyes fixated on mine like a python waiting to enfold me.
She pulled up her summer dress, black lace underneath, and giggled. ‘Just a quickie, no one will ever know.’
No,’ I said. ‘Don’t want…’
Hands everywhere — one stroking me, the other urging my fingers into her engorged wetness. I gasped; all reasoning left me. I ripped aside her flimsy panties.
And hammered her...
‘...Richard, have you listened to a word I’ve said?’
I opened my eyes, blinked. ‘Eh, what was that?’
‘I said Mary’s going to catch the next flight out.’
Next flight? God, no. ‘Oh,’ I said. ‘That’s good.’
Not that it really mattered, not now. But I wouldn’t be there to meet and greet her. The past was history. So was she.
I didn’t want to resurrect another ghost.