Great. It’s her.
What a stroke of providence and about time, too. I crossed my fingers, gulped down a mouthful of coffee, and willed myself to sound sober. ‘Hannah? Yes it’s me.’
‘Mama said I must phone you.’
I tried to concentrate. ‘How…?’ What…?’
The Internet shop had many young customers, mainly boys playing “shoot-em-up” games on nearby terminals. I stared at my blue welcome screen, willing it to show an image of her, and tried to blank-out the sounds of guns firing. I pressed the phone to one ear and stuck a finger in the other. Her voice became clearer.
‘Father Angelo talked to Mama. Said you need help,’ she said.
Did he, indeed?
‘Err…yes, that’s right. I’m staying at St. Michael’s.’
‘You want I come see you?’ Hannah sounded uncertain.
‘Of course,’ I said, without hesitating.
A long pause. I thought I’d lost her. Another woman talking to her. Then.
The ‘okay’ sounded more like I had no choice, and before I could answer, she disconnected.
The following morning I awoke early in my lumpy bed at Emily’s, nursing a throbbing head, an aching back, and a sour taste in my mouth. After a prolonged sluice in the khazi my mind cleared and I formulated a plan.
Flexibility would be a key factor. Priority: resolving my (lack of) money situation. Two: Hannah’s involvement in helping me with my visa renewal, but that could wait. Another: whether we had a short-term fling or longer. And whether Delcie was in any mood to patch it up with me.
A lot of dependencies.
Especially my priority — Mary. No call from her, no message — I felt impotent. While I batted around a few scenarios my mood ranged from cautious optimism to unbridled pessimism.
To hell with it.
I still had twenty-three dollars — a large cup of strong English tea would sort me out. I wandered into the kitchen, but no sign of Emily. Maybe she was making Father Angelo’s breakfast. I opened a couple of cupboards, and found a box of Lipton’s and half-a-packet of biscuits — perfect.
Fifteen minutes later, refreshed and thinking about strolling down to Lake Toba for a breath of fresh air, my phone warbled. I expected it to be Hannah, telling me she was on her way but it wasn’t.
‘Charles? Is that you?’
‘Mary — where the hell have you been?’
I heard her stifle a sob. She sounded distraught. ‘That’s exactly where I’ve been and …oh, never mind…’
I couldn’t handle emotional women. ‘Err…look, I didn’t mean to be…What’s up?’
Now she sounded incredulous. Her voice rose. ‘Didn’t Delcie tell you?’
‘Tell me what?’
Between sobs and sniffling, her voice now a whisper. ‘Jane — she didn’t...didn’t...oh Charles…I can’t believe it.’
I kept quiet. A few deep-breathing moments passed while she composed herself.
‘I’m at Jakarta airport waiting for a flight to Aceh. Delcie’s going to meet me. Are you coming as well?’
Jakarta? What the..?
I was trying to get my head around it. ‘Err…well. I’m sort of stranded right now. My belongings were stolen and—’
She wasn’t listening, interrupted me. ‘Well no doubt I’ll see you at your home. We need to sort out the funeral arrangements.’
The penny dropped. ‘You mean, Jane—’ I bit my tongue. Tried to recover. ‘Yes of course, I’ll be back as soon as I—’
A background announcement — Jakarta flight schedules — drowned out our voices. When it paused she told me she had to go.
‘No, wait,’ I said. Mary — Mary...
Too late, she’d cut me off.
But while I was cursing at the dial tone, the phone rang again. I answered it — Hannah, saying she’d be with me later.
I told her to meet me in town at the Internet shop, partly because I didn’t want Emily listening in, and partly because I felt — well, more in control.
Half an hour searching the web and I found a financial solution — why hadn’t I seen it? I only needed Hannah to assist me if I encountered a language barrier.
Wrapped up in my liberation I didn’t notice the shop door open, and I was startled when a cough sounded behind me. I glanced up to see a svelte-looking Hannah gliding into my vision — albeit somewhat apprehensively.
I grinned. ‘Thanks for coming,’ I said. ‘I’ve missed you.’ Which I had, and of course I needed her on-side.
My words had the desired effect. She relaxed, giving me an impish smile.
‘Same, same,’ she said, tugging at my arm. ‘Come see baby.’
After logging off the computer, I let myself be pulled outside to meet and greet a thin, sharp-eyed woman dressed in a brown sarong who was pushing a baby-buggy. Peeking out of one side was a wide-eyed little girl, who shrank back when I approached.
‘Mama and Louise,’ Hannah reminded me.
‘Pleased to meet you,’ I said. What little scheme had they in mind?
I soon found out.
‘Father Angelo wants to talk,’ Hannah said. Mama was nodding, and grinning through blackened teeth. But Hannah shook her head when I asked why. ‘He can explain, Meester Charles.’
So we wound our way back to St Michael’s, me playing at happy families, my plan for Hannah ambushed. No doubt Mama-Witch had stirred her cauldron.
And my plan was well and truly scuppered when I faced the wrath of Father Angelo. No polite conversation, no offer of refreshment, we were ushered onto the patio outside his kitchen annex and seated on the hard, wooden chairs, facing him. His usually serene, cherubic face flushed with crimson. He fixed me with a glare that could have driven a stake through my chest.
‘Miss Hannah said she … pardon my directness... gave herself to you, but then Madam sent her away. And you did nothing.’
So that was it.
I needed to formulate Plan B. Right now.
‘Not true,’ I said, contriving to show innocence and hurt on my face. ‘That’s why I came here to find Hannah and explain.’
Father Angelo crossed his arms. Neither Mama nor Hannah spoke, all of them waiting.
The hard wooden chair bit into my backside I felt hemmed in; nowhere to turn — how I wished I’d never been tempted — and I’d entered a blind alley with no escape route. Unless...
‘I want Hannah to come back with me.’
The baby cried.