The next morning after breakfast, I took Hannah down to the bank to deposit her blank cheque in a new account. Only problem, how much could she risk taking from Kostya’s account before he came hunting for both of us?
I had no idea. He’d already made a donation to St Michael’s that equated to a case of Havana’s. Multiply that by..?
I showed both cheques to the bank manager — the one who regarded me as a prestigious client — and asked him. I had a suspicion that he was in Kostya’s loop, wheels within wheels that marked us out last night.
‘I’ll make a phone call,’ he said. Five minutes later he came back with a piece of paper neatly folded, and gave it to me. I opened it, and laughed. The message read “generosity has limits”. Under that, figures that stretched across the page.
One hundred million rupiah. Good. A few thousand quid would be mere change to Kostya, but for Hannah, it would be a fortune. When she saw me fill in the cheque amount, she started to tremble. ‘Meester Charles’, she said, ‘cannot.’
‘Oh yes you can. Don’t worry.’ I turned to the manager. ‘Isn’t that right?’
He nodded, smiled. ‘No problem. Cleared funds by tomorrow.’
Mere formalities, after, and even better — my money had arrived. I cashed enough to last a month, and we set off back to the hotel to pack our bags.
In our room, Hannah hugged me, gave me a big sloppy kiss, and started to cry. She wiped her eyes with a tissue. ‘Meester Charles…’
She hesitated, started to cry again. I led her to a chair. ‘What’s up, sweetheart?’
‘Cannot,’ she said.
Little by little I coaxed it out. She didn’t want to come back to the House with me. I didn’t blame her — far from it — a young woman, now financially independent, and me a golden oldie with a roaming eye. Besides, I had luggage — I hadn’t yet overcome my loss of Celia, and I still had bad days when I wondered how my life would end up.
And, in some ways, I was relieved. Hannah, astute enough to recognise our relationship wouldn’t work, couldn’t work, not with Delcie watching her every move — and mine. More importantly, did I want another attachment?
In the end I agreed to become a good friend, free to visit anytime, maybe take her on a ferry trip around Lake Toba. I said I would return. She said she would wait for me.
I gave her Father Angelo’s cheque, and escorted her back to the bus station. She climbed up the bus steps, turned, smiled — a sparkling smile that lit up her face — and waved goodbye. I felt tears welling, and brushed a hand across my eyes. When I opened them, she was gone.
Leaving me alone, and empty inside.
I busied myself renewing my visa, then booking a flight back to Aceh. The trip was uneventful — landed late-afternoon, and I took a taxi back to the House.
Time to face the music.
Except, no-one at home. And my keys were inside. Hopefully, not trashed.
I took out my phone and called Mary. As soon as she heard my voice, I felt the full lash of her tongue.
‘Where the fuck are you, you selfish bastard? Don’t you realise I’m fighting a war here.’
Don’t think so. I thought about chucking it all in. ‘Mary, if you’re going to insult me, I’m on the next flight out.’
Her breathing quietened. ‘So you’re back, then?’
‘Stuck outside the House, without my keys.’ I looked up at the black clouds scudding across the sky. ‘And it looks like rain.’
‘Hang on a moment.’
I heard her talking to someone, raised voices before she returned a few minutes later. ‘We need you here. Aceh hospital in town. Ask for Mr. Donaldson. Can you catch a taxi?’
I didn’t like the sound of it. Hauled into conflict about Jane, I guessed. I shrugged, maybe we could clear the air once and for all. ‘Okay,’ I said. ‘See you soon.’
I switched off the phone, pocketed it, and wheeled my bag inside the sunroom. I contemplated staying there, but not one for procrastination I walked back out and up the garden path to the front gate. A taxi waited outside.
Pleased to see it wasn’t the Kamikaze driver, but a mature, olive-skinned native, who drove carefully to the hospital. Maybe he thought I was ill by the way he repeatedly frowned at me in his mirror, as if expecting I’d pass out on the back seat.
At the hospital he jumped out, offered to help me up the steps, but I shook my head, gave him a generous tip, and waved him back inside his cab. To show I was fighting fit I jogged up the steps, caught my big toe on the top one, and hobbled into reception.
Where an officious-looking nurse met me, established who I was, and escorted me to a closed door that had “Consultant” written on it. She knocked, opened the door, and ushered me inside.
The room had one occupant: a man dressed in a white coat sat behind a desk, facing me. He smiled, waved me to an empty chair in front of him.
‘I’m Mr. Donaldson,’ he said. ‘I take it, you’re Charles Fotheringay?’
‘That’s correct, but I was expecting to see…’
‘The Three Musketeers?’ His face crinkled. ‘They’re taking a break from hostilities.’
Good. He’s onside.
‘Ah, yes,’ I said. ‘Our household is never dull.’ I relaxed, took my seat, and waited. He lifted a file out of his in-tray and placed it unopened in front of him. Looked at me. I surmised he was gauging my possible reactions, maybe a little hesitant in breaching a delicate subject. He turned the file round so I could read the title.
I stopped him. ‘Call me Charles. It’s simpler.’
‘Good,’ he said, ‘I’m Hamish. Now we’re on informal terms, it makes it easier.’ He opened the file and pointed to the top page. A scribbled hand-written note. ‘Your cousins and Mrs. Parrington have asked me to broker an agreement to establish parentage, namely Jane’s father.’
No surprise. I had guessed as much. But I was intrigued. ‘And specifically what is this?’
He clasped and unclasped his hands. ‘To be honest, Charles, it’s outside my call of duty, but I feel partly responsible I couldn’t prevent Jane’s death.’
He was struggling, and I made it easier. ‘What do you want from me?’
‘Mrs. Parrington is convinced either you or Richard is Jane’s father. She wants a paternity test before Jane’s funeral.’
Good god. ‘Paternity test? Richard? Are you serious?’
He nodded. ‘Bottom line.’
‘And what does Richard say?’
‘He denies it. But he says he’ll cooperate if you will.’
I drummed my fingers on his desk. ‘Are you saying Mary doesn’t know who put her up the spout? She’s bonkers.’
I held up a hand. ‘And what if I don’t cooperate?’
Hamish rubbed a hand across his jaw, fingers scratching at the five-o’clock shadow. He took a deep breath. ‘I was hoping it wouldn’t come to that.’
We looked at each other like two fortune-tellers seeking insight. Silence, apart from a wall clock ticking behind him. A few seconds passed.
Then, a knock on the door.