Running South

The waiter coughed and shuffled his feet. She knew he was there but couldn’t drag her mind back to the menu. “The table d’hôte is still available.” She looked up. He was young, smiling, fresh faced with bright clear eyes: so different from Peter with his dark orbs jigging constantly as if trying to keep up with his mind. “Or the à la carte if you prefer.” His words failed to penetrate: bouncing off her as if from another time. She was staring through him now to the carriage full of busy diners oblivious to the suburbs flying past in the train’s gathering speed. Her whole world seemed to be gathering momentum. She had cut herself adrift, as she knew she would one day, but not now. Not before she learned more . . . understood more. She was spinning now . . . her life out of control as if she was spinning down a vast hole . . . .

She stared at the menu; her eyes were reading the words but her mind was dancing around her two short years in Paris and her lovely flat in the Rue Vesale and the friends she had made. Damn. She had some nice clothes now. Perhaps Fiona, her mother, would keep them safe, although she would certainly reclaim the Panama hat. Damn and shit. She didn’t want to give up her life as a Parisienne; it was too early. She needed more time here; there was too much to do to be running around in another master spy escape plan. It was all so childish.

“Mademoiselle?”

The waiter was back – had he ever gone away? He looked worried, poor soul. “Sorry, yes, thank you.”

“Table d’hote, merci bien,” he took the menu from her hands and hurried away.

In Cannes she registered at the Ambassador Hotel as Mina Martin, a citizen of New Zealand, who was only twenty-four years old. There were aspects of this extraordinary life of hers that almost made all this cloak-and-dagger nonsense worthwhile. Six hours ago she was twenty-eight: the same age she had been two years ago when she ceased to be Miera MacMahon, from Brisbane, to become Myra Mitchell, from London. That was her first identity change: brought about by Bill, her dearest and most missed friend from her epic journey through the war torn Middle East to Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and Laos to Cambodia. She had witnessed murders on a daily basis but none came closer to home than the violent struggle between Amone and Tor in her own hotel room. At its height, when she found herself staring into Tor’s eyes and seeing her own death hanging there, a stranger appeared and simply shot him dead. It was not a moment to forget.

She had escaped her pursuers under a new identity and remained hidden until this day when dear Peter turned up under the pale grey sky that is Paris in early spring. Tomorrow, as Mina Martin, she would sleep late, stroll down the Promenade de la Croisette wearing something bright in light cotton – she needed to shop – have a light lunch and maybe take a ride out to the Lycklama Museum to see the Cuneiform tablets and the magic amulets there. Later she could do a movie then linger over a white wine in the hotel bar just to see who was there.

The day after she would drive along the coast, through La Napoule, St. Raphael, Fréjus, Ste. Maxime . . . perhaps spend the afternoon in St. Tropez before returning late, after dark, when the back roads would be quiet, and she could be sure there were no lights in her wake. If all went well – if she remained convinced she was alone and unobserved – she would look for a boat: a small cruise ship, or a yacht in search of crew. Either way she had to cut herself off from the outside world, and allow her trail to cool, for she was certain that Peter could not have found her without help: probably from a large organization with extensive resources. In all likelihood he was an innocent, but that did nothing to offset the danger. In fact it decidedly increased the danger as he would have been so wrapped up in his own enthusiasms as to fail to see that he had been used: that he had only been given freedoms so that he might sniff her out with instincts only he possessed, because outside of the matriarchal line, only he shared her knowledge of the Ancients. On reflection that probably wasn’t true, there must be others, but she had not met any so she could not be traced through them. Peter Jordan was the one known link to her, and she was the one known link to her mother, and her mother was the only one capable of passing on the knowledge. Myra Mitchell had to disappear completely, utterly, and without trace before a link could be made.

She’s fucked off. Must’ve scared her. Course you fucking scared her you silly bastard. She’s cut and run. You pop up out of nowhere and expect her to hang about. You must be mad. Anyway you lost her now. She could be anywhere. Any-fucking-where. She ran before because they knew you; now she’s run again: same reason. She don’t know they don’t know you now. How could she, you stupid bastard? How could she?

The waiter in the Café St. Jerome returned for what seemed like the thousandth time with the obvious question on his eyebrows. No she hasn’t come back you sneering montage of arrogant imbecility. And yes, I am going to finish this carafe all by myself, and I’ll damned well let you know when, and if, I want to order food. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Now I’ll have to start again

Okay, okay, calm down. Where would you go? Not to an airport, definitely not an airport with all that security and passport inspection and tickets with names on. No, no, no. Take a train, or a bus, or a boat. A boat would be good. You can go a long way along the coast on a boat and no one can find you until you arrive somewhere. So go to Le Havre and the English Channel, or La Rochelle and into the Bay of Biscay, or even further north to Calais and the dark and dreary North Sea. No, no, no. This is a sunshine babe, a child of the desert and the bleached Australian tropics. She’d be drawn south like a moth to a whatnot. Head for Golf du Lion, for Marseille, or Nice. Yes, yes, Nice. From Nice she’d take a big fat cruise ship, or an accommodating freighter, or . . . she can troll along the Côte d’Azur to St. Tropez, and Cannes, and all those little seaside spots where fat cats park their obscene yachts. Would she do that? Would she head for the fat cats? Nah. Nah, she’d head for obscurity, for a cruise ship or maybe for nothing. Maybe she just needs to be in a crowd in the sunshine and near a busy port. Maybe she’s still here, in old Paris. Maybe she’s just taking the piss – giving me a bad time. And maybe she’s on the fucking TGV high tailing it out of here at a great rate of knots. You daft bastard, frightening her off like that.

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