I’d never seen so much blood.
I had thought angels were immortal, pure, not stained with their own crimson energy. Angels were not human; Alicia was.
The nurse shot me a thoroughly Russian look as I limped into the hospital ward. I knew she thought my ankle was still too sore for me to be putting weight against it, the sprain bulging a little. So what? I had to do my bit and come and see my friend. I had pressing issues to address.
Alicia gave me a weak smile from her bed. She looked as if she were about to throw up, but her eyes darted to the bandages stretched across her belly, and it was only from the stitching, not the wounds, that she felt ill.
When she caught sight of me, Alicia’s face lit up. “Thank goodness for those head-bashing skills of yours, Agnetha King.”
“You’re welcome.” I grinned. “I wouldn’t have thought of such a skill belonging to me, had I not first practised on you, though.”
“You, barmy woman, saved my life.”
I rubbed a thumb across my forehead, avoiding her glance. “How are you doing?”
Suddenly, Alicia grew serious. “My doctor says that if the knife had gone in any deeper, it might well have punctured my spleen and killed me…. I owe you, Aggie. Again.”
I shook my head. “You’ve done enough. Once again, you great timing saved me. You…you were epic back there, Alicia.”
“And you’re blushing.”
I grinned my embarrassed grin at her, and sat myself down on her hospital bed.
“Yeah, I’m glad you’re okay.”
It was mid-afternoon the day after the showdown when my mother shuffled into the ward. Although skinny, she wore a shapeless, bulky coat.
“Agnetha Hermione King! What have you been up to this time? Are you ever going to stop your troubles?”
I laughed at her, massaging my ankle, even when it ached very little now. “No, probably not. Hi, mum. You’re better, then?”
“Better? I found a dead body.” She shivered. “But, yes, I’m alert to life now.”
I didn’t bother to point out that it was I who had actually come to discover Don’s body.
“What has been going on, Aggie? You can’t tell me that this is nothing when an ambulance has to take you to a Russian hospital.” Confusion and worry coated the edge of her voice. I swallowed. Of all the adversaries I had taken on, I still couldn't find a way to tackle my mother when I had hurt her. I sighed; there was nothing worst than admitting a scheme of detective work. After all, wasn't I meant to be the enigma amongst Nancy Drews? Looking again, the metaphor didn’t quite suit my taste.
“It’s complicated, mum. I…I’ll try to stay out of trouble, but – and you know I wasn’t sure about my future? Well, now I am. I’ve found a calling.” Again, I wasn’t so convinced by my choices of words, as if the religiosity was creeping through my mind. I shut my eyes for a second, drawing away the hand that had fiddled with the bandages about my leg. “I want to be a police officer. I’m ready to be in the police force. And…I have been in contact with some police administrators, who are happy to let me do work experience with an officer or two. Look, it’s in my mind and heart now. I love a good mystery, even when it puts me in danger.”
“Even when it almost kills –”
“Please. I’m saying my piece. I’m asking you to let me continue to go out into the world in this way. Please mum! In order to serve some justice, pain and torment must be barged through. Besides,” I cheered, “I’m not that bad.”
“I…don’t know what to say, Agnetha. I think it’s ridiculous that my baby girl should want to go fight – no, what am I saying? If this is a job you want to do, if think it’s very brave of you, like servicemen and fire-people. However: don’t think that you’re getting out of A Levels as easily as that.”
“Oh no!” I said. “I’ll take them, but I know where I want to head once I finish school.”
My mother was still full of contemplation. “On the other hand, think about the fact that there’s been a murder in Russia. In Moscow! What were you thinking to try and solve it without the help of the force?”
“I did; the Inspector was my…boss.”
“I have so many questions. Where did you go? What – who are you?”
I rotated myself ninety degrees to eye the person my mother was now addressing the other side of my shoulder. Auburn-haired and suited in decorated navy, Caroline looked the perfect governess. She wandered into the ward and waved at me.
“Carrie!” I cried, jumping up, and receiving, by doing so, another glare from the nurse.