I left the research centre almost a month after my arrival, because they told me I needed to recover. I knew, however, that the only thing which would enable me to recover entirely would be the sight of Michelle, and to talk to her again.
But just minutes after my flight came in at Heathrow, I recieved a warning, by way of the mobile phone I carried. I had just bought it, with money that had all this time been sitting safely in my bank account. How did he know my number? I flipped it open and answered. "Hello? Shane Waltham speaking."
"Shane, this is Dr Jones." I remembered the kindly man that had looked after me on the ship. "Don't ask me how I got your number. It is very, very complicated. But I need to tell you something."
"Can't it wait? I'm on my way to see Michelle." Even as I spoke I was making my way towards the taxi rank, trying to hail a cab with the phone pressed between my ear and my shoulder.
"That's exactly what you can't do. Look, there's a cafe near the entrance, behind two potted plants. Can you see it?" I went back inside, turning away from the taxis, and answered in the affirmative. "Right. Go and wait in there, and I'll be there in a minute. Just trust me on this one. You need to listen to me."
"All right, all right," I replied. "I'll be there." Dr Jones hung up and I sat down in the cafe, ordering a coffee to try and help me keep going. I didn't want to find myself dropping off from the jet lag that haunted me.
The good doctor arrived just ten minutes later: he must have been close by. "Shane Waltham," he said. "Well, well, well. Fancy seeing you here." Then he laughed. "All right, I suppose you want to know what this is about? I'm afraid it's not going to be something you will want to hear." He bought a cup of tea and sat down at my table.
"Just tell me," I said, my voice tight and stressed.
"It's about Michelle," he began, looking at me to see if I was following. I nodded. I'd guessed that much. "The thing is, I don't think it's a good idea for you to see her again." I started to protest but he stopped me. "Hear me out. This is important."
"No," I told him. "I've got to see her. You don't understand--"
"I do understand, better than you might think. But look at it from her point of view. She's confused. She's been abducted and forced to undergo things that no child should ever have to undergo. Now she's in hospital, being treated for severe trauma and numerous wounds, as well as damage to her insides. In particular the womb."
"It would cheer her up if I were to visit her," I objected.
"But she'd never be able to leave it all behind. You'd be a reminder of everything she needs to forget! Don't put her through that, Doc." I jumped, because he used the name that so far only Shelley had used. "She told me so much about you. You mean a lot to her. But I'm sorry. You can't see her. Not now. Not ever."