Joe's Story

Chapter 1.

As he approached the school bus, he could see his teacher stood outside, white faced and sweating. "Oh thank God" he thought, "Mr Newsome saw it too, it wasn't just me!".

It had happened again, about 10 minutes earlier. A funny, whining noise that filled the air. At first he thought that no-one else had heard it, but when he turned round to look for his classmates, they were all frozen in place, no-one moving. Just like the last time. After a couple of minutes the noise had ended, and everyone started walking and talking again, as if nothing had happened. Which for them – nothing had. But for Joe – well this wasn't the first occurrence. The first time was about two weeks ago, in the middle of class. First the noise, then the stillness. He had thought it was a joke, something that everyone had thought up, another way to try and torture him. After all, he wasn't exactly the most popular boy in school. But this time, other people visiting the museum plus the museum staff had also frozen into place – just like statues.

After everyone had come back to life, he'd darted back to the bus in a blind panic. And this time, from the look on Mr Newsome's face, he wasn't the only one to have seen and heard it.

"Mr Newsome, Mr Newsome" Joe panted. "Did you see it? What's happening?"

"Now calm down Joe" said Mr Newsome. "I need to talk to you. Get on the bus lad."

"But you did see it, didn't you, I mean you heard the noise and you saw what happened to everyone, didn't you" gasped Joe.

"Saw what?" asked Mr Newsome. "Now look Joe, I need you to calm down and to listen to me. I've got some really bad news for you lad." Mr Newsome's face was even paler than before and Joe realised with a sinking heart, that whatever Mr Newsome was about to tell him – he hadn't seen what had just happened, and he definitely didn't know what Joe was talking about. He was just like all the others.

"Joe, I'm so sorry, but the Head has just phoned me. We've got to return to school. There's been some sort of accident. Your parents were in a car, and it's come off the road. They've been taken to hospital and I don't know much more I'm afraid. But they have said it's bad Joe, and that we need to hurry back as soon as possible."

Joe sat stunned. His parents – in a car accident? They didn't even own a car! How could they have been in an accident? They should have been at work at this time. His dad worked as a mechanic and his mum was a care assistant. They were always explaining how careful they had to be with money, that they couldn't afford holidays, that Joe couldn't have the latest game console or the latest trainers on the market. The last thing they could afford was a car! It couldn't have been them – the Head must have made a mistake.

"It can't be my parents Sir" said Joe. And he explained why.

"I'm sorry lad, it's definitely them. Their ID was found at the scene. Look, I'm sure there's some sort of explanation and hopefully, when we get there, they'll be able to tell you themselves."

Joe realised with dread that Mr Newsome didn't believe what he was saying and he quite obviously thought Joe's parents were going to die.

Joe sat still on the bus as Mr Newsome went to get the others. As the kids filed on to the bus they were jeering and throwing bits of paper at Joe. "Typical Joe," they were saying, "Got to ruin it for the rest of us."

Mr Newsome tried to shush them but without any success. Eventually he turned to one of the children and whispered in their ear. If he thought telling them about the accident was going to help – well he was wrong. It just gave the others more to laugh about.

Joe felt numb. He still couldn't believe it was his parents, there had to be a mistake. And besides – his mind was still trying to compute what had happened 10 minutes ago. What was going on?

After what felt like an eternity, the bus finally pulled into the car park of the school. As the other kids clambered off, throwing Joe the old glower, peace and quiet finally descended. Wearily, Joe stood up and collected his things and made his way down the aisle. Outside at the bottom of the steps, the Head was waiting for him, nervously jangling car keys in his hand.

"There you are Joe, come on we've got to make our way to the hospital. Try not to worry, I'm sure they're in good hands".

Joe just nodded numbly and followed Mr Fletcher over to his car. Even with everything else that was happening, Joe still found time to admire the car. It was a new Astra 1.41 VVT in white, and Joe had been longing to see it up close. Inside, it was even better, with chrome bevelled steering wheel, and soft gray leather seats. Joe sighed, wondering if he had the courage to ask Mr Fletcher about how it drove, what its fuel consumption was like. He risked a quick glance at Mr Fletcher's face and decided that perhaps now wasn't the time. He already had a reputation as the 'weird' kid – he probably didn't need to add to that reputation right now.

"Mr Fletcher," he said softly. "I honestly think there's been a mistake. My parents don't even own a car. Somebody's got this wrong. I think we'd be better calling at home first – then you can see for yourself. My mum will be in at this time."

"There's no mistaking it Joe," said Mr Fletcher grimly. "I've already phoned your parent's work numbers and they told me that they hadn't been in today and that in fact, they'd handed their notice in and weren't going to be in again. I've even tried their mobile numbers and they're ringing dead. I'm sorry Joe, it's pretty definite that it's your parents I'm afraid."

Joe shook his head in disbelief. None of it made sense.

The car pulled up outside the hospital and Mr Fletcher led them inside, pausing to speak to someone briefly at the Nurses' Station.

"This way Joe," he said, "they're through here."

Joe slowly dragged his feet along the corridor, following Mr Fletcher and the nurse, dreading what lay ahead. The signs above their head said ITU – Joe knew that meant the Intensive Trauma Unit. It was serious.

Mr Fletcher and the nurse stopped and turned to Joe. "Joe?" said Mr Fletcher in a gentle voice, "Is that your parents?" Joe pressed his eyes tightly shut, then with a deep sigh, opened then raised his head to the window of glass in front of him.

It was his parents, it actually was them! But at the same time, it wasn't them - they were like some kind of Frankenstein's monsters – laid out on adjacent beds, both covered in tubes going in and out, electrodes clipped to their fingers and chests. And worse of all, the dark bruising that covered their faces. Despite all of that, Joe knew they were his parents. There was no doubt.

He turned to Mr Fletcher, stifling a sob, and nodded. "I'm so sorry Joe, I really am. Look let's find somewhere for you to sit down and have a cup of tea while I speak to the doctors. Nurse – would you be able to take him somewhere quiet?"

The Nurse smiled kindly at Joe, and taking his arm, steered him away from the awful sight in front of him.

"Come on Joe, I'll take you to the Relatives Room. Your parents' things are in there as well. We were waiting for you to arrive."

Joe followed the nurse numbly into a large, light room and slumped down into an armchair, and the nurse knelt down in front of him. For the first time, he looked properly at the Nurse. She was a small woman, probably in her late thirties, with wrinkles around her bright blue eyes, and a large generous mouth that looked like it smiled a lot.

"Thank you" he whispered.

"You're welcome Joe. Now I'm going to go and get you a nice cup of tea, something sweet and strong to help with the shock. You stay here like a good boy. Your parents' bags are over there if you want to check them. I'll be back in a few minutes. My name is Nurse Kellen, so if you need anything while I'm gone, just pop your head out and one of the others will get me."

And with that, Nurse Kellen left the room. Joe sat silently, really not knowing what to do next. He got up and wandered over to the mirror at the other side of the room. He stared at himself, not particularly liking what he saw.

He was small for his age – most 13 year olds were taller than him and definitely not as skinny. He'd always had a slight build, no matter what he ate. Which was unusual because both of his parents were a lot taller and much more solid. They kept telling him that he would shoot up, but he was still waiting. Joe leant forward and took a closer look at his face.

Blue, grey eyes, that seemed to change colour when his mood changed. Dirty brown hair, that always looked just that little bit too long – no matter if he'd just had it cut. All in all a fairly nondescript face and body – for a fairly nondescript boy, who'd never had any excitement in his life before now. Joe realised with a start, that this was the most eventful thing that had ever happened to him. Before now, he and his parents' lives had been lived quietly, under the radar, with no real interaction with anybody else. In fact, Joe wondered if anyone out there would have noticed the three of them disappearing totally.

In retrospect though, perhaps a quiet life wasn't so bad. If there was a chance that he could lose his parents, he'd take quiet and boring every time.

Joe shook his head violently, trying to dislodge the thought from his head. His attention moved to the bags stored in the corner of the room. One large suitcase and one holdall. Which was even stranger as he'd never seen these items before in his life. Joe strode over the suitcase, laying it gingerly on the floor, and unzipping it. Inside he found items of clothing from both his mum and dad's wardrobes. But nothing from his. Had they planned to leave him behind? Joe moved on to the holdall, almost tearing the zip off in his frustration to get in. There – his clothes, his belongings! They had been going to take him. Joe felt a sense of relief, which was quickly swamped by confusion. Nothing made sense! Then a wild thought hit him – unrealistic, but then again, nothing about the situation seemed real. They must have won the lottery and wanted to keep it a secret and surprise him once the money had got through! That was it, they'd waited for the money to be in the account, bought a car and were going to whisk him away on holiday, straight from school! It was obvious the more he thought about it!

Joe went through the holdall again, more carefully this time, looking for evidence of their plans. He found 3 passports and opened them eagerly. But although it was his face staring back at him, it was a different name. He looked at his parents passports and it was the same story. Same faces but different names.

Further down, hidden in an internal compartment of the bag, Joe found a brown envelope with his name written on it. He started to open it, but heard voices and footsteps outside the room, so he quickly shoved the passports and envelope inside his jacket, and re-zipped the holdall.

"Are there you are Joe" said Mr Fletcher trying to sound positive as he walked into the room. "I've spoken with the doctors and they said that your parents are stable for the time being. There's nothing much that we can do here, so I think it's best we take you and get you settled for the night and then you can come back to the hospital tomorrow."

"Get me settled where Sir, am I going home?" asked Joe.

"Er no. Look Joe, we've had to phone Social Services and they're on their way now. They're going to take you somewhere that you can be looked after until your parents are better. We don't have details of any other family members in our records at school, so that's the only option we have I'm afraid."

Just at that moment, there was a knock on the door and Nurse Kellen entered, followed by another woman carrying a briefcase.

"Mr Fletcher? Joe? My name is Bridget Stocks, and I work for Social Services, we spoke earlier on the phone. I've come to have a chat with Joe, and then I'll be taking him on to his temporary foster care." Bridget leaned forward and shook hands with Mr Fletcher, proffering her ID card at the same time.

"Right. Erm, do you want me to stay Joe, Bridget? Do you need me here?" asked Mr Fletcher.

"No, that's fine thank you" said Bridget, "We'll take over from here. We'll keep you informed of Joe's location, we have your contact details at the school." With that, Bridge gave a sharp nod to Mr Fletcher, dismissing him. Mr Fletcher stood nervously at the door, obviously having an internal debate with himself about whether his duty was to stay with Joe. However, eventually with a quick glimpse of the clock about the door, his desire to be out of there won, and with a short uncomfortable smile at Joe, he slid out of the door.

Strangely Joe felt abandoned. He'd never really had any contact with Mr Fletcher in the past – he was just a tall, thin figure that stood on the stage at morning assembly bellowing orders at them all. But at this moment in time, he was the only solid, familiar person in Joe's upturned life.

Joe turned his attention to Bridget. She had keen eyes that Joe felt probably wouldn't miss a thing. There was tightness to her mouth, a pinched look that hinted at irritation and dissatisfaction. She was very small, and the high heels she wore plus the mass of hair piled on to her head, did not add to her height. If anything, they seem to draw attention to just how tiny she was.

"Right then Joe, let's get started shall we. Do you want to take a seat while we go over a couple of details?"

Joe felt this was probably more of an order than a request and quickly obeyed.

Bridget swiftly went over Joe's family details with Joe confirming that it was just the three of them. No grandparents, no aunts or uncles, no cousins and no godparents. No one.

"Well, the only option we have then Joe, is to place you into temporary foster care until we can evaluate your parents' situation a little clearer. I'm going to make a few phone calls and I'll be back in a moment."

Bridget swept out of the room imperiously. Joe felt that this was a woman who didn't like to be crossed, who believed that her authority was absolute. Definitely a power freak.

Nurse Kellen re-appeared carrying a cup of hot, steaming tea. "I'm sorry it's taken so long Joe, but we had a bit of an emergency I'm afraid. Now, how are you feeling?"

To his shame, Joe felt tears welling up in his eyes. This was the first time that anyone had actually shown him any sympathy, had actually asked him how he was, how he was coping with the fact that both of his parents were severely injured and that he was all alone.

"Don't be embarrassed. It's fine, you just let it all out." Nurse Kellen walked swiftly over to Joe, and enveloped him in her arms. It wasn't like being hugged by his mum, but for the time being it would do.

After a few minutes of silent tears, Joe pulled away from the nurse who handed him a handful of tissues.

"Now don't be worrying Joe. Your parents are in the best place and the doctors are really confident that they are going to make a good recovery. That nice lady" said with a wry smile "from Social Services will look after you, and you're going to be just fine."

Joe just wished he could believe her words, but he had a strange disquieting feeling that it wasn't the case.

With one quick last hug, Nurse Kellen left the room, only to quickly re-enter it followed by Bridget.

"Right get your things Joe. I've found a place for you at a Children's Home not too far from here, so let's go and get you settled in. Leave your parents bags here for the time being, we'll sort them out later."

Joe was glad he'd put the passport and envelope in his jacket – at least now he'd have opportunity to look at them more clearly.

On the drive to the children's' home, Bridget said nothing, concentrating on her driving. Joe was scared. He'd watched TV and seen what these places were like – and he didn't think it would be like on Tracey Beaker! Also he'd not been given opportunity to see his parents again before they left. Bridget was insistent that they get going and said that he could see them tomorrow. It still didn't feel real, and Joe hadn't really come to terms with how badly they were injured. He needed to be with them, why couldn't Bridget understand that?

The car pulled up outside a large house – not but quite the orphanage that Joe had been expecting! It was a red brick house, about the size of three houses joined together. In fact, studying it closer, Joe had the feeling that was exactly what had happened. The three houses had been knocked through to make 1. He could make out the outline of the other bricked up front doors.

Bridget strode up the path confidently, followed by Joe, not quite so confident. She pressed a buzzer to the left of the blue door and Joe heard the whirring of a mechanical object. He looked up and saw a CCTV camera pointing straight at him.

The door was opened by tall, young man with a dark beard. He seemed very distracted, barely even acknowledging them, and he then turned to face the melee behind him. Two boys were fighting in the entrance, rolling round and round on the floor, with a crowd of other children surrounding them, clapping and jeering them on.

"Dan, Brad, get up! Pack it in right now, or you are both going to lose all privileges for the next week, I can promise you that!"

Another taller, stockier man entered the hallway from a door off to the left. He leaned down and picked up one of the struggling boys, while the other man grabbed the second. After a few minutes of gesturing, both of the boys eventually calmed down enough to be released from their captors.

"Go and wait outside my room, I'll deal with you in a minute!" snarled the man who'd open the door to Joe. "As for the rest of you, the show is over, get back to whatever you were doing, unless you want to join them in my room?"

Throughout all this, Bridget had said nothing. Standing quietly and calmly to one side, just observing everything that had gone on. She didn't seem surprised or shocked. This was obviously a common occurrence.

Eventually the hallway emptied of everyone, leaving just Joe, Bridget and the man who appeared to be in charge of the madhouse.

"Sorry Bridget. Is this the new boy, Joe – right? Joe, I'm Sam. That's what you call me, just Sam. I'm in charge here, what I say goes. Sorry you had to see all of that – we are pretty fair but we do have rules, so if you step out of line you will get punished." Sam glared at Joe as if he was one of the boys who'd been fighting in the hallway.

"There's some forms and other procedures we need to get through, then I'll take you up to your room. You'll be sharing with another boy until we've got a free single room for you."

Joe frowned. "I don't think I'm going to be here that long – it's only while my parents are in hospital." He risked a quick look at Bridget whose face showed no emotion at all.

"Yes, well, we don't know what's going to happen, how long your parents' recovery will be and if they'll be able to look after you even after they're out of the hospital. So at the moment, we're just looking at an indefinite stay – best not to plan too far ahead" said Sam.

Joe looked again at Bridget, this time in disbelief. She hadn't said any of this to him before. She had a small smile playing around her mouth. Joe had the feeling she was enjoying this.

Sam ushered Joe and Bridget into a door on their left – obviously leading to his office. Outside the room, the two boys who had been fighting were sat on chairs, as far away from each other as possible. They looked up sullenly at Sam, then switched their attention to Joe. He could see a gleam of malice in their eyes as they looked him up and down, coldly appraising him.

"Come on in, take a seat Joe, Bridget" said Sam, unlocking his office door. There was a large wooden desk with a laptop placed in the middle. The laptop had a chain with a padlock on, securing it firmly to the desk. Joe looked round the room swiftly. There were 3 metal cabinets – again locked with padlocks. No stationery that he could see, no stapler, pens etc. Everything was bare and sterile.

Sam bent down and unlocked one of the drawers, getting out a brown manila folder and a pen.

"As you can see Joe, nothing is left out. So if you ever decide to pay me a little visit unannounced, you'll be leaving empty handed." Sam smirked at Bridget, who returned his smile with a sarcastic one of her own.

Joe stared aghast at them both and stuttered "I would never, I mean I don't, why would I?" He couldn't quite get his words out, shocked that Sam was inferring that he was a thief.

Sam just laughed and opened the folder.

"Right, we've got most of your details here already. Family history and school details. You'll continue to go to your normal school for the time being anyway, until we can make more permanent arrangements. You will have to get public transport, the other children here go to McKauley's school so our mini bus is taken up already dropping them off. But we'll see how it goes, and if we need to move you out of Hallcross school, then we will. Now you need to know about the rules here. We a bell that will wake you at 7 am. Downstairs for breakfast at 7.30 am and leaving for school at 8. Then you must report back here after school – if you're not back here by 4.30 pm, then you'll receive a punishment. Once you've signed back in, you have free time, so if you want to go out to visit friends that's fine. However, curfew is at 7 pm – everyone has to be back for then. Again, if you're not you receive a punishment. Dinner is served at 7.30 pm, then homework or TV until 9.30 pm. Upstairs and lights out by 10 pm. I don't tolerate fighting, lying, stealing or rudeness to the staff here. I work the day shift with my colleague Ben – you saw him earlier. Then I leave at 7 pm, and the night staff take over then. You'll meet Brian and Samantha later. They leave at 7 am, and I take back over at that point. As I said before, you're sharing a room for the time being – in fact you've already meet your room mate – he's outside, Brad. If you have any valuables, it's best to hand them over to me now. PSP, IPod etc. I'll keep them on your list of possessions and then you can have them each evening for free time. If you leave them out, they will be taken, and I don't want to waste my time having to search the other children's' rooms for them. So be warned now."

Joe sat shocked, unable to take his breath. The rules seemed endless. And the thought of sharing a room with Brad – not attractive.

Sam turned his attention to Bridget, with them swapping forms for each others' signatures. With that, the handover seemed complete and with a quick nod to Joe, Bridget stood.

"Joe, I'll come and pick you up tomorrow and take you to the hospital and we'll see if we have any further news. Good night".

And she turned and left – just like that!

Joe looked back at Sam who was holding his palm out to him. Joe stared in confusion – what did he want?

"Phone, iPod?" Sam asked impatiently.

"I'm sorry, I don't have anything like that" whispered Joe.

"You don't have any electrical items on you, or money?" asked Sam disbelieving.

"No, we don't have a lot of money and..." Joe fell quiet.

"Well in that case, I'll take you up to your room and sort you out with some clean clothes. I think Bridget is going to take you to your home tomorrow to pick up some supplies, but until then you'll have to make do with the second hand basket here." Sam stood, and motioning to Joe, indicated that they should leave the room. Sam stood in the entrance to the doorway and beckoned a finger to Brad.

"Brad, this is your new room mate Joe. Take him upstairs and get him some Pjs from the basket. Show him where the bathrooms are and the TV room. Then report back to me please. Dan – in my office" said Sam grimly.

Dan stomped in past Joe, pushing him hard in the shoulder as he walked through.

"Come on, this way" muttered Brad, striding off. Joe ran after to him to keep up. Brad was small but Joe could see that he was all muscle. He had wiry red hair and mean, pinched eyes and a mouth that seemed permanently fixed in a sneer.

They went up a flight of stairs and then down a long corridor finally stopping at the very last door on the right.

"This is our room. Everything in this room belongs to me. Don't touch anything, don't even look at my stuff I'm warning you!" said Brad leaning over and staring into Joe's eyes.

He opened the door with a flourish and stepped through. Joe couldn't believe his eyes. There were two narrow beds, a small desk and a load of posters pinned up around the room. But no possessions of any kind – what had Brad been talking about?

Brad sauntered over to the bed by the window and threw himself down.

"This is my bed right. You get the other one. But I have your pillows and I'm keeping them."

Joe thought it best not to argue, and walked over to the other bed.

"Sam will have taken your phone already, but have you got any cigs, chocolate, money?" asked Brad staring at Joe with such intensity that Joe began to blush.

"No, I don't smoke and I didn't have any money. I haven't got anything. I've come straight from the hospital. My mum and dad have been in an accident so they brought me out of school" answered Joe nervously.

"Not interested mate, don't need to hear your story. We've all got stories here. Just so you know, anything that you do get you give to me first ok? Then I'll give you a share of your stuff back. It's payment to me for you having to share my room. And don't bother running to complain to Sam – he hates tell tales."

Brad laughed and got off the bed. He walked over to the small desk and felt underneath, pulling out a key that had been taped there. Then he climbed up on the bed and pushed at one of the ceiling tiles above the bed, moving it slightly to one side, and pulling out a small metal box.

Using the key, he opened the box and pulled out a cigarette, re-locked the box and returned everything to their original hiding places.

"Now you know where I keep my stuff, which means if anything goes missing, you've taken it. So you'd better make sure no one else comes in here, coz I'm holding you responsible for everything. You can be like my security guard – ha!" Brad laughed and turned to the window, cracking it open a couple of inches. He lit his cigarette and then started coolly at Joe again.

"Look, I'm not your mate. We don't have mates in here, you just look out for yourself. I'm not interested in you, all I care about is making sure I get what's owed me. So just you remember that."

Brad flicked the cigarette out of the window and strolled out of the room.

Joe slumped on the bed. His head was whirring in. How could his life have changed so dramatically in the space of a couple of hours? So much had happened – he couldn't take it all in, process all the events of the day. He was so tired, all he wanted to do was sleep. He started to lie back, but as he did, he felt the envelope and passports dig in to his side. Joe leapt up and checked that the door was shut and that Brad wasn't lingering outside. It seemed all clear. Nevertheless, he sat on the floor, with his back against the door, so at least he'd get some warning before someone tried to enter.

First of all, Joe looked round the room, looking for a suitable hiding place. There didn't seem anywhere – well he was pretty sure that Brad had already scoped out every possible solution. At the moment, the safest place seemed to be on his body – although Joe felt pretty sure that at some point Brad would insist on searching him. But he might be alright for tonight anyway – Brad already knew that Sam would have taken anything off him, and knew he'd come straight from school. It would probably be tomorrow night that the inquisition would probably start. As long as Joe kept the envelope hidden against his body tonight and then found somewhere to stash them tomorrow – he'd be safe.

Gingerly, Joe pulled the envelope free from his pocket, along with the passports. He looked at the details again. The names were totally unrecognisable – he'd never heard them before. His dad appeared to be called Bill Palmer and his mum was carol. His new name was Lewis Palmer. The dates of birth had also been changed very slightly – the same years but the months were different.

Joe turned his attention to the envelope, sliding the money out. He counted it as quickly as possible. There was £5000 in there! At the very back there was piece of paper, folded in two, again with his name on it.

Joe took a deep breath and opened the note.

"Dear Joe. If you're reading this, then everything has gone wrong and you're on your own. We haven't got time to tell you everything here properly. But you need to know that you are not safe. Do not trust any of the adults around you. You should have the money and the passports, and that should help you. Make sure that nobody sees them. You have to get to Scotland, to a small village called St Abbs. It's not far from Dunbar. You can get a train or coach to Edinburgh, but you'll have to find your own way from there. Once you get to St Abbs, you need to find a man, he's a scientist called Dr Lowe. He will be able to help you and will explain everything to you. You will need to tell him who you really are Joe. Your real name is Thomas Grayel. Your parent's names were Lori and Chris. We know that you must be so frightened Joe. We're so sorry that we can't be there to help you, but please know how much we love you and how we will also do everything we can to protect you. Don't waste time worrying about us, you have to go now, as soon as you've read this. And remember Joe – do not trust anyone, no matter how nice they seem. They will be looking for you and they will stop at nothing. You mustn't be caught, you have to be invisible, as we always have been. We love you Joe, Mum and Dad."

Joe felt strangely calm. Hollow. It wasn't sinking in, none of it. For the next few minutes, he re-read the note over and over again. Then he carefully refolded it, put it back in the envelope with the money and the passports and re-zipped everything up. He climbed up from the floor and walked back over to his bed, lying down very slowly as if he was an old man. Joe curled his legs up and wrapped his arms around them, turning to face the wall. And he eventually let go of his tears. It was true, he was all alone.

Bizarrely Joe fell asleep very quickly, not even hearing when Sam entered the room and called his name for supper. Sam stared at Joe asleep, and then with a surprising sadness in his eyes, closed the door behind him.