The cold air inside the church was as stifling as if it was the height of summer. The pews were all taken; men and women sat shoulder to shoulder, their black coats merging together and their outlines indistinguishable. Even the standing room was limited. The vicar's voice sounded hollow in the cavernous space, his words were punctuated by the sniffs and forced coughs of the congregation and the old man looked holier than he could have hoped for as the feeble sunlight filtered through the imposing stained glass window and shone onto his balding head. Particles of dust, disturbed from the beams high above their heads, danced in the spotlight.
Iris sat packed in and yet alone amongst the others, occupying a small space at the end of the last pew she sat hunched on her right side, craning her neck to see down the long lonely aisle. The angle of her hat, picked to shroud her face, obscured the mass of heads on the other side. So far she had spoken to no one, and no one had spoken to her. She'd made herself so anonymous and kept so quiet that she was almost un-noticeable, invisible.
The coffin sat like the elephant in the room; the reason why they were all here and yet the one thing they could not bear to look at. The grief was spread almost by osmosis by the figure sat on the front row, enfolded so tightly in the arms of a tall blonde girl with long gangly limbs that it looked as though she would disappear completely in the folds of her overcoat. Her muffled cries and wails made Iris's insides clench, sounds that were so uncontrollable they made her wince. Her gaze shifted from her and back to the coffin. In truth, she was surprised to see that the Union Jack was draped elegantly over its shape, crowned by a wreath of flowers, courtesy of the Royal Fusiliers. True it was a small gesture for any brave Captain who served in the war, but the war was over and strictly speaking him no longer a Captain. He hadn't died in service to his country. She sighed, a reprimand to herself and sunk into her seat, of course he should be given all the honours of a soldier but she knew that most of the mourners had only bothered to don their blacks due to the newspaper reports and the police investigation surrounding the whole affair.
Iris's eyes found the frail weeping figure once again. Her old friend was no more than a shadow of the one she remembered; beautiful, fiery, intelligent, kind hearted Evelyn was now a picture of a woman twenty years her senior. Even from the back of the church Iris could see that her face was grey and gaunt and her long talon like fingers gripped the arms of the other girl as if the ground would open up beneath her feet and she would fall and tumble forever downwards.
Every muscle twitched and the blood coursed through her veins, urging her to go over, to hold her hand, to reassure her but reasoning and cowardice kept her in her seat. It was strange to think that almost two years had passed, she thought of her often but their parting words had caused each other so much pain that she doubted that even now, today of all days that the hurt could be healed.
Hymns were sung sombrely and the words of the good book dutifully listened to. The light that streamed through the window had passed and the vault like space returned to grey, hiding faces and tears. The vicar's voice was silenced, service had ended and the shuffling of feet, the rustling of clothes and hushed chatter resounded once again in unison. Iris stood, the first one on the row to do so, and with her head bowed respectfully to the alter she waited to join the crowd filing along the aisle.
A clatter of metal on stone, the shocked gasps and shouts and cries made her look up, made everyone turn and look. Heads turned around to see and the steady stream of black coats and hats stopped still. Pity rose in her stomach, so strong that she had to sit back down. Evelyn lay across the width of the coffin with the flag clenched tightly in her fists, tendrils of auburn fell loose from their grips and hung over her face. A split second glimpse of her expression rendered her unrecognisable to Iris.
"Come away now, Madam." said the taller girl.
"No!" was the only reply, just decipherable amongst the sobs.
An older woman with hair the same shade of fiery red walked slowly over to Evelyn. Without any words, any sympathy and with blank eyes she helped her daughter to her feet. They turned and stepped over the upturned candlesticks and fallen wreaths to see the room stationary with all eyes on them. Evelyn's head lolled and tears fell from between her long lashes and down her cheeks as she allowed herself to be guided forwards.
"Courage now." The tall girl whispered into her ear.
Iris tried to squeeze out from the pew; she longed to be out into the cold fresh air and free of the oppressiveness of the church. But she couldn't get out, it seemed that everyone else was as keen to leave as she was. One after another, and another and another until the end of the line was in sight. Her heart was beating furiously against her ribs as the wailing she wished to avoid drew nearer.
Evelyn stopped, sandwiched between her maid and her mother, directly in front. Iris's chest heaved and she found she couldn't get air into her lungs fast enough. Even her hat and the gloom couldn't hide her now. Their eyes met and the returning stare was so intense that her own fell to the floor. Only then did she notice that her old friend could no longer button up her coat, her slender frame had changed and her swollen stomach seemed disproportionate to the rest of her body. Now she understood the depth of her grief. She was without a husband and her unborn child without a father.
"Evelyn, I'm so sorry." She managed to say.
There came no reply, no sound and she was quickly ushered away.
She turned her back on the church of St Barnabus and its dour black cloaked mourners and gradually but eventually it shrank into the distance. The walk back from Kensington was a long one, she needed the walk to clear her head – thoughts and images whirred at breakneck speed and the heart broken cries of a widow still rang out in her ears. Everyone had attended too many funerals since the war began, well memorials would be a more apt description, a body is usually required for a burial and most of those still lay anonymous in French fields. But that wasn't the fate of Evelyn's husband, he had survived the war, all four long years of it, only to have his life snatched away in the 'land fit for heroes' that they were all so gratefully promised. They said it was a robbery, which in fact it was; his wallet was found, emptied by greedy fingers, in the river by a rookie officer and his watch was still nowhere to be seen. At first the newspaper's slant was that of sorrow, and they found a way to attack the authorities and politicians, voicing a concern that such a crime was committed on such a poignant day. A celebrated soldier found dead not even a mile away from the crowds gathered to see the unveiling of a permanent cenotaph and the procession of the Unknown Warrior, as he came to be known, was chillingly ironic. But the journalists were investigators to rival those in Scotland Yard and soon sniffed out a series of stories which told of foul play, stories which began in the trenches that many battled daily to forget. After an investigation the police found these yarns to be mere scandalous gossip, written and printed with the objective of selling papers. No evidence was found to give these stories any credit and the official explanation was that Captain Thomas Marsham was the victim of a random, but cruel and violent attack, no more, no less. Iris wasn't sure how much of that she believed, knowing what had gone before.
The bones of her feet burned inside her boots, now too small now that the cold weather meant that two pairs of woollen stockings were required. The pavement glittered and shone like silver glass, the frost was thick and stubborn after a cold clear night and it crunched like snow beneath her feet. Carts and motors took the treacherous roads slowly and children took the opportunity to hold onto the back and be pulled along, their many times mended shoes gliding across the cobbles. She weaved through the human traffic with her head bowed, her chin tucked into her scarf against the cold, her shoulders brushed the park railings as she walked and collected a dusting of white on her coat and skirts. As she approached Marble Arch the volume of people trebled; shoppers, tourists, maids, runners, motor cabs, handsome carriages, shop keepers, post men all passed her by without a moments glance or thought.
"Oi, watch it!" a young girl bounced from Iris's left shoulder and into the stream of people on the outer side of the pavement.
"Sorry!" she held up a hand but didn't stop.
The imposing façade of Regent Street towered over her, a jugular amongst the arteries and veins of the city. The window displays, lit by the wonders of electricity, attracted crowds in their finery and she dodged and weaved through them as she rounded the corner into Beak Street. It was one such vein, splintered off from the jugular, a narrow thoroughfare flanked on each side by tall modest buildings which cast the street below in perpetual shade. Booksellers, chocolatiers, shops full of tea and coffee from India, China, Africa and beyond, tailors, dressmakers and milliners all decorated the street level with advertisements and window displays of every variety and colour, designed to entice the greedy shoppers from the main road. Blackwell's dressmakers sat on the corner of Beak and Kingly Street, Its dark blue doors and window frames uniform with the other shops on the row. A basket of long since dead flowers swung gently with the breeze, the smog and soot churned out from industry into the sky blackened the bricks and window panes and lay heavy like ash on the few leaves and petals which somehow managed to grow at all. The door was ajar and golden lamp light illuminated the tiles on the front porch.
She remembered the first time she ever entered this place as a sixteen year old; she stood on the threshold, almost paralysed with wonder and amazement at what she saw. Aisles of material in every colour, collected in looming dark oak shelving structures which formed a maze spread across the ground floor. One could travel the world in that compressed space; silk from Asia, French crepe, cotton from Africa and the Americas and fine intricate lace made in Rome transported Iris with the brush of her finger tips as she passed them, she could still almost smell the places they'd come from. The larger and heavier rolls of fabric straddled both sides of the aisles forming tunnels and passageways, casting the explorer into periodic darkness until they emerged at the other side. A counter ran along the length of the far wall, sample books lay open and strewn across the top, their pages dog-eared and creased. Two enormous cork boards filled the wall behind, separated by a curtain covered doorway leading to the cutting room, the boards were cluttered with drawings and photographs of the most popular lines and cuts, designs from the best European fashion houses for replication. A metal spiral staircase, painted black and gold, took her up onto the first floor; completely open plan and partitioned only by rich red velvet curtains, this space was dedicated to fittings and alterations. Oak panelling, oriental threadbare rugs, tired looking furniture and a second hand chandelier made the room feel decadent, yet everything about this establishment radiated class and respectability.
Iris discarded her hat and bag on the long work table and snagged her heels wearily along the floor before coming to a stop at the window. Mrs Blackwell's arms were warm; she must've been sat close to the fire and Iris was grateful as she removed her coat and her heat could pass easily through her clothes.
"How was it?" she asked without averting her eyes from the street below.
Mrs Blackwell raised her thin dark eyebrows. "Was it ever going to be anything but?"
Iris turned to the older woman and shook her head. "Are you alright Mrs B?"
She was surprised to see her mentor's face was unusually sallow, her dark hair untidy and her eyes were heavy and swollen.
"Oh yes, I'm alright."
"I didn't stay for the burial, or the wake." She continued. "I shouldn't even have gone at all. You should've seen the way she looked at me; I'll never forget it as long as I live. She's pregnant you know."
Mrs Blackwell turned to her, her prominent hook like nose cast a shadow over her thin face. "Poor girl. Another child who'll grow up fatherless."
"Perhaps it'll be best."
Mrs Blackwell frowned. "What an odd thing to say."
"Well I can't imagine Thomas Marsham would've been a good role model to a young child." She turned away from her cold questioning stare. The street bustled below, the tops of hats and bonnets bobbed in a steady stream along the pavement and barrows were pulled noisily along the narrow road.
"I didn't think you knew him that well."
"I didn't really, just an assumption I suppose."
Evelyn opened her eyes and saw the bright flames in the hearth reflected in the mirrors around her darkened bedroom. Well, it wasn't her bedroom anymore – her bedroom, hers and Thomas's, was in Delancey Square, Kensington, but here she was back in Bedford Place as if it was before the war and none of this ever happened. Her head ached, her eyes were hot and heavy and the sleeping pills made her vision unreliable and slow as she heaved her body up to sit. How many days had passed since the funeral, she could not tell, it seemed both an age and a second ago. She lost count of the times she was told that after the funeral it would be easier, that after that last goodbye she'd be able to grieve and move on. But she didn't want to say goodbye, didn't want to grieve or move on. She shouldn't have to, they were newly married and starting a family of their own, how is it fair that he should be snatched from her after all that they've been through. During the service she realised that the words the vicar preached were wrong, God – if he existed at all - was cruel and uncaring, either that or he had a twisted sense of humour. Her throat tightened as she sobbed, she couldn't imagine how the desperate longing for him would subside.
She swung her feet over the edge of the bed, using one hand to cradle her abdomen and the other to steady herself she managed to haul her body up to sit. Her legs were weak when she stood, the muscles not yet awakened and they tightened and twisted in protest as she crossed the room, a task that took longer as her once slight frame grew. She opened the curtains and allowed the light to spill in, the clear sky of yesterday had been replaced by low dense cloud that skimmed the rooftops, a thick bright fog made the view beyond the window strange and dreamlike. She closed her eyes to it and turned away.
The click of the door handle and the gentle creak of the wood heralded the return of her maid.
"Should you be up and about Madam?" she came to stand behind her and place her hand gently on her shoulder.
"Could you run me a bath please Amy. And lay out a dress."
Amy's hand dropped to her side. "The only black dress that'll fit is the one you wore for… the one you wore yesterday."
Evelyn's body froze mid breath, as if the garment itself held the emotion of that day.
She turned and her lips turned up at one corner, the best attempt at a smile she could manage. "Then that'll have to do."
Amy strode through the open doorway of the adjoining bathroom, all long limbs and frizzy blonde hair. Evelyn watched her from the edge of the bed and wondered why she did what she did; why she sacrificed her own life to live in her house, to dress her, to fix her hair, to mend her clothes, to bring her tea – to be her maid, mother, friend and sister combined. She knew she shouldn't wonder, she should just be grateful.
By early afternoon she'd settled in the drawing room, the armchair by the fire moulded around her body, easing her aching back and providing some warmth in the draughty old house. She'd been urged to return to her room, to rest properly, but each time she dozed she dreamt of him and when she woke the reality hit her afresh once again, she wasn't sure if it was best to stay in reality or not wake up at all. But for now the drawing room seemed the best option. Her mother busied herself organising the household, a task which Mrs Dullis, the housekeeper, had perfectly under control and her father now seemed to be dividing his time between the office and his club, neither knew what to say and to avoid awkwardness for all parties they navigated around the house and around her.
The flames danced in the grate and the carriage clock on the mantelpiece ticked relentlessly, and as she stared the images and the sounds blurred and became one, all thoughts dissolved as she floated into the nothingness on the edge of sleep. It was then that she could smell them; Woodbines cigarettes, no one else in the house smoked them. He sighed, one arm leaning on the fireplace as he blew smoke across the pictures and ornaments that decorated it. She wanted to go to him, to wrap her arms around his body and be enfolded into his embrace; he would kiss the top of her head and run his hand along the line of her spine as he always did. But she couldn't move, she tried to call to him, to shout his name, but she couldn't speak. Her heart thundered against her ribs as she realised she was no more than a statue, a wax work made only to sit inanimately in the chair. He turned and his eyes met hers, smiling hazel eyes which she missed above all. He threw his cigarette butt into the fire and knelt down in front of her, his large warm hands found her bump and his smile grew. She wanted her arms to thaw so that she could touch his face and prove to herself that he was real. His head turned suddenly towards the door, he stayed stationary for a second as if listening and when he turned back to Evelyn, his demeanour was now disappointed and deflated. He winked as another hand touched her shoulder, the grasp was warmer and had more substance, it shook her until her eyes, disorientated and heavy, began to flicker open and he was gone.
"Madam, are you alright? There's someone who wishes to see you." Amy towered over her, silhouetted against the light from the window.
She held her head in her hands, hoping that he would still be there when she returned.
"There's someone to see you." She repeated.
"I don't think I can face anyone today." Her voice was muffled behind her palms.
"The gentleman says he served with Mr Marsham in the war, he said he'd like to offer his condolences."
"What's his name?" she said, eyebrows raised and curiosity sparked.
"Benjamin Sullivan, Madam. Do you know him?"
"No, but send him in."
The man who sat opposite her had the demeanour of a soldier, though the carelessness of scuffed shoes and loose threads around the button holes of his jacket told of a new profession, the old military habits proved hard to discard and he held himself with confidence and looked Evelyn in the eye with the confidence of a Captain.
"I don't think I have the words to express how sorry I am, Mrs Marsham."
"Thank you, that makes two of us." She straightened the woollen blanket draped over her legs. "Did you know my husband well?"
"Very well, by my standards, though we lost touch after we were demobbed. He was a good man."
"Thomas seemed to have lost touch with all of the men he served with, so I appreciate you taking the time to come and see me."
He leaned forwards and replaced his cup, still full and now cold, back onto its saucer on the coffee table. "Yes, the intensity of comradeship somehow seems awkward and redundant in peacetime, as civilians those emotions are now just memories that are best off deeply buried. I, too, am guilty of neglecting the company of the men." He shrugged his broad shoulders, emphasizing the uselessness of his left arm.
She hadn't noticed it at first; it rested in a sling incorporated into his jacket and could be mistaken for simply lying nonchalantly in his pocket. Only on closer inspection did she realise that this arm looked withered compared with the other and his gnarled and knotted fingers were poorly concealed by a tight bandage.
He shifted uncomfortably and continued. "There were a few soldiers at the service yesterday, so it's by no means just I who held your husband in high regard."
"There were others?" she sighed. "I'm afraid I found it very difficult and didn't speak to as many people as I should have."
"That's understandable; nobody would have expected any more from you."
This man was so sure of himself, so sure of what she wanted to hear and she could imagine Thomas taking comfort from this also, he must have been a tower of strength to him when everything else around them was crumbling. The slow creak of a loose floorboard betrayed Amy's pacing behind the door, even after everything she was reluctant to let the old protocols die completely and leave her mistress alone in the company of a gentleman.
"Can I ask you a question, Captain Sullivan?"
"I presume you've read the newspaper reports."
He raised his eyebrows and sighed. "Regrettably, yes."
"Then I hope you'll be able to give me some answers; I must know if there's any truth in them. I'm not as frail as I look, Captain, please be honest with me."
She had courage, that he would freely admit, though her fragility was clear for all to see. He smiled and reached across the table to place his hand on hers.
"I'm confident that I know these stories to be untrue."
"Are you?" she moved her hand from underneath his, uncomfortable and yet wanting the closeness and comfort from him, from someone who understood. She was grateful when he returned it to his lap. "In the days leading up to his death he was so distant, troubled."
"Troubled?" he rested his elbows on his knees as he hunched forwards, his dark eyes questioned hers from beneath heavy lashes.
"Yes." She nodded. "He would wake in the night, terrified and disorientated – he'd even sleep walk around the house some nights and he'd drink throughout the day, like he did when he first returned from the front. He was short and temperamental with me which wasn't like him. It all started when he saw one of his old comrades by chance, he wasn't the same since, Private Guillery, he said his name was, do you know him?"
"Yes I do, he was my batman. I'm glad to hear that another old face made it through to the end."
"To be honest I found him quite strange. When they met they seemed so uncomfortable in each other's presence."
Sullivan simply nodded and a silence passed between them. His head was bowed as if the examination of his shoes were now suddenly paramount and Evelyn watched as light from the fire highlighted flecks of grey in his brown hair, despite his age and a long deep scratch, only partially healed, ran from behind his ear along the length of his neck into his collar.
Wintry rain pelted the windows, drowning out the clop of hooves on the road and the activity from within the house. Amy could no longer be heard lingering outside, the crackle and hiss of the fire and the sound of his breathing alone reminded her that she wasn't alone. The silence lengthened and she found she couldn't find the words to fill it, the thought only occurred to her that this visit may be as hard for him as it was for her. He lifted his head suddenly and his good hand absently picked at the folds of his bandages as he spoke.
"Mrs Marsham, the days leading up to Thomas's death were tough for everyone; the repatriation of this Unknown Warrior gave us a chance to remember the fallen and attempt to lay all those ghosts to rest at last. We all have to wrestle with the fact that those remains could well be someone we knew and fought alongside, someone we lost. It could've been any of us, how was it that we survived and they didn't? What did we do differently?" he cleared his throat. "So speaking from experience, this was probably the hardest task to face since the armistice and I believe that Thomas must've been struggling also."
"He didn't speak to me of this. Ever. Not any of it."
"Many things affiliated with the war just aren't for a woman to hear. The reality of his state of mind is tragic enough without searching for something sinister. Sensationalism sells papers and I'm afraid they don't care who they hurt in the process."
"I think you're right." She smiled.
Sullivan watched as she shifted uncomfortably in her seat, her protective right hand working small circles around her stomach.
"How long to go?" his face relaxed, the lines across his forehead became softer and his lips retracted to show his teeth beneath his dark moustache.
"Two more months. They can't come soon enough, I can't wait to meet him."
His eyebrows raised, smile widened. "A boy?"
"I think so… I'm sure of it."
"I have a son, Robert." He pulled a photograph, the thick paper frayed around the top corners and passed it to Evelyn. "He turned five last month."
The boy in the picture was unmistakably his son, they shared the same long thin nose and dark thin set eyes. It was taken on the beach and he was running at the camera, fishing net and bucket in each hand and face alight with excitement.
"He looks wonderful." She said.
"His mother," he looked to his shoes again. "my wife died in '18. Influenza."
She looked up from the photograph, it almost fell to the ground through her frozen fingers. "I'm so sorry."
He nodded in acknowledgement and took back the picture, replacing it carefully into his pocket. "It does get easier, I promise… with time. You're still very young and time is something you have plenty of."
Sat in the epicentre of carnage and knee deep in mud, freezing rain water, rat piss and more besides, Ben Sullivan had vowed that if he survived he would grab life by the balls and make the most of every second. At his lowest ebb the bright lights of London, good beer and English girls seemed then like paradise. Now he thought that maybe somewhere in the country would be a safer retreat. London was full of people, and their silent misery which seemed so permanent. Everyone carried scars of the last six years, God knows his were there for all to see, and he just couldn't see past it. Maybe once all this business was sorted he could go, start something new.
Fleet Street reeked of ink and money and scandal. Everything happened at unnatural speed. The news knew no time and all here were enslaved to it. Editors, journalists, printers, vendors; this was their domain. Sullivan envied their sense of purpose, his ended when that shell exploded. He walked against the tide, the breeze like ice against the tips of his exposed ears and made his trousers flap around his legs. The façade of St Pauls loomed as he advanced to Ludgate Hill and the traffic milled around it like ants in the earth. The steps of the cathedral were now in sight and as he moved further along the ease of movement became limited. The lunch hour crush now meant that the white collar workers spilled out of the pubs and coffee houses; convenient when one wanted to be inconspicuous.
He thought it strange how a sound, a smell, an image could detach his mind from his body. The motor bus set off as the stream of traffic began to move again and its exhaust backfired, a bang that reached his ears through the chatter and the noise. Every muscle froze, his lungs expanded and held in that position and his shirt became damp with sweat despite the cold. Then he waited, waited for the blood curdling screams and the continuation of the bombardment, his eyes closed to his surroundings. He was unsure of how long he stood stationary, like a wave breaker, on the pavement. Time seemed to have different dimensions when the past re-entered his consciousness via the present. But it passed, as it always did, and slowly the sound of the street became more focused, his body unwound and he opened his eyes again. His lungs burned with the air held inside and he exhaled a long heavy sigh. The disorientation subsided, the terror passed and his wits returned to him. Shame always followed, why should he make a fuss when he came back with his life? He tilted his hat forwards, the brim covered his eyes from the biting wind and shielded his ego from the puzzled looks of pity and empathy which he didn't deserve nor ask for. Another deep breath, cold air inside his lungs and he outstretched his long legs.
He heard, rather than felt, the collision on his left side, though the drag on his coat pulled it clean from his shoulder and he couldn't help but turn his head sharply, the fright not fully vanquished. The young woman's expression almost matched his exactly; the shock of falling to the ground mingled with the embarrassment of knocking into a gentleman and now collecting the contents of her basket from the floor kept her reddened face cast downwards. He crouched down beside her and gathered the small bundles of material, as many as he could hold between his good fingers.
"I do apologize, Sir, I wasn't looking where I was going." She said.
"It is I who must apologize. Here, let me help." He replaced the bundles carefully into the basket and held the handle, the wicker unwinding, in his hand as he stood.
"Thank you, thank heaven the pavement was dry." She smiled and he couldn't resist but smile back.
Her dark eyes were open and honest, almost as dark as her hair which was tucked so elegantly around her ears and beneath her hat.
"Do I know you, Miss?" his eyes narrowed.
"I don't think so, I certainly don't know you." She laughed as she took the basket from him. "Perhaps I just have one of those faces."
"Then I'll apologize again for my carelessness and allow you to be on your way." He raised his hat and with the polite niceties adhered to both began on their separate ways.
Iris looked back over her shoulder, she too had recognised him and couldn't for the life of her think where from.
Sullivan reached the ramshackle coffee house parallel to St Paul's Churchyard and pushed open the damp and rotten door with his elbow. The aroma of cheap food and tobacco wafted beneath his nose as he disturbed the air as he walked. Only one seat remained unoccupied; a table for two was already taken by a slender man hunched over his coffee and a newspaper, his bowler placed on an angle obscured most of his face in the gloom. Sullivan motioned for the waiter to bring over a coffee as he sat.
"You're late." The man said into his newspaper.
"I got held up. Did you find anything out?"
The man shrugged and slouched into the back of the chair. "My editors said they don't know where the stories came from; anonymous tip off."
"And they'd print them without investigating?"
"We'd print anything if it's a good story and what's the point in investigating when the scoops handed on a plate? Don't you know anything about journalism?" he smirked.
"Believe it or not, Jack, no I don't." the waiter brought his coffee and scurried off without a word. "And I don't know how you can smile; if anyone delves deeper into those stories we're neck deep in the shit!"
"And why's anyone going to do that? It's over now, old news; the murder of some soldier losing his marbles is bound to be replaced by something equally as scandalous soon enough."
"I think I know who went to the papers." He looked his old comrade in the eye and lowered his voice. "I've just come from visiting Evelyn Marsham and she says that before he died he was visited by our old friend Guillery."
Jack raised his eyes to the crumbling ceiling. "Ah. Do you think he's gone yellow bellied on us?"
He nodded. "Possibly."
"I'd better track him down then, hadn't I?"
"The man's as slippery as an eel, who knows where he's skulked off to now. He could be anywhere."
"Leave it with me." Jack folded his paper in half and set it down in the middle of the table. "He's not a bad fella, whatever you think."
Sullivan sensed his gaze hot and direct, as if he was being dared to challenge him. "None of us are, but what's done is done and now we need to clear up the mess."
"Do you ever wonder where we would be if the war never happened?"
"No. Never." He lied. "What would be the point in that?"