Richard Pierce


Day 186

The swallows (I think they’re swallows) here in Agios Nikolaos are in kamikaze mode this morning, dive-bombing the balconies, looking for their nests under the roof tiles, and aborting at the last moment. One crash-landed on the balcony of the next room along a few minutes ago. This is the earliest I’ve been up on this holiday (06:30), ironically, and it’s going to be a very long day. As I walked out onto the balcony earlier, an older local woman was wading into the sea down below for what I presume is her daily early morning swim. And why wouldn’t you? I wonder if she does it in the winter, too. Although that wouldn’t be quite so pleasant.

My brain is a bit of a mess this morning, half-way between holiday and work, already making lists of what I need to prioritize tomorrow morning, already thinking I need to get into my office tonight as soon as we get back so I can re-establish the VPN connection for work after the machine has been off for over 2 weeks (and Microsoft can make that process a pain in the arse, to be honest) so I don’t waste time and stress doing it in the morning.

Maybe this is a reflection everyone has at the end of their holidays – that something does have to change, that this constant driving to do things incessantly is ultimately self-destructive, that all the things we do are actually driven by the greed of the 0.01%, no matter what it is that we do, no matter how charitable or exciting our jobs are (and there’s a longer exposition on this waiting to be written, and it will probably again include an argument for a universal basic salary, but that’s for another day). I am making sure I take a deep breath every time I think about the mass of emails I’ll be going back to (and I bet M last night that it will be in excess of 300 actionable ones), and trying to get myself into the mindset (and staying there) of dealing with them calmly and slowly and in work hours alone, that I won’t do my impression of the kamikaze swallows and crash and burn doing 12-hour days again.

The streets down there are getting busier now, floors being swept, rubbish trucks wending their way across the cobbles, joggers in their wake, and the aound of the surf drifting up to my balcony, shouts and loud conversations, life moving on. Yes, there is always an imperative to keep moving, and what I’ve done in the past two weeks is proof of that because I have not been able, nor wanted, to stay entirely still, but I think we need to do it at our own pace.

I wish myself and M safe travels today.


‘So what now?’ Lilibet says.

Aggie laughs. ‘I’d just love to take the plane out and fly it back down to York. And I know it’s not possible. We’d attract too much attention.’

‘And it’s probably got no fuel in it.’

‘Yes.’ Aggie rubs her chin. ‘I think we should have a quick look around before people start coming. Perhaps there is another trace of the people who took you. They’d have had to have kept you somewhere until dark unless they did just take you out in the bright light of day.’

‘I’m just surprised they left that gear in the plane.’

‘Maybe it’s a regular trap.’

‘Or maybe they’re getting careless,’ Lilibet says.

‘Martin’s arrogance?’

Lilibet nods. ‘He just didn’t think anyone could get near him. Until you did.’

Aggie shrugs. ‘Then what does that make me? Is this why the mentor saved me in the first place, for this battle, or a battle like this? Or have I just gone rogue because I’ve been able to keep my mind my own?’

‘Does it matter?’ Lilibet takes Aggie’s hands, strokes them. ‘You’re trying to do good. That’s all that matters.’ She leans across and her lips graze across Aggie’s and their tongues meet briefly and intensely. She puts her hand under Aggie’s chin, kisses her again. ‘Nothing else matters.’

They hug, get up, climb down the ladder, and leave the hangar the way they came, propping the loose piece of corrugated iron back in place.

Aggie looks around. ‘Perhaps we should walk the whole perimeter just to make sure the fence is intact all the way round. That we we’d be sure that they didn’t take you out any way but the front way.’

They start walking as if they belong there. They’re just about to cross into open space at the front of the hangar when Lilibet pushes Aggie back against the wall. ‘Look!’

A man is strolling through the site, whistling, black jumpsuit hiding his physique, hair razored short. He puts his hand into his pocket and pulls out a bunch of keys, fiddles with it until he finds the right one, puts it into the padlock that keeps a chain round the doors into the hangar.

‘Quick,’ Lilbet whispers. ‘Let’s get back in there.’

They run silently back to the loose metal panel, move it to one side without a sound, crawl back into the cavernous space just in time to hear him pull the doors shut again. He’s not whistling anymore.

Lilibet tiptoes to the tail fins of the Sea Vampire, Aggie just behind her.

The man puts his hand into another pocket, pulls out some small object that he turns over, carefully in his hand. There are what look like feathers at one end of it. He climbs up the ladder, and Aggie curses herself inwardly for not wheeling it back to where it came from. He climbs into the back seat, crouches down.

‘What the hell?’ His voice bounces into the hangar. He climbs out, stands at the top of the ladder, looking into the cockpit, his hand moving towards the black wire they can now see is connected to an earpiece.

Lilibet is onto and up the ladder before Aggie can get there. She grabs him round the neck, wrenches the object from his hand before he can do anything, and sticks it into his neck. He collapses.

‘I was right. It’s a tranquillizer dart,’ Lilibet says triumphantly.

‘That was a dangerous thing to do,’ Aggie says.

‘Revenge.’ Lilibet grins at her. ‘And I wanted to show you what I can do.’

‘You don’t need to prove anything,’ Aggie says, bends down to the unconscious man, feels across his abdomen. ‘No device.’

‘That’s good news. Now all we have to do is wait for the fucker to wake up.’

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