A story by Marion Woods
She slowed to a walk at the corner and strolled nonchalantly into the corridor. It was empty. Glancing at the security camera, she kept close to the wall until she reached the door. She gave one more quick glance around before her nimble fingers typed in the password.
There was a momentary delay and she wondered if the password had been changed. Then the door slid back, coming to a halt with the usual muted thud.
She slipped inside as soon as the gap was wide enough and waited with bated breath until the door slid shut again. No alarms sounded, and no commanding voice asked her what she thought she was doing in someone else’s room, nor how she had knowledge of the personal code to activate the digi-lock in the first place. After a few seconds – that seemed to last a lifetime – she sighed out the breath she was holding.
The room was familiar enough, although she couldn’t remember having been in it alone before. The few personal items, and the odd luxuries that made each officer’s quarters ‘home’, were well-known. A quick glance showed her that everything was where it ought to be – no surprise there – and that the valet had been round already, cleaning and polishing with her usual enthusiasm.
The only thing left out on the coffee table was a hardback book, the bookmark protruding from about half-way through, where the reader had left it. As she walked across, she swivelled it round with her finger to read the title.
“The Mill on the Floss” she murmured aloud – hmm, well, at least I’ve heard of that one. She raised the cover curiously and saw an elaborate bookplate which read ‘Senior School English Prize awarded to…Dianne Simms….. Summer 2060’ Ah, well that would explain it.
She dropped the cover shut and moved to the desk. A small flat-screen monitor stood on one side, but apart from a blotter, that was all, so she carried on her search, moving quietly around the room. She didn’t find what she was looking for on the bookcase or the bedside table. She bit her lip; if she didn’t find it she’d have an awful lot of explaining to do…
Where can it be? It has to be here, I’ve looked everywhere else.
The thought came to her that if he’d found it, it must have been after the start of her last duty in Angel One – or he’d have brought it to the Amber Room for her. Of course, the red alert had happened during her shift and he’d been sent with Captain Scarlet to Madagascar… so, he would have put it somewhere safe…
She returned to the desk and tugged at the top drawer, where she knew he kept his own ID items – but it was locked. Rolling her eyes, she wondered where he’d have left the key, but after only a few minutes searching, she found it – in a compartment of the pen tray on the other side of the desk.
When the drawer slid open she grinned.
The first item she discovered in there was a leather-bound A5 sized photograph album and she moved it aside, wondering what it was doing there. There were a few albums over on the bookcase and he was renowned for always putting things in their place. It was one of the things they bickered about – for she was equally as notorious for never putting anything away.
Maybe he was looking at it when the red alert sounded?
She looked back into the drawer, and the album was forgotten immediately as she saw the missing wallet that held her Spectrum ID cards.
She grabbed it and restored it to her uniform pocket. Her sigh this time was pure relief.
She lifted the album to put it back in the drawer, and on impulse flipped the cover. The faces on the first page were familiar, and she stopped to examine the pictures.
The Svensons are a good –looking family, and no mistake.
Adam had obviously taken this some years ago, as it showed his parents along with his two brothers, ranging in age from a well-grown boy to a young man, and his sister. There was his father; his proud - as you might say, aristocratic - face for once wearing a genial enough expression. Beside him stood his wife – slightly out of focus as usual - for she never seemed to keep still. Peter’s wan smile, so typical of his begrudging enthusiasm for anything his elder brother did, was balanced by Katherine’s cheerful grin. The only daughter of John and Sarah Svenson was a beautiful young woman, rather spoilt, but intelligent and likeable Next to her stood David, the youngest, a smaller replica of his eldest brother: not as tall, not as clever, and not, she thought zealously, nearly as good-looking.
The first double page of pictures showed the three sons together; Adam looking absurdly young and proud in his WAS uniform, towering over Peter while David acted as a buffer, with his arms linked through both of theirs, ignoring the obvious antagonism between the older brothers. Opposite that was a photograph of Adam looking far more relaxed, with Kate nestled against his chest and his arms around her and his mother, whilst David stood close by, sporting Adam’s peaked WAS cap.
She chuckled and turned the page, and here she saw a face she did not know.
It was of a young woman, with long, black hair, dark eyes and honey-coloured skin. She was standing in an overgrown garden next to a notice board, her hand reaching out to obscure the first letter of the notice, so that it now read ‘OLD’ in bright red letters. In the background was a rather dilapidated Victorian house – badly in need of renovation.
On the adjoining page was Adam, sitting forlornly on the doorstep of the same house, a comic look of resignation on his face and a set of keys dangling from his outstretched fingers.
Symphony turned through the album, examining the photographs that monitored the progress of the restoration project. There was Adam in filthy jeans and T-shirt, and the woman in paint-splattered overalls, enthusiastically decorating their home.
The later pages showed the finished rooms and the last two double-spreads illustrated what was obviously a party to celebrate the completion of the task. Numerous unknown people milled about in the now tidy garden, a barbecue stood on the patio and a large wooden table was laden with food and bottles. One photograph showed Adam holding the woman in his arms, against a backdrop of garden greenery. Whatever he was saying to her was making her laugh.
The last page of all only had one picture – taken indoors late at night and presumably with a timer - it showed just the two of them, collapsed on a wicker-work sofa, hand-in-hand, while a long-haired, ginger cat nestled between them.
Beneath it was a label in Adam’s upright script: “A job well done: Soraya, Honey-Bucket and me.”
The date was exactly ten years ago – today. He must have been looking at them when the alert sounded and he’d thrust it into the drawer with her ID card wallet, which she’d so carelessly left behind when she’d visited him earlier.
Symphony Angel closed the album and thoughtfully put it back in the drawer, locking it and placing the key back in the pen-tray. She wondered if he’d mind that she’d seen the pictures; he’d realise she’d opened the drawer as soon as he saw her ID wallet was gone, and he knew her too well to have any doubt that her curiosity would make it impossible for her not to take a peek.
He had told her about Soraya – eventually – but she’d never seen a picture of her before and he might think it an unwarranted intrusion on her part. Yet, she was glad she had seen the pictures – glad she’d seen what she still thought of as ‘the competition’ - the one woman she could never directly compete with – the source of the uncertainty that dogged her self-confidence, for the now unanswerable question was always in the back of her mind – would he have left Soraya when he met me?
She glanced across at the mirror on the wall and went to study her reflection.
It was odd that he should have chosen two such disparate women. We are nothing at all like each other and we have nothing in common.
She stared at the reflection for a long moment, imposing the memory of the photographs beside her own face. Then, she shook her head and gave a slow smile as realisation dawned – they did have something in common – something those photographs had shown only too clearly. They had the unalloyed satisfaction of being in love with, and knowing themselves loved in return by, the same man, and although a decade of years – and the impassable barrier of death - separated them, the contented happiness so apparent in Soraya’s face was mirrored in her own reflection.
“Nice to meet you at last, Soraya,” she muttered as she walked to the door. She put out the light and said, “I’ll take good care of him – don’t you worry…”
The door slid back and she glanced along the empty corridor before striding back towards her own quarters.
This story was inspired by some un-posted fiction I have, concerning Captain Blue and his adventures in the World Aeronautical Society. The characters of Symphony Angel, Captain Blue and Captain Scarlet belong to the TV series Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons ™. The Svenson family members were created by Chris Bishop in her story Symphony in Blue and the character of Soraya is purely my own invention – she is mentioned in several of my stories as Captain Blue’s fiancée who was killed by a car bomb when he was heading the WAS security division.
My thanks go to Hazel Köhler for beta-reading yet another of my stories.