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John slept till almost nine, when he got up and took a shower. He had done most of his packing already and was only taking two small bags anyway, having sent luggage by advance the week before. They weren't heavy and he carried them downstairs. It was a warm day and he could hear the family on the garden. His mother was in the kitchen and he kissed her.

“I wish you were staying a few more days,” she said, wistfully.

“I'll be back at Christmas,” he said. “That's not long. Remember when I used to have three year deployments? You probably forgot what I looked like! Oh Mum, please don't cry.”

“That's true.” Mollie wiped her eyes. “What would you like for breakfast? Did you sleep well?”

He told her of Thomas's sleepwalking exploits as she bustled around scrambling eggs. David turned up as he was washing up and kissed his aunt on the cheek.

“All packed? Got your passport?”

“Of course.”

“We’ll go from here to my place, where Con will drive us to Armiford Station. Train’s at midday and we should get to London about 6 or so. Shame you can't come with us, Auntie Moll.”

“I'll see Maeve soon enough. We're staying here for another week to help Mary-Lou and Rix get the house ready for renting it out - a friend of Gwensi Howells is going to take it I believe - and then we might break the journey back to the Quadrant with a weekend in London. Do give her my love and I'll try to phone tomorrow.”

“Let me say goodbye, Davy. My bags are all ready.”

“I'll put them in the car.” David went outside to let his cousin make his goodbyes in private. He was conscious that they might be emotional.

However, it wasn't long until John was in the car next to him and they were waving goodbye and all too soon speeding off towards Armiford. John didn't look unduly upset, but he must be used to going off for months abroad, David mused, as he turned off the main road and through the country lanes to his house. Con was waiting and drive them to Armiford, where they all had an early lunch.

“Tell me about the Gornetz Platz,” John said, where they were well on their train journey and the novel he had been reading had lost his interest. David had only been gazing out at the countryside so was happy to talk.

“I've only been once - flying visit. Beautiful scenery but it's very quiet. Jo and Jack’s place is enormous, it used to be a hotel. The school is literally next door. The San is a couple of miles further up. Jo said that she'll introduce you to all the locals and that you can use the school library.”

“What are the people like? At the San I mean.”

David shrugged. “Fine. I'm trying to think whom you might have heard of. Reg, of course. Neil Shepherd - married to Grizel. Oh of course, Laurie and Daisy are there. I know they're looking forward to seeing you as he wrote about a case and mentioned it. D’you remember Mother’s friend, Phoebe Peters?”

John shook his head. “Daisy wrote to me last week.”

“Maria Marani? She's Maria Maclaren now, married to Maclaren, the Registrar, who you'll be working with.”

“Of course I remember her, and Tante Gisel. Is Tante Gisel in Switzerland?”

“Yes, I had a meal with them when I was there last. There's too much work for one Registrar and - you'll see when you get there - a lot of people on the Gornetz Platz are there for their health. Ah! Here we are, coming into London. We made quite good time.”


*

“Another brandy?” Sir Freddie Brentford offered, after dinner. John demurred, but David held out his glass.

“Just a splash. It's a long journey tomorrow.”

Maeve looked up from the armchair where she was curled up with her very tiny son. “I'm going to take him up.”

David was talking about a couple he and Freddie both knew; John looked over at them, thinking not for the first time that Freddie and Daniel looked nothing alike and were considerably different in terms of personality. Freddie caught the glance.

“Sure you won't partake?”

“I'm fine, thanks.”

“You know, I’m surprised the Navy didn't give you a desk job.” Freddie said, unexpectedly. “Or fit you for intelligence - or even a diplomatic role. Given how celebrated you are now, and a George Cross holder… My cousin said the same when he wrote last week.”

“I don't think they expected such a fast recovery…” David began, but John was quicker than him.

“What did you hear?”

“Oh, not much. I've been very busy, but someone mentioned you in my club last week. I told him you were my brother-in-law. He said they were looking for someone in the Foreign Office…”

“Well, they know where I am,” John said, trying to hide his annoyance at all of this being said in front of David. He hadn't had much control of his life when he was in the Navy, but now he was damned if people were going to discuss him like that behind his back. Besides, the thought of Daniel writing about him (but not to him) hurt, especially as he knew it was his own fault.

David looked at him briefly. He knew John was uncomfortable at his honour being mentioned.

“Who was it?” he asked, putting his empty glass down on the table and pulling a face behind Freddie’s back.

Freddie named a cabinet minister, and David whistled. “Well, as you say, Jack, they know where you are.”

“You'll stay here in October, won't you?” Freddie asked. John nodded and thanked him, but David was pleased to see Maeve come back down and hastily engaged her to tell them as much about the Gornetz Platz as she could remember.

“I say, old man, you need to get used to people congratulating you. It'll be rehashed all over the newspapers in October.” He said, as they both headed up to bed a while later. “Also they'll be full of it over the next few days in Switzerland...”

“He wasn't congratulating me, he was showing off his marvellous connections,” John gave a wry smile. David chuckled.

“Spot on. See you in the morning.”

“Night,” John closed his door, got ready for bed, and very quickly was asleep.



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