It was all very strange. She had been told she would meet some
interesting people at St. Dominics, and she had been required to sign
a confidentiality clause before she began work. But shed never
expected anything like this. MISO stood for Military Intelligence:
Special Operations. But what was the secret service doing with a
teenage boy? How had Alex managed to get himself shot? And why had
there been two armed policemen sitting outside his room for the first
four days of his stay? Diana tried to push these thoughts out of her
mind as she put the tray down. Maybe she should have stuck with the
How are you feeling? she asked.
Im fine, thanks.
Looking forward to going home?
Diana realized she was staring at Alex and turned her attention to the
medicines. Are you in any pain? she asked. Can I get you something
to help you sleep?
No, Im all right. Alex shook his head and for a moment something
flickered in his eyes. The pain in his chest had slowly faded, but he
knew it would never leave him completely. He could feel it now, vague
and distant, like a bad memory.
Would you like me to come back later?
No, its all right, thanks. He smiled. I dont need anyone to tuck me in.
Diana blushed. Thats not what I meant, she said. But if you need me, Ill be just down the hall. You can call me anytime.
I might do that.
The nurse picked up her tray and walked out of the room. She left
behind the scent of her perfumeheather and spring flowersin the air.
Alex sniffed. It seemed to him that since his injury, his senses had
become more acute.
He reached for his French book, then changed his mind. To hell with it,
he thought. Irregular verbs could wait. It was his own future that
concerned him more.
He looked around at the neat, softly lit room that tried hard to
pretend it belonged to an expensive hotel rather than a hospital. There
was a TV on a table in the corner, operated by a remote control beside
the bed. A window looked out over a wide north London street lined with
trees. His room was on the second floor, one of about a dozen arranged
in a ring around a bright and modern reception area. In the early days
after his operation, there had been flowers everywhere, but Alex had
asked for them to be taken away. Theyd reminded him of a funeral
parlor and he had decided he preferred being alive.
But there were still cards. He had received more than twenty and hed
been surprised how many people had heard that hed been hurtand how
many had sent a card. There had been a dozen from school: one from the
head; one from Miss Bedfordshire, the school secretary; and several
from his friends. Tom Harris had sent him some photos taken on their
trip to Venice and a note:
They told us its appendercitis but I bet it isnt.
Get well soon anyway.
Tom was the only person at Brookland who knew the truth about Alex.
Sabina Pleasure had somehow discovered he was in the hospital and had
sent him a card from San Francisco. She was enjoying life in America
but missed England, she said. She was hoping to come over for
Christmas. Jack Starbright had sent him the biggest card in the room
and had followed it up with chocolates, magazines, and energy drinks,
visiting him twice a day. There was even a card from the prime
ministers officealthough it seemed the prime minister had been too
busy to sign it.
And there had been cards from MI6. One from Mrs. Jones, another from
Alan Blunt (a printed message with a single wordbluntsigned in green
ink as if it were a memorandum, not a get-well card). Alex had been
surprised and pleased to receive a card from Wolf, the soldier he had
met while training with the SAS. The postmark showed it had been mailed
in Baghdad. But his favorite had been sent by Smithers. On the front
was a teddy bear. There was no message inside, but when Alex opened the
card, the teddy bears eyes blinked and it began to talk.
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