I awoke. I was on the same bed. I felt drowsy all over, except in one particular. The woman was still there. She came into view. I was dressed, to some extent, I could just see my bow tie which had come rather rakishly undone, but she was able to inspect me briefly and then, apparently satisfied, went out of my vision again. Had I been restrained? I moved my limbs languidly. No, I was not restrained. I was just very, very relaxed, except, as I say, in one particular.
I felt rather cheerful about it all.
I heard the woman’s voice, as if from far away.
Was she talking to me? There couldn’t be anyone else, obviously, in my hotel room, except her and me.
“I’m awake, my dear,” I tried to say. I’m not sure what came out.
I giggled. Not to be able to say “I’m awake, my dear”! What had they put in that champagne!
Of course her spoken English, earlier, had not been fluent. Fluent enough to say ‘awake’ through, I reasoned to myself. I was reasoning to myself, I thought, with another giggle; things are not that serious. She came back into my field of vision. She was still wearing the lovely dress, sheer but immensely stylish, that had first caught my eye at the ball, hours earlier. She gazed at me.
If this is a honey trap, I thought, bring it on!
She was still in her lovely dress, but I noticed with surprise that instead of the long silk gloves that she had worn earlier she had on surgical gloves. The green clashed.
What was that?
It had felt immensely real – not as a dream that I was in but as if someone was talking directly to me.
I got up agitatedly and made myself some green tea to clear my head. I noticed that it was four o’clock in the morning – not a proper time for green tea. Back to sleep, I thought, getting into bed and placing the mug with the tea on the bedside table. In the other side of the bed the better half was sleeping soundly. Fortunately I had not disturbed her. But I couldn’t get back to sleep. It had been too vivid. I had a sudden thought. The only person who ever tried to contact me like that was Uncle Edgerton, though he’d been quiet for months now. Uncle Edgerton, of course, usually summoned me by using his familiar, P2, who would adopt the shape of a woman known to me and then convey me back in time. I checked the better half under the blanket. No, it was really her, not P2; with P2 there is always a certain skimpiness with the attendant detail.
Uncle Edgerton was in trouble. That gradually came to me and then I couldn’t get it out of my head. It was a most unlikely mise en scène for him, but, yes, it was his tone of voice. Silly, dirty old fool! I remembered with a flash that he was said to have died mysteriously during the War. These were certainly mysterious enough circumstances for him, far from Lewisham and the life assurance company. It came to me even more cogently: he’s got out of his depth and he needs my help.
Or my uncle was going to die.
I dashed, quietly, down to the kitchen and downed a glass from my home supply of kefir. It was essential to recover the dream, or whatever it was – and then I might know what to do. I soon slept again. What I now encountered chilled me to the bone. There was nothing to see and a plain unvarying electronic note. Had Uncle Edgerton flat-lined?
That underlined the danger but I realised that it needn’t be fatal. If I could get back, I could do so a minute or two earlier, and I could deal with the vamp and her accomplice, the one she’d said ‘awake’ to, before they did whatever unspeakable thing it was that they had done – or would do – to my uncle. Actually I could take Aubergine Small and he’d sort them out. He is, as readers may recall, much bigger than I am.
But how? How could I get back in time to what must be the 1940s? Uncle Edgerton had always dealt with that side of things before. He was, after all, an adept of the Order of the Drawn Sword (Third Level) and I wasn’t. I was not thinking straight. I dashed upstairs again and fetched the mug of green tea. It would counteract the effect of the kefir.
I drank it slowly. It was still hot. Green tea is quite delicious lukewarm or even cold, but hot is best, especially when you want to dispel the lingering narcotic effects of kefir.
This round of dashing up- and downstairs had woken the better half.
“What on earth’s going on?”
She was not pleased to be disturbed.
I explained briefly. I probably gabbled.
“And what exactly are you planning to do about it?”
“That’s what I’m cudgelling my brains about….”
“I don’t see P2. So you can’t go back in time.”
The better half, unnecessarily I thought, got on her hands and knees and shouted satirically under the bed:
“P2, come out! P2, are you under there?”
She turned to me again.
“What exactly did he say?”
I told her again.
““If this is a honey trap, I thought, bring it on!”?”
“I very much doubt that they said ‘honey trap’ in nineteen forty whatever it was, and they certainly didn’t say ‘bring it on’.”
“He didn’t say it. You made it up. It was a dream. It’s half past four. Now go back to sleep.”