Chapter Twenty-Seven

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Hannah tried unsuccessfully to pull down the hem of her dress. It was too short when standing, but felt even shorter now that she was sat down; she felt uncomfortable and exposed.

"You scrub up well," Tucker said, giving her a suggestive wink. He'd only known her for two weeks and was enjoying finding out ways to wind her up.

"Gee, thanks," she replied and gave a weak smile in response.

"Come on Hannah, smile babe. It's time to party!"

"I don't feel much like partying."

"Look, I get that you miss your family, I miss my mum too, but this new life of ours isn't that bad is it?" he asked.

Although they were alone in the back of the car, Hannah was all too aware that someone somewhere was probably listening in. She looked towards the driver, who was sat behind a glass screen and seemed oblivious to their conversation.

"I'm fine, just a little homesick I guess."

Two weeks had passed since the day of the funeral and Hannah felt impotent. Some man she had met once as a baby, whom she had no memory of, had put her in this impossible position. People she had never met where apparently waiting on her, relying on her to do something, but what? She'd barely seen Zeke in that time; he was apparently tied up in important meetings. She'd also only been allowed a one-hour visit with her parents, which was a supervised visit by Agent Scott. While the conversation may have been stilted, the warm embrace and emotion-filled gazes of her parents said everything that needed to be said. After that short visit, Hannah returned to her new life and now felt more stressed and isolated, longing to be able to confide in someone. Instinctively, she felt she could trust Tucker, but it was too soon, she was afraid to do so and she didn't want to put anyone else at risk.

For the remainder of the journey, they sat in silence, their minds preoccupied with thoughts of their families. Eventually, the car pulled up outside the town hall. The grand building was lit up like a beacon, as the sky darkened into night. Outside, a large crowd was gathered, which included a hoard of photographers, whose camera bulbs flashed repeatedly. The scene was identical to the reception that had met Hannah on the day of the press conference. Since then, under Briggs orders, they had been relatively left alone as they had settled into their new homes and schools, but here the media was again, desperate for an exclusive picture.

Scott appeared at Hannah's door and opened it for her.

"Good evening Hannah."

Hannah carefully extricated herself from the car, struggling to prevent her hem from riding up further. She stood up as straight as she could in the high heels she had been bullied into wearing by Diana's stylist, and smoothed down the stretchy black lace dress.

"You look..." he started and shook his head as if trying to clear his thoughts and hurriedly finished his sentence, "very lovely this evening."

Hannah was somewhat startled by those unexpected words of flattery; they sounded so odd coming from his lips. Up until this point, communications with Scott had been formal and functional. This was the first time he had ever said anything to her that made him seem remotely human. Scott fiddled with his black bow tie and Hannah had yet to remove her stare.

"Uh, thank you," she replied.

"Come on Hannah, let's get slaughtered," said an over excited Tucker who had appeared at her side. He took her arm and moved them both towards the door. Scott, who was supposed to have led them into the cool, marble-clad lobby, trailed behind them.

Soon the shouts from the awaiting crowds drowned out the inner voice in Hannah's questioning mind. There were people everywhere, calling their names. The flashes from the cameras hurt her eyes making it hard to focus. She gripped Tucker's arm, not sure whether it was to reassure her or to calm him down. Tucker was behaving like a puppy straining against a leash, laughing and waving at the enthusiastic audience. They in turn were enthralled. Just then, a man standing several feet back into the crowd caught her eye. He was booing loudly at them and then lifted a large wooden placard. On it was written the words, perfectly flawed, in red paint. The freshly applied paint had dripped down the wooden background and looked like blood dripping from a wound. He fixed Hannah with a stare and spat out words that she was wasn't close enough to make out. He scared her and she pulled at Tucker's arm to move him away. Just then she saw Scott point towards the man and four burly guards swiftly barged through the crowd towards him. One of them ripped the placard from his hands and the other three pushed him to the ground. They dragged him away, kicking and screaming. The crowd around them appeared oblivious to the action being taken and quickly filed into the gap that had been left. Within seconds nothing remained of the scuffle except for the sick feeling in Hannah's gut.

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