Absolution Chapter 2

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Chapter two.

The alarm cut into her light sleep. Registering that it was her phone, and not her clock, she came instantly awake. Years of responding to phone calls that had sent her all over the world at a moment's notice meant she was alert the moment she picked up her mobile.

"Katie?" The voice held a question as if the caller was unsure that he was ringing the correct number.

"John." Her response held genuine pleasure at the sound of his voice. "Where are you?"

"At the moment about 40,000 feet over Europe."

"On your way home or going away?"

"Home. Katie I am bringing a mutual friend to visit."

"A friend?"

"Yeah, a long lost friend."

"As'ad? You have As'ad with you?"

"I do, and when we land I'd like you around as a security policy."

"Security policy?"

"I work for the secret service. I don't trust anybody in the firm as far as I can throw them. I want you at Brize Norton when we land so that As'ad doesn't conveniently disappear."

"Brize Norton? Odd place to bring you into."

"We're on a Hercules which is returning after delivering supplies. Katie, a Lieutenant Layla Thompson will be at Brize Norton to meet us, she's a friend as well, but I doubt she'll be alone. Tell her a member of Eric Clapton's fan club sent you. She will know you are a friend then."

"Christ you spies and your codes; I sometimes think it is all a game."

"Well you know boys and their toys. Will you be there?"

"Yes John I will be there."

"Thanks Katie, I owe you."

"You owe me? I think not. See you at Brize Norton." She ended the call.

John Porter, she smiled softly, she owed him her life. She glanced at the stump where her left hand had once been a lasting reminder, as if she needed one, of that time in Iraq. The memory of John Porter quietly asking if he could check the wound for infection, was still fresh in her memory. He'd been so calm, gentle and reassuring. "Trust me," he'd said, and she had without question.

Time, it seemed, was no guide to the depth of friendship. They had spent just a few short hours together, during which time a bond was forged which was stronger than she had with any other friend. He'd known just what to say from the first moment she'd seen him. The boy As'ad had pulled the hood from her head; at first she had thought she was alone, but when she had drunk the small amount of water the boy offered, she'd watched as he moved to another prisoner. She hadn't been sure when he'd arrived; since they had hacked of her hand, she'd lapsed in and out of consciousness. She'd simply stared at him her eyes wide in surprise, as a million questions ran through her mind. When they were alone he'd crawled over to her. Even trussed up like a chicken there was something strong and dependable about him. He'd told her she was a good girl. It should have offended her, but it hadn't. He'd realised how traumatised she was, and had known the simple words used to sooth a child were all that she could take in. She'd clung to those words and the hope they'd offered.

Her kidnapping and those events had all been over a year ago, but it felt like yesterday. Whenever he was in town they'd meet up for a drink and dinner. They'd even been to the pictures a couple of times. It wasn't a physical relationship; on her part there was no sexual spark, and she doubted there was one on his. Did she love him? Undoubtedly, but as a friend not a lover. She'd asked him if he'd stayed in touch with any other hostages he'd rescued, thinking it odd, but he said no. With her, he'd said, it was different. Firstly she knew about As'ad; secondly her rescue had been the catalyst to his regaining his self-esteem and rebuilding his relationship with his daughter. Inevitably, on their evenings out, the conversation had turned to As'ad. Both of them had felt a tremendous guilt at leaving him behind in Iraq; now, impossible as it had sounded, John had found him.

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