The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, Chapter 82 – Moving On

You’re probably not supposed to have favourite bits but this week’s chapter of the Girl from a Thousand Fathoms, is one of mine. I hope you like it too.

The Girl from a Thousand Fathoms. Cover art by David Bezzina (c) 2017

Chapter 82 – Moving On

Elsewhere in Brighton an overweight middle-aged man became aware of someone sitting beside his hospital bed. It was a young woman, one who now wore her hair in a black rooster-cut with a red fringe.

‘Hey,’ Gabby said.

‘Jeez,’ Troy struggled to sit up and not to let the pain show as the stitches pulled. ‘I didn’t expect to see you here.’

‘You visited me.’

Jarglebaum winced, gave up and lay back. ‘I was interviewing you.’

‘Seven billion people in the world and I had one visitor. I don’t care about the reason.’

Troy looked at her narrow face with its too wide mouth and too long nose, her pipe-cleaner arms and her really quite lovely brown eyes and wondered why someone like her would go out of the way to visit a copper old enough to be her father.

‘Pass me some of that water, love. These hospitals are too damned hot.’

She carefully poured water from the jug and handed it to him with her left hand. She saw him watching. She held her head up and looked right back.

‘How are you doing?’ Jarglebaum said as gently as he had ever said anything.

‘I’m meant to say that.’

‘So tell me.’

Gabby looked down. ‘OK, I guess.’

‘The shop going all right?’

‘I’ve hired a manager. I went back for a bit but every time the door opened–’

That was all it took. Troy was back on the Sea Cucumber. It was dark, the ship was sinking and Imelda was kicking nine different types of hell out of him.

Gabby touched his arm. ‘Troy? Are you all right?’

‘Yeah, sure.’ Troy breathed hard, sweat prickled across his back. ‘It comes and goes. How’s the hand?’

Gabby tried to make a fist with her right hand but it wouldn’t close. ‘I can’t hold a mug, I can’t write. I don’t think it will ever be the same.’

‘I’m proud of my scars, you should be too.’

‘At least I can tell when it’s going to rain.’

‘That’s my girl.’

Gabby tried a smile. ‘All I ever wanted to do was run a pet shop and sell fluffy little animals and goldfish to nice people.’

‘Yeah, well, you shouldn’t let God hear your plans. I always fancied a bar on a beach somewhere hot. Babes in bikinis queuing for pina-coladas. That’s why I ended up in the public sector with three-quarters of fuck all for a pension.’

‘I think I’m going to sell up.’

Troy thought things through. ‘Look, Gabby, I know who hurt you and I reckon you’re safe. I know their names and I know what happened to them. I honestly don’t think they’ll be bothering you again.’

Gabby’s eyes widened. ‘That sounds heavy.’

‘It is, but not how you think.’

‘A long story?’

‘Yeah. For another day.’

Gabby sat on the end of the bed. ‘What are you going to do?’

‘Take a break. I’m out of the service and there’s a rich guy who owes me a favour. Apart from that I don’t want to risk screwing it up by talking too much.’

Gabby looked out the window. ‘I’d like to hear that story when you’re ready.’

Look at her, Troy told himself. You’re such an idiot. She’s been through tough times and she’s all alone. You’re just some kind of father figure.

He tried to keep his voice light, conversational. ‘It’s a deal.’ He held up his arm with the saline drip attached. ‘I’m out of here tomorrow, looking forwards to a better drink than this.’

Gabby jumped to her feet. ‘I could get you something from the hospital café. How about a strawberry and banana smoothie?’

The thought of all those vitamins made Troy’s stomach recoil. ‘I was thinking of something stronger.’

‘Gooseberry and rhubarb?’

Oh Christ, this is never going to work, Troy thought, but he was laughing so much it hurt.

To be continued…

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