The Fall of the Phoenix

Chapter Six

by TT (a.m.tilmouth.s99 at cranfield.ac.uk)

Tessa stood on the boat. This would always be the boat to her, the antique that her grandfather kept and maintained for the sake of appearances, for the sake of pride. She stood watching a young girl of four and an old man playing on the deck. Inside a buzzer went off.

'Stay here, Tessa; granddad has to answer the radio.' The old man left. All too soon the girl was restless; she pulled of the bulky lifejacket and climbed up on the edge of the boat holding onto the ropes that held the sails in place. For a while she was content to stare at the sparkling blue water beneath her; then carefully at first, she began to do a tightrope walk across the side of the boat. Her hand slipped from rope to rope as she moved and then back again; the gaps between ropes when she was holding onto nothing got longer and then she was walking all by herself along the edge of the boat. Wind caught the sails; the boat moved. The ropes were too far to grab as the ship rocked in the breeze; she fell backwards screaming into the arms of the ocean.

Tessa’s eyes snapped open; she tried to sit. A strap bit into her chest and legs as she put weight on them, one after the other; she couldn’t move. All she could do was turn her head from side to side; images were fuzzy incomplete sets of data that barely registered. A female voice came from one side of her.

'Is she awake?'

Another voice, deeper and with a slight accent Tessa couldn’t distinguish, answered, 'Yes.'

'And she cannot see us?

'No.'

'Good.'

Tessa strained against the straps. 'What...what have you done to my eyes?'

A hand patted her cheek; she jerked away. 'Nothing too permanent, my dear, although one can never be sure of side effects.'

She turned her head towards the direction of the female voice, it sounded the most in charge of the two. 'Who are you? Why am I here?'

There was a low chuckle. 'As to the first, telling would be stupid for us and fatal for you. As to the second...let us just say your great-grandfather has annoyed us.'

Tessa sneered. 'Moriarty...if you’re hoping to get to him through me, it won’t work. He couldn’t care less about me or my family.'

There was that low tickling chuckle again. 'Oh, no? Explain to me then why he puts flowers on your parents' grave; explain why he was compelled to attend the funeral in disguise...explain why he has had you followed ever since you were nearly killed by the Shadow.'

Tessa fell silent for a minute.

'Congratulations on killing Oreo, by the way. It has saved me a lot of trouble in the long term. I was beginning to wonder who I could send to assassinate the master killer.'

Footsteps, heels, echoed across a stone floor and faded. She pulled against the straps again; they held firm.

'Now let me make you a little more comfortable, my friend.' It was the male voice with the accent. She heard a click and the straps fell off of her. She sat up and swayed; a steely grip caught her arm.

'Still a little unsteady; perfectly normal reaction after the loss of sight.' She was helped off the table she was on and onto the floor. The grip on her arm half-led, half-pulled her across the floor

'A small room has been prepared; you’ll find your way 'round it soon enough. If you want anything, just shout.'

Tessa grimaced. 'Shout what? I don’t even know your name.'

There was silence as they stepped onto some carpet; the hand let go of her arm. 'Shout anything you want, my friend; I will be the only one in earshot.' She heard the door close. Alone in the room, memories of the water flooded back.

On to Part 7!

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