Everyone was speaking at once. Lesley was in turn laughing and crying, clinging to Carl’s arm, and using the other hand to stroke and touch her sister. Bob Rather was encouraging them all into the house, shepherding them as best he could out of the growing dawn. Carl, was trying to calm his mum, and all the while, Jean had her arm wrapped around Sonja’s unyielding shoulders. She murmured quietly to the girl, whose eyes flitted back and forth in fear and panic.
Eventually, they were inside and the door was closed. Jean slid off the uncomfortable, ruined shoes and pushed her dirty feet into her slippers. She was aching and tired, she wanted to run upstairs and stand under a hot shower until she felt warm and clean again, but knew that it was going to be a while before that could happen.
They milled around in the hall no-one sure what came next, until Jean took charge, “Lesley could you put the kettle on, love?” and they trooped through to the kitchen.
Sonja allowed herself to be pushed onto one of dining chairs. Lesley tried to catch Jean’s eye, mouthing ‘Who is that?’ behind the girl’s back. Jean shook her head.
“Do you need an ambulance?” Bob took Jean’s arms and turned her towards him, peering into her face, lifting her chin and turning her face back and forth to look for wounds. She shook her head and pushed him away, gently but firmly. “And you, Carl, you’ve hurt your hands.”
“I’m alright,” Carl flexed his fingers, and rubbed the wounds on his wrists, “Actually it looks worse than it is. I just need a bandage and some cream on them. Oh, and a manicure.” He laughed.
Once they were settled with drinks and the biscuit box open on the table, Bob realised he should take charge. He began to stand, changed his mind, and made do with pushing the mug away from him and finishing off the shortbread biscuit, brushing the crumbs from the front of his jumper.
“Jean. I don’t need to tell you that you’ve been very silly, do I?” He glared at her across the table, but she stared back at him steadily, waiting. “You’ve behaved irresponsibly, you’ve put this young man,” he pointed at Carl, “and yourself at risk. What were you thinking? And apart from that you’ve withheld information that could help us with our enquiries. Do you realise how much trouble you’re in?”
“I’m sorry Bob, we didn’t know what to do, it was so very frightening. We were at our wits end. But see, it’s all turned out alright.”
They were shocked by the strength of his response, “Alright,” he bellowed, “It most certainly is not alright, not by a long chalk. You’re going to have to come to the station. There’ll be questions to answer. You’ll need to see the doctor, all manner of things. Both of you. And who is this?” He pointed now at Sonja. Jean saw Carl stiffen with tension, as the girl flicked her eyes back and forth, from Bob and back to Jean, and then to the door. She was ready to run.
“This is Sonja. She drove us home.”
“Right.” Bob frowned, “Home from where, and how come she drove you?”
“To be honest Bob I’m not sure where it was, and thank heavens we saw Sonja.” It wasn’t a lie, just a different version of the truth. She continued. “I think we’ll be able to find it again, the place. It was an industrial estate just outside Birmingham. We’ll probably be able to find it.”
“But Jean, what has it all been about?” After he had spoken, Bob held up a hand, “No, no look I don’t think there’s any point going through it now. I’m going to have to get the SCU people here and you’ll need to talk to them. My phone’s broken,” he glanced at Lesley, “so, seeing as you’re back now, and you seem okay, I think the best thing would be for me to go back to the station. I could take you down there but they won’t be expecting you and I don’t want you hanging around. Look, you all wait here, and depending on what they want, either a car will come for you, or they will come to you. Will you do that? Will you just all stay here until I get some things organised? I’m going to ring for a car to come and take me now and then I’ll be in touch.” He stood and walked across to the phone on the kitchen wall, lifted the handset and then remembered where he was. He turned to Jean and waved it in the air. “Alright?”
“Yes, of course.” Jean nodded.
Still, Lesley was looking from one to the other, her gaze falling on Sonja, puzzled and mistrustful. She kept quiet while they waited for the patrol car but, as soon as Bob Rather slammed the front door behind him, with yet more admonishments for them to not go anywhere, and not to have showers or baths until they were given the all clear, she spun to face her son and her sister. “Right, who is she? Don’t give me any nonsense about her giving you a lift, I’ve seen you looking at each other. Who is this?” As she spoke she pointed at Sonja, who stood and backed towards the door into the garden.
Jean took a step towards her. “It’s alright, really. It’s okay now. Nobody is going to hurt you. We’re going to help.” She turned to address her sister. “There’s been a terrible misunderstanding and Sonja here saved us. She helped us to get away. Things are very complicated and we don’t know what exactly is going on. But, she’s going to tell us, aren’t you, Sonja? And then, we’re going to look after her.”