Aderyn pouted as they approached the dilapidated apartment building, “Don’t like it here. Wanna go home, Grandpa. Now.”
“Silence, Aderyn, rudeness will not be tolerated.”
In a vain attempt to free herself, the tiny child wriggled when her grandfather rang the old-fashioned doorbell. The hiss of fury silenced Aderyn when a woman, her voice sounding frail, demanded that they identify themselves.
“Helena, don’t play games. You are aware of my identity so open the damned door.”
Reluctantly, she pressed the button allowing him to enter the building. As he lightly tapped on the apartment door, Alice slid the heavy door chains into position. With the door ajar, she stared at her visitor. “I may seem frail to you, but I’m stronger than I appear at first sight.” Her lips trembled as she glanced at the tiny child, then stared at the huge man. “Who the hell are you, and who is Helena?”
Briefly, Adler linked with his son. “Helena’s mother is younger than I thought and although Alice sounded frail, at least initially, it is a ruse. She’s healthy but mobility issues are a cause for concern.”
“My name is Adler Drayden, Helena is my daughter in law and Aderyn is our granddaughter.”
“No, that cannot be true. You are lying. Why is Gary playing games? Did he send you?” The glance was fleeting, her gaze assessing. “Did my daughter’s father send you?”
Aderyn’s eyes opened wide as she watched the old woman then tugged her grandfather’s sleeve. “The mumsy said her father was dead so the wrinkly can’t be my grandma.” Aderyn stared at the old woman and pouted. “I am tiny, beautiful and feminine with big blue eyes, just like the mumsy. She’s tall with hazel eyes and blond hair.”
“And unless I am mistaken, your mother’s hair was a rich chestnut brown whereas yours is blond.”
Adler sighed, impatiently, when Alice’s lips trembled and tears cascaded down her pale cheeks. “My daughter would neither marry nor give birth without telling me. We lived together in her apartment until the day…” Her expression resigned, Alice opened the door. She glanced at the child and quietly said, “Why are you trying to destroy precious memories of my late daughter?”
Though the outside of the building was dilapidated, the open areas were smart with CCTV, sprinklers and smoke detectors. Alice’s flat was beautifully decorated and furnished. A comfortable, warm inviting home.
“Aderyn, ask your father to join me. Stay with Liam.”
The tiny child raced up the corridor yelling, “Liam, Grandpa said you gotta babysit.”
“Though the photograph was taken many years ago, I recognised you at first sight. You were dining at a Tapas bar in the old town of Alicante.” He carefully placed the photograph beside her.
“I don’t believe you.”
“Why are you reluctant to face reality? Look at the photograph then tell me, if you can, that Helena isn’t your daughter. Our granddaughter resembles her mother ― in looks and temperament ― and unless I’m mistaken, she also resembles her grandma.”
Yet again, Adler’s impatience surfaced when Alice reached for the walking stick.
The aroma of freshly brewed coffee was enticing. She set the tray on a table by her side and poured coffee into two tiny glass cups, topping them up with Spanish brandy. Her expression was mischievous as she popped a dark chocolate into her mouth.
“I love the flavour of cherries in Kirsch encased in rich dark chocolate. Oh,” she whispered as her eyes closed. “This is my favourite brand of coffee: strong, aromatic and delicious. A match made in heaven when accompanied by chocolate. I searched the Internet, and all our local supermarkets, here and in Spain but to no avail.” The pause was brief as she sipped the beverage. “Only one pack left,” she whispered despondently.
“Helena loved our coffee. The beans are grown and roasted on the island. We produce just enough to meet our needs, so it isn’t sold to trading partners. Alice, your daughter and my son met at a party during their first week at university. My son was betrothed to the daughter of a close friend. They were due to marry on her eighteenth birthday, but he fell in love with Helena, and she him. Generally, we don’t marry outsiders, but he set aside our traditions abandoning the way of life our people enjoyed for centuries. They were married in a London registry office. Aderyn was born two months later. Fait Accompli: my first grandchild entered the world. They chose to live on the islands, but your daughter was unhappy. As time passed her visits were infrequent. On her last visit she left a photograph and presents for Aderyn and a letter to my son explaining her desire to return home was strong. Helena did not visit again. Alice, even then I sensed all was not well.”
Alice was deep in thought as she considered Adler’s comment hence her failure to notice Aidan’s arrival.
“We searched for my wife, but each time Liam came close, she vanished without trace. I thought it strange, at the time, that the online search for Helena Jameson proved fruitless.”
“Helena Griffiths,” Alice whispered.
“Liam found a passport and photograph, taped to the underside of her dressing table so we are aware that the name was an alias. Alice, you were named as next of kin.”
“My address wasn’t on the passport so how did you find me,” Alice asked as she approached the large window? “I recognise those men. How could I not; their height, build and unusual colouring aren’t easily forgotten.” Alice’s expression chilled as she watched Liam. “Finally, I understand why we moved so many times with little notice. Helena was frightened.” The cold assessing glance cast at Aidan was brief. “My daughter was admitted to hospital last year. Two days later, when she slipped into a coma, the doctor confirmed there was no hope. Sadly, my sweet child survived just a few more days.”
Aidan sat beside Alice, taking her cold hand in his own. “Where is she,” he gently asked. “Where is my wife’s body?”
“Helena has gone. All that remains are her ashes, and he has them.”
His expression bereft, Aidan glanced at his father. Voice subdued, Adam asked, “Alice, who has taken your daughter’s ashes?”
“Her father and his wife, Gary and Heather Dräedon. They live in Wetherby, but I have no contact details. If you want to meet Gary, you will have to trace him.”
“My father believes you are vulnerable so he suggested a move to our islands would be beneficial for your health and wellbeing. Helena insisted that you wouldn’t move to our island as you loved the Spanish lifestyle and your home on Formentera. My wife enjoyed the wild winter storms and claimed your love of the storm equalled hers.”
“That cannot be denied as storms are invigorating but I was born in Yorkshire and I will end my days here. I feel safe and secure in the knowledge that I won’t be called upon to move again.”
Alice approached the window as I boarded the helicopter. As we left the landing pad, she limped towards an exquisite Sheesham writing desk set in the corner of her room.
“Her interest in writing hasn’t waned, Father, so surely this is a good sign.”
“Losing herself in a world of fantasy helps Alice cope with the grief of losing her only child. Aidan, will she choose to join her daughter?”
“Alice is strong, at least in spirit so I doubt she will be tempted to hasten Death’s touch.”
“Take charge of the investigation. Liam will find Gary Dräedon and his wife. Get Helena’s ashes. I want no loose ends so ensure Zaya accompanies you. Contact Marie, assign her to the task of ensuring your Mother-in-Law moves to the islands. Preferably willingly, but unwillingly if necessary. Explain to her why she must not fail. We need blood from the birthmother, her father and your wife’s ashes otherwise the resurrection will fail. We can only hope that Alice isn’t aware of our powers.”
“Alice is aware of our powers, Liam’s identity and his particular talents. The solution is simple, surely. She loves our coffee: use this, and her love of chocolate to tempt Alice to join us. And Helena’s father: what action should I take?”
“No loose ends. Zaya will deal with them.”