Authors: Ken McClure
When I am dead my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me with shower and dew drops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt … forget.
Jutte Hahn opened the bedroom door quietly and looked in at the sleeping figure of Sean MacLean. She smiled and flicked the hair back from her face. Anyone seeing the look in her eyes would have been in no doubt about the love that was there. She and MacLean had lived together for nearly a year now and every day seemed like the first. MacLean moved in his sleep and rolled on to his left side. Jutte came over to the bed and sat down on the edge. She ran her finger gently down the contours of his bare arm and smiled at the slight movement she induced. She stopped at his hand and thought how much she loved his touch. Strong, tanned wrists led to long sensitive fingers, surgeon’s fingers, for that was what MacLean was.
There was a gold ring on the second finger of his right hand; it had been his father’s wedding ring. She could make out the letters, JM on it and a tiny emblem, which she knew was a thistle, but could not quite see in the early light filtering through the still-closed blinds. MacLean was fiercely proud of his Scottish origins. Woe betide anyone at the clinic who called him English. Jutte smiled at the thought. MacLean was so gentle about everything else.
Jutte had met MacLean on the ski slopes above Zermatt. He had been having a weekend away from the clinic and she was employed to instruct parties of school children in the fundamentals of skiing. She had been taken aback by his directness when he came straight up to her and asked if she would have a drink with him when classes were over for the day. Her immediate instinct had been put him down but there had been something about his openness that had made her think twice and then agree. Far from being a sophisticated operator, which had been her first thought, MacLean had a quality of childlike innocence.
When she thought back to that first evening she reflected on how easily it could have been their last. MacLean had spoken about nothing but his work. The company he worked for had come up with some new compound, which affected the kind of surgery MacLean was interested in and he was filled with such enthusiasm for it. She hadn’t understood much at the time but the one thing that struck her was that MacLean’s concern for his patients was genuine. When he had driven her home that evening she had expected him to make some kind of pass but instead he had suddenly apologised for being so boring. He had kissed her fingertips lightly and asked if he might be allowed to see her again.
After seeing each other regularly for two months they had decided to live together. If Sean MacLean had suggested they fly to the moon Jutte would have agreed without a second thought; she had fallen so much in love with him. He had become everything to her. She ran her fingers lightly along his forehead and curled a lock of dark hair. She wished with all her heart that she could do something to help him with what he was going through right now. Things had gone wrong with the project at the clinic and trials on the new compound had been abandoned. There had been a death and MacLean blamed himself.
Jutte continued to trace her fingers lightly round the contours of MacLean’s face, pausing only when he showed signs of stirring. She brought them underneath his chin and up against the stubble on his cheek to circle the edge of his ear. MacLean moved as if annoyed by a fly and Jutte stopped until he settled again. She touched his ear and MacLean brought up his hand. He kept it against his ear. Jutte ran her index finger gently up the spaces between his fingers in turn. She knew that he liked that.
‘Monster,’ murmured MacLean.
Jutte laughed out loud and MacLean opened his eyes.
‘Do you know what time it is?’ she asked.
‘Not only do I not know what time it is,’ replied MacLean sleepily, ‘I don’t care.’
‘It’s seven thirty,’ said Jutte.
‘It’s also Saturday,’ said MacLean. He turned over on to his front and put both hands up on the pillow. Jutte rubbed his shoulders in a circular motion.
‘That’s nice,’ purred MacLean.
‘You should have been a cat,’ smiled Jutte.
‘Next time around,’ said MacLean.
‘What would you like for breakfast?’
‘Instead of porridge?’ mocked Jutte. ‘What would your Scottish granny say.’
‘Granddad would understand,’ growled MacLean, turning round to pull her down on top of him.
Jutte squealed in mock protest then kissed him full on the lips.
‘Have I told you lately how much I love you?’ said MacLean.
‘Not lately enough.’
‘Then I do.’
‘Say it,’ demanded Jutte.
‘I love you.’
‘Good,’ said Jutte, freeing herself and standing up. ‘Then you won’t have forgotten your promise?’
‘Promise,’ said MacLean uncertainly.
‘To go up to the mountains this week-end.’
‘Ah,’ MacLean replied thoughtfully.
‘You promised,’ insisted Jutte.
‘Very well, I promised,’ conceded MacLean after a moment’s thought.
‘Then up you get and into the shower with you.’
‘Jutte, I don’t think I feel like … ‘
Jutte put her finger to his lips. ‘We are going,’ she said. ‘You need to get away from here for a bit; we both do. It will help to take your mind off things.’
MacLean considered and then conceded. He said, ‘All right, we’ll go.’ He got out of bed.
‘While you are in the shower I will drive down to the bakers and get some of Madame Renaud’s croissants.’
‘Wonderful,’ said MacLean.
‘Can I take your car?’
‘The keys are by the door.’
‘Won’t be long.’ Jutte put on a pale blue jacket over her blouse and picked up the keys. She kissed MacLean on the cheek and was gone.
MacLean went into the bathroom and took off the boxer shorts he used as pyjamas. He examined himself in the mirror and grimaced as he saw the beginnings of loose flesh around his middle. He needed more exercise. Being over six-foot tall and broad with it, he could carry spare flesh without it showing too much but he didn’t like it. He would start running again soon. He had stopped it when things had started to go wrong at the clinic and had been drinking more that was good for him but he would have to get a grip on himself. After this weekend he would get back to a stricter regime.
He stepped into the shower and made a slight adjustment to the regulator but, as he reached for the soap, an explosion rocked the building and the apartment was filled with the sound of breaking glass. MacLean threw a towel round his waist and rushed through to find that the balcony doors had been blown in. Ignoring the glass underfoot and filled with fear and trepidation, he moved outside to look down. His Mercedes was now a heap of smouldering wreckage. Metal was strewn all over the road and a tyre was burning. The air was filled with smoke and what looked like pieces of paper were floating silently down. One of the pieces landed on the balcony and MacLean picked it up slowly as if in a trance. It was a small piece of pale blue material.
Lisa Vernay opened her eyes cautiously as the morning sun caught her face on the pillow. It was just after six. She turned over and let her arm drop lightly on to the space beside her. A few months ago the emptiness would have rekindled the hollow feeling and maybe even have brought tears but not now. Jean Pierre had gone and she had accepted it; she had moved on. She had left Geneva to find a new job working at the Klausman Clinic in Zurich and with it had come a new apartment, a white Volkswagen convertible and a growing new circle of friends.
Among that circle was Jeff Edelman, an American surgeon at the clinic who seemed more than a little interested in her. Lisa liked him but was in no hurry to form any close relationship. She would keep him at arm’s length for the time being - at least until the hurt healed. Besides, she suspected that he was several years younger than she was. But maybe that was a consideration of another age.
Jean Pierre had been very generous to her at the time of the break-up, a generosity born of guilt but nevertheless she had no need to seek security. She could afford to take things slowly. In her heart she had forgiven him and could even wish him well but as for the little bitch who had stolen him away … that was quite another matter.
Lisa got out of bed and opened the curtains. She basked for a few moments in the warmth of the sun coming through the glass before sliding back the door and stepping out on to the balcony. The air was already pleasantly warm. Ten floors below her she could see the sunlight sparkle on the clear blue water of the apartment swimming pool. There was only the tiniest ripple on its surface and the surrounding gardens were deserted. It looked so inviting and she did not have to be at the clinic until nine. The first lab samples wouldn’t start arriving until half past; there would be plenty of time.
She slipped out of her nightdress and padded lightly across the floor to the closet where she kept her swimsuits. Of the three in the top drawer she chose the navy-blue one-piece with the band of lighter blue running diagonally up to her left shoulder like a fork of lightning. She made it fit perfectly with her fingertips, running them round the inside of the elastic and smoothing it over her still-firm buttocks.
She examined herself in the full-length mirror door of the closet and was not displeased at what she saw. At the age of thirty-five her stomach was flat, her breasts arrogant and her hair was still jet black without assistance. She could pass for mid to late twenties. She threw a bathrobe round her shoulders, packed a towel and her keys into a duffel bag and slipped her feet inside the rope sandals she’d bought in Saint Raphael last year. She paused as she reached the door then ran back to the kitchen to switch on the electric kettle for when she came back. That would save a few minutes.
Lisa dropped the robe from her shoulders on to one of the poolside chairs and kicked her sandals underneath. She walked to the head of the pool and looked down at the water. An onlooker might have expected her to dive in but she didn’t. Lisa never dived into pools. She hadn’t done that since she was fourteen years old when she’d tried to emulate her older brother Paul by diving into the sea from the rocks near their holiday home in Brittany. She had mistimed the swell and hit her head on the bottom. The remainder of the holiday had been spent in hospital.
Lisa touched the mark on her forehead subconsciously as she walked up the side of the pool to the centre ladders and climbed down. The water was cold but she held her breath and continued to descend until the water lapped below her chin. She pushed herself away from the side and floated on her back for a few moments, gazing up at the unbroken blue of the sky, enjoying the scents from the surrounding shrubs. She turned over on to her front and started to swim up and down in a lazy crawl. It felt good to stretch her limbs.
As she started to tire, she decided on a final length of breaststroke to take her down to the shallow end. She pushed off with her feet and stayed under the surface with her hands by her sides as long as possible, rejoicing in the feeling of moving through the water like a fish but when she broke the surface she became aware of a man waiting at the end of the pool. He was wearing overalls and leaning on a rake.
‘Bonjour,’ said Lisa as she stood up, wiping the water from her eyes.
‘Bonjour Madame,’ replied the man. ‘You swim well.’
‘Merci,’ said Lisa coldly. She could not recall having seen this particular gardener before and thought his comment on her swimming prowess a little too familiar. She climbed up the steps and was surprised to see that the man had moved to the head of them. He was blocking her way.