Book 17. Part Three. 7

Funny to see Eloise put Aurie in her place like that. For the readers of Regent, y’all will know what “the second reason” Aurie had is.

I see several possibilities as to the next few scenes but it may take just as many days for me to work them out. The MS is at 42k and there is still Part Four, where I try to get all the players, including the Russians from Part One, back on screen. I wanted this done before Imaginarium but am beginning to have my doubts.

Enjoy my content? Buy me a beer! 

Ten minutes later, Henge opened the door to a first-floor office of the building they were in last night.  She doesn’t knock?

“I don’t have to.  My daughter knows I’m here,” she replied, opening the door wide.  Aurelia was already coming around her desk with her arms wide.

“Mama!” she cried, hugging her mother tightly.

Without moving, Eloise began to hear something which was a mix of whispering and almost hissing.  It’s coming from them?  Are they… talking, I suppose?

“Yes,” the Regent said, taking a half-step back but still holding on to Henge’s hands.  “That would have been a two hour conversation for a human.”

“Aurie,” her mother scolded, “be nice!”

“Sorry, Mama.” She looked at Eloise.  “And I apologize, guest.”

“With our two actions in motion regarding our family,” Henge said to her reining daughter, “and we both know which one will work, Gary and I are returning home.  I know you will keep us informed.”

They kissed each other’s cheek and Aurelia called, “Bye, Mama!” as she closed the door.

“You are here,” the Regent’s entire demeanor changed as she turned her attention to Eloise, “because I spooked you by calling you a foreign spy.”

“Yes.  Is your son well?”

“Well, shit,” Aurelia muttered, moving to pour some coffee for the both of them, handing a mug to Eloise.  “Thanks for putting me in my place.  We do need that every now and again.  One of the reasons I have my new personal secretary.  Come!”

Before there was a knock, the businesslike older woman with the long, black hair streaked with gray came in.  She was at the first meeting and Eloise recalled her name as Colour Jansen.  She shifted the coffee to her left and extended her right hand.

“A pleasure to see you this morning, Mrs. Jansen,” Eloise greeted.

“If you are this close to the family, I’d like you to call me Colour,” she smiled.  “Is that okay with you, Eloise?”

“Yes, yes.  Very nice.” The Regent seemed in a hurry.  “I always am.  Stand over there, Colour.  Thank you.”

She gulped down half her coffee.

“Two reasons,” Aurelia began, getting right to the point.  “One, you had an army file opened on you after your first encounter with, ah, hestatus Bob Hardt while in Flemingsburg.  Nothing usual about that; it was one of the first time our militaries touched.  Later, however, the CSIS, your Security Intelligence Service, opened a file when you met him again in Owensboro, just over two hundred miles west.”

“They did?  I gave a full report of our entire conversations both times – ” Eloise began to object.

“Including the part about you wanting to have sex with him?” Aurelia demanded.

“Well, no.”

“Then months later, here you are, captured by Russians who are taking all of your western and central provinces,” Aurelia went on.  “You are returned to your unit then very mysteriously disappear.  Again in the company of this suspicious Hardt fellow!  Only to reach out to your overall commander, General Burghy, from the heart of the imperium.”

She tossed back the rest of the mug and set it aside.

“I assure you, SIS is extremely interested in talking to you.  And I also assure you their starting premise is that you are a foreign spy.”

The Regent laughed at Eloise.

“You thought I was thinking of you as a spy?  Do you know so little of our kind?  I was laughing because we knew what your own government thought of you!”

“But…” she paused, confused and concerned.  “But the General said it was safe for me to return…”

“So far as he knows, it is.  More coffee?” Eloise shook her head.  Aurelia took her mug before she dropped it.  “The Walls, internet security, of SIS are laughable to us.  They’ll intercept any plane you are on and disappear you before Burghy is any the wiser.”

“But I have done nothing wro – ”

“Please grow up, Lieutenant Patel!” the Regent said in some anger.  “Factions of your government are both spooked and furious as to what is happening to them right now.  Things happening to their south and west.  Have you been in the south and west recently, Lieutenant?”

Eloise didn’t reply.

“Suspicious as hell.  That’s how you look.  All it takes is one military judge to make you guilty as hell.” Aurelia walked to within inches of Eloise.  “And then you will be as dead as hell.”

“I will not be the one telling my cousin, Crown Prince Robert, this happened on my watch.  Do you begin to understand your situation, Lieutenant?”

She nodded.  “I do.”

Aurelia took her shoulders.  “Good.  Now go back to the conference room we were in last evening.  This won’t take long.  After that, you and I will speak this afternoon about our next steps.”

Eloise nodded and took a step toward the door, but paused.

“Regent?  You said there were two reasons you called me a foreign spy.  That you have access to Canadian signals I get.  What was the other?”

She saw this powerful woman look to her secretary with a sly, private grin before turning back.

“Not tellin’,” she said, but in a kind voice.  “You will have to trust me.  And from now on, in private, I’m Aurelia.  Okay?”

A nod and Eloise was gone.

In the hallway, door closed, she finally allowed breathing to become panicked and her eyes leak tears.

My own government!  I swore an oath as an officer…!  They are going to kill me!  Bob!  Please, please come back!

She dabbed at her eyes and made for the stairs she used last night.

The very short meeting – it was mostly just Aurelia making sure Johnston was fully informed – was as brief as the Regent had implied.  After fifteen minutes, she was gone.

“We’ll be taking our leave, as well,” Johnston said with his hand out to her.  “My boy here needs to get back to his studies and training.  Even under these circumstances, it has been a pleasure to meet you, Eloise.  I’d like for you to visit our family home, outside of Mobile, someday.”

“I would like to do that.” She paused.  “If I live that long.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s,” she shook her head, “just something the Regent told me right before this meeting.  I’m in trouble back home.”

“Then stay here,” Julian suddenly spoke up.  “That’s obvious.”

“I’m not wearing my uniform right now, young sir,” she smiled down to him, “but am still an officer in my nation’s army.  I have my duty.”

“No one has a duty to be murdered, Miss Patel,” Johnston said with some heat.  “While I have no power in the imperial family, I was briefly governor of the Gulf Shore Province.  And I meant what I said:  my home is yours, if you want it.”

“Thank you.” She bent down to hug and kiss his son, who hugged her right back.  “I’ll think about it.”

The two left without another word.  Eloise looked around the empty room.

“Now what?” she asked to the air.

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