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acts-of-faithPhyllis decided at once that she would leave for Colombo the very next morning. Harry was due the following week, and the march to start soon after. At the same time she tried repeatedly to get hold of Matthew to find out more, but was told that he was not at home. She did get hold of Diana, who told her that very strange things were happening and that no one was to be trusted, and then refused to say anything more since Phyllis would be down in person on the following day. So Phyllis too had a disturbed night; though she did have at least the satisfaction on the way down next morning of seeing, since she had made her intentions clear to Diana, that whereas the government papers declared in bold headlines that the march was to be postponed at the government’s suggestion, Indra’s proclaimed in even larger headlines that the march would most certainly go ahead.

Having got to Colombo, Phyllis found things even more upsetting than she had thought possible. Everyone at the house seemed in a distracted state, and though Diana did tell her that there was reason to believe Matthew had behaved very badly in the current crisis, no one would elaborate. Tom, who had been very upset by the conflicting reports in the newspapers, tried to refuse to see her and, when she insisted and forced her way in, refused to discuss the matter with her on the grounds that an even more urgent crisis had arisen. In its own way this was not entirely inaccurate, because John’s resignation, and the widespread publicity given to it and the fast, were driving him into an almost morbid frame of mind.

Then, though she had left several messages for Matthew, he was not in when she called. She insisted on waiting, however, until he came in for lunch, and then she found that he was not at all communicative. He was impeccably polite, but he made it very clear to her that he could add nothing to what she had been told by Tom. All in all, she had a utterly futile morning and, a most unusual state of mind for her, was almost depressed when, hot and tired and very hungry, she went back  to Diana’s for a very late lunch.

We shall leave her there for the moment, in the secure foreknowledge that things are going to be very much better for her in the afternoon.

*

Having spent the night in prayer, Harry went out in the morning and made a reservation to fly to Ceylon on a plane arriving there at dawn on the Saturday. Then he sent telegrams as usual announcing the time of arrival and suggesting to Phyllis that she might advance the date of the march. It was only after that that he went back to the hotel and told Veronica of the change of plan. She could not understand it. The reaction of the government was likely to be more rigid the sooner he landed, she thought.

‘It’s quite simple.’ Harry said wearily. He spoke and moved very slowly these days. ‘We mustn’t allow it to seem as though they had intimidated us. We must always be seen to be taking the initiative.’

‘But they’re sure to deport you this week.’

‘I think they’d try to deport me any time. But they won’t be quite prepared for this, so they might do something silly, which would help us quite a lot.’

‘What could they do?’

‘I haven’t the slightest idea. But none of them can stand what they look upon as defiance. My brother Tom in particular.’ Harry smiled wryly. ‘They might try to put me in prison perhaps.’

But that can’t be good for you in your present state.’

‘I don’t suppose anything is good for me in my present state.’ Harry tried to smile again, a smile that turned into a grimace. ‘I’m very ill, Veronica. That’s why it’s imperative to act quickly.’ Veronica looked at him in sudden horror. Harry took her hand and patted it and continued gently, ‘What I mean is that all this suspense is no good for me. I must do something.’

‘In that case, I’m coming with you.’ Veronica spoke suddenly but decisively.

‘‘There’s no reason why you should.’ Veronica opened her mouth, but Harry let go her hand and leaned back in his chair, and went on, ‘On the other hand, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. But in that case I strongly advise you to travel under an assumed name.’

He closed his eyes. Veronica left. She did book her ticket in her maiden name and, except at the Amnesty office, mentioned her departure to no one.

*

Paul is once again with Indra. He has good reason. Though earlier he had arranged to come in the evening to find out reactions to his proposal, there has been an unexpected development. In the course of the morning he had been called up at the embassy from his house, to be told that the three boys who had been seen on television had made an appearance in a very tense and nervous condition. Paul had some things to do at the office but, having finished them, he got to Indra’s as quickly as possible. The story the boys had to tell did not take very long, but it served to confirm his suspicions.

They were able to identify conclusively as the Black Shadow the first person who had approached them, just a few days after the riots had begun. With what seemed an intimate knowledge of their activities and the general situation, he had referred to their involvement with Shiva and with Paul. They had seen no reason for concealment, and had freely disclosed the fact that they had been with Paul at the time of the disturbances.

The Shadow they had not seen again. A day later, someone else whom they had never seen before, but who also seemed to know about Paul and who claimed to be an agent for some tourists, had arranged an appointment in Colombo. Transport was to be provided. The car turned out to be a very sleek Benz, though they could not recall its number, but on the way down it had suddenly stopped and picked up another man and then the two boys inside had been chloroformed. The third, who was cautious partly because of the developments connected with the Red Shadow, had refused the assignment, but he too had been chloroformed on that very same evening while walking home alone from the beach. They had all three returned to consciousness to find themselves together, but they could not say when or at what time, for they were in a small room without any windows.

The room was comfortable enough, however, and the ventilation adequate, and they had been quite satisfactorily treated and fed by two very competent if totally silent young ladies. Yet this did not last long. Within a day or two they found themselves tied down and anaesthetised, only locally, and castrated, again by the two young ladies albeit with some assistance. Almost immediately they were told what on pain of death they had to do, and it was in their traumatised condition that the scene as it appeared on television was filmed. After that they were treated even better than before and every attempt was clearly made to reduce the pain. They were still in a state of shock though when, on the previous day, they had been driven away and dropped off near enough to their homes.

They had been warned not to deviate in any way from the story that had been told on television if they valued their further safety. Despite this, the position in which they found themselves in their homes was so embarrassing, and the advice of the boy Paul and Indra had met on the previous day so persuasive, that they had decided to throw themselves on Paul’s mercy as soon as they safely could. They had left unobtrusively, and their chief anxiety was that Paul should keep them safe.

Paul thus had a very good reason to suggest to Indra a change of plan. They are sitting on the side verandah, sipping Pimm’s. Paul has told his story, and Indra has said that, though Radha is somewhat nervous, the plan in general seems a satisfactory one and she will probably in the end agree.

There is a long pause, during which Paul swirls his drink meditatively. ‘I think we might have to send Krishna in there as well,’ he says at last.

Indra is in the act of moving his glass to his lips, but he allows it to drop. ‘What do you mean?’ he says.

‘I think he should be there to keep an eye on things. I’ve found out what the general procedure is, and there will be plenty of time to get him into position before anything happens.’

‘Where? Why?’

‘Under the bed, I mean.’ He picks out a cherry and munches it and goes on lightly. ‘I want someone there to make sure he doesn’t do anything hideous. She’s going to be my wife, you see, and I don’t want anything to happen to her.’

‘But why should he do anything?’

Paul allows some time to pass before he replies. ‘I don’t really think there’s any danger. But I don’t suppose those three boys were chosen for nothing. Radha has the same sort of connections, if you see what I mean.’

‘But surely Krishna would be in greater danger?’ Indra speaks almost involuntarily.

‘Only if he’s found out. We just have to hope that he isn’t.’ Paul concentrates on the fruit in his glass and does not look up at Indra as he continues. ‘But in any case, I’m going to give him enough equipment to cope with anything that might happen. He’s a spunky little chap. We’ll have to trust him to look after himself.’

‘I suppose it will give her more confidence,’ Indra says after a pause, and stretches out his legs. ‘But isn’t there anyone else?’

‘As her brother, he has a right if anything happens.’ Paul extends his empty glass to Indra who fills it for him. ‘I suppose I really ought to do it myself, but I shall have to be outside with my chaps if we’re to break in.’

Indra suddenly shivers, and drains his own drink. ‘There’s no option once you start on something like this, is there?’ he says, in what are almost his normal tones, as he refills his own glass.

‘You have to be prepared for anything. At least we know what we’re up against.’

There is a brief pause before Indra resumes. ‘I hope you don’t have to tell him exactly what has happened. Or what you think might happen.’

‘I wasn’t planning to,’ Paul answers quickly, and then he checks himself. ‘That’s not quite true. I was. But it won’t be necessary. He saw the television programme.’ He pauses once again. ‘You don’t think he’ll mind?’

‘He’ll do it if I ask him to. I suppose I must.’ Indra pauses again. ‘I’ll worry about it more than he will, I think. When are you planning it for?’

‘As soon as they want it. It’s up to them to call the shots from now’

Ceylon Today 15 Feb 2015 http://www.ceylontoday.lk/96-84852-news-detail-transitional.html

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