Hal Marchant looked at the moon, hanging bone white in a washed-out dawn sky the colour of his mentor’s eyes, and knew two things. He must be dangerously overtired to be distracting himself with unhelpful comparisons. And he was late.
He curled deeper into the inadequate cover of the bare winter bushes, surveying the fields he had hoped to cross by night. He would be fatally exposed if he crossed them now, and though Hal, at 21, had been fairly accused of over-confidence, braggadocio, and a flippant disregard for procedure, the year now was 1987, and a sadder, wiser man watched the waking hamlet.
He might have risked it, for himself – the run was tantalizingly short, the nearest guard post temptingly distant – but he was carrying more than his own life in his hands. His mind flicked back to his contact, the old woman. Old? Ancient. So ancient that it seemed possible that memories of White Russia stoked the furnace of her rage, the inner fire that sustained that wisp of a body and compelled her to risk a charge of treason in the name of patriotism. He couldn’t allow it to come to that.
Somewhere a diesel engine coughed its way into life, not quite masking a girl’s voice, singing. She sang joyfully, and a smile touched his lips as he listened, absorbing the patterns of the hamlet and beginning to understand that he had been wrong. He had not come too late, but too early. He glanced at his nondescript clothes, checking. Yes. By darkness he could only have seemed exactly what he was, a thief in the night. In a few hours, with care, he might pass for just another busy local.
It would take only nerve, and Hal Marchant had never been short of that.
Inspired by this week’s VisDare images (and as ever I encourage you to take a look at the other entries, and play along if you’re that way inclined), but also a glimpse of Hal Marchant, older and sadder than a boy of 21 perhaps, but still a younger man than you will meet in the forthcoming Find the Lady.