For Disclaimer, please see Chapter 1.

Misplaced People by Devize © 2004 (

* * * * *

Chapter 15: Into this wild abyss [i]

Now, Striker was irritated.

Their police escort had not allowed her to smoke in the car. There was no smoking in the train station, where it had taken an age to buy expensive tickets - for which Morien had insisted on paying.

The first train had been crowded, and the two of them had perched on the suitcase in the train's corridor; Striker shaking silently from exhaustion and need, while those around them threw pitying or disgusted glances at her - the words 'drug addict' and 'tramp' in their eyes as they took in her still dusty appearance.

And now she was informed by the unapologetic Welsh woman that there was no smoking on the second train either.

"I want a cigarette," Striker said, sounding and feeling like a petulant two-year-old.

"I want to go home, and as this train leaves in about sixty seconds, I am not waiting another two hours for the next one just because you want to give yourself and everyone around you lung cancer." Morien's voice softened. "Take this as an opportunity to cut down a bit."

"I haven't slept in over fifty fucking hours. This is not a good time to cut down my nicotine intake."

"I'm not getting off this train. If you want to, you're on your own." There was a silent battle of wills, until the train jolted to a start, proving Morien's point.

A brief but loud expletive exploded from Striker, which had shocked heads popping up from behind seats in the busy carriage. But she ignored the stares, and climbed over Morien to make it to the aisle and through the carriage door. For one brief moment, Morien wondered if she was going to jump off a moving train for the sake of a cigarette, but as there was no screeching of breaks or shocked screams, she assumed not. Or maybe she had jumped off without anyone noticing and would be found sometime later, half-asleep in a happy fog of cigarette smoke, lost in the middle of Berkshire.

Morien refused to worry.

She relaxed into her seat. Allowing the gentle rocking of the train to lull her into a kind of meditation. She wasn't sure how much time had passed, but suddenly she was jogged out of her reverie by a crash on the table in front of her.

Striker had returned with a number of paper bags.

"What's that?" she asked.

"The buffet," Striker replied, climbing back over her, to the annoyance of the businessman who was sharing a table with them. She gave him a look that would have had a weaker man shrinking into the upholstery. "If I can't smoke I'm gonna eat."

She extracted sandwiches, crisps, pastries, chocolate bars, two bottles of water, and four steaming cups of liquid. She handed one to Morien, and the smell of filter coffee reached the Welsh woman's greedy nose.

Morien looked curiously at the other three cups. "What's in there?"


"Who're they for?"

"Me." Morien looked at her. "What?"


"They didn't have bigger cups, okay?" Striker's tone didn't contain a single hint of humour.

"Fine." Morien sipped at her coffee - a completely different drink to the brown liquid they'd been given at the police station.

They ate in silence for a while, the English countryside rushing beneath their feet; the train rattling in time; Striker's fingers tapping against the emptying coffee cups, drumming against the table. Morien could feel the seat shaking beneath her as Striker's body buzzed with the dangerous mixture of exhaustion, caffeine and nicotine withdrawal.

She watched as Striker's hand disappeared inside her jacket and brought out her packet of cigarettes. She pulled one of the little sticks out of the pack and rolled it between her fingers. Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards….

The businessman looked at the cigarette in horror. Striker ignored him.

Morien tidied some of the debris left by their impromptu meal - much to their table-mate's relief - and with the table cleared, she reached for her sketchpad.

And returned to her new favourite subject. She glanced at Striker. The cigarette was still rolled lovingly in her fingers. She was staring out of the window into a blur of anonymous green and grey that rushed past. Lost in England, lost in her own thoughts.

Morien's fingers were used to the patterns now: the planes of her cheeks were familiar… the straight nose just turning up at the end… the dark shadows under her eyes… the flow of the hair. She glanced at the sketch and wondered who she was drawing: mother or daughter?

She wondered about the woman who had apparently deserted her daughter so long ago, a daughter she quite obviously loved. It didn't make sense. And what had Striker been left with? Had her father loved her?

"Doesn't your dad know anything?" The question slipped out before she'd even thought about the words or the situation… or Striker's mood.

Striker turned slowly, as if tearing her gaze from the blur outside. She looked at Morien, taking in the slightly nervous expression that had settled on the smaller woman's face, and then the sketch in front of her. Morien thought she saw a glimpse… just the tiniest glimpse… of a smile.

Striker rolled the cigarette between her fingers and settled back in her seat. Her voice was soft. "Dad would go ape-shit if he knew I was looking for my mother. Besides, dad and I… we're not exactly talking these days."

She slipped the cigarette into her mouth, her lips almost embracing it.

"I'm sorry," Morien said and she genuinely meant it. "May… may I ask why?"

There was a humourless chuckle round the unlit cigarette. "Sure you can ask. We had a… disagreement. He told me I was pissing my life away. Those were his exact words." Striker's voice went deep and humorously threatening. "'You're thirty years old and what the hell are you doing with your life? You've got no future.' He was right. I am pissing my life away."

"How can you say that?" Morien asked. "You've got a good job, a worthwhile job. Most parents would be proud to have a doctor for a…."

Striker's head shot up so quickly that they could almost hear the whipcrack. Her eyes were a startling blue. Her voice was quiet, amazed, shocked…. "I'm not a doctor."

Morien stared. "But you work in A&E at St Vincent's. Weren't you with the crash team?"

"I can't believe you thought that…. Shit, this is embarrassing." She turned back to the window, unable to meet Morien's gaze.

Morien stuttered, unsure of what to say. "Are… are you a nurse?"

"Morien…," Striker said. She felt ashamed, disgusted with herself, terrified at Morien's reaction, and painfully aware of the prying businessman. "Morien, I work with the A&E staff, it's true… but… I'm a…" she said the last word so quietly, Morien strained to hear it, "…porter."

Morien's forehead creased in puzzlement. "A… porter? But… what were you doing when I was…?"

"They asked me to... push your trolley. It meant they were free to…."

And Striker's voice trailed off.

Morien looked at her, or tried to. Striker's face was now hidden by the familiar curtain of long, dark hair. She focused instead on Striker's hands, clenched on her knees, the cigarette bent between two fingers. Her hands were big and rough-looking. There was a tiny scar over one knuckle on her right hand. Morien touched it with the tip of a finger.

"Well," she said, "you're one hell of a porter."

Striker closed her eyes, the need to cry almost overwhelming. She felt lost. She felt mortified. She felt physically ill with pain and tiredness. So she resorted to the single thing that was familiar, and was currently unfurling itself like a scorpion's sting inside.


"Move," she said. Her voice was cold.


Striker tore her hand away from Morien's touch. "Get out the way."

Morien got up and moved into the aisle. "Striker, have I said…?"

Striker pushed past her and disappeared through the carriage door.

Morien stood for a moment, wondering what to do. She glanced at the businessman. He hurriedly buried himself behind his newspaper, determined not to get involved. Half in and half out of her seat, she paused, her heart beating in her throat.

And she realised, with devastating clarity, that she was scared of Striker. The woman who had just stormed out of the carriage was not the gentle, caring woman with whom Morien had fallen head-over-heels in love. That woman was hidden behind a mask of rage and insecurity.

And a closed carriage door.

Do I really want to be with someone like that? Who can turn on me in an instant?

She thought of Sophie. They never fought. Disagreements, sure; annoyances, of course. But never the cold, blind rage she had caught in Striker's eyes as she pushed past.

How much of who or what she believed Striker to be was her own fantasy?

What did she know of her? She'd lost her mother. She didn't get on with her father. And her first name began with an R.

And she'd read fairy stories to her when Morien had been nothing more to her than a dying stranger.

There was something beyond that anger that Morien wanted to understand. And maybe that gentle, caring woman simply needed rescuing, which is why she stood, and opened the carriage door.

Striker was standing in the corridor. She'd pulled the window down and was now leaning out, smoking.

Morien stood and watched her for a moment, her presence disguised by the rush of the wind on Striker's face. The dark hair, now completely loose, flowed down the broad back, caught by flurries of breeze. The black leather jacket, a second skin, stretched over wide shoulders. The long, jean-clad legs, ending in the big, black boots, one of which tapped in agitation against the train door.

Finally, Morien spoke, her voice rising above the rush of the train and the wind. "Striker."

She could see the leather-clad shoulders tense. The head moved slightly to one side, so Morien could see the glimpse of a profile. "What do you want?"

"I want to talk to you."

"'Bout what?"

"I want to make sure you're okay."

Striker sucked in her cheeks as she inhaled and blew out smoke which was torn away by the wind. "What do you care?"

"You're my friend."

Striker exhaled and Morien could see smoke coming from her nose. "Why?"

"What do you mean 'why'?"

And now Striker turned round. "I mean, why the fuck are you hanging out with someone like me? I'm a complete fuck-up. My dad's right, I've pissed my life away."


"Look at me, Morien," she grabbed Morien's face. "Look at me. Do I look like a doctor? I'm a stalker, a college drop-out. Now I've got police records on two continents. I can't keep a job. Jesus…." She turned away. "You thought I was a doctor, and I can't even keep a job as a fucking hospital porter."


"For Christ's sake, Morien, why the hell are you always so nice to me?"

"Because you are nice."

"Nice?! No I'm not, I'm a bitch. I've done some shitty things in my life."

"Like what?"

And now she turned back and smiled. It was the kind of smile that made Morien shiver; a kind of cold, wolfish snarl. Her voice was quiet, icy. "Do you know how close I was to becoming your worst nightmare?"

Morien stared up at Striker. "What do you mean?"

"I've tried to justify what I did. I followed you because I cared about you, that's true. But those phone calls you got, they could have been me."

"But it wasn't you, it was…."

"I've done it."

"Done what? Striker, I don't under…."

"You know what it's like? To be so scared of losing someone you want, someone you care about, that you can't sleep, can't eat, you can't do anything but think about them… what they're doing, who they're with, whether they're thinking of you. So you pick up the phone and dial the number. And the first few times you do it, you'll say something, 'Hi, how you doing? Only me.' But eventually it'll come… that phrase…. You're waiting for it: 'You don't have to phone me all the time, you know.' And then you can't say anything. You'll still call, just to see if they're home, just to hear their voice. But if they're home you can't say anything so you hang up. And if they're out you start going nuts and wondering where they are and who they're with. So, you call again, or you try their cellphone, and you keep trying 'til they answer and then you don't know what to say, so you hang up. Or they don't answer so you start obsessing and you go to where they live and wait outside 'til you see them, or you go find them, see who they're out with, instead of you. You follow them, you spy on them, you spook them. You start scaring them, stealing from them, threatening them, I mean scaring the shit out of them - letting them know that you're in control now - and, fuck, it makes you feel so good, because it means that you mean something to them. Suddenly you're important - the most important thing in their world, because you're the person who's destroying them."

Striker's head snapped round to meet Morien's horrified expression. "Am I scaring you, little girl?" she asked. Her face came close to Morien's. They were sharing air, their lips barely centimetres apart. "That's what I was going to do to you. That's what I could have done. You want a nightmare? I can be yours."

"Are you all right? Can I help at all?" A middle-aged man in an striped pullover stood behind Morien, a would-be warrior hero, wielding not a sword but a paper bag from the buffet car. He looked at Striker. "You know, you're not supposed to smoke on this train."

For a moment, there was an ire in Striker's eyes that destroyed time. The look of hatred fermented the tension. Morien could sense the violence in her, clawing at its bindings. Striker's propensity to hurt shone out of her like the sun behind a thundercloud.

Morien reached out and caught Striker's wrist. She could feel the blood pounding beneath her fingers.

"No, thank you," she said to the gentleman, "we're fine." He moved on, although glancing backwards to assure her words.

There was a silence that couldn't be penetrated, even by the rattle of the train and the sound of land moving beneath their feet.

Striker's attention was drawn back through the window, the remains of her cigarette, caught between two fingers, fascinating on the sill.

Morien still held her wrist. She opened her mouth, and this time it was her voice that was angry, loud and cold. "And you," she said, "can stop being so bloody stupid."

Striker turned with a look of disbelief on her face.

"What you've done in the past is wrong," Morien continued. "It's bloody awful. You scared people. You hurt people who might have cared for you. But you know that what you did was wrong." Her grip on Striker's wrist loosened, but she didn't let go. "And what you've given me is support and kindness and unthinking generosity at the expense of your friends, your job and your own safety." Striker's eyes were round and shone fresh blue like the sky after a storm. "And know this, Striker West," Morien said, losing herself, just for a moment, in those eyes, "whether you like it or not, I love you for it."

And she reached up and placed a sweet, tender kiss on the side of Striker's mouth. Not a lover's kiss, or a friend's kiss, but something agonisingly in-between. And then she disappeared through the carriage door, leaving Striker alone with her mouth open.

And her cigarette burning up to her fingers.

Ouch. Shit.

She flipped the stick out of the window and stuck her fingers in her mouth, feeling stupid. Bloody stupid.

The kiss still tingled at the side of her mouth. The caress of Morien's lips: tender, sweet and infinitely magical. She felt like a frog who'd just discovered its humanity.

And her humanity had auburn hair, green eyes and the softest lips imaginable.

In any other lifetime, in any other story, she would have felt too ashamed of herself to return to her seat. But in this story, with this princess, she couldn't keep away. She opened the carriage door and stepped inside.

Morien was now sitting by the window. Much as she liked the thought of Striker on top of her, she knew she was running the risk of getting something crushed if she let the tall American climb over her again in those heavy boots. She had returned to her pad, and having added a few finishing touches to the quick sketch, she was now doodling initials underneath: R. S. B. W. complete with Gothic-style flourishes. Striker's admission had concerned her, niggled at her as she drew, but the concern was being overwhelmed by the memory of the low, sweet voice whispering of princes and princesses and fairy curses, until she wondered if Striker had ever fallen out with a godmother.





None of them seemed to suit Striker.

There was a whisper in her ear. "Tell me to stop being so bloody stupid again."

Morien grinned. "Stop being so bloody stupid."

"I love that accent." Striker settled herself in the seat next to her.

"So, are you going to stop being so bloody stupid?"

"Probably not. I have a lot of stupidity left in me yet." She looked over Morien's shoulder at the sketch. "You're really good. D'you ever make any money out of it?"

"No. That's what I aspired to when I was at university, but things got in the way, you know? Work, girlfriend, getting hit over the head…."

Striker thought for a moment. "Morien, would you… would you paint something for me?"

Morien looked up at her friend. "Like a commission?"

"Yes. A commission." Striker looked momentarily uncomfortable. "I… I couldn't afford to pay you right now... the way things have gone… but I will. I'll pay you."

"Striker, I wouldn't dream of taking money from you. I mean, I'd be happy to do anything for you… paint anything…."

Striker smiled. "You know that photo I showed you… of my mother?" Morien nodded. "Could you paint that?"

Morien thought about the photograph. The colours were so faded, she would need help if Striker wanted it exact. But there was only one answer she could give. "Yes, of course. Striker, I'd be honoured."

And Striker blessed her with an expression which was so full of gratitude, so full of warmth and love and joy that Morien wondered how she could ever look away. If they hadn't been in a crowded train carriage, if it hadn't been for the frustrated businessman, if it hadn't been for her own fear of the consequences - Morien knew she would have kissed her, and lost herself… on that beautiful, full mouth….

Striker winced and glared at the businessman, and Morien realised there was a war for legroom going on underneath the table. She had just got the sweet Striker back, she wasn't going to lose her for the sake of bootspace. She was about to offer to change seats again, when they pulled in at a station. And a table became free across from them. With a huff and a glare at Striker, the businessman gathered his belongings and moved.

Striker sighed contentedly, put her feet up on the seat opposite and closed her eyes. She was quiet for a while. Morien thought she'd fallen asleep, and turned her attention back to the sketch of Striker. She wondered how she was going to approach the portrait of Striker's mother. She had the perfect model in her daughter, but the colouring….

A voice pierced her thoughts. She looked round as Striker started speaking. She still had her eyes closed.

"You asked why I'm not talking to my dad nowadays. Truth is, forty eight hours after he'd lectured me on responsibility, he drank a bottle and a half of bourbon and drove into a kid."

"Oh my God.…"

"Which makes it kind of difficult to talk to him now. He's in a correctional facility in Pennsylvania."

"Striker, I'm so sorry."

"Don't feel sorry for me. Feel sorry for the kid. Feel sorry for her family."

Morien waited for more, but there was no more to be had. For now. Instead, she returned to the sketch. And it prompted a question. "Striker, is your name Rebecca?"

The corners of Striker's mouth turned up. "No."

Morien frowned. There goes the Daphne du Maurier theory.

She opened her mouth and wondered how Striker knew she was going to speak with her eyes still closed. "Morien," Striker said. "Don't."

* * * * *

They crossed the border.

Nothing seemed to change. The scenery was still green. The sky was still blue and white and grey. The train still rattled and creaked. The carriage, now less crowded, still maintained the hum of conversation.

But something had changed. Morien had said the words very quietly, as if only to herself, "We're in Wales," but the words instilled an excitement and relief that revitalised them both.

But neither of them moved. Striker stayed with her feet up on the opposite seat, long legs stretched under the table, eyes closed. To all intents and purposes asleep. She thought of escape. She thought of rest.

And Morien sat, her temple against the headrest, watching her country go by in a blur. Home. The word echoed through her mind, thrilled through her veins, and found itself on her pad, surrounded by flowers. Home.

* * * * *

Another station. They sat and waited for the train to Pwllheli on a hard, wooden bench. A Welsh station this time. Signs in two languages. Loudspeaker announcements in a haze of half-understood sound. The sky here was a perfect blue, the sun sinking into the west, but it was humid, as if the weather as well as lack of sleep was heavy on them. Striker felt as if she was fading under the weight.

Another crowded train. They found a corner seat and Striker curled up, sinking into the worn upholstery. She was aware that this would be the last train before their destination, but the fact wasn't helping the headache that had seemed to descend with the humidity, or the aching of every single muscle in her battered body. All she wanted to do… right now more than find her mother… right now more than kiss every inch of Morien's skin…

…was sleep.

Except she couldn't. The carriage was unpleasantly warm, despite the open windows. And each time she closed her eyes and felt herself begin to drift, the train would clatter, a raucous laugh would explode from somewhere down the aisle, a mobile phone would blare some intrusive jingle, or the guard would pass requesting tickets.

Or she'd suddenly jerk herself to consciousness with the thought of Danny or Paully or the cold-steel hell they'd left behind.

Morien stroked Striker's overgrown fringe away from her damp forehead. "Hey, cariad," she whispered, below the rattle of the train and the voices around them, "hang on in there. Only a little way to go now."

Striker opened her eyes: a burst of light blue in the middle of a grey sky face, half-lost between dark alleys and crowded trains. "It's going to get better, isn't it? It's going to be different now, isn't it?"

"Yes, it's going to be different. We can rest, okay?"

"No more bad guys?"

"No more bad guys."

A silence.

"Morien…." Her eyes were closed again. Morien wondered if she was even aware she had spoken.


"I feel like I'm hungover without the fun part."

Morien chuckled, stifling a yawn herself. "You'll feel better soon."

Striker drifted off, the movement of the train rocking her from side to side like a leaf in an autumn breeze. She found herself back in the chapel, opening the pew seats one by one in an increasing panic, but this time finding each one empty. She wasn't even sure what she was looking for. She could hear noises of approach outside, she was waiting for the sound of gunshots. She had to get out but she had to keep looking. And then that last pew, Paully's pew, and she opened the seat and found…

She woke up with a start, damp with sweat and confusion.

And Morien was gone.

The seat next to her was empty.

She looked round, at the faces of strangers. They seemed twisted, cold. They looked through her as if she didn't exist. The land outside was alien: green and mountainous and completely unrecognisable.

Morien, where are you?

She sat up, looking round her again. Her eyes wide with worry. She wondered whether she should ask someone. The couple opposite were talking to each other in a strange, guttural language that sounded like a musical joke.

Morien, sweetheart, please don't leave me.

She was half out of her seat - her breathing heavy, the carriage begin to spin in dizzying circles - and drawing anxious glances from the people around her, when Morien reappeared, a cool breeze in the sticky evening. "What's wrong?" she asked as she saw the look on Striker's face.

"I woke up and you were gone," Striker said, taking huge gulps of air. She sat back down, drinking in the sight of her friend.

"I'm sorry… I was only gone for a little bit. The toilet was finally free," she said with an apologetic grin. "And I thought I'd phone Asha, and I didn't want to wake you." She fished her mobile phone out of her pocket.

"Is Danny okay?" Striker asked, her eyes dazzling with worry.

Morien smiled. "Danny's fine. He's woken up."

"He has?"

"Asha said he's spoken a few words."


"He asked for his portable CD player."

A bubble of laughter erupted from Striker and she felt tears of relief briefly burn her eyes. Suddenly, she shivered. Morien leant over and rubbed her arms. "I'm not cold," Striker said, grateful for the contact.

"I know, you're exhausted. No wonder. You've been through hell the last few days."

Striker looked up into the greenest gaze. Morien was pale too. Morien had dark circles under her eyes. Morien was showing every sign of exhaustion.

"And what about you, honey?" Striker's words were quiet. Morien was stunned by the tone. "You amaze me," Striker said. "You've been through so much, not just over the last few days, but for weeks and months…." She reached up and ran a gentle hand over the corduroy cap. "But you're still here, looking after some overgrown fuck-up kid who can't even stay awake to help you." She shivered again, but felt warm inside, swallowed whole by balmy sea-green in front of her. She gave in to temptation, and caught an errant lock of auburn hair between her fingers, feeling the softness on her skin.

Her eyes fell to Morien's lips, candy-pink and sweetly enticing. She remembered that tiny touch just a few hours before: how they had felt on her skin. And with a rush of comforting heat she realised just how much more she wanted.

She closed her eyes.

And felt the sure touch of Morien's mouth on her own. Her body was suffused in delicious heat that turned her nerves to liquid. The ache in her limbs was replaced by a pulsing want that sank her deeper and deeper. She felt arms go round her, hold her close, rock her, impel life into her. She could feel her blood sparkling. Little flashes of electricity coursing through her veins, singing a single word: love, love, lovelovelove….

She wanted to give that word another name. "Morien" she felt on her lips, moving against them. Morien, my love, my sweet one, my princess….

"Striker," whispered back with that agonising-beautiful rasp of skin on skin.

Striker groaned into Morien's mouth, an exquisite vibration that thrilled round her body.

"Striker…." Someone was shaking her arm.


"Striker, we're almost at Pwllheli. It's time to wake up."


The sweet voice said, "Not much longer then we can get you into bed, okay?"

"Bed?" Striker opened her eyes and realised she was drooling onto the headrest. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and blinked.

In amongst the flurry of activity around them, was Morien, smiling. "Do you need a tissue?"

Striker could feel herself flushing pink.

They finally alighted from the last train, as sedately as their stiff legs and the heavy suitcase would let them. The day was trying to darken into evening, but June wouldn't let it. The up-late sun still hovered on the horizon, as they tried to adjust to the gloom of the station. Passengers came and went, but for a moment it was enough just to stand.

"What next?" Striker asked, but Morien didn't seem to be listening. They were at one end of the platform and she was staring through the clearing jumble of people as if she'd seen someone she recognised.

Striker followed her gaze.

There was a man standing by the exit. Striker couldn't make out his face, but the evening sunlight fell on his clothes: a casual pair of linen trousers, a loose, striped, short-sleeved shirt and comfortable sandals. He had his hands in his pockets, from the movement of the material he looked like he was jingling loose change. The stance was casual, maybe a little nervous. But as Striker saw him she felt her heart in her throat. She knew that she was going to have to impress this man, and right now she wasn't feeling very impressive.

Too tired to do anything, Striker simply stood, grateful for the solidity of her case against her leg, as if it was propping her up.

But Morien moved, fast, dodging her way through the remains of the passengers. Suddenly, the hand was removed from the trouser pocket and waved, and then the man started forward himself. They met halfway in a devoted collision of arms and bodies, and the man was rocking Morien backwards and forwards in a giant embrace.

Striker rocked backwards on her heels, feeling intrusive. She looked away, at the station around her, trying to get a sense of this place. It looked like any other station… except for the additional signs. Allanfa. Exit. Merched. Ladies. There was the scent of salt in the air, and just touching the humidity, a breath of sea.

Then Morien broke away, smiling upwards. Her mouth moved, a few words, then she turned and beckoned Striker. So she stirred, harvesting the last vestiges of adrenaline, heaving the suitcase up one more time, and walked into smiling eyes.

"Dad," Morien said, "this is my friend, Striker West. Striker, this is my dad, Sullivan Llewelyn."

He was shorter than Striker, but only just. A trim, wiry body warring with middle-aged spread. His eyes were hazel, hidden behind round, metal-framed glasses. His hair was brown, darker than Morien's, but with a sheen of red in the evening sun, and peppered with grey at the temple. It needed a trim. Striker smiled, and Sullivan's face lit up like his daughter's and he held out a hand.

Striker took it. "Good to meet you, Mr Llewelyn," she said, and relaxed.

i "Into this wild abyss" – originally taken from Book II of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, but I nabbed it from the front of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy

Continued in Chapter 16...

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