Chapter Two: Ian
“Good morning, lad.” Dennis peeked around the corner of the door so as not to startle the boy. He saw young Ian had been working on a sketch pad, probably the one that Winston mentioned. “Mind if I visit you for a bit?”
The eleven-year-old eyed him suspiciously. His sandy blond hair looked disheveled but his blue eyes were red but otherwise clear. He’d been crying. He was sitting up in the hospital bed, covered to the waist with blankets and dressed one of those awful patient gowns that opened in the back.
“You a doctor?”
The older Ian stepped into the room and let the door close behind him. “No. I used to know your Mum. Came to see how you were doing.”
The child seemed to brighten for a second that it was a friend and not a doctor or the police come to question him, but then he closed up again. “Don’t remember you. Who are you?”
Dennis took some slow steps forward, acting casually. “My name’s Ian, too. The last time I saw you, you weren’t more than a boy of three or four. Not surprising you don’t remember me. Anyway, I knew your Mum from work, before the two of you moved here.”
“Before she and Daddy got divorced.”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“Do you know my Dad? He’s coming for me tomorrow.” Ian could just as well have said “It might rain today” or “We’re having chicken soup for lunch.” He was feeling deeply but not wanting to show it.
“I met him just once, quite briefly.” Dennis was close enough now that he could sit in the chair next to the bed. “Like I said, I knew your Mum from work.”
“You live here now, too?”
“No, just visiting. Heard the news. Sorry about what happened.”
The younger Ian lowered his head as if about to cry but then stiffened. “That’s okay.” Then he returned to his drawing.
“What you got there?” Dennis reached for the pad and Ian pulled back suddenly.
“Hey there. Sorry. Just wanted to see what you were drawing. I fancied myself a bit of an artist when I was younger.”
The boy hesitated, then put the pencil down beside him and turned the pad to show Dennis what he’d drawn. It was ghastly. The boy’s latest illustration was of a man dressed up like a ninja. Only the eyes were showing but fangs protruded from the mask as if they’d punched holes through the cloth. They were dripping gore.
“One of the men who hurt you and your Mum?”
Ian pulled the pad close to his chest. Then his expression softened and without looking back at the man, he nodded his head.
Dennis looked on the bed and noticed other sheets of paper, other drawings. Some were of the one man, some where of the group of four. One was of a man with a pillow. There were drawings of arms and fists.
“Do you think I could have a few sheets?” Dennis noticed several pencils on the table next to Ian and picked one up. The boy nodded again, thumbed through the back of his sketch pad and tore out some of the pages.
“Here.” The boy offered the paper without expression.
“Thanks.” Dennis pulled a stand on wheels toward him. The boy had already eaten breakfast, so he removed the tray and put it on the floor. Then he put the paper on it after adjusting the height and started sketching.
The boy picked up his pencil and started drawing again, too.
“When I was a lad about your age, my Dad was killed, hit by a driver whilst crossing the street.” Dennis didn’t have to make this part up, except he left out how his Dad had walked out of the pub drunk again and crossed right in front of a car before the driver had any chance of seeing him. “I used to draw all of my hurts out, too.”
Ian seemed not to have heard him but Dennis knew he did. The boy finished a drawing and then placed it on the bed between them where he knew the man would be able to look.
The drawings of fists were probably about when the boy was being beaten. Black masks, clothes, gloves. Sometimes the sleeves of one of the men were pulled back.
The two kept drawing, Dennis of nondescript men doing nothing in particular and the boy of his attackers, of the men who killed his Mum. Then there was something else.
Over and over there was a design. It could have been anything but it seemed familiar to Dennis. He stopped his own drawing to pick up one of the boy’s.
“What’s this? Looks interesting.”
Ian took it and put it back on the bed with a moan, as if it hurt too much to use words. He didn’t hide the drawing, he just didn’t want Dennis to touch it. He definitely didn’t want to talk about it.
The two drew for a while longer.
“Got something for you, Ian.” Dennis showed him a drawing of an aircraft like the one he arrived upon. “Bet you this is what your Dad is going to come here on.” Dennis flipped over the sheet of paper. “Bet you this is what he’ll do when he sees you.” He showed the boy a rough sketch of a man and a boy hugging.
Ian pulled the drawing away from Dennis and stared at it. Then he pushed it down on the bed and looked at the wall opposite him. “Do you suppose he still loves me?”
“Oh, Ian. He’s your Dad. Of course he loves you. He’ll always love you, no matter how far away you live, no matter how long it’s been since he’s seen you.”
The boy turned toward Dennis and this time it was the man who had tears in his eyes. It had been too long since he’d seen his little ones, though they weren’t all so little anymore.
“You’ll see them again if you want to.” For an instant, it seemed to Dennis as if the boy could read his mind. Probably more like some gift of intuition.
“I promise your Dad still loves you.” Dennis reached out and gently touched the boy’s forearm, expecting him to pull away. He didn’t but he didn’t do anything else either. Dennis pulled his hand slowly back and the child reached for the drawing the man made. He looked at the drawing of the airplane and then turned it over to look at the drawing of the hug.
“He loves me.” The boy trembled, tears streaming down his cheeks. He must have felt so alone and terrified.
“Yes, Ian. He loves you. He’ll be here this time tomorrow.”
For an instant, it seemed as if the boy might reach out to Dennis but instead he curled up in a ball. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, please help. The bad man killed Mummy. The bad man killed Mummy.” He was sobbing now. Dennis knew if he touched the boy again, he’d shut down. He needed to cry. The drawings were all the child had to give the agent, the only story he could tell about his Mum’s murder; the drawings of the men and the strange yet familiar symbol.
The boy didn’t say “bad men” but “bad man.” There was something special about one of them. Wait. The police files. He had to see those photos again.
This is the second part of a spy thriller that began with Arrival, however, it was originally spawned in a small bit of flash fiction I wrote a few days ago called Mauritius Intrigue. A manager for a data services center on the island of Mauritius is murdered during a home robbery. The only witness is her eleven-year-old autistic son Ian.
However, Ian’s mother was actually a top data analyst for the British Secret Intelligence Service working on highly sensitive security information. MI6 agent Ian Dennis is dispatched to investigate and determine if her death was really a result of a robbery gone wrong, or if her cover had been blown. Dennis’s only clue to what happened the night of the murder is a series of drawings made by her young child. What does the agent see in them that might give him the answers he desperately needs?
The third chapter in this saga is Tattoo.