The Photographer (book 2, work in progress)

A little something from book 2. Work in progress of course, but it’s a start.

At the counter, she asked for Chief Kadic. She could you tell the guy thought she was some sort of crazy by the state she was in. No doubt he thought she was there to cause trouble. Well, she was, in a way.

“Look, it’s really important, I was here earlier today, with the Chief, we had a meeting. Trust me, he’s going to want to see me. Just tell him it’s Orla Duffy, the photographer. Do it, just call him and tell him I’m here and if he doesn’t want to see me, then I’ll just go away, no harm done. Alright?”

She felt shaky on her feet and moved over to the seating area and slumped down.

He made the call and other than her name she didn’t understand any of the rapid fire Croatian he whispered down the phone. Within a minute a door in the hallway flew open and an angry looking Chief Kadic stormed over to her. He looked different to the last time she’d seen him. The formal suit was gone and he was decked out in the same protective gear she’d seen the other officers wearing earlier in the day. He was much bigger close up and more handsome now that his hair was messy.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

He grabbed her arm, hauling her up and shouted to the man on the front desk to get a jug of ice water, that much she understood, and took her back through the door he’d come through and into a small office on the other side.

“Hey, just a minute, what are you doing?” She complained, as he much pushed her down on a small sofa.

“I said what are you doing here? Why aren’t you in hospital?”

“Nice to see you too…..I….”

“You think this is funny, that I am joking? Look at you. You are seriously injured and yet you leave the hospital, unattended and come across town. Are you crazy?”

As she looked at him again she noticed he was wearing protective body armour with a tool belt around his waist with gun, handcuffs and a rather menacing looking baton. Uniforms didn’t usually do anything for her but it made him look tough and a bit dirty.  She couldn’t help looking at his muscular arms beneath his short sleeve shirt and imagined him pushing her up against……….

“Miss Duffy, did you hear me? Orla? You’re clearly not well enough to be out of hospital yet. What are you doing here?”

He’d been standing with his hands on his hips directly in front of her, but joined her on the sofa. He was far too close for comfort and she could see the perspiration on his face, his very handsome looking face.

“Well I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised Chief by your concern for my health. When we met earlier today you……..well, let’s just say you weren’t exactly friendly. But I’m fine, or at least I will be soon when I get back to my hotel room, have a bath and sleep for a week. But first, I need to talk to you about what happened today.”

She looked dreadful, black eyes, dry blood in her hair with a line of stitches across her temple and grazes to her arms and cheeks. There was a sheen of perspiration on her pale grey skin. Goddam it he thought, why had she been standing there in the first place? She’d picked exactly the worst spot to position herself and once the fighting started she didn’t stand a chance. And what the hell had brought her back here to see him?

“Miss Duffy I’ve given all the interviews I’m prepared to give for one day. Your boyfriend will have to write his story without my input. Now, let’s get you back to hospital.”

He stood and held out his hand to help her up.

“So are you denying it was one of your officers who started the fighting or is it that you don’t know what goes on with your own force?”

She knew it was antagonistic, likely to cause him to throw her out. So before he could reply and say something he’d regret she let him have it.

“Well I have photographs that show it was one of your officers who threw the rocks at the parade, injuring that guy. How is he by the way, ok?”

He was stunned for a few seconds but shot up. But she continued.

“Oh I admit wiping me out and stealing my camera was a good attempt to cover up what really happened. You thought you’d destroyed them didn’t you? You thought you’d be able to sweep this under the carpet and blame the extreme factions of the gay community for the violence. But I’d already backed them up and they’re safely back in Dublin with my boss.”

A small white lie.

“What? You think it was me or one of my men who hurt you, deliberately? That we stole your camera? That is an outrageous slur and a highly inaccurate accusation.”

She stood now, on wobbly legs, needing to feel equal to his domineering stance.

“Ok, but you’re not denying that it was one of your men who started the violence then?”

It was a pivotal moment. Would he admit it or lie? He had no way of knowing if she actually did have the pictures. Christ, she wasn’t sure if she had them either and wouldn’t know until she got to her laptop and took a look.

“I have no idea at this stage who started the violence and until there is an investigation I couldn’t possibly speculate, nor can you expect me to. However if you do have photographs that could support that investigation then I can’t stress enough the importance of handing them over to me immediately. I could always insist, legally I mean.”

He stood with his hand outstretched, expecting her to give him something. Clearly she didn’t have the pictures with her, she didn’t even have her bag.

“What? So you can destroy them too? Not a chance Chief. You might be the most powerful man in Croatia but you can’t hide the truth forever. I want you to admit you know it was one of your own men who started it, deliberately disrupting the parade so they couldn’t get their message across. So much for you creating a safe and democratic environment.”

She was on a role now, angry and the full impact of what happened to her that afternoon starting to sink in, she could have died.

“And another thing, was it the same guy who threw that rock at me too? You know I could have died. Go on, deny it.  You can’t because you know as well as I do who it was. That’s why you were so weird this morning and why you had half the Croatian police force decked out ready for a riot. You knew this was going to happen didn’t you?”

Furious with her wild accusations and insults he took a step forward to ……..to what? Stop her? No, that wasn’t his style at all. He didn’t hit women, in fact he didn’t hit men. Well not often.

“I think you’ve said just about enough Miss Duffy and I’d advise you to keep your slanderous slurs to yourself. I shouldn’t have to remind you that you that as a visitor in our country and as such are expected to show some respect. I have every intention of finding out who started the fighting today, including who threw that rock at you.”

Holding up his hand in protest to stop her saying anything.

“Now, before either of us do or say anything we’ll regret I think you need to go back to the hospital, you look like shit.”

He made a call and put the phone down.

“I’ve arranged for a car to take you there now, before I have another death on my hands.” Just then a uniformed officer knocked and came in, her driver no doubt.

“This isn’t over Chief, you can’t shut me up that easily. Trust me, I’m from Dublin, I don’t intimidate that easily or that quickly. You picked on the wrong girl.”

As she went to take a step towards the door she felt a wave of dizziness wash over her and she shot her hand out to the desk to steady herself but knew it was too late, she was going to faint. Goddam it she thought not now, as her legs gave way.

He caught her before she fell and scooped her up like she weighed less than a feather cushion. Coming round she tried to wriggle free from his arms and get down.

“Stop, leave me, I’m fine, you don’t need to rescue me, don’t feel you have to be a hero for me. I can walk perfectly ok by myself.”

Ignoring her, he carried her out the door and into the waiting car outside, placing her gently on the back seat.  She let her head flop back against the headrest and took some deep breaths. She had to admit she did feel like crap. Her head was pounding, she hadn’t eaten all day since breakfast and there didn’t seem to bit one bit of her that didn’t ache. The only time she’d felt like this was when her and Brigid had gone to step aerobics and thought they were going to die the next day.

“Look, I’m not going back to the hospital, no way. The place is bloody awful, full of sick people. I just need a handful of painkillers, a large Jameson, a bath and then sleep. So, please just take me to the Imperial and I’ll be out your hair.”

He was sat in the driving seat and turned round to look at her. That look again. Her designated driver relegated to the steps of the office, looking at them both quizzically.

“Look I’m fine, great, grand in fact. Look.”

She said shaking her hands and head although she had no idea what that proved.

“If I feel sick, or faint again, I’ll go back in the morning ok doc?”

He had to admit it he couldn’t argue with her, as he would do exactly the same thing. The injuries weren’t life threatening, however bad they might look. He’d asked the nurse to keep him informed of her progress. So he swung the car out onto the busy street and in a few minutes they pulled up outside her hotel. She was already pretty much out of it when they got there, exhaustion finally taking over.

She had balls, coming to see him like that, especially in the state she was in. But it was bloody foolish, she had no idea how much danger she was in. But at least he knew about the pictures now and had bought himself some time to think about what he was going to do. About the pictures, and her.

She was half asleep, reality fading in and out. She tried so hard to fight it but the dark corners closed slowly in and her body gave into the much needed unconsciousness. She was only half aware of being carried, the motion bumping her slightly against his chest, until she heard him whisper into her ear, felt his breath on her cheek, asking if she had her room key.

“Mmmm….leg pocket.”

Opening the door, he took her in and placed her gently on the bed, hoping not to wake her. She didn’t stir. He’d planned to just leave, but hesitated. She can’t sleep in those boots and trousers, he thought. He had sisters and female house mates at university, he knew the drill. Slowly he removed her trousers, socks and shoes, filthy blood stained shoes which he’d seen so many times over the years but rarely on someone as beautiful as Orla.

He tried not to look. Ok, he didn’t try very hard. He was shocked by the bruises to her legs, grazes to both her knees, hideous black and purple marks, even a foot print on her thigh. Animals, he swore under his breath. But all that couldn’t detract from her smooth, firm and long long legs. She was wearing black lace pants. What he wouldn’t give to have her conscious right now and work on removing them too. It took all his strength to stop looking and pull up the sheet. Before he left, he didn’t know why, but he bent down and kissed her head. It was an affectionate, caring kiss and felt like the right thing to do somehow considering she was here all alone.

As he closed the door he looked down at the memory card in his hand and wondered what the hell it might contain. He wouldn’t risk going back to the station to look at them there. No, he couldn’t risk anyone seeing them or knowing that he had them, it was dangerous even for him, let alone a foreign female photographer. Instead he headed straight for his apartment.

He lived in the old town, off St Marks Square in his family’s three hundred year old villa. His parents were long dead, killed with 40,000 others, during the war when he was a student in London. They were out of the city, staying with their own parents in the country when it happened. He’d begged them to stay in the capital, knowing it would be safer there. As it happened the forces never broke through to the city and Zagreb saw little fighting. He’d tried desperately to get home after he got a call to say they’d all perished, murdered when…………..he couldn’t think the words. It took weeks to reach them, by which time there was little to bury and little to do. Broken, bitter and changed, he went back to London. He went crazy, tore up the place for a year but eventually finished his degree already knowing he was going back to Croatia to do a post grad in politics and law. Enraged by what he’d seen in his own country, revolting atrocities carried out by what he’d believe to be his own people, he allowed himself some time to wallow in the bitterness, confusion and outrage but knew what he had to do. He was going back to Croatia to join the police to take charge and seek revenge from the murderers who’d nearly destroyed his life.  It became an obsession. He trained, he ran, he weight lifted and studied harder than anyone else in his class. It became the driving force behind his quest and gave him the strength, no the aggression, to not only qualify but join the police as a senior officer.

He shared the villa with his older sister, Luciana, and her family. It was actually large enough for three or four families but when he came home they’d divided it up so they could both have their own privacy. Not that it would have mattered, he was hardly there, choosing to sleep in the small bedroom at the station most nights. He worked late into the night most nights, pushing his mind and body to it’s limits, driven half mad by finding who had killed his family.

He couldn’t believe his luck when he’d reached into her pocket for the door key and saw the memory card. So, she wasn’t bluffing after all. He found himself smiling and thinking he liked that about her, she’s got something, apart from model looks and a body to die for.  She’d be seriously pissed when she woke up tomorrow and found it was gone. That wasn’t going to be fun but it was necessary. There was no way he could let any images of what happened reach the authorities, let alone the public. But he was convinced she would be too ill to pull another dashing across town stunt, but just in case he’d made a call to a private nurse to sit with her and administer enough pain relief to keep her out of the way for at least a day. He knew from experience that she was going to need pain relief and hydration the second she woke up. He’d also had an officer placed outside her room to make sure she didn’t leave and no one got it.

He pushed the card into his laptop and waited the few seconds for it to load. He tapped nervously waiting, hoping they didn’t contain pictures of any of his men. There were over five hundred shots on the card and as they started to appear he saw images of the journalist who’d interviewed him earlier that day, Jason, Jason Morgan-Harris. He was smiling directly into the camera, an intimate smile for the photographer. So they were lovers he thought. He’d suspected it earlier in the day when he’d seen them together. Smouldering looks of desire had flashed back and forward between them. He couldn’t help the wave of jealousy that suddenly hit him. He hated the thought of him being with her, touching her and feeling her warm soft skin. He wanted her, he had since the second he’d seen her in his office. She didn’t know he could see her of course, neither of them did. He watched her as she moved around the room………………

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