The Royal Secret
London, November 20, 1995
“James, darling, what are you doing?”
He looked around him, disoriented, then staggered forward.
She caught him just before he fell. “You’ve been sleepwalking, haven’t you? Come on, let’s take you back to bed.”
The gentle voice of his granddaughter told him he was still on earth. He knew he’d been standing here for a reason, that there was something urgent he had to do that he’d been leaving right until the last moment . . .
But now it was gone. Desolate, he let her half-carry him to his bed, loathing his wasted, fragile limbs, which rendered him as helpless as a baby, and his scattered mind, which had once again betrayed him.
“There now,” she said as she made him comfortable. “How’s the pain? Would you like a little more morphine?”
“No. Please, I . . .”
It was the morphine that was turning his brain to jelly. Tomorrow, he’d have none, and then he’d remember what it was he had to do before he died.
“Okay. You just relax and try to get some sleep,” she said, soothing him, her hand stroking his forehead. “The doctor will be here soon.”
He knew he mustn’t go to sleep. He closed his eyes, desperately searching, searching . . . snatches of memories, faces . . .
Then he saw her, as clear as the day he’d first met her. So beautiful, so gentle . . .
“Remember? The letter, my darling,” she whispered to him. “You promised to return it . . .”
He opened his eyes, trying to sit up, and saw the concerned face of his granddaughter hovering above him. And felt a painful prick in the inside of his elbow.
“The doctor’s giving you something to calm you down, James, darling,” she said.
The words refused to form on his lips, and as the needle slipped into his arm, he knew that he’d left it too late.
“I’m so sorry, so very sorry,” he gasped.
His granddaughter watched as his eyelids finally closed and the tension left his body. She pressed her smooth cheek against his and found it wet with tears.