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The story so far:
In 2054 astronaut John Bruce became the first man
to enter 'new' space. Two years after his triumphant return a second
John Bruce appears ... as personality number thirteen of Peter
Pendennis, a killer with multiple personalities. Is Pendennis a
fake? A manipulating attention-seeker hiding behind layers of sham
Or is something else going on? Desperate to prove
his identity, the 'new' John Bruce asks to see Louise Callander, an
old girlfriend from his school days in England. He's very
convincing. She's shocked. As are the doctors at Upper Heywood
Secure Psychiatric Unit.
Only one person might know what's happening -
Nick Stubbs, professor of Astropsychology and guru of Higher
Dimensional Theory. And Louise was going to find him.
What did she think she was doing?
Driving to Oxford, searching for some obscure professor, all because
of what? Some madman and his delusions? And yet it had all seemed so
real in the hospital. Outside, she wasn't so sure.
And even less sure after her visit to
St. Olaves. She’d found the Astropsychology department, but no
Professor Stubbs. He was spending the month at Framlingham Hall, out
on the Banbury Road.
"You can leave a message if you want but
it could be days before he checks his messages. Always out and
about, that one," the receptionist had told her.
Was this fate giving Louise another
chance to back out? What was it her mother used to say? That fate
gave everyone three chances to change their minds. Three chances and
then the page turned and the future set.
Was this her third chance?
She could easily back out. She hadn’t
committed herself to anything. She and John had drifted apart years
ago. What help could she be?
Of course their parents had kept in
touch, cards at Christmas - that sort of thing. Little notes saying
this and that, how they were doing, what was Oxford like these days?
With little pieces of news thrown in - how proud John's dad had been
when he followed him into the Air Force, John's transfer to NASA,
his selection for the SHIFT mission. After that who needed cards?
John was headline news. The first man to travel the new space, the
quiet-spoken hero. And then the political John Bruce, the master of
the photo opportunity, the born again darling of right-wing Middle
But the hype had never registered with
Louise. She'd known the boy, not the man. As far as she was
concerned, it could have been a complete stranger on the holovision.
But today … she’d met the boy again.
It must have been that which drove her
down the Banbury Road, that and her love of abandoned animals. For,
whoever it was that inhabited the recesses of Peter Pendennis's
brain, whether John or not, they’d been abandoned there as much as
any neglected dog or goat.
She pulled up outside Framlingham Hall;
one of those early Victorian statements of wealth: gothic, grey and
rambling. She climbed down from the pick-up and looked up at the
crumbling facade; the dirty grey stone, the cracked windows and
paint-peeling woodwork. It couldn’t have been lived in for
The gardens showed the same level of
neglect. Once-formal regularity replaced by haphazard colonisation.
Lawns grown wild; long grass and nettles folded over by winter
snows, yellowed by frost and criss-crossed by nocturnal paths.
Leaves and broken branches left where they fell.
She crunched along the gravel drive and
stopped by the entrance porch. Her last chance to turn back. An ugly
brass knocker stared back at her, daring her to knock. She grasped
it with her right hand and rapped twice.
A silence followed. Louise glanced back
towards her pick-up and wondered how long she could wait before
giving up. A few seconds, a minute? Shouldn’t she just turn round
now and let John become someone else’s problem?
The door opened.
He was younger than Louise expected, and
scruffier. He looked like a student straight out of the ‘40s - tall
and lean with long unkempt hair and a straggly beard. And a fashion
sense to match.
Not that she could claim to be an expert
on fashion. Her wardrobe came straight off the shelves of Two
Counties Farmers. Discount clothing for the rural poor, hard-wearing
She held out her hand. "My name's Louise
Callander, I was referred to you by a Doctor Ziegler - from Upper
His eyes widened. "You've escaped? I
always thought Upper Heywood looked after their patients better than
"No, it’s…" She was flustered. "It's not
for me. I was only visiting…"
"That's what they all say, Ms.
Callander. Now tell me, are you very, very violent or just mildly