Derek sat in the kitchen, his wrists handcuffed to the back of a chair. It was not the most secure position, but he seemed to realize escaping would be no use. As a precaution Matthew Lawson kept a wary eye him, keeping Derek's own pistol tucked into his waistband. Lucien, Jean, and Matthew stood over him. Matthew spoke first.
"Let's start from the beginning, Major. You broke in to Jean's house."
"Well no actually, I had a key."
"He did, not that it matters," Jean gave Lucien a scathing look, "Apparently somebody could not keep his word to stay away from Derek and went after him."
"I did not!" Lucien looked affronted, "I did as I promised, really. I didn't expect Derek to walk into the pub. I pretended I didn't know he was there but he saw me. I could feel him staring at me across the room, so I decided to put on a show. He thought I was drunk and slipped the key out of my jacket pocket. Then I called Matthew and we waited for him."
Jean's eyes grew wide.
"Waited for him to break in and shoot me?"
"I swear Jean I didn't know he was armed. I thought he would come in looking for me and then leave. We had a plan."
Jean rolled her eyes.
"Listen to the three of you. It's like the Keystone Cops! Lucien if you are going to go back to the army you are going to have to do better than this!"
"Lucien, we need you. A war is brewing in Indochina. I need top men on the job!"
Lucien started to turn red at the ears.
"That's what this is all about? A job offer?"
"I couldn't reach you. The British Intelligence Service won't reveal the location of their agents. You had just disappeared! I needed to lure you back to home territory. The fate of this country depends on you. On us, together!"
"All the scheming, the elaborate plans, the lies about my wife were just so you could get me to rejoin the army?"
Derek sat upright in his chair.
"Elaborate plans? Schemes? I made three phone calls! Three! That's all it took to send you running from another continent. Your imagination did the rest. You even came up with this stupid cover story. This only proves how badly you need to be back in the game."
Lucien reached over the table and hauled Derek bodily towards him, chair and all. Derek yelped as his jaw hit the table surface. Matthew pulled Lucien off of him as Jean roughly pushed Derek back into place.
"How could you use my wife as bait? How could you be so cruel?"
Derek managed to look sympathetic, even as blood started to trickle down the side of his mouth.
"Lucien, Mei Lin died when her ship sank during the Fall of Singapore. Surely you must have known that. I've seen the reports. You would not have come here if you didn't really want to return. You knew better."
"You wasted your time. I'll never go back to the army. Especially not now."
"I'm not giving you a choice, Lucien. This," Derek rattled his handcuffs on the back of the chair, "changes nothing. You're coming with me."
"Here's what I don't understand."
Lucien, Jean, Matthew, and Derek all looked up and once. Rose Anderson was standing at the entrance to the kitchen, watching the proceedings.
Matthew roared, "I thought I told you to wait in the car!"
"Sorry Uncle Matthew. It had been a while, and I didn't hear any shooting or anything, so I figured it was safe."
"How did you get in?" Jean asked.
"I had a key."
Rose pulled a set of house keys out of her purse and held them up. Jean rolled her eyes.
"Why does everyone in Ballarat suddenly have a key to my house?"
"Oh, these are Danny's. When I stopped by the station to meet Uncle Matthew, Danny said he forgot his wallet so I offered to bring it to him."
Matthew sneered, "Clever."
Rose had the good graces to blush. Jean threw up her arms in frustration.
"Why do I even bother to lock the door?"
Derek seemed offended by his foiled plan being interrupted further.
"Who the bloody hell is she?" he bellowed.
Matthew stepped forward.
"I'm sorry, where are my manners? This is Rose Anderson with the Ballarat Courier. I promised she could cover the story to make up for me lying about Lucien."
"Pleasure to meet you. As, I was saying, here is what I don't understand. Why are you, a civilian, trying to get Lucien back in the army? It's not like you'd be joining him."
"What?" Lucien, Matthew, and Jean exclaimed in unison. Rose continued.
"I was researching Lucien's background in the army, and your name comes up. It turns out you were forced into retirement some time ago. The records were sealed so I couldn't find out exactly why, but soldiers in bars do like to impress a young woman. Turns out you'd become quite the liability. Threatening people, unexplained absences, unauthorized expenses. Some even thought you were trying to set up your own shadow government somewhere in Asia. So they sacked you."
"I can rejoin. With Lucien as my bargaining chip they would have to let me back in. The army needs him. They need me!"
Lucien snorted, "You're pathetic."
"Well Matthew was right, this will make a great story."
"Oh I hope you do, Miss Anderson. With Lucien exposed, Jean's detective agency will be ruined. Lucien will have nowhere else to go. You'll be doing me a big favor."
"Actually I pitched a new story to my boss. Exposing a former army office for fraud. When I told him you were Mr. Steele's best friend, he jumped at the chance."
Rose peered at Lucien.
"Mr. Tynneman really doesn't like you, you know."
"Yes, thank goodness for that."
Matthew removed Derek's handcuffs from the chair and placed them back on his wrists.
"You're coming with me. Impersonating an office carries a bigger sentence than threatening someone with a firearm. You're going to jail for a long time."
Rose rushed ahead of them towards the door.
"Don't arrest him until I get my camera!"
Matthew paused on his way out.
"I'll send someone by to get your statements in the morning. Lucien, look after her, ok?"
Lucien nodded silently. When they were gone Jean let out a huff.
"Ugh! It should be perfectly obvious that I don't need looking after! I can hold my own with the likes of him, and I'm a damn better shot than you. I..."
Lucien was gripping the top of a chair tightly. His knuckles were white and his skin was nearly as pale. His was staring off into a distance that Jean could not see. Jean called his name several times before he shuddered back to reality.
"Lucien, I'm not sure I am the one Matthew thinks needs looking after."
Lucien lowered his head.
"You're probably right."
Jean made tea for both of them and they sat for a long while in silence. Eventually Jean reached over and placed a hand over his.
"It wasn't right what Derek did, using your wife like that, giving you false hope. You were a soldier, and you deserve better than that. He was your friend."
"Well, that was a long time ago. He was right, I am a fool. I knew Mei Lin was dead. I knew it was a wild goose chase. I just felt that I didn't have a choice."
"You were trying to take care of your family, by whatever means."
"Not by any means. Jean, I am not a good man. You know that. But I swear to you, if I ever thought for a moment you would be in danger, I would have put a stop to it. I should have said something the moment Derek walked in the door. I'm sorry. I'm sorry for everything."
"Well, it's late. We can discuss that in the morning."
Lucien sighed heavily.
"I should go. I'll find a room in town and come back in the morning."
"What do you mean? I thought I was being looked after," Jean smirked, "Remember what Mathew said?"
"Yes, but you and I both know you are better off without me. I doubt I'll get much sleep anyway, and if I do I can't imagine the nightmares I'll have. I can't keep the whole house up like that."
Jean reached over and gently cradled side of his face.
"Why don't we face them together? I'll stay with you, and if you have a nightmare I will wake you up. Maybe if I hold you they will never come."
Lucien's face brightened.
"Yes. But don't get any ideas. This is just for tonight. Now I am getting ready for bed. I suggest you follow. Feel free to pour a drink for both of us on your way up."
Jean left the kitchen, leaving Lucien to stare after her in wonder.