Philip stared at the light. Then he realised he was lying in a different room. A man in a uniform was bending over him saying “Are you all right sir?” in German.
This seemed different, but he wasn’t quite sure how. His head felt fuzzy. Then he remembered, he’d been days in that other room. Sometimes he’d wake up feeling the skin on his face and arms tight and warm, as though he’d been in the sun. His growing beard had stopped some of that.
How many days he wasn’t sure, there had been periods of light and darkness. He seemed to sleep more than normal, as though drugged. No one had tortured him. The food and water had been plentiful. Recently he’d been taken along a passage, past other closed doors to a shower, and allowed to get clean.
He looked at himself, khaki shirt and pants, shoes, no these were boots. And they fitted him as though he’d been wearing them for a while. He felt his face; the beard was growing well, so definitely days and days had elapsed.
“Where am I” he asked. “Frankfurt airport” was the response.
One side of his head felt a little sore, he touched it and groaned. The man said “just lie there sir, the doctor is on his way”.
This was confusing.
The doctor came in, checked his head, flashed lights into his eyes, held up fingers and asked how many he saw. The doctor said “You will be ok, but I recommend you stop drinking, you are causing yourself damage.” He left.
Philip sat up, feeling a little dizzy. The man gave him a coat and a travelling bag. He said “sir we have kept your luggage safely for you, but unfortunately you have missed your connecting flight, the next one is in 6 hours, if you go to the airline counter we have arranged the next flight for you.”
Philip said “What on earth is going on, I was kidnapped and held in a room. What am I doing in Frankfurt?” The man replied “Sir, do you want to see the police? You fell in the luggage area and hit your head; we know nothing of a kidnapping. You were apparently very drunk on your flight from Tripoli”
Tripoli. Philip stopped to think. Could he have been to Tripoli and not realised it? Hardly. This was someone playing mind-games with him. But who?
He allowed himself to be led to his suitcase, looking a little battered and dirty, to the check in counter. Then on through to the waiting area. Then he thought to look at his passport. He had been from his home base, through Frankfurt days ago. On the day he was kidnapped. Then on to Tripoli. And leaving yesterday, come back.
He bought himself a drink, and then remembered what the doctor had said. But he drank it anyway. Then he began to feel ill. He barely made it to the toilet facilities. Finally he caught the plane home.
Disembarking, going through customs and collecting his luggage, he walked through the terminal building and was surprised and relieved when Penelope came up to him and said “Hello, how are you? The airline was kind enough to tell me you were on this flight, but I had to pull some strings I can tell you”. She kissed him full on, and he felt himself wanting her.
Then it struck him. He’d left her sleeping in his flat when he was kidnapped. Had he gone mad? Or was this some kind of plot?
She asked if he’d enjoyed the trip, then she said she’d missed him, and kissed him again. Standing close, with her coat shielding them she caressed him. Thoroughly aroused he said, “Let’s go home”.
All during the drive to his apartment he was torn between his desire for her and trying to work out what had happened. At every red traffic light, she would turn and kiss him again, touching him, keeping him off balance with the urgency of his need for her.
They barely made it through the front door before they were frantically taking off each other’s clothes and into the bedroom. He seemed unable to satisfy himself and they continued all night. In the morning, feeling exhausted he asked the date. Penelope laughed and said, “You really have had too much of a break, it’s Wednesday of course”.
Philip realised he was a day late in returning to work, and also that he’d need a barber to clear his beard properly. Then he looked at his watch and realised he was already late. In his hurry he forgot that he should go to the police and complain about his kidnapping, he didn’t have time for the barber, this was his national day, and the embassy staff were expected for breakfast at a city hotel to celebrate.