When mister inspector finally told the prisoner his long narration - starting with the incident with the grocery store's pickpeanut and ending with his last conversation in the office of the mister chief inspector Schaeymoure, Galbraith wiped the sweat from his forehead and licked his dry lips. The prisoner was still sitting opposite him on his uncomfortable wooden chair, with his hands folded in front of him. Feeling the expectant gaze of mister inspector on himself, Jordan shuddered all over and raised his right hand to his deathly pale face.
- What's wrong, aren't you feeling very well? - Galbraith asked with sympathy.
Wiping the tears from his eyes, Jo sniffed and inhaled noisily. The inspector felt a little uneasy at the sight of the crying criminal, and he involuntarily turned his gaze to the surface of the table at which they had been sitting all this time. At the same time, he wondered what in his story could upset this twenty-six-year-old man so much.
- Delia... - Jordan's whisper reached his ears.
"Well yes, exactly", thought Galbraith, "It's all because of the girl, the same one who landed him behind bars". With this thought, mister inspector again raised his head to his interlocutor.
- I see, - he began, - that some parts of my story upset you. Sorry for this, but these are facts.
Speaking these words, the inspector mentally reproached himself "How can you, a policeman, stoop to the point of apologizing to a criminal?"
- The truth hurts, I know, - Jordan muttered quietly, blowing his nose into his sleeve.
- I really don't like this state of affairs myself, - Galbraith continued. - But you can rest assured...
Mister inspector suddenly interrupted his speech - he thought it would be very strange if the policeman gave the child molester a promise to bring justice to the child murderer. But the first words of this speech had an effect on the interlocutor - Jo suddenly stopped sniffling and fixed his eyes, red and wet with tears, on Galbraith.
- You will do your best to, - he said with anguish. - So that the child's soul can be avenged?
- I wonder at you... - the inspector began, but the prisoner did not let him finish.
- I want Delia not to feel abandoned in the next world. Do you understand me, mister inspector?
Having blurted out these words in despair, Jo then dropped his head into his hands - this plea clearly exhausted him. Galbraith continued to sit silently in his chair, not knowing what to answer to his interlocutor. A minute passed, but Jordan showed no signs of life, and Galbraith thought that the prisoner had fallen asleep. The inspector rose from the table, preparing to leave the interrogation room, but as soon as he took a few steps from the table, Jo suddenly opened his eyelids and, with a quiet groan, grabbed his chest with his hand. When Galbraith quickly walked to the door, which was just behind mister Thurlow, and, throwing it open, came face to face with a grim policeman holding a rubber baton - it was a guard who was assigned to monitor what was happening. The inspector immediately turned to him:
- Take this man back!
Clumsy and elderly man gave the inspector some kind of mocking glare:
- I hope mister did not die of boredom, listening to the cruel excuses of this vile p... - he began.
- Joke me here! - inspector threatened him with his finger and quickly left that boring room.
Guard, muttering under his breath "These are what the nerves need to listen...", slowly walked up to the chair behind which mister Thurlow was sitting, and, tensed slightly, grabbed him by the shoulders with both hands. Jo, whose eyes were feverishly rolling in their sockets, tried to instinctively throw off the fingers that grabbed him, but the guard, with incredible agility for his size, tore the prisoner from the chair and led him back to the cell.
The supervisor, standing next to the door leading to the cell, opened it for the guard, who pushed mister Thurlow inside. A couple of moments later, the heavy steel door slammed shut, and the sound of the heavy steps of both servant of the order died down in the corridor. Now this man was securely cut off from the other people. But twenty-six-year-old Jordan Thurlow no longer cared about what was happening in this world. He continued to lie on the floor in an uncomfortable position, staring blankly at the wall. It was unbearably stuffy in the cell, so he automatically opened his mouth wider in order to inhale at least a little air.
Little by little Jo lost track of where he was, and then suddenly the cheerful cries of children reached his ears. He hardly opened his eyes and was stunned in silent amazement - around him there was a grass-covered hillock. The midday sun was shining above his head, the birds were singing cheerfully, and ripe orange fruits hung from the branches of the apricot tree under which he lay. Getting to his feet, Jo slowly - as if every step he took was an unbearable burden for him - wandered to the side where the excited hubbub of kids could be heard. After a few steps he involuntarily stopped. What he saw shocked him to the core.
Along a well-trodden path straight towards him was approaching a small procession of five people. Ahead of all walked, moving her long legs wide in red shoes, young black-haired woman with bob hairstyle - her cream-coloured corduroy dress gave her figure a slightly pompous seriousness, making her look like a primary school teacher. Behind her, like a brood of little ducklings, walked four kids - two boys and two girls. They were barefoot and dressed in colourful dresses, pants and shirts. The children, judging by their pretty faces, were between seven and ten years old, no more. The boys, squinting at the bright sun, stayed a little behind, the girls, on the contrary, rushed forward and, cheerfully exchanging glances at each other, constantly tried to overtake their adult mentor.
- Mother Jo, look at apricots! - came a loud, high-pitched voice.
It was shouted by a younger boy who was walking at the very end of the procession. Stretching out his thin hand, he pointed straight at Jordan standing by the tree. He felt a little awkward - it was shameless all the kids started looking at him. The woman stopped and, turning her head in the same direction where the children were looking, smiled.
- Mother Jo, can we eat them? - asked another voice, more softer.
This question was asked by a girl in a yellow dress. "Curious, Jo - it's short for Josephine?", thought Jordan...
- Of course, my children, - said the black-haired woman and smiled even wider. - You can pick these fruits as much as you like.
After her words, the children, all as one, rushed to the tree. Jo, trembling all over, stepped back.
- But please, be reasonable! - the woman, remaining standing on the road, made a serious face and shook her finger at them.
The children, not paying any attention to her warning, ran up to the tree, began to jump up screaming and pick orange apricots from the branches, not at all worried that an unknown adult man was standing literally two steps away from them. It seems that this is the first time the kids have seen such a fruitful tree - with amazing tenacity and methodicality, they absorbed the fruits directly from the branches. And it suddenly dawned on Jordan that none of these five - four minors and one adult - just doesn't see him!
- Are you full, my children? - five minutes later, a woman shouted, who remained standing at some distance from the tree.
Jordan thought that either she simply didn't like apricots, or that she believed in washing the fruit before eating it.
- Mother Jo, maybe a little more? - the older boy begged in a capricious tone.
- We gotta go on the road! - already with a note of order the woman said - We have a very long way!
The children stopped screaming. They silently looked at each other and with obvious reluctance headed towards the road. The woman waited patiently until all four were gathered next to her, and then slowly walked forward. This time the girls barely trudged behind her, and the boys walked ahead and quietly had some kind of argument among themselves. Jordan, who was still standing under the apricot tree, looked with some sadness after the retreating procession. He involuntarily felt like a worthless, useless person, whom no one would ever remember and - as he had just seen - no one noticed. While thinking about this, Jordan suddenly noticed that one of the girls, who was walking last, suddenly stopped. He thought that she apparently wanted to take a breath, but when she turned her head towards him with a black bang on her forehead, he felt his heart begin to beat wildly.
Because that girl was none other than Delia herself. Her bottomless eyes looked at him point blank. She looked divine in her dark blue dress. She smiled, as if she had been waiting for this moment for a long time, and began to slowly approach the tree. Jordan couldn’t believe his eyes and thought it was just a hallucination. He awkwardly backed away and, burying his back in the trunk of an apricot tree, slid down it to the ground. The little girl apparently thought it was funny - she laughed and extended her hand forward. Jordan sat there, hesitantly, under the tree for a few seconds, and then, blushing, he took Delia's hand and smiled timidly.
They never allowed themselves hugs, kisses, or any other way of expressing love that required physical contact. Their feelings for each other could be called silent emotional attachment or the most banal sympathy. Now, as Delia stood in front of Jordan, sitting on the lawn, he wanted to tell her a lot. For example, give her a compliment that she has become even more beautiful... Ask if anyone is hurting her... Apologize to her for the long separation... In the end, just ask if she's happy to see him... But he still couldn't think of the right words. Jordan, still holding her tender hand in his rough palm, swallowed the lump that had risen in his throat and, trying to keep his voice from trembling from the excitement that overwhelmed him, almost whispered word, only one word:
- Sweetheart... - a sort of smile was appeared on him lips.
In response to this word, Delia's cheeks were blushed. She let go of her hand and gave him a somewhat shy smile. "Ideal of a mankind", Jordan thought, "Or, more precisely, womankind". As he understood, she was already ten years and four months old. He felt something like remorse for the fact that two years ago he had so unceremoniously entered Delia's small cozy world. But he could not do anything - after all, the past cannot be returned...
- I know. I remember, - unexpectedly Delia said quietly.
Jordan felt that her voice had changed in a strange way, but it could only seem to him - after all, that he had not seen her for a long time. And yet, hearing that "I remember" he felt his heart clench. "Well, when such an subject of the highest virtue speaks, my skin is starting to crawl", Jordan thought, not taking his eyes off her.
- Ajussi, there won't be any trouble, - now Delia repeated quite clearly and distinctly. - I promise, - she added.
He wanted to ask "what kind of trouble?", but the girl did not give him such an opportunity. Tears flowed from Delia's eyes, and the next moment she suddenly rushed to grown man and wrapped her thin arms around him. Jordan, forgetting about everything in the world, grabbed Delia by the shoulders, and, pressing baby to him, began to stroke her head. The little girl's body, trembling with sobs, radiated a faint warmth...