Chapter 12

There were two phone calls the following morning. One was from Penny. Neither she nor Dan had anything much to report. The other was a surprise call from Celia. She was keen to meet up with him later in the day. She offered to buy him lunch in Blois. 'I'll see you in the cafe next to the patisserie. You can't miss it,' she had said. Dan felt quite anxious. What on earth could Celia want? Still at least it was a cycle ride, he thought.

She was there when he arrived and Dan sat down opposite her and waited. 'Jim doesn't know I'm here,' she began. 'The first thing is our name isn't Wilson, it's Warrender.  We changed our name so that Didier wouldn't connect us with his past. You must have wondered why Jim was so interested in Didier.' In fact Dan hadn't really wondered. 'I just thought he was an investigative journalist,' he said. 'No. He's a medical journalist, although he's not working as hard at that as he should these days. It's a horrible story.' Her voice was shaky with emotion. 'About two or three years ago, Jim's sister went out with Didier. In fact they lived together for a while before Didier moved here. He was cruel and controlling. He used any trick he could to sap her confidence and it worked. He criticized her constantly and kept her in the house as much as possible. She was isolated from her family in any case and he made sure she had no friends. He was physically violent as well.  We were thousands of miles away in Canada at that time. It's not that she was weak, it's just that Didier was an arch manipulator. Anyway, in the end she suffered a complete nervous collapse. Luckily the nuns took her in and she's lived with them ever since. We try not to give up hope, but at the moment there's no sign of recovery.

The waiter came over and Dan ordered a lemonade and a cheese omelette with salad. It felt insensitive to eat, but the cycle ride had made him quite hungry. The place was beginning to fill up and they were surrounded by lively chatter. It seemed incongruous considering Dan's mood.

Celia went on. 'Basically I've taken fright. If Didier finds out I don't know what he'll do. The trouble is though, Jim won't leave it alone. He just won't. In his own strange way he's very happy just now. He gets a bit bored with his regular job and he finds the detective work more exciting. But it's too dangerous. I'm just asking you to leave us alone really. Sorry.'

Dan hesitated and then agreed. 'All right,' he said at last, but he was rather unsure if his participation made much difference to Jim's plans, one way or the other. It was a shame though, he thought. He enjoyed Jim and Celia's company. Still, he hadn't come to France to make friends and anyway it was quite probable that Jim had told him all he knew already.

He cycled home, and on arriving decided to take a look at the device Laurent had sold him. He had very little idea how it worked. He opened the box. There was an address in Geneva printed inside the lid. The instructions were in a number of different languages, including English. Well that was a start, he supposed. It was a question of unscrewing the base of the phone and inserting a small object. Calls could then be heard from another telephone and/or recorded onto a tape. The kit included what looked like a very small cassette tape recorder. He could look at the details later, he thought. Time now for a break.

He lay back on the large sofa with his feet on the arm. He tried to remember everything that Celia had said. Didier, according to her, had no real support. People were frightened of him, but he was too callous to make real friends. Of course he was held in great esteem by some, but only among those who didn't really know him. His good reputation meant a very great deal to him. He did have a girlfriend, Madame Jobert. They were very discrete, but everybody knew about her. One major problem was that Didier was involved in the sort of illegal activities that left no trace. Dan remembered asking what sort of illegal activities. 'Oh, the usual,' Celia had said. 'Mainly bribing officials to make sure he gets the contract. Things like that'.

Suddenly the phone rang, cutting short his deliberations. He was surprised to find that it was Jim. 'Celia's told me she met up with you and I've reluctantly agreed  to move on with my life,' he said. 'It's just that I've discovered something really important. I need to tell you about it. She's allowed me one last thing. Can we meet up tomorrow? Out of town'. The only place Dan could think of was the shrine on the road to Blois. Jim thought it was as good a place as any and rang off.

                                                         *  *  *

Jim had said four o'clock. Dan looked at this watch. It was 4.20pm. He'd always hated waiting, whether it was for buses, trains or people. Surely any minute now Jim would appear. He'd said he'd come hadn't he? The day before he'd been really keen on the meeting. Around 4.30 it began to drizzle. Dan sat on the grass in front of the shrine. He'd give Jim an hour, he thought. A few cars drove past, but not his friend's red Renault. He'd broken down, Dan told himself. Surely even the most reliable people got punctures, or their car engines over heated. But however hard he tried he couldn't persuade himself that all was well. In fact he was extremely uneasy. 'A sense of impending doom'. He'd heard that phrase somewhere and it exactly summed up how he felt now. At five minutes past five he got on his bike and rode home. By now it was pouring with rain.


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