Chapter 14

It was a small room. Not tiny, but small. There was a door on the left and a high window to the right. The walls were cream and the paintwork was grey. It was very bare, with a wooden floor. He knew he'd been in an enclosed space, but he didn't know where. He knew he'd been frightened, but he didn't know why. One thing he did know for certain was that he had a headache. At least two people had been in the room, he knew they had. And they had stood over him and talked. He didn't think he was safe, but felt oddly dispassionate about that. He realized he'd been there for a while. Hours at least, or maybe days or weeks. He'd dreamt he'd been out on a bike. Not his own Raleigh, but an old machine of his father's, once owned, it was rumoured, by Freddie Grubb. Dream and reality were mixed together in his head, but he was pretty sure he hadn't been dreaming when he saw Van Eeden leaning over him, a fact that didn't exactly fill him with confidence. He shivered.

And that was when Kazzie walked in. 'Oh great! They said they thought you'd wake up today,' she announced brightly. Something made him glance to the right. There was a vase of yellow flowers on a table. 'Am I in hospital?' he asked. 'Yes. Where did you think you were? Prison?' 'Sort of ', he replied. He laughed, which made his head hurt, but he didn't care. 'Lydie brought the flowers. She's been every day,' Kazzie went on. 'You've been here for four days. They found you in the park next to the fountain. You'd had a bump on the head. Phil's been to see you. Oh and Van Eeden. We couldn't get rid of him. Reckons he's the town interpreter.' As long as he's not the town torturer, thought Dan. Things began to fall into place. He remembered the cycle ride through northern France, Didier's party and then Jim's suspicious death. He concentrated hard and it all made sense. He'd been discovered in Didier's little kitchen, hit on the head and somehow removed to a patch of land about a mile away. Better the park than the Loire I suppose, he thought grimly. 'They might let you go home tomorrow,' Kazzie was saying. 'You're okay now, but the first day was a bit...' She broke off.

After she'd gone he tried to get things clearer in his mind. He was looking for someone but he didn't know who or why. His head was aching and he lay back in the bed. And then it came to him. Ollie. Yes, he was looking for his old friend Ollie. Magda had sent him. And then suddenly he knew where he would be. It seemed so obvious now. He got out of bed and felt in his jacket pocket. He had his passport and a wallet containing several hundred franc notes. He didn't know which town he was in or what time it was but he'd manage somehow. He set off.

He didn't know how, but he'd got to Teignmouth station. It was midday. He had some recollections of Paris and then a night boat, but they were very hazy. Anyway he was here. That was all that mattered. The first thing was to ring Magda from a phone box. She, however, had very little interest in his news. He found her fairly coherent though. Calm even. 'Didier's dead,' she was saying. 'You know, the mayor.' Dan did know. 'Kathleen Perkins told me. You know, Kazzie,' Once again Dan did know, 'Yes, he's been found dead in a hotel room in Paris. Not everyone liked him'. No, thought Dan, not everyone did. To avoid the glare of the sun, he hopped into a taxi. He could process the information on the way. He half sat and half lay in the back.

He made his way up the hill to the tunnel and walked through, resisting the temptation to shout and test the echo as they had done when they were kids. He got to the iron gate that guarded the deckchair shelter and shouted, 'Ollie, Ollie'. No reply. 'Ollie, it's Dan'. Still nothing. 'Ollie, it's Dan. Didier's dead. Trust me. Magda told me. Didier's dead'. He heard a sound and there he was. Unshaven, dirty and very pale, but instantly recognizable. There were tears pouring down his face. Ollie never cared what people thought, Dan remembered.

They were sitting in front of Ollie's old house gazing at the dappled river. 'You'll have met Lydie,' said Ollie. 'Mmm', said Dan. 'I'll never forget her'. 'No,' said Dan. 'She can be very sweet. You can't imagine'. 'No', said Dan a little loudly and to move things on asked, 'How did you get here without a passport?' 'I paid some captain or the other to to bring me over from Ostend'. He paused and then added, 'I know, we'll open a detective agency'. 'Yes, you do the crimes, I'll solve them,' said Dan. 'Sounds about right,' chimed Ollie. They laughed and clinked beer bottles as they watched the sun go down. 'We'll live above the shop,' Ollie went on. 'I'll marry Kazzie and you can have the spare room'. 'I don't think so,' retorted Dan. 'Kazzie and I will have the double bed and you can kip down in the office'. Their ideas got more and more outrageous and their plans got wilder and wilder until eventually they fell asleep with their heads on Ollie's rucksack.

Dan woke at dawn. The sky was rosy pink and the seagulls wheeled noisily above him. He'd stick with Ollie now. Of course he would. And they were safe. Well, safe at any rate until the next time. And oh yes, there would be a next time. Dan knew he could be quite sure of that.


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