Chapter 4

The next morning he got up bleary eyed and, having packed away his dew soaked tent, set off back to Lens. Breakfast at the Cheval Blanc might help. He thought of that strong coffee. This time he sat inside; he'd had enough fresh air. He'd hardly sat down when the owner came up to him. 'Message Monsieur. Telephone'. This was creepy. No-one knew he was there surely. The caller had left a number and Dan asked to use the phone behind the desk and rang it. 'Hello', said a female voice and she repeated the number. Dan gave his name. 'Oh yes. Glad you rang back. You probably don't remember me. I'm Penny, a friend of Magda's'. So it was Penny, the dark haired aromatherapist from the party. 'I'm so lucky to find you. I must have rung about ten places on the route, just on the off chance'. 'Why?' Dan sounded a little abrupt. 'Well, there's something Ollie didn't tell Magda'. Surprise surprise, thought Dan. 'Yes,' she continued, 'he's got a place in the woods. A sort of hut. You can sleep in it etc. I don't know exactly where it is, but it's not far from Aire-sur-Loire'. 'Thank you'. Anything was helpful, but if no-one knew where it was...... 'Ask around,' she continued. 'Someone will know. I'll ring you at the house in a few days. Got to go'. And she rang off. So she had the phone number for the house. And it was so like Ollie to have his own bolt-hole like that.

Anyway now he had a goal. Maybe staying in the wood last night had been a bit cowardly. In any case he needed to get down to Aire-sur-Loire pretty quickly and find the place in the forest. Ollie could very well just have spent a month living there. Maybe it would turn out to be as simple as that. Certainly that was what Dan hoped. He had a quick breakfast and then set off. He soon got into the rhythm of cycling and felt much better for it. He decided to stop for a snack at a small town. He parked his bike in the main square and went into a café. It was full of young people. Student holidays he supposed. He bought a coffee and a sandwich and sat enjoying the scene. Two young men were playing table football, but mostly people were just talking and laughing. He went outside and picked up his bike. He had a strange feeling he was being watched. This was not unfamiliar to him. He had felt that in Cambridge recently. After the failed break-in the would be burglar had shouted, 'I'll get you for this'. But surely he didn't think the guy had followed him to France. Of course no-one was watching him.

He cycled along the flat road for a while. He had decided to head for Beauvais and spend the night there. It would be quite hard going, but he thought he could make it. He made good progress along the quiet road. After a while he heard a motor bike behind him. Strange that it didn't overtake. He was riding fast but not that fast. He carried on for a mile or so, still with the noise behind him. At length he decided to stop. Hopefully the rider would go straight on and leave him at the roadside. He didn't. When Dan stopped he stopped. Dan was feeling distinctly nervous. Nervousness soon turned to terror as the rider dismounted. He stood stock still, incapable of movement. Here we go, he thought. And then he saw that the person, who was clad in motorbike leathers, was small and slim and was walking slowly. It was evidently a girl. She took off her helmet and a pile of fair hair cascaded onto her shoulders. She was extremely pretty, with a freckled face and green eyes. 

'I'm really sorry,' she said, 'but I saw you in the café. I thought you looked nice and I felt a bit lonely. Was I too cheeky?'. Dan assured her hastily that it didn't matter at all. Her English was very good, but she had a slight accent. 'I'm Lydie,' she said. Dan was at a bit of a loss for words. 'I'll see you in front of the cathedral in Beauvais,' she went on 'will you remember I said that?' Only for the rest of my life, thought Dan.

They met as planned and went down a side street to the nearest hotel. It was shabby and the walls were dirty. There were a few bored looking men at the bar. They sat in a corner. The only food on offer was ragout. Stew explained Lydie. Dan thought it sounded better in French, but with a baguette and a bottle of red wine it went down very well. It didn't matter much where they were or what they ate. Soon she took him out into the street to look at the night sky, pointing out the Plough, Cassiopeia and the North Star. The city lights spoiled the effect a little but they looked pretty good to Dan. He was surprised she knew the English names. 'A friend taught me', she explained, sounding mysterious.

He woke early to find a mass of fair hair on the pillow next to him. There were worse things he thought. She stirred a little, and stretching she touched him gently on the arm. Once again there were worse things. He fell happily back to sleep. The next thing he knew Lydie was standing over him fully dressed. 'I'm going now. I'll see you in Aire'. 'Ok,' he said. 'But first tell me if you know this person'. Ollie had been forgotten briefly the night before, but now he reached into his bag and brought out the photo. 'Do you know him?' he asked. 'Mais bien sûr je connais. Je suis sa femme,' she said calmly. 'Of course I know him. I am his wife'. And with that she kissed him lightly and was gone.

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