Chapter 6

'Dad,' yelled Ollie. He flung his bike to the ground narrowly missing Dan's ankle and raced forward. He pushed his way through the crowd and ran up to a tall good-looking man who stood at the centre of everything. All the cameras were trained on him and Magda. Dan remembered that people had said Ollie's father was in prison, but that didn't make much sense. There was nothing to do but sit on the sand and wait. There might be trouble when they were found to have been out so late. That is if anybody noticed Dan was there. It was cold and miserable.

It wasn't long however before Magda and the person who was obviously Ollie's father went into the house arm in arm. 'Come on Dan,' Ollie shouted and they walked through into the kitchen. 'Fetch your duvets and I'll tell you about it,' Ollie's father was saying. Soon they were sitting on the kitchen floor drinking cocoa. 'I'm sorry you have so much trouble sleeping Dan,' the man said. 'Oliver says he had to take you out for a spin just to calm you down'. Dan was speechless. Luckily no reply seemed to be needed. 'I'm Duncan,' he continued. He spoke with a scottish accent. He was as dark haired as Magda was blond; he looked rather thin and unhealthy Dan thought.

He was a geologist, he explained and had been working in the middle east looking at rock samples in order to gauge the likelihood of oil being found in the area. He worked for the government over there. He went to the desert a few times a year in between doing a bit of lecturing. A good life for a while. But then for no reason that he knew of he was accused of spying and put in jail. Sometimes dissident groups would kidnap Westerners for the ransom, but in this case it was the rulers themselves. He'd spent three years in a prison cell wondering if he would ever get out. He had no idea that negotiations to release him were making good progress and that soon he would be put on a plane and flown home. He'd spent the last few days in hospital in London. Magda had known of his imprisonment but knew nothing of his release until he had landed on U.K. soil. 'That's the bare bones,' Duncan said. 'The rest'll be in the papers'. Dan was to read a much fuller account later. Duncan had spared them some of the more unpleasant details, such as the arrest at gun point, the meagre food, the beatings and worst of all the soul destroying solitary confinement. But for now all that mattered was the joyous homecoming. Magda was smiling down at him. He glanced round at Ollie. He was tightly wrapped up in his duvet and had fallen asleep curled up on the floor. I could stay in this moment for ever, thought Dan.

O.K. Enough of memories. Fast forward to the present. To the task in hand. He was now convinced that Ollie was safe and was just enjoying a bit of time to himself in his hut. But Dan had had a disquieting thought a few times now. Pushing it to the back of is mind became increasingly difficult. If Ollie was in danger, then anybody who went looking for him was too. Dan 'what if' Markham, Ollie had often called him, but he had to keep going this time even if only to see Lydie again. He looked at the map. See you in Aire in a couple of days Lydie had said. A couple of days on a motor cycle maybe but he was on a push bike. He sighed and wandered downstairs. It was no less gloomy than it had been the night before. It smelt of stale food. The patron was behind the bar. Dan, ever hopeful, started in English. The Frenchman shrugged. 'Not many English here,' he managed. I'm not surprised, thought Dan. 'I'm heading for Aire-sur-Loire,' he explained. 'Ah'. The patron was suddenly animated. Dan worked out that he was going to Chartres and would happily take him that far. Five minutes later he was loading his bike into the back of a Citroen van. He'd had no breakfast, but this was too good to miss. He needed to check out that cabin in the woods. Luckily his companion was quiet. Dan's French was pretty basic. He did pick up one thing however. If he went to Aire-sur-Loire he was to beware of someone called Didier. It seemed a strange thing to say - rather over dramatic, but Dan remembered it all the same. They reached Chartres and then one more night at an inn and another day cycling on the road and he was there.

He found the place at last. It was on the edge of the town. It was dark by now and there were very few street lights. The lane was bumpy and Dan dismounted and wheeled his bike. He had no wish to fall off and injure himself at this late stage. There was no-one around and the atmosphere was creepy to say the least. 'Look out for the green door,' Magda had said. Perhaps she hadn't expected him to arrive at night. She had warned him that no number would be displayed. He walked a bit further. Yes, this was the one. He was certain of it. He'd been told it was the only one with railings and an iron gate. There was a short path to the front door. It was less well kept than the Cambridge house and the garden was a little overgrown. He let himself in with the key Magda had given him and walked into a small hallway. Oddly enough it was lit. He saw a door to the right of him. His hand shook a little as he grasped the handle. He pushed it open and looked in. Just opposite him stood a young woman. She was barefoot and wore jeans and blue t-shirt. She held a small revolver in both hands and was pointing it straight at him. 'Don't move,' she shouted. Dan couldn't have moved much if he'd tried. He automatically flung his hands in the air though. He felt as if his legs had turned to jelly. All he could do was stammer, 'Please don't shoot,' in a pleading sort of way. He was looking down at the floor. His humiliation was complete.

 


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