Chapter 8

He was sitting in the kitchen with Kazzie. She'd made coffee and there were croissants. 'So you're still cleaning for Magda,' Dan asked. 'On and off. A local person helps when I'm not here. I work in Cambridge in the winter. Mostly with disturbed children'. Well that made sense anyway. Kazzie the hired help with two Oxford degrees and a gun in the drawer was a psychotherapist. 'Poor little rich kids,' said Dan nastily. And then suddenly the idea of a child who was struggling to find his way through the world being helped by Kazzie made him well up. He looked away.

But Kazzie was still chatting. 'I moved to Cambridge when they did. I was a bit worried about Ollie. I didn't think the marriage would last. Duncan was a bit of a womanizer'. 'How do you know?' asked Dan. 'How do you think?' Kazzie replied. 'Ah,' Dan laughed. Duncan wouldn't try it on twice with Kazzie, he thought. 'And Ollie, what does he do?' Dan asked. 'Computer programmer. He's freelance'. 'You mean he can read?' Dan was astounded. Kazzie replied, 'I taught him in the end. He wanted to be a motorcycle courier in London and couldn't read the addresses. Once he had a good reason to learn he persevered but it wasn't easy I admit'. 'And did he work as a courier?' asked Dan. 'Oh for a while and then he moved on to computers. He taught himself programming.' This was a revelation. 'Wow,' said Dan. 'I think I need another cup of coffee.' They both laughed.

But the earlier part of the morning hadn't gone quite so well. He'd cycled down to the town centre early on and had found the hardware store easily. There were brushes, buckets and garden tools outside on the pavement. It wasn't difficult to spot. So far so good. He went in. Lydie was behind the counter as he'd hoped. There were one or two people in the shop, seemingly just browsing. She looked at him as if she'd never seen him before and hissed, 'Buy something'. He picked up a corkscrew. 'See you after work by the shrine on the road to Blois,' she whispered. And then loudly and very formally she said, 'Merci Monsieur, au revoir. Bonne journée'. He walked out confused.

'I'm meeting Lydie later to look in the cabin in the woods,' he told Kazzie. 'Hasn't anyone thought of looking there?' 'Only at first,' replied Kazzie. 'You could do with checking. And anyway you might find clues.'

'I think I've worked out why I'm so convinced he'll be in the cabin. It reminds me of that cave in Devon. You know, the one he was so keen on.' 'Oh yes!' So Kazzie remembered it too. 'Near the beach,' she went on, 'at the entrance to the tunnel through the cliff. He loved that best out of all the things you showed him. He said a bloke used to come over from Belgium every Easter in the sixties. He worked his passage on a cargo boat and slept in the cave. It was used by smugglers in the past'. 'Now it's a deck chair shelter,' Dan said 'That's a bit more down to earth'. 'I think Ollie spent the night there once when he was about thirteen. You know what Ollie was like.' Dan smiled. He'd often seen Ollie climb nimbly over the locked metal gate to taunt him from inside for his fear of heights. Happy days, he thought.

But he needed to focus on the task ahead. 'Lydie said she'd meet me by the shrine on the road to Blois,' he said. Kazzie knew it. 'Oh yeah,' she said. 'The shrine. It's easy to spot. Some people were killed there last summer. Car crash.'  So they weren't killed by Didier or the mayor of a neighbouring town, thought Dan. Well that was something at least.

When Dan met Lydie later she was crossing herself in front of the shrine. 'A terrible accident,' she said. 'Four people dead.' Dan nodded 'Very sad,' he said.

They set off in silence and walked along a wide path for a while, but soon Lydie took a turning to the right which led more deeply into the forest. Before long they came to a simple wooden construction. He and Lydie stood together in the dappled sunlight. 'This is it,' she said. There was no key. They just opened the door and went in. The first thing Dan saw was a Raleigh bike. On a small desk in the corner was a computer. 'I must get back,' Lydie said and left him there alone.  He could take his time, he thought. There was no rush. He had a good look round. There was a shelf with some computer books on it. He looked behind those and in every drawer of the desk. There was nothing there except some bottles of water. He looked under the computer. There was a phone number scribbled on a piece of paper hidden under the monitor. It was somewhere in France. Dan picked it up and put it in his pocket.

He turned round and suddenly saw that there was a face at the window. Someone was peering in. Of course it was quite normal to walk in the woods and even to glance in at a window. No problem at all. So why were his hands sweating and his knees knocking? Literally knocking. And then his heart sank. The handle was moving and the door was opening. He decided to sit down before he fell down and ended up on a wooden chair facing the intruder. He sat and waited. His heart was pounding and his body was limp. Here we go again, he thought.


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