Thursday, 22 March 2007

Chapter 55

It was late. Harry was settled snugly in an armchair in his flat, listening to the mellow tones of Artie Shaw played out of a small CD player on a shelf by the window. A glass of whisky in his hand, he had just lit a cigarette, the crumpled cigarette packet landing perfectly in a bin in the corner of the room. Someone was certainly rocking Harry’s dreamboat. Someone – Ana, of course – was invading his dreams.

He wondered if she still lived in that airy, second-floor flat off the Plaza Dos De Mayo, where they’d sometimes spent whole weekends together in bed, exploring each other and opening the windows in every room to evade the sweltering heat of summer. Six years was a long time for someone not to move on, he thought. He’d put off the call long enough, he determined, and jumped up to pull open a drawer in the small desk that sat in the corner of the room opposite his ‘kitchen’. He drew out a battered, old address book and started to flick through it until he found her number. What if she had married now? Surely his brother, now living with Ana’s sister, would have told him if she were – even if, somehow, he’d ‘forgotten’ to mention his own, new relationship.

Back in his chair, he scanned the still-familiar number. It was past 10pm, and it would be an hour later in Madrid. Late to call, he thought, but not too late if Ana still kept her normal habits. He took another slug of his drink and nervously punched her number into his phone. It rang for a few seconds, Harry’s pulse starting to race against the tone, before a voice he thought he’d maybe forgotten answered “Hola?”

He ached to tell her what a mistake he’d made all those years ago, how he wanted to be with her again, how … but it was no use. The only words he could muster were “Hello, Ana. It’s Harry.” ‘Pathetic, inadequate, useless Harry McFry’ a voice was shouting in his brain. The pause while Ana processed the information seemed interminable. Nobody had called her ‘Ana’ in a long while.

“Harry? Harry McFry? Why you ring me now, Harry?” she asked, her voice tired, wondering and soft.

“I’m ringing to tell you I still love you, Ana,” his heart begged him to say; but a short bout (awarded on points) meant his stupid head won out again: “I’m ringing because I need your help, Ana. I’m going to be in Madrid on Saturday. Can we meet?” As he said the words, he was praying she’d say ‘yes’.


Danny Longhurst normally slept pretty well at night. But not tonight. He was thinking over the last couple of days with Harry McFry. It seemed to him that Harry might easily be characterized as a chain-smoking alcoholic. Yet he’d seen him at work, and knew, too, that he seemed to know his stuff. Earlier that night, they’d spent an hour in the bar reviewing where they were up to with Laurel McFry’s ‘missing’ family, and Danny had to admit that Harry was properly ‘on the case’. And he couldn’t help but admire the guy’s connections. The episode with Mrs Shipman had un-nerved him, though. It seemed like Harry might have sent him there to do something he didn’t want to do himself, as if he might even be afraid of the woman. And why on earth had he told Colin McAllistair that Lillian McFry was dead? He’d listened to Harry’s account of his conversation with McAllistair carefully. Harry seemed to think there was someone missing in the equation – didn’t think either McAllistair or this mysterious Mr Galloway was behind the expurgation of Laurel’s family from the records.

But at least he’d taken the idea of playing the role of his father quite amicably – had even seemed impressed at the cover Danny had invented for him. Why he’d insisted Danny should drive them both down to Telford was another matter.

The prospect of a few days in Madrid was something Danny was apprehensive about, too. Why go to the time, trouble and expense of a trip to Spain when they could have had that document translated by any of a dozen, local, people? Harry was hiding something, he was sure.

Altogether, Danny was beginning to think there were depths to Harry McFry’s character which he hadn’t got anywhere near plumbing. He thought about the meeting at Stan’s shop. It had seemed to him that Harry already knew McAllistair from somewhere, even if McAllistair didn’t seem to know him.

And what had that been about, earlier, when Harry had left him sat in the bar, saying only “Stay here a minute, Danny – I’ve got to sort something out”? He’d only been gone a couple of minutes, but he’d seen Harry, through the window of the bar, disappear into Meldew Buildings, only to re-emerge a short while later, and re-trace his steps back to sit next to him?

Harry McFry. ‘That’s one complicated individual’, Danny thought, as he turned on his side and tried to get off to sleep.

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