Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Chapter 80


The pale, grey, morning light was filtering through the half-open curtains as Harry McFry stirred from a deep slumber. His pillow felt ‘different’, the bed strangely comfortable, but as he turned over he knew something about that light wasn’t right. Too bright. Maybe he hadn’t drawn the curtains last night? His eyes still resolutely shut, he turned again, but his mind had kicked in, he knew, so he might as well give up any thought of further sleep. He opened his eyes slowly, and found himself in the (only slightly) familiar surroundings of his brother’s bedroom. He was alone, unless you counted the dull headache which hit him when he sat up. What the hell happened last night? He saw his clothes in a pile by the bed. And a black dress draped over a chair.

He heard movement outside the room, saw the door open, and in walked his sister in law, Carrie. She wore a toweling dressing gown, her face alive with a smile, and she carried a tray of coffee, pastries and fresh orange juice.

“Thought you might need this, Harry – kick start the day and all that!” she said, as she placed it on the table by the bed. She handed him a mug of steaming black coffee, and sat on the side of the bed. He smiled his thanks to her, but it seemed to Carrie just a little lame.

“You not feeling too bright, hon?” she asked. He took a gulp of the coffee, and waited for the hit.

“You might say that, Carrie. I must have drunk quite a bit last night.” His understatement would buy him time, he hoped, as he desperately tried to work out what had happened here. He remembered, from somewhere, a bottle of red wine. Maybe two? A rack of lamb seemed to figure in the equation somewhere.

“You polished off nearly a bottle of whisky after dinner,” she said, semi-accusingly. “I practically had to carry you to bed!”

Worryingly (for Harry) she was still smiling. Harry suddenly became conscious he was naked under the duvet.

‘You’ve done it now, Harry boy!’ he was thinking. How stupid could a guy be than to get mixed up with his brother’s wife, even if they were divorced? He shifted, uncomfortably, in the bed, drawing the duvet up a little over his chest.

Carrie noticed the movement. “Now, Harry!” she said, it sounding like the admonishment it was meant to be. “Just you relax. OK, so you were a little drunk last night. It wasn’t the end of the world. And you’ve got the whole morning to recover.” She reached for a croissant. “Here – have one of these.”

Harry bit into the warm dough. He thought he saw one of his mental post-it notes slip from the wall, and flutter to the ground. Morning? He was supposed to be doing something this morning.

What was it? Then he remembered.

“What time is it, Carrie?” he asked, urgently.

“Why it’s only nine-thirty, Harry. The kids aren’t back until gone one,,,” There was something conspiratorial about her smile.

Harry jumped up, almost spilling his coffee in the process. “I gotta go, Carrie. I’ve really got to go!” He started to get dressed while Carrie was still protesting.

“Go? It’s Saturday morning, Harry. What’s the hurry to go anywhere on a Saturday morning?” She was still sat on the bed, looking bewildered. Carrie had never seen a man dress himself so quickly.

“You don’t understand. I’m supposed to by flying to Madrid in three hours.” He was pulling on his jacket as he said this.

Slowly it dawned on her. “Oh. I see. Off to see your precious Ana, are you? I thought that was history, Harry McFry?” Her bitterness stung Harry, temporarily. “How come you never managed to mention this last night?”

Harry didn’t know whether he’d mentioned it or not, if truth be told – but he gathered he mustn’t have. He still couldn’t be sure what might have happened last night – Carrie was giving out mixed messages, and it wasn’t the kind of thing he felt inclined – or had the time, just now – to ask her.

“I better ring for a cab, Carrie. Last night was …” (what was it, he wondered?) “well, you know!” And he smiled, sheepishly, as he hurriedly left a room he had last been in some four years ago, when he’d helped Alan decorate it.

*

Maud came up trumps, and had a cab pulling up outside the house just a minute or so after he rang the taxi firm. As an added bonus, it wasn’t Jimmy. Even so, she hadn’t been able to resist her own little dig: “You’re on the wrong side of town for a Saturday morning, aren’t you, Harry?” she’d asked.

He spent the trip back to his flat trying to piece together whether Carrie’s attitude meant they had done something last night, or whether it meant they hadn’t. He hadn’t come to much of a conclusion, even by the time they drew up outside his flat.

Waiting for him on the doorstep was an angry Danny Longhurst.

“Where’ve you been, Harry?”

Harry checked his watch. It was still ten minutes until Danny had agreed to collect him. “What’s the hurry?” Harry asked, unlocking the front door.

Danny followed him in, running up the stairs behind him.

“The hurry - if you must know - is that we’ve got to call in to see Laurel before we go to the airport. She’s had a letter from someone warning her about Galloway. She’s been ringing you, Harry. As have I!”

They were at the door to Harry’s flat. “You better come in while I pack,” he said.

Harry talked as he pulled together the few clothes he would need for a couple of nights away. Plus his passport, of course – although it’s debatable whether he would have remembered it without a prompt from Danny. “What else about the letter?” Harry asked.

“It’s from Dacre Lawrence.” Harry’s mind was starting to move into gear.

“OK, Danny, you’re right. We need to see it – even get if she’ll let us have it. Have we got time?”

“Just. We would have had more time if you’d been here at nine-thirty when I was!” Danny’s anger had subsided now, but he couldn’t resist the comment.

Harry saw the red light on his answer phone. “Better get those, I suppose…”

Danny checked his watch. “You’ve got to be kidding, Harry. Come on, let’s just get to see Laurel and get on to the airport”. At Harry’s insistence he’d factored in just enough time for the drive, parking the car and checking in. Danny was worried, with the trip to Laurel’s, they’d be up against the clock.

“OK. But I need to get one last thing: this letter could be the opportunity we’re looking for. But I probably don’t need to tell you that, Danny, do I?” Harry winked, as he said it, and reached into a cupboard by his desk and pulled out a plastic box around five inches square.

*

Of course, Danny was wondering what the plastic box was all about, but he reckoned Harry would give the answer away in time.

He wasn’t wrong: as Danny drove them to Laurel’s, he outlined the plan. “We need to collect the envelope that letter came in. And we need to handle it carefully. There’s every chance it contains DNA from Lawrence,” Harry said. “You with me?”

Danny smiled. Of course! “But don’t we need DNA from somebody else to match it to?”

“Yes we do, Danny. And that’s where you come in. I’ll keep Laurel talking and you need to slip off into the bathroom – or maybe her bedroom. You’re looking for her hairbrush. Using the tweezers in this pack, you’ve got to collect a few strands of her hair – but you’ve got to be careful not to touch them yourself, or you’d contaminate the sample. Put them in one of the plastic bags in the pack, and seal it.” He handed the container to Danny, then seemed to ruminate for a moment.

“Now, the only thing we need now is something for me to talk to Lauren about to distract her, to give you enough time for you to find her hairbrush…” he said.

“You could tell her why we’re going to Madrid, Harry.” Danny said, tentatively.

“She doesn’t know we’re going to Madrid. I haven’t cleared it with her. I figured she’d be happy to pay the bill once she got the results. So no mention of Madrid, eh?” Harry said, smiling at Danny.

He wasn’t smiling by the time they pulled up outside of Laurel’s house.

3 comments:

Lord Likely said...

Hoorah! I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep my breath baited.

cal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
the domestic minx said...

Oh you are brilliant!
I was positively riveted!!

I will be coming back to your dark and seamy world for more!!