Friday, 27 April 2007

Chapter 81

Harry and Danny’s plane landed at Madrid Barajas airport pretty much on schedule, around 4.20pm local time. By the time they’d collected their bags and cleared customs it was after five, and a short walk to the car park later, the two of them were climbing into his brother’s car. It was grey and overcast, but a few degrees warmer than the Liverpool they’d left, Harry thought. In his mind, he’d come to associate Madrid with eye-blinding sunlight, even if, rationally, he knew from past experience that they had their winter, too.

Alan shook his brother’s hand as he got in the car, and nodded his introduction to Danny. He still thought it a bit strange that Harry had a young kid in tow – was wondering exactly who he was, and why Harry might have brought him to Madrid.
There wasn’t much conversation at first – which Danny found a little strange. Weren’t these people supposed to be brothers? He wondered if he should say something, but decided against it. He was comfortable in the silence, thought maybe he should just stay quiet and let the journey take its course. He was actually quite tired, having woken early that morning with the excitement of a trip to Madrid ahead of him. He saw the advertising hoardings at the side of the road as they sped by them, trying to make out what they were saying. Soon, they were into the outskirts of the city, run down and (only vaguely) reminiscent of places he knew in Birkenhead. Even though he’d holidayed abroad with his parents many times in his, he supposed, short life, this was the first time he’d visited a foreign city. And, it seemed to him, it was exactly that – a city that was foreign to him.

Eventually, however, the silence was broken - just as the car slowed down and joined a queue of others. It was Alan who broke it.
“So, Harry – you’re back on your old territory again?” he said, smiling.
Harry was staring ahead, as they made their way, slowly now, through the traffic.. “Yeah – feels a bit strange, bro’,” he replied.
And, if truth be known, it did. Danny sensed it.

They’d spent the flight from Liverpool swapping theories about Laurel and Lillian McFry but - also - getting to know each other a little better. Even if there was a lot to Harry beneath the surface, Danny felt that by the time they landed at Madrid, he knew a little more about the enigma that was Harry McFry. Harry seemed in a happy mood, finally, once the plane touched down.

When he’d called to collect him that morning, Danny had detected a tetchiness – a grouchiness – that hadn’t really evaporated until they got to the airport and Harry made a call from the phone box in the departure hall. He’d overheard Harry say “Sorry about last night,” but there was no clue who he was speaking to, or what it might have been about.

Even during their brief stop-off at Laurel McFry’s, Harry had seemed distant, pre-occupied with something. He’d not been happy that Danny had told Laurel about their planned trip (cf. the dictionary definition of understatement), but he’d parried her questions well enough. Danny had been able to extract a sample of Laurel’s hair without being suspected, and she’d allowed Harry to take away the envelope her letter from Dacre Lawrence had come in ‘for analysis’. She’d wanted to know if Harry had any theories about who the ‘D Lawrence’ who had written to her might be. “A little too early to speculate just now, Laurel,” he’d said, “but there’s every chance we’ll have more information early next week.” And he’d told her (some of) the progress they’d made with the birth, marriage and death certificates. Madrid, he’d explained, was not connected at all with her case: Danny and he were off to a conference on forensic genealogy. He apologized if Danny had given any other impression. She’d seemed to buy it, even if Danny felt Harry had made him seem like an idiot.

“Seen anything of Carrie, bro’?” Alan had asked, as he turned a corner to avoid the worst of the traffic queue as they got nearer the centre. Danny thought it seemed like a light enough question, but noticed, too, that Harry seemed to hesitate before he responded.
“The boys are doing well, Alan. Adam enjoyed his trip over here,” Harry said. “He’s a nice kid,” he added.

Despite his tiredness, Danny detected an undercurrent. He wasn’t sure at all what it was about, but he’d been around Harry long enough now to know when he looked uncomfortable. He wondered if his brother had picked it up, too.

If only Danny knew. Harry was more than uncomfortable. What if Carrie had rung Alan (which she might have done, on any pretext), before they’d arrived in Madrid?

2 comments:

the domestic minx said...

Oh I do love the undercurrents!!

(Anything under really...underwear, underneath, the dark underbelly...all of which I can feel unfolding in your story...)

Brilliant...

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thank you so much. Harry better watch out those undercurrents don't drag him down, though, son't you think?

Thanks for reading!
THJnr