Thursday, 21 June 2007

Chapter 109

As Harry and Ana approached them from the other side of the fountain, Alan and Danny turned away from the guitarist, who had anyway paused to empty his collecting tin. The crowd started to thin a little, moving along slowly to the next attraction.

“Good afternoon, Ana!” Alan exclaimed loudly, as they came nearer. He turned to Harry: “But, excuse me – haven’t we met before?” His expression was dead-pan.
Harry smiled, just a little too forcedly. “Nice day for a stroll in the park,” Alan continued, still to Harry. “Shall you introduce Ana to Danny, or shall I?”
Harry picked up the less than subtle cue.

“Danny – this is my err … friend, Ana,” he said, but his eyes were drilling into the ground as he did so. How come that brother of his always seemed to put him on the spot?
Danny smiled and held his hand out to Ana, who stepped closer and tilted her head slightly, smiling back.

“Pleased to meet you, Danny Longhurst,” she said. “Harry’s told me all about you!” She was just being polite, Danny realized. What Harry McFry knew about Danny Longhurst you could write on the back of a throw-away matchbook. “I’m sorry you missed our meeting this morning – I think you might have enjoyed it,” Ana said. “But I’m sure Alan has kept you entertained.”

Before Danny could form his reply, Alan chipped in:
“Of course I have. You know how good Yolanda and I are at entertaining, after all…” His tone was still acerbic, but delivered with a smile, even if it was lost, this time, on Danny. It hit the target it was aimed at, however, and Alan saw his brother squirming just a little. Alan thought he had every right to be angry. Who the hell did Harry think he was, turning up in Madrid and manipulating people like they were pieces on a chessboard? It wasn’t that Danny hadn’t been good company – he was easy to be around: easier, in many respects, than his own kids sometimes were. And he knew Yolanda enjoyed spending time with Pablo, and that taking him out of the game for a few hours was hardly a chore to her.

But the principle still hung there, like an unwelcome guest at a party: Harry shouldn’t be allowed to think he’d got away with it.

Harry hadn't enjoyed any of this, even if he realised Alan had a point. He decided he’d better assert himself. Forcing his brother to look him in the eye, he said: “OK. Apology issued. Thank you, Alan, for looking after Danny last night and this morning. And I’m sure Ana appreciates what Yolanda’s doing for her, don’t you, Ana?” He didn’t wait for her response. “Now…” he said, trying to draw a line under the subject, “can we maybe go find somewhere to get a drink? I need to bring Danny up to speed about this morning.”

Alan was happy to let the subject move on, once he’d said his piece. But he had one last grenade up his sleeve, which he delivered with a wry grin.
“Sure, Harry. Let’s get a drink. How about a horchata?” Danny didn’t get it, but he saw the beginnings of a smile emerge on Ana’s lips, before she caught herself, and before he knew it the four of them were walking away from the fountain, heading back past the boating lake and out to one of the bars on the main street opposite the park’s main entrance.

Along the way, Danny got a chance to brief Harry about Laurel’s phone call. “Bloody Bill Blunt!” Harry said, once he’d heard what his friend had done. “Why did he have to go and do that?”

Danny had his own theory, which he shared with Harry. Perhaps Bill was hoping to solve the case before the two of them could, and get the kudos that only a front-page by-line could bring? Harry had to admit, reluctantly, that his colleague may be right.

“I don’t think Laurel believed me about the medals, Harry,” he said, finally.
“Hmm. Then we better get cracking sorting this one out quickly, Danny, my boy,” Harry said. Alan, walking a few steps ahead with Ana, couldn’t help but overhear, and thought what a blessing that would be. The sooner Harry ‘sorted this one out’, the sooner he’d be out of Madrid and back in Birkenhead, and everyone’s life could get back to some semblance of normality.

*

North London. Colin McAllistair spent the early afternoon drafting up questions ready for his meeting with Lillian McFry on Tuesday. He’d re-read the notes from his interview with Jonathan Harcourt, and was starting to fully appreciate, for the first time, the contribution Lillian might have made to the Republican cause. It was blindingly obvious that Harcourt had been madly in love with Lillian Blyth – or Lillian McFry, as she now was. His description of their meeting, and a night together in the Retiro Park that had led them to enlist in the International Brigade, seemed all the more powerful to Colin as he re-read it. As a young student, he’d never fully appreciated what Harcourt had been saying – never really understood how love could be so powerful as to draw two souls together until they are locked as one. Many years later he had his own experience of unrequited love, a failed relationship with a woman he had been convinced was ‘the one for him’. It had soured him for other women, so that he’d diverted his energies into his academic career and, latterly, his media appearances, convinced he would never find again what he had lost. Now, Harcourt’s words rang down through the quarter century since he first noted them, and he felt he owed it to Lillian McFry to share them with her.

He scribbled a couple more questions on his pad, and made a silent wish that Lillian’s allotted time on this earth would be at least a month or two more – time to arrange for her to be filmed and recorded for posterity. If Colin believed in karma, then he might have also been hoping it would expunge the awful stain of his treatment of Jonathan Harcourt (and his medals) from the celestial book of life. I’ll leave you to be the judge of that…

10 comments:

LT said...

Well I never so he was born with a heart it was just someone stole it ......nice bit of intimate info about Colin Mc, you will have me feeling sorry for him soon !!!!!!

Theresa111 said...

Congratulations Thomas! You're the Number One Blog today on Fuel My Blog!

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Well, lt, I suppose McAllistair can't be all bad!

Thanks, theresa111!

LT said...

As you know Tom I see good in most folk ;-)

the domestic minx said...

I am worried about poor little Lillian...

Yes, people are multi dimensional beings - there is no black and white, good and bad, just shades of grey. I guess even Colin can't be that bad...or can he...

ohhhh

Enumerator said...

As I understand we are hurtling towards the denouement, I have been thinking about what will happen next. Will this story be picked up by Hollywood, or is it more likely to be a TV production?

Given the international flavour, I suggest it's more likely to be a feature film. So who would be in the cast? Here's a first stab at the key players:

Harry McFry - Robert Lindsay
Danny Longhurst - Jude Law (I was struggling here!)
Laurel McFry - Joanne Whalley
Lillian McFry (now) - Geraldine McEwan
Alan McFry - Niam Leeson

(I wanted sisters for sisters, and the best I could do was ...)
Ana - Sinead Cusack
Yolanda - Niamh Cusack

Carrie McFry - Brenda Blethyn
Bill Blunt - Bill Nighy
Dacre Lawrence - Albert Finney
Cyril Galloway - Michael Caine
Colin McAllistair - Jonathan Pryce
Mabel Harris - Geraldine James


Please note - not a Sir Anthony Hopkins in sight!

What do others think?

70steen said...

Harry - Alan Rickman
Danny - Leonardo De Caprio
Laurel/n - Julia Roberts
Lillian - Dame Judy Dench
Alan - Brian Blessed (somehow I imagine him with a beard and being a big guy lol!)
Ana - Reece Witherspoon (or would that be Wetherspoon?)
Yolanda - Signorny Weaver (sharp tounged woman)
Carrie - Holly Hunter
Bill - Jack Nicholson
Dacre - Derek Jacoby
Cyril - John Alderton
Colin - Sean Bean
Mabel - Victoria Wood

(I know it is late and the samll brain cells are even smller !)

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thanks, domestic minx - I have yet to decide how Colin will play this one out.

Wow, enumerator and 70steen - that would be so great! After Harry McFry: The Colourslide on 4 June, who knows?

I notice that you have got a predominantly British case, enumerator, peppered with one or two international stars, which suggests a suitably low-budget Channel 4 co-production.

While, 70steen, you've pulled out all the stops and blown the budget on some big names there, suggesting a Hollywood production (and therefore pressure for a change of setting: High Fidelity all over again!)

Joanne Whalley as Laurel McFry is particularly appealing, enumerator!

(Incidentally, I notice you both ducked the difficult casting position of Ma Shipman, who is fated to make an appearance later in the book...)

What fun! Any more for any more?

70steen said...

Ma Shipman ....... Julie Walters would be brilliant ( Ican hear her voice now)

Enumerator said...

Yes, definitely, Julie Walters as Ma Shipman - even though we don't know that much about her - just her reputation.

I'm not sure if he would take such a small part, but I could see Peter Postlethwaite in one of the minor roles - eg Henry the Carteaker or Charlie the Post.