Saturday, 30 June 2007

Chapter 113

If Danny had plans for the rest of the afternoon, he didn’t give Ana any clue what they might be.

Ana knew she had to go and relieve her sister of the onerous duty of entertaining Pablo, but she had enough time not to have to rush the trip back to the flat. She decided they could walk, taking a zig-zag route that took them through a mix of shopping and residential districts, cutting here and there across tiny plazas that were mostly well off the beaten path of the tourists. She kept her conversation with Danny light, at first.

“Are you enjoying your stay in Madrid?” she asked him, at one point.
“It’s a great city,” he replied. “I’d like to come back. Maybe without Harry, though!” His wry smile gave the game away: Ana guessed what he meant.
“Yes. It has a lot to offer someone like you. But you have to forgive Harry. He’s not such a bad person really. And, you’ve only known him a short while. I’ve known Harry for years!”

Danny still hadn’t worked out exactly what was going on between Harry and Ana, although Alan had told him enough for him to understand some of the current tensions between the two of them.
“You know, he never said anything about you, before we planned the trip,” Danny said – uncertain whether it was his place to impart this information, but thinking she should know it, anyway. “I got quite a surprise when he disappeared last night.”
“Yes,” was all Ana said.
“As far as I knew, we were here on business, that’s all.” Danny said, by way of explanation.

They were just passing a small pavement café as he spoke, and Ana tapped his arm.
“Let’s have a coffee, Danny,” she said. “I think you need to know a few things about Harry, if you don’t mind.” And she pulled a chair away from the table, gesturing to Danny to sit opposite her. As he took his seat, he couldn’t help wondering if he really wanted to know these ‘few things’, or whether, all in all, it might be better if he didn’t.

*

The idea that there might be an obituary for Jonathan Harcourt had caught Harry’s attention. If there was, it might shed some light on what had happened to the journalist after his time in Spain and before his supposed death in the early 1980’s.

Harry was beginning to wish he’d rung Bill Blunt after Danny had told him about the call to Laurel McFry. He was reluctant to borrow his brother's phone (why?) and, anyway, he didn’t have Bill’s number with him.

“So,” Alan said to Harry (the two of them still sat near the window of the bar, overlooking the Retiro) “am I right in guessing you think there’s a link between Harcourt and Laurel McFry? You think he might be her grandfather?”
Harry only half-managed to pull himself back to ‘now’ as he heard Alan quizzing him. Did he think that, he wondered?

“Harcourt’s certainly the best candidate we have to be Colleen Blythe’s father, and hence Laurel’s grandfather – yes,” he replied. But he was still worrying about what Bill Blunt might be up to. He must have been doing some serious digging of his own to have made the link through to Laurel McFry, he thought. Harry tried to think what he might have said that could have given Bill a clue. Why had he rung her, he wondered – what did he know?
He’d better ring Laurel, just to re-assure her that he hadn’t mentioned her to the journalist – and it would be best if he did this before Danny and he left Madrid. At least Harry was writing the mental post it notes again…

Alan noticed how his brother seemed distracted.
“What’s on your mind?” he asked.
“Well…” Harry replied, almost casually, “- oh, I don’t know! There’s a lot to untangle, isn’t there?” He paused a moment, as if considering some new angle. “Anyway, I’ve asked Ana to organise a DNA test for me. I’m hoping that will sort things out a bit.”

Alan’s brow creased, instantly.
“A DNA test? Isn’t that taking things a bit too far, if you don’t mind me saying so?” Alan seemed concerned about this news. But before Harry could ask him to elaborate, Alan’s mobile rang.

It was Yolanda. Pablo had, apparently, ‘gone walkabout’, and she was worried, Alan told Harry, after he’d finished the call. Alan had told her not to worry, that Ana was on her way back to the flat, and that she’d sort it out, he was sure. He also told her that Harry was still here with him. She’d wanted to know when to expect the two of them back – were they all going out for a meal, or should she cook something?
“That,” Alan had told her, “rather depends on Harry,” – and he’d promised to let her know, one way or the other.

Harry sensed that the brief period of easy familiarity he’d just enjoyed with his younger brother had been terminated, somehow, like a window had been pulled shut. The gloves, it seemed, were off again.

*

“You know, Harry and I were very much in love – once,” Ana had said to Danny, even before their coffees had arrived.
“I guessed so,” Danny said, feeling like a pig stuck firmly in the middle of something he didn’t quite enjoy, once more.
“I’m a little surprised he didn’t mention about me to you, Danny. I know you’ve just started working with him, but he rang me earlier in the week to arrange our meeting. Still, if there’s one thing we know about Harry – he keeps himself to himself, don’t you think?”

Danny considered how best to reply. If Ana and Harry were intimate again, this might be some kind of test, to see how loyal he was to Harry.
“He doesn’t give much away, you’re right. I only know that, when we saw Lillian McFry a few days ago, she asked him if he’d ever really loved anyone, and he said yes.”

Ana was wondering whether Harry might have meant her, or whether there’d been anyone else in the time they’d been apart. She knew he never really loved his ex-wife (nor she him, from what he’d told her). Of course, she’d sensed something about Carrie (Alan’s ex-wife), from the little fragments she’d overheard here and there when Alan and Yolanda were having one of their ritual spats. But she didn’t imagine she was Harry’s type. Some of her frustrations with Harry seemed to boil up for just a second, and she said: “He’s such a fool, sometimes, Danny. He doesn’t know what he’s lost. He hasn’t the confidence to follow a relationship through – that’s his real problem.”
She watched for any reaction as Danny processed her view, but there was nothing obvious.
“Whatever you do, don’t end up like Harry,” she said. “Make sure you take your responsibilities seriously.”

It would have been an easy pledge for Danny to make: he had no responsibilities to worry about, just now. But he wanted to know exactly what Harry had avoided.
“He walked away, Danny. He didn’t have the courage to stay here in Spain, and he forgot about the consequences and the effect his decision might have – on everyone. Don’t you ever do that to a woman, Danny Longhurst – ever!”
So the anger, and the bitterness – everything that, more properly, should have been served up to Harry - was shouldered instead by his young colleague, who couldn’t help but wonder whether he might have been better never having met Harry McFry, never having suggested that they should work on the McFry case together, in the first place.

8 comments:

Theresa111 said...

Thomas,

The plot thickens and I am stuck like glue.

the domestic minx said...

You are on fire, man!!
The continuing brilliance and cracking pace astounds me.
I love the tension...

Bill Blunt said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thank you again, theresa111 and domestic minx! We'll get there in the end!

THJnr

Anonymous said...

only 20 days to go! Are you on schedule? :-)

Fanton said...

I am on the edge of my seat, and my rear is getting awfully sore.

More Harry, please!

Anonymous said...

Come on Thomas get cracking (please) and get your 'muse' into action... I don't want to have to re read to refresh my memory as the clock tick tocks by! hey I need something at my desk top during office hours to keep me interested
:-)

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Oh, alright then, anonymous ... just for you, Chapter 114 has just been posted!