The Goa Connection – Chapter 6
Things look grim for Dan, taken prisoner in an isolated dwelling. His captors are closing in on the location of the treasure. If only Dan knew his former girlfriend, Katie, had arrived in Goa . . .
Dan wasn’t sure how long he’d been kept prisoner in the dingy room but reckoned it was now the second day. He’d left his wristwatch back at the villa, and his phone had been confiscated by his incarcerators. After sleeping for several hours on a stone floor, he stirred at dawn when light entered through a window with decorative but heavy iron security bars. The sliding windows were open, allowing a slight breeze to blow in. As he tried to stand up, excruciating pain shot through his body, making him wince and take things slowly.
He hobbled towards a door leading to a smelly squat toilet. After using the primitive convenience, he rinsed his hands and splashed his face with water stored in a plastic barrel. Desperate to find a way of escape, he looked around but noticed only a small ventilation block high on a wall.
As he returned to the room, he heard a key turning in a lock and the connecting door opened. One of his captors walked in with a tray containing a bowl of boiled rice and a bottle of drinking water.
The man put the tray on the floor and said gruffly, “You’d better make use of it. It’ll be all you get for a while.” He turned and walked out, locking the door behind him.
Dan shouted after him, “It won’t work, you know. You’re wasting your time.” He had no idea why he said that, but thought it showed defiance. It had been a long time since he last ate or drank anything, and hunger pangs and a craving thirst forced him to try a morsel. He sat cross-legged on the floor and scooped up some cold, stodgy rice with his fingers, washing it down with warm water from the bottle. If this is tap water, it might be bye-bye, he thought.
After managing to consume most of the rice, he stood up and paced the room, stopping at the window. He pulled on the iron bars, finding them to be immovable. With his face against the grill, Dan looked out to a covered porch where some tall neglected plants drooped from canes in pots. The tools he’d borrowed from Villa Maranda were against a pillar on the porch front.
Near the wall to the left of the window was an old table. “That’s my phone!” Dan whispered to himself. The waterproof pouch holding his phone was on the end of the table closest to the window. He thrust an arm between the iron bars, wondering if the phone was within reach. It wasn’t possible. I need something to hook it with. There must be something, he thought. A thin cane in one of the flowerpots was reachable. He was about to grab it when one of his captors walked onto the porch. Dan quickly stepped back. The man settled himself in a chair, placed a handgun on a table and carefully cleaned it with a cloth.
Dan waited impatiently for the gunman to go away. It was a long wait. He sat
on the floor beneath the window, listening for any sign of movement outside. After a while an engine started, causing Dan to jump up and look out. The jeep he’d been in appeared in front of the porch. The man in the chair shoved the gun inside his shirt, stood up, walked to the vehicle, climbed into the passenger seat, and the truck moved off.
Confident he was alone in the property, Dan reached through the window bars, grabbed the cane in the pot, freed it and pulled it into the room. He stamped on the thinnest end, managing to split it, and then bent one piece to form a hook. Carefully, he pushed it outside, angled it over his phone on the table, managed to hook the belt loop and lifted the pouch. “Please don’t fall off,” he pleaded as he gingerly lifted the phone pouch clear and slowly pulled it towards the window. It dangled precariously on its makeshift hook, threatening to slide off. When it came within arm’s reach, Dan stretched out his other arm, grabbed the phone firmly and safely retrieved it.
* * *
Katie Barnes and her Norwegian friends, Inger Hagen and Lars Pettersen, arrived at Margao railway station in Goa midmorning in late September.
“Phew! At last. I’ve never spent as many hours on a train before,” Katie said.
“It was worth it though,” Lars said. “Delhi was so interesting, at least the little bit we saw. Let’s take a tuk-tuk. It’s only a few kilometres to Benaulim.”
“I really need to buy a new mobile first,” Katie told him. “There must be some phone shops here.”
An hour later, a satisfied Katie owned a new phone and they hopped into a tuk-tuk.
After checking in at a budget hotel near Benaulim beach, the three unpacked in their rooms and then met for drinks in the garden bar, overlooking an enormous expanse of soft white sand fringed with coconut palms. White capped waves rolled in from blue waters of The Arabian Sea and fishermen repaired nets spread along the foreshore.
* * *
Later in the afternoon, Katie completed entering contacts into her new phone. “For some strange reason I feel like getting in touch with my ex-boyfriend. It’s been ages and I know he’d appreciate a chat. Mum told me he recently sold his fishing boat, packed his bags and just took off without telling anyone where he was going. That’s not like him at all. I’ll call him.”
Lars nodded approvingly. “Now that’s a really cool thing to do.”
Inger added, “Sounds like he’s really missing you.”
Katie called Dan’s number and waited. “Hmm. No answer. I’ll text him.” She sent a message explaining she was in Goa and confirmed her new number.
* * *
Dan eagerly pulled his phone from the pouch and discovered the battery was flat. “Oh no! I don’t believe it,” he moaned. “Now what?” Feelings of frustration and despair took control; numbness gripped both mind and body. Slowly he sank to the floor, dropping the phone onto the concrete.
He sat against the wall beneath the window and slowly rubbed the coarse stubble on his chin, wondering how long it had been since he last shaved. His hair was matted, his clothing filthy.
Dan had no idea how long he’d been sitting, but acute aching in his limbs suggested a long time. He struggled to his feet, crossed to the locked door and tugged, pushed and tried turning the handle. He beat his fists on the solid wood, and screamed, “Come on, you pathetic creatures! You won’t beat me. I’ll get you.” He knew he could shout with all his might and nobody would hear. Dan considered kicking and shoulder charging the door but abandoned the idea because it opened inwards and was far too sturdy to succumb.
* * *
Shortly before dusk, Maranda Rodrigues opened the metal cabinet in the passageway at the villa, took out a garden broom, and then noticed her late husband’s tools were missing. How strange. Surely, Mr Mapleton wouldn’t have . . . She knocked on the door of Dan’s room. A puzzled looked spread on her face. Strange. Three days now and not a sign of him. After waiting a few moments, she unlocked the door and looked inside. The bed was unmade and items of clothing were scattered over it. She went in, glancing around. His luggage bag was on top of the wardrobe and other garments hung inside. His toiletries were on a shelf in the bathroom.
On a low table beside the bed, Maranda spotted his tablet, two mains chargers and what looked like a business card. She went over, picked up the card and read it aloud. “The Mackerel Inn, Polminan, Cornwall. Mark and Sally Cunningham cordially invite you to a truly unique English inn.” Maranda noticed the telephone number and email address. Maybe I should telephone them. They might know Dan Mapleton, she thought.
* * *
Mark Cunningham, enjoying a mid-afternoon cup of tea, answered a call on the landline. “Mackerel Inn, Mark speaking.”
A woman with a foreign accent said, “Oh, Mr Cunningham. I’m sorry to bother you. I found your number on one of your business cards. My name is Maranda Rodrigues. I have a Dan Mapleton staying at my villa in Goa and wonder if you happen to know him?”
Mark stiffened. “Yes, I do know a Dan Mapleton. Is there a problem?”
“It’s just that he hasn’t been back to his room for three days, but his belongings are still here. It seems a little odd.”
Mark’s brain raced. He wasn’t sure what to say because he hadn’t heard from Dan for three days either. He had to be careful not to give anything away.
“Hello? Are you still there?” Maranda Rodrigues asked.
“Yes, yes—just wondering, that’s all. Dan tends to do his own thing and hasn’t been in touch for quite some time, but I’m sure he’s okay.”
“I do hope so. It’s just that . . . No, it doesn’t matter.”
Mark gripped the phone hard. “It’s just what, Mrs Rodrigues?”
“Well, he expressed interest in the old fort here—Cabo De Soldado, and seemed disappointed when he found out it has been closed to the public following serious landfalls. And . . . I’m probably being silly in saying this, but tools used by my late husband in excavating at the fort have disappeared from the store cupboard here.”
Mark asked, “So what are you thinking?”
“I just hope he didn’t borrow them to go up to the fort. There has been enormous rainfall, making the whole area extremely dangerous. I’m wondering if I should get in touch with the police.”
Mark gasped and then managed to say calmly, “Oh, I don’t think that’s necessary—at least not now. I’m sure Dan is just exploring. It’s his first time out there. But I think we should keep in touch until he turns up.”
“Yes, we will. Thank you,” Maranda said.
“Right. Well, I hope there’s good news very soon.” Mark slowly put the phone down. Something has gone wrong. I’m sure of it, he thought.
Sally Cunningham crossed to her husband’s side. “You look as though you’ve had bad news. Tell me about it before that Kensdown Women’s Institute party arrives.”
Before Mark could reply, the bar door opened and a group of women, including Rosie Barnes, trooped in.
Rosie made for Mark and Sally at the bar, announcing, “Guess what? My Katie is okay. She’s in India—Goa actually. Isn’t that good news? I’m so relieved.”
Mark stared incredulously at Rosie. “What?”
* * *
Dan hauled himself to his feet and looked out the window into the blackness of night. He heard a vehicle approaching. Headlights dazzled him as a jeep pulled up near the porch. The driver got out, shone a torch over the porch and walked onto it. He flicked a switch on the wall and an electric light blazed from the ceiling.
“At last, we have electricity,” he called out.
“About time,” the other man said as he climbed from the passenger seat. Both men made their way to the house entrance.
Dan could see scattered lights twinkling in the distance. An orange glow in the sky almost certainly came from Cabo De Soldado. He wondered if the treasure was still there. He wondered how long it would be before he’d be peering down the barrel of that handgun.
Dan pressed a light switch but nothing happened. He looked up to the ceiling and discovered the light bulb was missing. Fortunately, adequate illumination came through the window. Moving to the locked door, he heard his captors in conversation on the other side.
One man said, “I’m going to Repousante to meet someone who knows that fort layout inside out. I reckon he can tell us where we should be looking.”
“Right, I’m ready.”
“No, you’re staying here. I don’t want it to look obvious we’re after information. I’ll have something to eat in the village. You can knock something up here for yourself. And don’t forget to feed and water Mr Mapleton.”
After a few minutes, one man drove off in the jeep. Dan started hatching an escape plan. With his phone safely in a pocket, he waited for the room door to be unlocked.
* * *
Lorso Valdares grumbled to himself as he turned on the valve of a gas bottle and cooked a late supper of spicy chicken on a double burner gas stove. “It’s okay for some—dining out indeed. You think you’re being smart, John Subram, but you’ve got a nasty surprise waiting. Just you wait.” He crossed to the locked door and shouted, “Hey! Clever dick, it’s all over for you. You’re in too deep. It’s only a matter of time before he uses that shooter.”
Dan Mapleton’s voice sounded defiant. “If you say so. We’ll see.”
“I do say so.” Valdares returned to his cooking.
When he’d finished eating, Valdares scraped some chicken bones and leftover rice into a bowl. He picked up the key to the room holding the prisoner, carried the food to the door, unlocked it and walked in.
* * *
Dan pretended to be ill, stooping low, holding his stomach and moaning softly.
“Oh, not feeling well? What a shame.” The man took a few steps towards Dan, holding the tray out. “Here, this’ll make you feel better.”
“Just put it down,” Dan said.
“Sure, do you fancy a nice sickly sweet as well? Ha, ha!” The tormenter bent to place the bowl on the floor in front of Dan.
With perfect timing, Dan straightened, lunged forwards, dealt a powerful chop with his fist on the back of the man’s neck and rammed a knee into his groin. The victim collapsed face down with chicken bones and rice scattered over the floor.
“Enjoy your meal,” Dan purred as he rushed through the doorway, hastily locking the door behind him. He hesitated, wondering whether to take the key or leave it in the lock. Deciding it made little difference, he left it.
Quickly glancing round, he spotted what looked like a gents Rolex watch on a shelf and went to investigate. This looks like mine, he thought. He picked it up, turned it over and saw the engraving, With love from Katie, on the back. He stared at it for a moment and then realised one of the men happened to be the thief who broke into his cottage. He secured the watch on his wrist, went back to the locked door and shouted, “Thanks for the Rolex, chum. Is it yours or John Subram’s?”
“How do you know his name?” the new prisoner asked.
“You cursed him loud enough while cooking your food earlier,” Dan sniggered.
“Keep his watch—serves him right. I’m not interested.”
Dan walked from the house and set off along the track leading to the main road.