The Goa Connection – Chapter 7
Dan’s escape from the isolated house only leads to more danger. John Subram is determined to catch up with him and put a bullet in his head. But will the arrival of Katie and her Norwegian friends turn the tables? Back in England, the police suspect crucial information has been withheld.
At two o’clock in the morning, John Subram sat in a Repousante restaurant with a scruffily dressed, dark-skinned bearded man known locally as Handy Andy, who scraped a living in the area doing odd jobs. He was also a gossip, happy to pass on information for money.
When a waiter politely pointed out he needed to lock up, Subram irritably waved him away, snarling, “I don’t care what time it is. We’re spending good money. Just bring us two more brandies.” Turning to his informer, he said, “So this Rodrigues chap obviously knew what he was talking about—being an archaeologist.”
“Oh, absolutely. It’s such a pity he was killed before he had time to uncover the shaft.”
Subram leaned forward. “What sort of shaft was it? I mean was it manmade or natural?”
“That’s what Rodrigues was hoping to find out. The fact it’s right next to the old cannon suggests it was dug for a reason – probably to store armaments of some sort.”
“Right next to the cannon. Well, well.” Subram felt elated.
“Nobody has looked for it since because it’s too dangerous and closed to the public. Mind you, Maranda—Rodrigues’ widow—told me an Englishman expressed a lot of interest in exploring the fort. He’s staying at her villa.”
Subram tried not to show surprise and said dismissively, “There’s always someone keen to poke around these sort of places.” He pressed a few rupee banknotes into the man’s palm. “Thanks for the information.” He reassuringly patted the revolver concealed in his trousers, thinking, Mr Mapleton won’t be poking around anymore. Mrs Rodrigues will have to find a new paying guest.
* * *
When Dan reached the village, he decided to make a detour to Villa Maranda, not wanting to risk encountering John Subram, who he thought might still be in the vicinity. As he was about to turn into a dark alleyway two men emerged from a restaurant a few metres away.
One man started walking along the pavement, away from Dan, and called out, “Goodnight John, drive carefully. You’ve had a lot to drink.”
It’s him! Subram. Dan leaped into shadows at the entrance to the alley just as Subram got into the familiar jeep parked at the kerbside. The engine rattled to life, gears grated, headlights blazed and the jeep passed Dan’s hiding place.
With only occasional dim streetlights at junctions and corners, Dan picked his way carefully over treacherously broken and uneven paving slabs. Eventually he arrived on the driveway leading to Villa Maranda, which was dark and silent. The wrought iron gate squeaked loudly as he pushed it open, and immediately a dog started howling, followed by many others from all around. Dan ran to his room, fumbled to retrieve the key from under the flowerpot on the porch, unlocked the door, ducked inside and pushed the door shut.
Moments later light streamed through the window. Dan peered out cautiously to see electric lamps blazing in the courtyard and Maranda striding towards his room. Without hesitating, he opened the door and stepped outside.
“Dan! Good heavens! Where on Earth have you been?” Maranda stared in amazement, clamping a hand to her mouth, shocked by his appearance. “Look at the state of you!”
“Hello Maranda. Sorry about all this. Er, it’s a bit of a story really.”
“I’ve been really concerned—wondering what had happened. In fact I telephoned your friend, Mr Cunningham.”
You’ve spoken to Mark? What did he say?”
“Just that he was sure you’d be okay, but to keep in touch until you turned up.”
“I must speak with him right away.” Dan pulled out his phone, remembered it was flat, and said, “Excuse me, but I need to get this charging.”
“I’ll leave you to it. Don’t hesitate to come over to the villa if you need anything.” Maranda turned and walked away.
As soon as he was alone, Dan plugged his phone into the charger and switched it on. Notifications of unread emails and text messages appeared. He stared in disbelief at a message from Katie Barnes. No! It can’t be! Katie! He read the text aloud. “Hi Dan. Just to let you know everything is okay. I’m in Goa right now. Here’s my new number. Please call me. Love, Katie.” Dan blinked, shook his head and mumbled, “I must be cracking up.” He read the text again, and then called the number. His hand shook uncontrollably as he waited for an answer.
Katie’s voice sounded sleepy. “Hello? Who is this?”
“Katie! It’s me—Dan.”
“Dan? Dan! You’ve sure picked a good time to call.” She yawned. “It’s the middle of the night. Where are you?”
“Oh do stop trying to be funny, Dan. It doesn’t work at this hour.”
“No, I really am in Goa!”
After a pause, Katie said, “What?”
“It’s a long story, Katie, but I need some help. Could we . . .”
Katie interrupted. “Hang on, Dan. I need to wake up a bit. Give me a few moments and I’ll call back.”
* * *
John Subram chuckled as he walked through the doorway of the darkened, isolated house. “Right, Lorso, the time has come to extinguish Dan Mapleton. Would you like the pleasure of pulling the trigger?” He waited. “Valdares?” Slowly he pulled out the gun, pressed the light switch and glanced around. “Where are you, Valdares?”
A shuffling sound came from the prisoner’s room. Then a voice called out, “I’m in here.”
“Shut up, Mapleton. I’ll deal with you in a minute,” Subram snarled. Then he shouted, “Valdares! Valdares? Get back in here!”
From inside the locked room, a man’s voice shouted back, “I’m in here. Mapleton has escaped.”
Subram stiffened. “Valdares? What the . . .” He unlocked the door and kicked it open, gun at the ready. He stared at Lorso Valdares, who was squatting against a wall. “You let Mapleton go? Did you let him go?” He towered over Valdares and stuck the barrel of the revolver against his skull.
“No, no! He tricked me. I’m sorry, John.” Valdares whimpered.
Subram spat venomously. “Sorry? Sorry? Well now you’re gonna be really sorry when your brains splatter over the wall!”
“You can’t shoot me. Who’s going to load all that stuff on the ship? My pals wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t there.”
“I think they would when they realise their share of the profit is larger without you around. And especially when I tell them Dan Mapleton was your killer.” Subram’s finger tightened on the trigger.
* * *
Katie explained Dan’s predicament to Lars and Inger over breakfast in the garden at their hotel, adding, “I must help him. I’m going to Repousante this morning.”
Lars asked, “Why doesn’t Dan want the police involved?”
“He wants to find that treasure first. Then he can go to the police.”
“Well, you can’t go alone. I’m coming with you.” Lars said.
“And me,” Inger confirmed.
“But it’s very risky. That Subram man is armed and dangerous,” Katie reminded them.
“Then you need help. How far is this place?” Lars stood up.
Katie said, “Not far—about twenty kilometres south.”
“It’s best to hire a car—a four-wheel drive type. It sounds like we may need something versatile. I’ll go and organise it,” Lars said.
“I can’t get my head around the fact you’ve ended up in the same place as Dan. It’s spooky.” Inger shivered involuntary.
An hour later, Lars pulled up outside the hotel in a new-looking four-door pickup. The girls scrambled onto the rear seat and they set off for Villa Maranda in Repousante.
* * *
“Take the next left,” Dan told Katie on his mobile. “I’m outside iron gates to the villa. I can’t wait to see you.”
Moments later a pickup truck stopped and Katie waved from a window. “Dan!”
Tears welled in Dan’s eyes. He swallowed hard. “Hello Katie.”
Katie jumped out and rushed to embrace Dan. “It’s so good to see you.” Tears flowed down her cheeks. Her body shook with emotion.
Dan wiped away the tears and pulled her close. They kissed passionately.
“You’ve no idea how much I’ve missed you,” Dan whispered.
“Oh yes I have. I didn’t think I’d miss you as much, but I was wrong.”
Dan glanced at two people waiting patiently in the pickup. “You’d better introduce your friends.”
Later in the afternoon, the four sat on the side balcony off Dan’s room, sipping cold drinks.
Lars stood up, leaned over the balcony balustrade and looked up to the fort. “So that’s Cabo De Soldado. You reckon this treasure is down a shaft near the old cannon, eh?”
Dan said, “Yep, I’m convinced of it—unless our friend John Subram has beaten me to it.”
“Well, there’s only one way to find out,” Lars said. “We have to get up there.”
Inger chipped in. “Slow down, Lars. These two need a bit of time together first.” She smiled at Dan and Katie, sitting together holding hands. “Come on, I want to explore the village.”
“Oh yeah, of course. Right, see you later.” Lars grinned and followed Inger off the balcony.
As soon as they were alone Katie stood up, grabbed Dan’s arms and pulled him out of the chair. “So, Mr Mapleton, it’s been a long time. Hmm?”
“Too long.” Dan grabbed her round the waist, lifted her up, and shuffled backwards to the doorway.
Katie screamed hysterically and wriggled free. “Look out!” She urgently shoved Dan inside the room and fell in after him just as a gunshot rang out.
“Oh my God! Dan, are you all right? I saw a face peering through the branches of the papaya tree and the barrel of a gun sticking out,” Katie panted. She knelt beside Dan.
“I’m okay.” Dan scrambled to his feet. “Keep out of the way.” He cautiously moved towards the balcony and heard footsteps hurrying away over gravelly ground. He peeked out and caught a glimpse of a man running along the edge of the rice paddy, a handgun swinging at his side. Then he disappeared into a wooded area. “It’s Subram! How did he know I’d be here?”
Katie’s face was ashen. “You could be dead. This is scary, Dan. Surely you must tell the police?”
“You could be dead—we both could. You saved my life.” Dan hugged Katie. “If I go to the police now, it’ll ruin the chances of finding that hoard. There’d be too many questions. I have to find another way of dealing with John Subram. Maybe my friend Mark Cunningham in England can suggest something.”
Katie walked to the balcony doorway, looking around cautiously. “Hey! Look at this. That bullet is embedded in the wall.”
Dan inspected the small hole made by the bullet. “We could dislodge it and keep it as evidence. But it might be better to leave it in case there’s a police investigation.”
“I’d say leave it,” said Katie.
“Agreed. I wonder how long it’ll be before Maranda finds out about all this? Lucky she’s not around at the moment.”
“What about if Subram was hiding outside, waiting for an opportunity to fire that gun? I mean, he might have heard us discussing everything with Inger and Lars.” Katie said.
“Good point. He might well have been in earshot. If so, that complicates things. Right, I’m going to ring Mark now and bring him up to date. I’m sure he’ll come up with some ideas. Let’s go inside. It’s not safe to stay out here.” Dan scanned the area visible from the balcony before following Katie into the room.
“Maybe . . .” Dan hesitated. “Just maybe Subram thinks he did kill me. I mean, with your screaming and both of us falling through the doorway. He certainly didn’t hang around to try a second shot.”
* * *
Mark Cunningham sat at a table outside The Mackerel Inn on a fine September morning with Detective Sergeant Peter Ballinger.
“I have to say you’ve painted a very vivid picture,” the detective said. “Let me run over a couple of points again. Dan Mapleton sold his boat to raise enough money to spend some time in India. Surely that’s out of character and seems an odd thing to do?”
Mark said, “We all thought so, and then wondered if he was finding it hard to carry on here alone. He missed Katie Barnes enormously and blamed himself for the breakup due to his lack of money. So maybe a new start after getting away from it all for a while was his intention.” Mark tried to choose his words carefully, not wanting to broach the subject of the treasure hunt.
“That may be so, but there now seems to be a link between his house being burgled and the boat being cast adrift. I’m thinking maybe this Subram fellow wanted to prevent Mr Mapleton from raising cash for some reason—maybe to stop him travelling to India. But why? Your friend’s story about being held prisoner, threatened at gunpoint, finding his stolen Rolex, discovering the name of the suspected thief and—well, it’s pretty incredible, to say nothing of being hard to believe.” Ballinger sighed and picked up his cup of coffee. “Do you know what’s missing in all this, Mr Cunningham?”
“Missing? Er—there’s something missing?”
“Motive. Where is the motive? Why was Dan Mapleton subjected to such awful treatment? There has to be a motive, but it seems we don’t have one. Even more incredible is the missing girlfriend suddenly appears on the doorstep! Amazing—truly amazing.”
Mark’s heart started pumping. He could disclose the motive, but in so doing would destroy Dan’s chance of getting that reward money. The Indian authorities would take over and uncover the missing fortune. “There’s no denying it’s all hard to swallow,” agreed Mark. “What happens now?”
“For starters I’m going to find out if a John Subram with a criminal record exists. If so, that’ll tell us a great deal. Once we have something to go on, there are a number of possibilities, including fingerprinting the room he stayed in at Sunrise Lodge Hotel. I wouldn’t rule out bringing in Interpol either.”
Mark felt uncomfortable at the mention of Interpol, but reckoned it might lead to Subram’s downfall. “Right, anything else for now. More coffee?”
Detective Sergeant Ballinger shook his head and stood up. “I’ll be back if anything develops. Thanks for bringing this to my attention—and thanks for coffee.”