The Goa Connection – Chapter 3
In the first two chapters, Dan frets over the mysterious breakdown in communications from his former girlfriend, Katie. Things hot up when he discovers the whereabouts of hidden treasure, but he’s unaware a villain is on his tail!
This is a major revision.
Dejected holidaymakers who’d paid peak season rates bemoaned the English summer weather. They waited impatiently inside The Mackerel Inn just after closing time during a violent late night thunderstorm in early August. Brilliant flashes of lightning stabbed through windows, followed by deafening thunderclaps. Hailstones rattled against windowpanes. Lights in the bar flickered and went out, triggering dim emergency lighting. Mark Cunningham’s wife, Sally, busied herself collecting glasses and placing flickering oil lamps on tables.
Mark Cunningham discussed the Goa plan with Dan Mapleton in a cosy corner.
“I’ve accepted that offer of sixteen thousand for the boat,” Dan said. “The bloke has paid two thousand deposit in cash but wants to pay the balance at the end of the month. “I might as well apply for my India visa to start in September.”
Mark nodded. “Good. I’ve made photocopies of the map and English translation—just in case. They’re locked in my safe with the bronze Ganesh. You never know who’s snooping around these days.”
Dan was looking on curiously when the outside door opened and a female police officer stumbled in, propelled by a strong gust of wind. Rainwater flowed from her uniform waterproofs as she struggled to slam the door shut. She made a beeline for Sally Cunningham, seemed to ask a question, and the landlady pointed at Dan.
“Hello, what’s all this about?” Dan said apprehensively.
The constable crossed to Dan. “Mr Mapleton?”
Dan nodded. “Can I help you?”
“There’s been a report that your fishing boat has slipped her moorings down in the harbour and looks like being battered to smithereens. You’d better get over there, sir.”
“Oh no! Right, I’m on my way.” Dan shot off the chair and rushed out.
“I’m coming with you!” Mark called out.
* * *
John Subram, in camouflage patterned rainwear, crouched behind a stack of lobsterpots on the quay after casting off Lucky Lucy as the storm raged relentlessly. Come on! Go, go! Subram silently willed the vessel to drift out far enough so that the howling gale and crashing, murderous waves could send it to an untimely grave. Once satisfied the boat was heading towards destruction, he stealthily crept away into the blackness.
* * *
Massive banks of foaming water burst over the harbour walls, flooding both quay and roadside as Dan ran to the steps next to his mooring. He heard Mark shouting from behind, warning it was too dangerous to jump in, but ignored the advice. Intermittent sheet lightning silhouetted the potting boat, pitching and rolling crazily, being swept towards a stone wall and other moored vessels on the far side of the harbour. Without hesitating, Dan, in shirt and trousers, dived into the swirling cauldron, immediately disappearing into the depths as a breaker crashed over him. In his panic, he’d held his breath and desperately needed air as he started battling to the surface in pitch darkness. It seemed an eternity before he broke surface, gulping and frantically filling his lungs. He struck out in a powerful crawl towards his doomed possession, but time after time, the ferocious sea forced him under.
Exhausted, Dan eventually reached Lucky Lucy and managed to hang on to a mooring line trailing from the stern. When some strength returned, he hauled himself along the line and waited until the stern sank low in a trough before scrambling onboard. Luckily, the boat keys were zipped in his trousers hip pocket. A swift look ahead confirmed there was precious little time before the boat rammed the harbour wall. Hastily unlocking the wheelhouse, Dan shoved the ignition key in and turned it, gasping, “Come on! Don’t let me down.” The engine started effortlessly. Slamming it into reverse at full power, Dan spun the wheel. Agonisingly slowly, the bow began to turn, almost scraping the stonework.
“Turn! You can do it, just a bit more!” Dan screamed, wrestling the wheel. Miraculously, Lucky Lucy avoided a collision. Dan slowed the engine, changed gear and steered towards open sea, reckoning it’d be safer to ride out the raging storm than trying to return to harbour moorings.
* * *
Mark ran back to where the police officer prevented a group of would-be onlookers from going on the quay, warning them of danger to life, while calling for assistance. Moments later the storm’s intensity began subsiding; the wind dropped, only a little rain fell, and the lightning and thunder moved away.
“He’ll be alright now,” Mark explained to the policewoman. “He’s been waiting out there until the weather improved. Now he’ll bring the boat back in safely.”
* * *
John Subram followed directions given by a receptionist at Sunrise Lodge Hotel and after locating Nook Cottage, he slipped round to the back and pulled on thin plastic gloves outside the bedroom window. He’d learned years ago never to leave fingerprints. The storm’s intensity decreased rapidly as he flashed a torch around the window, discovering just a single interior latch securing it. Picking up a large pebble, he smashed a glass pane above the latch, reached in, opened the window and wriggled inside.
Shining the torch around, he crossed to a dressing table, opened drawers and rummaged through clothing, scattering garments all over the floor. Finding nothing of interest, he turned his attention to a wardrobe and searched inside, again drawing a blank. Even pulling the mattress from its base revealed nothing. Subram moved to the dining room and set about pulling out sideboard drawers, emptying their contents over the carpet. On opening a cupboard in the piece of furniture, he discovered a carved trinket box.
Subram placed the box on the dining table and lifted the lid. He removed a few photographs and documents before picking up a wad of British banknotes. A slip of paper on top of the money had 2000 scribbled on it in black ink. After stuffing the currency inside a jacket pocket, he shook out the remaining items. A gents Rolex watch quickly joined the cash on his person. Then he found the parchment map he’d been searching for. Clipped to the folded map was a sheet of paper detailing in English exactly where to find the treasure in Goa. Pulling a compact digital camera from an inside pocket, he spread both map and information sheet on the table and took several photographs of each. Then with great care, he reattached the clip, folded the documents, returned them to the box, closed the lid and put it back in the cupboard.
Convinced that detectives would treat his crime as a standard house burglary by an amateur desperate for quick cash, Subram pocketed the camera and made his getaway through the bedroom window. At that moment he heard the front door opening.
On reaching the road, Subram had to retreat and wait in darkness against the cottage wall to avoid a couple walking slowly along Bramble Lane.
* * *
Still dripping water, Dan stared in disbelief around his ransacked home. On noticing sideboard drawers and contents strewn over the floor, he instinctively rushed to the cupboard containing his trinket box, took it out, opened the lid and checked the contents. Oh no! They’ve got my two-thousand pounds boat deposit. And the Rolex, Katie’s special gift. At least the map is still here. What else is missing? Many thoughts rushed through his numbed mind as he checked around the house.
On reaching the bedroom, he stared at the mattress on the floor, the emptied drawers and scattered clothing. Then he saw the open window and broken glass. Hastily he scrambled out and raced round to the lane where street lighting dimly picked out a figure in dark clothing running away.
“Hey! Stop!” Dan shouted, giving chase. He tripped on a raised manhole cover and sprawled headlong on the road surface. By the time he’d recovered, the suspected burglar had disappeared.
* * *
“I would’ve caught him—or her—if that manhole hadn’t been in the way,” lamented Dan, inspecting his grazed hands as he made a statement to Detective Sergeant Peter Ballinger in the kitchen of his cottage next morning. The ageing detective, wearing a creased, well-worn tweed jacket, white shirt with a crumpled collar, a hastily knotted patterned tie and grey trousers devoid of creases, seemed to be grudgingly going about his duties.
“Well, it looks like the thief wore gloves because there aren’t any fingerprints in any of the obvious places,” the detective said. “You say it was impossible to see more than an outline of the person. Can you indicate anything like height and build?”
“About five-foot-six, medium build. Could have been male or female. I’d guess the dark colour of clothing was a waterproof outfit with hood.”
“And you reckon only the cash and Rolex was taken. Hmm—sounds like a local needing a bit of money. We’ll make enquiries in the neighbourhood. In the meantime, let us know if you find more things are missing, or see anything suspicious. That was quite a night for you, Mr Mapleton, what with your boat breaking loose as well.”
Dan took a deep breath. “Actually, I’m not convinced it did break loose. It’s highly unlikely two mooring lines tied correctly could just untie themselves.”
Detective Sergeant Ballinger stared at Dan. “You think someone deliberately tried to wreck it?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I see. That could through a completely new light on the matter. Do you know anyone with a grudge against you?”
“Nobody. In all my years in Polminan I’ve never made an enemy or met anyone who’d say different.”
After mulling over Dan’s words, Ballinger suggested, “In that case perhaps we should consider a link between the boat incident and house theft. That also means there’s a likelihood it was someone from outside the community.”
“Now I think you’re on the right track.”
“The fact you went on television and showed off that bronze statuette might have attracted the attention of somebody with a vested interest. I think it’s worth visiting tourist accommodation in the area to see if anybody had recent guests who seemed slightly unusual. I’ll get some officers on it right away.”
* * *
A young uniformed police constable and a man of about forty in a well-tailored beige suit approached the reception desk at Sunrise Lodge Hotel.
Feeling slightly concerned, the receptionist asked, “How may I help you? My name is Niki.”
The suited man held up an identity card. “I’m Detective Constable Gavin Anderson. We’re just making routine enquiries as to whether anyone has stayed here in the last couple of days who might have attracted attention due to appearance or behaviour. Maybe you can check with your colleagues?”
“Anything that stood out as being a bit unusual would help. Oh, I’m Constable Ken Jackson, by the way,” the uniformed officer added.
Niki said guardedly, “We need to get the hotel manager. Just a moment please.” She made a phone call. “Oh, Mr Collins, could you come to reception and meet two police officers? Thanks.”
Moments later, Mr Collins arrived. “Good afternoon, how may I be of assistance?” After listening to the nature of the police enquiry he said, “As a matter of fact, Niki is the person to speak to. She’s already discussed a small matter with me concerning a particular guest. Carry on, Niki.”
Niki hesitated for a moment and then said, “Actually, I was on duty two days ago when one of our guests checked in for three nights and paid in advance. We thought it a bit odd when he just sat around in the lounge most of the day and only went out late evening. He seemed a bit of a loner. For some reason he asked me if I knew where Dan Mapleton lived. I’m afraid I told him—then realised I shouldn’t have done that.”
Detective Constable Anderson said, “Really? Now that’s most helpful. Would you mind telling us the name of this person?”
Niki reviewed reservations on a computer. “He checked in as Bill Smith. I thought it seemed a strange name for a man who looked somewhat Indian.”
Constable Ken Jackson asked, “I take it he gave a home address?”
“We’d like to have that please.”
Mr Collins intervened with, “I took the precaution of checking the given address in London. It doesn’t exist.”
Niki confirmed, “He left without checking out. This morning the room cleaner discovered all his belongings had gone.”
After noting the description given of the elusive man as having an Indian appearance, mid-thirties, black hair, dark eyes, moustache, medium build, about five-feet-six, the policemen left.
* * *
Around midnight, Mark and Sally Cunningham finished tidying the bar at The Mackerel Inn after a busy evening. Dan, in his favourite corner chair, scribbled reminders of things to do in connection with the forthcoming Indian adventure on a piece of paper.
As soon as Mark joined him at the table, Dan told him, “I’ve managed to find accommodation in Repousante close to the fort and it’s not expensive either.”
“Good, things are shaping up well.”
Sally turned on the television behind the bar and sat to watch a late night news programme.
Dan said, “I was wondering if . . .” He stopped talking and looked at the television. “Hang on, what’s this all about?”
The presenter announced, “Disturbing images, captured on a mobile phone, arrived here at our studios a short time ago. They are from a backpacker in Thailand, who had earlier sent a text to say she’d witnessed the abduction of a young English woman on the streets of Bangkok. The informant, wishing to remain anonymous, declined an interview. However, she told us she’d only met the alleged victim briefly, discovered she was from England, but didn’t know her name. The images have been forwarded to the police and will only be broadcast if the authorities decide it would help their enquiries or be in the public interest.”
Mark said, “I know exactly what you’re thinking, Dan. Forget it. There’re so many hoaxes around these days. If it was Katie, the police would have been in touch by now.”
“I suppose so—but I can’t help worrying.”
“Come on—let’s get on with organising your treasure hunt.”
Dan found it hard to concentrate. He couldn’t get Katie Barnes out of his head.