A Return Journey Part 3
2am FOLKSTONE. The Chrysler and me roll off “Le Shuttle” and join a short line of cars and vans driving along side its dusty ribbed aluminium trucks for a quarter of a mile. We go up a concrete ramp and leave the giant locomotive that hauled us humming to itself below.
We follow the roadway that winds towards the M20. As we drift onto the nearside lane the round topped chalk hills that greet arrivals to Kent are a dark shadow against the pre-dawn sky. I’m not in no hurry, but I’m cruising at eighty. At this time of the day sticking to the speed limit’s dodgy. The police might think I’m pissed.
Lucky for me Harry moved to a new place tucked away in the North Downs a couple of years back. It’s London’s version of the costa del crime up there. I don’t need to cross the river. I’ll be there in less than an hour.
The dash clock reads 03.07 as I edge the car onto the grass verge outside Harry’s drum. I’m starting to like the Chrysler. It’s quite elegant in an American way, but the best thing about it is the almost silent motor.
I’m wearing jeans, a polo shirt and me favourite jacket. I left all my other clobber with Guido. I need to travel light. I get out the car and gently push the door closed. I lock it and throw the key over the fence onto Harry’s lawn.
I’ve got a bit of a hike, but the thought of the look on Harry’s boat race in the morning keeps me going. With luck I should be in time for the first train to London at Hollingbourne station. By midday I’ll have picked up me own car and cleared the flat of everything I need. I’ll be gone before anybody goes looking for me. It’ll a long time before I go back.
AFTER I GET OVER MY LAUGHING FIT I see Guido and Fransijn are looking a bit pissed off.
‘I ain’t gone mad. Yeah it’s a bit of a jolt being told someone’s out to do me. But Harry? He hasn’t got the balls. That’s funny.’
‘You had a shock, but this is deadly serious. We are sure, Jess. I understand your reaction, but this is not time for joking.’
I feel myself colouring up. He’s right. These people are ready to put themselves in real strife just to help me and I’m laughing in their fucking faces. What an arsehole, but then it dawns on me why I reacted like that.
‘Sorry, Guido. I don’t mean to be a prick. I know without you my life expectancy’s less than twenty-four hours, but there’s another reason why I lost it. All bets are off. All debts paid. From now on I’m free of any obligation to Mr. bleeding Pettit.’
‘Ah of course. He helped you leave the country when you were very young. After the trouble in Rotherhithe, no? Help from people like Harry doesn’t come without strings, N’est-ce pas?’
‘You don’t know the half of it.’
‘I know enough, but now you are with your real friends.’
Guido nodded. ‘If you survive, you will have many decisions to make I think.’
‘Too true, Guido mate, but I ain’t there yet.’
‘You cannot go to Antwerp now. I’m not even sure you are safe here. The Chrysler could have been watched. It may be a risk bringing it here.’
‘Nobody knows I’m here. Harry thinks I’m taking the eleven o’clock ferry tomorrow morning. I ain’t gonna let him know where I am if I’m coming to see you, am I? He thinks I’m in Essex getting my leg –,’ I notice Fransijn coming out the Kitchen with a casserole, ‘– um spending the night with a girl called Karen.’
‘You have a woman?’
‘Nah. Karen don’t exist, but Harry don’t have to know that.’
Now it’s Guido’s turn to laugh, but it can’t hide the sense of relief written on his face.
Fransijn puts the dish on the table. ‘Let us have dinner now.’
‘If he doesn’t know where you are that is very good. It will make things much easier. You should go back tonight—’
‘Guido. Laissez Jess manger. Vous pouvez parler plus tard,’ Fransijn snaps.
‘It’s OK love, we can talk while we eat. Looks lovely.’
‘No Jess, you will not enjoy your food if you are talking about these things.’
‘My sister is right of course. We should eat in peace. It could be a long time before we can enjoy another meal together.’
The Carbonade is brilliant. The meat melts in my mouth. The fries and sauce are to die for. Fransijn was always a great cook and nothing goes better with Carbonade than trappist beer. While we eat I know me and Guido are both thinking about what to do. He’s is right, but I ain’t pleased with the idea.
‘Guido, Mate. I know it’s safest for me to go back home, but I can’t leave you to deal with this. It’s not right.’
‘There is nothing you can do. If you are here it will make things much more difficult. We will have to keep you hidden to protect you. If they suspect we have you, there could be much violence. You must return with the car. It is better they do not know you ever left England when we “meet” your contact. That way they will know you have strong friends. They won’t waste people looking for you. This will good for you and probably very bad for Harry.’
‘You gonna meet him?’
‘It is arranged. We have someone at the Crown Plaza. When your contact comes we will find him and send him back to his people with a message.’ Guido smiles. ‘He may not survive.’
Guido was 100% right. Not only would I not be much help I’d be in the fucking way and a danger to them. It stuck in my craw, but I knew I had to get back sharpish. I’ve got plans to make.