by Michael E. Lloyd
Table of Contents|
Book I: Windmills Everywhere
Chapter 8: Prickly Landings
part 1 of 2
‘It’s me, Donna.’
‘Oh, thank god! Where are you?’
‘Not too far away.’
‘What time is it?’
‘Eh? It’s only seven o’clock. Why?’
‘I dunno. Look, what’s happening? Have you been kidnapped?’
‘Huh? No! I’m just calling to say ... well, so long and thanks for all the fish.’
‘What! You’re not leaving me? Oh Shaun, please, no ...’
‘Yeah. But I also wanted to say don’t bother to try and get the police to come after me. It will just be a waste of everybody’s time, including yours.’
‘What do you mean, the police? Just because I let you sleep in my room and helped with your expenses?’
‘Er, no Donna. Look, you’ll work it out. And there’s really nothing you can do about it. So, I’ll just say adieu, now ...’
‘No! Stop! Don’t hang up!’
‘I really think it’s best, Donna. I only called to save you some effort. As a sort of thank-you. So ...’
‘No, Shaun! There so much I need to know. You have to tell me!’
‘I really don’t think that’s a good idea.’
‘Yes it is. You owe it to me. Please!’
‘All right, then. It’s your funeral. No skin off my nose.’
‘Oh, that’s a horrible thing to say! And I was thinking we could maybe ...’
‘Settle down and raise a family? Oh, come on, Donna!’
‘You mean you don’t want ...?’
‘Of course not.’
‘But wouldn’t that be better than sleeping on your mate’s floor?’
‘Hah! That’s not where I sleep, Donna. I have lots of very nice places to sleep, here, there and everywhere. And lots of very nice mates! Some of them here in Paris. I’m on my way to see one of them again right now, as it happens ...’
‘But you don’t have any money ...’
‘I have plenty, Donna. And plenty more now.’
‘You still don’t get it, do you? I said this wasn’t a good idea ...’
‘You don’t mean ...?’
‘No, I just don’t believe it, Shaun!’
‘Well, that’s up to you. But you will. And you’ll survive.’
‘Oh my god — you’ve done this before, haven’t you?’
‘I will call the police! They’ll soon track you down!’
‘And you’ll be telling them you gave me all that money and jewellery to pass on to a bunch of magicians who’d been steadily changing the face of Paris and three other cities, eh? Get real, Donna. You wouldn’t last five minutes.’
‘Huh? ... Wait, you’re right. There haven’t been any building swaps after all, have there?’
‘You got it. I don’t know what’s been making you think there were, but I reckon you’re over it now. You haven’t seen any for some time, have you?’
‘No, not since the Panthéon on Monday. And the Madeleine on Saturday. And both times it was you who ...’
‘Exactly. So, now’s the time for me to take my leave ...’
‘You won’t get away with this! I’ll tell them you stole it all from my room. You won’t be able to leave France. There can’t be many Shaun Pesaners in the world!’
‘As far as I’m aware there are none, Donna.’
‘Oh, no ...’
‘Yeah. I enjoyed choosing those names. Doubly appropriate, I thought. And my passport and wallet and everything else are safe and sound ... somewhere else.’
‘I’ll get them to go through the list of passengers on that train ...’
‘Looking for what? But I wasn’t on that train anyway, Donna. You have no idea exactly how or when I came to Paris. But I was pretty sure you’d be inviting me here, after I suggested the Madeleine ...’
‘But ... no, this can’t be true, Shaun. You’re playing a joke on me, aren’t you? You took pity on me in that pub in London. You just happened to be ...’
‘No I didn’t, Donna. I actually spotted you the evening before, making a drunken phone call to the BBC.’
‘What? I never did that!’
‘Oh yes you did. And I was fascinated! So I tagged along. You made several more calls, over the next couple of hours. Then I followed you home.’
‘Yeah. I took up watch again early the next morning, and then tracked you into the British Museum, and ... well, you know the rest. “Pesaner” was a nice little hook, wasn’t it? I enjoyed thinking that one up while I was waiting. Then I thought of “Shaun” as well, and it all seemed perfect. And when you told me your name was Donna, I knew it really was my lucky day!’
‘You horror! No, I will get you arrested! I’ll have your phone calls traced ...’
‘I never made any, Donna. You always called me. And I bought that phone on the street a week before I met you. Pay-as-you-go, no link with me. It’ll be going in the river very soon. And so will the one I’m using right now. I only picked that up here this afternoon. I know what I’m doing, and I’m clean. Don’t waste your time. Remember, that’s just why I called you tonight. To save you any more ...’
‘You awful man! You Netchaev! You exploited me!’
‘I know. Dog eat dog, Donna.’
‘Oh, how can you be so cruel?’
‘It takes practice. And some degree of shamelessness, I don’t mind admitting.’
‘Shaun Pesaner, or whatever your name is ... you’re absolutely evil!’
‘Absolutely, eh? Hah! Never heard you say that before! Well, you may be right. But there’ll be no deus ex machina, Donna. No statue of stone to spoil the party. Now, I might go under a bus in the next five minutes, but that would just be very bad luck, I reckon. I’m far more likely to make some rewarding new acquaintances, very soon ...’
‘You heartless ...’
‘... Friend at Hand, perhaps? Maybe it’s not all bad, Donna. Maybe I actually helped you with whatever it is you’ve been going through.’
‘Yeah, maybe. After all, you probably didn’t realise you were already a lot better, until I suggested it just now. So, that’s one black mark deducted, right? Now you can take it from here.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘Well, I’ve been reading those books you’re so fond of.’
‘I knew that.’
‘And I knew you knew. So, we both know what each of your heroes finally decided to do with their lives. But they were very different solutions, weren’t they? So what are you going to do now?’
‘Oh, Mother ...’
‘Hmmm. Look, I really am sorry about all that other business with your parents, Donna. I do hope you manage to sort that out some day — if you decide you want to ...’
‘You hypocrite! You don’t give a damn about me!!’
‘Yes, I do. That’s why I’m still on the line.’
‘No it’s not!’
‘Yes it is. And by the way — if it’s any consolation, the ... the bed was very good!’
‘You bastard! Get out of my life!’
Oh, Mother! What am I going to do?
What’s that awful noise? Aaaarrgh, it’s those damned police sirens again! That’s the first time I’ve heard them in days ...
So, what now, Donna? You can’t stay here at four hundred pounds a night! You’ve already spent two thousand on this room alone! Are you utterly mad?
Where’s the hotel phone?
‘Hello? Yes, look, I need to leave Paris tonight. At once. Please prepare my bill. I’ll be down in half an hour. And order me a taxi to the Gare du Nord.’ ... ‘Merci.’
OK. Don’t even try to think, Donna. Time for that later. Just get dressed and packed. Fast. Gotta get away from here.
* * *
Right, there’s the station up ahead. And it’s eight-fifteen. The concierge said the last train’s at 2113. I’ll make it if the queues aren’t crazy.
Made it! Bloody expensive, though!
Train’s very full. Wish I was sitting in a quiet corner on my own.
No, that’s bad thinking, Donna. Need to work on that. Starting tomorrow.
So what do I do now? Read? Hah! Talk about the weather? No, that’ll need practice. Think some more? You think too much, Donna.
That just leaves one option, then. Shut it all out ...
* * *
Wed 13 May, late eve, on the Eurostar
Just woke up. And I’d forgotten the other option. So ...
Dear Diary (hah!):
Sounds as if we’re in the tunnel. And that fits with the time. So not much farther now.
My head’s just numb. Can’t feel any emotions at all about Shaun. But I expect that’s simple shock.
Wow — that was a very practical analysis, Donna! I don’t remember your doing that for a while.
Good grammar there too. Bravo!
I should call Liz some time. Or maybe now? No, it’s too public here. And she doesn’t deserve that — it’s getting late, even in England. Ah yes, I need to put my watch back an hour. More good thinking, Donna.
I need to make it up with Helen too — when I dare. But God knows what I’m going to say to her .......
I just stopped to work out how much money I’ve lost in the past week. It’s nearly twelve thousand pounds!! And all I have to show for it is three risqué dresses and a few pairs of shoes. Can’t see myself wearing most of them ever again. It’s really not fair. Dom-Juan-cum-Tartuffe makes off with everything, and Mlle Sganarelle loses a lot more than her cash. But I’m not going to chase after him. He was right, the bastard. Too painful. Too much effort. Too much potential ridicule, my precious. But oh, my savings, my savings!
That’s the spirit, Donna. A small improvement in your sense of humour will do you no harm either.
Ah, we’re out of the tunnel. And I’ll be getting a taxi home. Last little luxury, I swear.
* * *
Surprised at how well I’ve slept the last two nights, after crying a few dozen rivers. Feeling a lot cleaner inside already. Better start working on the outside now. Gonna wash that man right outta my hair! First things first, though ...
Fri 15 May
Made a decision. To achieve nothing again today. Just like yesterday.
No, I worked it out. It’s not laziness. It’s spaciness. Resting and walking. Perhaps even swimming. Minimal thinking. No reading. And I must eat a proper cooked meal tonight.
Good plan, Donna. Now see if you can keep it up.
Back tomorrow, dear readers. Or maybe not. Maybe a lot later.
* * *
Hmmm. Some good days recently, especially when I got out of the house. But a few empty ones too, without the pleasure of my reading. Am I right to keep avoiding it?
And some awful nights. Kept allowing myself to get dragged off into self-pity, didn’t I? Am I going to let him get to me again? I hope not.
Sunny today. Must take another walk.
Hey, be careful, Donna. Haven’t spoken to a soul since you got home, have you?
* * *
Another nice day. Another long walk, I think ...
Hang on, Donna. It’s now eight days since you spoke to anybody.
You’re right. OK. Walk later. Talk first ...
‘Liz? It’s Donna.’
‘Well, wonders will never cease! How are you? And where have you been?’
‘You really want to know, don’t you?’
‘Of course I do, blockhead! But do you really want to tell me, at last?’
‘I think so. How long have you got?’
‘For you, Donna? After waiting all this time? As long as it takes ...’
* * *
Friday 22 May, afternoon
Good old Liz. Lovely chat this morning, and then she took a late lunch break, especially for me, and we’ve just had a nice walk in the park, and tea and scones to top it off.
Long time since I’ve done that sort of thing with any of the girls. Maybe that’s what I’ll suggest when I call Helen. After I’ve said sorry, of course.
And girls are all I need right now.
Actually, there is one man I need to see as soon as possible. Liz insisted. She’s right, of course.
I’d better try and fix that up.
Copyright © 2010 by Michael E. Lloyd