Saturday, March 29, 2014

Strange Journey - Chapter 12


Getting to know you

In the morning Chris got up and showered. He was still tired, but tired in the life-affirming way known only to those who have spent the night shagging. He hummed the theme tune to Match of the Day to himself as the warm water cascaded over his body. At least he thought it was the Match of the Day theme - he had little or no interest in football and had not seen that programme in years; he did not even know if it was still on television. If it was then maybe with the passage of time it now had a different theme tune entirely. But the theme of his youth was the one he knew and that is the one that came out of him.

Then unbidden came a thought that disconcerted him. This whole business with the memory stick, it was like he was some kind of character in a spy film. And what happens in spy films? The other side try to block the hero. Sometimes they do this by force, as with Beppe and his friend in Milan. Sometimes they try bribery, as with the two women in the white jumpsuits. But sometimes they try to play the hero for a fool by using a beautiful woman to trick him. Chris had never been the kind of guy women threw themselves at, but he had not been suspicious about Lotte's intentions, until now. The suspicion that Lotte had just seduced him so that she could steal the memory stick burned into him like poison, making him feel almost physically sick. He finished his shower quickly, dried himself, and came out of the bathroom to gather up his things and check that he still had the memory stick.

Lotte was lying in bed, reading a book. Chris picked his clothes up off the floor and dressed quickly. It was too warm in Athens to wear a jacket, so he taken to carrying the memory stick in the back pocket of his trousers. He felt for the memory stick. It was not there. He looked on the floor, where his clothes had fallen when he had torn them off last night. No sign of it there either. He looked over aghast at Lotte. If she had taken the memory stick, her coolness was incredible, as she was lying there reading when she could have escaped while he was in the shower. But maybe this was some complicated spy game, where they wanted to string him along as long as they could for their own nefarious reasons.

Then Lotte looked up from her book. "Oh… Chris…" she said, reaching over to the table beside of the bed and holding up a memory stick - the memory stick. "Is this yours? I found it on the floor."

Chris managed not to snatch it peremptorily from her hand. "Thanks," he said as calmly as he could manage. "I was wondering where it had got to." He took it from her and smiled.

She got out of bed, still naked, and walked towards the bathroom. "I will shower now. Then we should go out to eat."

They went out to a local café for breakfast.

"It's funny, we know so little about each other," said Chris. "Like our names."

"You are Chris, I am Lotte."

"No, but surnames. Mine is McCarthy."

"Pleased to meet you, Mr McCarthy."

"And you?"

"My surname is Fücker, but I understand that people in English speaking countries find this amusing, so when I am abroad I used my mother's name."

"Which is?"


She laughed.

"No, I am joking. My surname is Meyer. It is a very common name in Germany."

"So I hear."

"What else should we know about each other?"

"Were you ever married? Do you have children?"

"I have no children. Maybe one day I will. And you?"

"No, no children. And were you ever married?"

"No, I have never married. But I have had lovers. Perhaps one day I will marry, but not now. I like my freedom."

"It's nice to be free."

"Are these the words of your granddaddy?" she said, stretching out the last syllable.

He laughed. "God, the Soup Dragons. Where are they now?"

"I do not know."

"Are you working or studying?" asked Chris.

"I work in a library."



"Books are sexy. Librarians are sexy."


"Well you are."

She laughed. "And you? What do you do?"

"I'm a civil servant."

"Civil servant? What is that?"

"Oh, you know, I work for the state… in the public administration…"

She looked blankly at him. He fumbled in the recesses of his memory for the correct German word, cursing how useless he was with foreign languages. How much of his life had he given over to studying German? And now he was with an actual German person and completely unable to communicate with her in any language other than English. But then the word came to him.

"Beamter! Ich bin Beamter."

"Ah sehr gut," said Lotte. Chris detected a certain patronising tone to her voice. "Du sprichst sehr gut Deutsch."

"Yeah, one of my many talents," said Chris. "I wish I was any good at speaking foreign languages. I've studied German for years and I can't really say anything in it. How did you get so good at English?"

"Ah, you English-speakers, you are always amazed that people can speak your language. We learn it in school and we learn that we cannot expect that there will be people who can speak German when we leave our country. And of course, because of our unfortunate history, it would not be appropriate for us to travel around Europe demanding that the people of other countries speak to us in our language."

"I suppose. But they tell us in school that we should learn other languages, but we are still all rubbish at it."

"There will always be people who can speak English. You have little need to learn other languages."

"Your English seems so much better than what someone would learn in school."

"I spent time in your country. Sorry, in England. I studied in Bristol for a year. It was only then that I achieved real command in your language. Since then I have visited England and Scotland many times. I am interested in British music and have travelled to see my favourite bands play at home. Also, I was a big fan of the Scottish band Belle and Sebastian and used to travel to meet-ups of their fans."

"Wow, Belle and Sebastian… they've really gone off the boil lately."

"Yes, I think the old fans have all moved on to other music. As have I. But many of the fans will be my friends for life."

"Bee-Eff-Effs." Lotte looked at him quizzically. "Best friends forever. It's a colloquial phrase."

"I see."

They finished their breakfast and went off to see some more of the city's ancient sites. They walked hand in hand through the ancient Agora, agreeing that the little Temple of Hephaestus had a definite charm to it. Chris had to laboriously explain what he meant by the adjective "dinky". Lotte filed away this information for future reference.

It was a hot day. They sat in the shade under one of the trees that had sprung up in the Agora site. They kissed, attracting the disapproval of the various parkies whose job it was to prevent people from climbing on the ancient monuments. Then Lotte spoke.

"I am going to the Peloponnese tomorrow. You could come with me."

"Where are you going?"

"I will go to several places, but tomorrow I am going to Nafplio for a few nights."

"Where is that?" Chris had not planned to be anywhere other than Athens and so had not really researched locations in the rest of Greece.

"It is in the north east of the Peloponnese. A few hours from here."

"What's there?"

"I have read that it is a nice little town," said Lotte. "What you might call 'dinky', perhaps. But for me the real reasons to go there are the places near it. It is not far from Mycenae and Epidauros."

"Oh wow. I would love to see those."

"Well come with me."

"I will. Well, I would like to." He shuffled uneasily. "But I may not be able to. I have something I have to do in Athens."

"Business with your wife?"

"No, not with her. But business. I suppose that is what it is."

"Beamter business?"

"No, not that." He paused and then continued. "I can't really talk about it. I have something I have to do. If it's over in time I will come with you but if it isn't, well…"

"I see."

"But I would like to come with you. It's just… well I just don't know how long this will take."

"This sounds very mysterious, Chris. Do you have another woman here in Athens?"

"What? Oh Jesus no, nothing like that. No, it's just… well I can't really talk about it."

"It does not matter. You know where I will be. If you are finished in time you can come with me. If not you can follow afterwards." A slight pause. "If you want to."

"I do want to!" He took her hand again. "But I might not be able to. But I will ring you as soon as I am free."

"I will be taking the bus in the morning. If you are doing your business then I suppose you will have to follow in the afternoon or evening."

"Well I might be able to come with you tomorrow. I have to meet someone this evening and that might be the end of it."

"This is very fascinating, Chris. I think I will secretly follow you to see who it is you are meeting."

"Please don't do that, Lotte." He was surprised by the vehemence in his voice, but if the memory stick business turned nasty he did not want her mixed up in it.

"I am just joking. I do not think I would be very good spy."

They strolled around the Agora some more. Then they went off to see the Temple of Olympian Zeus, but it was closed. They could still see it through a whole in the surrounding fence so that seemed almost as good as actually being in there. After ambling around Athens for a while longer they decided to stop for a late lunch that merged into an early dinner. Chris took care at this stage to steer them away from the immediate vicinity of the Bar Apollo and Virones Street. He reckoned he would be heading there afterwards and did not want to make it easy for Lotte to follow him.

They ordered a carafe of wine with their food. Lotte noticed that Chris drank more than three quarters of it, which she put down to nerves about his mysterious business meeting. She was now rather intrigued as to what he was up to. But he was clearly so disinclined to talk about it that any queries would just annoy him without eliciting information, so she let him be. Maybe when it was over and if he did come on to the Peloponnese he would tell her all about it. Until then she would remain curious but hoped to avoid idle and pointless speculation.

Chris looked at his watch. "I have to go." He threw some money down on table and got up. "I'll be in touch."

"Will you?"

"Yes. If I can." He leaned over and kissed her quickly, then took her hand. "Goodbye Lotte. Talk to you soon."

And then he was gone. Lotte finished her drink, wondering if she would ever see him again.


The story continues

No comments:

Post a Comment