Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Strange Journey - Chapter 22


It is time

Lotte and Barbara walked up the steep road, climbing up out of Mystras.

"So," said Lotte. "How do we do this?"

"It's simple. We just barge in there and you say Chris's name repeatedly until he recognises you, and then we all run for it like our very lives depend on it, which basically they will do."

"There are so many things that could go wrong with this."

"Oh don't worry, try not to be so pessimistic. That's the problem with you Germans, you're always assuming that the worst will happen."

"I did not know this was a common stereotype of people in my country."

"It's not a stereotype, it's the truth."

"The truth."

"Yes, it's well known."

"I see. But there are a few elements of this plan of yours I am still unclear on. This house where they have Chris…"

"Yes, yes, nearly there now."

"You say we are just going to barge in?"

"Yes of course."

"But is that not a bit dangerous? Will they not have the doors locked and perhaps guarded?"

"Oh no, nothing to worry about there. They're very slapdash about security."

"But will we - "

She was interrupted before she could finish.

"Shhh! Too late to back out now. The house! This is it. Come on, let's go. We're here just in time."

Lotte followed Barbara up to the front door, her heart beating like it was about to burst.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"The memory stick, Julian," said Marchand. "Can I have it, please?"

"The memory stick," said Julian, reaching into his back pocket. "Yes, I have it here."

"Better give it to the old man," said Costas.

"Yes, of course."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Barbara tried the door. It was indeed unlocked. She quietly opened it and beckoned to Lotte to follow her. They went into the hall. Barbara pointed at a door ahead of them, from behind which they could hear voices. Lotte nodded. Barbara strode on and opened the door, leading Lotte into a room in which a middle aged Greek couple were sitting down to their lunch. They all stared in mute astonishment at each other for a second and then the man started shouting a stream of Hellenic curses at them while the woman held her hands to heaven and said words that were perhaps some kind of religious invocation.

"Oh Christ, sorry, wrong house, we're going, we're going!" said Barbara.

Lotte had already gone. She pegged out to the street the moment she registered they were in the wrong house. Barbara came quickly after her and they ran up the road with the man shouting something that probably meant "And don't come back!" after them.

"I do not think that was the right house," said Lotte.

"No, sorry. I got mixed up. It's this one here."

"Are you sure?"

"Oh yes, quite sure."

"Let's go then!"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Julian took the memory stick out of his pocket and looked at it like it was some kind of jewel.

"The memory stick," he said quietly to himself, as though he was contemplating it for the first time. "It's been a while."

"Yes, yes, of course. Give it to me," said Marchand, holding out his hand impatiently.

"Give him the stick, Julian," said Costas. "Don't make me take it from you."

The corgis barked.

"No, no, of course not, couldn't have that," said Julian. "Here you are."

The stick bearing hand moved towards Marchand but then abruptly pulled back as an unexpected woman's voice called out.

"Don't give him that!"

It was Barbara. She and Lotte had burst into the room. Marchand, Costas, Marie and Marcel looked at the new arrivals with astonishment. Julian's facial expression was more one of deep confusion.

"Who the fuck are you?" said Costas. He glanced at Marchand, waiting for a cue to unleash violence on these two impertinent women.

"What is the meaning of this? How dare you burst in here!" said Marchand with a cold fury.

"Chris!" said Barbara to Julian. "Come over here. We are here to help you."

"Chris?" said Julian. "I'm not Chris."

"Don't listen to them, Julian. Give me the memory stick," said Marchand.

"The memory stick." Julian looked at it again, holding it close to himself, not sure what to do.

"Don't give it to him, Chris," said Lotte. Her voice was calm but emphatic.

"Chris? I'm not Chris. I'm Julian."

"No you are not. You are Chris. I am Lotte. We were in Athens."

"Lotte… I don't know anyone called Lotte."

"Yes you do, you know me. You met me on the train to Bari? Remember, Chris?"

"Don't listen to her, Julian." Marchand's voice was commanding, but there was a hint of desperation to it. "Give me the stick."

"You want the stick?" said Julian. "Why?"

"Don't question the boss," said Costas, a clear tone of threat in his voice.

"Give me the stick, Julian. Do not make me angry."

"Chris! They are not your friends," said Lotte. "I am your friend, Lotte. Come away with us. Please."

"I'm not Chris, I'm… I don't know who I am." His voice was anguished now.

"You are Chris! You need to leave these people. Come on Chris!"

One of the corgis growled. The other barked. Costas nodded his head.

"Right, right, you don't have to tell me twice. Shut it, bitch!"

He leaped across the room like an animal, throwing Lotte back and grabbing her in a headlock. She gasped for breath, arms flailing, unable to appeal to Chris/Julian now.

"He's fucking Julian, got it? Julian. You little slut," snarled Costas, as Lotte struggled for life.

Marcel smiled a mirthless smile and moved slowly towards Barbara, his powerful arms reaching out to crush her. She backed towards the door, aghast that things had gone so horribly wrong.

Marchand laughed, but his laughter died when he saw Julian suddenly spring to life, his confusion gone. He grabbed a small wooden chair and broke it over Costas's back. Costas collapsed to the ground.

"Leave her alone you fucking thug. And don't call me Julian again. I'm Chris! Chris McCarthy!"

"Julian, what is this?" said Marchand. "After all we've done for you?"

"Julian doesn't live here anymore," said Chris. "I don't know what you did to me, but it's over now."

The two corgis started barking manically. Chris turned to look at them, but then he heard Lotte's weak scream.

"Watch out Chris!"

He turned, just as Marcel's hulking form was bearing down on him at terrifying speed. But he managed to sidestep, tripping the brute and sending him flying across the room. He careered into the wall, hitting it with a loud thump and falling to the ground.

"Either of you want some?" said Chris, raising his clenched fists at Marchand and Marie. His lucky strikes against Costas and Marcel had convinced him that he was some kind of superman.

"No, no, no more violence," said Marchand levelly, now sounding rather conciliatory. No, Julian, or Chris, whatever, there is no need for violence as a way of solving our disputes. Let us settle this in a friendly manner. We have our differences, but they are over now. Give me the memory stick and leave here with my blessing upon you."

"The memory stick," said Chris, taking it once more out of his pocket. "What's the big deal with the memory stick?

"It is just a trifle," said Marchand. "Some little items of sentimental value are encoded upon it. Give it to me Chris, please. It was not yours to start with, why not return it to me."

"Chris, he is just playing for time," said Lotte.

"Oh Jesus, look," said Barbara.

Costas and Marcel were starting to haul themselves back to their feet. Bruised and bloody as they were, they still looked like they would be capable of ripping the limbs from the bodies of Chris, Lotte and Barbara. The cold anger of their facial expressions suggested that they would not be caught napping this time.

"We must go," said Lotte.

"Yes, come on," said Chris. He, Lotte and Barbara ran out of the room, slamming the door behind them in the faces of the snapping corgis.

"Come on!" said Marchand. "After them. We must get that memory stick. And then they must die."

The corgis growled and barked in agreement.

The story continues

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