Danger In Havana – Episode 02

TWO years had now passed since Bryony had received the phone call out of the blue which had shattered her life.

Going away was just another hurdle, the challenge of holidaying alone, just two women in a very alien country. This surely was the final hurdle in the race on the way to her recovery from earth-shattering grief.

When Bryony first reminded Anna about the booking to Cuba, her daughter had been less than enthusiastic.

“Please, can’t we cancel? I really don’t want to go on our own, Mum, it won’t be the same without Dad.”

“But I’ve left it too late to cancel, Anna. It would be a sin to lose all that money that Dad worked so hard to earn. Besides, Dad would have wanted us to go. He was looking forward to it so much. Let’s be brave about it, let’s be positive. For him.”

It would give her and Anna a chance to smooth things over. Being a lone parent had made her over-protective.

Anna was now eighteen, an adult, albeit a very young one, happy to hang on to her mother’s apron strings, and Bryony was finding it difficult to let go.

The taxi swung into the entrance to the Iberostar Parque Central Hotel.

Bryony had tipped the driver generously. The heat coming off the pavements didn’t suit the cold-weather clothes they had worn from England and they were pleased to get into the air-conditioned lobby.

This part of the hotel was true old colonial style. A double staircase in marble led to a gallery from which guests wandered hither and thither, looking down on the lobby which echoed the Cuban jungle with its full grown potted palms. Their branches were studded with curious air plants whose roots dangled down like streamers.

Waitresses flitted here and there, their trays filled with Blue Hawaiians and pina coladas, and drinks in shades of red, orange and lemon, like liquid sunsets.

Bryony was pleased there was a group of Canadians registering before her. It gave her a chance to get herself together. That old familiar feeling of anxiety, which had appeared on Warren’s death, had begun to rise in her chest.

There were so many things to lose or have stolen, so many things which could go wrong. Would they have her reservation down correctly, had she brought enough money, would their rooms be restful or noisy?

As the anxiety took hold, she could feel her heart beating faster. Cash, passport, insurance documents, mobile phone, she must have checked them all a hundred times since they had left home.

With the lightness of youth, Anna seemed supremely oblivious to such things. Her blonde hair and bright hazel eyes had caught the attention of a young man and Bryony could hear them conversing in German, the language Anna had studied for her A-levels.

It was great Anna had found someone to talk to but Bryony wished she could be more practical. Instead, breezily, she left everything up to her mother.

Oh, how Bryony missed Warren and the way he’d take control of every situation. Now she was the one in control, or she should have been.

Only she couldn’t find her passport. Sweat began to bead on her brow. Why wasn’t Anna helping? How could she stand there chatting, oblivious to her mother’s difficulties?

*  *  *  *

Mark Greenstreet twisted the receipt the waitress had given him into a bow shape, then unwrapped it again. He was bored. He knew he shouldn’t be – he knew Havana was one of the most fascinating cities in the world, but he had walked his socks off and done everything the guidebook recommended and now he’d had enough of sightseeing – on his own.

It would have been different if Pippa had been here. He put down the mojito he’d been toying with for half an hour. The ice had melted and the drink was like a watery alcohol soup.

Their last conversation had played over and over in his mind like a stuck DVD and he wished he could stop it. He longed for something to distract him from his thoughts. Maybe someone in the busy lobby might interest his detective’s keen sense of observation, honed after years in the police.

Pippa’s shrill voice still invaded his thoughts – the way she’d paced up and down in front of him, the way she’d gripped her hair in her hands.

“The trouble with you, Mark, is you don’t do anything but work. You think work, you breathe work. Work, work, work. On the few occasions when we’re out you’re always talking about it. Even when we go on holiday you’ll be thinking about it.

“Fact is, Mark, that your darned criminal cases and your precious mates in the force are more important to you than I am.”

She’d got angrier and angrier, her voice shriller and louder. That was when she’d let it slip about her affair. When she’d broken down and told him it was all over between them.

She’d felt neglected, needed someone to pay her attention. She’d felt discarded and lonely.

When all he’d tried to do was earn money to pay for her expensive tastes and her love of good clothes and expensive perfume!

She was leaving. She’d found herself someone else, with a bigger bank balance. After ten years it had come to nothing. She wouldn’t be back.

And here he was. On his own.

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!