Danger In Havana – Episode 14

MARK and Bryony made their way down the streets of Old Havana until they reached the cigar museum, situated on the top floor of an old colonial house.

The scent of the hundreds of vintage and modern cigars displayed in elegant wooden and glass cabinets teased their noses. A smell of sweet, fresh tobacco.

An elegant woman stood behind the counter, her red dress contrasting with her deep coffee-coloured skin. Her dark hair was slicked back against her head. “Would you like tickets for the museum?”

“Er, not today, thank you,” Mark said. “We’ll come back another time. We’re actually looking to buy cigars.”

Bryony raised an eyebrow in his direction. That was news to her.

“We have a very good shop here in the museum.”

“Thank you, but I’m actually interested in buying in bulk, I want to ship them back to my shop in London. I understand there is a man locally who trades in cigars. He and I met the other night in the Plaza Vieja. He gave me a card with his address and telephone number but stupidly I lost it. I took a photo of him.”

“Ah.” Looking at the man in the photo, she now smiled at Mark as if he were an honoured guest. “That is Mr Otto Weber, a German cigar exporter; he has lived here for years. I think I have one of his cards here, I can copy his address down for you. His house is next to the Society for the Preservation of Steam Locomotives of Cuba, you cannot miss it.”

The address she gave him was in one of the leafy more exclusive parts of the city behind the Hotel Nacional. Once they were outside again in the heat of mid-afternoon, Mark turned to Bryony.

“I know you must be tired, but we should go there now.”

“I’ll never be so tired that I can’t search for my daughter. If this man’s got something to do with her disappearance we need to find him. But what on earth could he want with Anna? I can’t believe she’d willingly go off with some middle-aged stranger. He must be up to no good, but why?”

“I have no idea.” Mark hailed one of the taxi bikes. “But we must continue to look like tourists and not arouse any suspicion. That’s why I pretended to the woman in the museum that I wanted to buy cigars. I don’t want to alert this guy to the fact we’re looking for him. This isn’t my patch, so I’m like a fish out of water.

“Usually when I’m carrying out an investigation, I know something about how an area works, who its people are. I have something to go on. Here, it’s all so different: the language, the people. But we’ll get by. I promise you we’ll find Anna, whatever we have to do.

“Now, take out your guidebook and tell me what’s near to where this guy lives. We’re going to pose as tourists who have got lost and gone a bit off the beaten track.”

When they handed the piece of paper with the address to the taxi bike driver, he gave them a curious look.

“Next to the Society for Steam Locomotives? I have never heard of this. No tourists go there, are you sure this is where you want? Do you not prefer to go to somewhere more interesting?”

“No,” Mark insisted, “that is definitely the place we want to go.”

When they alighted from the taxi bike they stood across the road, away from Otto Weber’s house.

Mark dragged Bryony over to a small patch of public garden opposite with a bench they could sit on, where they could observe the front door without being spotted. They had definitely discovered the right house.

The house next door had a highly polished brass plaque announcing the Steam Locomotive Society of Cuba. Next to that, Otto Weber’s building was an old house with faded brickwork and ornate iron railings. Once very fine, it was now tatty and faded, like an old duchess past her prime.

Mark studied the front of the house.

“All the windows are closed even on this baking hot day. It doesn’t look to me like anyone’s in,” Mark said.

“Should we just knock on the door?”

“It could be dangerous.”

This was the first time he had voiced any fears about them being in danger. Inwardly, Bryony could have hugged him at that moment. Those dark thoughts had been at the back of her consciousness, but his calm presence had pushed them away.

She could never have done this alone, and she strongly suspected that the Cuban police would have done nothing. They seemed to have assumed Anna had just launched off on her own, yet Bryony knew her daughter, and she knew their shared past.

Her daughter would never have done anything to cause Bryony worry. Something very bad must have happened.

In all the many months since Warren had died, Bryony had seen it as a matter of pride to cope and be independent. That was one of the reasons she hadn’t let Paul, her brother-in-law, into her life, however much he’d hinted and cajoled.

Gradually, after the initial shock of grief had passed, Bryony had come to realise that, perhaps, her husband being so capable, his taking charge of most things hadn’t been the best thing for her. If he had survived, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but relying totally on him had served her badly after his death.

She’d taken this holiday to force her out of her anxiety, to prove to herself she could take risks and triumph.

She surprised herself now, as she and Mark sat in the shade on the bench in this leafy spot. She felt . . . OK. Apprehensive, wondering what to do next, but she wasn’t caving in. She felt empowered.


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!