Danger In Havana – Episode 17

AS soon as Bryony relaxed into the leather seats and the big old car growled away into Havana’s traffic, the questions started flooding into her head. Had Anna really been taken by this man Otto Weber, and if so, why? She didn’t even like to think of all the possible answers to that question.

Or, were they going off on some wild goose chase, only to leave Anna here back in Havana, lost somewhere? Could she have had an accident and be lying in some hospital somewhere?

But the Cuban police had checked all that and they or the Embassy would have found her if that was the case.

Bryony had reported into Reception to see if there were any messages and there was only one, telling her the search was still ongoing.

Most of all, if Anna had been taken by the German man, by this Otto Weber, would they get there on time before he did her real harm?

* * * *

As the Oldsmobile careered out of Havana Vieja, the road became more of a speeding highway. Mark was glad it was Norelvis who was driving and not him. It gave him time and space to think.

Lined with palm trees in the sparkling sun, the old buildings gave way to modern apartment blocks as they sped along. Unglamorous and regimented here on the outskirts of the city, they displayed more of the country’s communist heritage.

It struck Mark how few adverts there were – none for petrol stations or burger outlets, none for fashions or hair products, or the multiple billboards there would have been back home.

There were just images of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, glorifying the long-past revolution. These were interspersed with the odd café with lots of people mingling but very limited displays of food.

As they got on to the motorway proper, the scenery changed so that the modern apartment blocks faded away, and all there was to see was miles and miles of leafy lush vegetation.

With its tropical sun and regular rainfall, Mark thought this must be one of the greenest countries in the world. He knew that many people came to the more remote parts of the island because it was a haven for birdlife.

One good thing that had resulted from the lack of entrepreneurialism and development was that much of the island remained totally unspoiled, a veritable paradise for ecologists and nature lovers.

Lack of production meant lack of pollution and the preservation of wildlife habitats. In so many ways, Cuba was a small island stuck in a time warp.

As they reached a crossroads and had to stop, Mark turned to Bryony and saw she had drifted off to sleep. His heart went out to her and he felt a sinking feeling deep in his stomach. She looked very small curled up there with her scarf over her hair to keep it from tangling in the breeze from the open window.

Seeing it was slipping down, he carefully pulled it up again. For a second, he touched her hair. It was silky and gently waved.

Pippa’s dead straight hair had been quite different. He hadn’t thought of her much since this whole thing began.

Maybe a holiday was the best thing for him. Maybe he’d got too caught up in the maelstrom of his personal troubles and woes.

Perhaps his boss had been right and he needed to get completely out of his situation to see the wood from the trees, and reassess his life.

Even though he’d never wish difficulties on a good woman like Bryony, who had already experienced such tragedy, it felt good for him to have something new to worry about. He was pleased to be here for her.

If he hadn’t come here, he would never have met Bryony and he was beginning to like this stoical woman, a proud and caring mother who had spark and courage.

He put his hand back in his lap. Bryony needed his help badly and he just hoped this journey to Trinidad to find Anna was the right thing to do.

Confidence was a good thing, it gave people something to follow, something positive to look to. He’d acted as if he was 100 percent confident in following this lead, simply because it was the only lead they had. They couldn’t stay in Cuba for ever – they both had return flights booked and they would have to go back to real life soon.

He’d called the Cuban police this morning. He hadn’t told Bryony, but they had virtually no leads at all and it was clear they were sceptical over whether Anna had been taken at all.

They came across a lot of young people who looked on Cuba’s cheap rum and vibrant nightlife as a way to zone out and spend a few days non-stop partying. One lost teenager was no big deal to them.

Mark knew Bryony had spoken to the British Embassy but apart from making sympathetic noises, they had come up with nothing so far.

Mark knew he was Bryony’s only hope.

What’s more, he believed her when she said Anna wasn’t the partying kind. The girl sounded quiet, more focused on supporting her widowed mother and heavily into her art and studies. That wasn’t the sort of girl to go on a drinking binge.

Mark had asked some of his police friends back home to do a bit of research, and look into Otto Weber for him. But that would take time, and getting any of their findings back to him in this country where communications weren’t brilliant wouldn’t be easy.

He watched the gentle rise and fall of Bryony’s breathing and felt grateful that if nothing else, this journey would give her some rest. The dark shadows under her eyes had revealed that sleeping hadn’t come easily to her lately.

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!